MODESTO -- A Stanislaus County sheriff's lieutenant testified in court Tuesday that she has heard Sheriff Adam Christianson and other department managers reference the "Limp, Lame and Lazy" list of deputies who were injured on duty or are on family medical leave.
Lt. Tori Hughes, who is the police chief in Patterson, said on the witness stand that she heard references to the list in the sheriff's executive team meetings "so many times I can't give you an exact number." She said she heard Christianson use the "Limp, Lame and Lazy" name for the list a lot.
Her testimony is part of a civil trial under way in Stanislaus County Superior Court. Dennis Wallace is suing the county, alleging that the sheriff forced him out of his job as a deputy after Wallace suffered a series of injuries on duty.
Hughes said she doesn't consider it a joke when managers comment about the list, because they were speaking of deputies who were receiving workers compensation for on-the-job injuries or were on family medical leave.
"I take it very serious, and I don't think it's a joking matter," she testified.
Hughes testified that the "Limp, Lame and Lazy" list is on the lower right-side corner of the the department's overall operations assignments list used when the managers are discussing work schedules.
She said the managers have used the disparaging title while demonstrating frustration over staff shortages and not being able to provide coverage for deputies who are unable to work. Budget cuts have reduced staffing levels in the Sheriff's Department, as well as other county agencies.
The last time Hughes said she heard reference to the list was during a meeting with Patterson's city manager and finance director. She testified that the Sheriff's Department's business manager, who oversees the department budget, mentioned the "Limp, Lame and Lazy" list.
"I actually was embarrassed more than anything," Hughes said about her meeting with Patterson city officials.
Wallace began testifying Tuesday morning and is expected to continue his testimony today. He worked for the department from 1997 to January 2011, when he was sent home because he no longer could work under his doctor's restrictions:
No prolonged walking in excess of 30 to 45 minutes without a five-minute break
No walking on uneven ground in excess of 30 minutes without a five-minute break
No prolonged standing in excess of 30 to 45 minutes without a five-minute break
Wallace testified that he is capable of working as a patrol deputy under his doctor's restrictions. He said he would take any opportunity to work even without his doctor's restrictions as long as the job provides the same retirement benefits and chances for promotion as a sworn deputy.
"I still can do patrol," said Wallace, who is 49.
He started as a patrol deputy, mainly working on the West Side. When he applied for a narcotics investigator job in June 1999, he was assigned to work with the local schools' Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, helping children stay away from drug use, gang activity and other dangerous behavior.
Wallace occasionally volunteered for overtime patrol assignments. In June 2005, he was transferred to work as a court bailiff and did that for 20 months before he returned to patrol, working as a community deputy in Salida.
In 1999, Wallace injured his right shoulder subduing a 300-pound suspect in Oakdale. He injured both shoulders while chasing a suspect in Patterson in 2003. He underwent surgery and rehabilitation each time.
While responding to a report of a burglar alarm in 2007, he stepped in a pothole and fractured his ankle. That year, he injured his left knee while chasing a suspect. He re-injured the knee on duty a year later.
Wallace testified that at one point while on medical leave, he joined a gym to rehabilitate his injuries. "I kind of made it my full-time job to get back to work."
On the witness stand, he said that he was told by a sheriff's captain that it was Christianson's decision alone to not allow him to return to work as a patrol deputy.
Wallace said there are a number of jobs that would allow him to work under his doctor's restrictions, including school resource officer, training deputy, background investigator and detective in Riverbank all jobs that became available after he was sent home in January 2011.
"I didn't apply because I was told I couldn't work," Wallace testified.
Erik Neuman worked as a Stanislaus County sheriff's sergeant for nearly seven years after his left leg was amputated. He testified Tuesday in the civil trial.
Neuman was a SWAT team sniper in December 2004, when a fellow SWAT team member was reloading a Ruger rifle and the high-powered weapon accidentally fired, hitting Neuman in the leg.
He already had passed a sergeant's test before the injury, so Neuman was promoted and later became a training sergeant for the department. Part of his duties was showing trainees how to apply defensive tactics to subdue suspects, such as handcuffing techniques or takedowns from a wrist lock.
"How to get people to do what you want them to do," Neuman said about the defensive tactics while on the witness stand. He uses crutches to get around.
He said he has to pass a perishable skills test as a sergeant at least every two years, the same test deputies have to regularly take. The state standards skills test includes emergency driving.
Sheriff's Sgt. Manuel Martinez, who has been with the Sheriff's Department since 1998, testified Tuesday that he suffered a back injury in 2001 and carpal tunnel injury in 2005. Since 2009, he has worked with doctor's restrictions: He can't pull, push or lift more than 20 pounds while on duty.
Martinez now works as a supervisor for the department's civil and statewide transportation division. He supervises four deputies and occasionally assists them in serving five-day eviction notices and temporary restraining orders or transporting jail inmates.
Wallace was among several candidates seeking a job with Martinez's division in 2011. Martinez was part of a panel that interviewed the job candidates.
Previously, the interview panel chose finalists and ran a background check before they were ranked. Now, the candidates simply pass or fail before Christianson makes the final decision.
Wallace passed the panel's test. Four candidates were hired, but not Wallace.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.