Misplaced Loyalty

By: 
Stephen Downing

Misplaced Loyalty

A Perversion of Honor

Following publication of our last column in which the LBPD cover-up of the DUI involved rear-end traffic collision by homicide detective Todd Johnson was exposed along with a deep dive into the department’s alcoholic enabling culture of cronyism and its pogrom against police officers who don’t march to the beat of the LBPD’s “boy’s ‘n’ girls club” – we were asked to sit down with representatives of the LBPD’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) because – as they wrote in their request for interview – “the department’s goal is always to conduct the most thorough investigation possible into allegations of misconduct…” We accepted.

Lt. Patrick O’Dowd arrived at the appointed time in full uniform accompanied by his investigator, Sergeant Dominick Scaccia. It was understood ahead of time that the Beachcomber would not reveal the multiple sources around whom the core of the previous column’s information was based, but that we would be more than willing to “assist in ferreting out the depth of misconduct involved.”

Solutions Offered

By the time the 90-minute interview concluded we were left with the impression that Lt. O’Dowd and the sergeant were more interested in challenging the quality of information in the column rather than getting to the real truth of Detective Johnson’s alcohol problem and the LBPD’s broken organizational culture of cover-ups, cronyism and retaliation.

When the investigators were unable to get us to produce “even the civilian sources” O’Dowd questioned our understanding of hearsay when considering what they as IA investigators can and cannot use as evidence to resolve an administrative investigation.

We did understand. And we suggested that the solution – as related to Detective Johnson’s serial pattern of showing up at homicide scenes, officer involved shootings and the squad room under the influence of alcohol – would be to give his peers – both inside and outside the “boys ‘n’ girls club” – immunity from department discipline for failing to report his alcohol fueled conduct.

By providing the rank and file this kind of assured immunity their answers would not only empower the department to better sanction Detective Johnson’s behavior, but it would also serve to inform the administration of the serious need to foster change for an organizational culture that is detrimental to a motivated and productive workforce that consistently manufactures outrageously costly civil lawsuits.

We advocated that this kind administrative attention should also be directed toward the evident need to expand internal wellness programming in a manner that acclimates the department hierarchy to the need for early intervention into employee problems associated with alcohol, drugs and other health and domestic violence issues – rather than covering them up.

Lt. O’Dowd was more interested in pointing to the possibility that our sources came to us with ulterior motives and may not have been truthful. We assured him that we were fully aware of that possibility and take measures to validate source statements either with documentation – which the LBPD routinely chooses not to produce – or with other independent sources.

We also stressed that our inside sources appear to us as being motivated by no more than their own personal goals to be a part of the kind of department that the LBPD administration and city hall advertises it to be – as opposed to what it is.

LBPD Definition of Loyalty

We gave the IA investigators an example conveyed to us by sources regarding comments made by Officer Michael Hynes while discussing the content of our last column with a group of his peers.

Hynes referred to a paragraph in the column that read in part, “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…”

Officer Hynes, acknowledging that he was one of the two LBPD officers referred to in that paragraph, told his peer group that their duty as a Long Beach police officer is to “lie for the department.” He said, “If you do that, the department will support you. He concluded his peer-briefing saying that the attorney (Beck), who won that trial “tried to put a Brady case on me for lying.  The department backed me and did nothing.” (More on Brady later).

Hynes’ braggadocio was right on target. The city manager and the chief of police did nothing before or after the civil rights trial – except write a check from the taxpayer’s treasury for $2.477 million to pay the costs emanating from the unanimous jury verdict.

Background of Violence

Public records reveal that Michael Gabriel Hynes was hired by the LBPD in spite of having a criminal conviction for aggravated battery with serious bodily injury – for which he was sentenced to 180 days in county jail plus fines. This kind of criminal record would disqualify a police candidate in most police departments.

LBPD insiders have informed us that Commander Lloyd Cox (the police executive who covered up the Todd Johnson DUI and defrauded the city by allowing homicide detectives to improperly take home city vehicles for years) had a personal social relationship with Hynes prior to his hiring and used his influence and association with the police union to obtain a waiver. The LBPD was asked for comment via email but none was received prior to publication.

Multiple sources have stated that – since becoming a member of the LBPD – Hynes has accumulated a complaint history that indicates a propensity to violence and/or dishonesty and has – on occasion – been removed from the field because of the cumulative number of complaints made against him.

The eight jurors in the civil rights trial heard the testimony of the officers and civilian witnesses, watched and listened to the audio from independent video tapes made at the scene of the beating and reviewed documents that conflicted with the testimony offered by Officer Hynes and Sergeant David Faris (now lieutenant) and returned a quick and unanimous verdict.

The jury found that a preponderance of evidence established that Hynes used excessive force by smashing his client’s elbow from behind using a two-handed swing of his baton and then battered him, delivering 17 baton blows to his body because “he refused verbal commands to lie on his stomach,” all of which was followed by Hynes then maliciously stomping on and grinding his foot into the hand of the accused’s companion, fracturing multiple finger bones. Beck’s client was hospitalized.

Civil Jury Findings Ignored
by City Hall

Attorney Beck, was so offended by the overt nature of the officer’s lies proffered during testimony that he took the unusual post-trial step of filing a perjury complaint with the Long Beach Civilian Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) and the LBPD’s internal affairs division (IAD), the latter of which had already covered up the excessive use of force complaints made immediately following the incident.

But what the jury decided – after hearing direct testimony and reviewing the same exhibits as those in possession of the city – was not good enough for City Manager Patrick West or Chief of Police Robert Luna when they applied the same standard of proof required of the jury.

Following the two so-called “independent investigations” conducted by the city (LBPD and CPCC) Patrick West notified Beck that he classified the allegations as “Not Sustained” – meaning that West believed there was not enough evidence to reach the same conclusion as that reached by the civil jury of eight (8) informed citizens who were fully exposed to every detail of the case – as well as the tone, conduct and body language of each witness – including Officer Hynes and Sgt. Feris.

Luna, whose decisions are suppose to be arbitrated by the city manager (who supposedly “considers” the recommendations of the CPCC and the LBPD), surprisingly published a separate finding.

Luna’s Internal Affairs Division Commander Lloyd Cox wrote Beck a letter on behalf of Chief Luna 10 weeks after the Patrick West’s correspondence was received stating that “the investigation revealed the case to be unfounded,” meaning that Chief Luna concluded that what was alleged did not happen.

So much for the top city executive and his chief of police getting their stories straight.

Citizen Police Commission
Fails Duty to Public

We also have no idea what the CPCC commissioners decided in the Hyne’s/Faris complaint – or any other CPPC investigated complaint for that matter.

We were only allowed to know – according to the CPCC’s executive director – that the Commissioners “Voted 8-0 on Allegation No. 1 – Dishonesty for First officer accused – and 7-1 for the Second Officer accused. “

There is no legal reason that the CPCC classification (sustained, not sustained, unfounded or exonerated) voted upon by our so-called “independent” citizen commissioners is withheld from the public other than the fact that they acquiesce to the extra-legal instructions of City Hall bureaucrats rather than assert their legal authority under the City Charter and demonstrate themselves to be the truly independent review board that the people intended when the electorate established the CPCC 28 years ago.

This can be changed – if our citizen commissioners would read the charter for themselves and exercise the authority given them by the people. But, instead they have been sidetracked from their legal duty by the self-protective sham-interpretations of their Charter authority that is spoon-fed to them by City Hall.

A Corrupt Whitewash

In a letter of response to Patrick West, after receiving his “not sustained” notification, Beck shared evidence with the city manager that supported his conclusion that the executive suite of the LBPD “purposefully does not give any weight to the credibility determinations by objective jurors in civil cases.”

In his letter Beck labeled Patrick West’s decision to be a “corrupt whitewash” and admonished that “any objective, fair-minded person in possession of the identical evidence would not have hesitated to sustain the allegations simply because there is overwhelming proof that Hynes and Faris lied throughout the civil trial, lied during the use of force investigations, lied in their depositions, falsified their crime and arrest reports, lied to prosecutors and did it all to conceal their wrongful behavior against innocent civilians. “

The city manager did not respond.

Officer Hynes presently sits near the top of the sergeants list – ready for promotion to serve as a role model and supervisor who will instruct the rank and file police officer that an officer’s duty is to “lie for the department…” and in so doing – “the department will support you.”

Patrick West and Robert Luna allowed Hynes to remain on the street and once again escape from being “put on the Brady list,” a roster maintained by the district attorney that warns prosecutors that officers are not credible and thus, will not be allowed to testify in any criminal case – making them of no value to the community they serve – or to the constitution, the people’s document to which they swore an oath and to which they should be obligated to commit their loyalty.

Lt. O’Dowd and Sergeant Scaccia made an audio recording of our 90-minute interview. For anyone who would like to listen to it, submit a public records request to the police department – and be sure to let them know you have our permission to release it.

We have nothing to hide.

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

stephen@beachcomber.news

[EDITOR'S NOTE: CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LETTER SENT TO DISTRICT ATTORNEY JACKIE LACY FROM THE BECK LAW FIRM IN RESPONSE TO THIS COLUMN]

 

 

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Comments

While president of the Belmont Shore Residents Association, another boardmember and I met with Police Chief Luna and City Manager West regarding a Public Records Act (PRA) request I submitted for data on police staffing in my Belmont Shore community. Luna and West provided the data verbally and not in writing, citing terrorist concerns for releasing the information in writing. We later learned BOTH LUNA AND WEST LIED TO OUR FACES.

The BSRA Boardmember and I both wrote down the data Luna and West provided and recited it back to them for confirmation we had written it down correctly. When later reviewed with a police department source, we were told the information we had received from the Chief of Police and the City Manager was not correct. I resubmitted my original Public Records Act request asking for the data in writing this time. After four months of stonewalling by the city, I spoke before city council about the increased crime and difficulty I was facing getting data on police staffing in my community. The Mayor instructed the Chief of Police to provide the data to me. Two months later I AGAIN spoke before city council about not having received the PRA request data. The Mayor got upset. I received the data in writing two days later.

The written data was significantly different than what was provided verbally by West and Luna to the BSRA Boardmember and me when we met in City Manager West's office. The written data indicated police staffing in our community was less than half what we had been told verbally. It was obvious, BOTH LUNA AND WEST LIED TO OUR FACES.

Considering the lengths Luna and West went to concealing simple police staffing data, its not hard imagining them covering up police misconduct and corruption.

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