The City of Long Beach’s Police Chief Jim McDonnell had a successful primary in the race for LA County Sheriff. He received support from many different organizations and groups. I was surprised that he received a lot of support from the African American community without his qualifications being questioned. Earlier this year, a statistic regarding the City of Long Beach came out that African Americans and Latinos get stopped more than other races, despite African Americans being approximately only 13% of the population.
What is even more disturbing is the unhappiness of African American officers on McDonnell’s department. The last African American officer to make it off of probation and through training was in 2007. He was later fired after he filed a discrimination complaint against multiple supervisors. Shockingly, one of the supervisors named in his complaint served as an internal affairs investigator on this officer’s case. After an unfair and biased investigation, the officer who filed the complaint was later terminated. Despite the numerous unfair investigation tactics and a multitude of conflicting evidence siding with the officer, Chief McDonnell signed off on his termination with little or no information about his case.
Over the past nine years and approximately six classes, several African American recruits entered the LBPD academy. Since 2005, only two African American officers from those classes remain working on the department. Additionally, there hasn’t been an African American female officer to graduate from the academy and make it through training since 2004. It appears that for statistical and hiring purposes, the LBPD is hiring and recruiting African Americans but later make it difficult for these officers to graduate from the academy or pass through training to remain on the department. A reoccurring cause for dismissing these African American recruits and officers in training is poor report writing skills. It can be noted that some of these African American recruits and officers with college degrees were accused of having report writing issues while many White recruits and officers with the lesser schooling of high school diplomas were able to meet the department requirements in report writing. The few that have made it through both the academy and training have been terminated unjustly at some point in their short careers. Currently, there are approximately forty African American officers on the department; of those, eight are females.
The discriminatory behavior flows into different branches of the department. For example, An African American female who had been working for over 20 years in Communications as a dispatcher was initially listed first on the promotion list after tests and interviews. Interestingly (and unnecessarily), the interview process was redone and she was now placed second on the list. After bringing up her discomfort regarding the promotion process, she was eventually told not to return to work with no real explanation. This situation occurred under Chief McDonnell.
Chief McDonnell stated during his campaign that former Sheriff Lee Baca was out of touch with his department. The above named instances demonstrate that either Chief McDonnell is also out of touch with his department or he is allowing unscrupulous practices. I admit Baca definitely had some issues in his reign as sheriff; hiring and promoting unqualified people is one example. But McDonnell is guilty of the exact same thing. Commander Don Wood of Violent Crimes was once an officer for Garden Grove PD and was terminated. Since coming to LBPD, Wood has been the center piece of several questionable IA cases on which he was the lead investigator. His faulty investigations have lead to terminated officers later being reinstated and multiple lawsuits. Despite this, Wood has been promoted twice within the span of 18 months. He has yet to be held accountable for any of his incompetent or shady investigations.
An African American lieutenant that was promoted around the same time as Wood has been since demoted for “performance issues”. In another instance just this past February, a Black officer read a racist e-mail that was sent to several brass members. Still, no investigation.
Why? The truth is that the City of Long Beach has been smart enough to put African Americans in strategic positions. These specific individuals have been willing to overlook the injustices on the department time and time again so they could assimilate into the racist culture. They are used as pawns to “investigate” other the complaints of other African American workers so that the department can deny racism as causation for any negative actions. Just to name a few,Long Beach’s EEO Sherriel Murry, Citizen Complaint Commissioner Anitra Dempsey and Sgt. Byron Blair are there to be the African American faces to cover up discrimination inside the department. Sgt. Blair has repeatedly been used in Internal Affairs investigations to discipline and fire other African American police officers. Sgt. Blair now works in Chief McDonnell’s office. The department needs to be asked when the last time an officer or supervisor was disciplined for discrimination or any race related issue. There are many instances that substantiate my claims. For more information about these incidents, research lawsuits against the Long Beach Police Department.
It’s time for the African American community to ask more questions about the candidate they don’t know about instead of blindly supporting him. This candidate they are supporting in overwhelming numbers is the very same candidate that as a police chief has not shown effective leadership and support for African Americans on his own department, let alone the community. It is important that we as a race stand together in unity, armed with education and information to stop this vicious cycle of blatant racism and unjust practices in our communities and in our police departments.
Concerned minority Long Beach resident