Fontana Unified detective accused of violence against students back on the job – San Bernardino Sun
A Fontana Unified School District police detective who was placed on paid administrative leave last year pending an investigation into alleged years-long misconduct has returned to work after a nine-month leave.
School district spokesman Michael A. Garcia confirmed that Detective David Wibert returned to work on Jan. 17. And on Wednesday, Feb. 1, Fontana Unified’s Board of Education was set to vote on a recommendation to promote Wibert to sergeant, but the item was pulled from the agenda at the last minute for further discussion.
Wibert, who began working for the school district’s police force in January 2008 and earns more than $103,000 a year, was placed on paid leave on April 13, 2022, after Officer Christian Shaw sent an email to former Superintendent Randal Bassett alleging several acts of misconduct. against Wibert dating back at least a decade.
Bassett resigned his post during the investigation, but school district officials would not say why.
Wibert’s colleague and superior, Sgt. Dennis Barnett, also was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, and returned to work on Jan. 12, Garcia said.
It was unclear whether Barnett returned to work at a lower rank, however. Documents obtained by the Southern California News Group indicate he was demoted to the rank of police officer, but Garcia said in an email that “It is my understanding that Mr. Barnett, an employee of FUSD, is currently serving in the same position he was prior to his leave.”
In his email to Bassett last year, Shaw said there were “countless claims of aggression and poor behavior” filed against Wibert over the years. A recommendation by Barnett to promote Wibert to sergeant prompted Shaw’s email.
Among the allegations were that Wibert punched a Summit High School student in the stomach, about a decade ago, in front of a fellow officer and the school resource officer. And while assigned to the Fontana Leadership Intervention Program for at-risk youth, Wibert allegedly bullied a student who was doing push-ups and threw a water bottle at the boy while he was running.
Additionally, Wibert allegedly slashed the tires on bicycles belonging to students and transients, and was witnessed by officers carrying brass knuckles while on duty, Shaw alleged in his email to Bassett.
‘Good old boys club’
Wibert — the son of Lydia Salazar-Wibert, a school district employee and former Fontana city councilwoman — is among a group of officers, including Barnett, who forms what one veteran officer claims is a “good old boys club” at the department.
Norma Bautista, president of the Fontana School Police Officers Association and an officer with the agency since 2002, filed a lawsuit last month that alleges, among other things, the department has perpetuated a culture of misogyny and discrimination towards female officers. The “good old boys club” also insulated officers like Wibert from receiving discipline for engaging in misconduct, she claims in the lawsuit.
Bautista was vying for the sergeant’s position with Wibert last year before Wibert was placed on leave. He was recommended for the sergeant position by Barnett, who sat on Wibert’s interview panel for the job, Bautista said. She alleges in her lawsuit that that created an “unmistakable conflict of interest” due to Barnett’s personal friendship with Wibert.
Garcia declined to comment on the lawsuit.