While We Were Away. A Story You Didn’t Read About in “Back the Badge”

 

Find the good one…

A few years back we pried the lid off the FPD barrel, hoping to discover and toss out some of the bad apples. Unfortunately, our search brought forth a cornucopia of ethical and even criminal misconduct. These names might ring a bell: Rincon, Mejia, Major, Hampton, Ramos, Wolfe, Cicinelli, Mater, Baughman, Sellers, Tong, Nguyen, Craig, Blatney, Coffman, Kirk, Basham, Goodrich, Cross, Nowling, Wren, McKinley, Siliceo and Bair.

Exhausted by wading through this morass of misbehavior, we took a well-earned break in 2013. Unfortunately, the Culture of Corruption did not. Here’s an OC Weekly  story about a Fullerton police officer Hugo Garcia, who was charged with felony fraud and embezzlement in 2014. Uh, oh, an “alien” body snatcher has once again grabbed one of  “Patdown” Pat McPension’s recruits.

Garcia is the fellow on the left. You already know the other one.

Officer Garcia recently pled guilty and ended up with 100 hours of community service and 18 months of probation for his crimes. Somewhere along the way he became “no longer employed” by the Fullerton Police Department, but we’re not entitled to know why. Nobody knows what other deeds this criminal may have pepetrated upon the public while he was wearing a badge and a gun.

I hope you didn’t miss the charming snippet from the Weekly article: “…the OCDA, which stresses Garcia was off-duty and not acting in his official capacity as a police officer at the time of the crime.” Somehow the DA found it necessary to exculpate Mr. Garcia’s on duty behavior, to reassure us that Garcia’s felonious nature only kicked in when removed his FPD uniform.

 

The “Professional Standards Bureau”

The other day FFFF did a post about the letter Travis Kiger received from Fullerton’s Interim PoChief, David Hinig, suggesting that at some point an FPD in-house institution called the “Professional Standards Bureau” might, some day, possibly, if they feel like it, get around to looking into his complaint about the behavior of Fullerton cops at the Joe Felz Memorial Crash Site in the early morning hours of November 9th, 2016. That’s when the former City Manager, after a night of election partying, jumped a Glenwood Avenue curb, ran over a tree, and tried to leave the scene of the accident.

Danny says you are either ignorant or misinformed!!!

Professional Standards Bureau. Okay, stop snickering.

I got to thinking about the long history of the FPD Culture of Corruption that happily existed right along side this supposed “Bureau,” and the recollection of all the embezzlers, thieves, pickpockets, perjurers, kidnappers, thugs, pill-poppers, scammers, liars, sex perverts and yes, killers, gave pause. But not for long, because you know, that’s all ancient history, right? The department was reformed by Danny Hughes, according to our lobbyist-councilwoman, Jennifer Fitzgerald.

But then something struck me. What was it? Think, Peabody.

Aha! A post from a just a few weeks ago.

Fullerton Police from left, Cpl. Eric Song, Patricia Arevalo, Sgt. Dan Castillo, Lt. Andrew Goodrich and Cpl. Donny Blume.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC & Paid for by Fullerton Taxpayers

It was a ludicrous story dished out by the noisome “Behind the Badge,” all about the FPD’s hardworking crew that makes sure all the cops have got the right training, etc. Remember? The Professional Standards Bureau that takes its job so seriously! And do you remember who was the featured player in that stage production? Right. The adipose Andrew Goodrich, serial story-teller in the Kelly Thomas Affair, explainer of “excessive horning” tickets, etc.

Well, shit, howdy. And who was the Watch Commander on duty on the night of November 8th? The one who was in communication with his boss, Chief Danny Hughes, and who was therefore at the center of the Who Let Joe Go? controversy? That’s right! Goodrich.

So new Chiefie is promising that someday, maybe, the “bureau” run by Goodrich will get around to investigating…Goodrich. Well, isn’t that cute?

 

 

Happy Christmas – Complaint #48

Sometimes the best Christmas presents are the ones you give yourself. In this case that would be Complaint #PSB16-0048.

See, when you submit a complaint to the FPD about an incident that involves their personnel’s abandonment of policy, they do respond in writing. Here’s the response to the complaint filed by Travis Kiger about the behavior of the FPD cops who dealt with the Joe Felz incident in the early hours of November 9, 2016 in which Felz jumped a Glenwood Avenue Tree, ran over a tree, and attempted to leave the scene of the accident; all we know is that the doughty minions of the law confronted him in some as yet unknown manner, smelled alcohol on his person, declined to give him a Breathalyzer test and drove him home. We also know that the watch commander, the egregious Andrew Goodrich, and the former police chief Danno Hughes were in communication, a fact that most certainly never would have happened had you or I been the motorist. In fact, Goodrich would no doubt have our pictures in the next morning’s early editions.

Now, as to the content of the letter, notice how now the FPD has now decided to do nothing until the DA figures out what to do. It’s hard to see how this is anything other than temporizing, given the need to at least pretend to some proactivity on the matter to show the public – in a “timely manner.”

Of course we were also promised some sort of “independent person” report too, by our estimable City Attorney, Dick Jones, that seems to have vanished into the late December air. But a civilian investigation is important too, given what might be an overly charitable adios to Mr. Felz by sympathetic council members.

 

All citizens are equal, but some citizens are more equal than others (Part 1)

I have a thought experiment for those of you who work in the private sector.
Let’s suppose you are accused of some misdeed by your employer. It could something minor like rudeness to a customer, or something potentially criminal such as embezzlement, assault or even potentially murder or manslaughter.

Hypothetically

Let’s further suppose your employer comes to you and asks you about certain accusations. What do you suppose would happen if you refused to answer any questions about that incident unless you had an attorney present? And if you did speak to speak to your employer what are the chances they would agree to not use your statement against you in a criminal action? Could you refuse a polygraph test under any circumstance? And could you insist your employer never disclose the results of their investigation upon pain of criminal prosecution?

The answer in the private sector is clear cut: while you have constitutional rights in criminal proceedings (including the right to have an attorney present and against self incrimination) if you refuse to cooperate with an employer you can be fired on the spot.

Not so for many of our public employees. Thanks to the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights (Government Code §3300-3311) many of the rights afforded to all of us in criminal prosecutions are also afforded to officers in administrative actions. For example, pursuant to Government Code §3303(f), statements made under duress, coercion “or threats of punitive action” are inadmissible in civil proceedings as well as criminal. Thanks to the decision in Lybarger v. City of Los Angeles (1985) 40 Cal.3d 822, an officer can be disciplined for refusing to answer questions in an administrative hearing, but only if they are first told that the statements cannot be used against him in any criminal matter. An officer also has a right to have council present during any administrative proceedings relating to their conduct. And if there is a violation of any of these or other rights, there is no requirement to exhaust administrative remedies first (like the rest of us have to); the officer can immediately sue in Superior Court.

The combination of the protections in POBAR and the Supreme Court decision in Copley Press, Inc. v. Superior Court (39 Cal.4th 1272) have combined to essentially make our public safety employees above the law. Copley guarantees that any complaints against officers that are handled through the police department will be investigated at the sole discretion of that department, since the public is typically not told how the department ruled or why. Or even whether they looked into the matter at all. Remember, Chief Dan Hughes once admitted that many complaints against officers were simply tossed into the wastepaper basket, since there was no ramification for the department for doing so.

“After careful deliberation, we have concluded that no evidence exists to warrant disciplinary action. At least, not anymore.”

This does not mean that there are no good officers in Fullerton, but it does mean that there are no meaningful external check on the conduct of officers that are a problem, so long as the conduct is not so shocking it winds up becoming a national story. And even then, the protections afforded by POBAR makes firing for even the most shocking crime difficult. See for example Kenton Hampton, who is still employed by the Fullerton Police Department (and pulling in $175,958.90 in total pay and benefits as of 2015, according to Transparent California) despite his involvement in the beating death of Kelly Thomas and the beating/ false imprisonment of Veth Mam (video here) and the fact that even Joseph Wolfe may actually be reinstated despite his role in Thomas’s death.

Since we cannot rely on transparency (state law prohibits it), and we cannot rely on officers within the department to come forward (don’t forget, Copley makes disclosure of internal personnel records a criminal offense, and as Paul Irish has recently learned, even mild, non-specific criticism of department policy can get you in more trouble with your employer than standing around doing nothing while your fellow officers beat a man to death), I concluded several years ago that an effective independent Civilian Oversight Commission was the best method of placing some check on our public employees. Rather than simply advocate for the civilian oversight, those of us who were advocating it decided to prepare their own proposed ordinance, which Matt Leslie has been hosting on his Fullerton Rag blog ever since (it can be found here, although the transfer does appear to have altered the subsections in a way that makes it a bit confusing).

The specifics of and the benefits of the proposed ordinance, and the means in which this City Council could implement it, will be discussed in Part 2.

Cops Got Scratches Tended To By Paramedic As Kelly Thomas Lay Dying in the Street

One of the most shocking things to emerge from the Preliminary Trial of Manny Ramos and Jay Cicinelli for the killing of Kelly Thomas are the statements made by Fullerton Fire Department personnel that the cops received attention to their miscellaneous scrapes as Thomas, whose face had just been bashed in, and who was suffocating in his own blood, lay ignored nearby.

For pure callousness, incomprehensible inhumanity, and well, evil, it’s pretty hard to beat this story. The images of minor scratches sustained by the Fullerton cops is comical, especially given the fact that were sustained committing a crime; juxtaposed to the image of Kelly Thomas’s shattered face they present ample evidence about the nature of the beat down delivered to the homeless man.

Manny's badge of honor awaits a band aid.

Hilariously, Manny Ramos was quoted as saying he’d been in “the fight of my life.” Given that he was seventy pounds overweight, notoriously lazy and obviously a coward, this may actually be a true statement. Certainly it will provide a good headline for Lou Ponsi. But Ramos’ injury received a bandaid and off he went. Kelly Thomas is dead. He was dying on the pavement, alone and unattended, as the cops that killed him got first aid.

And that is truly sickening.

Oh, Damn. Another FPD Brutality Lawsuit in Federal Court

You lookin' at me?

Nearly a year ago FFFF started what would turn into a long string of investigations into the FPD Culture of Corruption by telling the tale of a young man who claimed that he was beaten and abused by Fullerton cops during a downtown arrest.

There were plenty of skeptics here, and there was a barrage of personal abuse leveled against the man by anonymous FPD goons.  At least there was until we published the results of an internal investigation, here, in which at least part of the victim’s assertions were confirmed.

Well last week another of Pat McKinley’s chickens emerged on the horizon, coming home to roost. Andrew Trevor Clarke filed a federal civil suit against Fullerton PD employees Tong, Contino, Hampton, Bolden, Salazar and Sellers.

Read the complaint

Sellers? Good call, but I wonder why Clarke didn’t include former Chief, present councilman Pat McKinley. After all, he will proudly tell us he hired all of ’em.

All I can say is the lawsuits are piling up so fast we’re going to need wings to stay above the legal paperwork. And I wonder how much this one is gonna cost us.

How To Turn a Paramedic Call Into a SWAT Nightmare

Guess what, Friends? Last month the City of Fullerton got sued again – stemming from an FPD incident in 2005. We have thoughtfully attached a copy of the complaint, below.

According to the complaint, some dude named Ernest Benefiel took some sleeping pills in a locked bedroom. Naturally, Benefiel fell asleep. His elderly father, concerned, called the paramedics because he thought his son was depressed. So far so good.

Unfortunately the paramedics called the good folks at the Fullerton Police Department who arrived on the scene, and because they learned that Benefiel owned a gun, decided to turn the place into some kind of hostage stand-off situation – even though there was no hostage. Some time elapsed and the cops, perhaps, became bored. To get Benefiel’s attention they deployed a flash grenade outside the guy’s window,  followed a dozen shotgun “bean bags” blasts through the same window. Benefiel was hit by one of the rounds and finally woke up from his pill-induced slumber; and, thinking he was under attack from criminals, fired a pistol shot out the window and hit a street sign.The cops then started blasting blindly into the room.

A while later Benfiel finally got his bearings and climbed out the window and surrendered peacefully – even though he had committed no crime.

Now you would think that upon mature reflection the cops’ superiors would have recognized how their out-of-control underlings unnecessarily escalated a pretty harmless situation into a SWAT stand off, and just let the whole thing go. But no! The cops and the DA decided to prosecute Benefiel for firing on a police officer. In fact, they tried him twice, and each time the case was overturned on appeal.

Meantime, Benefiel had spent over five years in jail for the heinous act of simply defending himself. And now the taxpayers of Fullerton are staring at yet another FPD civil suit settlement.

Read the complaint

If you read the complaint you will notice an inescapable fact: according to a police training expert FPD tactics violated procedure on the use of the flash grenade, the shot gun bean bags, and blindly shooting projectiles.

And who was boss of the FPD at the time and supposedly accountable for the actions of his boys? That’s right. Former Chief and current councilman Pat McKinley.

Jeez, that was such a long ago...

Fortunately we can help make sure this incompetent clown is not around after June 5th to vote for anymore settlements that would hush up embarrassing revelations about the Culture of Corruption he created while head of the Fullerton Police Department.

The Cover-Up Club

Yesterday, the OC Register did a story about the Fullerton jail house death of Dean Francis Gochenour, and the role played by Vincent Mater, who smashed his DAR against a steel door in order to destroy the evidence it contained.

Well, it happened like this...

Our Acting Chief, Dan Hughes, was unusually chatty.

For instance, he shares with trusted police scribe Lou Ponsi the fact that an internal investigation was concluded by June 20, 2011, that discipline was recommended by Hughes, himself, and then Mater quit on August 2: I made recommendations for discipline and in that process, he resigned,” Hughes said.

So let us ponder a few things. Mater destroys his DAR in mid April, and disciplinary action is started over two months later? And what is this disciplinary “process?” Hard to say; it may have included firing the creep, but if so the process is designed to permit the perp to quit first. And that’s a shame because in the case of Mater we already know he was considered by the DA to be a Brady Cop, (i.e. unfit for court testimony due to unfamiliarity with the truth). We also know that he was complicit in some way in the wrongful incarceration of Emanuel Martinez.

Whatever this so-called discipline process entailed (including, no doubt, union exacted rights for appeal hearings, ad nauseam), Mater decided his best option was to walk away, perhaps to try his luck as a cop somewhere else. So Mater quietly went his merry way on August 2, 2011 – curiously, just as the Kelly Thomas murder protests were starting in earnest.

And now, for the $64,000 question: what was going on between the FPD and the DAs office between August 2 2011 and March 13, 2012? Seven and a half months had passed since Mater’s departure; eleven months had passed since the original crime. It would appear to the outsider that nothing was going to happen at all.

And then somebody changed their mind. I wonder why.

 

Who is going to fix the Fullerton Police Department?

And how are they going to do it?

There are a lot of things wrong in Fullerton and a lot of issues at stake in this race.  But one looms over them all.

What are we going to do about our assault-happy cops?

The Kelly Thomas murder was just the culmination of an escalating pattern of brutality and sadistic violence committed by our city enforcers of the law.  This is not exaggeration or casting aspersion as has been documented on this blog with precision and accuracy.  These are not all official facts ; they are all well-documented facts.

Unfortunately here is how the system works.  When a cop decides that for the fun of it he’s going to slam your head into a concrete wall or into the pavement with all his force and then arrest you for Resisting Arrest, you can file a form about it.  That form gets “investigated.”  The results of the investigation are minimal, the officer is usually exonerated, or the complaint is closed without comment.  The record of the cop who did it is unavailable for review by anybody but the Chief or an attorney who needs this information in a court of law.   What we know for a fact this means is that any random police officer can build up a record of brutalizing and seriously injuring random citizens for any reason with virtual impunity.

Also, there is the “respect” thing.  Numerous anecdotes confirm that pre-Kelly Thomas days, giving a Fullerton police officer a little bit of lip meant you were giving up your civil right not to be battered into a bloody pulp and thrown in a cell for good measure.   Because of course people who would do something like that to their fellow human beings because they feel disrespected are so deserving of our respect.  Or something like that.

That’s the FPD.

What I want to know from our fearless candidates is: what are you  going to do about this?  And how are you going to do it?