Reeves: Blackmail. What Blackmail?
From Issue: Volume XVI - Number 17
Part 2 of 2, written prior to Tony Batts' surprise announcement Wednesday that he is leaving in September to become Oakland's chief of police.
Well before Lobstergate went to trial two of the plaintiffs worked very hard at getting city officials to “do the right thing” and clean up the organizational corruption they saw within the Long Beach Police Department.
“This isn’t about Lobstergate, this is far more serious,” Sgt. David Gage told a Press-Telegram reporter in October 2006. “This has shown me that the leadership within the LBPD failed to fulfill its duty when it was presented with a problem, that there is no honesty, integrity or respect in this administration.”
Fellow officer and plaintiff Warren Harris echoed those words in saying “There is so much more going on here than some unauthorized dives.”
Harris told superiors that the pending lawsuits that he, Sgt. Gage and Officer Craig Patterson eventually won for $4.1 million in February 2008 “wouldn’t have cost the city a dime” if they apologized, created a whistleblower policy that protected all city employees against retaliatory activity, and publicly broadcast that policy. It never happened.
Gage wrote a four-page letter in September 2006 to Mayor Foster, with copies to the city manager, city auditor, district attorney, city attorney, city prosecutor and others, attempting to exposed what he saw as criminal and civil laws being broken, corruption, cover-up and blackmail in efforts to sweep Lobstergate under the rug.
Blackmail: Who & Why?
Prior to becoming chief of police in October 2002 at the age of 42, Anthony W. Batts apparently had at least four crime reports taken against him for domestic violence in the cities of Long Beach, San Pedro and San Diego. One of those reports was taken before he was named chief and the reported victim was his wife, Laura Richardson-Batts, 6th District councilwoman at the time and currently Long Beach’s representative in the United States Congress.
(Richardson is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee regarding special treatment by her mortgage lender after her neglected Sacramento house went into foreclosure.)
That altercation reportedly took place in the Civic Center parking garage outside City Hall and Richardson-Batts was seen wearing sunglasses at the city council meeting shortly thereafter, apparently to cover a black eye. She also sought refuge with Tonia Reyes Uranga, councilwoman for the 7th District. About that time Richardson-Batts was said to be living in a house on Parker St. in San Pedro where her mother currently lives.
Attempts to get those reports have been unsuccessful without the cooperation of Congresswoman Richardson, who did not respond to our e-mailed questions concerning the incidents. Yet the incidents are common knowledge among many LBPD insiders contacted by the Beachcomber.
Within the Long Beach Police Department those documents are said to be under lock and key in the police chief’s office and one source has stated the crime report number has been changed and the original title changed to “bicycle report,” apparently in reference to a stolen bicycle.
It is a felony to change these documents and one of the officers who participated in taking it kept a copy and was a principal among the three night-shift officers involved with lobster diving, unauthorized discharge of assault rifles, falsification of time cards and retaliation against the officers who reported their behavior.
Apparently the threats to “blow the whistle” on Batts to local news media using a copy of the crime report worked. Disciplinary recommendations ranging from one year of demotion and eight days of suspension were all reduced to letters of reprimand by Chief Batts and his command staff, against the recommendations presented by Commander Torben Beith, who oversaw the port security detail.
This action also effectively took the matter away from Civil Service Commission hearings and the public, wherein officers were set to testify about criminal and misdemeanor activities as well as Batts’ domestic violence reports and the subsequent blackmail attempts.
Batts’ domestic violence history subsequently proved problematic for him in obtaining FBI clearance for a security clearance as well as being able to legally carry a firearm.
Black Chief Wanted
One source with City Hall insider knowledge said that the main reason that Tony Batts got the chief of police job in the first place was because he was black. “The mayor and city council wanted a black police chief and the new city manager at that time, Jerry Miller, was willing to overlook Batts’ prior domestic violence crimes and he got the job,” our source said.
Words used by former officers to describe Batts often ranged from “slick, charismatic, golden- tongued, outgoing and intelligent” to “vindictive, arrogant, egotistical, womanizer and mean.” A former detective relayed the story about how one officer said “Hi Tony” to Batts in the public service building elevator with the response “You will address me a chief” and was, shortly thereafter, given a transfer.
During the Lobstergate trials in Los Angeles early last year Batts perjured himself on the witness stand by telling jurors that the LBPD would never cite people for lobster diving in the port when, in fact, a neighbor of Sgt. Gage was cited at about the same time as the LBPD lobster diving incidents and was prosecuted by Tom Reeves. That neighbor was put on the witness stand and directly refuted Batts' testimony, thereby diminishing Batts’ truthfulness as a witness in the eyes of the jurists.
Batts also falsely testified on the witness stand that the words “malcontent” would never come from his lips in describing certain officers. Sources within the LBPD said Batts often used the words at various meetings throughout the department. “It was very common for him to say that,” one source said.
Plaintiffs Harris, Patterson and Gage claim that – in addition to the chief – they “witnessed lieutenants and sergeants lie on the witness stand at the coaxing of the city attorney.”
When all of the facts about Lobstergate – including multiple misdemeanor crimes and the more serious felonies of blackmail and changing official police reports – were laid in front of City Prosecutor Tom Reeves in January 2005, he did nothing. “Selective prosecution is itself a crime, in violation of the equal protection clauses in both the California and United States Constitutions,” one knowledgeable legal source told the Beachcomber.
Summing It Up
A letter sent to the Press-Telegram editor (only portions were published) in April 2007 by former LBPD Homicide Detective Tim Cable sums up what others interviewed for this story voiced about the department’s management, in addition to stating that it was “very top heavy.”
“The city council and our new mayor … are so full of praise for him. He’s the messiah who has single-handedly lowered the crime rate and should be rewarded. But how does he do it?
“The chief doesn’t work the streets, he doesn’t answer calls for service, he doesn’t work gangs, he doesn’t solve homicides, he doesn’t make arrests, he doesn’t deal with the criminal element at all unless they line up outside his plush office and wait to turn themselves in.
“If the Chief is such a valuable asset and sought after by other agencies then why didn’t the City of Inglewood snap him up when he applied for the chiefs job there? Why didn’t the City of Santa Monica grab him but chose a subordinate instead?
“Yes, Chief Batts is intelligent. He presents himself as a professional and he has the gift of eloquent speech but beware, he also has a large ego. You think that all the officers who have left the department did so for money? No sir! Money has always been and always will be a source of low morale within the rank and file.
“But don’t overlook the fact that there just may be other reasons for the exodus. They won’t tell you for fear of retaliation. They won’t tell you what it’s like to work for a man who will praise you one minute and smite you the next.
“Having worked under nine different chiefs during my 31-year career only one comes to mind that created such a hostile environment; he came from L.A. Oh, and that chief promoted Chief Batts to the command level and set his feet upon the way.”
Editor’s Note: See also Beachcombing column