Has the Pearce Cover-up Been Put to Rest?

Stephen Downing

On Aug. 7 the Press-Telegram (P-T) published an article by reporter Jeremiah Dobruck headlined, “Long Beach councilwoman drank before driving; police said it wasn’t a DUI. Were they Right?”

After establishing that this column broke the LBPD cover-up story surrounding the Pearce/Cotter affair in the Beachcomber on June 7, Dobruck went on to describe me as “a former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief who lives in Long Beach and often vociferously criticizes the city’s law enforcement.”

I didn’t take great exception to the description although “vociferous” (raucous and strident) may be just a bit of an exaggeration, as I do my best to support the opinions (enthusiasm and determined) made in my columns with facts – or at least raise questions about statements coming out of city hall that don’t add up.

Others who have lived in Long Beach a lot longer than I wrote and called to say that they saw the P-T piece as city hall’s way of putting the scandal to bed for good, so that Councilwoman Pearce could move on as if she was qualified to keep her seat on the city council, continue to serve Mayor Robert Garcia’s mission to undo the city’s campaign fund reforms and allow city hall to get on with discussions surrounding the mayor’s budget.

I had to agree, especially when I saw that the P-T piece was based on 1) A radio log they received from the LBPD though a public records request, 2) that the reporter had suddenly turned up “LBPD sources not authorized to speak publicly on the subject,” and 3) the DUI experts the reporter relied upon to validate a proper police disposition failed to answer (or be asked) the question we raised in our first column related to the 0.06 breathalyzer test given Pearce: When was the breathalyzer administered?

Since I was the first person in Long Beach to make a public records request for the radio log (as well as dozens of other documents) I had to wonder why the Press-Telegram received the LBPD radio log and I didn’t – so I asked.

The next day I received a copy of the radio log from Sergeant Byron Blair, representing the chief of police, Robert Luna. He wrote:

“Please see the two attached calls for service related to the Jeannine Pearce incidents on the 710 freeway and at the 2200 block of Florida Avenue.

“The Long Beach Police Department declines to disclose any records that may be responsive to the other items in your request because any such records are exempt from public disclosure.”

The only reason the “other documents” are “exempt from public disclosure is because the LBPD (think city hall) has chosen to deem them exempt in order to control a very deep scandal that involves elected and appointed officials in addition to Pearce.

To that I loudly (vociferously) object as should every citizen of Long Beach who cares about integrity (and transparency) in governance.

With the help of my LBPD “sources” who “are afraid for their jobs” (think street cops as opposed to programmed leaks from the brass “who are not authorized to speak”) I was able to get a lot more out of the radio log than that reported in the P-T article.

Timeframes say a lot, especially when the end result of a police investigation that lasts almost three hours (2:51) at the edge of the 710 freeway involving at least 6 officers, 1 sergeant and one lieutenant ends with no DUI charges, no $50,000 DUI warrant served and no arrest for domestic violence.

It also raises questions based on statements coming out of city hall that don’t add up.

The CHP officer who came upon the scene put in a call for LBPD at 2:40 am.  The LBPD radio log tells us that Officers Stojanoski and Skeen (Unit 1A67) from South Division were assigned the call at 2:47 a.m.

But, officers Manzo and Henry (Unit 1A66) – providing backup – got to the location first – arriving at 2:56 a.m.

Seven (7) minutes later one of the Unit 1A66 officers ran both Cotter and Pearce over the Justice Data Interface Controller (JDIC) network for wants and warrants, the return of which would have been almost instantaneous.

That is a very reasonable span of time for the officers to get the facts from the CHP officer, take a look (and smell) at Cotter and Pearce, get their stories (allegations) and IDs and make the JDIC check.

Five  minutes later Sgt. Steinhauser (Unit 1S20) arrived on scene.

A good sergeant first gets the lay of the land by talking to the officers.

Apparently it took Sgt. Steinhauser 19 minutes to learn what he needed to know. He then called for the Watch Commander, Lt. Tyae Buford, who arrived on scene a few minutes later – at 3:31 a.m. (if there was no crime or outstanding warrant why were they not released at that time?)

Once Lt. Buford arrived another one hour and 15 minutes passed while he conducted his investigation, made who knows what notifications, engaged in who knows what cell phone conversations with the duty chief (and who knows who else) until the first active decision was made: Officers Manzo and Henry radioed a change of location and drove Cotter to his boat (home) at Dock DD (4:46 a.m.)

In spite of the fact that Chief Luna announced a rookie (Henry?) needed training over misreading the JDIC response informing the officers that Cotter had an outstanding $50,000 DUI warrant, my sources continue to maintain that most everyone at the scene knew of the warrant at the time the officers were directed to drive Cotter to his boat.

It took four minutes for the officers to drive from the Hwy. 710 location to Cotter’s boat dock, but there is no evidence in the radio log that the officer’s notified communications division that they were transporting a civilian – as required by LBPD policy for liability reasons. Why?

Now, one would think that if there were no crime to report or arrestee to book that once Cotter was delivered to the boat dock, the two officers would have gone “clear” and became available for dispatch. But, that is not what happened. Ten minutes after arriving at Dock DD the officers signed out to the station to “write and file report.” And they did not clear from that activity until 9:04 a.m., more than three hours later.

That’s quite a report for an incident involving no crime or arrest. It also syncs with the original information I received from my LBPD sources; that the report written by Officers Manzo and Henry of Unit 1A66 was an “Information Only” report that laid out all that the officers observed – and were ordered to carry out – and quite likely the report whose accuracy so displeased the brass that the rookie was called in later in the day to make changes.

But, all of that remains informed speculation – all of which can easily cleared up by city hall being more transparent and the Citizen’s Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) doing a proper job of interviewing the officers – under oath – none of which we will count on.

So, let’s back up to when Officers Manzo and Henry left for Dock DD at 4:46 a.m., leaving the assigned unit, 1A67, Stojanovski and Skeen, Lt. Burford, Sgt. Steinhauser and one other unit, 2A13, to continue their investigation with Ms. Pearce at the 710 freeway scene – where they had already spent one hour and 15 minutes.

The P-T article reported that their “two LBPD sources” said that Jeannine Pearce blew a 0.06 blood-alcohol level (0.08 is legally presumed DUI) “when officers gave her a breath test (PAS) …” and a DUI attorney expert queried by the P-T reporter said that “if the officers believed Pearce was not too impaired to drive with that level of alcohol in her system, they were right to let her go.”

The 0.06 blood alcohol reading reported by the P-T’s two LBPD sources coincide with that reported by my sources – as published in this column several weeks ago.  But, what the P-T reporter’s LBPD sources do not say is when the breath test was administered or why. Those questions are absent from the entire P-T article.

Proper police procedure begins with a suspicion of DUI, followed by a field sobriety examination (walk the line, touch the nose, etc.) and, if the officer’s conclude that the subject is under the influence, it is at that time that a field breathalyzer (PAS) is administered.

In our earlier column we reported that our LBPD sources said that Pearce was allowed to drink water, was never administered a field sobriety examination and was not given a breath test until more than one and one-half hours after arrival on scene – which according to the radio log, indicates that Pearce didn’t blow into the device until after Officers Manzo and Henry drove Cotter home.

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 (proper 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.”

According to the LBPD radio log the Hwy. 710 scene was cleared at 5:41 a.m., three hours after Pearce and Cotter were discovered by the CHP. It is reasonable to assume it was around that time that the LBPD concluded she was not DUI, as reported – or she would have been released much earlier.

The LBPD’s press release said that a “friend” drove Pearce home. Our source said she drove herself home and the friend who came to get her (her current chief of staff and his girlfriend) was a passenger.

The LBPD radio log indicates Pearce drove into her neighborhood seven minutes after being released from the Hwy. 710 scene – at which time she observed Cotter and called police communications which resulted in a new radio call log being generated; an “unwelcome guest” complaint.

While Pearce and company met with a Sergeant at 4th and Cherry Streets, the radio log indicates that Cotter and another unknown person (Pearce’s husband?) (both names redacted on log) were at Junipero South of 4th Street being run for wants and warrants over the JDIC system by officers Jose Castro and Benjamin Cobb, working Unit 2A71.

Cotter was arrested, according to the LBPD press release, on the $50,000 DUI warrant and for public drunkenness.

From there, Cotter went to jail and – we assume – Pearce went home.

The radio log indicates that the officers dealing with that call didn’t finish their work on the case until after 3 p.m. that afternoon – which in my experience is a horrendous amount of time to expend on a simple DUI warrant and a drunk in public booking.

City hall may think that the P-T article and LBPD stonewall has put the scandal and its cover-up to rest, but we don’t think so. A number of LB residents have offered to support legal action to force the LBPD to produce all documents (including Cotter’s mug shot injuries) related to the scandal and a very active Facebook page has emerged from the ether entitled: Recall Jeannine Pearce from Long Beach City Council.

We’re standing by for more to find its way over and around the LB City Hall stonewall.

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




This cover-up is unbelievable and potentially will get a lot of people fired. Pearce is complicit in all of it.

Where is the booking photo of Devin Cotter? Why won't they release it?

Why does public not know what happened? Why does the Citizen's Complaint Commission have Long Beach City Hall staff members?

What is in Devin Cotter's separation agreement? Why was Cotter referred to as Pearce's boyfriend? When did their affair begin?

So many questions.

Is the Citizen's Complaint Commission really taking this on? Anitra Dempsey, the executive director works for the city manager. Is that okay?

If there is a coverup, some of these commission members are too tight with some elected in office.

Is this collusion or honest?

Thank you Steve for great information . I had the opportunity to verify the names on JP campaign donation records and out of eight that I ran seven were not legitimate. No California records of registered LLCs as listed on the form that was filed. What I did find was one company that donated paid $6 million for a redevelopment property that was bid at a $7.3 million offer by another party that was found in the Grunion reporting . My understanding that donations need to be by check from legitimate people or companies and the name of the person who is responsible for the donation needs to be noted. I also found that politicians cannot accept donations 12 months after a issue was voted on by them. I will finish the list of names and verification search but the initial findings do not look good. I encourage everyone to start looking at all of our elected officials donations to see if they meet the required reporting on who actually donated and if that name actually exists and what issues came up before city council regarding these companies and if they excused themselves due to conflict of interest.

The real question should be why did the CHP not deal with this since they found it? If a crime had really occurred they would be no less obligated to handle it.

The second question should be if you can't trust the police, because cops are all corrupt and cover-up everything, then why should I trust Downing a retired cop? There is no oversight of Downing, he can say anything and make up anything to get a rating and a paycheck.

I couldn't even find this supposed Facebook page "Recall Jeannine Pearce from Long Beach City Council" Downing says exists, more of his lies.

Dear Frank H,

If you go to Facebook and do a search using:"Recall Jeannine Pearce from Long Beach City Council" you will find the Facebook page. Also, I write my column as a public service. I am not paid. Finally, one should not generalize and say that all cops are corrupt. Most cops are not corrupt. In fact the LBPD officers handling this incident would have done the right thing had their leadership not wanted to suck up to the political influence of city hall.
Thanks for posting. Steve

Last night, before I spoke, I did search for "Recall Jeannine Pearce from Long Beach City Council" and nothing came up, but today it does.
You may not get paid, but you are also not performing a public service the way you sew (sic) discord on assumptions and rumors with no fact. This is a public disservice.

If most cops are not corrupt and then why make so many assumptions and presume the LBPD of a cover-up when in reality you don't know the truth and for you to know the truth you would need to speak to the one and only person who was at the scene, made the decisions, and really knows what transpired. I know you haven't spoken with them, because I have.

Mr. Downing is absolutely speaking the truth about the Facebook group, "Recall Jeannine Pearce From Long Beach City Council" and here is the URL: https://www.facebook.com/groups/251230718710265/ in case you have any doubts.

The group was created on July 14, 2017 after a few too many facts about Pearce and her office became public knowledge. Feel free to peruse the group - the postings are not secret or locked down to members only.

Mr. Frank, there are times when CHP will refer to LBPD especially in locations like this, which is in Long Beach. Pearce herself admitted she asked for LBPD. For special treatment as a councilwoman maybe with her union ties?

And before you call Steve Downing a liar, why don't you go to this LB Post article to get the Facebook Recall Group link:


Also Sir, before you doubt Mr. Downing, don't forget he is the one who reported .06 by Jeannine Pearce 2 months before the Press-Telegram.

Also, ask yourself who Jim Bueermann, a retired chief from Redlands that the Press-Telegram reported on in this article (http://www.presstelegram.com/government-and-politics/20170807/annine-lon...)

is to give counter advice to Steve Downing. He is the president of the police foundation with ties to the Long Beach Police Union. He also served as former Chief of Redlands, a much smaller jurisdiction than Steve Downing's service as part of LAPD.

Educate yourself on this obvious corruption and coverup. Long Beach citizens will not take this any longer. Billion dollar budgets with dirty streets, developer giveaways, lawsuits against city hall, moving money around, playing the shell game.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Jeannine Pearce will be taking down a lot of people with her poor character judgement and obvious lack of respect for her council office and the residents of not just the second district, but the entire city of Long Beach.

Don't mess with the truth.

You mean don't mess with your version of the truth. Just because Mr. Downing reported something let alone before the Press telegram did doesn't mean it is the truth. I don't care what someone's pedigree is. If they were not there making the decisions then they don't know what they are talking about. Would you trust a Doctor to make a diagnosis on your condition without knowing you, talking to you, reading your chart, examining your or are you just going to believe Dr. Oz to lump diagnose you with everyone else with a similar symptom because he is a famous Dr.
I did search for the page to recall Jeannine before I spoke and it was not coming up in the searches. I will admit today it is. However, this does not prove Downing knows what he is talking about, he wasn't there and hasn't spoken to the person who was and was making decisions.
FYI a paz used in the field cannot be used alone in court to convict someone, just like you can't be convicted only on the evidence from a radar gun, it is a tool only. Also, there is a plus minus a couple points to these things. So the statement that Jeannine Pearce was a .06 could really mean she was a .04. I'm sure no one has looked at the calibration log to see if the one used was even accurate.

Alright, now we are getting somewhere Mr Frank H! You seem to know a lot. Are you an LBPD officer? Are you a friend of that said officer? Which officer did you speak to? Was it the Rookie cop who made the "mistake"? Was it his Supervisor that you spoke to Mr Frank H?

There were at least 6 police officers on the scene. In an effort of transparency, care to share? You clearly know more than the press. Have you also seen Devin Cotter's Booking Photo? Do you know where Mrs. Pearce and Mr. Cotter were driving from? Do you know who was called that night? Please enlighten us Mr Frank H.

Actually I do have answers to all of that. However, I believe it is inappropriate to leak it. It was inappropriate for Downing's sources to leak it and they should be fired for it. That information will come out when the investigation is over (yes, there are still investigations ongoing). Suffice it to say; save your judgment until you have the facts, because the assumptions Downing and the PT has made and the information provided by the sources is incorrect or misunderstood.

If you think it's inappropriate for Downing to leak the facts and you "have answer to all of that," then you are essentially leaking information at the same time. You allegedly seek to refute Mr. Downing's information and also chastise him for somehow having access to said information. Aren't you then guilty of the same crime yourself? If you are such a supporter of the truth, there's no better time to share it. Until then, you are merely an anonymous poster commenting on the Internet.

The simplest explanation is most likely to be correct (Occam's Razor), but the author wants me to believe some Roswell Alien level conspiracy involving the LB City Council, Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, California Highway Patrol, LB City Attorney's Office, and the entire LB Police Department with the exception of some mysterious unamed "LBPD sources" exists. Hmmm...

Mr. Downing keeps saying per "LBPD policy" certain things must be done. I for one would like to see said LBPD policy to which he refers. Mr. Downing may be a retired Cop, but that doesn't mean all departments have the same policies and that Mr. Downing knows LBPD's. Remember, as infered by this article Cops can't be trusted; why should a retired one like Downing be any different.

With the help of my LBPD “sources” who “are afraid for their jobs” (think street cops as opposed to programmed leaks from the brass “who are not authorized to speak”) I was able to find out that Mr. Downing's sources were not there, are speaking from rumor, and don't really know what happened.

Or she drove home from Hollywood Mr. George Reese, and received special treatment.

Who checked their licenses Mr. Reese?

Or she drove home from Mexico, Raquel, and did not receive special treatment.

Who didn't check their licenses, Raquel?

Points of View

A good deal of heat has been generated by Columnist Downing’s assessment of the early morning encounter between LBPD officers and Councilwoman Pearce on June 3, 2017. Current and former Long Beach Police officers have accused Downing of bias and shoddy reporting. The point and counter points published by The Beachcomber call to mind the joke which asks “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? – Followed by the answer – “Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.”

Think of light, in this case, as the truth about what happened during the 2 hours and 45 minute Ms. Pearce was detained. Ms. Pearce had a constitutional right to be released from police detention within about 30 minutes, the time reasonably necessary to determine whether there was probable cause to arrest her for DUI.

Here, the truth is elusive because the LBPD has a monopoly on evidence including what facts and circumstances justified detaining Pearce from 2:56 a.m. until 5:41 a.m.? Additionally, why did it take more than 4 hours for Unit 1A66 to prepare report LB170032687?

To some observers, this flunks the smell tests. They channel a line from Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues which says “you don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.” Others, including Downing’s critics, say this is a “big nothing burger. Still others want more evidence before calling it one way or the other. Some in the “more evidence” group ask for answers to the question like these:

(1) What prompted the CHP to back off and hand the matter to the LBPD?
(2) What time was the Field Sobriety Tests (FST) administered and by whom?
(3) How did Ms. Pearce perform on each of those tests?
(4) Was any portion of the FSTs audio or video recorded? If so, let’s see/hear what is there.
(5) What time was the 1st Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test administered?
(6) What was result of that and any subsequent PASs? Please show us the records from the digital memory of each instrument.
(7) What were the characteristics of this matter that required 5 police officers, 2 sergeants and a lieutenant at the scene?
All of that information has been withheld under exceptions to the PRA and voter approved Proposition 59 (2004) which says that the people’s right to access of information is the rule, not the exception.

Clearly the LBPD spends a good deal of effort to combat DUI – witness that it regularly conducts DUI checkpoints. Few would argue that this is not a good thing. MADD tells us that “on average, two out of three people will be impacted by drunk driving in their lifetime. Every 2 minutes, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash. Every day 28 people are killed by drunk driving.”

LBPD’s statement of Core Values inspiringly proclaims that it will Police in a constitutional manner - serving all people fairly and equally. The Law Enforcement Code of Ethic provides, among other things, that officers “recognize the badge . . . as a symbol of public faith and . . . public trust . . . I will enforce the law . . . appropriately without fear or favor.” Are these just lofty mottos – sort of bumper sticker aspirations or does the brass at the LBPD insist that, in practice, these principles are indeed organizational norms? Can the LBPD’s internal investigations be found fair – beyond question – after independent review which is both careful and rigorous?

Justice is ideally blind to status. Emblematic of the promise of equal treatment under the law is the statue of Lady Justice; her eyes covered – the scales of justice evenly balanced. The California Supreme Court recognized that “Implicit in a democratic process is the notion that government should be accountable for its actions. In order to verify accountability, individuals must have access to government files. Such access permits checks against the arbitrary exercise of official power and secrecy in the political process." CBS v. Block (1986) 42 Cal. 3d 646, 651.

The LBPD employs approximately 786 police officers. Like any large organization, many are highly dedicated and committed to their profession. Most do good work all of the time. Some officers do extraordinary work under the most difficult and sometimes perilous circumstances.

However, when a situation arises which is ham-handedly done or in a way contrary to the Department’s Core Values, some committed officers may be tempted to let the public know. Yet, as one critic of Downing observed, any LBPD officer who leaked information to him should be fired. So on the one hand, officers are told Shoot for the Ethical Stars, but on the other, they are threatened that their livelihoods will be shot if they do. This choice poses a tragic ethical dilemma for anyone.

Indeed, a police whistle-blower can be fired if he/she discloses inconvenient truths, even criminal misdeeds, by co-workers or high officials of City government without any constitutional protection. That is thanks to the 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006) 547 U.S. 410, 422-424, which holds that public employees are not entitled to First Amendment protection if their speech relates to their official employment duties.

Is there a solution larger that the isolated incident involving a member of the City Council on June 3, 2017? Aside from ensuring that the LBPD cultural norms mirror its published Core Values, one such solution would be for the City to guarantee in its employment agreement:

(1) that officers are permitted to report perceived misbehavior internally without fear of reprisal;
(2) that officer may report perceived misbehavior to the media without fear of reprisal;
(3) that the City agree to waive the Garcetti defense in any case brought by a member of the LBPD based on whistle-blowing disclosures, and
(4) that employees covered under the City’s $3M self insurance provisions also agree to waive the Garcetti defense.

Councilwoman Pearce may have been unfairly maligned by rumors, innuendo and/or unfair speculation. Plain old fashion common sense suggests that the sensible thing to do is get all of the evidence, known only within the LBPD, out for the public to judge what is TRUTH.

Ms. Pearce can help her cause by waiving her privacy rights to allow full transparency about whether she was accorded special treatment on June 3. After all sunlight is the best of disinfectants. Indeed, Proposition 59,which amended the Constitution of California, introduced freedom of information or "sunshine" provisions.

So, what can be said?

Does lightbulb want to be changed?

Respectfully prepared by Tom Barham
Semi-Retired Attorney, formerly a lieutenant in the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, formerly a U.S. Army Major, military aviator, veteran of the Viet Nam War and recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds, received, in combat.

Add new comment


Copyright 2024 Beeler & Associates.

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