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Feature Stories

Why San Jose Spurned Ex LB Police Chief Batts

From Issue: Volume XIX - Number 3
2/11/2011


Jay Beeler

Batts with former P-T executive editor Rich Archbold

Former Long Beach Police Chief Tony Batts was turned down for a job opportunity in San Jose after a background investigation revealed a history of domestic violence against women with whom he had relationships.

The Beachcomber revealed Batts’ dark past in an August 14, 2009, story about his being blackmailed over indiscretions as part of the Lobstergate inquiry. But another domestic violence incident in early May 2010 – while he was chief of police in Oakland – apparently was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

In response to a female friend’s request for payments due from Batts, a veiled threat was made to her that fell under the description of “domestic violence.” An informational report was taken by LBPD officers, who turned it over to LBPD Internal Affairs Commander Richard Meyer. Due to the appearance of a conflict of interest, a top level decision was made to pass the information along to the LA District Attorney’s office, which conducted a two-hour interview with the prominent Long Beach woman.

As is typically the case with many illegal acts committed by law enforcement officers in Long Beach, no prosecutorial action was initiated against Batts by the two female investigators and only informational reports were taken.

Recently the City of San Jose hired a search firm to find the best candidate to be its top cop after Chief Rob Davis retired and SJPD’s Chris Moore was made acting chief. Moore and Batts were finalists for the top job, even though Batts signed an agreement to head Oakland’s department for three years, he was seeking to leave after less than half that commitment for a variety of reasons. Ultimately Moore got the San Jose job even though the city manager preferred someone from the outside, like Batts.

Sid P. Smith, a retired police chief and CEO of Systems for Public Safety, came to Long Beach on Wednesday, January 26, as part of the SPS background investigation into Batts’ 27 years with the Long Beach Police Department, the last seven in the position of chief. In less than 24 hours in several interviews, Smith learned about the Lobstergate scandal and Batts’ multiple affairs with women – some of whom were officers at the LBPD under his command – and some of whom filed domestic violence reports against him.

At least two of five DV reports involved Congresswoman Laura Richardson, who was married to Batts between 1995 and 2002. The Beachcomber reported one such incident when Richardson and Batts were living together on Vernon St. in Long Beach. A second incident report was taken by the LAPD in San Pedro, where Richardson sometimes stayed at her mother’s home on Parker St. Another reportedly occurred in San Diego more than 15 years ago.

Shortly after Richardson was elected to the Long Beach City Council and sworn into office in July 2002 – and before Batts was named chief of police in October 2002 at the age of 42 — an altercation occurred between Richardson and Batts that left her with a black eye. She reportedly sought refuge with co-councilmember Tonia Reyes Uranga and showed up at one council meeting wearing sunglasses to conceal the blemish.

Congresswoman Richardson did not respond to a Beachcomber e-mail for comment in 2009 or in recent weeks, but sources we’ve spoken to quoted Batts as saying “I did what I had to do to stop her” during an altercation wherein Richardson supposedly hit Batts in the temple area with a beer mug.

Batts resigned his Long Beach chief position in July 2009 after the Beachcomber made public records requests concerning his domestic violence history. As is typical of the city attorney’s response to such requests, no documents were produced – in clear violation of the Public Records Act. The Beachcomber has relied on multiple interviews with current and past police officers to piece together details.

Reports had surfaced that City Manager Pat West was not getting along with Batts, who defiantly told West to let him handle the police department without city manager interference. Sources told the Beachcomber that Batts feared he was about to be fired and leaped at a new job offer in Oakland, fabricating a story about his “mission of wanting to help out” after four officers were shot and killed by a parolee on March 21, 2009. Batts attended their memorial service.

But when he started the job in October 2009 Batts soon discovered that the grass was not necessarily greener in the Bay Area city. In July 2010, 80 officers had to be laid off due to budget cuts, reducing sworn positions 20% to 656. Reports surfaced of malfunctioning police radios, broken computers and aging police cars. Added to this, the relationship between Batts and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has not been good.

Batts’ star has lost its luster due to the various domestic violence reports and it may be difficult at this stage to find any department who would hire him, sources told us. If he decided to retire today, his income would be more than 90 percent of his current $255,000 salary because on August 16, 2010, he turned 50 and became eligible for retirement.

Oakland may well be his last top cop position, according to one source, so it would be in his best interests to stick around and fulfill the three-year commitment.

As the Beachcomber reported in 2009, words by co-workers to describe Batts often ranged from “slick, charismatic, golden-tongued, outgoing and intelligent” to “vindictive, arrogant, egotistical, womanizer and mean.” To this day, those adjectives remain intact for those who claim to know him best.