Back in 2006, Calexico District Supervisor Joe Maruca explained his city to an Imperial Valley Press reporter: “When you’re on the border, it’s different, and if you don’t live there, you don’t understand it. And if you don’t understand it, you’re a fool. And that’s what makes America great.”
That said, the question remains: What’s going on in Calexico?
Calexico acting City Manager Nick Servin suspended Chief Pompeyo Tabarez (hired the year before) in May, while his boss, City Manager Oscar Rodriquez, was on vacation. That prompted the city council to re-evaluate Servin’s job performance and fire Rodriguez, who had initiated an investigation of the Calexico Police Department a year before. Tabarez was reinstated and then fired in mid-October by a new interim city manager, who then hired an interim chief.
Two weeks later, the FBI raided police headquarters, seizing hard drives and documents in what was said to be an investigation of several officers. A bunch of officers, including the investigative unit, were suspended.
And after a month on the job, new Calexico Police Chief Michael J. Bostic held a tearful press conference, accusing council members who were seeking his dismissal of “corruption” and “extortion at its best.” He castigated them for acting “exactly like the Mafioso in New York” and said the police department was being investigated by the FBI, the Imperial Valley County Sheriff’s Office, the district attorney and a county drug task force.
Bostic, a 34-year law enforcement veteran who retired as assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in 2007, said he reached out to the FBI ostensibly because three members of the city council and the Calixico Police Officers Association (POA) were interfering for political reasons in his investigation of a gang kidnapping and assault of a juvenile.
But there was much more at stake.
Bostic said the crime had been committed a month before he was hired, but that the investigative unit ignored it, as it ignored every other serious crime, so that it could conduct surveillance of political enemies, including council members. He said officers had recently purchased $100,000 worth of high-tech surveillance gear and drove around with burglar tools in their police cars.
Bostic said digging up dirt and using it against one’s enemies was standard political practice in the Mexican border town of 39,000 people. When new officials would try to clean things up, they were gotten rid of, he said, pointing to the hiring of “26 city managers in a very few years.”
Bostic said that when he started the criminal investigation from scratch, political opponents who wanted him to halt his anti-corruption drive, began a campaign of disinformation to hang the botched probe on him. He said gang members were threatening the family, and members of the council and POA had visited them.
Bostic was repeatedly asked at the press conference if drug dealing and links to cartels were part of the investigations, and while he refused to speak to FBI actions, he said his concern was illegal obstruction of police work by council members and others.