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SF police officer suspended in cover-up case

A San Francisco police officer accused of telling a rookie to lie to cover up a convict’s escape has been suspended for nine months by the Police Commission.

Lionel Sevilla, a 19-year veteran, had his job spared when the commission decided to suspend rather than terminate him, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Sevilla was working as a training officer in 2003 with a rookie when he removed the handcuffs from a suspect who needed to use the bathroom. When the suspect fled, Sevilla told the rookie to lie about it, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The case had dragged out for over five years within the Police Commission before being ruled upon on Wednesday. Sevilla’s case had come to symbolize all the disciplinary problems within the police department. Sevilla will serve the suspension immediately. Upon his return, he will be placed onto a list of officers whose credibility has been called into question and whose histories must be disclosed to defense attorneys upon testifying in court.

Police Chief George Gascon had offered a six-month suspension earlier this year, only to have it refused by the Police Commission. Gascon then advocated for Sevilla’s dismissal because of the age of the case. Gascon has complained about sparing officers whose credibility has been questioned like Sevilla because the department is then stuck with more highly paid officers who are only fit for desk assignments. There are as many as 50 officers who have damaged credibility.

Sevilla made $108,959.57 in fiscal year 2009-10, according to SF Weekly. After his suspension, he will be taken off of the street and given a desk assignment.