TigerConnect Review a Whitewash

By: 
Stephen Downing

Part 2 of 2 Parts

Following publication of the Beachcomber’s Sept. 18 story (in an alliance with Al Jazeera) reporting on the illegal destruction of evidence over the past four years by the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) using a self-destructing (ephemeral) Instant Messaging phone app called TigerConnect (formerly TigerText), City Attorney Charles Parkin and City Manager Pat West formed a partnership to announce suspension of the app’s use until an “outside independent review” could be completed.

The law firm, Best, Best & Krieger (BBK), already under a $100,000 blanket contract with the city for as-needed legal services (Also known for its substandard legal advice that contributed to the financial scandals in the City of Bell) was tapped by the City Hall partnership to provide an attorney to conduct their announced “independent review. ”

On Dec. 14, 2018, 50 days after BBK attorney Gary Schons began the review, the City Hall partnership published Schons findings and conclusions in a report entitled: “A Report to the City of Long Beach.”

According to public records BBK billed the city $18,154.36.

Part One of this two part series reported an analysis by three legal experts who concluded that the 31-page report amounted to a “Whitewash built on the incorrect assumptions that all public officials do nothing wrong and won’t misuse an ephemeral app.”

The three legal experts took particular exception to Schons’ assertion that, “we’ve had ephemeral messaging for decades – it’s called a phone call.” 

Mark Pedroli, lead lawyer for the “Sunshine and Government Accountability Project said, “The comparison is not only pure farce but it demonstrates clear bias and shows a total disregard for record retention laws and government transparency in general.”

Part One also examined the damaging consequences of Instant Text- destruction upon effective police reform, oversight, supervision, management and audit competencies.

Part Two

In his “Executive Summary of Findings” Schons concludedin 21 separate areas of public concernthat use of the TigerConnect app was proper and had no negative or illegal consequences. 

The Beachcomber has set aside 20 of those conclusions for future reporting when the results of the review by other governmental agencies are published and/or any future lawsuits brought by civil rights organizations are filed.

One of Schons’ findings, that “there is no evidence to support claims of illegal use or misuse of the TigerConnect app by the PD” is the focus of Part Two. 

Because TIgerConnect destroyed all text evidence, Schons review was dependent upon personal interviews of LBPD personnel using the ephemeral app.

On page 15 of the report Schons states, “An individual, in a media article he authored, claimed knowledge of or contact with “two separate inside (LBPD) sources, but he has refused to identify them for purposes of this independent outside review or to offer any evidence to substantiate the claims reported in that article.”

The “individual” to whom Schons refers is this reporter. The Beachcomber published four news articles and one opinion column on the LBPD’s use of TigerConnect – prior to Schons BBK assignment to conduct the “independent” review.

On Nov. 6, after receiving his BBK assignment, Schons sent a letter via email to the Beachcomber. In it, he wrote, “I have read the articles you have written, articles in which you were quoted and statements made by you during at least one public meeting critical of the use of TigerConnect by the police department and complaining of its illegal use or misuse.  You have suggested you have evidence or know of witnesses that will support or corroborate these allegations of illegal or misuse use of the app.”

He continued, “I am writing to request that you provide any such evidence to me or identify any witnesses who will support or corroborate any illegal use or misuse of the app.”

In that Al Jazeera published statements from their separate LBPD sources the Beachcomber asked Al Jazeera reporter Jeremy Young if Schons made a similar request of him.  Young said, “No.”

This reporter sent a letter of reply to Schons the following day and declined to identify any Beachcomber sources, writing that, “all of the witnesses who provided us information feared retaliation and were thus promised confidentiality.” 

The Beachcomber response continued: “I know of very little reporting that has been done on Long Beach City Hall over the past eight years … that has been accomplished without the use of confidential sources, particularly when it comes to exposing the harms imposed upon our community by the Long Beach Police Department.”

The Beachcomber letter continued, “If we had relied on information provided by the current administration the Long Beach community would know almost nothing of the truth about the operational deficiencies, civil rights violations, cover-ups, crony culture or the corrupted investigative practices by the collection of Brady List officers and detectives retained and deployed by the LBPD.”

This reporter did, however, offer Schons guidance in how to obtain the information that he sought, by adding, “However, because of the information I have acquired about TigerText use, coupled with my experience as a 20-year veteran and chief officer of the Los Angeles Police Department, I will be pleased to share with you my recommendations relative to the design, construct and areas of witness interviews that should, in my opinion, be pursued in order to discover the whole truth related to the acquisition, deployment and use of the TigerConnect instant messaging app by the LBPD. “

The Beachcomber’s letter of response concluded with: “Should you be interested, please let me know and I will prepare an investigative design for your consideration.”

Schons did not request the assistance offered, but did state in his letter as well as in his report to the city that he had read “all of the articles” written by this reporter.

An Inadequate and Superficial Investigation

Two of the Beachcomber articles provided pathways for Schons to design an interview matrix. The pertinent paragraphs from those articles follow:

On Sept. 18 the Beachcomber reported: “In February 2018 a confidential source inside the LBPD informed the Beachcomber that the app was in use by detectives assigned to narcotics, gangs, intelligence and homicide units, including detectives who investigate officer involved shootings. The source said that when the app was assigned the detectives received no written instruction and were told: “The app is to be used in situations where we don’t want the texting information to get out to the public – or to be discoverable.”

On September 27 the Beachcomber reported: “On Saturday Sept. 22, following Chief Luna’s press conference, one Beachcomber LBPD source wrote, “…the PD’s response that the app was being used to communicate confidential victim information is pure BS. Lloyd Cox presented the app at a management training day and the explanation he gave as to why we are getting the app was: “Anything you send via text messages or emails is subject to discovery, so if you need to send anything that you don’t want handed over, use this app because it deletes all the messages and there is no record of it stored anywhere.”

“On the same day another LBPD inside source contacted the Beachcomber and wrote, “Lloyd Cox, told us in a weekly homicide unit meeting in the 5th floor conference room to use it (TigerText app) to discuss information that should stay within the unit and not be discoverable. I told him all information related to homicides and OIS’s (officer involved shootings) is discoverable and I wouldn’t use it.”

On page two of his report Schons writes that “The City Attorney’s Office provided … and collaborated on an investigative plan … and on page 3 he wrote “Command level officers most knowledgeable of the TigerConnect app’s acquisition, deployment and use by the PD, including the chief of police, were interviewed, as were a number of civilian city employees with assignments to PD IT and the city’s Technology an Innovation Department…”

There is no indication in the Schons report that his investigative plan or its execution involved interviews of the rank and file users of the app nor was any officer – active or retiredinterviewed to learn what was said in squad meetings or academy training sessions conducted by Lt. Lloyd Cox – as reported by Beachcomber (and Al Jazeera) sources.

Tom Barham, a former Los Angeles Sheriff’s lieutenant, decorated combat veteran and prominent constitutional rights attorney who read the Beachcomber articles and the Schons report said, “Truth will invariably escape the investigator who fails to look in the right places.  Those who hear but don’t listen get the same result.”

The Beachcomber asked the city manager if he had any concerns “that the ultimate findings of the Schons report may be inaccurate in light of the fact that the review/investigation did not include interviews of the app user personnel.”

City Manager Pat West’s spokesperson replied, “The City Manager’s Office has accepted the report of Mr. Gary Schons, of Best Best & Krieger, and supports his research methods, approach analysis and outcomes.”

CPCC Remains Neutered

On page 15 of his report Schons complained, “that same individual (this reporter) appeared at a public meeting of the City’s Citizen Police Complaint Commission to register a complaint about the PD’s use of the TigerConnect app and to request an investigation, other than the one reported here.”

Schons did not detail the testimony given by “this same individual” at the CPCC meeting.

This reporter, in his capacity as a resident of Long Beach, attended the Oct. 11, 2018 meeting of the Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) and requested – as a complainantthat the CPCC Commissioners, as the only true independent investigative body for the people of Long Beach, launch an investigation and conduct hearings into the use of TigerConnect using the tools that the City Charter affords them: The power to subpoena witnesses and documents, to swear witnesses and to take testimony. 

The commission was specifically urged to take under-oath testimony from the LBPD’s rank and file users of the app so as to protect them from administrative retaliation for exposing the truth of the acquisition, training, briefings and use of the ephemeral cell phone app, TigerConnect.

Rather than investigate and/or hold hearings the CPCC maintained its 27-year record of never conducting a hearing and took no action.

Requests Stonewalled

On Dec. 11 the Beachcomber asked City Attorney Charles Parkin – via emailif the Schons report changed his mind relative to his statement made at the time news of the use of the app by the LBPD first broke, when he said, “I would never recommend the use of a system that automatically deletes records. It just didn’t make sense to me.”

Parkin did not respond to the Beachcomber request for comment.

On Dec. 10 and again on Dec. 18, 3rd District Councilmember and Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Suzie Price, was asked via email to comment on multiple questions related to the Schons report. 

Price did not respond to the Beachcomber request for comment.

Transparency is Embraced by All Political Parties

In calling the Schons report a “broadside attack on transparency in government, “ Mark Pedroli, the lead lawyer for the “Sunshine and Government Accountability Project” said,
“The good news is that this report and its findings can be rejected by the democratically-elected officials of Long Beach.”

“The elected officials should exercise the judgment they were elected to exercise and require all public officials to retain all public communications, ” he said.

Pedroli concluded, “If the elected officials do not exercise their own judgment, the people of Long Beach can replace them, as transparency in government is one of the last political issues in America embraced by all political parties.”

“Elected officials undermine transparency in government at their own peril, ” he said.

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

stephen@beachcomber.news

Category:

Comments

This city and the LBPD should be investigated as a criminal organization by the federal government, the FED's should come in and stop these mobsters. The citizen of LBC should demand that action be taken and remove all involved. What a disgraceful and pathetic city government.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Beachcomber

Copyright 2019 Beeler & Associates.

All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced or transmitted – by any means – without publisher's written permission.