Lawsuit Exposes LBPD Internal Affairs Corruption

By: 
Stephen Downing

Part One of this two-part series reported on a recent Beachcomber public records (PRA) lawsuit settlement in which the City of Long Beach paid $30,000 in attorney fees and released two separate packages of public records; a LBPD internal affairs investigation and a Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) investigation.

Both packages separately report upon the “independent” investigation of an excessive force complaint filed by Christopher Williams, a 35-year-old African American bus driver who alleged he was falsely accused by police for felony battery upon one of many combatants involved in a downtown parking lot fight on March 24, 2018.

Williams’ allegations pointed to a Hispanic officer – later identified as Dedier Reyes – who he alleged broke his arm during the handcuffing process and unlawfully detained him. When released from temporary detention, Williams alleged that a White officer – later identified as Derek Ernest – refused to provide medical treatment.

The Part One story provided an in-depth audit of the CPCC investigation which exposed gross investigative incompetence, a failure to provide photos for identification, locate and interview independent witnesses, an arbitrary and unsupported assignment of Williams’ use of force allegations against Officer Reyes (a Hispanic) to Officer Ernest (a Caucasian) and the corrupt concealment from CPCC commissioners of corroborating statements from medical personnel who treated Williams.

Part One can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/city-settles-beachcomber-lawsuit

Documents Missing

The production of records from the LBPD Internal Affairs Investigation included audio files documenting interviews of 11 officers and one sergeant, all present at the scene of the incident.

There were no transcripts or written summaries produced from the audio files in the public records release.

Of the 12 audio-recorded interviews by internal affairs investigators the longest was eight minutes and the shortest, three minutes. Each interview included one to two minutes of boilerplate admonitions.

There were no audio interviews of the complainant or any civilian witnesses, including the paramedics who treated the assault victim, medical personnel who treated Williams for his broken arm or William’s employer who oversaw his 3-½ month medical leave.

When this reporter applied accepted standards and practices related to the conduct and reporting of police internal investigations it appeared that records related to the settlement agreement were missing; including medical reports, an investigation document that included written summaries of officer and witness statements, a chain-of-command review that included analysis, findings, recommended adjudication, the application of administrative insight and chain-of-command endorsements.

The only record found among the documents released that implied there may be a full investigation report was a single check box form dated Nov. 25, 2018 from the Internal Affairs Division Commander, Lloyd Cox, to his internal file that reported a “complaint disposition” of the Williams case made at “the weekly meeting of the deputy chiefs.”

Deputy Chiefs Meeting

What could be discerned from the checkboxes and handwritten entries on the form is that a “preliminary investigation” of the Williams case was conducted and reviewed by five deputy chiefs, that they found an excessive use of force allegation against Officer Ernest to be unfounded; that they classified as not sustained an allegation that Officer Ernest refused Williams’ request for medical treatment; and classified as unfounded an allegation of unlawful detention against Officer Reyes.

It could not be discerned from the check box report if the deputy chiefs reached their decision by means of a verbal briefing or written reports.

The audio recording made of Sgt. Alexander’s interview reasonably supports a conclusion that the deputy chiefs did not take the time to listen to 12 audio files in order to reach a finding.

Under “follow up actions,” noted in the check box document the deputy chiefs directed that the Patrol Bureau “review (the reasons for) releasing the suspect (Williams).”

If the deputy chiefs had read only the original incident report written by Officer Reyes’ junior partner, Officer Yuriar, the direction to “review” is clearly understandable.

In that report Williams was listed as the suspect of the assault and Yuriar wrote that he personally observed Williams commit the assault and that Williams was released for the crime of felony assault “because the victim said he did not want to prosecute.”

What Yuriar did not write in his report is what occurred after his alleged observation.

Had the deputy chiefs listened to the audio file of Sgt. Alexander’s interview – as did the Beachcomber – they would have learned that Williams was released because Sgt. Alexander also saw the assault, chased the suspect, lost him in a parking garage, broadcast a description of the suspect and then returned to the parking lot to find that the officers had the wrong person (Williams) in custody for felony assault.

In spite of the concern surrounding the release of Williams, the chief’s check box report documented: “Case Closed – Not Sustained.”

Five months later – April 8, 2019 – Chief of Police Robert Luna sent a memo to the city manager that stated: “At their meeting on Nov. 28, 2018 the deputy chief’s determined the following disposition as to the complaint filed by Christopher Williams.”

The chief’s memo listed the dispositions as outlined on the check box form.

Request for Missing Documents

At this point of the newspaper’s document review the total absence of an investigation report was concerning enough that Beachcomber attorney Thomas Beck was asked to inquire into the possibility that the city either inadvertently or improperly withheld documents required by the settlement agreement.

When City Attorney Charles Parkin’s office did not respond to that inquiry the Beachcomber forwarded copies of all produced documents and audio files to William’s attorney, Narine Mkrtchyan, and asked that she compare them to those she acquired though discovery in Williams’ federal civil rights case.

Mkrtchyan replied: “You have everything except the multiple-page investigative notes to Commander Cox dated April 26, 2018 from Sgt. Brown. While it is dated April 2018, it is the whole IA investigative memo for their investigation until it ended July 2019.”

Mkrtchyan’s information was forwarded to City Attorney Charles Parkin’s office by Beck with a note that read: “Turns out Williams’ lawyer compared her discovery to your compliance and spotted an important omission. Please insure we get it.”

Two days later Parkin’s deputy responded, “Your document is attached.”

Report Exposes Investigative Corruption

The “missing” document is a memo dated April 26, 2018 containing “investigator notes” from Sgt. Greg Brown to Lloyd Cox, commander, internal affairs division.

The memo had 39 numbered paragraphs of investigator notes, three of which were blank.

Paragraph #1 is Sgt. Browns record documenting that he was assigned the Williams investigation on April 26, 2018 and that the complainant alleged:

“Officer Dedier Reyes unlawfully detained Complaint Williams.

“Officer Dedier Reyes used excessive force while detaining Christopher Williams.”

Sgt. Brown also noted that “Attorney Mkrtchyan (Williams attorney) alleges there are video cameras in the area of the detention at 130 Pine Avenue, which she believes may have recorded the incident.”

The original complaint filed with Chief Luna on April 10 also advised that agents working for the attorney “served your department with a (legal) Notice to Preserve (surveillance video) on April 9, 2018.”

Paragraph #2, dated June 14 recorded that Sgt. Brown “placed a copy of the incident report in the case file, “which documents the detention and release of Complainant Christopher Williams by Officers Dedier Reyes and Bryant Yuriar.

Paragraph #3 reported that Sgt. Brown “attempted to retrieve available surveillance footage from video surveillance cameras in the area of 130 Pine Avenue”… and that “ Officer Eduardo Reyes accessed the Genetec video surveillance system and advised that the Genetec system does not retain video beyond 30 days, which had already expired by the case assignment date of April 26, 2018.”

There is no document in the PRA settlement production that explains why the LBPD did not fulfill their legal duty related to the “notice to preserve” served on April 9, a full 15 days prior to the end of the surveillance video system retention period.

Nor is there any document that explains why it took 16 days for the chief’s office and/or the Internal Affairs commander, Lloyd Cox, to assign the case to Sgt. Brown for investigation or to recover surveillance camera evidence prior to the known expiration date.

After three months of no further investigative activity by Sgt. Brown, the Williams investigation was reassigned to Sergeant J. Steinhauser, as reported in Paragraph #4 of the Investigators notes, dated Sept. 4, 2018.

Seven days later (paragraph #5) Steinhauser wrote that his first investigative effort was to examine the incident report filed by Officer Reyes’ partner, Officer Yuriar, on the night of the incident.

Steinhauser summarized the incident report as follows: “Sept. 11, 2018, Sergeant Steinhauser examined Incident Report 180017980. The report was filed by Officer Yuriar #10542 as a battery with serious injury (a felony). Complainant Williams is listed as a suspect in the report. Officer Yuriar stated that he observed Williams strike the victim causing the victim to lose consciousness. Officer D. Ernest #6082 detained and handcuffed Williams. The victim did not desire prosecution and left the scene. Williams was released at the scene. Sergeant R. Alexander was notified of the RNB (released not booked).”

What was not written in Steinhauser’s summary of the incident report was that Officer Yuriar’s partner was Officer Deider Reyes and that Yuriar wrote: “I did not locate any witnesses or cameras in the parking lot or in front of Moonshiners.”

The Beachcomber independently confirmed that multiple surveillance cameras cover the parking lot from multiple angles.

Steinhauser’s notes record that the next step in his investigation was to begin witness interviews.

The accepted standard and practice in conducting witness interviews is to plan interviews in the following order:

  • Complainant
  • Civilians
  • Civilian employee witnesses
  • Sworn witnesses
  • Accused employee

Steinhauser’s first interview was with Officer Reyes followed by Officer Yuriar, Officer Ernest and Sgt. Alexander who was followed by the other eight officers who responded to the scene of the incident.

Steinhauser did not interview any other person associated with the investigation, including the paramedics who responded, the assault victim, the complainant, Christopher Williams or the hospital personnel who treated him.

Nor did he arrange a photo show up for Williams to identify the offending officers or seek to obtain medical records from the hospital identified in the original complaint.

This reporter listened to each of the 12 interviews conducted by Steinhauser and perceived the following:

He did not ask follow-up questions to clarify inconsistencies in officer statements.

He did not reconstruct the scene with any interviewee either by time distance or line of sight.

He did not establish who was where and when during the period when Williams was handcuffed, escorted to the paddy wagon and detained.

He did not establish who was present when Williams was released.

The issue of whose handcuffs were placed on and taken off Williams was never pursued although there were many inconsistent statements that made that line of questioning critical to the credibility of statements made by Reyes, Yuriar, Ernest and Alexander.

Steinhauser did not explain or determine in any interview why Officer Ernest came to be labeled the officer who used force in handcuffing Williams rather than investigate the allegation – and photo provided by Williams – that the officer who broke his arm while handcuffing him was Officer Reyes.

Steinhauser did not reconstruct events in the parking lot with any of the officer witnesses either by using a map or going to the scene.

Steinhauser did not re-interview any officer to clear up or clarify inconsistencies between interviewees – of which there were many.

None of the officers – or Sgt. Alexander – were asked to describe or re-create the conversation with Sgt. Alexander surrounding the discussion that resulted in a decision to release Williams or why Yuriar’s incident report listed Williams as the suspect in the felony assault of the victim.

This reporter compared the audio recordings to the summary of each interview that Steinhouser wrote in his investigator notes and found that they – like the audio recorded interviews – were perfunctory, careless and mechanical as well as biased toward establishing officer Ernest as the complained-of-officer who handcuffed Williams, while at the same time establishing that no one saw a “reportable use of force” or that Williams ever complained of his alleged injury.

The Incompetence

It is unknown if those attending the weekly meeting of the deputy chiefs on Nov. 25, 2018 read the investigator notes prior to ordering the case closed.

It is unknown if Chief Luna had read the investigator notes prior to April 8, 2019 when he wrote his memo informing the city manager of the findings by his deputy chiefs.

It is also unknown if the city manager read the investigator’s notes prior to his May 10, 2019 letter to Christopher Williams informing him that: “based on the information, statements and evidence contained in the investigations (CPCC and LBPD) and a careful examination of all the relevant materials, I have determined that the actions of the officer regarding your allegations of use of force and improper detention were legal, justified and proper under the circumstances.”

The Cover-Up

When the “Missing Report” from the city attorney’s office was received, the Beachcomber noted that Sgt. Steinhauser’s notes continued beyond the time the case was closed by the deputy chiefs, when Chief Luna wrote his memo and even past the time (May 10, 2019) when the city manager informed Williams that “the actions of the officers were legal, justified and proper.”

An eight-month gap in the investigator notes resumed with Paragraph #28 – dated July 15, 2019 – when Steinhauser recorded that he attempted to contact Williams on his cell phone.

Paragraph # 29 written the next day recorded that “Sergeant Steinhauser received a medical report of physician notes from Commander Cox. Commander Cox received the medical report from the city attorney’s office. The city attorney’s office was provided the medical report by (Beachcomber reporter) Stephen Downing.”

Paragraph #30 recorded that Steinhauser attempted to call Williams, “but received no answer… and “no message was left because his mailbox was full.”

Paragraph #31 recorded that Steinhauser “learned that Stephen Downing contacted the city attorney’s office and informed them that the CPCC had documents in their possession that internal affairs did not have. Sgt. Steinhauser contacted (CPCC investigator) Patrick Weithers and had him send over all the documents the CPCC had on the case.”

Paragraph #34 is blank.

Paragraph #35 recorded that Steinhauser examined the audio recording that Patrick Weithers of the CPCC conducted with Williams – he then summarized the interview in paragraph #37.

Paragraphs #36 and #38 are blank.

The last entry made in Steinhauser’s notes is Paragraph #39, which continued the summary of the CPCC interview by falsely stating, “Williams stated that he did not have any pictures of the officers [who] handcuffed him.”

There were no further entries in Steinhauser’s notes.

The production of records did not include any record that recorded a reconsideration of the case by the deputy chiefs, the chief of police or the city manager.

The investigator’s notes recorded months after the case was closed clearly had as its catalyst the public records request filed by the Beachcomber on July 1, 2019 which resulted in numerous email interchanges with the city attorney over a period of weeks prior to the Beachcomber filing the lawsuit to demand adherence to Senate Bill 1421.

The story surrounding the email interchanges and the Beachcomber decision to file the public records lawsuit can be read in our Sept. 9, 2019 article titled “Frustration with Dishonesty.” [https://beachcomber.news/content/frustration-dishonesty]

The Big Lie (In My Opinion)

Comparing the Beachcomber’s email interchanges with the city attorney’s office – prior to filing the lawsuit – to our analysis of the documents ultimately produced following the court approved settlement proves that the city attorney’s office was complicit in a coverup designed to prevent the exposure of corruption within the LBPD’s internal affairs division.

It also proves the gross incompetence of the Police Department’s deputy chiefs, the chief of police and the city manager as well as the malicious use and manipulation of CPCC citizen commissioners by City Hall to publicize the big Long Beach lie that civilian oversight by the CPCC fosters transparency, accountability and fair treatment in all aspects of law enforcement within Long Beach.

Had accepted standards and practices related to personnel investigations been applied to the Williams complaint and exposed to a professional chain of command review process that held both the investigators and the individual reviewers accountable, the corrupt Steinhauser investigation promoted by Commander Cox would not have been adjudicated at a “weekly meeting of the deputy chiefs.”

It would have passed through a review and endorsement process that informs the chief, permits him to judge the integrity of the investigation and evaluate the performance and competence of each individual in the accused officer’s chain of command.

It is at that time the investigation and adjudication of an allegation of excessive force by a member of the community should then be reviewed – and audited – by a board of citizen police commissioners with policy authority over the Police Department and hire/fire authority over the chief of police – all facilitated by an empowered staff-supported inspector general who reports only to the citizen commissioners.

Instead the adjudication decision of a corrupt internal affairs investigation was made – and supported by the complicity of the city attorney and a collective of incompetent deputy chiefs functioning without accountability – that permitted Chief Luna and the city manager to escape their oath of office and their responsibility to Christopher Williams and the Long Beach community.

Charter reform brought about by a Blue Ribbon Citizen’s Commission – supported by, but independent of City Hall – is the only way Long Beach will get the kind of Police Department the people deserve.

 

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

Category:

Comments

The investigating LBPD officer in this article, Officer Jonathan Steinhauser, has a significant police MISCONDUCT history. Of particular note, on May 28, 2009 officer Steinhauser shot unarmed Ernest Rodriguez three times with "no warning" while in front of Legends bar in Belmont Shore.

On August 25, 2011 the District Court of California (below link) awarded Mr. Rodriguez $260,000 and found that:

1. "At no point did Steinhauer warn Rodriguez of his intent to shoot."
2. "Though the officer may have been entitled to use force, his use of deadly force was unreasonable."
3. "Multiple witness reported that Plaintiff never hit, attacked or advanced against Steinhauser."
4. As a police officer, "Steinhauser is entitled to qualified immunity and therefore is immune to suit."

https://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/california/cacdce/...

This was neigher beginning nor the end of Officer Steinhauser's misconduct. Other misconduct lawsuits involving officer Steinhauser's include:

Chad Howell sued officer Steinhauser On May 11, 2007 for violating his civil rights.

http://dockets.justia.com/docket/california/cacdce/2:2007cv03127/388693/

Suzette Carmichael sued officer Steinhauser on September 13, 2010 for violating her civil rights.

http://dockets.justia.com/docket/california/cacdce/2:2010cv06779/482175

Jason Siebert, was "decapitated" on December 6, 2008 when the car he was driving was struck by another car involved in a high speed pursuit by Officer Steinhauer.

http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20CACO%2020110419014.xml

Mr. Downing should be familiar with the excessive force and misconduct case, Debra Stefano vs. Long Beach Police, a 2013 case involving officer Steinhauser. Mr. Downing actually wrote an opinion piece it in the Press Telegram about the large settlement paid out.

https://patch.com/california/belmontshore/bring-long-beach-police-out-of...

Another high profile on-going case is Kathleen Williams vs Long Beach Police Department involving misconduct, excessive force and racial profiling by Officer Steinhauser and Chief Luna.

https://dockets.justia.com/docket/california/cacdce/2:2018cv01069/700719

Years of proven and prerequisite misconduct, negligence and excessive use of force qualified Officer Steinhauser to be promoted to sergeant in 2015.

http://www.longbeach.gov/police/press-releases/l-b-p-d--promotions/

“When the actions of an individual employee erode the values of our organization and the public trust all of us have worked so hard to cultivate, they must be held accountable,” Acting Chief of Police Wally Hebeish said. Obviously this statement doe not apply to LBPD Internal Affaira Officers, Officer Steinhauser, Commander Cox, Officer Reyes, Officer Ernest. They bullied Mr, Williams left him with physical injuries soooo sad.

Am sure many of us that have had contact with the LBPD can agree that the LBPD is grossly incompetent, but this is far from that. This is straight out corruption! from the top to bottom of the PD to the city attorney office. What are we waiting for, why has this corrupt organization not being investigated and if found to be unethical like its has, then action needs to be taken. Where is the new DA on this? Can you just imagine the other misconduct that was not discovered. SMH, If not for a the Beachcomber and people like Stephen Downing we would be in the dark and these corrupt PD would be even more corrupt then they are already, if that was even possible. Why is Officer's Yuriar’s, D. Reyes, Ernest, Steinhauser and Luna still employed in the LBPD SMH. Can you all say RICO indictment.

Mr LB:

1. Steinhouser is listed as a Sergeant in the article, not an officer.

2. None of anything listed in either article remotely comes close to a possible RICO indictment.

3. Police are human, they make mistakes. Just as you have in all your posts with misinformation.

4. Still waiting for you to tell all of us readers what you do for a living so we can cast judgement and opinion on you as well.

5. I suggest you go on a ride along before you judge from the high chair you sit in.

Stillwaiting, when people entrusted with enforcing the laws make a "Mistake" as you put it, and then cover it up, it's called "Misconduct." not a "mistake" anymore. When an organization like a police department is corrupt, the Federal government must investigate because we cant trust them to investigate themselves, it's common sense. Yes, police officers are human and when mistakes are made, they should take responsibility and correct what they did wrong, is't that what we tell are kids? not hide it and take responsibility? A police officers "mistake" is more severe and has more severe consequences, just like it had for the young man in the article.

Like I said before my occupation has noting to do with the misconduct of a police department. Since when does a person need to be a police officer to understand when a police officer has committed misconduct? I understand they are good officers, but these good officer are overshadowed by the bad officers. When the officers in-charge of overseeing other officers and their administration, along with the city attorney hides misconduct that's called corrupt, and that calls for a Federal investigation. Maybe you cant see the obvious because you are a cop, or your family member is a cop or maybe you wanted to be a cop but could not? This should not keep you from seeing the truth. Instead you should tell your cop family that corruption is not good and they should speak up and report it when they see it. If they don't then they are just a corrupt. Open your eyes, before you speak. Have an awesome Valentines Day, am sure one of these corrupt cops if not all, love you sicking up for them.

Stillwaitin, I forgot to address your bizarre comment about "1. Steinhouser is listed as a Sergeant in the article, not an officer". Let me educate you, Steinhouser is still a police officer, his Rank is that of a "Sergeant" just like Luna is still a police officer but the rank of the "Chief of police" why you would even bring this up and what it has to do with police misconduct is beyond human comprehension, but then again you do seem to try and defend corrupt cops. The LBPD got the wrong person to advocate for them, maybe thats why LBPD is so corrupt. have a nice day.

ANONYMOUS PERSONAL ATTACKS AGAINST PERSONS EXPRESSING THEIR OPINIONS ON BEACHCOMBER CONTENT WILL BE DELETED. THIS IS A FORUM OPEN TO INTELLIGENT DISCUSSION ABOUT LOCAL ISSUES. IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, AT LEAST SAY SOMETHING OF SUBSTANCE.

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS RARELY MAKE IT INTO OUR PRINT EDITIONS. PUT YOUR REAL NAME AT THE END OF SUBMISSIONS CONTAINING A PSEUDONYM IF YOUR POSTING IS INTENDED FOR PUBLICATION CONSIDERATION.

JAY BEELER, PUBLISHER

Add new comment

Beachcomber

Copyright 2021 Beeler & Associates.

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