Of all the money that former City Manager Wild Ride Joe Felz wasted during his shaky tenure, nothing was quite as egregious as the annual fifty grand Stumblejoe blew on Behind the Badge, a silly, pointless PR outlet that passed along empty feel-good tales involving Fullerton cops. No one knows if anyone even bothered reading this pabulum. The idea of us taxpayers actually forking over this dough in order to be administered unhealthy doses of saccharine PR back at us was bad enough. The fact that this policy decision was made, maintained and mismanaged by a bureaucratmade it worse.
Fortunately, last Tuesday, the City pulled the plug. City staff teed up the item as a cut – unless three councilmembers voted to save it. They didn’t. Here’s the video.
Of course cop supported candidates Bud Chaffee and Jesus Silva thought the whole idea was just peachy. Predictably, Jennifer Fitzgerald seemed to be going along. Bruce Whitaker and Greg Sebourn opposed wasting any more on this crap. Sebourn correctly pointed out that the cop union, having plenty of money to stick its snout in Fullerton politics, can easily afford to promote the good deeds of its membership.
Whatever changed Jennifer Fitzgerald’s mind to drop support for this ridiculous concept that has cost us $200,000 in the past four years remains a mystery, but she suddenly did a 180. Hopefully FFFF had something to do with the sudden shift to fiscal responsibility.
In the end the self-serving BS rhetoric of Chaffee and the feeble gibberish of Silva amounted to nothing and the council unanimously went along with the proposed package of cuts that included Behind the Badge.
Rest assured, Friends, FFFF will be following up with a Public Records Act request to get a copy of the termination notice.
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.
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.
FFFF has written about this particular scam before: the Fullerton cop union sends out a pleading request for donations to…itself. Now the supplicant is FPOA boss, Stewart Hamilton, and he writes to you just before Christmas – the Season of Giving!
The thing is so illogical, so dumb, and is really nothing more than pandering to the brainless, or maybe kids with access to their parent’s debit card.
Here’s the latest version of the plea for your hard-earned dough:
Notice first the emotional supplication from behind the Thin Blue Line: we’re there for you now we need you! Well, they want your money, that’s for sure, as will become evident by the end of the letter.
But no, it’s really not about money, see, it’s about family! “Knowing we are not alone” makes all the difference. Alone? They’ve got a over a hundred members plus a completely subservient city council majority.
The cheapest and dirtiest part of this greasy swindle is tying it to helping local charities and their good works. Except that there’s no details and no information about a charitable deduction. And what kind of gullible numbskull would make a charitable donation via the cop union? I’ll answer that: someone who shouldn’t have access to cash or credit.
The recipient is told that somehow his donation will “make a difference” to “fallen heroes” although this is not explained; possibly because Fullerton’s one and only “fallen hero” fell twenty-seven years ago.
But the union, that pours tens of thousands of dollars into each Fullerton politcal campaign to elect lackeys on the council like Flory, Chaffee and Fitzgerald, wants you to know how much they appreciate your generosity. Give a hundred bucks and get a lapel pin! Give $250 and you can add a “toy K9” to your bric-a-brac shelf! Double down on that and you will get a “custom” plaque you may hang on your den wall – right next to the plaque with the singing rubber bass.
For the guy with only fifty dollars to part with, you, sir, will get a decal for your car window, although Mr. Stewart assures us that it will not get you preferential treatment should you be unlucky enough to fall into the clutches of the FPD. Still you have to wonder if, maybe, former City Manager, Joe Felz wasn’t displaying a decal the nigh he jumped a Glenwood Avenue curb, ran over a tree, tried to get away and was subsequently driven home by grateful members of the FPOA.
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.
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.
I’d say Steven Greenhut hit it out of the park with this piece in today’s OC Register:
Despite the revelations, police unions continue to behave as before, trying to intimidate council members who refuse to go along with their demands for ever-higher pay and benefits, and protections for their members from oversight and accountability.
Two councilmen in Fullerton, Bruce Whitaker and Travis Kiger, are experiencing treatment similar to the Righeimer episode in Costa Mesa. The Fullerton police union is angry at the role those men played in demanding reform in the wake of the death of Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man fatally beaten by Fullerton officers in July 2011.
Last April I wrote this look back at what sure seemed like monkey business on the part of FPD spokesorifice Andrew Goodrich. Knowing what we know now about the lawless way that FPD operates when so inclined, the idea that they leaked potentially embarrasing information about someone they considered a political enemy is in no way surprising.
Many have wondered how Goodrich, after having failed to tell a single truth at any juncture of the Kelly Thomas murder epsiode, kept his job. The obvious answer is that the City Council, the City Manager, and the Acting Chief think he is doing a good job.
It could also be that because the estimable Goodrich is an officer in the police union they don’t have the guts to take this valuable piece of manpower and put him back on the street.
– Joe Sipowicz
The other day, our Travis Kiger engaged in a comical e-mail exchange with Fullerton PD’s $130,000 per year spokesperson, Sergeant Andrew Goodrich. Here it is:
Note that according to Goodrich, FPD policy is that the police log book may be perused at the station – but not copied. When unexpectedly queried as to how the Voice of OC(EA) managed to get a copy of a domestic dispute entry involving Assemblyman Chris Norby last September, the good Sergeant noted that it was due to the “constant” requests they had from the media. Hmm. Well, that makes so little sense that we may as well backtrack to review what happened. Something ain’t quite kosher. In fact a smell is emanating from this pile of Goodrich road apples.
Last fall, 72nd Assemblyman Chris Norby seems to have gotten into an argument with his wife. Some sort of delivery person, adventitiously arriving at the front door of Casa Norby, called the cops, who arrived, took a statement, and left. The date of the incident was September 2nd.
The Voice of OC(EA) finally got around to posting about the issue, here, on September 27 – almost four weeks after the fact.The Register followed up with a story a couple of days later. Other than that, general media silence. Wow, Andy, what a feeding frenzy!
Now that we know Goodrich’s excuse for violating FPD policy is nonsense, we are entitled to ask why Goodrich was so cavalier about passing out copies of the log – against policy; and further, we ought to ask how and why the Norby episode came to light at all.
Note that the report posted by the Voice of OC(EA) was time stamped September 20, seven days before it was published. This means that they either sat on the story for seven days, or they received the document several days after it was printed. Hmm. And remember, according to Goodrich, the log is regularly purged.
Although it is possible that the Voice took a week to getting around to publishing its story, is it at all likely that an intrepid Voice reporter came across an FPD log entry in the course of his typical day’s toil? Or is it a whole Hell of a lot more likely that an employee of the Fullerton Police Department, growing tired of waiting for some lucky journalist to discover what would surely be an embarrassment for Norby, leaked it to a pro-union news source?
Mr. Goodrich could help clear this up by sharing his records of media requests for this information, and explain the date on the printout.
Of course it is possible that some other party reading the log came across the item, recognized Norby’s address, and passed it on to the Voice; but that would be supported by pretty long odds.
In any case, there certainly is an object lesson here for all of us, Friends. Privacy seems to be selectively practiced by the Fullerton Police Department. And mostly it is not practiced to protect the public – but them.
Here’s the story we reported at the end of June, a truly embarrassing tale of theft and utter stupidity perpetrated by one of Fullerton’s Finest. And a harbinger of things to come. Forget the final sentence. We now know very well about the moral turpitude that pervades pat McKinley’s police force.
– Joe Sipowicz
The following report confirms that an off-duty Fullerton police officer was arrested for stealing an Apple iPad at a Miami International Airport TSA checkpoint last month. According to court documents, FPD Officer Kelly Mejia was caught on surveillance video taking an $800 iPad from another passenger just after it had passed through the x-ray machine in the presence of TSA security agents.
After the security footage was reviewed, Miami police canvassed the airport and discovered Mejia holding the iPad at the boarding gate. Mejia initially stated that she found the iPad and that she intended to keep it. Upon further questioning, the arresting officer says that Mejia confessed to taking the iPad and was placed under arrest for 3rd degree grand theft (a felony in Florida.)
The arrest report refers to Mejia’s occupation as a police officer and lists the address for FPD Headquarters as her place of employment. Kelly Mejia has been working with the Fullerton Police Department for at least six years and earns about $86,000 per year as a patrol officer.
It’s hard to imagine that this type of brazen theft in a high security zone would be anyone’s inaugural venture into pickpocketing. The authority granted to the occupation of police officer certainly presents many opportunities to bring home a little something extra on the side. I wonder if anything else is missing around here?
And how many pending criminal cases in Fullerton will be called into question if this officer loses her credibility in court? Will this officer be fired or just slapped on the wrist? Is this another indicator of ethical problems within Fullerton cop culture?
Accused murderer Manny Ramos was able to make bail early this morning, and KTLA says the fundraising was done by Ramos’ fellow Fullerton police officers.
One of our readers passed along this letter purportedly from FPD officer Benjamin Lira seeking donations to get Ramos out of jail. It was posted to the Big City Cops Facebook page, an online hangout for off duty cops.
Check out that nifty logo of the police group who was passing around the letter. I’m told that oderint dum metuant is Latin for “Let them hate so long as they fear.”
As is evidenced from the comments tonight, the comments from the last few city council meetings, the FPD protests, and the current city council agenda which is full of lawsuits which will cost the city millions of dollars, it’s obvious that there is a great deal of anger and mistrust towards the Fullerton Police Dept and the City of Fullerton.
A large number of negative incidents involving Fullerton police officers continue to come to light, ranging from alleged sexual misconduct of officers towards women whom they have stopped, to officers allegedly committing theft, to charges of false arrest, and so on. Our family experienced a mistaken raid on our home by armed undercover vice cops who were looking for the home next door.
Clearly, it is in the best interest of everyone for the FPD and the city council to work hard to win back the trust of people. In doing so it seems obvious that it would be Wise to Avoid Doing Things That Unnecessarily Increase Distrust.
THE CURRENT UNACCEPTABLE SITUATION
There is a situation in the FPD that can be corrected. Making this correction should take away some of the distrust.
Your current FPD Spokesperson / Public Information Officer has had, and still has, a major role in the Fullerton Police Officers union. (FPOA)
Here are three examples of his significance to the union:
CURRENT—On behalf of the police union, Mr. Goodrich is on the small negotiating team for the current police union contract. As a member of that team he would be trying, of course, to get the highest salary and best benefits possible for the union members. To do so, you would assume that he would be trying to put the officers in the best light possible.
IN THE PAST— In 2003, Mr. Goodrich wrote a how-to article for union members entitled, “The Value of Political Involvement-Your Association’s Role in Local Politics.” This piece explained effective ways for the union to get their choice of candidates elected to the city council and WHY it is in the union’s best interest to do so. (Goodrich’s document is located within this article, “Peer into the Thought Process of the FPOA,” www.fullertonsfuture.org)
I think it is absurd for someone in a significant role in the police union to be the spokesperson for the Fullerton Police Department. This situation obviously causes distrust by many in the community and it makes the leadership of the FPD, the city manager, and the city council look foolish.
In his “union role”—Mr. Goodrich’s union task would be to put police officers in as positive of a light as possible.
In his spokesperson role”—when he is speaking on behalf of the FPD—putting police officers in as positive of a light as possible should not be his concern. His concern should be honesty, accuracy, and transparency.
HERE’S MY SUGGESTION:
The current FPD Spokesperson/Public Information Officer (Mr. Goodrich) should be reassigned to a different position and he should be replaced by an officer who has not had a major role in the Fullerton Police Officers Union.
UPDATE: Here is a post from waaaay back in November, 2010 about how our police union leaders view the political process and their ability to manipulate it to their own advantage. Of course the egregious Andrew Goodrich figures prominently in our post. Be sure to read the last sentence!
Just in case you thought there was any doubt that public service might not be the number one priority of Fullerton’s boys in blue, take a look at the document below, a veritable “how-to” article on political influence written in 2003 by FPD PIO and union front-man, Andrew Goodrich.
See, it’s all about how to leverage your members dues to create a political machine and get what’s coming to you. Actually it’s about defining what’s coming to you and getting a subservient collection of clowns you elect to go along for the ride.
I especially enjoyed Goodrich bragging about batting one thousand. The record looked great in 2003, but then the wheels started coming off the squad car. Chris Norby and Shawn Nelson jumped ship PDQ (although Norby stayed on the Police Reservation long enough to vote for the obscene [email protected] deal in 2001, thanks Norby). The pitiful police-backed pipsqueak Mike Clesceri was tossed out in 2004 after a mere one term; and ditto the equally useless Leland Wilson who was just a bad memory by 2006.
In 2010 the union backed a geriatric of dubious mental competency, a poster boy for pension abuse, and a guy who dodged criminal responsibility by giving his DNA to the DA. Hey two outta three ain’t bad –for them. For the rest of us? Not so good!
And here’s a little bit more about Mr. Goodrich: promoted to “Community Services bureau leader – and police public information officer” last January as chronicled by Barbara Giasone:
Goodrich also signed the May 3, 2010 MOU on behalf of the FPOA, along with Barry Coffman and Robert Kirk.
And just in case you feel your tax dollars that pay for [email protected], etc. are insufficient thanks to the police for all they do you can always help out some more. Here’s a solicitation we received from the FPOA just yesterday. Your gift is supposed to go to FPOA “community outreach” but IS NOT tax deductible. Hmm. You get a decal of a police badge.
In closing I really feel compelled to wonder whether or not any of the three worthy gentlemen named above have been posting comments on our blog.