LBPD Brass Enable Alcohol Abuse, Stonewall the Fallout

By: 
Stephen Downing

The Beachcomber smacked into multiple stonewalls at City Hall over the past few weeks while attempting to get to the bottom of another LBPD cover-up communicated to us by numerous department insiders, all of whom – fearing retaliation – wish to remain anonymous.

It began with a late night traffic collision on Dec. 26, 2017 when an African American gentleman – last name Evans – was rear ended by a plain colored sedan bearing an exempt license plate.

The plain sedan turned out to be an on-call LBPD police vehicle driven by Todd Johnson, a highly protected LBPD homicide detective.

Mr. Evans smelled alcohol on the detective’s breath and called 911, telling the dispatcher of the collision and complaining of the detective’s condition. The dispatcher rolled a police officer and a sergeant to handle the traffic collision and potential DUI.

The cover-up began when the sergeant and the assigned police officer arrived on-scene at the 6800 block of 2nd Street, next to the LADWP Generating Station.

LBPD Siege Mentality Continues

The Beachcomber’s efforts to fully investigate the multiple reports from LBPD insiders encountered the same siege mentality, obfuscation and disregard for the public trust that we experienced with the City Hall cover-up scandal surrounding Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce’s recent DUI/domestic abuse debacle involving her former chief of staff and conflict-of-interest-paramour, Devin Cotter.

While Pearce escaped criminal DUI and domestic abuse charges as a result of the protection afforded her by the political shot-callers and the LBPD executive suite, her guardians did not completely seal the lid on City Hall’s decades-old public corruption garbage can. This stink is as bad or worse than it’s ever been.

Following investigation of the insider reports that evolved from the Dec. 26 traffic collision, the Beachcomber sent a detailed three-page email to the LBPD asking for comment on a variety of the documented misconduct allegations as well as a records request (PRA) for 12 categories of public documents.

The response ultimately received from LBPD Media Relations stated, “We have reviewed your inquiry and find that it contains information that is inaccurate.”

The Beachcomber followed up twice, asking media relations and the chief’s office to specify which part of the detailed email was inaccurate. We received no response.

The LBPD subsequently refused to produce most all of the public documents requested as well as using the exact same cut and paste boiler plate provided during the Councilwoman Jeannine Peace scandal: “The Long Beach Police Department is prohibited to disclose to you any records that may be responsive to your request because such records are exempt from public disclosure under the Public Records Act pursuant to California Government Code, Section 6254(f) and 6254(k).”

The big lie in their response is that the LBPD executive suite wants the public to believe that the department is prohibited by law from disclosing the documents when, in fact, most are not prohibited.

After reviewing the LBPD PRA denial, Tom Beck, the distinguished civil rights attorney who recently won a unanimous jury verdict that exposed the perjury of two LBPD officers (also covered up by the LBPD post trial) and sustained a case of vicious brutality, said of the LBPD reply, “In short, the police department is misrepresenting the law to avoid public responsibility. Most all of their answers to the Beachcomber did not implicate protected information. The LBPD objections are blunderbuss, not the exacting standards the code imposed on agencies to weigh when responding to PRA requests.”

Twenty-seven days after the Beachcomber got the ”your information is inaccurate” response we received a letter of solicitation from LBPD Internal Affairs Lieutenant Patrick O'Dowd who wrote in part, “You may have information that would be useful in our investigation into possible employee misconduct … and we would like to speak with you regarding your knowledge of the incident.”

We agreed to the interview and added: “Please be advised that if your interest is to obtain my assistance in ferreting out the depth of misconduct involved I will be more than happy to assist. However, If your investigator’s aim is to uncover my multiple inside LBPD sources – as has been the practice of CPCC investigators in the recent past – please be advised that I will not be forthcoming in any respect.”

The lieutenant replied via email two days later, “Thank you, Mr. Downing. We will be in touch in the near future to schedule an interview.

We have yet to hear back. Therefore, we report here the findings of our investigation. Should the LBPD choose to provide evidence that any part of what follows is “inaccurate,” we will be happy to make corrections.

The Cover-Up

According to multiple sources, uniformed Sergeant Ciarron Crawford arrived at the scene of the traffic collision involving Mr. Evans and Detective Johnson at about the same time as the assigned officer, Alex Lawrence. A short time later, two other uniformed officers – Joel Johnson and David Cohen – arrived to provide assistance.

The civilian, Evans, complained to Sgt. Crawford about Detective Johnson’s alcohol consumption.

LBPD protocol under this circumstance requires a DUI investigation and transport of the accused officer either to the Seal Beach PD or the Signal Hill PD for the purpose of administering a Breathalyzer examination outside the view of Long Beach employees. That did not happen.

Instead, the sergeant’s first action was to call the on-duty watch commander, Lieutenant Tyae Burford, the same watch commander who took charge and helped to engineer the cover-up of the Councilwoman Pearce DUI/domestic violence scandal months earlier.

In the Pearce case Lt. Burford took his orders from a chain of command notification process for VIPs that starts with the duty chief and ends with the mayor.

According to Beachcomber sources the notification on the evening of the traffic collision stopped with the duty chief, Lloyd Cox, a former homicide division lieutenant recently appointed to the rank of commander and assigned to head the LBPD’s Internal Affairs Division.

When briefed on the circumstances by Lt. Burford, Commander Cox reportedly declined to dispatch internal affairs investigators to the scene. Instead, he told Lt. Burford to instruct Sgt. Crawford that there would be no Breathalyzer administered. The officers were to complete the traffic collision investigation and Detective Johnson was to be released.

When the orders were passed down Sgt. Crawford requested that Lt. Burford respond to the scene. Burford refused. Sgt. Crawford subsequently did as he was ordered.

Detective Johnson was allowed to drive the city vehicle from the scene.

When LBPD Media Relations responded to the Beachcomber’s first inquiry about the cover-up they responded, “An internal affairs investigation was initiated within 24 hours of the incident.”

What they didn’t say, according to LBPD insiders, is that the IAD investigation was aimed solely at the officers on scene for “Failing to conduct a proper investigation.”

Upon learning that officers on scene were singled out for a charge of misconduct the Beachcomber asked the LBPD – on two separate occasions – if Commander Cox, as the command officer in charge of Internal Affairs, continued to have oversight responsibility for that investigation.

We received no reply.

The LBPD Boys ‘n’ Girls Club

Multiple sources informed the Beachcomber that Detective Johnson has a reputation for heavy alcohol consumption and enjoys an unusual level of protection by department brass from disciplinary action because of his elite assignment and attachment to what department insiders call the favored “Boys ‘n’ Girls Club.”

The Beachcomber investigation established that Detective Johnson had been drinking at Crow’s Cocktail, a 2nd Street dive bar on Naples Island, and that he left the bar about ten minutes prior to the traffic collision.

A former employee, as well as a customer who frequents the dive bar – both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity fearing retaliation from Johnson and the Long Beach vice squad – stated that the detective was a fixture at the bar, day and night.

The former employee said, “Todd Johnson was a regular. He spends a lot of time in the bar. His drink of choice is a pint glass full of straight vodka with a soda side. He would often have four or five drinks. He always got past the point of being served, but we said nothing because he’s a big guy with anger issues. We didn’t want him or the LBPD vice squad coming down on us.”

The customer also validated Johnson’s drinking patterns and said that he always drove a city police car. “He parked it in the valet spot next door. The guy was often wasted out of his mind. I asked him once if he wasn’t afraid of being stopped. He smirked and said, ‘not in the car I’m driving.’”

As a homicide detective subject to after-hour call outs for homicide investigations and officer involved shootings (OIS), the police union contract with the city specifies that detectives are to be paid nine hours straight time for a standby cycle of one week and if on standby for call outs, alcohol consumption is prohibited.

The union contract also specifies that the detective can have a call out car to take home in lieu of the nine hours compensation if approved by the chief of police.

Records obtained from the City Finance Department reveal that Detective Johnson was paid for standby time during the weekly call out cycle ending Dec. 25, the day before the traffic collision.

The Beachcomber asked one department insider how it is that Johnson was paid for call out time and still provided a city car even when not assigned to the call out cycle. They said, “Lieutenant Lloyd Cox decided six or seven years ago that since his guys hadn’t had a raise, he gave all of them (between 12 and 14 detectives) permission to take city cars home 24/7, and they’re still doing it.”

The insider went on to say, “As far as Johnson goes, Cox brought him into homicide from gangs when everyone knew he had a big drinking problem – on and off the job.”

When told what the Crow Cocktail employee said about Johnson’s anger issues the same LBPD insider said, “he definitely has anger issues. I’m sure it comes from his drinking. He’d regularly blow up in the office at his partners, peers, the sergeant and lieutenant and nothing would happen to him. Everyone in the office who sat near him knew he was a powder keg.”

City financial records reveal that Detective Johnson was paid a total of $5,135 in 2017 for standby time. His cumulative standby compensation for the past three years was $14,146 – a period in which he was also improperly provided a city car – 24/7 – in violation of controlling city administrative policy and the union contract – all with the blessing of LBPD brass.

According to Transparent California, Johnson – with a base salary of $104,560 also earned $70,465 in overtime on top of his standby compensation. His total pay and benefits in 2016 was $228,262.

Officer Involved Shooting Investigations Compromised

Two insiders informed the Beachcomber that during the early part of 2017 a fellow homicide detective, identified as Mark Bigel, complained to homicide supervisors, Sgt. Megan Zabel and Sgt. Robert Woods (both under the supervision of (then) Lt. Lloyd Cox, that when responding to a Officer Involved Shooting call out, Detective Bigel observed that Detective Johnson arrived at the OIS scene and took part in the investigation smelling of alcohol and possibly intoxicated.

The sources stated Detective Johnson was not disciplined and that Detective Bigel was subsequently transferred out of homicide in retaliation for reporting Johnson.

One of the Beachcomber’s sources said, “Todd Johnson was drunk or under the influence at work most of the time and everybody knew it. When Bigel stepped up and reported him for being liquored up at the OIS scene he didn’t get any back up because the guys knew the brass would turn it around on them for not reporting it earlier. So, Cox saved Johnson and got rid of Bigel. That’s the way it works here, if you’re a favorite in the Boys ‘n’ Girls Club you’re protected. If you’re not, they find a way to get rid of you.”

This latter comment was shown to another insider for purposes of confirmation. They replied as follows:

“That is 100 percent true. Mark Bigel was the scapegoat for all of the possible misconduct with Johnson’s partners and supervisors. They all lied to protect the organization and the unit. Anyone who worked as a partner of Todd Johnson knows he came to work drunk or under the influence of alcohol, which included showing up to call outs in the same state. In my opinion Bigel is not out of danger of being targeted again by the administration being under the supervision of Don Wood as his commander and Lloyd Cox as the IAD commander.”

The Beachcomber asked our inside sources to reach out to Detective Bigel for comment but did not receive a response.

The Culture of Retaliation

Sgt. Byron Blair, assigned to the Office of the Chief of Police – in his reply to a small part of the Beachcomber’s public records inquiry – wrote that Detective Mark Bigel was officially transferred out of homicide on December 30, 2017.

Detective Bigel is presently assigned to work financial crimes under the supervision of Commander Don Wood, a police official who has been the subject of several Beachcomber columns related to the commander’s set up of other innocent police officers though fabrication of internal affairs investigations, engineering chain of command retaliation terminations, a cover-up involving the police union and wrongful termination lawsuits.

Detective Johnson continues in his assignment with the elite – and well compensated – homicide squad.

Last week the LBPD published the results of the most recent promotional examination for the rank of Lieutenant. Sgt. Robert Woods ranked No. 1 on the list and Sgt. Megan Zabel ranked No. 3.

Chief of Police Robert Luna’s handwritten note on the promotion announcement said, “Thank you all for your hard work.”

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

stephen@beachcomber.news

 

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Comments

This has gotten way out of hand, LBPD, has gotten away with way too many illegal activities. It's sad to think we need protection from them, sometimes even more so than criminals on our streets. I could go on and on but I'm to afraid I could get hurt by LBPD or harassed. I think they need to have the Department of Justice or some Department, that can truly investigate LBPD, and fix the problems these officers (above the law) have been getting away with for far too long. Because it's so scary walking these streets never knowing if one of these officers will start making life miserable for another civilian undeserving of their antics and illegal activities. HELP!

Great reporting! Agree totally with Linda. Is there any chance the FBI will help drain the LBPD swamp?

Your two sentence comment should have been a thought worth keeping to your self and now I’m suckered into replying to this nonsense, Complete ignorance on anyone’s part for thinking this is such “great reporting” it’s an opinion NOT A FACT! Isnt it clear Stephen Downing is targeting Detective Johnson? His reporting isn’t even based on facts, but on opinions from individuals who are stating these alagations on an emotional level. It doesn’t surprise me Stephen Downing lays it hard on LBPD, and for someone who worked LAPD, I’m sure you would have more of a story writing about LAPD because you would have actual facts to report on, but instead you write about LBPD, very suspicious. No respect for someone who retired in a position like yourself who then turns around and trys to ruin someone’s credibility and career because you are basing everything you write on emotional opinions! Are you infatuated with this detective? Be the bigger person, if Detective Johnson is so out of control, reach out to him and help guide him in a positive way, but you can’t So what’s the real motive behind this circus act, what are you trying to accomplish with these so called articles? If it’s change you seek? Do you want to see a better and positive outcome from all this, or do you want to ruin someones career because you were never cool enough to hang with the big boys? Whatever it is it’s not for the better it’s for your own enjoyment and it shows.

Y'know, Todd Johnson is a good man at the end of the day. I knew him personally as my daughter's softball coach, and of him as a school teacher who mentored many high risk youths in North Long Beach. If there is an issue, I'm confident he'll deal with it properly and come out better than ever, and in that LBPD will retain a competent professional and plus to its team and the City.

Y'know, Todd Johnson is probably the nicest guy whose 80-proof police work has allowed at least one person to get away with murder. Kids can really look up to Johnson as an accessory after the fact. Don't criticize someone who helps felons avoid prosecution -- at least he's helping!

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