by Malcolm Macdonald, May 8, 2013
A couple months back this column focused on the actions of Officer Craig Guydan of the Fort Bragg Police Department. I belong to a group called Coast Copwatch. Coast Copwatch submitted a formal letter of complaint to the Fort Bragg Police Department regarding Guydan during the last week of April. A similar letter was sent to Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing.
On Thursday, May 2nd Coast Copwatch received an email and I received a phone call from Chuck Lebak, who has been hired by the City of Fort Bragg to investigate complaints against Officer Guydan. I spent four hours last Friday with Mr. Lebak outside 501 Walnut Street in Fort Bragg discussing Guydan’s shooting of a dog at that location last December 21st as well as other incidents involving Guydan and Fort Bragg residents and business owners. The vast majority of the other incidents relate to Guydan’s behavior, ranging from overly brusque to intimidation and false accusations. As of this publication date Guydan will have been on the job for 51 weeks. The dog shooting incident boils down to a 7-16 second time frame in which a dog exited the 501 Walnut Street address, growled at Guydan, who kicked the dog in the head; the dog seemingly latched onto the officer’s boot or pants leg, and Guydan then shot the dog with his department issued Glock 22.
Chuck Lebak, the outside investigator, is a retired Redding, California, police captain with interests in motorcycles, cars and antique guns. He worked for the Redding Police Department from the mid 1970s through 2007. Scott Mayberry, police chief of Fort Bragg worked for the Redding Police Department for 15 years, beginning in the mid 1990s. Lebak has performed other investigative work for the City of Fort Bragg, including background checks on potential new hires for the police department. Among those whose background was checked by Lebak is Craig Guydan. Apparently, the City of Fort Bragg is less concerned with conflicts of interest than it is the relatively low rates Lebak charges for his investigative work ($50 per hour).
During our talk, Lebak appeared far more curious about Officer Guydan’s questionable behavior when dealing with local business owners than the shooting of a dog who belonged to a citizen on the fringes of society.
The hometown Fort Bragg newspaper has not reported on the dog shooting, but did publish an account of Guydan pulling his firearm on a group of Fort Bragg youths playing street football on January 7th. Guydan apparently did not point the weapon directly at any of the youths, though he did order a large number of the footballers face down on the ground.
Chief Scott Mayberry’s predecessor, Mark Puthuff, saddled the Fort Bragg Police Department with a number of officers from Stanislaus County, his old stomping grounds. Guydan is not one of them, but Sergeant Phil Ward is. Ward joined the Fort Bragg force in August, 2008. Here’s where we get to something that appears never to have been reported in Mendocino County. Between August of 2008 and the end of May, 2010, Phil Ward not only collected his sergeant’s salary from the Fort Bragg Police Department, he also collected $2,800 per month in disability pay from Stanislaus County. Ward did not voluntarily give up the $2,800 monthly payments in May, 2010; the Stanislaus County Employees Retirement Association stopped paying out.
When Ward took the sergeant’s position at FBPD, part of the job description included apprehending suspects while using physical force. Ward has seemingly been on and off active duty for the last couple of years.