Civilian Police Complaint Commission Urged to Perform Its Duties

By: 
Stephen Downing

Mr. President, honorable members of the Citizens Police Complaint Commission, my name is Stephen Downing. I am a resident of Long Beach living in the 3rd district.

It will be one year tomorrow that I appeared before this body and provided you with evidence of corruption surrounding an internal affairs investigation related to the termination and subsequent reinstatement of a police officer named Eddie Sanchez.

I provided information that exposed the participation of the city attorney’s office and the police union in covering up the corrupt misuse of internal affairs division resources with particular emphasis upon the retaliatory and untruthful behavior of a high-ranking police officer, Don Wood.

I urged this body to subpoena the players involved in that corruption and hold hearings in order to bring about needed reform – and I recounted my observation that in its 26-year history the Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) had not issued a single subpoena or conducted a single hearing in furtherance of the people’s will to reform police practices.

To my knowledge the CPCC did not hold hearings in that, or any other matter, in the past year. I do not know why, but I suspect that your legal advisors dissuaded you by minimizing the necessity for such an inquiry or falsely advised you as to limitations of your authority to do so.

Whatever the reason, I am here to once again urge you to subpoena witnesses and hold hearings in order to expose – and correct the culture of retaliation that continues to exist within the police department. A culture that is all too often abetted by the city attorney’s office and one that continues to cost the Long Beach taxpayer tens of millions of dollars.

Lobster Gate - $4.1 Million

The pattern and practice of the retaliatory culture that thrives within the police department was first widely exposed in February 2008 when a civil jury awarded a sergeant and two police officers $4.1 million. That infamous civil case has become known as LobsterGate.

Instead of acknowledging the organizational culture of retaliation when the $4.1 million jury award was announced the city attorney’s office complained that they lost because the 12 jurors who handed down the unanimous decision in less than four hours “ignored a lot of the facts.”

Since that time we have seen many other similar law suits – costing millions in taxpayer funds – that demonstrate it was the police department executive suite and the city attorney’s office that ignored the facts rather than the jury.

Sgt. Timothy O’Hara $1.7 Million

Just last month another civil jury awarded former Navy Seal and Long Beach Police Sergeant Timothy O’Hara $1.7 million. His offense was to report fraudulent overtime practices – which were later sustained by the city auditor.

O’Hara’s integrity was redefined by the organizational culture as a failure to be a “team player” who brought discredit upon those involved in the overtime fraud as well as exposing incompetent supervisory oversight – and from there the pattern and practice of targeted retaliation followed once again. It cost us a top rate police sergeant and $1.7 million.

Officer Daniel Ochoa – Recent Confidential Settlement – In the Millions?

Officer Daniel Ochoa, repulsed by the police union leadership’s lack of integrity, withdrew his membership and undertook to form a new and honest representation unit for police officers.

Cronyism abetted by corrupted supervision, nit-picking, cumulative, targeted, disciplinary measures and – once again – Don Wood’s involvement in systemic retaliation – resulted in another biased internal investigation littered with falsehoods that ended with another unjust termination.

Ochoa sued. During the course of the lawsuit, Deputy City Attorney Haleh Jenkins was accused of witness tampering for interfering with Ochoa’s effort to identify witnesses from within the police department. Counsel for Ochoa filed a motion to remove her from the case.

Following an extensive hearing the judge permitted her to stay on the case, but the exposure of her manipulative tactics coupled with the strength of Ochoa’s case was compelling enough that the city chose not to risk a jury trial and offered a confidential settlement – which occurred sometime in the past two weeks.

Based on past, similar dispositions I expect that the settlement and attorney fees will be in the millions. And making the settlement “confidential” serves only one real purpose – to continue to conceal the city attorney abetted organizational culture of retaliation – and keep the taxpayer in the dark.

Officer Alex Lawrence – Lawsuit Pending

Another case on the horizon involves Officer Alex Lawrence who had the integrity to refuse a highly improper order from a deputy chief.

Lawrence’s rebuttal to carry out that order – and promise to expose the appalling decision if carried out – resulted in the deputy chief reversing his order but then retaliating by transferring Lawrence from his prestige position to lower paying assignments – twice – and then later denying him the opportunity to win a higher paying job – one for which he was the most qualified applicant.

Again, the administration offered no fair or just remedy to the cumulative retaliatory behavior and chose to support the offended deputy chief’s decision to transfer him.

Lawrence sued, trial is pending and the retaliation continues – an example of which – once again – involves the behavior of Deputy City Attorney Haleh Jenkins.

When counsel for Lawrence subpoenaed all of the records related to the department’s consideration for the new, better-paid position applied for by Lawrence, she notified the “team player” who got the job, Officer Brad Dinsdale, of the subpoena in spite of the fact that the records in question were in the city’s possession.

That Machiavellian notification resulted in Dinsdale sending emails to other “team players” that broadcast his personal message: “Alex is suing the department because I got the PRCS job that he interviewed for. Spread the hate!”

As stated, that lawsuit is still pending – while the “hate” thrives.

Lawsuits Pending –Officers Vargas and Orduno

I have been informed that two LBPD veteran officers, Vargas and Orduno, both of who joined Officer Ochoa in resigning from the police union and also undertook to help organize a new representation unit have been subjected to targeted retaliation and recently terminated. And, like Officer O’Hara – it is reported that Vargas also observed, documented and reported widespread time-card fraud.

I uncovered a law suit recently filed by Vargas on the Superior Court web site and have since received additional information from multiple sources that Vargas was recently terminated following a systemic campaign of targeted retaliation involving Commander Don Wood – who managed the retaliation process in addition to falsely filing an internal affairs misconduct charge against him that has since been covered up by the department.

I was further informed that Deputy City Attorney Halea Jenkins – assigned to defend the lawsuit – has also played a major role in engineering the Vargas/Orduno termination as well as other actions against the city.

A web search of Jenkins resulted in discovery of documents that expose her character and the retaliatory practices she brings to her job as an attorney for the city. The courts have sanctioned her twice:

Once in a civil action prior to her employment with the city by the Court of Appeal of California, Fourth District Division Two, for signing a motion that the court concluded was not, “well-grounded in fact … or by good faith … “The court found that her motion, “lacked merit, and that she was provided an opportunity to withdraw the motion and refused to do so…”

The second court sanction against Ms. Jenkins came two months ago, on March 7, 2017, in Hanna vs. City of Long Beach where Judge Rafael Ongkeko rejected “as not credible and self-serving the reasons Ms. Jenkins gives for her substantial delay in bringing this issue to the court’s attention causing prejudice to the plaintiff.” And that the plaintiff’s attorney, “rightfully complains of substantial prejudice in having to deal with these nuclear disqualification motions at a time when he should have been concentrating on trial preparation.”

The judge further granted sanctions in the amount of $12,000 against the city and its counsel – Haleh Jenkins – jointly and severally – stating the following: “The inescapable conclusion that the court reaches is that Ms. Jenkins' true goal was to wreak havoc by eliminating a worthy adversary and … The court strongly agrees that under these circumstances, these actions and tactics are frivolous (totally and completely without merit and done for the sole purpose of harassing plaintiff).”

Officer Quincy Miles

Ms. Jenkins was also the attorney representing the city – and won – in the case of former police officer, Quincy Miles who sued the city for retaliatory, targeted disciplinary measures that resulted in his termination.

Former Officer Miles has since provided documents to the CCPC and internal affairs division to support his allegation that Don Wood was untruthful at his civil trial. His allegations – which have purportedly been thoroughly investigated – are one of the matters the commission will adjudicate and make recommendations upon tonight.

With all that has transpired, Commander Wood still retains a high-ranking position and has been allowed to continue to practice his disturbing management style and remain immune to correction or removal.

He is not alone in enjoying that kind of immunity. An example of others who benefit from crony protectionism is former Police Commander Josef Levy.

Multiple sources as well as documents received via a public records request expose a scenario in which Levy was forced into retirement by Chief Jim McDonnell after video evidence proved that he filed false allegations of misconduct against a police officer.

Chief McDonnell later saw that Levy was allowed to return as a reserve officer. McDonnell ordered him out again. Then, after McDonnell left to become Los Angeles County Sheriff, Levy was allowed back as a reserve officer and is seen almost daily in police facilities and – most egregious – his private company has been paid large sums of money by the city to provide training to officers who sit and listen or watch his training material on matters of implicit bias and integrity and snicker because of the hypocrisy supported by their police department and city hall.

The Quincy Miles complaint the commission is considering tonight has at its core – targeted retaliation. I urge you subpoena witnesses, hold hearings and investigate all of these cases – as well as – others not reported here in order to gather evidence of the truth for yourselves.

Dig deep, find the real truth and become the instrument of change to reform the culture of targeted retaliation that prospers within the Long Beach Police Department.

A bright light can be shined into the dark hole of the past if our citizen commission stands up to the bureaucracy, does their chartered job and delivers the reforms that are so badly needed for the benefit and morale of the rank and file, the retention of quality officers with high integrity and the protection of the people’s treasury.

Thank You. 

Downing is a Beachcomber columnist, Long Beach resident and former LAPD deputy chief of police.

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