San Diego Unified School District

SDUSD police chief retires amid harassment lawsuit filed by nearly a dozen officers

11 school district officers came forward in 2023 alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation

NBC Universal, Inc.

The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) announced on Friday that district Police Chief Alfonso Contreras will retire. The timing comes amid an ongoing lawsuit filed by nearly a dozen officers last December against SDUSD Superintendent Lamont Jackson, the district Police Department, and Chief Contreras.

Allegations started to surface in July of 2023, when nine officers came forward with allegations that for years they were targeted and unfairly treated by Chief Contreras. Contreras, who has been with SDUSD's Police Department for more than 30 years, became Police Chief in 2022. That's when, according to the officers represented in the lawsuit, things started to change.

Among the changes was the forming of a group of roughly five or six officers named "The Club," consisting of now-former Police Chief Contreras, and his long-time girlfriend Sgt. Jenifer Gruner.

The lawsuit details instances of favoritism and employment law violations, and retaliation against certain officers who did not comply with "The Club". NBC 7 spoke with Jesus Montana in December of last year, on the day the lawsuit was first announced.

"The district will not protect our employees, someone has to, and we 11 are stepping forward," said Sgt. Montana.

Response from lead trial attorney

In a statement from John Gomez, the lead trial attorney representing the officers, they said: "Our clients are pleased and relieved that Chief Contreras has chosen to retire in the face of the pending investigations brought about by our lawsuit. Dysfunction, favoritism, and disaccord have no place in a law enforcement agency especially one that protects hundreds of thousands of kids within city schools. With Contreras gone, our clients look forward to getting back to what’s most important: Protecting the students, teachers, and staff of the San Diego Unified School District". 

NBC 7 has been reaching out to SDUSD since August of last year for comment on the allegations, as well as the resulting lawsuit. At the time, a district spokeswoman told us the district does not comment on pending litigation, and that all the allegations received by the district are taken seriously.

In a memo obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune that was sent to school police personnel last Friday, interim Police Chief Donald Braum wrote in part: "The District would like to thank Chief Contreras for all his efforts and contributions to provide a safe learning environment for our students, staff and communities for the past 32 years."

The lawsuit is still in the early stages. The prosecution and defense will meet with the judge in November of 2025, when they will hash out how they want to move forward with the case.

SDUSD POA President responds

Caleb Arnold, San Diego Unified School District Police Department POA President, responded to Contreras' retirement with the statement below:

"Now that the retirement of Chief Alfonso Contreras has been made official, the Police Officer Association of the San Diego Unified School District is excited to finally move forward in an effort to heal a department that has endured so much the past two years.

We are hoping that the POA will have significant involvement and input in the hiring of the next Chief of Police.

Once again, we are asking the district to listen to its Officers and value our opinion as these are very important decisions that will affect the future of the department. We hope our requests do not fall on deaf ears as they have in the past.

It is time to heal this department."

The Police Union, SDUSD, as well as the attorney representing the officers could not be immediately reached for comment on Chief Contreras' retirement.

Contact Us