OAKLAND — An Oakland police officer at the center of the department's search warrant imbroglio has been notified that the department plans to fire her pending an administrative hearing.
Officer Karla Rush, an eight-year member of the force, was notified late last week of the department's decision, sources said. She can now fight the decision by presenting mitigating factors, a process that can take several months.
Rush, who was placed on paid administrative leave last month, is responsible for writing more than 30 faulty sworn affidavits that were used to convince judges that search warrants were needed to raid the homes of suspected small-time drug dealers.
While the district attorney's office has begun to fight to salvage some of the warrants in question, any warrant issued based on affidavits written by Rush have been dropped without question.
Two such cases were dropped Tuesday morning as two men, who were serving state prison sentences on criminal drug charges, had their cases dismissed and were ordered to be set free, said Ray Keller, an assistant public defender.
In the affidavits, Rush wrote that substances purchased on the street during undercover operations or through informants were tested, though no test was conducted.
The affidavits were submitted to Alameda County judges who, based on what was stated, issued search warrants for mostly East Oakland homes of suspected small-time drug dealers.
Police department officials have maintained that the faulty affidavits were a result of "misstatements" and not a result of officers purposely lying in hopes of securing a search warrant.
Since the department disclosed the errors, eight criminal cases have been dropped and probation revocations against two defendants were overturned. The Police Department has also been named in two federal civil rights lawsuits, both of which name Rush as a defendant.
The revelation also sparked a department internal affairs investigation and led to the placement of eight officers on paid administrative leave.
"I assume the department found, as to Officer Rush, what we had suspected since the beginning, that she had willfully misrepresented facts on sworn affidavits to a judge," Keller said. "In short, she lied."
Mary Sansen, Rush's attorney, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Top police officials refused comment citing department policy not to speak about personnel matters.
John Burris, an attorney who filed one of the civil rights lawsuits, said he was not surprised Rush is on a path toward termination but cautioned that she should not be used as the police department's scapegoat.
"Karla Rush obviously has been the focal point of this but she is not the only one so she should not be the only fall person in this," he said. "You want to root out the problem but you don't want to have a sacrificial lamb; you want to make sure that everyone involved in the conduct receives equal punishment."
While Rush was the first officer named in the department's dilemma, and the author of a majority of the faulty affidavits, she was not the only one writing "misstatements" in sworn documents.
In fact, another officer, Francisco Martinez, admitted to a judge two weeks ago that in addition to making an error about testing substances bought on the street, he also "made a mistake" in writing on a sworn affidavit that a secret informant was reliable because the informant helped police locate a firearm in an unrelated case.
Martinez told Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sandra Bean that the informant never helped police locate a firearm.
In total, almost 20 officers have been involved in the search warrant problem but many of them have been cleared of wrongdoing and are again working the streets.
Burris said he hopes the department's decision on Rush serves as a cautionary tale for others in the department and wondered if criminal charges against the officer should follow.
"This is about deterrence," he said. "The real question is, should she be prosecuted for perjury?"