A Sober Take on the FPD & Joe Felz

I’ve gotten some praise and taken some heat personally for being a part of bringing this blog back online after it’s hiatus because anybody who knows Fullerton politics knows that F.F.F.F. has it’s fans and its detractors. When I found out that there was a new owner I was excited and more so when asked if I wanted to participate as F.F.F.F. gives me an outlet to continue the writing I was doing on my own site without feeling like I’m still running for office.  We were still in the planning stages when that memo from Chief Hughes popped up and now we’re off to the races.

We need to understand the context of this memo and why it matters lest the city sweep it under the rug and further erode trust in government.

To start we must admit that City Manager Joe Felz is culpable for his actions on the night of his accident but he is also culpable for the stain he has just put upon our city after 30+ years of work and it’s somewhat sad when a career might end in a downward trajectory. I barely know Joe Felz and up until now my interactions with him included me giving him grief to prove a lie the Mayor keeps telling about our roads. That said I have no personal animus towards him but the actions the night of the election by him and members of F.P.D. require due diligence and honest brokering of information which are two things constantly lacking from all levels government. For the sake of argument let us pretend that the most absurd rumor coming out of City Hall is true and he simply blew a tire coming around a turn and he was perfectly sober.

Felz himself, and the F.P.D. specifically, should have done everything in their power to remove any doubt or suspicion or wrongdoing to mitigate the allusion of impropriety, special treatment or worse. If he blew a tire and ran down Sappy McTree he could have left his car where it was and called AAA. He could have moved his car off of poor Sappy and parked and called AAA. Instead he decided to try and drive away and likely home. When Police arrived they could have done their jobs without getting the Chief involved until AFTER their initial assessments and inspections.

This isn’t armchair Monday morning quarterbacking or simple 20/20 hindsight because this is their job. Felz is the top man in our city and the F.P.D. has policy for this type of accident which we’ll get to in a minute. Everybody involved in this incident is paid handsomely to do their jobs and will help bankrupt our town with their pensions from these jobs so at a minimum we should expect that they do their jobs when called to a scene.

Even if Felz only blew a tire the officers, based on Hughes’ memo, smelled alcohol and therefore should have immediately demanded a breathalyzer. If everything turned out to be copacetic the City should have released the audio, video or test results as soon as humanly possible to show that they were on top of things and that they were on the level. Showing that Felz was actually treated like anybody else would have given us reason to have some faith that F.P.D. and our City Management was on the level.

But no. Instead they dove into the bunker and have held endless meetings with and without the City Attorney. They’ve stonewalled records requests and blanked the media (that includes CBS KCAL-9 and the Register for the commenters about to say we’re not “media”).

We the people have no obligation to trust our government and the government owes it to we the people to earn and maintain our trust. F.P.D. over the years and given us too many reasons to not trust them and for all of the reform talk about Chief Hughes the wrongful arrest of two people who were the victims of a crime back in February lends credence to that idea that little has changed in regards to due diligence and honest brokering of information. That we can’t trust the Orange County District Attorney doesn’t help when that’s the closest we have to actual oversight.

I want nothing more than to tell my kids that the police are heroes and deserve our trust but I cannot do that thanks to the continued supply of “bad apples” who rarely, if ever, get justice served to them. The parable about bad apples is boiled down to “a bad apple spoils the bin” and thus one would think it imperative that the “good apples” would want to have the bad ones gone as quickly as possible and yet this doesn’t ever seem to happen. When we point out a bad apple the self-professed “good” apples and their fans come out of the woodwork to defend him and provide cover which proves the existence of a continued culture of corruption. Not that I’d recommend it but we don’t even have hillbilly street justice to rely upon like in the old days with the good cops taking out the trash on their own. Today they just Union-Up and at worst retire and go elsewhere to double-dip their pensions.

Let us get back to what started all of this and delve into the reality of this Joe Felz incident.

Here’s the chain of events as we have them;

  • While driving home from Downtown Fullerton Felz hit a tree.
  • Felz dislodged his car and attempted to drive away from the scene of the accident.
  • Somebody NOT Felz called the police.
  • Felz’s car came to a halt needing to be towed.
  • Police arrived on the scene.
  • Police smelled alcohol on Felz.
  • On-Scene Sergeant called Watch Commander.
  • Watch Commander called Chief of Police.
  • Chief of Police called On-Scene Sergeant.
  • On-Scene Sergeant finally administered Field Sobriety Test.
  • Felz is driven home by FPD while his vehicle is towed for him.
  • We get and release the memo.
  • The City Council puts Felz on the Agenda for the Closed Door Session on Tuesday.
  • End of Official Records.

The city apparently wants us to believe that it is normal Standard Operating Procedures in the wee hours around 0130 for an officer, Sergeant in this case, to call the Watch Commander to call the Chief to then get the go-ahead for the Sergent to do his job & perform a field sobriety test. We’re also supposed to believe that it’s normal for the Chief to talk to the suspect before anything takes place. We have yet to find out how much time passed between police arriving on the scene and the Field Sobriety Test being administered and also no way of knowing who made the decision to not conduct a breathalyzer if in fact one wasn’t administered. We’ve seen zero photos and have no official police documents thanks to the “ongoing investigation” although the city won’t even confirm that there is, in fact, an investigation. In Hughes’ memo he mentions calling in C.H.P. to remove any conflicts of interest but that doesn’t appear to have ever happened.

Now Hughes is gone and we have a new Interim Chief of Police, whom nobody knows at this point, and the issue is still unsettled.

Without the breathalyzer we will never know if Felz was or was not above the legal limit of .08 alcohol in his blood which gives credence to the idea of a coverup. For all intents and purposes his blood alcohol level was both above and below the legal limit until it was checked and being that it was never checked it will forever remain above and below the legal limit and thus we’ll have to continue to forever believe in Schrödinger’s Blood Alcohol Level.

Audio/Video from the scene could help end this story as well but again none is forthcoming owing to a mythical ongoing investigation of which information also isn’t forthcoming with this becoming a giant “trust us” story and it is not the job of the citizenry to truth their government. I can’t say this enough.

So did F.P.D. do the right thing by the residents of Fullerton? Not according to their own Fullerton Police Department Policy Manual.

Meat and Potato time:

514.2 POLICY
The Fullerton Police Department is committed to the safety of the roadways and the community and will pursue fair but aggressive enforcement of California’s impaired driving laws.

Aggressive Enforcement.

That would explain why M.A.D.D. likes some of our officers so much. We have 11 officers who each made over 100 DUI arrests in 2014 alone. I’d be curious to know how many of those 1,100+ people would think that Felz’s treatment was fair.

However – the Chief in his memo to City Council said that a Field Sobriety Test was done and Felz wasn’t over the legal limit so it’s all on the level, right?

Oh. About that. (emphasis added)

514.8 ARREST AND INVESTIGATION
514.8.1 WARRANTLESS ARREST
In addition to the arrest authority granted to officers pursuant to Penal Code § 836, an officer may
make a warrantless arrest of a person that the officer has reasonable cause to believe has been
driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence
of the same when (Vehicle Code § 40300.5):
(a) The person is involved in a traffic accident.

Chief Dan Hughes, according to the Policy Manual for which he wrote the preface, was committed to safety and fair but aggressive enforcement of impaired driving laws and their own policy says that somebody can be arrested without a warrant if an officer believes the person was driving under the influence (smelled alcohol?) AND was in a traffic accident (Sappy McTree?).

So was City Manager Joe Felz treated Fair but Aggressively? You decide. Well, you decide once F.P.D. is done with their “ongoing investigation” and releases the report, audio and video of the incident provided it isn’t destroyed before it can be released as has happened with F.P.D. in the past. If Chief Hughes really did reform the F.P.D. then we should expect actual records, actual results and open and honest discussion regarding this and other cases. If they continue to stonewall and obfuscate then we’ll know where our city and police actually stand on reform.

Considering the circumstances surrounding the timing of the appointment of a new Interim Chief this information should be made available before the Council Meeting on Tuesday and should be addressed with the citizens during the Open Session and not simply behind closed doors.

17 Replies to “A Sober Take on the FPD & Joe Felz”

  1. I think we all know that an ordinary citizen would not have been treated in the same kid-gloves manner that our City Manager was treated. A field sobriety test would have been administered shortly after the first officer arrived at the scene and a backup officer arrived. The driver would have been asked to take a breathalyzer test or to submit to one of the tests for alcohol outlined in the Vehicle Code. The Chief of Police would not be called, and the driver would not have been driven home.

    To have confidence in our police force we need to know that there is not one set of procedures for ordinary citizens and a different set of procedures for VIPs.

  2. Hilarious! The Yellow Ochre Observer tries it’s best. (Not) oddly, no mention of the Hughes connection. Causeway? Ha!

    Accident on Glenwood

    Neighbors on W. Glenwood called
    police after hearing loud noises and witnessing
    a driver trying to maneuver his
    vehicle off a young tree in the causeway.
    The driver was finally successful and
    drove away with screeching noises and a
    flat tire. Police arrived and stopped the
    the vehicle about three houses from the
    crash site. The driver was Fullerton’s city
    manager.
    The sergeant on duty conducted a field
    sobriety test and determined that Mr. Felz
    had consumed alcohol but did not meet
    the criteria to be in violation of law. The
    vehicle was towed and police gave the city
    manager a ride home.
    An internal memo sent from Chief
    Hughes to council members explained the
    incident and was leaked to a local blog.
    Read the full story at http://www.voiceofoc.org

      1. What’s so “nice” about journalists telling Fullerton residents half-truths in the interest of self preservation?

        “A lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies”.
        Alfred Lord Tennyson

    1. Yeah, you’d think a real news outlet headline would say something like:

      “City Manager Involved In Possible DUI Accident”

      or:

      “The Curious Case of the Disappearing Drunk”

      Notice how this squalid rag ignores FFFF that broke the story?

    2. The sergeant went as far as to conduct a field sobriety test, but then determined that a breathalyzer test was unecessary, even after smelling alcohol fumes coming from Felz? I can’t imagine an average citizen getting the same kind of break. But it makes me wonder — what is the legal criteria for determining if a breathalyzer is in order? Is it only if the suspect fails a field sobriety test?

      1. It varies. No law or policy dictates that. DUI savy officers don’t ever use a PAS device in the field. They do FST’s and know right away if the person if near .08. They make the arrest, go to the station to book, and offer blood or breath to the bad guy. The choice is made by the bad guy, and they are booked, reports done, end of story. If they refuse blood or breath, they can still be charged based the FST’s and the report, but their license is suspended for 1 year no matter what now. A PAS is used many times in the field to confirm the level of DUI, but the PAS (preliminary alcohol screening device) is just another FST, and nothing more. The video from the scene would show if the PAS was used or not.

    1. We are not all “gents” but thank anyway.

      I can’t imagine anyone not pleased to see this wonderful operation return to form.

      1. It’s not the same FFFF though. I used to be the only shit talker LOL. Now that’s all everyone does here. LOL

        1. That’s because it’s cool to be a troll now. Seen South Park lately? Should I just call you Skankhunt42?
          But whatever, troll away.

    2. Gustavo, i assume that you and I do not agree with the guys al ot of the time ,but I am extremely happy that they are back. No one calls them out like FFFF. When they have called me out, they have almost always been correct.

  3. Shooting people in the back, blogging anonymously? Yay!
    Let the good times roll from Pomonas “Finest” reaching for waistband! LOL!

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