Transparency Breeds Trust

Stephen Downing

The Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) announced that police investigators presented their criminal investigation into the June 3 allegations of domestic violence between Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce and her former Chief of Staff Devin Cotter to the Los Angeles Country District Attorney (DA) who declined to file felony charges and referred the sordid matter to the Long Beach City Prosecutor to consider a misdemeanor prosecution. 

The press release concealed the identity of the accused – so we have no idea who is now waiting – Pearce or Cotter or both -- for the City Prosecutor’s hammer to drop – or not.

But, a new twist unrelated to the June 3 Pearce/Cotter affair -- first reported by the Beachcomber on June 7 – coming out of the LBPD investigation is that Pearce and Cotter  “made statements accusing each other of participating in inappropriate activity.”

The LBPD kept to their established pattern of obfuscation and did not provide any specifics about the “inappropriate activity” but did acknowledge that the pair’s behavior included “potential conflicts of interest which are currently under independent review by the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division.”

City Hall insiders speculate that the conflicts of interest may surround the pre-June deal engineered between Pearce and the city attorney in which a so-called “separation agreement” was manufactured while Cotter was allowed to stay on the city payroll for weeks after being sacked as Pearce’s Chief of Staff and then allowed to take home a cash payout in excess of $6,000 as part of a confidential agreement not to sue the city – all part of a another back room cover up calculated to conceal their disreputable tryst while supposedly serving the people of Long Beach.

Information from police sources complaining of VIP “special handling” and a LBPD brass directed “special handling” cover-up of the June 3rd incident reported that Cotter was the victim of felony domestic abuse evidenced by visible cuts to his arm and face.

A June 26 public records request by the Beachcomber to the LBPD for Cotter’s mug shot to validate the accusation was refused by the LBPD. (We asked again now that the investigation is complete - and await a reply).

Weeks after the incident, Councilwoman Pearce issued a lengthy – and highly dramatic - statement alleging she has been a victim of domestic violence that started “late last year, and included escalating threats, harassment, and stalking.” (She too failed to identify the perp).

When asked for a reaction to the soap-opera level manipulation of public sentiment surrounding Pearce’s itemized dilemma, Cotter’s attorney, Bryan Schroeder said,  “I want to confirm that my client has never been violent and has never committed any act of domestic violence.” 

Asked to confirm reports of injury to Cotter’s arm and head, Schroeder acknowledged that Cotter had suffered visible injuries on June 3rd, but declined to comment on the source of his injuries, stating that, “the police department has this matter under investigation and I would not want to interfere with that investigation.”

Hopefully the City Prosecutor will be more forthcoming and identify exactly who is under consideration for misdemeanor prosecution once he makes the decision to prosecute – or not.

The LBPD also stated in it’s announcement that “immediately following the incidents that occurred on June 3, there were some publicly expressed concerns that police employees may have provided preferential treatment to the involved parties” and that “the Chief of Police subsequently initiated an Internal Affairs investigation to address those concerns” and “after 300 hours of investigative work the Chief and his Executive Command Team determined that the allegations of misconduct (the cover-up of “special handling”) were unfounded.”

The press release concluded with the usual postscript that the public cannot be filled in on the evidence gathered or the rational the Chief and his Executive Command team applied to making the decision that everything was done right (i.e. there was no “special handling” cover up) because “the California Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act prevents such disclosure.”

But further assurance was provided in the announcement that the Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) was conducting an “independent and separate” investigation. 

What they didn’t share is that CPCC investigators are prohibited from interviewing sworn police personnel and that the Commission findings are also constrained by the California Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.

We recommend that both the Chief of Police and the CPCC comply with the law by redacting the names of the individual officer’s involved, assign a number in all related reports to each individual – by rank – and publically release both investigations and related evidence – so that some light can illuminate the dark hole of June 23rd so the community is allowed to have a look at - and a conversation about the evidence – and the decision made by The CPCC, the Chief of Police and his Executive Command Team and their ultimate authority – the City Manager.

Transparency builds trust.  We need more of both from city hall.

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




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