Reform Coalition Calls for Resolution to Super-Spreader Event

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

Background of Allegations

On the morning of Dec. 14, 2020 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.

The complaint, based upon a story published by the Long Beach Post, alleged that on Nov. 5 Luna, along with members of his senior command staff, ordered an indoor gathering of police officers at the Long Beach Convention Center that allowed a COVID-19 super-spreader event to take place.

Carlos Ovalle, executive director of People of Long Beach, who recently (July 17) announced his candidacy for Council District 7 and Ian Patton, executive director, Long Beach Reform Coalition, filed the personnel complaint jointly.

The full story and background of the incident orchestrated by the chief published by the Beachcomber on Dec. 17 can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/lbpd-event-called-assault-healthsafety-community.

The CPCC Findings

The completed personnel investigation conducted by CPCC investigators as a result of the original Reform Coalition letter was submitted to the CPCC on April 8.

According to the deputy city clerk who recorded the minutes of the CPCC meeting, the commissioners voted 10/0 to sustain charge #1 and 7/3 to sustain charge #2.

When asked to define the differences between the two charges related to the same incident the clerk referred the Beachcomber to CPCC manager Patrick Weithers, who subsequently declined to respond.

On April 15, following the Beachcomber’s publication of the CPCC vote City Manager Tom Modica published an official statement indicating “There was a misinterpretation of the information relayed to the Beachcomber reporter from the Office of the City Clerk.”

Modica’s statement did not deny the sustained findings of the CPCC commissioners as reported by the Beachcomber but rather stated that “Information on vote tallies for each case is publicly available, but not finding recommendations of the CPCC made in closed session meetings” and that “The city clerk does not participate in the CPCC closed session meeting or have knowledge of the commissioners finding recommendations.”

The Beachcomber subsequently issued a statement that the newspaper stood by the story as reported.

Clerk Asked to Protect Employee

On April 15, this reporter also sent an email to City Clerk Monique De La Garza detailing the conversation held with the deputy city clerk who provided the information on the CPCC vote and urged that the employee “Is not made a scapegoat or sidelined in any way because of his direct, factual and honest reporting to the Beachcomber about the CPCC vote.”

At that time De La Garza was asked to comment on the city manager’s “official statement” as compared to the information provided to the Beachcomber by her employee.

De La Garza did not respond, and the Beachcomber has since been unable to determine if the city employee has suffered any retaliation or retribution for his statements made to this reporter.

Modica Stonewall

On July 15 – seven months after filing the complaint with the CPCC and more than three months after the CPCC vote was sent to City Manager Tom Modica - Ian Patton and Carlos Ovalle, representing the Long Beach Reform Coalition and the People of Long Beach Association, sent another letter to Modica stating that they “Are aware that you are currently standing athwart public dissemination of the findings of the CPCC regarding our joint complaint concerning the “LBPD super-spreader event’ conducted by Chief Robert Luna last year.”

The two neighborhood association representatives – obviously frustrated by the three months that have passed with no report of adjudication from Modica –  wrote to “encourage you to choose the path of transparency and good government over the culture of silence, darkness and denial” and that “When City Hall views public service as a fairy tale and the public as the enemy, to be feared rather than informed, the entire apparatus of government begins to slip inexorably toward corruption, abuse and absurdity.”

Incontrovertible Evidence

The 5-page letter included the previously published picture of the 300 unmasked LBPD officers at the Convention Center to emphasize that, “Our complaint alleged what was incontrovertible: Photographic evidence, originally published by the Long Beach Post, showed that our own chief of police conducted a maskless indoor, shoulder-to-shoulder super-spreader event on Nov. 5, 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The letter also addressed the city manager’s official statement to the Beachcomber’s reporting of the CPCC vote, stating, “Only in Long Beach could a public body report to the public how it voted without actually reporting how it voted. This is the theater of the absurd known as Long Beach City Hall.”

Event Caused Spike

The most damning paragraph in the neighborhood activist’s letter to Modica recounted the impact the behavior of the chief of police had upon the health of the community stating, “Indeed the larger share of Long Beach’s nearly one-thousand COVID deaths over the course of the pandemic to date, occurred in the phase immediately after the Luna LBPD super-spreader. As you will recall, unsurprisingly, LBPD suffered its own COVID outbreak following the chief’s super-spreader, a vector of disease transmission, no doubt which made its way directly into the civic population though the numerous maskless police-civilian interactions observed daily and posted to social media at the that time.”

The letter continued, “It is hard to imagine a dereliction of duty for a public municipal official greater than to ignore the extreme dangers posed by such an immediate threat to human life, wellness and our local economy. It is clear that the chief of police nonetheless put any number of lives in danger and the numerical toll in human lives of Long Beach residents cannot be known exactly.”

The complainants expressed their fear that Modica’s failure to disclose the CPCC findings – and his adjudication of the matter “can only be considered a form of cover-up, should it persist.”

Fig Leaf for Police Abuse

The Coalition leaders summed up their follow-up letter with a look back upon how City Hall has used the CPCC in the past, writing: “Unfortunately, the cynical history behind City Hall’s exploitation of the CPCC – remaking it from a tool for accountability, as intended, into a fig leaf for police abuse of the public while allowing special treatment for officials – would ordinarily make such a cover-up unsurprising.”

On July 15 the Beachcomber asked City Manager Tom Modica to provide comment on the content of the letter from the Reform Coalition and any information “you can share as to your adjudication of the super-spreader allegations made against the chief of police.”

On July 16 Modica’s spokesperson responded by attaching the same April 15 “Official Statement by City of Long Beach Office of the City Manager regarding Beachcomber article titled, “LBPD Police Chief Guilty of Endangering Public” along with statement that: “This case is still open and pending.

“A conclusion will eventually be reached by the city manager after full review of the facts, and recommendations by the CPCC. There is currently no specific timeline of when the case will be resolved as additional review of the facts is needed.”

The full letter from the Long Beach Reform Coalition can be read here.

 

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

Nothing will happen to Luna. He’s the only local chief who had the city burned and kept his job. He had a commander relinquish control to a civilian during riots and the cmdr. kept his job as well. He’s covered up numerous IA complaints including promoting someone accused of sexual harassment. Morale is at all time low and people don’t even want to promote under him. The best have left cuz of him and he’s too blind or dumb to see it.

Get rid of Modica and Garcia, Luna will fall too. Time to leave, boys and girls.

I agree, under Luna the LBPD has become a corrupt and incompetent organization. Luna is allowed to continue his corrupt and incompetent behavior because his actions are covered up by corrupt people in city hall and the city attorneys office. LBPD and the city need to be investigated by the Fed's. Only in LB can this happen.

Thinking, honorable LB voters united to put the Trump nightmare behind us...except for vestiges such as Chief Luna! He has all the reconizable earmarks of this dispicable bunch… a remarkable passion for decisions that at best highlight his incompetance...or at worst a deep dark streak of opportunistic criminality. Fear not Chief Luna, you may have missed the last bus but many Long Beach citizens will gladly pay for another ticket on the one loading stragglers now… Go on, give them a reason to wave a goodbye!

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