Beachcombing

By: 
Jay Beeler

Last week we broke an online story about the LBPD’s use of TigerText, a communications app used within the top ranks that would delete messages after five days and potentially destroy evidence for use in court cases. Unlike most items we post online it went viral internationally with huge read numbers. This issue contains an edited, front-page version of that original posting.

That news story was the hard work of Stephen Downing following seven months of digging for details. As a retired LAPD deputy chief and Long Beach resident, he started submitting stories to the Beachcomber about five years ago that frequently involved police, legal and legislative matters. As a respected authority doing considerable research on each topic, anonymous police sources were comfortable communicating with Downing on things that needed fixing.

His subsequent columns yielded some misguided thinking that Downing and the Beachcomber are anti-LBPD. We are anti-corruption, pro-honesty and pro-integrity from our police officers and elected leaders. We call it transparency; it is that simple.

My favorite TigerText-related letter to the editor in this issue is from Stanley O’Riley and was directed to Downing: “May the force of heaven and all of God’s blessings be with you and your family. You are my official Super Cop hero as well as the only one reason why I still believe good cops still exist!”

 

But some cops simply don’t like it when we pull back the curtain exposing wrongdoing.

In the early years of publishing the Beachcomber we were told about and reported on how the Long Beach Police Officers Association (LBPOA) would videotape interviews with candidates for public office, and then save the “evidence” should the candidate fail to remember their quid pro quo promise to act favorably when it came to salaries and benefits for LBPOA members.

The ring leader behind this corruption was former POA President Steve James, who would go on to publish campaign mailers and advertisements that blatantly violated Fair Political Practices Commission policies.

Subsequently we would hear about James’ use of retired LBPD officers to contact our advertisers and request that they do not use the Beachcomber for advertising placements. We kept reporting his wrongdoing anyway, making him the brunt of cartoons.

Then along came “Lobstergate” and more negative press for the LBPD when honest cops reported on fellow officers engaged in illegal acts, like lobster fishing on duty and the illegal discharge of firearms. In a Los Angeles courtroom LBPD Chief Tony Batts lied about the cop’s misdeeds or others being punished in retaliation for speaking out. The jury awarded three victims $4.1 million.

Next we had cops and civilians coming out of the woodwork to tell us about Batts and his multiple cases of domestic violence involving girlfriends and his wife, former Councilmember and Congresswoman Laura Richardson Batts.

A 1978 California law restricts public access to law enforcement disciplinary records and complaints, making it difficult for newspapers to document wrongdoing. So with insider information from multiple sources I soon became the leading authority – frequently contacted by other national media – on Anthony Batts and his lurid past; he fled Long Beach in advance of our news stories on him, going to Oakland and then Baltimore.

 

I cringe anytime someone would start a discussion “I know that you dislike the LBPD, but…” The honest truth is that I have the upmost respect for the vast majority of LBPD officers. In fact my wife worked for the LBPD for 13 years before retiring a few years ago and I had the opportunity to meet many stellar officers at Christmas parties.

But there are rotten apples (as with other organizations), doing bad things in violation of the law and tarnishing the badge. Fellow workers not liking lawless behavior and not wanting to be associated with it will come to a newspaper (aka the Fourth Estate) to report those activities, usually wanting to remain anonymous.

Through his Beachcomber columns, Stephen Downing has performed an outstanding service to the Long Beach community for which we should all be thankful. I am proud to have him on our team.

 

Finally a shout out and thank you to lbreport.com and the 4th District Blog. Both publishers credited Downing and the Beachcomber for breaking the TigerText story. Downing worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Al Jazeera Investigations Unit to get around the stonewalling of the LBPD and City Hall using public records requests. No other local media credited Downing when the story broke on Sept. 18 in unison with Al Jazeera’s international story.

That’s why the other media have a reputation for being called City Hall lap dogs, big on “fake news.”

publisher@beachcomber.news

Category:

Comments

My deepest respect and admiration to Steve Downing and Beachcomber News for the fantastic reporting on corruption. Unfortunately when the rotten apples sit on top of the barrel it’s hard to see all the good ones below.

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 2018 Beeler & Associates.

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