San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy Accusers Describe Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Friday, December 15, 2017
Photo by Nicholas McVicker
The number of women who have accused San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer of sexual misconduct is now at 11. Fischer is on administrative leave while sheriff’s officials investigate the allegations. KPBS Investigative Reporter Amita Sharma sat down this week with four of his accusers who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Q: What were your interactions with sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer?
Accuser 1: He put me in the car and as he’s putting the seat belt on, he fondled me and said, “I hope your husband doesn’t mind.” And I thought at that moment, “What’s going to happen? Am I going to get raped?” I mean that’s not a normal interaction with a cop.
Accuser 2: He and his partner responded to a burglary that I had at my house back in 2016. After they did the report, later on that evening, there was a knock on the door and I looked through the peephole and saw that it was him so I felt safe to open the door. He asked me how I was doing and I said, “Not very good,” and he said, “You look like you need a hug,” and he just grabbed and hugged me and I just froze at that point. Part of me thought, “Is he here to help me or should I be scared?”
Accuser 3: My circumstances were that I had placed a call for a domestic violence threat against me. When he showed up at the door, I invited him in to talk about what had happened previously that night. He said, “You must need a hug or something,” so we hugged. I just thought it was like a sympathy-type hug. He hugged me again. It was definitely a stronger hug. Then as we were walking towards the door, he held me again just really close and tight. He held my butt and then he took my right hand and put my hand on his crotch and rubbed it a couple of times and I was like, “What are you doing? I am a respectful classy lady. I don’t know what you’re thinking.” He did ask that I not tell anyone about what had happened.
Accuser 4: I was riding my bike, he pulled me over right in front of my storage unit there and proceeded to search my backpack. He found a prescription bottle of mine. He looks at them and says, “This is a felony, I can take you to jail for this. I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding.” And then he’s all, “Well, I guess you’re alright but can I have a hug now?” And so he hugged me and he put his hands on my buttocks and groped. And then as he was leaving he said, “Hey, you owe me one now.” I knew that wasn’t normal but I felt really relieved just to not get in trouble.
Q: There has been an upwelling of sexual misconduct allegations across the country and across different professions and industries. The allegations in most cases are against men in positions of power. Is the alleged misconduct by Deputy Fischer the ultimate abuse of power because his job is to protect and serve and he carries a badge and gun?
Accuser 1: I think it is because you have trust that they are going to be there for you. When he was rubbing all over my breasts, I was like shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I thought well, “Did I do something wrong? Did I say something to make him do this? Why would he do this to me?”
Accuser 2: It was very much an abuse of power. He caught me at my lowest point. I had just had my house burglarized. And my husband was out of the country. He knew that I was alone. If he would have come to my house without a uniform, I never would have let him in. But it was because he had his uniform on and he was representing someone that was supposed to protect you, I felt safe.
Accuser 3: Same. He showed up at the door. I felt comfortable having him come in and talk about what had happened. I was already on edge because my boyfriend had threatened to drive his car through my garage so I was very vulnerable. I was feeling very sad. And he just scared me so bad. I will never let an officer in my house again.
Q: Do you feel like your allegations are being taken seriously by the department?
Accuser 2: No, I don’t think they’re taking it seriously. I’m surprised that he still has a job.
Accuser 3: I feel the same way. They’re done with my investigation. I’m sure they’re done with several others as well. He should be arrested at this point. It’s wrong.
Dan Gilleon, represents the 11 women who allege Deputy Fischer behaved inappropriately.
Q: Eleven women have come forward to accuse San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer of sexual misconduct. What should happen now?
A: I think they should just flat out fire him and file charges on the cases they know exist right now.
Q: Police officers have a lot of protections under the law. If they were to fire Deputy Fischer, can’t he come back and say it was wrongful termination because he hasn’t been charged with a crime?
A: An employer can fire anyone as long as they have cause. He violated all sorts of policies. They have all sorts of evidence that he committed misconduct and crimes.
There’s no excuse for not firing him because he might come back later and say they shouldn’t have.
With Matt Lauer, NBC was one of the first employers we’ve seen who just came out and said, “You’re gone,” and not engage in these sorts of settlement negotiations like they did with Bill O’Reilly at Fox News.
It really is important that employers come down and law enforcement agencies are no different and when someone commits an act that’s worthy of termination, that they terminate them and then that sends a signal to other people that they can’t get away with it.
That’s just the sheriff’ department. Keep an eye on the fact that the DA is kind of doing the same thing right now.
The DA should be filling charges on criminal cases and just because there might be more criminal cases coming down the road against this guy, that doesn’t excuse her from waiting. She wouldn’t be waiting on a civilian. If a civilian commits a crime, they file charges on that person and if they find out they’ve committed another crime, then they file charges on those.
He’s being treated differently because he’s an employee by the sheriff’s department and the sheriff’s dept is an endorser of her campaign.
(Editor’s Note: In September, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan filed multiple felony charges against a sheriff’s deputy accused of filing false workers’ compensation insurance claims that amounted to $57,000 in total losses.)
Q: You say Deputy Fischer has violated all sorts of policies. What are they specifically?
A: You cannot be sexually harassing citizens. That’s a Category 1 offense. That’s a color of authority offense. Misconduct is another.
An officer cannot commit crimes. For all law enforcement agencies, they have this catch-all of Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer or C.U.B.O. This is a slam dunk C.U.B.O. offense which should mean termination. He has committed conduct that is unbecoming of an officer and that is why he needs to be off this force. That’s what the sheriff’s department is dealing with and they have everything in the world to terminate him. The DA is a separate story. That’s a criminal act that she has to prove beyond a reasonable act to 12 out of 12 jurors. But we have good evidence. She knows there’s good evidence right now and those charges should be filed.
KPBS reached out to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office with questions about the case. It responded with the following statement:
“The District Attorney’s Office cannot comment on the status or details of a pending investigation. Our office is aware of the Sheriff's Department’s ongoing investigation into the allegations that have been made. Our office takes allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously and we will thoroughly and objectively review the case for potential criminal charges once the investigation is completed."
KPBS also reached out the the sheriff’s department for comment. It also responded with a statement:
“The Department placed Deputy Fischer on an administrative assignment and initiated concurrent administrative and criminal investigations immediately upon learning of the first allegation which was received in late October 2017. The Department did not receive a complaint regarding these allegations prior to this. Deputy Fischer is currently on administrative leave while the Department conducts a thorough investigation of each complaint. The Department is prohibited by law from releasing specific details of personnel investigations. However, allegations of this nature are taken very seriously and the Department will take any appropriate actions at the conclusion of the investigation.”
The number of women who have accused San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer of sexual misconduct is now at 11. Fischer is on administrative leave while sheriff’s officials investigate.
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