Residents in Escondido joined together on Wednesday in support of their police chief, who they believe was wrongly placed on leave.
Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher was placed on paid administrative leave last week as the city investigates personnel issues, according to the department.
The rally of citizens and police supporters was joined by Citizens of Escondido for Road Safety, a group critical of the city for their decision. The residents gathered before the city council meeting Monday to voice their concern and support for Maher.
Maher's supporters at the rally said the city is looking into text messages sent by other employees that may have included racial slurs. The city would not comment on the specific reasons for placing Maher on leave.
Some of the supporters also believe the investigation is a ruse to fire Maher because they say the city manager and he disagree over the use of daytime traffic safety checkpoints.
Citizens of Escondido for Road Safety supports the controversial checkpoint system. City officials said many have linked Maher's absence to the checkpoint's continuation.
However, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said Tuesday that the checkpoints and Maher's leave are not related, and the program will continue in Maher's absence. A statement from the mayor's desk said that public comments about the checkpoints' discontinuation are "unfounded and untrue."
In fact, he said, the checkpoint programs will be strengthened in Maher's absence.
“Let me assure you that Police Department programs and policies, including checkpoints, will not only continue to be maintained, but they will be strengthened," Abed said in a statement. "They are City Council policies that are carried out by our City Manager through the Police Department."
Civil rights activists say the checkpoints are designed to catch undocumented immigrants who don't have driver's licenses.
The investigation into Maher's conduct is ongoing.