Calif. cop kicked out of school while arresting gang member

The officer was kicked out for not consulting the principal of the school

By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross
The San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco police officer was ordered out of John O'Connell High School for arresting an alleged gang member in connection with a double homicide without first consulting the principal.

Officer Joel Babbs, who is assigned to the department's schools detail, thought he was doing his job Dec. 15, getting a potentially dangerous suspect out of the Mission District school as fast as possible and without incident.

The 15-year-old boy in question is one of three suspects arrested in connection with a double homicide at Papa Potrero's Pizza on 24th Street in September. Police suspect the killings were an act of revenge by gang members for an earlier slaying.

"For me this was a safety issue," said Babbs, a 19-year veteran of the force. "Do you want your child sitting next to a double-homicide suspect? What if a rival gang decided to come after the guy and shot up the place?"

However, O'Connell principal Rick Duber - who told us he believes in "intervention over suspension" - said he was upset that Babbs had not informed him of the planned arrest and had handcuffed the student in public.

"I am very concerned about Babbs' actions," Duber wrote in a memo to his school district superior the day of the arrest, adding that "his action today precludes any possibility of him ever returning to our campus."

Police homicide Inspector Brian Delahunty says the youth "wasn't the shooter" in the pizzeria killings, "but we do believe he held the victims down."

He says he told that to Duber the morning of the arrest when he called the school to see if the 15-year-old was there.

Duber told him the boy had been sent home a day earlier for being drunk in class and that he wasn't in school.

Unbeknownst to Duber, however, the boy had shown up with his aunt that morning and had been readmitted.

After talking to Duber, Delahunty called Babbs at the school and told him to arrest the boy if he saw him.

Within the hour, Babbs saw the youth, got a school security guard to take him out of class and arrested him when he got to the lobby. He cuffed the teen and took him to Mission Station for booking.

Babbs got a pat on the back from the cops, but when he returned to the school he was confronted by Duber, who accused him of going behind his back and booted him off campus.

Later that day, the principal fired off the memo to his boss, who suggested he calm down and work out his differences with Babbs.

And he has, sort of. After the two and their respective bosses met, Babbs went back on the job - but on the advice of his captain, is staying off campus unless he is called upon.

Copyright 2010 San Francisco Chronicle

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