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 POLICYThe 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.
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 INVESTIGATION514.8.1 WARRANTLESS ARRESTIn addition to the arrest authority granted to officers pursuant to Penal Code § 836, an officer maymake a warrantless arrest of a person that the officer has reasonable cause to believe has beendriving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influenceof 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.