THE Sunday REVIEW: The Long Beach Citizen Police Complaint Commission starts changes

“This officer’s confusing and conflicting series of commands along with his attempts to incite my husband by belittling him in front of his family, accusing him of being a thief could have easily ended in a fatality.”

–  Denise Watson, Public Comments to the CPCC 2/13/20


The Long Beach Citizens Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) will meet by teleconference on  Friday, June 26, 2020.    It will be the second time the CPCC has met since the Long Beach City Council in early June voted to review the Commission as a step towards possible reforms.

At the June 11th CPCC meeting, the Commission began the reform process with changes to how it has routinely handled cases the City Manager wants to close. Summaries of the changes enacted and proposed by the CPCC at their June 11th  meeting are presented below. 

Before those June 11th meeting summaries, the LB Tribune presents the transcript of the testimony typical of a Racial Profiling case that comes before the CPCC. 

The transcript of the February 13, 2020, Public Comment on CPCC Case 19-048

One hundred and two days before the murder of  George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers on May 25, 2020, the CPCC heard an extended Public Comment from Denise Watson about the Racial Profiling traffic stop complaint that Watson had filed, CPCC Case 19-048.

Watson’s comments before the Commission included the quoted comments at the top of today’s THE Sunday REVIEW. Those comments are about the lesson she learned from being pulled over by the LBPD. That lesson includes an understanding of how interactions between Back Americans and police could end with a fatality.  

The experience that Denise Watson describes in the transcript below took place in one of the most diverse and progressive cities in the most diverse and progressive state in America. That fact alone should make all of Long Beach understand  Denise Watson when she says “Enough is enough”.

*****

On Sunday, March 3, 2019, Denise Watson, her husband, and their 14-year-old granddaughter were headed to the movies when two Long Beach Police Officers pulled her family vehicle over.  CPCC Allegation 19-048 filed by Watson describes her family’s experience with the two LBPD officers.  Her case was eventually Sustained (confirmed) by both the Commissioners and the City Manager.


Eventually, Watson appears before the CPCC in February 2020 to describe her experiences with Racial Profiling and Stop-and-Frisk. She also shares her new understanding of how so many Black Americans end up being killed when they come in contact with the police.

The Denise Watson comments transcribed below can be accessed by the public audio of the meeting for those who wish to follow along. The audio includes the extended comments from Mrs. Watson and the eventual replies  from the CPCC staff and questions from CPCC Commissioners regarding the unfortunate events surrounding Mrs. Watson’s first attempts to speak before the Commission when her case was before them on January 9. 2020.

Following the transcript is a summary of the June 11th CPCC meeting that started reforms of the CPCC that is charge with LBPD oversight. The summary includes a link to the numerous Public Comments placed into the record (but not read out loud) from that meeting. Also presented is a summary of the issues presented throughout the meeting regarding needed Commission changes.  A link to the June 26th CPCC meeting Agenda and e-Comments are also provided. 

To link to the CPCC audio of the Watson comments: Click on the link below. Then go to the far-left agenda under the black screen and click on Public Comments:

Audio link FEB 13, 2020

Transcripts of Public Comments by Denise Watson:

 “My name is Denise Watson and I am here to express my concerns about a Racial Profiling complaint and a potential Brown Act violation by the Commission in handling of that complaint. Complaint number 19-048 which is for January 9th, 2020.

On March 3rd, 2019, while driving to the movies, my family and I were pulled over in racially Profiling by a peace officer representing the Long Beach Police Department.

My husband was driving and was approached by a white male officer who asked ‘Where are you coming from, where are you going, do you have any warrants, are you on probation, are you a felon?’.

His male Hispanic partner approached the passenger side where I was sitting and never said anything, but his intimidating stance made it clear that it was, that harm was imminent   if we made the wrong move or said the wrong thing. ..”

“…This male partner never said anything to us. But like I said his stance made it clear that  danger was imminent, harm was imminent, if we made the wrong move or said the wrong thing.

My Granddaughter, 14 years old at the time, sat in the back trembling in fear, traumatized, being  re-stimulated from past traumas.

My husband, both hands on the steering wheel asked the officer why he stopped us, And he responded ‘Because your registration is expired’.  My husband said “Don’t you see my tags?’.  The officer proceeded to accuse my husband of possibly stealing the tags.

The officer asked for his license, My husband explained he had to move his hand from the steering wheel to get it. Before he could get his license out of his wallet, the officer re-directed him to get the registration. He explained again that he needed to get the registration from a different compartment. He went to the compartment while searching for the registration, the officer stopped him, interrupted again and said ‘Give me your license’. So he [husband] stopped that task and went back to his wallet that was sitting on the dashboard to get his license. He pulls out his license and the officer takes it, goes to the back.  He comes back and says ‘OK you can go’.

I asked, no my husband asked him, ’Do you still need my registration?’…”

“…So my husband asked ‘Do you still want to see my registration?’ And his response was to look at it, glance at it, and hand it back to him and say ‘OK’.

I asked if I could ask a question. ‘Why were we stopped?’. And he said because your tags, your registration was expired. Which it wasn’t. They’re current, tags are current…”


” …And I asked for his name and he gave it to me.

We immediately left there and filed,  I filed a  complaint with the Long Beach Police Department, who in turn referred it to Internal Affairs and to your Commission.

This officer’s confusing and conflicting series of commands along with his attempts to incite my husband by belittling him in front of his family, accusing him of being a thief, could have easily ended in a fatality.

Fortunately, my husband had the maturity to answer each question and explain his every movement beforehand, so that it would not be viewed as a threat.

It was clear to me what was happening is, this is how officer shootings happen.  Because they give a lot of commands all at one time and you’ve got someone who is trying to figure it out. Trying to keep up with the commands that are being given and move, without explanation.

And then your told, or you hear, they had a gun, they thought they had a gun. I see how it happens.

It was also clear to me that we’re in the middle of a Stop-and-Frisk, potentially, except there was no reasonable cause for them to search us. There was no reason for them to seize anything, we didn’t have anything. We were stopped for registration that he claimed had expired dates on it.  All law enforcement stops should be able to respect, no matter what the situation is.

When making the complaint, I was informed the characters on our license plate were transposed and the results came back that it was a  Ford. We own one of the biggest Fords that Ford makes.  So I don’t care how many times you tell me it was a Ford. I am sure it wasn’t the same model of Ford we drive.

I also understand that when a plate is run, the information about the registered owner shows up. I doubt it was likely it showed up anything that looked like me and my husband. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. I don’t know.

On January 9th, 2020 I arrived at 5:05 to attend the Commission meeting that I received an invitation to speak at [concerning her complaint]. I was denied access into the building. I was told there was no meeting and physically blocked from entering the doors of this building.

Between 5:05 and 5:40 there were no signs of any meeting, CPCC commission meeting, in the room, I was instructed that the meetings were held. I checked the doors. The doors were all locked.  I looked for a cancellation notice. There was no cancellation notice.

I told my husband, ‘You know what this feels like? A cover-up. It feels like what’s going to happen is we’re going to get something in the mail that says ‘The meeting was held. We made a decision and no action was taken’.

I left. I got on the freeway. I called and left a message for Mr. Weithers [ CPCC Commission Manager]. The next morning I got a call from Mr. Weithers, Patrick Weithers, Patrick. And he said ‘Yes we had the meeting’.

So imagine what that felt like for me. It felt like the hugest cover-up for the Police Department and the City of Long Beach that I have ever seen. You know, I felt like my voice had been stolen. That it had been silenced, and nobody wanted to hear what I had to say. It felt like this was a cover-up and it’s not OK. It’s unacceptable. So I am going to show up because I was told it could not be put back on the agenda.  I could not know what the disposition was, what the ruling was in the case on January 9th and I had no voice of my own to come before you and speak and present the details of what happened in my situation.

A lot of things happened. The, I started to look up  Stop-and-Frisk details and the disparities of Black men and women and Black People who are being stopped by law enforcement, who represent a very small percent in theses various cities. Los Angeles. Los Angeles is one of the handouts I believe you all have from me. Los Angeles, if I’m not mistaken, those numbers were 9% of the population, but 28% of those stopped.  Something to that effect. In New York, I believe I read it is  83% was blacks who were stopped.

It has to stop. And it stops in my mind by electing officials who walk and talk the same language today when they are campaigning as they spoke before their campaign.  If they believe in Stop-and-Frisk before the campaign, but now that its time to run for an office, they change their mind, You better believe what they said the first time then.

We need to be educated. We need to be informed. We need to figure out who to vote for because the city’s responsibility is to take care of city business, part of that is law enforcement…”

“…I know that law enforcement can’t just sit and wait for the phone to ring. I know there’s something at work that they need to do. OK, go get some cold cases, but stop the Stop-and-Frisk cause Stop-and-Frisk is Racial Profiling. Any way you look at it, it is Profiling of some sort.  And enough is enough.

But it starts with the City Manager making a decision that is unacceptable, the behavior that, the conduct of that officer.  Even though the Allegations were sustained, I appreciate that because I wasn’t here to represent myself.

 But what happens now? You [CPCC] can’t recommend discipline. Only the City Manager can. What’s going to happen if they get training?  Are they just going to be the only one that gets training?  This is a nation-wide problem. Stop-and-Frisk and people being targeted and Profiled.

So it has to go beyond that. Stop-and-Frisk has to go away. It needs to disappear as far as I’m concerned, because it is basically teaching them to profile. 

What kind of training do they get?  What makes a difference?  What is going to make that stop? You can’t slap them on the wrist and say ‘OK I told you don’t do it again!’ and now it’s done…”

Watson, the CPCC, and the public will never know what action the LBPD took after Watson’s Case # 19-048 was “Sustained”.   Only the LBPD and City Manager know if the officers involved in the case had multiple Racial Profiling accusations or other discipline issues.  No one knows if those officers are still Racial Profiling.

CPCC votes for changes at June 11 meeting

At the June 11th CPCC meeting, the Commissioners voted to move all NFA (No Further Action) cases to the Closed Agenda from now on. In Closed Session the Commissioners will now review why the cases are being closed by the City Manager. The Commissioners may then resubmit the case.

It was the first meeting since CPCC Commissioner Porter Gilberg went public with his CPCC concerns at a Long Beach Black Lives Matter rally and march on June 5, 2020.

The No Further Action Consent Item vote came after a discussion initiated by Commissioner Gilberg on having the meeting’s 15 public comments read out loud for the audience listening online. While city staff confirmed there is no written policy on not reading the comments, the City Clerk representative Jonathan Nagayama noted that not reading them is how the City Council has been working under the COVID-19 procedures. 

The Comments were not read out loud and not available to the public until days after the meeting.

Below are some highlights from the comments and links to the full comments from the minutes of the CPCC June 11 meeting:

·         When I told a detective that my ex-partner had explained how he was going to kill me, the detective argued not to worry: all men have such fantasies

·         I don’t understand how amid the BLK protests, and state governments like NY allowing citizens access to previously redacted police records, members of the city of Long Beach government, including the city attorney, are moving to destroy police records. This is an apparent attempt to protect dirty cops

·         Another attempt need to be made regarding these complaints and those that are claimed to be due to lack of follow up. There is a serious problem when citizens are complaining regarding lack of a report being taken

·         The citizens of Long Beach deserve a police oversight committee that receives full facts and has the authority to press charges against and/or call for the resignation of officers engaged in illegal or unethical activity

·         HOW MUCH EVIDENCE DID YOU QUASH? THIS IS NO TIME FOR BUSINESS AS USUAL. WE NOW KNOW CPCC IS A TOOL OF THE MAYOR AND POA. DISBAND IT AND GET A REAL UNIT TOGETHER.

·         We also need to reform that the DA and City attorney should not be taking donations from the Police Union. We are hoping you will really implement change.

·         City Council: Increase the CPCC budget so that the commission no longer has to close the majority of its cases without conducting an investigation and can issue adequate public reports

·         I support the community plan from Long Beach Forward. Black and Brown communities, immigrant neighborhoods, and low-income families need your support

·         The community of LB deserves a clearer, publicly accessible path to holding trigger-happy police officers accountable. If the CPCC undergoes any “reforms,” we demand to know what they are. And if the reforms fall short of providing the means for community members to actually see justice?

·         As a Filipino American community leader in Long Beach I am horrified at how weak the CPCC is and how community residents on the panel have no oversight or real power to change or improve the police system and respond to community complaints.

·         The governing city charter provisions 1150-1155 need to be changed back to what was voted into law by LB citizens in the 90s. Those provisions/bylaws have been changed (not by vote) to circumvent the efficacy/purpose of the CPCC. The CPCC sees only what the Director sets before it, which is what the PD selectively gives to the Director, which CPCC investigators have generally rubber-stamped or sugar-coated regardless of the egregiousness of the conduct at issue

·         I served on this Commission for several years. I wholeheartedly support reform to increase TRANSPARENCY. The challenges of doing virtually all our work in Closed-Session is necessary for many reasons, but this SHOULD NOT preclude more information being shared with the public on what is decided

·         REFORM STARTS AT THE LBPD AND IN THE MAYOR’S OFFICE. THIS IS NO TIME FOR BUSINESS AS USUAL. YOUR CORRUPTION IS SHOWING AND THE WORLD IS WATCHING.

·         CITY MANAGER MUST NOT SIDE INEXTRICABLY WITH LBPD. THIS IS NO TIME FOR BUSINESS AS USUAL.

Link to full June 11 meeting’s citizen comments:

In the meeting’s City Managers Report about the CPCC cases referred from January 2020, the City Manager upheld 2 of the 5 cases referred by the Commission. The Commissioners do not know which two cases were Sustained and which three cases the City Manager rejected the Commission’s votes.  The reasons for the City Manager rejections are also unknown.

Link: City Manager Report

Numerous issues came up all during the meeting regarding the reform of the CPCC since the City Council called for a full report concerning the Commission on June 9, 2020. The issue of no written CPCC procedures and current CPCC practices were the main themes.

In response to an ongoing concern of Commissioner Porter since he has been on the CPCC, Assistant City Manager  Kevin Jackson addressed the issue of LBPD Ride-a-long’s being required to be a member of the CPCC.

Commissioner Gilberg’s concern is  that the Ride-a-long requirement eliminates any person convicted of a crime from participating on the CPCC because that person would be precluded from going on a LBPD Ride-a-long.  Jackson addressed Gilberg’s long-standing concern  by stating the Commission can simply do away with that requirement.

The City Staff presentation on CPCC reform changes focused on the positive accomplishments of the CPCC in its current form. The accomplishments focused on CPCC input on changing how the LBPD may change practice. An example that was given was a CPCC  concern on how handcuffs and zip ties were used by resulted in an LBPD policy change. The staff cited that in the current climate, they do not want to diminish the value of the CPCC.

The LB Tribune has categorized the CPCC issues brought up in the June 11th meeting with a summary. The full audio link to the June 11 meeting has been provided after the summaries:

Commission Lack of written Procedures. An ongoing theme was that the CPCC work is done without any written policies:

  • One “written” CPCC document is the Investigator Training Manuel. Despite Commission requests to see the manual, it has not been shared.
  • No policy on allowable redactions.
  • No policy on redactions of information that Commissioners are not allowed to see and who makes those redactions, CPCC Investigators, LBPD staff, or City Manager. How does the CPCC know those redactions were done in a legal fashion?
  • No timeline for when written policies for the CPCC will be completed.
  • No policy on requiring a LiveScan screening to participate on a City Commission and what on a LiveScan report will preclude a person from serving on the CPCC.
  • No policy of how witnesses and complainants are contacted. 

Commission Power. The CPCC has not been using the powers it was granted in the Charter. In addition, there were numerous suggestions on new powers it needs with any reform. 

  • The Charter granted Commission Subpoena power: no one was aware of it ever being used.
  • The Charter granted Commission Hearing power:  no one was aware of it ever being used.
  • The Charter granted Commission to Review City Staff performance is not being formally done.
  • The Charter granted Commission to have input on budget is not formally done.
  • Commissioners are not allowed to see police officers Compelled Statements.
  • Current commission By-Laws are not being followed.
  • The issues of Commissioner Maria Norvell being absent more than the allowed and not being referred to the City Council.

Lack of Transparency Issues

  • Despite Commission requests to see the Investigator Training Manuel the manual has not been shared.
  • No policy on allowable redactions and no way to know if the redactions are allowable
  • Policy on redactions of information that Commissioners are not allowed to see and clarity is needed on who makes those redactions- CPCC Investigators, LBPD staff, or City Manager. How does the CPCC know those redactions done legally?
  • Commissioners are not allowed to see police officers Compelled Statements which are many times used by the City Manager to 
  • Commissioners are often told that they legally cannot do something, but the staff is not able to cite the legal statue or case law
  • What the purpose of requiring a Live Scan screening to participate on a City Commission and what on a Live Scan report will preclude a person from serving on the CPCC.
  • Commissioners do not have access to the officer’s statements
  • Many cases before the CPCC have no Police Report
  • Commission does not know the outcome of CPCC Cases
  • Timed out cases (1 year) go to the Receive and File (NFA)
  • No ongoing way to track Commission received complaints and Police Internal Affairs received and forwarded to the CPCC complaints,

Link to the June 26th CPCC meeting agenda and comments:

June 26 CPCC Agenda

June 26 e-Comments link

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: