San Pablo police officer had toddler in car during drug arrest

SAN PABLO, Calif. (KTVU and wires) -- A San Pablo police officer has been charged with four felonies and two misdemeanors for allegedly buying heroin and cocaine in San Francisco last week while a 2-year-old girl was in his car, police and prosecutors said Monday.

Officer Kenneth White was also found with illegal weapons when he was arrested in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood last Wednesday afternoon, San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

San Pablo police said Monday they became suspicious White was involved in illegal activity in San Francisco last Monday and notified San Francisco police.

Undercover San Francisco police officers noticed a Ford Mustang belonging to White in the area of Howard and Seventh streets at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Esparza said.

Another man, identified as 57-year-old San Francisco resident Timothy French, walked up to the Mustang and leaned in to the passenger door.

The undercover officers concluded the interaction was a drug deal and moved in, detaining both men. They allegedly found at least 0.6 grams of suspected cocaine and 7.8 grams of suspected heroin.

Both men were arrested on suspicion of narcotics violations, with White suspected of trying to purchase drugs from French, Esparza said.

The officers also found a 2-year-old girl and illegal guns in the Mustang with White. The girl was taken into police custody.

"What's most troubling is that there was a two year-old child in the vehicle at the time of the transaction," said Esparza. "Narcotics can be violent encounters once someone's buying or selling them and there's a potential for someone being injured. It would've been unfortunate if this two year-old was caught in the middle."

White was arraigned Friday on charges of possession of a controlled substance with a firearm, two counts of carrying a loaded firearm and one count of child endangerment, all felonies, as well as misdemeanor drug possession charges for heroin and cocaine salt, district attorney's spokesman Alex Bastian said Monday.

White is being held on $250,000 bail in protective custody in San Francisco County jail and is set for another court hearing on Tuesday.

San Pablo has a relatively small police department -- about 54 sworn officers -- which makes the arrest of one of their own that much more devastating.

"It's hard," San Pablo Police Department Commander Gene Alameda told KTVU. "It's shattering on our part, actually to hear something like this is occurring and to find out something like this is occurring from one of your police officers."

White was already on paid administrative leave on an unrelated matter at the time of his arrest and his powers as a police officer had been suspended, according to San Pablo police.

"The San Pablo Police Department and its Police Employees' Association are committed to upholding their motto of integrity, community and service," San Pablo police Chief Lisa Rosales said in a statement.

"We take these matters seriously and will ensure a professional and comprehensive personnel investigation will be completed," Rosales said.

Two investigations are underway into the officer's arrest.

"[The SFPD will] be handling the criminal side and we'll be handling the administrative side of it, the internal affairs side of it," said Alameda. "So there will be some collaboration but there are two separate investigations."

White's defense attorney, Christopher Dove, was not immediately available for comment.