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The Firing of Captain Mark Gagan

The surprising dismissal of the well-liked Richmond police captain and a series of other scandals threaten to tarnish the reputation of a police department once held as a national model of reform.



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After reviewing the internal investigation, Lindsay reversed Gagan's termination. In a May 4, 2018 email to the city council, Lindsay said the evidence against him was lacking. "In sum, I found there was insufficient evidence to support the charges that gave rise to the disciplinary action against him," Lindsay wrote. "Mark Gagan will be reinstated to his former position of Police Captain as soon as reasonably possible."

But the grueling internal investigation and attempts to discredit Gagan aggravated his PTSD. Now, he says it's unlikely he'll return to duty as a Richmond police officer.

Gagan's absence has left a void in Richmond. The RYSE Youth Center in Richmond offers a variety of services for underprivileged youth, including health, education, and arts and culture programs. One critical service is assisting young people and their families when a young person has been injured in a violent event. To qualify victims for restitution funding, RYSE needs to submit a police report on the incident. But since Gagan was fired, communication with the police department has become dodgy at best, said Executive Director Kim Aceves.

"Mark would interact with us in a way that did not close ranks," Aceves said. "He promoted trust. He showed up in a way that we could partner with. Mark understood why he needed to respond quickly with police reports and info that allowed us to best serve children and their families. Now, the lines of communication with the PD seem as though they've been slowed to a halt."

Gagan stopped drinking more than a year ago. He still struggles with the symptoms of PTSD, but he is looking forward to becoming a counselor for first responders who struggle with PTSD and other job-related conditions. But for now, he is still at odds with the city over details of his reinstatement and medical retirement, which means he won't be able to move on with his life until the issues are resolved.

Earlier this month, Gagan brought his wife, Christy, and their two small children to a Richmond City Council meeting. He was gracious and friendly with those who came up and congratulated him on his reinstatement.

Outside the council meeting, there was a spontaneous testament to Gagan's ability to overcome differences between the police department and the community it serves.

The Gagans were standing outside the council chamber while their two children, ages 8 and 7, ran around the broad plaza of Richmond's City Hall when the Perez family recognized Gagan.

In 2014, a Richmond police officer shot and killed Richard "Pedie" Perez, who was unarmed, outside of a market. Perez's father and his grandparents still attend city council meetings to express their anger at the police department and call attention to the department's lack of transparency regarding their grandson's killing.

Despite their difficulties with the Richmond Police Department, the Perezes came over to Gagan and said they were happy to hear about his reinstatement. Pedie's grandmother, Pat Perez, told Gagan he was looking healthy and admired his two children.

"We miss you," she said.

A previous version of this story stated that Contra Costa County took over Richmond’s government operations and hired Bill Lindsay as the new city manager. In fact, the city hired Phil Batchelor, the retired Contra Costa County administrator, who brought in Lindsay as a candidate for city manager. The city council then hired Lindsay. This version has been corrected.