Purple Berets


When the Batterer
is a Cop

Home Page
About the Purple Berets
Breaking News
Violence Against Women
Tools For Working Your Own Case
Other Law Enforcement Issues
Contact Us




Complaint Against
California Highway Patrol

Commissioner D.O. Helmick
California Highway Patrol

PO Box 942898
Sacramento, CA 94298-0001
Capt. William Leist, Cmdr. Internal Affairs
California Highway Patrol

2555 1st Ave
Sacramento, CA 95818
Re: Officer Curtis Lubiszewski
Rohnert Park Office







May 15, 2004

Dear Commissioner Helmick, Capt. Leist:

Last May, I wrote a letter to Capt. Larry O'Shea of the Rohnert Park CHP Office concerning the department's handling of very serious domestic violence allegations against your officer, Curtis Lubiszewski. A copy of that letter is attached for your ready reference.

As you can see, this letter was clearly a complaint against Officer Lubiszewski and Sgt. Scott Bertelsen, as well as an agency complaint against the Rohnert Park CHP. As I read your policies, that should have triggered the opening of an internal agency investigation. I can only assume that was not done as I have received nothing in response to my letter.

Therefore, please consider this my formal request for an agency investigation into the Rohnert Park CHP's handling of the administrative investigation into Lubiszewski's domestic violence, as well as individual complaints against Lubiszewski, Sgt. Bertelsen, and Capt. O'Shea. Due to the many irregularities in the case thus far, these investigations should be conducted by the BIA unit in Sacramento. As new and very egregious misconduct has occurred since my letter, I will outline the issues to be investigated

1. Sgt. Scott Bertelsen's assignment to conduct the administrative investigation. Bertelsen has been Lubiszewski's sergeant and personal friend for some ten years. I'm aware you have no procedure for investigating officer-involved domestic violence, and that your complaint procedures make it permissible for the sergeant to conduct low-level investigations. This, however, was an investigation of 14 years of domestic violence against two different women by one of your officers . . . hardly a low-level investigation.

We repeatedly requested Bertelsen be taken off the investigation and, as things progressed from bad to worse, requested of Capt. O'Shea, Capt. Leist (see attached letter of 6/27/03) and Chief Bonnie Stanton that the investigation be conducted by the Internal Affairs Investigations Unit in Sacramento. We were told by all three that this was not possible. However, § 1-2 of your Internal Investigations Manual states:

"The Investigations Unit within BIA is available to assist departmental commands to resolve allegations of employee misconduct . . . The Unit is designed to conduct complex/sensitive investigations and/or provide investigative assistance to Areas and Divisions."

In our minds, this was a highly complex and sensitive investigation your office knew would be extremely dangerous to the victims, high-profile, and potentially very damaging to your agency. It is astounding that, with all the complaints and concerns, you not only refused to assign the BIA, but even misrepresented to us your ability to do so.
I've talked with a number of Internal Affairs officers in other police agencies and shared with them how this case was handled by the CHP. In every instance, when I told them Lubiszewski's sergeant headed up the investigation, they laughed and said, "You've got to be kidding!" Clearly we aren't the only ones to think this was inappropriate.

2. Sgt. Bertelsen's misconduct in his handling of the investigation.
Bertelsen's assignment only heightened concerns your investigation would be a cover-up, as did his conduct in the investigation, including:

  • Being present and taping Mitzie Grabner's initial interview in the criminal investigation by Rohnert Park police. Grabner knew Bertelsen was Lubiszewski's sergeant and his presence in the interview was extremely disheartening and intimidating. From the moment she walked in, she got the message loud and clear that the fix was in.

    We're also told that it is highly irregular to have the officer conducting the IA present in any criminal investigatory interviews, as it contaminates both investigations. Clearly that's exactly what took place here.

  • Bertelsen unnecessarily conducted interviews at witnesses' work places. This was very intimidating, especially to one of the witnesses whom Lubiszewski had already contacted in violation of restraining orders, pressuring her to contact other witnesses. This same witness, who said Bertelsen first talked to her boss, felt her job would be jeopardized by any statement she made against Lubiszewski.

  • A number of witnesses said Bertelsen was rude, uninterested, and asked questions in such a way as to get the desired response.

  • In my own dealings with Bertelsen, he was extremely rude, derisive and denigrating – hardly the man terrified victims would open up to about police officer violence.

3. My complaints against Capt. Larry O'Shea and Lt. Dan Moore.
Capt. O'Shea informed us, and Lt. Dan Moore informed the press, that no disciplinary action would be taken against Lubiszewski unless he was convicted in criminal court. This is absurd! As I would hope you are aware, the burden of proof in a criminal case is much higher than that in a disciplinary action. Additionally, the rules of evidence are vastly different in the two proceedings.

4. My complaint regarding Lt. Moore's inappropriate and biased remarks to one of the victims. After a three-hour meeting with the CHP, Rohnert Park Police and the District Attorney's office where three victims/witnesses gave statements of egregious and ongoing violence and abuse, Moore's parting comment to Bonnie Garrett, who had suffered 9 years of abuse at Lubiszewski's hand, was this: "I'll be glad when this is over and we can get back to handling real emergencies." Although this information was contained in my letter of June 27,2003 to Capt. Leist, I have no reason to believe it was ever investigated or that Moore was reprimanded.

5. Numerous violations of CHP Citizens' Complaint Investigations procedures, including:

§ 1-1, 3a, § 3-3, ¶e: Complaints will be acknowledged by correspondence within 5 business days. Complaints by Grabner, Garrett, Leslie and myself were never acknowledged.

§ 3-3, ¶f: The CHP 240B or CHP 240D, as appropriate must be provided to all potential complainants. Grabner, Garrett, Leslie and I have never received such documents.

§ 3-3, ¶f(2): The Department is also obligated to provide each complainant with a copy of his/her allegations. Grabner, Garrett, Leslie and I have never received such copies.

§ 3-4, ¶h(2): If a complaint is from a third party, send the inquiring party correspondence acknowledging receipt of their concerns ... I have never received any such correspondence.

§ 4-1, ¶1d: The normal suspense period for complaints received at the command ... is 60 days. These complaints were initiated over the period January to May, 2003. We were informed by Capt. Leist in October, 2003 that the investigation initiated in January was complete, and even then, only after I contacted him to find out what the status was. Had I not made that call, we would still not have received notification on any of the complaints.

§ 7-13, 7(b); Appendix D-2: Closing correspondence to complainant . . . is required in all cases. Deviations from this policy shall be approved by BIA. According to your policy, this correspondence should include a clear statement of the results of the investigation (§ 7-14, [3]), and be sent out within 30 days of the investigation being approved (§ 7-14, [6]). Appendix D-2 shows clearly that the closing correspondence should detail complaints one-by-one and state if they were sustained and whether disciplinary action was taken. To date, despite my complaint about this to Capt. Leist in October, none of the complainants has received any written information that the investigation has been closed.

In fact, when I spoke with Capt. Leist in October, though he informally advised me the investigation was complete, when I asked which of the allegations had been sustained he refused to answer, citing employee confidentiality. As you can see from Appendix D-2 of your complaint procedures, that statement does not correspond with your policy. It was only in the testimony during Lubiszewski's trial that we learned the only sustained allegation was that of him driving his kids in his patrol car, but not the 14 years of domestic violence.

§ 7-4, ¶(12): If the complainant . . . requests their identity be kept confidential from the employee, enter "Confidential." At least one complainant, Bonnie Leslie, expressed extreme fear of retaliation by Lubiszewski in our meeting with Capt. O'Shea, and asked that Lubiszewski not be notified of her complaint. She was not advised of this right to have her complaint handled in a confidential manner. It was not. Lubiszewski retaliated against Ms. Leslie.

6. My new complaint against the CHP.
In our October, 2003 phone conversation, Capt. Leist assured me the CHP would be following Lubiszewski's trial to see if more evidence of the violence came out. However, to my knowledge no representative of the CHP was present at any time during the 7-week trial. And, of course, more evidence was brought to light, including:

• Testimony by the primary victim, Mitzie Grabner, that was not included in her taped interview with Sgt. Bertelsen and Rohnert Park Police.

• 911 dispatch records of the 9/21/02 report of violence at Lubiszewski's house.

• Testimony of the couple who called 911 that day, telling of the violent argument and then the "hit," "slap," or "punch" that sparked their call to 911.

• Testimony of Ronda Stowell, an ex-girlfriend of Lubiszewski's, who testified that after ending her relationship with him, she had sent Lubiszewski a certified letter threatening him with a restraining order if he didn't quit harassing her at home and at work.

• Testimony of Rose Schloming, maternal grandmother to the three Lubiszewski sons, who demonstrated how her grandson had shown her "what Curt did to Mitzie" on September 21st.

As you can see, there were certainly enough irregularities and deviations from CHP policy to warrant our concern and scepticism that the investigation into Curtis Lubiszewski was sincere, unbiased, or complete.

So, to be clear, I am asking that new investigations of Lubiszewski and the other officers detailed in this letter, as well as an agency investigation into the Rohnert Park CHP, be conducted by your BIA Investigations Unit in Sacramento.
I look forwarding to hearing from you.


Tanya Brannan

c: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Attorney General Bill Lockyer
Assemblywoman Hilda Solis
Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins
Mitzie Grabner
Bonnie Garrett
Bonnie Leslie
California Women's Law Center
National Center for Women and Policing
U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Law Enforcement Division


May 2004


© Tanya Brannan, Purple Berets
You can copy and distribute this information at will
if you include credit and don't edit.

Copyright © 2001 Purple Berets

Web Site by S. Henry Wild