Fooch's Update: The San Jose Police Department has suspended off-duty work between officers and the 49ers.
The Ray McDonald case is in front of the Santa Clara District Attorney's office for review, and given how things are developing, it could be a while before we get some answers. A week ago, the Santa Clara police department turned the case over to the DA, but given what we're now hearing, the DA might just do their own full scale investigation. According to San Jose Mercury News reporter Robert Salonga, the cop who McDonald called sometime around a 911 call was on duty that night, and had visited McDonald's home sometime that evening.
The cop in question worked part time for the San Francisco 49ers, and earlier this week we learned that the Internal Affairs department was investigating his involvement with the team. McDonald reportedly called him before or around the time of the August 31 911 call. The cop arrived and apparently there was some surprise from other cops who saw him there.
Initially the report was that the cop was off duty, but now a source told Salonga that he was on duty. He apparently arrived on the scene in uniform, which raises questions about his role. It is possible he did nothing that would have interfered with the investigation. However, if he was there as McDonald's go-to guy based on his relationship with the 49ers, being in uniform could complicate matters, particularly for McDonald's fiancee telling police what was happening.
I continue to hope nothing comes of this and there was no undue influence in the investigation. The police have described the cop in question as an excellent officer, and believe he should be afforded the benefit of the doubt. The 49ers relationship with police is not unique in the NFL. Former Packers personnel man Andrew Brandt detailed it in a recent MMQB article:
It is bred from familiarity, as 1) team security directors often have backgrounds in local law enforcement; 2) local police are often retained for game-day use and/or team travel; and 3) NFL-team security liaisons are usually local or regional law enforcement.
During my time with the Packers, our security director came from a long career as a Green Bay cop. Local law enforcement members-among them the former Green Bay police chief who was later hired as the Titans' security director-accompanied us on road trips to provide extra security for Brett Favre; to be stationed on players' hotel floors; to work with airport and hotel security, and so on. And our NFL security contact was a Milwaukee detective. Although I never saw improprieties between our players and the ubiquitous local law enforcement, I can now see how, from an outside view, how there can be the appearance of a conflict of interest. An obvious reason why teams hire former local law enforcement is to leverage their contacts and relationships in the security world. The McDonald case is a look behind the curtain, showing the fine line between professional relationships and personal influence.
I won't assume the officer in question did something overtly unethical or illegal, but I also am not prepared to throw this out as a misunderstanding. All it has done is create an appearance of impropriety, which is the last thing this needs. Considering the recent comments by former Bears GM Jerry Angelo about how teams hid hundreds of domestic abuse cases, and nothing about this is remotely simple.