City Manager Misleads CPCC Charter Amendment Committee

By: 
Stephen Downing

On July 1 the Beachcomber published an article entitled CPCC Authority Gutted by Proposed Charter Amendment, which included an extremely critical analysis of the amendment by eight experts.

The experts found that the amendment recommended by City Manager Tom Modica completely neutered the Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC), strengthened nothing, and did not provide greater transparency, which was a major goal of the original Racial Equity and Reconciliation initiative.

The cumulative evaluation by the eight experts was consolidated into an email – along with this writer’s professional assessment – and sent to the city clerk on the morning of June 14 for inclusion in the agenda packet for consideration by each council member during their deliberations that evening.

During those deliberations there was no indication from the questions or comments made by the few council members who participated in the discussions that any of the officials had in fact read the proposed amendment or the eight-expert analysis provided in their information packet.

Public input during the June 14 meeting included only two members of the public: Senay Kenfe, a Long Beach photographer, musician, writer and community organizer who opposed the amendment and Dana Buchanan, the current chair of the Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) whose comments, reported in full in the article, were neutral.

The Second CPCC Amendment Hearing

The second of three legally required Charter Amendment Committee hearings was held on July 19.

Public participation increased five-fold with no member of the public expressing support for the Charter Amendment.

The first public comment was made by Tracy Alcantar, former owner of the Acapulco Inn located in Belmont Shore, whose business was hijacked in 2018 by a trio of local bar owners he christened the “Somali Pirates.”

Alcantar referenced a series of four Beachcomber articles  that reported gross misconduct by police supervisors on the scene of the takeover, command officers who later supported the illegal occupation of his business and city management who ignored his complaints, all while holding up court documents his attorneys were finally able to file on June 20, 2022 that Alcantar said, “will finally expose the illegal LBPD supported practices that caused me to lose my business.”

Alcantar opposed the CPCC amendment saying, I see nothing in this proposal that improves anything.”

Richard Nehl, a downtown resident and former Long Beach business owner opposed the amendment. He said, “there are no checks and balances” and “the proposed director of police oversight can only investigate excessive force if the city manager tells him to.”

In concluding his comments Nehl said, “I want more officers in our community, but I also want the current officers to know that our city expects integrity and accountability.”

A 20-year old Long Beach welder named Jordon Stoddard opposed the amendment stating, “The job of this Charter Amendment should be to bring people together. It doesn't do that.”

Sharon Gander, a Black Long Beach resident, mother of a 14-year-old son and the executive director of “Tranquility Counseling Services opposed the amendment stating: “My children and other children we serve will be at greater risk of police misconduct than other children because the amendment “takes away subpoena power.”

Franklin Sims, a former mayoral candidate and community activist recounted the police brutality imposed upon a Black Hawthorne police officer named Don Jackson that became catalyst to the Charter Amendment that created the CPCC 32 years ago.

Sims said, “But, the past 32 years of (CPCC) operation has been a sham, giving residents the impression that we had police oversight, but behind the scenes we really didn’t.”

Sims said, “The ugly truth in Long Beach only came out after the murder of George Floyd to make this right. The mayor promised to hire an outside consultant and fix the CPCC, make it stronger, make it better, more just and fairer. And so here we are with this amendment, but is it any stronger? Is it any better or just or any more fair?

Sims answered his own question: “If this charter amendment passes, the very incident of police misconduct that led to the creation of police oversight 32 years ago will not be investigated.”

Testimony by a Civil Rights Attorney

Tom Beck, a well-known civil rights attorney followed Sims. The entirety of his comments made to the council committee follows:

“Good afternoon. My name's Tom Beck. I'm an attorney and the people in the CPCC probably know me well. I was Don Jackson's attorney in 1989. And since that date today, “I have succeeded in separating millions of dollars from the Long Beach Police Department on behalf of the people that they've abused, injured and killed.

“I'm here to tell you that I've reviewed the proposed amendment that is being sold to the public as an improvement on what presently exists. It isn't. You've emasculated the present CPCC authority. Not that they had very much to begin with.

“And as others have told you, they don't even have the right to conduct investigations. There's nothing expressly within this new amendment that authorizes anyone in any capacity, including the newly created (police oversight) director to conduct a competent internal administrative investigation into any citizen complaint of any kind.

“And what I can tell you is that I took great interest in the creation of the CPCC because of my connection to the Jackson case and my testimony before the State Senate on the Boatwright Commission that actually made it a crime at that time, based on the officer's conduct in that case, to file a false police report. And there wasn't a statute that barred it.

“So, of course, I was very interested in how the CPCC was going to be formed. What it was all about and how well it would work over the last 30 years.

“And in every one of the cases I've ever dealt with in Long Beach, I can tell you that the CPCC became a rubber stamp for the Police Department. There was no independence. And in fact, they were totally emasculated from their ability to do true objective, searching investigations.

“And it turns out as one of your speakers has just told you, the IA investigations and the CPCC conclusions, denigrated the complaints as being unfounded. Unfounded in the law means untrue.

“And yet, in case after case after case, we took those same facts to juries and the city lost.

“So how do you reconcile the effectiveness the CPCC under the old statute, let alone the new one, which is less effective in a try to achieve real justice?

“It's not going work. And if this (amendment) does go on the ballot, you can be absolutely sure I will do my best to ensure that it does not pass. I'd rather have the old one than the new one for the reasons I've said. Thank you.”

One of the last speakers was Cammie Johnson, a Black wife and mother who was raised in Long Beach.

Mrs. Johnson’s primary fears surrounded the dangers that “my sons face by being pulled over by the police.”

Johnson opposed the Charter Amendment stating, “You are changing and deleting so many powers you gave to the commissioners. I don’t understand why you are deleting those powers. The language against racial and sexual overtones is erased.”

Vice Mayor Denies Presentation

This writer prepared comment for the committee meeting based upon the city-published agenda announcement that contained no time limit for public comment – as it did for the regular council meetings – and advertised the Charter Amendment Committee meeting purpose as a “Recommendation to receive and file comments from the community and receive and file supporting documentation into the record on the proposed amendment…”

Vice Mayor Rex Richardson disallowed the full presentation if it exceeded 3-minutes.

When this writer requested that the full council be asked to approve an exception – as provided in the council agenda – Richardson replied, “We can’t waive the three-minute limit. Thank you.” He made no effort to solicit a motion for exception from the sitting councilmembers.

The unread remarks were subsequently filed with the city clerk.

Committee Questions Directed to City Manager

Following public comment several council members asked questions and received responses from the city manager and his CPCC director, Patrick Weithers, all of which can be seen and heard via audio and video files at the city website.

The generalized and vague responses by the city manager and his assistant generated concern from many of the public presenters as well as one council member.

When Councilwoman Suzie Price expressed concerns about the “generalized nature” of the use of force issues that the new director would be authorized to “review” – rather than investigate – Weithers' response exhibited a total lack of knowledge relative to the content of the amendment and the law.

Price ultimately interrupted by “respectively disagreeing” with what he said and City Manager Tom Modica eventually intervened to rescue his assistant but in so doing also demonstrated an alarming lack of knowledge, eventually promising Price that he would “take a look at it.”

At the conclusion of the meeting several of the public participants expressed concern that their comments and concerns either did not get through to the council members, were completely misunderstood or that – as one participant speculated, “It’s all show. The vote to pass. It has already been decided.”

Tom Beck, the civil rights attorney, was especially concerned by the response to the public’s comments from Councilman Al Austin who impugned their presentations when he began his own questions of the city manager.

Austin pointed to his copy of the amendment and said, “What I’m reading here doesn’t line up with what’s being said (by members of the public.).”

On the day following, after “sleeping on it,” he said, Beck wrote an email to the mayor and each member of the City Council to clarify for them exactly what was in the amendment document that Austin was reading.

The Beachcomber obtained a copy of that email. It follows here:

Beck’s Email to Mayor and Council

When addressing questions to the City Manager at the July 19 Meeting of the Charter Amendment Committee – after listening to public comments – Councilman Al Austin said, “what I’m reading here (in the proposed amendment) doesn’t line up” (with what is being said by the public).

Actually, the public comments were more on target than the answers provided to Councilman Austin by the city manager and his CPCC director, Patrick Weithers. Their efforts to justify the proposed changes to the city constitution were convoluted, scattered, misleading and often false.

I would like to offer a better response to the councilman – and share it with those to whom this message is sent.

The following responses are derived from a clear and precise reading of a redlined-strike-out copy (attached) of the existing CPCC charter combined with the proposed amendments:

  1. The civilian commissioners will no longer have the authority of subpoena power, to swear witnesses, to hold investigative hearings or to direct staff to investigate any complaint of misconduct they choose to investigate.
  2. The language of the Charter Amendment does not provide authorization for the police oversight director to investigate any allegation of misconduct made by a member of the public, unless requested to do so by the city manager or his designee.
  3. The director has no power of subpoena or the authority to swear witnesses or to hold hearings; therefore, if the director is authorized by the city manager to conduct an investigation, the director will not have the tools to conduct the investigation.
  4. The police oversight director’s authority in the proposed Charter Amendment is limited to conducting audits, inspections, creating reports and making recommendations to the CPCC commissioners.
  5. The commission is no longer empowered to “receive, and in its discretion to administer and investigate allegations of police misconduct with emphasis on excessive force, false arrest, and complaints with racial or sexual overtones.”
  6. The director is not empowered to “receive, and in its discretion to administer and investigate allegations of police misconduct with emphasis on excessive force, false arrest, and complaints with racial or sexual overtones.”
  7. The director’s only authority is to review – not investigate – use of force incidents limited to major use of force situations as specifically outlined in the Penal Code.
  8. Neither the commission nor the director has any authority to implement the director’s recommendations for systemic change within the LBPD or to make such reports and/or recommendations available to the public.
  9. Neither the commission nor the director retains the authority to make recommendations concerning allegations of misconduct to the city manager.
  10. The director is allowed to question witnesses – including Police Department personnel – only when related to the duties specified in the proposed amendment or when asked by the city manager to conduct an investigation.
  11. The director is not authorized to either order or implement a misconduct investigation when irregularities or the probability of misconduct is discovered.
  12. The new position of police oversight director is not subject to being hired or fired by the commission and is not subject to direction from the commission – but rather only to the city council.
  13. It is not specified if staff for the director is to be hired and fired by the director or by the city manager, who currently hires, supervises and fires CPCC staff.
  14. The amendment effectively eliminates civilian oversight.

The strikeout copy is attached for reference when reading the above statements of fact.

The strikeout copy referred to by Beck in his email to the mayor and council can be read here.

$53,000 Poll Implemented

In a July 15 article published by the Beachcomber entitled “City Tests a $500M Bond for Street Repairs, the author, Joe Mello, reported that the Election Charter Amendment “tested ballot arguments” that the “local political machine has local special interest that stand to benefit from the ballot measures funding the election campaigns” and that “those independent campaigns of course are privy to using the arguments that the city-paid polling has confirmed voters will buy into.”

Prior to publication of the Joe Mello article the Beachcomber – upon learning of the poll from city residents – had requested the city manager’s office to answer the following four questions relative to the public survey:

  1. What is the purpose of the survey?
  2. What is the cost of the survey?
  3. What method was used to select those sent the survey and those who were not selected?
  4. Who ordered the survey?

Following several follow-up emails to the city manager’s office the Beachcomber received a response on July 14 from Kevin Lee, chief public affairs officer. His response follows:

“The city is currently considering potential ballot measures for the November election. To help inform the City Council on whether to place these items on the ballot or not, the city manager has commissioned a statistically valid survey of Long Beach voters.

The survey topics consist of the three Charter Amendments the City Council is currently considering through the Charter Amendment Committee.

Additionally, given the City Council’s charge to the city manager to identify solutions to repair the city’s streets, the city manager is performing research on a potential infrastructure bond dedicated solely to road repair.

Surveys like this are important measuring tools in order to gauge general interest from the community and help inform whether the city should spend the resources to place items on the ballot.

Any decision to place an item on the ballot would be done in a public meeting with the opportunity to present arguments for and against.

The survey results of this June 2022 survey are not yet finalized and will be made available upon request once final. The cost of the survey is approximately $53,000.”

Lee was also asked for a copy of the survey. He has yet to respond.

The third and final meeting of the Charter Amendment Committee, prior to a vote to put the amendment on the ballot – will be held in council chambers on Aug. 9.

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

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Comments

Have have we given up? Surrendered? Ceded ALL OF OUR RIGHTS to the dishonest, criminals in government? Mr. Downing’s Beachcomber piece of July 23 cites the complete criminal actions of these THIEVES who attack us EVERY DAY as they hide behind their elected status! PLEASE someone show me how they differ from the SMASH AND GRAB mall thieves, the high end wristwatch grabbers who steal IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, and the ENDLESS MURDERERS who kill on the freeways and neighborhood streets!
Our civilization and humanity are being taken from us day by day….and WE ARE AIDING AND ABETTING! WE ARE NOT LOST! STAND UP AND SUPPORT THOSE WHO ARMED ONLY WITH MORAL COURAGE FIGHT FOR US EVERY DAY!

During the George Floyd protests, then former CPCC Commissioner Porter Gilberg famously said, “the CPCC is a farce.” He was only partially right, inasmuch as the lookout for the I’ll-fated Titanic saw a piece of ice floating in the water. Better stated, —THE ENTIRE CITY GOVERNMENT IS A FARCE—

Corruption in the LBC nothing new! All these criminals help and cover up for each other. Look at one of the worst, most corrupt and incompetent chef of police LB has ever had, is now being supported for LAC sheriff. What a joke. THE LBC is a criminal organization that needs to be investigated. Hello DA and Fed's.

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