Ex-cop, SBPD in conflict
Book, department disagree on facts
By GINA TENORIO, Staff Writer
SAN BERNARDINO - It has been a long journey for former San Bernardino police Officer Stephen K. Peach and the Police Department.
Throughout this year, Peach and the police have traded accusations of lying and misconduct that ended with Peach's termination in September. He is appealing the decision.
Peach also is watching closely to see if his recently released self-published book, "Friendly Fire? The Good, the Bad and the Corrupt," will have an impact.
Published by 1st Books, it claims to reveal secrets the department has tried to hide.
"I just decided this was one of the only ways to do this," Peach said. "Society as a whole has lost respect for police officers. Some think the police are no better than criminals."
He hopes the book shines a spotlight on the department and forces change, he said.
"If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone," he said.
Police Chief Garrett Zimmon declined to comment on the case or the book, saying he couldn't because it was a personnel matter and because an appeal is pending.
In the book, Peach details the start of what he claims was the downward spiral of his service with the department and the end of his dream.
A native of Great Britain, Peach said he was hired Jan. 5, 1991.
Things were good for years, he said. But he began to take issue with some officers' behavior. Among those issues was what Peach described as the narcotics team's penchant for beating people up. He began to speak up at briefings and make enemies, he said.
The book describes a 1998 shooting during which, he writes, he was shot by a supervising officer while serving a search warrant on Doug Domino, another former officer who also took legal action against the department.
"So as this was warrant speed, as soon as the door swung open I was expecting to see (another officer) run into my field of view and I would follow his lead, but nothing happened, he didn't move," the book reads.
"I even stopped looking at the potential threat from inside the residence to look at (the other officer) to see why he wasn't running into the doorway and as I looked towards him I was shot in my upper right leg, I did not know where the bullet came from and assumed that Domino had fired from inside the residence and the bullet had gone through the stucco wall prior to entering my leg. The gunshot did not seem loud at all and there wasn't a great deal of pain but I could see that the wound was very serious."
He said the ordeal left him without a portion of his leg muscle and contributed to the end of his career.
But the real collapse began after he tried to expose officer Ronald Vanrossum as a rapist, he said.
Vanrossum was sentenced in October to 34 years in state prison on charges of rape, sexual battery and oral copulation by threat of authority to arrest.
"An old informant had told me she'd been raped by Vanrossum," he said.
Yet when he tried to tell his supervisor, nothing was done, he said. When he refused to drop the issue, the department began investigating him, he said.
Law-enforcement officials paint a different picture of the facts behind Peach's termination in a civil-service board's findings report provided by the City Attorney's Office.
His dismissal was a result of a sexual affair Peach had with Michelle Roan, a felon and prostitute, the report said.
Officials accused Peach of lying to investigators about the relationship and a number of letters he allegedly wrote to Roan at the state prison in Chowchilla in 2001 and 2002.
The documents state that Peach's actions were a violation of the department's core values.
"Peach had 50-100 'contacts' with Roan, claiming Roan was solely his 'confidential informant,'
" the report said. "However, there is only one arrest which could be traced in any way to any contact that Peach had with Roan."
Investigators denied that Roan was Peach's informant and said Peach was often vague with other officers about her identity. They also alleged he tipped her off to prostitution sweeps, warning her to stay indoors.
An excerpt from one of the letters he allegedly wrote to Roan in prison states:
"So I've got to wait until Oct. '02 hopefully it will go by quickly and I'll come and visit you wherever you end up."
Peach insisted the letters were taken out of context and were written to a source in a manner that would not identify her to friends or officials as being an informant, he said.
"She had told me she had something important to tell me," Peach said. "I wanted to know what she had to say. I'd always been known to have informants."