LBPD Officer Corrupts the Challenge Coin

By: 
Stephen Downing
LAPD Challenge CoinLBPD Challenge Coin

The history of the Challenge Coin can be traced to the Roman Empire. While its modern tradition is military the coin has evolved to civilian use, especially within law enforcement organizations.

Its origin of design comes from the aspirations of individual leaders who wanted to create unique, tangible, value-driven objects that represent the enlightened kind of organizational culture they sought to establish and maintain by symbolically defining the organization’s purpose, values and mission.

Once minted the cultural development process began when the leader passed the Challenge Coin to each member of the organization through a handshake.

At the moment that the palms of leader and member pressed together, the leader made direct eye contact, narrated the values and mission the coin represents, challenged the member to adopt those ideals as a condition and obligation of group membership and then released the handshake, having passed the coin.

The leader then welcomed the subordinate to the organization and offered an instruction such as, “Keep this coin in your pocket. Each time you touch it you will be reminded of who you are and what you stand for.”

If the handoff of coin to colleague is then repeatedly reinforced by example, action and strict enforcement though systems of audited accountability and reward, the cultural aims of the leader would take hold.

Those who lived by the challenge would thrive and those who did not measure up would be weeded out and the core values of the organizational culture desired would become dominate.

The ceremony is akin to a police academy graduation or promotion when the officer swears an oath to the people and the Constitution and accepts the badge that represents the power and authority given by the people and entrusted to their care and good judgement.

The Thought Applied to the Coin Design

[Editor Note: Click the photo arrows to view the LAPD and LBPD coins.]

The LAPD’s Challenge Coin was designed and produced by this writer’s son when he took command of the LAPD’s Counter Terrorism and Special Operation’s Bureau in April 2006.

His purpose was to use the coin in the manner earlier described in this article.

He memorialized the meaning of each symbol within his design as follows:

“The center of the CTSOB Coat of Arms consists of a shield bearing blue and white quadrants. Shields have historically symbolized protection. Blue, the color of the Los Angeles Police Department, also signifies truth and loyalty, while white signifies pure intentions.

The shield is flanked on either side by lions, heraldic symbols of dauntless courage. The lions are positioned with the heads turned outward as if remaining vigilant against potential threats.

At the top of the shield is an embattled line, often referred to as a rampart, the historic emblem of a wall or fortress. This further symbolizes our sworn duty to serve as protectors of the public. Emblazoned across the embattlement are the initials “CTSOB.” Perched on the rampart and shielded by its wings is the American Eagle, our nation’s emblem, chosen because of its long life, great strength and majesty.

Within the shield the flag of the United States of America, this has the position of prominence in the upper left quadrant. This is a symbol of our respect for our nation and its laws and our duty to protect them both. This idea is further symbolized by the inclusion of the scales of justice placed at the base of the shield, which symbolizes that our actions must at all times be guided and tempered by the laws of the land, and serves as a constant reminder of our duty to protect not only our nation but the Constitutional rights of all people.

In the lower right quadrant of the shield is the All-Seeing Eye, denoting vigilant watchfulness. The eye, however, is symbolically placed in a position of subservience to the flag of our nation, emphasizing again the need to exercise our powers with lawful restraint and respect.

Laterally across the shield is a golden key. Within the intelligence community the key is recognized as a symbol of initiative and the ability to find and unlock answers.

The ribbon at the base of the coat of arms bares the Latin phrase “A Fortiora” – “With Yet a Stronger Reason.” This phrase symbolizes our resolve to go beyond the traditional duties of law enforcement, embracing the unfortunate necessity for modern counter-terrorism efforts. The ribbon itself is red, the color of strength and a calm demeanor in the face of adversity.”

Who Designed the LBPD Coin and What Do They Stand For?

The LBPD Challenge Coin was designed, marketed and sold by an active duty LBPD officer following the May 31 demonstrations in downtown Long Beach.

The coin commemorates an LBPD officer’s participation as present and active at what it describes as the “2020 RIOTS” by glorifying the “Hats and Bats” and weapons used by a helmeted, gas-masked skull reminiscent of the Totenkopf, or Death's Head symbol, used by Hitler's SS that has been adopted by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, including the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, since World War II.

Nowhere does the LBPD Totenkopf SS coin represent the core values of the police department as expressed on the LBPD website.

ETHICS (doing the right things) INTELLIGENCE (doing things right) and RESPECT (Treating People Right).

Nowhere does it embody the concept of constitutional policing or anything about protecting and serving those who left their homes and went to the streets of Long Beach to exercise their Constitutional right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of speech.

Nowhere does it represent the duty of a police officer to protect life and property from looting and arson while facilitating the people’s right to challenge the corrupt behavior of their government.

In my opinion as a retired LAPD deputy chief, this Totenkopf SS challenge coin characterizes the worst of law enforcement and its successful marketing to the LBPD rank and file, by one of their own, serves to give even greater validation to the cause of the mass demonstrations that call for police reform.

This coin – and its popularity within the ranks of the LBPD – exposes the existence of an organizational culture that cannot be changed by just adding a few more check boxes to the police training curriculum or conducting a series of “reconciliation sessions” doomed to City Hall’s dust bin of neglect or advertising an organizational course correction by publicizing PR strategies like the LBPD’s recent establishment of an ineffectually staffed, unfunded “Office of Constitutional Policing.”

Instead, this coin signals an urgent need to change a morally barren and dangerous organizational culture – from top to bottom.

ClearHotGear

The LBPD Totenkopf SS challenge coin is sold on the storefront website, ClearHotGear.

The “About Us” page on the website says that the business was founded by “a U.S. Marine parent who served his country proud while doing eight years of dedicated service conducting a tour of duty in Iraq (QLF1).”

The web page goes on to proclaim that, “He then came home to serve his community as a sworn police officer. This main focus and drive is public safety.”

The “U.S. Marine parent” does not identify himself or where he serves as a police officer, but goes on to explain – “What is Clear Hot Gear.”

“Derived from a term "cleared hot," meaning “You have permission to engage! Notice, the emphasis is on the word ‘have.’ That’s because you already possess your own permission to engage. I’m not giving it to you. In fact, I can’t. You’ve always had it; you just have to release it. It’s up to you to make the decision to engage. Once you have given yourself permission, you are "cleared hot" to create realities from possibilities beyond your expectations.

What does cleared hot mean? Well, in military terms, it means you have permission to fire your weapons on your target. During training that means you’re shooting at wooden tanks or old worn out tires. In real combat, you’re firing on the enemy. An enemy that in my case was trying to shoot my attack helicopter out of the sky.”

The website explanation of “cleared hot” – when combined with the owner’s statement that he is a “Marine parent” – leads one to believe that it was his attack helicopter the enemy was “trying to shoot out of the sky.”

What he doesn’t tell you is that the words in those two paragraphs used to establish the tone and moral authority of his business were pilfered, plagiarized and posted without giving credit to its author – Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, a former Nashville, Tenn. police officer who became the first African-American female naval aviator in the Marine Corps and the first African-American female combat pilot in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

It was Vernice Armour’s attack helicopter the enemy was trying to shoot out of the sky – not a grifter, part-time businessman who sells hateful merchandise that dishonors both the military and law enforcement.

How Far and Wide Does This Dishonor to Long Beach Extend?

The Beachcomber, like other Long Beach-based media, became aware of the LBPD Totenkopf SS challenge coin on Aug. 24 when Alice Caldwell-Kelly, a U.K. based anthropologist/podcaster who investigates police culture worldwide first exposed the coin on her Twitter account, (@AliceAvizandum) which is followed by 29,000 people.

She posted a thread entitled “cops exposing themselves again” and referred to the LBPD Totenkopf SS coin – as well as others – as a “cursed artifact.” 

The discussion of the LBPD Totenkopf SS coin was displayed on the world stage when Caldwell-Kelly lumped it in with discussion of other police “cursed artifacts” that included an NYPD coin celebrating an officer’s four “justified kills,” including the victim who called the police; the QAnon patch an officer wore while photographed with VP Mike Pence; the “You’re F**ked” engraved dust cover on the AR-15 owned by the police officer who killed Daniel Shaver in a hotel hallway; the Kansas City SWAT officer wearing a “door kicker” patch and what she described as the “less noticeable” racial slurs; and swastikas etched into individual police officer’s flashlights.

On that same day, Aug. 24, the notoriety of the social media exposure caused the LBPD to issue a statement that, “This memorabilia was not sanctioned or approved by our department and does not reflect our professional standards, core values and commitment to our community.”

On Aug. 25 the Long Beach Post published an article by Jeremiah Dobruck titled “LBPD investigating whether employees helped sell ‘2020 riots’ memorabilia."

That same day the Beachcomber connected information found on the ClearHotGear website to the Facebook page of an individual identifying himself as “Chavo Villa.”

The Facebook page displayed the Icon trademark of ClearHotGear and in a March 28, 2019 posting “Chavo Villa” announced that he landed a new job as CEO of ClearHotGear.

In other postings “Chavo Villa” displayed the photo of an ATM balance of $99,864.73 and in another a PayPal balance of $52,485,947.39 next to text that read: “COVID-19 LockDown 2020 @clearhotgear feeling generous.”

The Beachcomber located public records through the Los the Angeles Country Business License Bureau that a license was issued to Clear Hot Gear on June 3, 2019 and registered to Salvador Villa.

According to public records Salvador Villa was originally hired as a Long Beach police officer on June 4, 2004 and graduated from the police academy in Dec. 11,2004. He passed probation on December 3, 2005 and remained in good standing until he resigned on Jan. 31, 2007. After working for the Napa Police Department and the Compton School Police Department he was reappointed to the LBPD in August 2016.

[Editor's Note: The preceding paragraph was updated from the initial posting late Friday.]

In 2019 Transparent California reported that Villa’s pay and benefits totaled $202,821 – $39,267 of which was overtime. In 2018 the officer’s overtime totaled $53,811.

The address listed for ClearHotGear – 13502 Whittier Blvd. Ste. H #266 – is a USPS mail drop store.

Voice mails requesting comment from Salvador Villa left at the phone number listed for ClearHotGear were not returned.

On Aug. 24 the Beachcomber sent the following request to LBPD Community Liaison and the LBPD media relations unit:

“The Beachcomber has identified the company, CLEAR HOT GEAR and its owner, Long Beach Police Officer Salvador Villa as the entity producing and selling the violence associated “2020 Riot” challenge coins and other associated memorabilia.

We note that a number of items on his website denote “Approved by the LBPD.”

We would like to get your comment as to the company’s representation and suggestion that the LBPD approves their products, either selectively or generally.

We would also appreciate knowing if Officer Villa has been issued a work permit by the LBPD to engage in this business.”

The LBPD did not respond to the request.

On the same day, Aug 24, the Beachcomber filed the following request for public records with the LBPD:

"The Beachcomber is requesting the following regarding LBPD Officer Salvador Villa: 1. All documents authorized by SB 1421 (legally produced disciplinary records – specifically shootings, use of force, dishonesty and sexual misconduct) 2. Assignments since his hiring by LBPD, including his current assignment. 3. Work Permits issued and authorized for off duty work. 4. Overtime pay since June 2019 to date. 5. Sick days taken in 2019 and 2020."

The LBPD has ten days to identify responsive records and 30 more days to produce the records.

However, in a contract with the LBPOA, Mayor Garcia and all members of the City Council approved a provision in the union contract (MOU) that the POA and the officer would be notified five days in advance of any document release to the public – which permits the LBPOA and the Officer Villa to seek a court injunction against release of the records requested.

The ClearHotGear business also markets a duplicate Totenkopf SS coin that identifies with the LAPD and the LA Sheriff.

The Beachcomber asked both the LAPD and LASO media relations units if permission was granted to ClearHotGear to produce the coins.

The LAPD spokesperson stated: “The coin did not have any registered trademarks for the agencies involved and had generic markings. It is not a sanctioned coin by the Los Angeles Police Department or any of the other agencies represented. A notification was made to the city attorney’s office requesting a cease and desist notice.”

The Sheriff's Department did not respond.

Beachcomber research also uncovered two other business entities that market “cursed artifacts” associated with the LBPD as well as other police departments.

One – who sells though social media – is owned by LBPD Special Services Officer III (armed) Nahin Anaya-Zavala (Anaya/1942 Apparel).

The other – a company that promotes selected products marketed by the LBPOA – is Sunshine Sports, headquartered in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho.

Public records identify Randal R. Hayes – the owner of Sunshine Sports – as a former convict who served a three-year prison term for statutory rape. 

In an Aug. 6 article by Nathaniel Percy in the Daily Breeze titled “Long Beach police looking into '2020 riots' merchandise with its name on it,” it was reported that Sheriff's Lt. John Satterfield said, “The company’s creation of the coins was not a crime, was not an copyright infringement and was protected by the First Amendment. He added that the coins do not fall in line with the department’s core values.”

What was not said is that no one has the constitutional right to be a police officer. 

 

Stephen Downing is a Long Beach resident and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police. stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com.

Greg Buhl, a Long Beach attorney, writer and research analyst, contributed to this story.

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Comments

Big deal. Much ado over very little. LBPD must be chuckling that they live rent-free in Downing's head on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, the readership of the Beachcomber is chuckling about how you seem to enjoy the flavor of pig boots.

TECTOR GORCH:

YOUR PERSONAL ATTACKS AGAINST PERSONS EXPRESSING THEIR OPINIONS ON BEACHCOMBER CONTENT WERE DELETED. THIS IS A FORUM OPEN TO INTELLIGENT DISCUSSION ABOUT LOCAL ISSUES. IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, AT LEAST SAY SOMETHING OF SUBSTANCE.

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS RARELY MAKE IT INTO OUR PRINT EDITIONS. PUT YOUR REAL NAME AT THE END OF SUBMISSIONS CONTAINING A PSEUDONYM IF YOUR POSTING IS INTENDED FOR PUBLICATION CONSIDERATION.

JAY BEELER, PUBLISHER

If you would stop boot-licking the LBPD for a moment and realize the true meaning behind certain symbolisms, you would see that this type of behavior should not be engaged in or tolerated by a so called "Professional Organization." These so called "riots" should not be glamorized. Due to the incompetence of the LBPD many LB citizens were hurt and many LB business where damaged. Do you think these LB citizen will enjoy knowing that these cops are having a good time memorializing these tragic events. the irony of this coin is that LBPD's incompetence is the reason why the "Riots" even happen in the first place. Show you that these cops and their leadership is not to smart, and should not be considered a professional organization, the LBPD is and has been a criminal organization, SMH, LOL

TECTOR GORCH:

YOUR PERSONAL ATTACKS AGAINST PERSONS EXPRESSING THEIR OPINIONS ON BEACHCOMBER CONTENT WERE DELETED. THIS IS A FORUM OPEN TO INTELLIGENT DISCUSSION ABOUT LOCAL ISSUES. IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, AT LEAST SAY SOMETHING OF SUBSTANCE.

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS RARELY MAKE IT INTO OUR PRINT EDITIONS. PUT YOUR REAL NAME AT THE END OF SUBMISSIONS CONTAINING A PSEUDONYM IF YOUR POSTING IS INTENDED FOR PUBLICATION CONSIDERATION.

JAY BEELER, PUBLISHER

They are memorializing it NOT because they enjoyed it, it would be idiotic to think so, they are memorializing it because they lived through a harrowing event where their lives were endangered, when warriors survive such events, they often memorialize it to celebrate the fact they lived through the event and survived.

You OBVIOUSLY have not experienced this and cannot relate. All you can do is make insulting commentary from the sidelines.

Ronin: lol are you really trying to make us believe that "Hat and Bats" and a skull is just trying to "memorialize an even"? Look at the coin, none of it represents any that. These so called "warriors" of yours were wearing protective riot gear and shooting projectiles at unprotected peaceful protesters, while avoiding any type of contact with criminal looters (As shown on TV) and also avoiding real police work by arresting the looters. "They lived through the event and survived." really!!! LOL, the so called "enemy" you are referring to is the 18 /20 yr olds throwing water-bottles and feces (per your LBPD Chief) the worst that could have happen to these cops was smelling like poop when they got home and possible getting a yeast infection. You are trying to make these cops seem like they just went into a combat zone with the Taliban. lol, it was pine street, not Afghanistan, so relax.. A real warrior is a person in the military that served in combat not a city cop. Just because they wear military equipment, that we paid for, so they can look tough and intimidate LB citizens does not make them "Warriors". I bet 95% of them never even served in the military and the other 5% (if any) that did, were probably "POGS." You can try and spin this anyway you like to cover up for these cops/leaderships incompetence but we all know what these cops real intention was, to "Glamorize" the "Riots" SMH.. Better luck next time, try that excuse with the people who read the LB Post they probably for for it.

This article addresses and exposes the very core of the systemic problems at the LBPD. Until these concerns are resolved, nothing will change and the corruption will continue. So very sad for the good cops.

So called "good cops" don't look the other way when bad cop misconduct occurs. That just makes them one of the bad cops.

There are PLENTY of good cops that call out their “bad apple” peers. Fortunately/Unfortunately, there is an administrative process- like the criminal process nothing happens overnight.

There is a serious problem with the LBPD and things like this underscore that it is absolutely cultural. I wish police chiefs were electable positions because Luna isn't accountable to anyone but the cops below him to enable their sick, racist culture. Why won't Garcia call this out and demand the department do better? Oh, because they've got handshake deals left and right. He has to go, too.

God bless the Long Beach Police Department and all law enforcement officers in the USA.

Mr. Cobb, LBPD has disparaged themselves a-lot more time than just this "Challenge Coin," all the incidents that you mentioned on your post has occurred in the LBPD and many more just the names are different. The size of LAPD (10,000) compared to LBPD (800) is very different so that tells me LBPD is even more corrupt and more incompetent, which explains the loss of millions of tax payer dollars. Mr. Downing is "Reporting" corruption, so maybe LBPD should stop giving him things to report. Seem to me that by your defensive nature and not seeing the obvious of this story, that you are probably a former cop of this criminal police department. You say the coin was "produced by an individual not the department." you trying to tell us that the LBPD staff had no knowledge of this COIN, if so then the LBPD administration is more incompetent than we all thought. SMH.

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