D.A. Confirms Beachcomber Allegations of LBPD Cover-up

By: 
Stephen Downing

On June 7, 2017 the Beachcomber broke a story that exposed the Long Beach Police Department’s (LBPD) questionable handling, release and special treatment of Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, 36, and her former chief of staff, Devin Cotter, 36.

The incident followed a June 3, 2:40 a.m. notification from the CHP that the pair was in a vehicle parked north of the Golden Shore Exit on the 710 freeway where Pearce was identified by the CHP as both a suspected DUI driver and perpetrator of felony domestic violence upon Cotter.

The LBPD has since done flip-flops to cover up their “VIP special handling” of the incident starting with vague and unsupported press releases as well as refusals to release documents and photographs that supports rank and file allegations that LBPD brass gave improper orders to police officers on-scene to provide special handling and release of the councilwoman – when she should have been arrested and booked like any other person in the general population – rather than benefitting from corrupted perks afforded to those in high positions at city hall.

The LBPD denied that special handling was provided to Pearce but did admit that they have a “notification procedure” required when a member of council comes to police attention.

The LBPD manual requires that the notification, in the case of a council person, go from the officers on the scene to a sergeant supervisor, the watch commander, the duty chief, the chief of police, the city manager and finally, his honor, the mayor.

That “chat-up-the-chain” clearly resulted in Mayor Garcia’s new favorite council person – the one who contrived and executed his back-room reversal of the people’s Campaign Reform Act (CRA) – to escape arrest and booking that night.

The Beachcomber’s confidential LBPD sources reported that upon arrival the LBPD responders observed cuts and bruises on Cotter’s arm and head and smelled the odor of alcohol on both Cotter and Pearce, but were prevented by supervisors from performing DUI testing until hours later while permitting Pearce to drink water in order to mitigate her blood alcohol level.

After obtaining the LBPD call log through a Public Records Act request the Beachcomber confirmed that the LBPD unit arrived at 2:47 a.m. and the charge sheet made public by the District Attorney (D.A.) almost five months later (October 26, 2017) confirmed the statements of our police sources that LBPD supervisors did not permit officers to conduct a Field Sobriety Test (FST) until “4 in the morning” and at that time the FST was, “consistent with mild impairment from alcohol” and that “at 4:20 a.m., she blew a .06 into a PAS machine,” a reading that also confirmed our original information from LBPD sources.

The DA’s charge sheet went on to spell out the fact that the “Officers did not obtain a second PAS sample” and that “Suspect Pearce was never taken from the scene to the station for additional testing.”

The remarkably detailed explanation from the D.A. is code for: The LBPD did not handle the investigation in a manner consistent with the established law, policy and procedure – as applied to the average person – and therefore we do not have enough evidence to prosecute the councilwoman.

A prosecutor knows that proper police procedure when investigating a DUI demands the FST and PAS (field breath instrument) be administered in the first 20 minutes when a driver is suspected of DUI. They also know that the PAS (if used and available) should be administered twice if not consistent with the FST and that a .06 reading demands a trip to the station for testing on a highly calibrated breath machine.

The D.A. clearly articulated the fact that none of that happened – and also pointed out that the PAS was defective – and useless as evidence – because the LBPD allowed the device to remain in service in spite of a crime lab specialist ordering that it be removed from service a month earlier (another convenient coincidence).

But, even in the face of the D.A’s charge sheet being made public, the LBPD continues to be dishonest with the public.

In their first written response to a list of Beachcomber’s questions issued on June 6, 2017 LBPD press relations wrote in part “the California Highway Patrol (CHP) called Long Beach Police and requested assistance investigating a possible domestic violence and driving under the influence incident.”

Yet following release of the D.A.’s charge sheet five months later the LBPD wants us to believe – according to a statement made to the L.A. Times by LBPD Media Relations Sgt. Brad Johnson – that “officers initially investigated whether domestic violence had occurred when they arrived, interviewing Cotter and Pearce before realizing that the councilwoman had been drinking. At that point, the officers called for a colleague who is a certified drug recognition expert to investigate.”

This new version of events – articulated five months later – now serves as the LBPD administration’s reason for not smelling alcohol when officers arrived at the scene – conveniently omitting the fact that the CHP radio notification clearly identified a DUI situation.

But in rationalizing the DUI testing delay for the LA Times the Sergeant’s statement also confirmed earlier information received from Beachcomber sources that LBPD brass contrived to further delay DUI testing by ordering that a drug recognition expert (called in from home according to our sources) be called in – to handle what is considered a straight forward alcohol related DUI investigation that is routinely handled by any patrol officer.

One of the Beachcomber’s LBPD sources that originally reported the incident called after reading the media relations sergeant’s statement in the L.A. Times article and said, “That’s so much B.S. All patrol officers are trained to conduct DUI investigations. Also, a PAS is not required. If we don’t have a PAS but do have probable cause to believe someone is under the influence we are expected to take them to the station for a more accurate breath test. Every citizen in Long Beach who is stopped for suspicion of DUI is subject to that procedure.”

While the D.A.’s charge sheet validated the Beachcomber’s original column based upon the reports from our LBPD sources, what the prosecutor did not clarify is what Pearce’s blood alcohol level would have been had she been tested in the first 20 minutes after the officer’s arrival.

In an earlier follow-up column the Beachcomber reported that, according to Nick Morrow, a retired Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff and court appointed DUI expert: “Alcohol has a predictable and generally accepted “burn-off” rate. Research shows a .012-.015 percent per hour burn-off as common. If the PAS test were administered within 20 minutes of the stop (accepted police procedure) then a reading of 0.06 percent would not be sufficient cause to arrest for DUI, absent other objective symptoms. However, if it were administered more than two hours after the officer began the investigation, Pearce’s blood alcohol level would have been between 0.084 percent and 0.09 percent – both over the legal limit of .08.”

What the Beachcomber did not know at that time – according to the D.A.’s charge sheet – is that, “Suspect Pearce took multiple videos when she stopped on the side of the freeway. The first was time stamped at 1:27 a.m.,” a full hour prior to the arrival of the LBPD.

Applying the burn-off rate to another full hour means that when Pearce first pulled to the side of the road and began videotaping her dispute with Cotter, her blood alcohol level was between a staggering 0.96 and 0.105.

When asked about the DUI testing time frame and VIP treatment during an interview on the KLBC.Org Luc & Cammie show on Oct. 23, Pearce stated, “I didn’t have any water. As soon as our Long Beach PD got there, I had to walk the line. I had to do the nose thing.”

But, according to the D.A’s charge sheet – made public a few days later – the evidence provided to the prosecutor by the LBPD stated that Pearce was not given a field sobriety test until 4 a.m. and the field breath test was not conducted until 4:20 a.m.

Either Pearce lied to the Luc and Cammie Long Beach audience or the LBPD withheld key evidence of Pearce’s guilt when submitting the case to the D.A.

Which was it? The Long Beach community is entitled to an answer and city hall should produce it.

The D.A.’s rationale for not charging Pearce for felony domestic violence is credible. According to the charge sheet the evidence provided to the prosecutor following the LBPD’s follow up investigation amounted to the confusing claims and counter-claims of two squabbling drunks who couldn’t keep their stories straight, in spite of the fact that Cotter ended up with what the D.A. said was: “many witnesses, including the CHP officers and LBPD officers, who saw swelling, redness, and a laceration to his head and cuts to his hands.”

But the prosecutor’s open, forthright and detailed decision not to charge Pearce with criminal behavior has nothing to do with application of LBPD arrest policy in a domestic violence case when there is injury – and often when there is no injury.

Current LBPD arrest policy, training and practice demands that Pearce should have been arrested and booked that morning for felony domestic violence and subjected to the same harsh bail, court appearance, restraining orders and separation from loved ones that every other person suffers when involved in an alleged case of domestic violence.

During her appearance on the Luc and Cammie show, Pearce also boasted at length about her integrity in office and her consistent practice of delivering honorable governance to the people of Long Beach.

Hopefully the councilwoman’s avowed practice of delivering “good governance” will bring about a change to the ignorant and harmfully abusive “zero tolerance” LBPD domestic abuse arrest policy so that what is today an exclusive perk provided to city hall elites – will become a reform arrest policy for everyone.

However, we don’t advise that LBPD DUI investigations and arrest policy be changed to fit the LBPD’s VIP special treatment scheme enjoyed by Councilwoman Pearce. That would put us all in danger.

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

stephen@beachcomber.news

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