San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The annual public review of the San Leandro Police Department next week may be less about the successes and future plans for the city’s law enforcement and more about a controversial arrest last year of two gay men arrested in a public bathroom for lewd behavior during a police sting in June 2012. The city and police department were accused of discrimination and outing the pair when their mug shots were distributed to the public. Last October, the city approved a legal settlement filed by the two men, costing the city a combined $45,000.
During a council meeting last month, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy indicated he would broach the subject in-depth with Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli. Over the past few years, Cassidy has fashioned himself a defender of gay rights. He was the first mayor in city history to march at the annual Pride Parade in San Francisco and pushed for flying the rainbow pride banner over City Hall. However, Cassidy said during the meeting, the issue was not entirely about infringing on gay rights, but public safety.
“We need to speak on the record about what really happened,” Cassidy said. “If anything, [we need to] address sex in public restrooms.” Although the police department’s annual public review is normally a mundane presentation of crime stats and positive anecdotes devoid of much controversy, Monday night’s special work session may be more eventful. “We don’t normally do this, but this one hit a particular nerve,” noted Cassidy. A detailed discussion of a legal settlement in council chambers after the fact is certainly permissible, but highly unusual.
Councilmember Diana Souza, a strong supporter of public safety, and recently, a clear opponent of Cassidy, said the thorny subject doesn’t need further discussion. “We don’t want to attract any more attention than we already have,” said Souza. In fact, the issue has received very little attention. The only official public comment was a mere notification by the city attorney a settlement for the two complaints had been reached. Cassidy responded, if the council does not publicly air the specifics of the case, “How do you know this isn’t going to happen, again?”