LBPD IA Commander Exposed in Stonewall

By: 
Stephen Downing

Darren Lance

On Dec. 4 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-c...

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, the most recent published on Dec. 2, 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 law suit filed on behalf of Christopher Williams, an African American city bus driver, by his attorney, Narine Mkrtchyan of Glendale – can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/city-attorney-contracts-hired-guns-defe...

Breach of Agreement

Mkrtchyan said, “When I read the LBPD press release about Reyes’ arrest, I immediately realized that the city attorney breached the agreement by suppressing the documents in the case that got Reyes arrested.”

Mkrtchyan said, “from what we now know, the underlying incident that lead to Reyes arrest was discovered in Feb. 2018, a month before the William’s incident in 2018, so when we made our complaint to the LBPD in April 2018 the LBPD was aware that Reyes was under scrutiny. Now I see (in the LBPD press release) that the LBPD made their criminal recommendation on Reyes to the DA’s office in January 2019, before we even filed the lawsuit.”

Mkrtchyan continued: “Their representation (the city attorney) was that we received all of Reyes IA (internal affairs) files as of February 2020. The city attorney’s office then declared a conflict and substituted out of the case as of March 2020 and separate counsel was appointed to represent Reyes.”

Mkrtchyan said, “the reasons behind this move were also not disclosed to us and the defense counsel even asked the court to exclude any mention of separate representation to the jury at trial.”

The attorney added, “Therefore, it appears the city attorney declared a conflict precisely because Reyes was under a criminal investigation and that presented several conflicts.”

In her statement to the Beachcomber, Williams’ attorney concluded by saying that when she learned of the LBPD press release on Dec. 3 she sent a letter to outside counsel hired by the city attorney demanding that the files be produced ASAP and that “I will seek discovery sanctions for this suppression of material evidence if they do not, as this is a violation of all discovery rules.”

Internal Affairs Complicit

The missing documents were subsequently produced by Commander Darren Lance, the head of the LBPD’s Internal Affairs Division, and because of a request to the court for sanctions by Mkrtchyan, Commander Lance also provided a sworn declaration to the court that allegedly explained why the documents were not produced when required.

When Commander Lance’s declaration was filed with the United States District Court on Dec. 15 the Beachcomber obtained a copy.

A review of the declaration gave rise to multiple questions relative to LBPD policy as well as the factual truth surrounding the IA commander’s sworn declaration.

The questions, sent in writing via email to the LBPD on Dec. 17 and answered by Chief Luna’s spokesperson Allison Gallagher on Dec. 22 follow, each preceded by a statement of fact drawn from the declaration and other court documents:

Statement of Fact: In his sworn declaration Commander Lance states that after opening an internal affairs administrative investigation on Feb. 22, 2018 involving Officer Reyes and “another officer” arising out of the incident for which officer Reyes was charged, that the internal review of the incident was referred to LBPD detectives for criminal investigation and that “Accordingly, the internal affairs administrative investigation was tolled (suspended) on April 25, 2018, pending the LBPD’s criminal investigation into the incident, because a criminal investigation takes precedence over an internal affairs investigation.”

Question 1: Is it the policy of the LBPD to “toll” or “suspend internal administrative investigations when criminal misconduct is alleged rather than bifurcate the investigation, conduct both at the same time and for the LBPD to make administrative findings and adjudicate those findings regardless of the time frame taken by prosecutors to make a criminal charging decision?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Question 2: Was the commander truthful when he stated that a “criminal investigation takes precedence over an internal investigation” inferring that this is a legitimate reason to “toll” or “suspend” an administrative investigation and/or its adjudication as opposed to bifurcating the criminal and administrative investigations and proceeding with both at the same time?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Statement of Fact: In other public records filed with the court it was revealed that documents produced by the LBPD in December 2021 establish that “Reyes was sent a formal letter (by the LBPD) detailing the accusations and ordering him to appear for an IA interview as early as July 5, 2018, and (he was in fact) interviewed on July 11, 2018.”

Question: Having now been informed that LBPD documents prove an IA interview was in fact conducted on July 11, 2018 and that the investigation was in fact not suspended on April 25, 2018, does Chief Luna and/or City Manager Modica intend to initiate an investigation into the probability that Commander Lance’s Dec. 15, 2021 sworn declaration was intended to mislead the court and/or was in fact untruthful?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Statement of Fact: In his sworn declaration Commander Lance stated: “The stay of the internal affairs administrative investigation was lifted after Officer Reyes’ arrest and the investigation was no longer being tolled. As of the date of this declaration, no proposed findings or recommendations have been made in the Reyes administrative investigation arising from the Feb. 15, 2018 incident.”

Question 1: The statement underlines Commander Lance’s earlier untruthful and misleading statement that the IA investigation was suspended on April 25, 2018 and by implication acknowledges that the IA investigation was in fact complete except for the “proposed findings and recommendations” to be made – all of which when viewed in its totality leads to a reasonable conclusion that had the new DA not filed charges – Commander Lance would have covered up the incident and taken no action to distribute the investigation to the LBPD chain of command in order to obtain “findings and recommendations” aimed at an ultimate adjudication by the city manager.

Does the department agree with that conclusion? If not, please explain how internal systems would have produced a final adjudication in this matter.

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Question 2: How many other cases alleging misconduct does the LBPD have in IAD files that have been “tolled” awaiting a response from either the city prosecutor or the DA’s office?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Question 3: Does the LBPD’s Early Warning System (EWS) implemented in 2020 include IA cases that are being “tolled”?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Question 4: In those cases where a prosecutor “rejects” a criminal filing does the LBPD consider the rejection an action that “clears” the officer and therefore requires no further need to adjudicate alleged misconduct?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Statement of Fact: In many cases the LBPD has immediately suspended officers pending adjudication of internal investigations to protect the public from like behavior as well as to abate possible Brady implications.

Question: Why did the LBPD believe it was prudent to allow Reyes to remain on the street for 3-years and collect additional complaints of misconduct rather than suspend him until conclusion of an administrative investigation?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Statement of Fact: In item 7 of his declaration Commander Lance offers a number of excuses to explain why the internal IA documents were not produced.

At the conclusion of his rationales for not producing the documents Lance states, “We have taken steps to change this reporting function so that this does not occur again.”

Question: 1. Are the excuses for non-production factual and if so, what are the specific steps that have been taken to “ensure that this does not occur again?”

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Statement of Fact: In his Nov. 16, 2021 presentation to the City Council under agenda item 16 Chief Luna lauded his accomplishments since becoming chief in 2014.

In his presentation Chief Luna listed as one of his major accomplishments the establishment of the Officer Early Warning System (EWS) that tracks officer misconduct.

Question 1: Why did Commander Lance’s search for records using EWS not reveal the documents proving that the IAD investigation was in fact started in 2018 and that by July 11 of 2018 Reyes was interviewed by IAD and six months later (Jan. 2019) IAD was in possession of the 3,000 page criminal investigation submitted to the district attorney for criminal filing?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Question 2: IAD was in possession of the 3,000-page criminal investigation report that could have been used to complete the IA investigation and begin the review, recommendation and adjudication process.

Why was that investigation report – absent the officer’s criminal investigation interview – not entered into and produced by the EWS when the demand for document was made?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Question 3: Officer Reyes was certified on the 2021 Sergeants Examination at position #20 which under Civil Service rules is testament to the fact that Reyes scored 70 or better on the oral portion of the examination.

Was EWS information on Reyes disciplinary history provided to the oral board that rated the officer?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Statement of Fact: Documents filed with the Court on Dec. 13 establish that “the only negative mark Reyes received (after discovery of the criminal acts in 2018 with which he is charged) “was suspension of his FTO (field training officer) status but he was not placed on administrative leave until November 2021, days before his arrest.”

Question 1: It is clear that the LBPD properly viewed Reyes’ influence as a danger to his trainee and chose to suspend his FTO pay. But is that not a penalty prohibited by law under the tolling provision of the Police Officer Bill of Rights prior to final adjudication?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Question 2: Would the public not have benefitted by his removal from the street – without penalty – while an internal investigation and adjudication was fast-tracked without regard to a pending decision by the prosecutor?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Question 3: It is our understanding from research that even if the internal investigation had been adjudicated and a penalty less than termination was decided, a felony conviction at a later time would justify a new administrative charge.

Is that understanding correct?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.

Statement of Fact: Officer Salcedo was on probation at the time he falsified reports and not subject to the mandates of the Police Officer Bill of Rights.

Question: Why was Salcedo not terminated at the time the offense of filing a false report was discovered?

LBPD Response: Your inquiry relates to pending litigation and/or an open investigation. We have no comment.”

Appeal Made to Reconsider

Upon receipt of the “no comment” response to each of the LBPD’s questions this reporter sent the following appeal via email to Chief Luna’s spokesperson:

“Thank you for the department’s response, although I must disagree with the means by which Chief Luna has elected to respond to our questions.

I disagree because the primary question posed relates to department “tolling” policy as it should/would be applied to any internal misconduct situation involving department operations and decision making in like situations, past, present and future.

The secondary questions go directly to matters of integrity, truthfulness and fitness to serve by a high-ranking LBPD commander who is in charge of a highly critical department function – Internal Affairs.

Chief Luna’s choice to stonewall and hide behind on-going litigation once again rather than offer the community an explanation is unfortunate but not unexpected.

The chief continues to undermine City Hall’s lofty expressions of being fully committed to transparency.

A more professional and honest response from a top ranking law enforcement executive would have been to educate his community about the LBPD’s “tolling” policy – or absence thereof – and to acknowledge that the matter of Commander Lance’s sworn declaration has been – or should have been – referred to the CPCC with a recommendation to employ outside council to conduct an independent investigation into the probability that the IAD commander made false and misleading statements in a declaration sworn and signed under oath. All of which involve the culture and integrity of police department operations, which is – or should be – of greater concern to the department – and the community – than any single lawsuit the city attorney may have opted to fight rather than admit fault.

Please ask the chief if he would like to reconsider this response.

Neither Chief Luna nor his spokesperson responded by our deadline.

DA’s Response

The questions posed to the LBPD were included in a separate email sent to the district attorney’s media relation’s office on Dec. 17 in which the following question was asked of the county prosecutor:

“It would be appreciated if you could provide the Beachcomber with an understanding as to why it took from Jan. 2019 to Dec. 3, 2021 for the district attorney’s office to make a filing decision in this case.

“It would also be appreciated if your office could comment as to whether the district attorney’s office has an expectation that police departments “toll” internal administrative investigations and adjudication of misconduct by officers until such time as your office makes a determination to file criminal charges or not.

“Finally, if you know, we would like to know if you have any record or information that suggests the prior administration overseeing the DA’s office may have informally communicated with the LBPD that criminal charges would not be filed.”

On Dec. 22 DA spokesperson Greg Risling responded: “Our office declines comment.”

Sanctions Awarded by Court

On Dec. 27 the court granted Williams’ request for an adverse inference instruction because “Williams would have had the benefit of two years of discovery on this topic” and “because trial is imminent, discovery sanctions are the only way to curb defendants’ violations and ensure the proceedings remain fair.”

United States Judge Otis D. Wright, II wrote in his decision that “The city’s fact-barren declaration (written by IA Commander Lance) fails to persuade the court that the city’s prior search was conducted reasonably and diligently.

The judge continued: “Moreover, a system that omits returns from its searches when those returns have been escalated to a higher level of importance is not a system that is reasonably maintained in the first place, so conducting a single search of that system and calling it enough is unreasonable.”

Judge Wright concluded: Williams makes a sufficient showing of defendants’ “culpable state of mind” to justify an adverse inference instruction as a discovery sanction.”

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

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Comments

Didn't the recommendations by Polis Solutions, the city's hired consultant for reforming or revamping the Citizens Police Complaint Commission, include eliminating the CPCC's investigative ability and leaving that aspect entirely to Internal Affairs? And after everything we've read and heard about the LBPD/IA we're supposed to accept that as a viable solution supporting transparency and accountability?

This is straight out corruption and collusion at its highest level from the LBPD and city attorney. Am asking again WHY is this corrupt PD and city not being investigated by the FEDs? What else needs to happen? How many more LB citizen have to be victimized before something is done?!!!

Beachcomber readers should question why NO other medium in Long Beach is similarly reporting on Long Beach Police Department and City Hall corruption and following up on these Beachcomber stories. Has repeated corruption in Long Beach become so ordinary that most media choose to ignore it and if so, doesn’t that make those other media part of the corruption?

I applaud Mr. Downing and the Beachcomber for publishing these stories.

I've been patiently waiting to observe whether the LB Report.com, LB Post.com, Grunion Gazette or the Press Telegram would publish ANYTHING about the recent spate of articles published in the Beachcomber about crime, corruption and misconduct in the Long Beach Police Department. Not a single mention in any of those untrustworthy publications that are more afraid of losing a major advertiser than sharing with the public the corruption occurring in their own city.

Thank you, Mr. Downing! Keep up the good work!!

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