Commissioners Skip Spring Break for a PR Campaign

By: 
Franklin Sims

Amidst calls for its charter reform, CPCC announces plans for a 9 District Q&A Tour as soon as late March.

In a report to his colleagues Thursday, Commissioner Justin Morgan said that the CPCC (Citizens Police Complaint Commission) is going on an outreach tour throughout Long Beach.

Perhaps the most controversial commission in Long Beach history, the CPCC came under fire last year as protestors took to the street under the BLM banner. The charges varied but among them was that the commission was no more than a paper tiger that had failed to ever even subpoena or interview a single officer it "investigated."

All the more farcical was when the public learned that even if the CPCC were to recommend that an officer be disciplined for misconduct, more often than not, the city manager overrode their recommendation.

Generally, the excuse was that the city manager had access to key information not available to the commission. An excuse which begs the question of the Commission's utility other than to pacify public sentiment.

An uniformed police commission is about as fruitless as a jury that can't hear admissible testimony.

More often than not, the officer was transferred or put back on the street, creating a public safety risk not to mention costing taxpayers many millions in civil rights judgements and settlements.

More About the Tour

Although Mayor Garcia referenced leading a charter change intended to strengthen the CPCC, until a ballot measure goes before the people commissioners are coming to a district near you.

Branded a "Q&A forum" commissioners hope to "gather feedback" from "independent community voices." Their launch date is soft and would begin "later this month or in early April," said Commissioner Morgan. The ambitious plan is to gather residents around the watering hole one time in each of our nine districts.

Why This Matters

It's sort of weird that the CPCC is going on a tour for community feedback. The feedback was pretty clear from the public this summer. The throngs of protestors with large homemade signs couldn't have made their demands any more transparent. So resonating were their voices that the national guard was called out and buildings were boarded.

So then why in heaven's name would the CPCC go district hopping to explain its investigation process when the entire fallout this summer is rooted in the demonstrable fact that the CPCC is powerless to protect residents from unconstitutional policing?

For residents that have already sat through Zoom call after Zoom call during framework for reconciliation talks, this looks like government redundancy and prolonged "transparent community outreach" masked as substantive action.

To put it more frankly, this would be like outgoing presidents Obama or Trump taking a Q&A days before the inauguration of their successor. Who cares?

We already know what we want. We want a real tiger and preferably one with sharp teeth. Long Beach residents are done with a CPCC used as political cover to unleash bad apple officers back onto our streets to continue their reign of terror on residents.

Aside from reflecting a poor image, this practice also undermines officers who honor their sworn duty.

Not to mention the reality that many millions of dollars in civil judgments and protests that shut down retailers is bad for everyone. Especially a city with a deficit as large as ours.

Downing's Voice of Reason

It seems that the only sensibly minded voice in the room has come from the pen of retired resident Stephen Downing. A former Deputy Police Chief with the LAPD, in painstaking detail Downing's Beachcomber articles have explained the precise mechanism our city needs to turn the page.

Quite summarily, he describes current CPCC investigations as "cut and paste" jobs. His criticism stems from the fact that when a complaint is lodged the CPCC merely plagiarizes info it gathers from the LBPD's internal affairs investigation and passes it off as its own.

CPCC Manager Patrick Weithers said as much yesterday when he explained that whether someone files a complaint with the CPCC or LBPD, his shorthanded staff will reach out to the Police Department's internal affairs for the accused officer's "compelled testimony."

But CPCC Manager Weithers omitted a shocking loophole from his PowerPoint presentation.

In case the word "internal" didn't give it away, the truth is that internal affairs is essentially the Police Department investigating itself. The CPCC's allegedly "independent" investigation isn't worth the paper it’s written on, since it is completely reliant on an inside investigator asking all the questions.

So, when an internal affairs investigator asks an accused officer a slew of softball questions without any follow-up to clarify a response that sounds fishy or doesn't add up, the CPCC is powerless. They can't interview the officer themselves. Nor do they sit in on internal affair interviews to follow-up with officers.

So, while a fancy PowerPoint presentation with big Latin words proclaiming that the CPCC will send a "subpeona duces tectum" and request "compelled statements" sounds impressive, it's all smoke and mirrors.

It's also rather inefficient to waste public dollars on two separate investigations of the same citizen complaint. Especially since one investigation is merely a carbon copy of the other. Thus, the only benefit of the twin CPCC investigation is to pacify enraged public sentiment by creating a false sense of citizen oversight.

Beachcomber columnist Stephen Downing put this to the test when on a phone call with Weithers he asked whether the CPCC manager could ask follow-up questions or even interview an accused officer. Downing said the manager hedged the question on one end and answered "no" on the other.

Perhaps, CPCC Manager Weithers is just as confused about the process as residents are frustrated with why our city fails to get a grip on constitutional policing.

Downing's Plan

We asked Stephen Downing to tell us, in a nutshell, what a proper Investigative outfit would look like.

The way he put it, we need any number of police commissioners that reflect our community by area or district. More importantly, the board of police commissioners he envisions must have authority to act as the policy head of the Police Department. These commissioners would also have the power to hire and fire staff including the chief of police.

Acting on behalf of the commissioners would be an inspector general. Basically, this is a constitutional law attorney who has the power to audit any police conduct or documents without the permission of the police chief or the city manager.

Reporting directly to commissioners, the role of the inspector general keeps the process out of reach from elected officials, city management or the chief of police.

Under this model, the police chief would act as manager of the police force. The chief would have disciplinary authority over LBPD employees. This way he can do his job and be held accountable for department discipline. As a check and balance, the board of police commissioners would have charter authority to review both the chief's performance and police operations.

The city manager's role would be what he's best at. He'd work with the police chief on the budget.

The idea is to place oversight over the police chief and take unilateral power out of the hands of the city manager. By placing the power back into the realm of the public through the commissioners, balance is restored. Lastly, having an inspector general with an expertise in constitutional law would restore justice, accountability and integrity to Long Beach and our police force.

As American as Apple Pie

Downing's plan sounds a lot like the brilliance of America's Constitutional framework where three branches of government balance one another's power.

The board of police commissioners would have the power to make policy. The inspector general would have the power of review. Lastly, the police chief would have the power to carryout policy. But of course, the city manager and council would hold the power of the purse.

Any of this, however, would require a charter change and a vote of the people.

Until then corruption, incompetence and cronyism will continue to undermine our public safety at the risk of justice, the devaluing of human life and detriment to both taxpayers and business interests.

Maybe more of us should read the Beachcomber.

But all of us should insist that our city stop investing in costly paper tigers.

 

This article appears in an online newsletter called TheMemo: Trusted Long Beach News for Independent Thinkers. (https://franklinsims.wixsite.com/thememo)

 

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Comments

Accountability, Transparency, ethical behavior and just plain honesty does not exist within the LBPD, which is aided by the city attorney and city council. Do you really think that the leaders of these corrupt entities would want reform which will lead to the discovery of their criminal activities and possible prosecution under the law, don't think so. Downing and theBeachcomber have exposed corruption on all levels of this city, can some one please tell me when anyone of the people exposed have been held accountable, by any one in the city or especially from the ringleader Luna and the LBPD? NEVER. The only change will come when LBPD is investigated by the Fed's and is disbanded, then we can start over with good ethical people.

Standard police stall tactic with the hopes everything will quiet down so CPCC can go back to their look the other way, do nothing ways.

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