Detective Eric Walterscheid stood at a podium before the El Monte City Council during its last meeting in June, touting the work of Officer Carlos Molina before honoring him as the Police Officers Association’s Officer of the Year for 2020.
With about a dozen rank-and-file officers looking on, the police union president said of Molina: “He’s been with us for 21 years. I remember when he first walked into the detective bureau — his leather was squeaking. I read his reports. I said, ‘Go into detectives! You’re an excellent investigator!’ He never looked back.”
But Molina seemed an odd choice for the honor, primarily because he didn’t work a single day in 2020. He spent the entire year on paid administrative leave that ultimately lasted 19 months — from September 2019 to April 2021, according to Tom Madruga, a contract attorney for the city.
Molina, a detective at the time, was placed on leave because he spent a year working on a child abuse investigation that yielded little work product, sources close to the investigation said on condition of anonymity. Additionally, he charged the city for 42 hours of overtime pay — equating to more than $4,400 — during that period.