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Beachcomber
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From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 6
3/21/2014


By Stephen Downing

In a mass mailing delivered to the Long Beach electorate two weeks ago the president of the Long Beach Police Officers Association (POA) writes, “We need an experienced, dedicated crime fighter like City Attorney Charlie Parkin helping us keep you safe. Parkin is the only candidate for city attorney with a real record of cracking down on crime, drug dealers, prostitution and fraud.”

Strong words. All are false and misleading. What should we expect to be done about it?

The answer is in the hands of his ultimate boss, the city manager, who should give serious consideration to the following:

What the POA leadership is doing is destructive and cynical. The fear of crime blights our city more than actual crime - especially when considering the fact that Long Beach has experienced a 40 percent reduction in violent crime. But, in spite of that, the POA leadership chooses to cultivate fear of crime – that fertile ground so routinely exploited by bottom-feeder politicians – by promoting the status quo in City Hall with falsehoods about the “crime fighting” qualifications of their chosen candidate, inferring that without him the community will not be safe.

The POA does this knowing that the closest the city attorney gets to crime fighting is negotiating contracts related to their membership’s pay, working conditions and pension benefits, in addition to blindly defending law suits related to police misconduct, which have cost Long Beach taxpayers $18.8 million in just the past five years.

The POA imposes a fear of crime on the community because they clearly understand that there are very few votes to be won by offering calm reassurance that crime is going down and the community is in fact safer.

What the president of the POA chooses to ignore is that when he defrauds the electorate by writing lies about Parkins experience, he imposes a false narrative that corrodes our community, degrades our society, propagates racism, class prejudice and fear and taints all law enforcement professionals, including his own membership.

Two days ago, this culture of impunity reared its ugly head once again in the campaign for the 3rd District council seat. Two full color mailers were delivered to the electorate supporting the candidacy of Suzie Price, a lawyer and Orange Country prosecutor, paid for by the POA Independent Expenditure Committee. In it Price poses with two police officers in front of the Signal Hill POA headquarters, standing beside a LBPD East Division police car. The two officers posing with her appear to be POA board members, in uniform.

And today another brochure arrived, paid for by the POA with the same two police officers posed in front of the same police car with Charlie Parkin announcing to the voters that Parkin “has aggressively cracked down on illegal drugs, prostitution, and other criminals.”

It is a violation of law to participate in any political activity of any kind while in uniform. But, even more egregious the officers wear uniform shirts that do not carry the Long Beach Police shoulder patch and their positioning in the photographs either blocks the LBPD logo on the car door or these identifiers were airbrushed out of the photograph. Either way, there is no mistaking that they represent themselves as police officers to the Long Beach electorate.

Wearing a different uniform shirt in order to circumvent the law only exacerbates the fraudulent motives of the officers and the POA and exposes the two candidates to the appearance of collusion to violate the law in order to enhance their political campaigns.

This entire matter has been turned over to the LBPD Internal Affairs Division to investigate so that the ultimate disciplinary authority, the city manager, can take appropriate action for violations of LBPD policy and the district attorney can determine the extent to which violations of the law should be prosecuted.

The practice by the POA to lure candidates into their scandalous web of endorsement, which includes video taped interviews, prior to election, that captures candidate promises of future backing and a refusal to share those videos with the electorate plants the seeds of corruption within City Hall and serves as the fountainhead of a culture of impunity within the LBPD rank and file.

Police officers can only police safely and effectively if they maintain the trust and cooperation of the community. The community’s trust and willingness to cooperate with the police is eroded when they discover that those who enforce their laws disrespect the value of being honest. What follows is an erosion of public trust, and after that policing becomes more difficult, less safe, and less effective. The public expects more from its police officers.

We must look to the city manager to do his job and exercise his chartered authority over the police department to insure a thorough and transparent investigation and to apply appropriate discipline against the offending police officers in spite of the fact that they may comprise the entire leadership of the POA union; whose influence and power within City Hall has become an abomination to a representative democracy.

Editor’s Note: Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.