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Police chief retires after being accused of giving special privileges to female officer

San Diego police officers say say Chief Contreras (right) has been in a relationship with Sergeant Jenifer Gruner (left) for decades, creating a conflict of interest in the department and special privileges for Gruner.

Kristen Taketa
The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego Unified School District’s police chief is retiring after just two years in the job, officials announced Friday, months after accusations surfaced that he sexually assaulted an officer, discriminated against others and allowed violations of employment law.

In December, 11 officers, roughly a third of the small department, sued Chief Alfonso Contreras and the district, alleging that he and other supervisors he is friends with had discriminated against them for years based on their race, disability, gender and sexual orientation.

The lawsuit also alleged Contreras sexually assaulted a female officer years ago.

Contreras, who has spent more than three decades with the department, has been on paid administrative leave since January, a district spokesperson said. Most of the allegations were first made public in August of last year.

“The District would like to thank Chief Contreras for all his efforts and contributions to provide a safe learning environment for our students, staff and communities for the past 32 years,” interim police Chief Donald Braun wrote in a memo to school police personnel Friday. “He has been a faithful steward to the District, and we value all his hard work. We wish him all the luck on his future endeavors.”

Contreras did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The officer plaintiffs attributed the harassment and abuse to what they referred to as a clique within the department that centered around Contreras and investigative Sergeant Jenifer Gruner. The plaintiffs say the two have been in a relationship for decades, creating a conflict of interest in the department and special privileges for Gruner.

Plaintiffs said members of the clique — which they said also includes Captain Ivan Picazo, Captain David Landman and Sergeant Robert Bonilla — have subjected officers to verbal abuse, mocked them for their medical conditions, made anti-gay and racist comments and denied them training, overtime pay and promotional opportunities. They also alleged that Gruner had committed time card fraud with her supervisor’s knowledge.

San Diego School Police Sergeant Gruner (center), Officer Corado and Officer Bonilla helped to serve bbq lunches at the SDUSD’s annual Summer Fun Cafe event in 2019. (Facebook)

The lawsuit also names Superintendent Lamont Jackson as a defendant, in addition to Contreras, Gruner and the school police department.

The lawsuit alleges Jackson retaliated against one of the officer plaintiffs by intimidating his girlfriend, a teacher in the district. The lawsuit claimed Jackson came to her classroom, watched her teach and gave her an unwanted hug, even though they had never met before.

Jackson is under internal investigation for undisclosed reasons. It’s unclear if the lawsuit allegations are related.

Jackson has not responded to requests for comment.

Neither the plaintiffs’ attorney nor the school police union president, who is one of the plaintiffs, could be immediately reached for comment.

It’s not clear if the district has completed an investigation into the police allegations.

The next court event for the lawsuit, a case management conference, isn’t scheduled until November 2025.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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