The whereabouts of Tulare Police Chief Jerry Breckinridge have not been known to the public since May 29. Tulare City Manager Don Dorman announced on June 23 that Breckinridge had been placed on paid administrative leave. Dorman did not explain why the police chief had been put on administrative leave or how long he would be gone.
Last week two sources came forward to the Valley Voice to report on circumstances they had learned surrounding Breckinridge’s disappearance. Each stated that Breckinridge’s administrative leave is the result of an unreported drunk driving incident. The sources also filled in details which they had heard surrounding Breckinridge’s arrest last year on charges of domestic abuse.
The first source referred to himself as “Pat” and is confirmed to be familiar with law enforcement in Tulare County. The second source, who identified himself as Chris, corroborated both stories and added his own details. A motivating factor behind the sources coming forward, they said, was the fact that Tulare tax payers are spending more than $10,000 a month for their police chief to be on leave.
“The citizens of Tulare have a right to know where he is,” said Pat.
On Memorial Day weekend of this year, Pat said, a Tulare Police Department officer was returning to the station in his cruiser after participating in a DUI checkpoint. On his way to the station he saw a Prius swerving on the road in front of him. Before he could turn on his lights to pull the suspected drunk driver over, the driver pulled his car to the side of the road, got out of the car, and said something to the effect of, “I’m drunk, take me home.”
The officer, who had not yet finished his probationary period with the department, recognized the man as Breckinridge, Pat said. Not feeling comfortable arresting the police chief for drunk driving, the officer called for backup. Three more Tulare Police department officers showed up and it was decided, after a phone conversation with the city manager, to take Breckinridge home, Pat said.
Early the next morning, Dorman went to Breckinridge’s home and strongly suggested that he take time off of work and enter a rehabilitation program, Pat said. Breckinridge has continued to receive his monthly salary since. Tulare Police Captain Wes Hensley has temporarily taken Breckinridge’s position as chief of police. Because Breckinridge has not been seen, both sources speculated that he is still in rehab.
Breckinridge’s alleged drunk driving incident in May came just over a year after his arrest on domestic abuse charges in March, 2014. Both sources suspect that alcohol may have played a role in that incident also, prompting Dorman to suggest Breckinridge get help.
According to Pat, on the evening of March 15, 2014, Breckenridge’s girlfriend caught him viewing internet pornography. An argument ensued and a physical altercation followed. The girlfriend went home after the physical altercation and called a friend to commiserate, revealing the fact that she had been physically assaulted by her boyfriend.
The victim’s friend happened to be a CHP officer, who, as such, is a California Mandated Reporter. Mandated Reporters must report child or domestic abuse cases when they become aware of them. The CHP officer called her superior to report the domestic abuse incident. Her superior called the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department due to the conflict the Tulare police would have investigating their own chief, Pat said.
Pat heard from sources close to the Tulare County Sheriff’s department that Lieutenant Robert Moore and Captain Scott Logue were sent to Breckinridge’s girlfriend’s home. While at the girlfriend’s home the lieutenant and captain called Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux for advice on how to proceed with the domestic abuse case. Pat said that Boudreaux directed them to not contact the detective on call that night who specializes in domestic violence, but to use a newly hired detective who specialized in violent crimes, such as murder and kidnappings.
According to Pat, after receiving instructions from Sheriff Boudreaux, the lieutenant and captain contacted the violent crimes detective and requested that he meet them at Breckinridge’s home. Though it was the detective’s duty to collect evidence, take pictures, secure a search warrant to investigate the crime scene and obtain statements from each party, it is unclear if any of that took place. Pat stated that the detective’s report contained none of this information.
Chris, who is also familiar with Tulare County law enforcement, said there were two other serious breaches of protocol that night. According to Penal Codes 243 and 273.5, during cases of domestic abuse, all firearms are to be taken from the accused’s home. Also, an emergency restraining order is to be obtained for the safety of the victim. To the contrary, Breckinridge was allowed to keep all of his firearms and no restraining order was issued, Chris said.
Pat said that it had been reported in several news sources that Boudreaux, his wife, Breckinridge and his girlfriend had been out to dinner a few nights earlier. Also, according to Chris, Breckinridge personally endorsed Boudreaux’s campaign in the 2014 election. The 2014 primary was only six weeks away from the March 14 domestic abuse incident.
At that time, Pat said, the chief was arrested without being questioned or processed for the crime, then immediately bailed out for $50,000.
The next morning the police report was sitting on District Attorney Tim Ward’s desk. Ward cited a conflict of interest and sent the case to the Kern County District Attorney.
According to Melissa Allen, of the Kern County District Attorney’s office, the case was declined for lack of evidence.
“I have to prove to a jury that the incident happened beyond a reasonable doubt, but there was insufficient evidence,” she said.
Breckinridge’s girlfriend did not press charges.
Chris also said that immediately after Breckinridge’s alleged unreported DUI in May of this year, a memo went out to everyone in the department that said, “If anyone is caught talking or speculating on what happened to Chief Breckinridge, you will be fired.”
Despite the warning, according to Chris, a Tulare police officer was heard saying, “Look, it is what it is. He (Breckinridge) needs some help.”
Dorman is on vacation until October and was unavailable for comment. Tulare City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz stated, for the record, that the city cannot comment on a personnel matter.