Leadership, Mixed Messages, Attitudes, Advanced Planning & Balanced Response

By: 
Stephen Downing

As protests sparked by George Floyd’s death spread across the nation – ultimately reaching Long Beach this past Sunday afternoon – social media platforms flooded with images of protest, civil unrest, riots, arson and sporadic looting.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum were videos, still photos and testimonies from uniform police officers in cities like Coral Gables, Florida and Ferguson, Missouri kneeling in prayer in response to Floyd’s death while cheers erupted from the crowds gathered around them.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., Chief David Roddy addressed a class of graduating rookies. He said, “There is no need to see more video. There no need to wait to see “how it plays out.” There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this ... turn it in.”

In other cities police officers helped protestors carry banners; one in Camden, NJ, reading: “Standing in Solidarity” while the crowd, chanted “No justice, no peace.”

In Santa Cruz, Calif., Police Chief Andy Mills kneeled with protesters in the pose made famous by Colin Kaepernick. Chief Mills Tweet account pronounced the gesture to be “in memory of George Floyd and bringing attention to police violence against black people.”

In San Jose, California, Police Chief Eddie Garcia marched with peaceful protestors promising to help them exercise their first amendment rights, until the March dissolved into chaos caused by a faction of troublemakers.

In Kansas City, Fargo ND and Ferguson MO police attempts to unite with protestors also dissolved into conflicts between protesters and police.

Tim Wise, author of Dispatches from the Race War wrote, “The moralizing has begun. Those who have rarely been the target of organized police gangsterism are once again lecturing those who have about how best to respond to it.

“Be peaceful, they implore, as protesters rise up in Minneapolis and across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd.

“This, coming from the same people who melted down when Colin Kaepernick took a knee – a decidedly peaceful type of protest. Because apparently, when white folks say, “protest peacefully,” we mean, “stop protesting.” Everything is fine, nothing to see here.”

At the other end of the opinion spectrum a private Facebook group for retired police officers exploded with over 500 comments following the posting of a story that featured Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills who struck the symbolic kneeling pose made famous by Colin Kaepernick. The retired officer who posted wrote, “How our chief represented us at the protest here in Santa Cruz. How sad.”

The retired officers post resulted in over 500 comments that ranged from “What an idiot, so embarrassing,” to a retired female police officer who wrote, “The suspect was cuffed, there was NO reason to use any further force. The officers should have put him in the patrol unit and taken him to jail ALIVE.” She was both pummeled and supported for her comments.

At the national level President Donald Trump, after proclaiming the death of George Floyd “very sad and tragic” later called the protesters in Minneapolis “thugs,” tweeting, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” – a phrase used by a Miami police chief defending crackdowns on black neighborhoods in the 1960s.

President Barack Obama chimed in at the opposite end of the national political spectrum writing of Floyd’s killing, “This shouldn’t be “normal” in 2020 America. It can’t be “normal.” If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.”

The International Association of Chiefs of Police wrote of the incident: “The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has understandably sparked outrage throughout the United States and the world. The callousness and disregard shown for Mr. Floyd is sickening and leaves everyone, including police officers across this nation, shocked, appalled, and infuriated.”

The Beachcomber sampled a mix of comments from California city police administrators and the police officer unions (POAs) associated with their departments in an effort to survey attitudes toward the death of George Floyd and the balance necessary to respond to the resulting protests. The sampling follows here:

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna: “As a chief of police, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The actions of these officers are directly in conflict with the oath we have taken to protect and serve, and also violate the public trust that we have worked so hard to build in our communities...”

Long Beach POA: “In the past few days, there has been far too much violence. George Floyd tragically died in Minneapolis. Five people were shot yesterday (one fatal) during protests and rioting following Mr. Floyd’s death. Twenty-eight people were shot (10 killed) in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend. Two police officers were shot (one critical) in Columbus, Ohio, while serving a warrant. Two police officers were shot (one fatal) in Grand Forks, N.D., while serving an eviction. Two police officers were shot (one fatal) in Ogden, Utah; incident still ongoing. An Oklahoma police officer was stabbed and critically injured while attempting to detain an intoxicated man. We stand with those who keep the peace, who display kindness and who work hard to ensure the safety of everyone.”

Fresno Chief of Police Andy Hall: “This officer’s actions and those officers that stood by and watched the death of George Floyd violated the oath of the more than 800,000 men and women who dedicate their lives to serve their communities. I am angry over the actions of these officers and they should be held accountable. The behavior demonstrated by the Minneapolis officers erodes the trust of our profession.”

Fresno POA: “There are times when we have to get on a person’s back to restrain them, put them in cuffs. But then we are also trained to immediately, once the situation is controlled, get that person off their chest … or at least on their side so they can have normal chest compression so they can fill their lungs, breathe normally. What happened in Minneapolis was the last thing we wanted to occur. Other (police union) presidents like myself have come out strongly against this. It’s contrary to our training.”

San Francisco Chief of Police Bill Scott: The tragic death of Mr. George Floyd after being involved in an incident with Minneapolis Police officers is extremely disturbing. What I and everyone else saw on the video images of this incident is flat wrong and not consistent with the respect for the sanctity of human life that all men and women who are sworn peace officers have a duty to uphold.”

Furthermore, this issue intersects squarely with policing disparities that have occurred for generations – and continue to occur – in regard to using force on people of color (specifically black and brown men). Those of us who have chosen policing as a profession all have a responsibility to make the difficult and courageous decisions necessary to change this narrative for the better.”

San Jose Chief of Police Eddie Garcia: Not going hide behind “not being there.” I’d be one of the first to condemn anyone had I seen similar happen to one of my brother/sister officers. What I saw happen to George Floyd disturbed me and is not consistent with the goal of our mission. The act of one, impacts us all.

Joint Statement from San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland Police Officer Associations: “What we saw on that video was inconsistent and contrary to everything we have been taught, not just as an academy recruit or a police officer, but as human beings. Reverence for life in every incident a police officer encounters must be the floor and not the ceiling. We cannot see any law enforcement or self-defense rationale for what occurred.”

Sacramento Chief of Police Daniel Hahn: “The unique thing from what happened in Minneapolis is what appears to be the really callous nature of what officer Derek Chauvin was doing. He had his knee on George Floyd’s neck. It’s just mind numbing how that could take place. I don’t understand how he could be so callous when doing that to another human being.”

Sacramento POA: “We add the voices of Sacramento police officers to those of police officers across this nation condemning the actions of the officers in Minneapolis. We understand that there is much anger in the community, and we join you in your anger.”

Santa Ana Chief of Police, David Valentin: “The tragic and deeply concerning incident that occurred in Minneapolis has understandably resulted in many strong feelings. We know that there are continued protests and demonstrations planned. We support everyone’s right to free speech and peaceful protest; however, we will NOT tolerate any injury to any person or any damage to property.”

Peace Officers Research Association of California: “Sadly, what we saw in the video was a man in distress crying for help. Mr. George Floyd did not need to die…”

Unfortunately, the act of these officers reverberates throughout the entire law enforcement community. We were all sickened by what we saw.”

Long Beach, Sunday, May 31

Aware of the violence that erupted in Los Angeles on May 30 and the implementation of curfews in that city and Beverly Hills, coupled with intelligence sources reporting demonstrations were planned for downtown Long Beach at 3 p.m. May 31, the Beachcomber emailed the LBPD and asked if a curfew for the city was planned.

At 11:30 a.m. Lieutenant James Richardson responded, “At this time there is no need for a curfew. A curfew can be used when civil unrest begins, but we have no plan at this point for initiating a curfew, as there is no reason to initiate it yet. Hopefully everything today will be peaceful and there will not be a need for it.”

At 3 p.m. Beachcomber sources reported that a large group of protesters were on East Ocean Avenue heading for Pine Avenue. The source said that approximately 50 LBPD officers dressed in riot gear were staging near the downtown area.

Television coverage of the downtown area during the remainder of the afternoon indicated an escalation of rowdy crowd behavior, incidents of vandalism, arson and a police response that began to be overwhelmed while focusing more on peaceful demonstrators than the thieves who used the protests to provide cover for their looting.

At 4 p.m. Mayor Robert Garcia announced, “To insure public safety a curfew will be in place citywide starting at 8 p.m. tonight and lasting though 5 a.m. Monday morning.”

At 7 p.m. a Beachcomber source reported, “Long Beach PD has lost control. They can’t handle it. They got themselves trapped on Pine Street.”

Television coverage confirmed the insiders report. The LBPD had lost control.

At a later press conference Chief of Police Robert Luna defended his failed advanced planning and explained that when his command staff realized they were running out of resources they called for mutual aid from surrounding jurisdictions, received and deployed the responding resources that Luna estimated to be “around one hundred personnel.” Then, when his command staff realized those numbers would not be sufficient, he called for the National Guard.

Luna defended having made few arrests, expressed surprise and anger that outsiders would “dare” loot in his city. He said, “if you come back you are going to lose. We are going to make a great number of arrests tomorrow and you are going to be jailed and prosecuted.”

The clearly shaken mayor once again took to the dais and tried to assure the public saying, “the National Guard is on the way. Please, stay at home.”

Social media in Long Beach exploded over night with stories of demonstrators stopping looters, residents and business owners guarding and securing store fronts and chasing away thieves; a reporter describing how police shot him in the neck with a rubber bullet gun, and a former member of the City Council – Rae Gabelich – writing “Our city is on fire. Our police watched as looters left stores with arms loaded and did not move. Who made that decision?”

Ian Patton, executive director of the Long Beach Reform Coalition, commenting on Mayor Garcia’s press conference wrote, “The question the Long Beach business community will be asking is how, after the Saturday night looting in Los Angeles and the Sunday looting in Santa Monica starting as the Long Beach protest got underway, was the LBPD caught by surprise?”

Patton’s Facebook post also wrote that the city’s most visible preparation in advance of the announced demonstrations to protest the killing of George Floyd was to “barricade the new Civic Center and police headquarters with Grand Prix track fencing.”

At the time this story was set for publication stores and businesses were on fire, looting was rampant, and the National Guard had yet to arrive.

Robert Fox, a candidate for City Council, having experienced a night of fending off looters and helping to secure a looted business wrote on his Facebook page: “I am reaching out to every one of you to please join me at 10:30 tomorrow morning to clean up. This is the kind of moment where we have to drop everything and help our neighbors in need.”

Fox’s post received dozens of replies in minutes offering help.

None came from City Hall.

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

stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com

Category:

Comments

I am not surprised that Mayor Garcia and COP Luna did not come out and help clean up the mess they created. They were probably hiding out somewhere trying to think of excuses in an attempt to hide their incompetence and blame others for their bad leadership! Let's get rid of these corrupt clowns!

I just read Bill Pearl article on the front page,"LB Ran Out of Cops" How’d That Happen? blaming policing problems to the number of officers the city has? instead of what it really is, INCOMPETENCE. That's laughable..A city this size has enough police officers they are just not used in a proper way. Why don't you look at where these cops are assigned and their rank.! it seems that this department has more administrative officers than patrol officers, in other words too many chiefs not enough Indians (no disrespect intended to Native Americans). The amount of Sergeants and other above ranks is ridiculous for a department this size. These admin officers get paid way over 120K a year not including the OT they scam!! recently COP Luna add an Assistance COP (Hebesh) to the ranks, god only knows what he gets paid. WTF!! Luna needs help managing a department our size?! If he does then he can handle the job and needs to be fried!!! His performance these pass few days showed he is right about not being able to do the Job. Who the hell would approve this stupid decision? Let me take a guess, every one in the city LOL!! We don't need more cops that get paid over 100k we need oversight of police spending and better cops that will work and not stand around!! Hello!!! It does not take a rocket scientist to see the obvious. Don't get me wrong am pro police but against incompetence and wasteful spending of our TAX dollars.

I just read an article where Mayor Robert Garcia said about 85 people were arrested for the unrest!! what a LIER this clown and the COP Luna want to keep laying to us. They left out the fact that those numbers are for every law violated all over the city and including citations, this even includes crimes not even related to the unrest.. We want to know how many people were arrested for "LOOTING" we don't want inflated number of arrested for peaceful protesting which includes curfew violations. We want numbers of the real criminals!! Not the numbers of people arrested for invoking their constitutional rights!!!. The laughable thing is that the Garcia said "85 people were arrested" all proudly and arrogant. 85 people is nothing!!!, compared to us seeing hundreds of people LOOTING on TV, while he had officer stand around and forming lines in front of peaceful protesters. Why can't these city people admit that the COP Luna failed at his job and fire him!!! Why do they keep trying to defend this incompetent COP.. This Mayor needs to go and we need to know the truth. We need people held accountable if not this type of unrest will happen again. The Mayor said he was with us right after the protest but know his lying again,,,I guess that was all BS!!!

There may have been 85 arrest for various reasons. However, the majority of those arrest were made by sheriff's and not LBPD. LBPD has some fantastic officers, but they also have officers that continue to brutalize citizens for example, Officer Alatorre he alone has cost the city millions due to his continued brutality of Long Beach Citizens. The clean-up must start within the department. Corruption, bullying and retaliation is rampant within the department transparency does not exist. If bad behavior exist within the department among the brass this is the model that some of the officers will follow. When officers sue and when millions that speaks volumes about the department. When officers speak out publicly they are vilified publicly by the same officers they work with. Understand this there are great officers that work for LBPD, however, there is an equal number of bad officers and command staff working for them. Chief clean- up your department leave your office and visit the various divisions that you are in charge of. make your abreast of all the problems that exist within your department. Some of your command staff is out of control because they realize you are out of touch and their behavior will not be questioned.

Police brutality upon people of color exists first, because law enforcement nationwide enjoys almost infinite legal protections from prosecution and second, law enforcement officers are almost universally acquitted of crimes they commit because they are investigated and prosecuted by their friends; other cops, medical examiners, prosecutors and politicians who often need police union endorsements for their next election. These current legal and political roadblocks to inequality took years and $billions for police departments and their unions to put in place. The laws and conflict of interests preventing prosecution of racist cops can be changed. The bad cops can be put away. But doing so will require organizing and focus on voting in political candidates who support police accountability.

Some changes I recommend will give police unions nightmares. Without it, we will have 60 more years of demonstrations, periodic headlines, but little meaningful change. The recommended changes include:

1. Repeal the 1974 Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights intended to protect law enforcement personnel from investigation, prosecution and firings.

2. Require states to establish an independent Office of Law Enforcement Investigations, with the authority to investigate and prosecute law enforcement officers in criminal court.

3. Define a nationwide “use of force” standard to determine what constitutes excessive force.

4. Demand a nationwide law allowing police to use lethal force only when necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious injury to officers or bystanders.

5. Demand the FBI collect data from all law enforcement on instances of excessive force and officer involved shootings, something the FBI currently does not require.

6. Demand a body camera be wore by all officers and it be on at ALL times when an officer is on duty.

7. Demand body camera videos for all use of force and officer involved shootings be made available to the public within 48 hours.

8. Demand a national law requiring all law enforcement union contract negotiations be ratified by a vote of the community served. This has two purposes. First it prevents corrupted elected officials making decisions on union compensation. Second, it encourages law enforcement to better coexist with the community that has control over their raises. Currently, all law enforcement union members vote to ratify their next contract. This would give the public that same right. Several cities in the U.S. already have this requirement in their city charter.

9. Prohibit campaigning in uniform by law enforcement officers unless that officer is running for election.

10. Impose national statute to repeal law enforcements’ “qualified immunity,” which prevents officers from being sued for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity.

11. Demand law requiring all law enforcement agencies provide a database listing relevant information on all excessive force and officer involved shootings for each officer.

12. Prohibit law enforcement use of deadly force against people unarmed and fleeing, armed only with vehicles or armed with less dangerous weapons and not attacking anyone.

13. Demand law enforcement laws that prevent delays in releasing information still under investigation. Police frequently say they can’t release information because the case is still under investigation. Often, especially for police misconduct, the cases remain under investigation virtually forever. This law would require a timely release.

14. Strengthen police complicity laws. Make officers who fail to intervene in another officer’s illegal activity an accomplice, with the same degree of guilt and punishment as the officer who committed the crime.

15. Demand repeal of all laws used to shield law enforcement disciplinary records from the public.

16. Demand laws repealing limitations of independent review boards that investigate police conduct.

17. Demand law requiring law enforcement provide their own liability insurance like other professions do such as physicians and attorneys. Those with no trouble get a great rate, if they generate complaints or are sued; the cost of the policy goes up. The more trouble they get into, the more it costs until at worst their policy is cancelled and those who cause multiple problems no longer have a job.

Some additional changes Long Beach City Council should consider:

1. Court monetary awards for police retaliation and misconduct cases should be taken directly from the Police Department budget. Currently, awards are paid by a separate slush fund in the general fund. The police department budget feels no pain from their misconduct. Meanwhile we taxpayers are picking up the bill. If the police department was forced to foot the bill, maybe the chief and department might have more incentive to investigate bad behavior rather than cover it up.

2. The names and pictures of all LBPD officers sued, disciplined, or convicted of retaliation or misconduct should be published promptly in a LBPD news release with the description of the offense. Officers currently know their names will not be published for doing bad things. Bad behaviors would be discouraged if officers knew their names and pictures with a description of the offense would be published.

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.