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South Lake Tahoe chief criticized by grand jury

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Lake Tahoe’s police agency is “a department in crisis” led by a chief who displayed “conduct unbecoming a police officer” during a verbal altercation at a restaurant in 2006, an El Dorado County grand jury said in a report.

The report, released Tuesday, suggested management training for agency leaders and closer oversight of the department by the City Council.

City Manager David Jinkens questioned the factual basis of the grand jury’s findings. Police Chief Terry Daniels did not comment.

The El Dorado civil grand jury convenes to oversee local government. The grand jury has 16 members and can make recommendations but does not have enforcement authority.

Witnesses reported Daniels, while having breakfast at a restaurant in September 2006, lost his temper with another restaurant customer.

“The chief of police, by losing his temper in public and verbally berating a citizen of South Lake Tahoe in a public restaurant, acted in an inappropriate manner and displayed conduct unbecoming a police officer,” the report said.

It also raised concerns over a 2007 staff survey that was critical of police leadership.

“The evidence received by the grand jury paints a picture of a department in crisis,” the grand jury said.

It recommended revitalization of the Participative Management Team, which allows employee input in decisions.

City Councilwoman Kathay Lovell also questioned the grand jury’s findings.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in this particular grand jury’s findings,” she said, citing errors later corrected in a previous report regarding county fire districts, and a report on the Clean Tahoe program she feels is unsatisfactory.

Under California law, the city has 90 days to respond to the recommendations in the grand jury’s report.

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