LBPD Fails to Protect Public from Rogue Officers

By: 
Stephen Downing

Darren Lance

On Dec. 3 the Beachcomber published a story entitled “Two LBPD Officers Arrested, Criminally Charged” in which it was reported that Officer Dedier Reyes, a 16-year veteran, and David Salcedo, a 5-year veteran, were charged with crimes including perjury, filing a false police report and filing a false government report.

That story can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/two-lbpd-officers-arrested-criminally-charged

Also reported in the same article was the fact that “Officer Dedier Reyes has been the subject of multiple Beachcomber articles over the past several years, with the most recent being published on Dec. 3. The article was entitled “City Attorney Contracts Hired Guns to Defend Internal Corruption.”

That story – along with links to previous articles reporting Reyes involvement as a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of Christopher Williams, an African American city bus driver, can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/city-attorney-contracts-hired-guns-defend-internal-corruption

On Dec. 31 the Beachcomber published an article titled: “LBPD IA Commander Exposed in Stonewall” in which Commander Darren Lance was reported to have concealed key documents required via discovery in a federal civil rights trial.

That article can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/lbpd-ia-commander-exposed-stonewall

The IA Commander Stonewall article outlined 13 questions related to Internal Affairs Division policy and practices and one question related to item 7 in Commander Lance’s sworn declaration to the court in which he offered a number of excuses to explain why the internal IA documents that exposed the criminal acts by Officers Reyes and Salcedo were not produced.

The commander offered in that portion of his sworn declaration that: “We have taken steps to change this reporting function so that this does not occur again.”

With reference to that statement, the Beachcomber reported that Chief Luna’s spokesperson was asked: “Are the excuses (offered by Lance) for non-production factual and if so, what are the specific steps that have been taken to “ensure that this does not occur again?”

As with all of the other 13 questions the response made to the Beachcomber on Dec. 22 by Chief Luna’s spokesperson was: “Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.”

LBPD Decides to Answer the Question

Eight days later, (Dec. 30) Allison Gallagher, now speaking on behalf of the new Chief of Police, Wally Hebeish, emailed the Beachcomber the following statement:

“We have updated our statement regarding this inquiry, which is reflected below. At this time, we have no additional comment beyond the updated statement.

The accuracy of Long Beach Police Department reporting functions is of critical importance. Upon discovery of a technology error with this particular matter, we immediately took steps to fix the issue to ensure it does not happen in the future. We have since conducted system reprogramming and testing to verify accurate results. The LBPD continues to review other internal systems as well to ensure reliability of data and transparency.

The department is working with the city attorney’s office to find out whether the issue with the reporting function could have caused similar reporting problems with other cases.”

Beachcomber Responds

In response to the unsolicited update – recognizing that the new administration under Chief Hebeish may have begun to alter LBPD transparency policy – the Beachcomber followed up with an email that stated:

“The Beachcomber would very much appreciate getting more detail as to exactly what the technology error was, what the exact steps were taken to fix it and any documentation that may be available that supports and confirms the LBPD statement, such as a written report from the technologist who allegedly fixed the problem.

The reason we ask for this supporting information is because the department’s statement is inconsistent with another sworn declaration made by Commander Darren Lance in June, 2019 when he stated: “The Police Department has a database maintained by the Internal Affairs Division in accordance with the retention policies of the city and Police Department, which contains all currently pending and historical information identifying the discipline of the Police Department's peace officers and civilians (non-peace officers) for sustained findings of a violation of Police Department policy.”

(“System works” declaration by Lance linked here:

https://beachcomber.news/content/system-works

(“System doesn’t work” declaration by Lance linked here:

https://beachcomber.news/content/system-doesnt-work

Today’s statement from the LBPD is also inconsistent with the apparent pattern and practice of concealment by Commander Darren Lance that has become even more striking in this matter.

In Jan. 2021 the Beachcomber received Internal Affairs Division documents related to the Christopher Williams Use of Force Complaint investigation as a result of this newspapers PRA lawsuit settlement.

The Beachcomber’s review of the documents released gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that certain investigative documents had been withheld.

We asked Christopher William’s attorney to compare the production of records she received as a result of discovery in the civil rights lawsuit she had earlier filed that was related to same incident.

William’s attorney reported back to us that a document dated April 2018 related to the IA investigation had been provided to her, but not to the Beachcomber when our lawsuit was settled in Jan. 2021.

On Jan. 5, 2021 we notified the deputy city attorney defending the city in the Beachcomber lawsuit of the inconsistency of report production from Internal Affairs. Two days later he forwarded the missing report without comment.

Excuses related to data technology were not offered. The absence of an explanation made it clear that Commander Lance deliberately and corruptly withheld the document.

It is that document that became the basis for the Beachcomber article entitled, “Lawsuit Exposes LBPD Internal Affairs Corruption” – published Feb. 11, 2021. The article can be read here:

 https://beachcomber.news/content/lawsuit-exposes-lbpd-internal-affairs-c

As a result of this perceived pattern we reasonably concluded that Commander Lance deliberately withheld the document in order to cover up the corruption of the IA investigation and only surrendered it when confronted by the deputy city attorney, who clearly chose to protect Lance and the LBPD from the charges of corruption that were ultimately exposed and – to our knowledge – never acted upon by the LBPD or the city manager.

It is for these reasons we believe the community is entitled to know specific details related to the alleged “fix” of the technology problem or in lieu of that an acknowledgement that the LBPD Internal Affairs function is corrupted and in need of “fixing.”

No Change to LBPD Transparency Policy

On Jan. 3, Chief Hebeish’s spokesperson responded, “We decline to provide further comment.”

The Beachcomber filed a Public Records Act (PRA) request with the city on Jan. 3 in order to verify if Chief Hebeish’s unsolicited follow up explanation is factually supported by documents related to the “system fix.”

Former Chief of Police Finds Lance’s Declaration “Unbelievable.”

As a result of the discovery that documents surrounding the crimes committed by Reyes were withheld by Commander Lance, federal magistrate Otis D. Wright II granted Christopher William’s attorney, Narine Mkrtchyan’s request to engage a police practices expert to “testify about certain aspects of the investigation of Officer Reyes, Defendant’s discovery failures, and related issues.”

Mkrtchyan subsequently engaged former El Monte Chief of Police David Reynoso, a 32-year veteran who retired from the El Monte PD, on Dec. 30, 2021.

On Jan. 5, 2021 retired Chief Reynoso filed a blistering 16-page declaration with the court that examined in detail all aspects of the LBPD’s managerial incompetence and the corruptions related to the department’s Internal Affairs operations as well as the LBPD’s civil rights violations against Christopher Williams.

One part of Reynoso’s declaration dealt with the police practices expert’s review of Commander Lance’s Dec. 15 sworn declaration, in which he wrote: “I disagree with the declaration of Commander Lance. The LBPD should have known of the pending 2018 perjury and IA should have produced it.”

Reynoso continued: “Commander Lance claims in paragraph 7 of his declaration that the tolled IA Administrative Investigation did not appear on Officer Reyes’ Internal Affairs History Report. I find this unbelievable.”

The police practices expert continued: “All police agencies must keep track of Internal Affairs complaints, particularly those with criminal allegations of wrongdoing pending for proper due process and to protect the public.

The former police chief concluded, “Failing to keep track of allegations of misconduct against a police officer is not consistent with the best practices of police departments, it fails to comply with discovery obligations by police departments, can compromise their own investigations and fails to protect the public from rogue officers.”

The former chief’s scathing 16 page declaration – which answers many of the unanswered 14 Beachcomber questions – can be read in full here: https://beachcomber.news/content/police-expert

 

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

Stephen.Beachcomber@Gmail.com

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Comments

How much more proof does the DA need to open up an investigation on this corrupt police department. This corrupt LBPD leadership with the help of the city attorney has been canceling officer misconduct for years. It's time the DA takes actions to show the rest of the police officer that corruption will not be tolerated not even from their leadership. What do we expect from the street level cop when their leadership is rotten to the core. The LB citizen has been abuse long enough. Thank you Stephen Downing for always keeping us informed of what an absolutely incompetent and corrupt police department we have and that it's condone by our elected officials.

What I find particularly troubling is new Chief of Police, Wally Hebeish is falling right in line with the corrupt practices of previous Chiefs of Long Beach Police. While I had high hopes the new Chief would lead Long Beach's Police Department out of its misconduct and criminal ways, it now appears Chief Hebeish, who was chosen from the rank and file rather than bring in a fresh new perspective, is no different than past Chiefs who skirted prosecution of crimes by being the Chief.

If LBPD's glaring criminality is so evident to former El Monte Chief of Police David Reynoso after less than 5-days of investigation, it is clear that criminality among the police department is exactly what Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and his City Council desire. Otherwise, they would have addressed and fixed it years ago.

I agree with LBcitizen first. Its past time and important LA District District Attorney George Gascón sue LBPD for civil rights violations and begin an investigation of the complicity of Long Beach's Mayor's office and City Management. This is important because both Mayor Garcia and former Police Chief Luna have announced their runs for higher elected office, and voters needs to know exactly how involved they've been in past LBPD crimes.

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