CHP Exonerated, but Investigation Continues

Protesters

To the dismay of the women involved, the California Highway Patrol’s regional chief has exonerated its Gilroy commander of two allegations of improper behavior but could reach no conclusion on a third involving a pro-life prayer vigil that strayed onto state property last fall.
However, a spokesman for the CHP’s Internal Affairs office in Sacramento said it will conduct its own probe of the Sept. 28 incident, if requested now to do so by the alleged victims.
Lt. Jason Cavett said the women also have the right to file a complaint with the state Department of Justice if they are unhappy with the CHP’s Internal Affairs investigation.
On Tuesday, Mary Woodill said Coastal Division Chief R.J. Chappell in San Luis Obispo did not tell her of those rights when he informed her by letter that his investigation had exonerated Hollister-Gilroy Commander Capt. Spencer Boyce on two of three complaints she’d lodged.
Boyce on Wednesday said he remains a strong advocate of the 1st Amendment as is “sorry” the women were upset by the incident.
But Woodill said Boyce “blatantly lied” about the incident and she accused Chappell of issuing a “contradictory” report.
“I am so disappointed in the highway patrol,” said Woodill, who lives in San Juan Bautista and has always been a strong supporter of the CHP and other police agencies.
“My gut tells me to move forward” and ask for a full internal affairs investigation by CHP headquarters, she said,
Boyce said, “I remain your First Amendment advocate, but there are still rules” about demonstrating on state property.
“I am sorry there were upset by the situation…sorry they felt somehow their First Amendment rights were being trampled.”
Chappell’s letter, in effect, accuses the women, all devote Christians, of lying about the incident, according to Woodill.
The women’s recountings of what happened that day were not inconsistent, as claimed by Chappelle, she said.
“Why would we lie?” she asked. “I am really troubled by the letter and I have lost respect for the CHP; I don’t appreciate being called a lair by any of these officers.”
Woodill and two other women were part of a prayer vigil by the pro-life group 40 Days for Life outside the Planned Parenthood’s Gilroy office on Renz Lane last September.
The group had been there many times without incident, but it was the first time the three women involved in the Boyce incident had joined the group at that site.
Seeking shade, they left the main vigil and moved from the public sidewalk by the abortion provider’s facility to a treed area in front of the CHP’s office next door. They prayed silently, unaware a permit is required to demonstrate on state property.
Boyce, in plain clothes and an unmarked car, saw them as he exited the CHP’s secure parking area. When he asked and learned they did have not a permit he ordered them off state property.
When they moved to the street, the women claim he ordered them to move again even though they were on city property where no permit is needed.
Although all of the women later complained in interviews with the Dispatch about Boyce’s alleged unprofessional attitude, intimidating behavior and violation of their rights, only Woodill filed a formal complaint.
Under CHP rules, such complaints are investigated initially on the regional level but can go much higher if the alleged victims are not satisfied with the division chief’s investigation.
Chappell could not be reached for comment. In his letter, he said he looked into whether Boyce was “verbally discourteous,” exercised “improper authority” and failed to identify himself as a CHP officer.
Chappell found that Boyce never spoke directly to Woodill, never yelled and never said anything “specifically inappropriate.”
Woodill was incredulous.
“It says in the letter that he never spoke to me directly. Really? Oh my gosh in heaven. We were standing on a city street and he was ordering us off of it; I mean, come on,” she said.
She specifically named Boyce, Chappell and Coastal Division Assistant Chief Sean McRae, who interviewed the witnesses.
Chappell also rejected the allegation that Boyce failed to identify himself as a CHP officer, explaining, “there is no legal code or CHP policy” that requires him to do so.
On whether or not Boyce improperly ordered the women off city property, Chappell found differences in the witnesses’ statements and could make no determination on that matter.
Woodill was disgusted with Chappell’s findings; she said it was clear that Boyce had directed comments at her and had admitted doing so, including in a Dispatch article, and that there was no doubt among the women that they were ordered off city property.
In a Nov. 10, 2016 Dispatch article Boyce was quoted saying, “I must have said excuse me a dozen times before they even acknowledged my presence and refused to talk to me.
“I took the high road, I did not threaten them with arrest after they pretty much blew me off…they never moved,” he said. He later conceded that one of them might have moved off the CHP property.
Georgianna Froom of Hollister was with Woodill on Sept. 28 and was also highly critical of Boyce’s behavior that day, even though she has strong ties to law enforcement.
She called Chappell’s findings, “appalling,” and accused the chief and his assistant, McRae, of “just going thru the motions.”

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