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February 3, 2013

Probe: Bonilla abused power


John Romero, the chief of Lawrence’s regular police force, ordered the internal affairs investigation into the three promotions after several auxiliary officers objected that Tejera, Santiago and Montas were elevated to the higher ranks over officers with longer service, violating a long-standing policy of the auxiliary.

Their complaint was directed against Jackson, but Sgt. Emil DeFusco, commander of the internal affairs division, concluded in the report he submitted Dec. 20 that the complaint against Jackson was unfounded because he was “following orders from Deputy Chief Bonilla.”

“Aux. Chief Jackson has in the past reviewed each candidate’s quantity and quality of hours as well as encouraged feedback from the officer’s supervisors prior to promotions,” DeFusco said in his report. “It appears that no specific criteria was used when promoting (Tejera, Santiago and Montas).”

“Under my procedures for the last 26 years (as chief of Lawrence’s auxiliary police), I would have promoted other individuals,” Jackson said in an interview last week. “The past year, working under Bonilla, has been a pretty bumpy road.”

Romero signed a document concurring with its findings on Dec. 27. He would not elaborate last week, except to say DeFusco did not interview Bonilla, Lantigua or the three promoted officers.

“I signed off on the result of the investigation,” Romero said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

DeFusco’s report does not suggest Lantigua ordered the promotions. But the police department and its 23-member auxiliary have been a focus of the mayor’s attention since he took office in January 2010. One of his first official acts was to promote Bonilla from sergeant to deputy chief of the regular police force, in what was also the first leapfrog to a higher rank by a Lantigua loyalist in the department.

For nearly three years, Bonilla was Lantigua’s go-to man inside the department, where the mayor and Chief Romero have had an uneven relationship that has included several public feuds.

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