Was the LBPD Sergeant Exam Fixed?

By: 
Stephen Downing

Civil Service Rule Section 13

On Aug. 4 the FY 2021 LBPD police sergeant eligible list was published following an examination process that – according to Civil Service rule Section 13 – required a score of 70 or better to pass each of the three parts of the examination process.

According to documents located on the city website, 45 applicants took the 100-question, multiple-choice written examination (weighed at 20%) and all 45 passed, making them eligible to proceed to the other two parts of the examination process, which included an Assessment of Promotibility (weighed at 40%) and an Assessment Center test (weighed at 40%).

The final eligibility list published on Aug. 4 purported to announce that 29 of the 45 candidates received an overall score of 70 or better on all portions of the examination, as required in Civil Service rule Section 13.

Collusion Alleged

It was at that time that the Beachcomber received multiple calls from LBPD officers who had taken the examination, passed the written with scores in the high 80s and 90s but were disqualified in one or more of the subjective portions of the examination with scores that were less than a single point under 70.

The officers alleged that the examination was rigged as a result of collusion between the Civil Service and Police Department to allow favorites (cronies) who failed the written to proceed to the subjective portions of the examination – graded by department insiders – by reducing the passing score of the (objective) written exam to 60 while – at the same time – failing to make equal grading adjustments to the other two (subjective) parts of the examination.

Each of the officers cited as evidence of collusion the fact that they were unaware of any prior written examination in the history of the LBPD sergeant’s exam that 100% of the candidates passed the 100-question, multiple-choice examination with a score of 70 or better.

The Beachcomber researched the Civil Service website and found documents related to a prior (2019) sergeants examination that partially supported that history.

The documents revealed that 120 candidates took the 2019 100 word multiple-choice written examination and 54 or 64.8% failed to achieve a score of 70 or better.

The Beachcomber subsequently interviewed a former LBPOA board member (who asked to remain anonymous fearing retaliation) who said, “This is the first test in the 29 years I have worked (on the LBPD) that no one failed the written.”

Beachcomber Files a PRA

Following a series of stonewalled inquiries to the Civil Service Department, the Beachcomber filed a Public Records request (PRA) on Sept. 5 designed to produce documents that would prove or disprove the officer’s allegations.

On Sept. 17 the Beachcomber received a response to the PRA (#C012232-090521), which stated: “The City of Long Beach is withholding all records pursuant to Ca. Govt. Code § 6254(g) (Test questions and other exam data).

After receiving the PRA response, the Beachcomber wrote an email to the Police Department stating in part: “The PRA response clearly established that the Civil Service Department did not apply to the Board of Civil Service Commissioners for any kind of waiver to Sec. 13 or there would have been agenda documents supporting a request for waiver.”

The Beachcomber email to the LBPD continued: “As you can well imagine the ramifications of fairness, equity and diversity are all at work in this very serious matter and in the spirit of transparency – since the guardian of the testing process has stonewalled legitimate questions of public interest – It is our request that the chief of police – or his assistant chief, since the chief is retiring – address the truth of this matter and provide whatever explanation or comment that the department believes is in the best interest of the LBPD, the rank and file and the community.

A response from a LBPD spokesperson referred the Beachcomber to the Civil Service Department stating – in effect – that the examination process was properly conducted according to Civil Service rules and procedure.

Appeal to Citizen Commissioner

On Sept. 19 the Beachcomber sent an email (and the email chain) to the citizen president of the Civil Service Commission, Joen Garnica, stating:

“The Beachcomber newspaper would appreciate getting your comment on the below information sent to the LBPD regarding alleged collusion between the LBPD and Civil Service staff to violate Civil Service rule Section 13 as outlined …and “ would like to know if you or the full commission was informally briefed on the Civil Service Department’s action taken in concert with the LBPD to violate the rule in order to accomplish a thus-far unknown result relative to the Sergeant of Police examination.”

Commission President Response

On Sept. 22 Maria Camerino, executive assistant to the Civil Service Department Executive Director, Christina Winting replied on behalf of President Joen Gannica and effectively denied any mishandling of accepted procedure, stating in part that, “The Civil Service Commission follows a protocol of approving job bulletins at their business meetings….” And that “ The Civil Service Commission…”is dedicated to the equity and fairness of all classified employees with the City of Long Beach.”

On Sept. 22 the Beachcomber responded to Ms. Camerino stating:

“I have received your message on behalf of the Chair of the Civil Service Commission. It was not responsive.”

This newspaper asserted that “The response did not address the question relative to violation of the civil service rule requiring a score of 70% or better on each part of the examination” and concluded the correspondence by asking that, “the Civil Service Department either deny violating the rule requiring 70% to pass the written portion of the examination or provide comment explaining why the rule was violated and why the Civil Service Commission was not formally and publicly petitioned to approve a rule change.”

Executive Director Responds

On Sept. 24, the executive director of the Civil Service Department, Christina Pizarro Winting, responded via email writing that “the assertion that applicants had to score 70% or more to pass the written portion of the written exam is inaccurate.”

Winting provided a written Civil Service Department procedure (Section 3.36 of the Civil Service Department Procedures) that she asserted “highlights what language we use on bulletins to describe what is passing: “A minimum rating of 70 must be attained in order to pass the examination.”

Winting continued: “This 70 does not mean 70%. Instead it is a converted cut off score that is determined to be the minimum rating of 70 for a particular exam.”

She concluded her email by stating: “I hope this will provide insight into the difference between a rating of 70, which we use, opposed to the use of a score of 70%.”

Winting Response Is False

On Sept. 27 the Beachcomber responded via email to Winting, writing:

“You state in your email, “The first paragraph of Section 3.36 of the Civil Service Department Procedures… highlights what language we use on bulletins to describe what is passing: “A minimum rating of 70 must be attained in order to pass the examination.”

The statement is false.

The bulletins for both the 2019 and 2021 Sergeant examination is consistent with Civil Service Commission Rule Section 13 not the department’s 3.36 procedure. Both bulletins state:

“Candidates must achieve a minimum score of 70 in each component of the examination process to be placed on the eligible list.”

“The word “Rating” is not used in either bulletin or the Civil Service rule…. “As you must know the term Score refers to the number of points achieved while the term Rating refers to a classification or ranking based upon a comparative assessment or application of formula such as grading on the curve or devising a score conversion formula that your department procedure 3.36 describes as a Converted Passpoint.”

The Beachcomber further posited that: “if in fact the Civil Service Department applied the 1993 department rule to the 100 question multiple-choice examination, doing so violated the commission’s Section 13 rule.”

The Beachcomber followed that statement with a five-point analysis of the Winting email concluding that:

A department procedure cannot overrule a commission rule.

The bulletin approved by the commissioners did not authorize the use of raw score conversion. The only formula approved was the application of weight factors for each phase of the examination.

The commission did not take any action to modify the Section 13 rule.

The commission did not replace the Section 13 rule with the department’s 3.36 procedure and

The candidates were denied knowledge of the city’s expectation of performance standards in order to study and prepare for the written examination if a 3.36 procedure was in fact applied.

The Beachcomber concluded its analysis stating: “Therefore, if a point conversion method was in fact used to convert raw scores to a rating for the written part of the examination, the commission’s Section 13 rule was violated.”

Winting was also informed that a former LBPOA board member read and responded to her statement stating:

“That’s a lie. The written test has always required 70% or better to pass. This is the first test in the 29 years I have worked (on the LBPD) that no one failed the written.”

The Beachcomber then asked: “If the department in fact applied a “passpoint” calculation why – in the spirit of fairness, equity, need and diversity, was a similar passpoint calculation not applied to the subjective portions of the examination?”

Winting was informed that “Multiple officers who communicated with us to expose the unfairness of the examination, shared their score breakdowns and at the same time asked that we not publish the specific details because, as one officer put it, “I’m afraid it will be too easy for the department to identify me. And I’m obviously worried about suffering retaliation from the department for my participation in this article.”

This newspaper informed Winting, “That officer scored very high on the written, oral and one part of the Assessment Center while receiving a score less than 70 on the second part. Thus, his overall Assessment Center score was a fraction of a point under 70 – which denied him a place on the list – while his overall score on the examination – with weight factors applied – pushed close to 80. His scores as compared to the others we examined were not an exception.”

“In short, he missed – as did others – a place on the eligibility list by a fraction of a point while others were awarded a place on the list after scoring as many as ten points under the score 70 rule on the written examination.”

The Beachcomber concluded the email: “Therefore, if “passpoint setting” was in fact used to establish the pass/fail rate please provide the documentation that supports commission approval of this method, the data and factors used to determine the threshold of acceptable performance on a score continuum (who should pass the test) and a list of the predictors used in the formulation that demonstrates to the officers – and the public who will receive their services – the fairness, equity, diversity and performance standards that were established and applied to the passpoint that you assert was used as a “best practice’ – As opposed to what most officers believe was an arbitrary decision to allow all who took the written to pass without regard to their level of performance or readiness for the job of supervising our police officers and denying those who did pass any consideration when receiving a score less than 70 in one or both of the two phases of the subjective Assessment Center testing.

Winting Response

On Oct. 1 Winting responded: “Civil Service has responded to your inquiry and there is no inconsistency in our procedures.

She wrote: “In closing, all candidates have a right to protest examinations pursuant to Article III, Section 20 of the Civil Service Rules and Regulations. In addition, any candidate can address their questions or concerns directly to the commission during public comment.”

Final Appeal

Upon receipt of Winting’s response the Beachcomber made a final written appeal to the Civil Service Commission President, Joen Garnica:

“We ask that as the Long Beach citizen sitting as chair and spokesperson for the citizen oversight body chartered to insure fairness and adherence to Civil Service rules by the Police and Civil Service Department, that you provide this newspaper with comment specifically addressing whether you agree or disagree with the position taken by Ms. Winting and the accuracy of the position she has taken in the context of following Civil Service rules and the fairness afforded police officer applicants for the 2021 Sergeant of Police examination – as well as your opinion as to whether or not the Civil Service Board was deceived when approving the documents submitted by the department to validate the results of the examination.”

Garnica did not respond.

Reactions to Response

When informed of Winting’s response, one of the officers who scored very high on the written examination and failed another part of the exam by a fraction under 70 said: “I think it’s telling that she didn’t want to even address the inconsistencies you pointed out between the Civil Service procedure and the Civil Service rules or the discrepancy in the verbiage of a score and rating. Or the fact that the rule or procedure, or whatever they want to say they used, wasn’t applied throughout the process.”

The officer concluded: “It leads me to believe there is no response because she knows you’re correct and there isn’t an explanation.”

The former LBPOA board member who spoke with the Beachcomber reacted to the Civil Service Department response stating: “I hope (but doubt) the LBPOA will sue the city, or at least some members will file a grievance. The problem is the department makes sure everyone knows it will retaliate and the city attorney’s office will back their play.”

POA Stonewalls their Membership

The Beachcomber sent an email along with the Civil Service Department email string to Rich Chambers, president of the Long Beach Police Officer’s Association (LBPOA) and asked: “In that this subject involves an unfair process used by the Civil Service Department against your membership the Beachcomber would like to get your comment on the subject and learn what the POA board is doing about the issue, if anything.”

Chambers did not respond.

Appointments Made

On Oct. 5 LBPD Chief Robert Luna announced the promotion of “new leaders” in the Police Department including the first 7 of 29 on the FY 2021 Sergeant eligible list.

Their individual and final examination scores are unknown.

 

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

LOL..Let me get this straight, these new Sergeants that are suppose to ensure that the line police officer that they are now going to supervise follow all polices and procedure, did not have the knowledge of these same policies and procedure to pass the test? LOL just like the LBPD top promote incompetent people. That explains how Luna and the rest of the LBPD command staff got to be in-charge. instead of civil service stepping in to do the right thing, they help the PD commit and hide the misconduct. Can you say criminal Organization. God help the citizens of the LBC.

I was just told by an officer thats works for this corrupt PD that Commander Patrick O'Dowd who works in the Chiefs office and has input and knowledge of the testing process lives with and is dating the Officer who was put #1 (Daisy Paul) on this Sgt list!! lol what a coincidence! am sure O'Dowd had nothing to do with his girlfriends scores, but I wonder if she scored a 70 on that test or not. Why are these scores not public record? Did these officer take the test while on duty? did the LB tax payer, pay them to take the test or did they do this off-duty?

I know Daisy and she studied her butt off for that test. Very proud of the results and did not in any way cheat. She’s a dedicated police officer who has always been a hard working. Prior to being a police officer she was top of her class in college. You should be ashamed of yourself for making baseless accusation that you know nothing about. Your just a low life who is trying to start rumors because you have nothing better to do.

Also I am a Long Beach resident who takes pride in their city. If you are not a satisfied
resident. MOVE!

Molly, Thank you for confirming that these two officer one a "Commander" and the other now a newly promoted Sgt are living together and having a dating relationship, it's no longer a "rumor" thanks to you. This type of behavior is exactly what LB citizen should be concerned about. To avoid these types of perceptions this unethical Commander should have removed himself from any type of involvement in any of the testing process. Do you actually think this is OK?. These two officers put themselves in the position, where now their relationship is called in to question. This happen because LBPD decided to "Rig the test." If this Commander and the LBPD COP had just a little bit of ethics in their decision making, this Commander would have been reassigned from the Chief office way before this test was developed. If they want to clear this up, Release the test scores that we the tax payer paid for. You possibly don't want see the inappropriateness in this because of your relation to these two officers. In the future to avoid this type of bad visuals, maybe this commander should have had a little bit of self-control and self-restraint and not date a subordinate officer! Can you say FRATERNiZATION with subordinates!! SMH, I guess LBPD leadership is more like "Do as i say, not as i do."

To answer your other remark, I love this city also, that is why am trying to bring awareness to the corrupt behavior of the LBPD and its command staff. We finally got rib of the most corrupt COP we ever had "Luna" am hoping that this unethical commander is next and the rest of Luna's minions. Have a bless day

It’s unfortunate that LBcitizen first has the audacity to call out people by their full name, but is too coward to mention his/her own.

Regarding the female police officer you are questioning, the LBPD is lucky to have her. She takes pride in her work in law enforcement and has always dedicated her time and the safety of others in the Long Beach community.

I’m beyond proud of the outcome that she received. This goes to show anyone, that hard work, dedication and focus does pay off.

It’s apparent that you and your little officer friend are sexists, and have nothing better to do than spread rumors and negativity, in order to fulfill your own failures and demons inside. I highly recommend you take more time focusing on yourself and worry less of others.

Jessica Irvin (not verified) very brave of you. Am Paul Smith, nice to meet you. 1st of all, these two officers are paid by us the tax payer so their names are public record, my mane is not, This officers name appears on the City and PD Press release, Hello. These two officer put themselves in this position, because neither of them had the internal ethical alarm to see the inappropriateness in their relationship. They don't think this was going to come out?. The officer who told me and I are not sexist, just concerned about corruption. Did i mention anything about the other females on the same promotion list? No. This test was fixed by the PD and because of that the relationship, that this Commander has with this subordinate officer now it rises eyebrows. The city said they are transparent right? then release the test scores and the names of all LBPD officer who were part of the testing process, am sure if they do we will find more concerning relationship. Have a nice day

I received a PRA from LBPD snowing the LBPDMotor Officers only wrote 8 Noise citations in a Two year Period,and the total LBPD wrote 2 Noise Citations per Week for two years. I was told by Motor Cops that Noise is Not a safety issue so they spend their time taking drivers who can Kill people off the road. I asked why they couldn't write the Loudest Drivers Citations in between citing the Bad Guys? Response....We are too Busy! Well, like Jonney Carson used to say. " How Bussy are You " ? So I submitted a new PRA and asked for a BAR GRAPH of 2019, prior to COVID, all Citations written, by Officer, Rank Ordered from the highest production to the Lowest. If the production is Consistent with un-managed Officers, we can judge if Sgt. Smock is worth the $ 343,000 he Costs the Tax Payers!!!!!!!

Sgt. Smock is the DUMBEST Sgt. I ever work with. If he's making $300K a year someone needs to audit his time cards.

I spent 30 years at LBPD, passed several promotional exams and was promoted each time. There is no doubt in my mind that the test results were less than honest.

Just ONE more reason the City of Long Beach should offer Mr. Stephen Downing what ever it takes to be the new Long Beach Police Chief.

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