LBPD Brass Condemned for Neglect

By: 
Stephen Downing

Monday, April 13, at 11:08 a.m. LBPD Officer Mary Katherine Covarubias selected the “Public” tab for her Facebook post and hit the send button launching a story of pent up angst and bitterness toward LBPD leadership that began with the words: “Deep breath….”

Officer Covarubias knew that she was putting her career on the line.

634 words later the 26-year veteran’s story exposed in stark detail how our police officers are navigating the invisible threat of the COVID-19 virus without proper protective gear. It also describes the caring generosity of Long Beach fire fighters toward their police partners, the absence of support from their union – the LBPOA – and the incompetence of LBPD’s top brass in protecting its workforce.

Some Background Before the 634 Words

Shortly after the Jan. 30 declaration of the global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) this writer was asked to contribute to a desktop planning exercise with a private foundation on how a police agency should prepare for the pandemic.

After establishing a general mission statement, the exercise began with attention to the workforce, stating:

“A first priority must be to take care of your workforce and let them know you care. Without your workforce you will not accomplish your community objectives. Look after officer health, well-being and morale as well as that of their families. It will keep them on the job and minimize their concerns about what is going on at home.

(a) Equip and increase your facility cleaning and sanitation workforce 24/7 with special attention to work surfaces, locker rooms and restroom facilities.

(b) Equip all facilities with medical grade supplies including masks, gloves, gowns as required and sanitation hand cleaning stations.

(c) Establish temperature stations in order to check all employees and visitor’s prior the entering the station, going on or off duty or to investigate on-duty suspicions of viral infection.

(d) Establish protocols for testing, identifying, accounting for and arranging self-isolation processes for officers and other employees that suspect they have been exposed to the virus or are symptomatic.

(e)  Establish decontamination and dressing procedures for pre and post duty doffing and donning to insure employees do not bring the virus into the station or take it home.

(f) Arrange dry cleaning and laundry services to ensure that work clothes are maintained in a safe and sanitary condition.

(g) Arrange safe and separate sleeping accommodations for those employees who fear taking the virus home, those who become symptomatic and those with symptomatic family members who have been isolated at home.

(h) Staff a family support hotline and response team to provide support and communication for deployed personnel to contact volunteer specialists as needed and to coordinate with hotels, motels and other housing elements able to provide sleeping accommodations.

(i) Assign the department psychologist and volunteer mental health professionals to a family support unit for counseling and response to mental health crisis situations within the department family.

The first public statement from the LBPD related the execution of this kind of planning came with a March 28 press release that stated the LBPD has taken actions to minimize the spread of COVID-19, which included, “Officers have been issued personal protective equipment and are practicing social distancing while conducting briefings” and “all Police Department facilities, including the jail, are receiving daily cleanings and high-contact surfaces are being cleaned multiple times per day.”

The announcement did not address officer care, temperature checks, testing, family communication, uniform sanitation, sleeping accommodations, self-isolation or family support protocols.

Before and after the March 28 announcement there were a number of occasions this writer observed LBPD officers in the field and on no occasion was protective gear, including masks, in evidence.

At the same time Fire Department personnel were observed in field situations and all wore protective gear, including masks.

On two occasions both fire and police personnel were observed working together at the same incident. The police officers had no protective gear while the firefighters were masked.

Beachcomber Questions City Hall

These observations were catalyst to the Beachcomber making two separate inquiries to City Hall, the first on April 6.

The April 6 questions addressed policy and operational protocols as well as communication from outside sources, including the following:

“The Beachcomber has been informed that many of the troops are terrified and moral is "at an all-time low" because patrol officers are working without proper protections from the virus, both from an equipment and policy use standpoint.

The officers also expressed concerns about uniform contamination and the inability to don and doff sanitary clothing pre- and post-duty as well as deployment protocols that compromise proper preventative distancing, some alleging that officers have been assigned to three-man cars because of low vehicle inventories associated with a 12-hour deployment.

The complaints further indicate that the officers are getting pressure from the brass not to call in sick when they feel the need to self-isolate because of perceived COVID-19 symptoms (or contacts) and that no form of alternative housing has been provided for those who fear contaminating their families when going off duty.

We are told that Deputy Chief Michael Lewis attended a number of roll calls yesterday and was unable to satisfy the officer’s questions regarding their mitigation concerns. We were also told that the POA has been both non-responsive and ineffective in representing the concerns of their membership.

We would like to obtain comment relative to these allegations as well as an overview of just what PPE equipment the LBPD has issued to its officers and policy regarding its use, as compared to that of the Fire Department.”

Officer Covarubias Goes Public

Two days later, on Thursday, April 9, – while still awaiting a reply from City Hall – Officer Covarubias was featured on Fox News in a courageous outing of the LBPD’s failure to protect her fellow officers.

The television broadcast hit the highlights of her story but did not get close to what she had to say in her 634-word Facebook post today.

Following the April 9 Fox News broadcast the Beachcomber began to receive a landslide of information from multiple LBPD sources, which prompted the following follow-up questions to City Hall on April 11:

“As further follow-up, we have received calls from sources inside city government familiar with the motivations that caused the East Division officer, Mary Covarubias, to speak out on Fox News on April 9 and would like to obtain comment regarding the following:

We are informed that Covarubias and other officers in the past week were present at a scene along with Fire Department personnel and that when asked by the (masked) fire personnel why the police officers were not wearing masks the officers informed them that LBPD policy did not allow them to don the masks provided in their kits unless they knew they would be in contact with an individual known to have COVID-19.

Following that conversation, the Fire Department personnel provided the officer with enough masks to equip the officers on her watch. When Covarubias brought the masks to the east division station and undertook to distribute them, supervisors prohibited the distribution.

This event contributed to the on-going morale problems surrounding Police Department policy regarding the conditions required to break the seal on the PPE kits issued to the officers, especially as it relates to the use of protective gloves and masks – all of which was discussed in a roll call attended by Patrol Deputy Chief Lewis this past week, whose alleged response to the officers complaints was “We’re still working on it.”

It is our understanding that this was catalyst to Officer Covarubias speaking out. Each of the sources we spoke with look upon Covarubias as a hero for finally speaking out on behalf of the younger officers and at the same time fear that the LBPD will retaliate against her. One source said that both Deputy Chief Lewis and the “administrative chief” were “pissed out of their minds.”

As to the officers on-going concerns about being dissuaded by department brass from going into self-isolation after having been in the presence of a known COVIS-19 victim they also said that they were aware that mobile trailers had been obtained from FEMA for the purpose of housing those officers who fear exposing their families to the virus but that the FEMA trailers remain unused.

Thank you in advance for addressing these alleged issues along with the other questions provided this past week.”

Chief Luna’s Watch Report

Two days later, on April 11, inside sources provided the Beachcomber with an LBPD internal “Watch Report” in which Chief of Police Robert Luna notified the rank and file that “Face coverings should be used when physical distancing is not possible or there is no other method for providing separation.”

The memo went on to credit the “collaborative efforts” of the Human Resources Department, the Health Department and the Long Beach Police Officers Association for efforts that “led to the receipt and issuance of this additional piece of safety equipment.”

Hours later on the same day, the Beachcomber received a response to the series of questions addressed to the city. The full response can be read here.

The City Hall reply did not address any of the issues related to officer morale, self-isolation, family care, use of the available FEMA housing, restrictions on use of protective gear, prohibition by supervisors to distribute face masks provided by firefighters, roll call presentations by the deputy chief or retaliation against Officer Covarubis for standing up against an insulated police bureaucracy.

But, most of those answers were provided in Covarubias” 634-word Facebook post:

Officer Covarubias’ Facebook Post, April 13, 2020 at 11:08 a.m.

“Deep breath...let’s just get one thing straight, the Long Beach Fire Department did not EVER deny us access to masks. Quite the opposite! We couldn’t go to a call without them trying to give us N95s! I had a FF put a box in my car because he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

They had plenty. I was flagged down by a fire SUPERVISOR at Starbucks who told me to come by the IMT (Incident Management Team) and get them for my watch. He could not believe that we were not issued them already!

When I went to the IMT I was stopped at the door by a PD employee and told that we (Long Beach Police Officers) were not AUTHORIZED to have the N95 masks. At that point my frustration level was high. I’ve been asking since MARCH 18 for some answers and all I’ve gotten is lip service.

I went through the CHAIN OF COMMAND and got nothing. Last Tuesday when I got denied the masks by the IMT Commander is when I knew NOBODY was going to help us with this issue. Not the union, not the chief (yes I spoke to the chief who I have always liked and felt comfortable talking to) not the IMT.

Then our deputy chief came to our squad meeting the next day and it was clear to ALL of us that even he didn’t know what was going on.”

We have gotten email after email saying “We’re meeting with, we’re working on etc. etc.” All the while we are working on the street with no masks and unsafe uniforms.

We had an officer spit in the face, suspects covered in blood, COVID patients next to officers in the ER getting intubated and do you think they tested those officers? They didn’t even close the division where an officer did test positive.

Nor did they notify ANY members of the public who came into contact with the COVID positive officer.

The commander at the IMT looked me in the eye and told me we couldn’t get the N95 because we had to get fit-tested to wear one (don’t get me started on that ridiculousness) and that the N95 was a “one use only” mask and could I imagine the fallout of us wearing contaminated masks?

I don’t even know who I’m talking to anymore because these “leaders” are video conferencing all day long in sanitized offices, having their temperature taken and eating Gladstone’s and Naples Rib Company catered meals to the tune of FORTY THOUSAND dollars.

Yet they can’t send a single box of pizza to one of their divisions?

They won’t even take our temperature! I made $1,122 on an overtime shift at the IMT to take their temperatures for 12 hours!

I’ve got lots more, but this is long enough.

For the record I LOVE my job and my brothers and sisters in blue. I also love my immediate supervisors who (IMO) have also been left in the dark.

I don’t want money. I’m not claiming harassment or hostile work environment – I don’t even care about the personal attacks about me. All I know is my phone can’t even stay charged with all of the text messages, voicemails and calls from the officers and detectives who are working IN the field and thanking me for speaking out.

NINETY minutes after the news aired things changed (somehow we got those N95s) and have continued to change every day since. That is why I sacrificed my job (because we all know that’s coming) – is to be a voice for them.

Post made public because I told the other media people, I’m not giving any more “media appearances” I wanted to be heard and Fox 11 did that. Thank you.

One of the most telling comments following the officer’s post was from Kerry Parker. She wrote:

Next is the IA case, front desk assignment, chief's office calling the union to have them deliver their threats (because they aren't man enough to threaten you themselves). Good for you Mary Katherine, hold your head up high and speak the truth. The 3rd floor hates the truth!"

 

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

stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com

 

UPDATE – APRIL 15

I know some people want drama, but I hope most of us want something good to come out of this. First, this is not about me and never was. I didn’t want for it to go that direction and to lose sight of what I was trying to accomplish in the first place. So, I am good. I have (re)addressed what I needed to with my union and chain of command. Because I had so much support, I felt that this meeting went much smoother. Perhaps we’ve all learned something from it. I stand by what I said and did because I really tried to be heard and it just didn’t happen.

Patrol is the strongest component of this department. Their job is the most dangerous because of the unknown. Even SWAT knows what they’re going into. I don’t walk around paranoid, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about the possibility of getting shot on every move I make on duty (including sitting down for lunch).

This uniform attracts good and evil. Officers Rick Delfin and Daryle Black were driving down the street when they were ambushed by a gang member with an assault rifle. Daryle was killed that night ( 20 year anniversary will be on April 30th). I think of Daryle and Rick every day. Lives were forever changed that night. Officers lives continue to be changed on other incidents. Calls that don’t even make the news.

I’ve watched officers give their life and almost give their life to protecting this city. To say nothing of all the injuries and PTSD. Each of us have something that we struggle with. How the department treats us should not be one of them.

Almost four years ago I watched K9 Officer Parcells pick up his dying partner, Credo, wrap him over his shoulders and race him to the animal hospital in an attempt to save his life. Credo did not make it. The image of Officer Parcell’s face that day is something that will never leave me. And that was the second dog of Officer Parcells that was shot in the line of duty. His dog Ranger was also killed while saving officers lives.

So, when I hear that (unprotected ) Officer Parcells was not allowed to be tested after a CoVid19 exposure of a felony suspect it becomes really upsetting. Then to learn that he was denied being quarantined in one of the many empty allotted trailers that we spent a lot of money on – there’s no excuse. Whoever thought that was the right decision I don’t know how you sleep at night. You basically sent the message that he’s on his own and to pay for (which he did) his own self-quarantine. And his story is one of many. Many.

There used to be a Deputy Chief that we could go to with that kind of stuff because he would never let an officer get treated that way. He took care of us. That is lacking now. Very disheartening – not just for us, but for our family members and for the citizens of Long Beach.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 26 years, it’s that the citizens of Long Beach care for us. I’ve experienced that in every neighborhood and division I’ve worked in. The good people and experiences (for me) have always outweighed the bad.

Regarding the masks – it’s been taken care of, and then some. Mission accomplished. Would love to see the washable uniforms happen and made some suggestions regarding that. Can’t go to the news with all of our requests! It shouldn’t have ever gotten that far, but the news made things happen. I don’t think anyone can argue with that.

Here is to hopefully a better half to 2020 and prayers that we get through this COVID-19. Thank-you to everyone who had my back and or reached out. That meant a lot. And thank you to my commander who allowed me to come into his office today. I dropped several F bombs, but he listened to me and I was able to explain how I think we could better support the troops.

It’s not about me or him or even the chief – it’s about the fact that we will be in our 70s and these new officers will still (God willing) be doing this job. That is a long time. They deserve the best treatment from us available.

 

Mary Katherine Covarubias
(via Facebook)

Category:

Comments

"eating Gladstone’s and Naples Rib company catered meals to the tune of FORTY THOUSAND dollars". by the LBPD ADMIN, our tax dollars hard at work!!!! Wow and they cant even give theses officer Masks.. Many LB citizen have lots their jobs and these FATCAT's eating like they are royalties.. Am sure Luna and his boys had mask...FIRE!!! this incompetent and corrupt Chief of police and all his boot lickers. We tax pays better get that money they spent on food back ASAP!!! Stand by to get a case put on this officer who spoke out.. Thanks again STEVE and BEACHCOMER

You know that a bunch of companies DONATED food to Patrol officers and the group working the incident?! Pretty sure she doesn’t have direct knowledge of what cost were incurred either.

Many years ago we had Los Angeles and Lakewood sheriffs working parts of East Long Beach 90808. They did a great job and did not have the turmoil as we see now. Response times were good and NO politics, no Lobstergate, no Somali pirate games & corruption, no supervisor command level to patrol harassment! Equally important if not more so, NO unfunded pensions, no mayor measure A lies for more officers and better responsiveness (overtime lies resulting in wealth for a few special officers) AND NO MAJOR LEGAL SETTLEMENTS for wrongful death, brutality, harassment and more. In full retrospect that seemed like a great program and massive savings to the city politically, liability and financially.

That is an awesome Idea! Why don't we bring back the Sheriffs Department? Like you stated we the tax payer would save MILLIONS!!! What do we gain from having our own PD besides "Corruption". I think the "elected city officials don't want that because then who would do their bidding and also who would be left to give them money (LBPOA) or so called "Political Donations", to approve their pay-rises. Can some please help explain the pro's of having our own PD?

Yes, because LASD is so corruption-free and has never had any problems with crooked deputies and bosses. Their last sheriff and undersheriff went to federal prison. Long Beach is for LBPD. Sheriffs?? Stop it. Just stop it.

You somehow always find the LBPD officers who are misinformed, uneducated, upset their careers never manifested and are disgruntled. Mary definitely fits all of the above descriptors and has been irrelevant for most of the last 10 years just like your other person feeding you misinformation who recently retired.

Patrol officers have had PPE kits in the field for approximately a month or longer which included; goggles, N95 mask, gloves and gown. ALL officers were directed to use them when they felt they needed to. Her (Mary) story originally included that LB Fire refused to give her masks, which she has now changed. She also left out she was given a box full of N95 masks and still continued complaining on her soap box.

She complains that others were being fed who couldn’t leave, had working lunches each day but then has the nerve to ask where her free food was?! Complains people had their temperature taken except her, but did nothing at her own Division to make that happen. Then again, she would probably complain and call the POA that someone wanted to do that and keep a record of it. Boasts of the OT money she got for “only taking temperatures” but doesn’t want to use that free money for something better. Kinda sounds funny, cries others get free stuff then wants hers; gets free money on easy OT and yet complains about it.

No one looks to her for advice or direction, in fact it’s quite the opposite and she’s known to fly off the handle. This is just another one of your non-correct stories from a person who’s off their meds and upset cause no one listens to their kooky stories anymore.

Getitright, If the LBPD was providing everything the officers needed, why then did they get the MASKS after her story aired on TV? How do you know the food was donated and not paid for by taxpayers?

Again, officers for LBPD have had masks and PPE kits well before Mary started complaining, to use in the field. In fact, extra N95/surgical/cloth masks distribution was already in the process to give to officers. Just because things didn’t happen in her immediate timeline she jumped the gun and contacted the press. If it was such a serious hazard or concern I’m certain the Association would’ve gotten involved and handled accordingly.

I did not say all the meals were donated, but a majority were and that also included patrol officers being fed as well.

Interesting perspective, always good to hear from the other-side...I believe she said your POA was not helping tho.. Am assuming your an officer or LBPD staff/Admin from your opinion. but why would you accuse her of being disgruntled? could it be she has a different opinion than yours or was concerned? What would she be getting out of talking other than to receive the criticism she is getting from you and am sure the higher ups will also give and possibly retaliation? Maybe her opinion is indicative of the frontline officer and yours the administration that blundered the way they should have responded?

That’s not true at all. I just spoke to an Officer and he never got issued a mask until after the news broke. You want them to be patient but they are the ones handling all these calls as a first responder. I bet you would think differently if you had to the work they do.

As for the union not saying anything, the union is a joke. LAPD have been wearing masks and washable uniforms for a month now. Same goes for my agencies across CA.

Nut uh, I talked to my neighbor who’s a cop and they had masks but none wore them. Can tell by your post your a rat too cuz you stepped in it at the end calling the union a joke speaking with first hand knowledge. Making all that money and still complain. SMH.

So let me get this straight, just because someone is paid to do a job, they are suppose to do the job without complaining about being sent out without proper equipment to protect themselves. Which can lead to them getting infected, infecting their family and coworkers and not to mention the public. So this Officer speaking up about those concerns, somehow makes her a rat? Also, when you have family on the force , it doesn’t take long to realize how incompetent the union is. You don’t have to be part of the union to see that.

ONE side of a story from ONE of 800+ officers. If there was such a HUGE issue with NO equipment (masks) there would be more people, including the Association taking action. Maybe no one else is complaining or commenting cuz it’s a bs issue on no merit? I dunno. There’s always that

Not allowing comments against???

All postings on our website must be approved beforehand, which may be delayed depending on the time of day when we are notified via email of the posting. It is not necessary to make multiple postings of the same comments; be patient, we'll get to it.

We reserve the right to edit some postings for errors and sometimes delete postings that are defamatory or contain inappropriate language from wacko individuals.

Generally we do not print online comments in the newspaper that do not contain the name of the author. Put your real name/address/phone at the end of your comments if you expect to see the item in print. The address and phone will not be printed and are used for verification purposes only that you are a real person. You can request to remain anonymous if you can provide a reason for doing so.

Comments made via Facebook usually ID the sender and are not subject to our editing, but we can arrange for their deletion if offensive.

I met Officer Covarubias around 2008 while she was on patrol. Officer Covarubias is the bravest officer I have ever met.

I take it you're not real familiar with many officers.

I can't believe that people have lost their jobs and wondering how they are going to feed their families, pay rent and others bills. Don't get me wrong I am thankful that the officers are out there but let's not forget that that is their job and all of them get paid over $100,000 a year and if they get sick on duty they will still receive their full pay. They are making a lot of money on OT also. Something is not right when they are all eating for free or having the taxpayers fund their food. Why don't they donate all the free food to LB citizens who can't afford to buy food for their families? SMH I hope LUNA and his staff are enjoying eating all that free food while LB citizen go hungry. Thanks a lot LBPD ADMIN for looking out for the people that pay your over $100,000 salaries.

Isn't the LBPOA board members all Sergeants and lieutenants? aren't they considered part of the the LBPD administration? So why would the POA work against what the LBPD admin and city want? isn't it a conflict of interest to have admin represent line police officers? why would the board go against the same admin that have a say-so with the board members careers? If these board members go against Chief LUNA he would retaliate. The big question is why would these same line officers vote these Sergeants and lieutenants to the board LOL "NOT TO SMART" and to think these same officers make life and death decisions every day with the lives of LB citizens. If they can't see the obvious how can we expect them to make good decision with the citizens they come in contact with. SMH "Hello Mcfly"

This story bears striking similarities to the plight of Navy Capt. Brett Croziern who was abruptly removed from his command of the coronavirus-sidelined aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt after going outside of his chain of command and emailing an impassioned plea for help for the crew of his ship.

Rather than being commended for her attempts to protect the lives of her fellow officers, LBPD Officer Covarubias, like Captain Crozier, will most likely be retaliated against for going outside a negligent chain of command safe in their own bubble far from the front line.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Beachcomber

Copyright 2020 Beeler & Associates.

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