The official state law enforcement record for former Dunwoody Police Lt. Fidel Espinoza includes a driving under the influence arrest from more than 20 years ago. But the record says nothing about sexual harassment allegations that led Espinoza to resign in May — and won’t even if Espinoza and city lose a pending lawsuit about them.
Due to a largely self-reported process and details of state laws, there can be such variations in what misconduct and sanctions do or don’t appear on an officer’s permanent, public record with the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.
Such variations can be seen in the POST records for some current Dunwoody Police Department officers who have been suspended for misconduct. One officer’s 2018 DUI arrest is on his POST record. But another officer’s POST record is silent about an incident where his department-issued gun was used by a child to shoot another child.
POST records include information about the circumstances under which an officer leaves a police department. DPD Chief Billy Grogan has said that Espinoza resigned shortly after being informed of the sexual harassment allegations against him. Espinoza’s POST record lists him as having voluntarily resigned.
Roger Halstead, a former police officer who is suing the city over alleged harassment by Espinoza, complained about that in his lawsuit. Halstead’s lawsuit says Grogan should have suspended Espinoza pending an investigation; if Espinoza had resigned pending an investigation, that status would have gone onto the POST record. Halstead also has pointed to the current officers’ DUI and shooting incident as examples of hidden misconduct in DPD.
POST is a state organization that authorizes police officers to have law enforcement certifications and keeps records of officers’ police employment history, training, sanctions and investigations.
POST spokesperson Ryan Powell said it’s up to individual officers and departments to self-report if an officer has violated department policy or has been arrested. POST will investigate the officer’s conduct and decide on a sanction, which could be as severe as revoking their law enforcement certification.
What POST records
If an officer is arrested, fired or suspended for 30 days or more, they are required to tell POST. POST records also note whether an officer resigned voluntarily, resigned under investigation, or resigned in lieu of dismissal.
POST investigates all arrests and some department violations if they result in a 30-day suspension or termination. Sanctions less than that do not have to be reported.
If a person is convicted of a felony, they cannot have a law enforcement certification under state law. Committing other crimes such as theft or lying in an official capacity are also “career-enders,” Powell said, but other types of misconduct are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
If a person has misdemeanor convictions on their record, POST will evaluate the crimes and the length of time it has been since the crime before deciding whether a person can get a law enforcement certification.
Powell said DUI arrests have a standard sanction. If the officer got a DUI while not on duty or in uniform, they will have a two-year probation and have to take an alcohol risk assessment. A probation means the officer cannot get in “any further trouble” or their certification will be revoked, Powell said. If they were on duty or in a state-owned vehicle during the DUI arrest, their law enforcement certification will typically also be revoked, Powell said.
Lawsuits or unsubstantiated complaints do not have to be reported and will not go onto a POST record.
Powell said POST has no way to audit whether all officers and departments have self-reported police arrests or police violations.
“If we don’t know about it, there’s not much we can do,” Powell said. “We have investigators throughout the state who kind of know what’s going on in their district. If we see a news article where somebody was arrested, we start inquiring about it at that point.”
Powell said if POST finds out an officer is arrested but hasn’t reported it, they would get an additional probation for failing to report it.
“That’s not a perfect system,” Powell said. “I don’t know that there is a perfect system, but I think we get it right a lot better than some states.”
The public can file an open records request to obtain POST records if they want to know if a police officer was investigated or sanctioned by POST.
Powell said POST typically revokes about 550 law enforcement certifications per year out of the state’s about 59,000 police officers.
Espinoza’s record shows he voluntarily resigned. Powell said POST has a copy of Grogan’s investigative report into some of the allegations against Espinoza, which cleared him of harassment while confirming misconduct in exchanging sexual messages — but will not put it on his record. Even if the city loses a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, it would not go on Espinoza’s POST record.
Espinoza has a DUI on his POST record from 1996 when he was employed with the Carrollton Police Department. He served a two-year probation, and the investigation into the arrest and sanction will stay on his record.
Sgt. Robert Parsons, who currently works as a DPD spokesperson, was arrested by the Georgia Department of Public Safety on July 5, 2018 on a DUI charge while off duty, which also resulted in a POST investigation, a two-year probation and a required alcohol assessment, according to his POST record. He is still on probation.
Parsons did not respond to requests for comment.
Parsons’ record indicates he admitted to “reckless driving” instead of a DUI, but he received the same POST sanctions as a DUI. Grogan said Parsons was suspended for five days and was not able to apply for promotion for one year after his conviction.
DPD Lt. Sean Lenahan faced a department policy violation investigation in April 2019 when a child obtained his department-issued gun and accidentally shot his brother in the leg, according to an internal affairs investigation.
Lenahan left an unsecured Glock 43 gun in his girlfriend’s bedroom nightstand drawer in Jefferson, Georgia, because he forgot it while going to work, according to an internal affairs investigation.
His girlfriend’s children took the gun, and one of the boys told Jefferson police it accidentally went off, shooting his brother, who had to go to the hospital, according to a Jefferson Police Department report.
The police did not arrest Lenahan and recorded the incident as “reckless conduct” on the incident report. Lenahan could not be reached for comment.
Lenahan was suspended by DPD without pay for three days because of the incident due to a policy violation regarding the safe storage of department-issued weapons, according to the internal affairs report. Grogan said Lenahan also was not able to get a promotion for one year.
Lenahan received a “needs improvement” on his 2019 performance evaluation, in part because of the incident in Jefferson. His POST record does not indicate the incident or suspension because it did not meet the reporting thresholds.