LBPD Event Called an Assault on Health/Safety of Community

By: 
Stephen Downing
 Unofficial photo obtained from LBPD source by LB Post’s Jeremiah Dobruck.Official photo taken by the LBPD.

By Stephen Downing

On the morning of Dec. 14, a letter alleging misconduct by Chief of Police Robert Luna was filed via email with the Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) by a coalition of community organizations.

[Link to letter https://beachcomber.news/content/cpcc-complaint-letter]

The complaint alleged that on Nov. 5 Luna, along with members of his senior command staff, ordered an indoor gathering of police officers that allowed a COVID-19 super-spreader event to take place.

Carlos Ovalle, executive director of People of Long Beach, and Ian Patton, executive director, Long Beach Reform Coalition, filed the personnel complaint jointly.

People of Long Beach is a local organization that identifies as “a non-partisan, non-profit, non-secular group of long-time Long Beach residents concerned with improving the political welfare of our city.”

The Long Beach Reform Coalition is an umbrella advocacy organization for six other local neighborhood and political groups that joined as signatories to the misconduct complaint.

The community-based petition alleged that Luna and senior members of his staff ordered “approximately 300 police personnel from field assignments across the city to congregate inside the Long Beach Convention Center where they allowed the assembled officers to occupy the indoor venue without requiring compliance with Health Department mandates associated with social distancing and masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, thereby knowingly and willfully ordering a super spreader event to take place.”

The coalition’s petition was critical of Luna for violating Health Department mandates and alleged that his order was “a direct contradiction and demonstration of impunity that countered Mayor Robert Garcia’s pleas on local and national television, email, press releases and twitter alerts for all persons, including city employees, to practice social distancing and wear masks.”

The genesis of the personnel complaint was sparked by a Dec. 8 Long Beach Post news article by Jeremiah Dobruck who reported that he obtained an “unofficial” photograph taken on Nov. 5 inside the Long Beach Convention Center.

The community-based petition alleged that “what the chief did not know at the time he delivered his speech is that an “unofficial photograph” had been taken prior to the officers lining up for the chief’s “official” photo op.

The coalition pointed out that the “photo shows that 100 percent of the gathering of approximately 300 officers ignored social distancing mandates and at least 98 percent were without masks.”

Two Beachcomber sources present at the assembly confirmed the allegation. One said, “The chief and his entourage didn’t even keep their masks on.”

Another officer said, “We were jammed together shoulder to shoulder and hardly anybody had a mask on.”

According to the LB Post story when Dobruck questioned the LBPD about the photograph the LBPD provided him with an “official” LBPD photo of the event.

One allegation in the coalitions complaint to the CPCC stated that, “Once gathered, and following the chief’s brief remarks, Chief Luna directed the assemblage of officers to don masks for the purpose of taking an official photograph.”

The Beachcomber verified this allegation with three LBPD sources, one of who said, “They told us to put our masks on when it was time to take the picture and if we didn’t have a mask to get out of the picture. “

In their letter Ovalle and Patton said that if Luna did in fact order masks to be worn solely to take the “official” photo that fact alone would prove that the chief “knowingly and willfully ordered the super-spreader event to occur with clear knowledge that the gathering would affect the health and safety of the entire police force, other city employees and the general public.”

The coalition expressed concern for the widespread harm of the virus resulting from the super-spreader event and labeled Luna’s misconduct to be an “assault on the safety of the community.”

The executive directors, writing on behalf of the coalition signatories, recognized that the number of police officers infected by COVID-19 following the super-spreader are “ likely to be even worse today” and urged that, “this impact must be made a part of the CPCC’s investigation.

The petitioners, having knowledge of an internal publication from Luna who insisted that: “This photo was taken when I was addressing mobile field force officers after a mobilization exercise at the Convention Center….” alleged that the chief’s statement is false and asked that it too be investigated.

They alleged that the “training session at the Convention Center took place days earlier and the Nov. 5 super-spreader assembly was solely for the purpose of the official photograph.”

The coalition pressed the CPCC commissioners to “include a review of the earlier training sessions held inside the Convention Center to determine if COVID-19 health standards were knowingly violated at that time.”

The community petitioners insisted that the investigation be conducted exclusively by the CPCC stating that: “The LBPD, the city attorney and the city manager have demonstrated that they incapable of investigating this matter with any degree of trust that the full truth of the chief’s misconduct will be exposed and properly adjudicated.”

The coalition concluded its complaint by pressing the CPCC commissioners to “use their charter authority to conduct this investigation by issuing subpoenas for personnel and documents, administering sworn oaths for testimony from the rank and file and hold public hearings so as to prevent the LBPD or the city administration from covering up yet another wholesale violation of the public trust – as was the end result of the “Tiger Text’ investigation conducted by an outside law firm routinely used by the city and falsely represented as being “independent.”

In a Dec. 14 letter from the Sheriff’s Department’s Inspector General, Max Huntsman, to the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, a similar concern – although on a much smaller scale – was expressed in which Huntsman wrote: “On many occasions the Sheriff’s Department has not complied with the state mandate requiring face coverings, contrary to Department of Public Health Guidelines and Executive Order N-33-20 issued by Governor Newsom on March 4, 2020. Violation of such an order is a crime under Government Code section 8665.”

During a recent discussion with LBPD insiders (all who wish to remain anonymous fearing retaliation) the Beachcomber was informed by one officer (currently in quarantine) who attended the event and tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 25, that their infection “probably happened there, when the chief had us all gather in the convention center to take that group picture. And then it all spilled out into the academy and everywhere else.”

It was stated in the conversation that members of the Looter Task Force, a unit assigned to the Investigations Bureau and housed at the academy – most of whom were at the super-spreader assembly – have tested positive.

A LBPD spokesperson reported that uniform personnel who have tested positive since Nov. 1 total 49 (YTD 81), writing in an email: “This would include peace officers, jail detention officers, uniformed airport personnel and park rangers. Out of that running total, 12 were assigned to the investigations bureau.”

The CPCC website recognizes its responsibility and authority to conduct hearings under the heading, “When is a Hearing Conducted” and defines that hearing as “a fact-finding forum regarding a specific allegation of misconduct.”

The Beachcomber asked Patrick Weithers, the CPCC’s manager, about the process that the public can expect from the Commission regarding investigation of the community complaint.

Weithers said that under law the commission staff has up to a year to complete the investigation but that “every attempt will be made to provide a higher priority.”

He stated that the complaint will be forwarded to the LBPD’s Internal Affairs Division and both entities will investigate.

Weither’s acknowledged that he or the commissioners would not be able to interview the chief of police – or any other sworn officer – as his part of the CPCC investigation because of the “compelled statement” prohibition the city has imposed upon CPCC investigators.

The CPCC manager said that once his investigation and the IAD complaint investigations are completed an investigation report will be submitted to the CPCC commissioners and a decision as to whether or not to conduct a hearing-based investigation will be determined – in executive session – by the commissioners at that time.

When asked for his judgment as to whether or not the commissioners will hold public hearings Weither’s said, “No telling what it will come down to. They may want to or not. It could go either way.”

The CPCC, established by the electorate 30 years ago, has yet to exercise its authority to hold hearings, subpoena witnesses or take sworn testimony.

Christian Cooper, a local attorney and chair of the CPCC said “The behavior described in the complaint is very troubling and the commission will certainly be looking into this matter. Once we have a chance to review the matter and meet, hearings and other investigative actions are certainly on the table.

“I don’t have an exact timeline right now, but I will be following up with Patrick Weithers to discuss the investigation into this matter and when the commission will be able to review it.”

On Dec. 16 in a 7:30 a.m. conference call to all LBPD employees Chief Luna referenced media reporting on the community coalition’s letter of complaint and said, “It’s on me. I should have required everyone to wear masks. I take full responsibility.” But later in the call he said, “the media is calling it a super-spreader event and that is not true. Our contact tracers have not found one case of COVID-19 that can be traced to anyone attending the event.”

 

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

stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com

[Editor Note: This story has been updated since its initial online posting Monday morning.]

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Comments

This corrupt COP Luna threatens to punish officer for not wearing a mask, has sends his officer to enforce mask mandates and he is the one that holds a meeting where no ones wears a mask SMH... This lier thinks that no one knows about the picture taken at the meeting ,so he LIES and makes every one believe that they where wearing mask at the meeting, Then the picture come out after he makes his comments. This same clown has fired police officers for lying and other little things and now he gets caught lying to the pubic !! this POS needs to be FIRED now !! He has put not only his officers but the citizens of LB in danger. Mayor Garcia you ask all of us to follow the mandate that you ordered but I guess that is only for us, not your department heads. DO AS A SAY, NOT AS I DO !!! your nothing but a HYPOCRITE, step down Mayor Garcia!!

Hello, it’s the holidays and they prob get 2 weeks off work. Who wouldn’t want to test positive now as a cop? Vacation and not dealing with Gascon’s changes and it’s lobster season

Thanks for the article, Steve. This will be an opportunity for the CPCC Commission to shine after the events of earlier in the year when, through no fault of their own, the commission was called a farce. In particular it’ll be a golden opportunity for the new members of the commission to effect justice and prove that the rule of law applies to everyone, and that ‘law enforcement’ including the leadership, is not above the law. “Leading by example” said Mayor Garcia a few months ago in regards to the city’s efforts against the pandemic. Yet city leadership has consistently failed us. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is criminal.

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