On August 21, 2004, Officer Edward Rivers, Jr., by invitation, attended a 21st birthday party for the sister of an East Palo Alto Police Department Explorer Scout Eddi Tapia-Torres in East Palo Alto. Prior to that night, Rivers had been an East Palo Alto Police Officer for six years and obtained the status of a field training officer, acting watch commander, warrant entry team member, K-9 officer and recruit training officer for the San Mateo County Police Academy (A position approved by all the Chiefs of Police for San Mateo County). He also had been a resident of the city of East Palo Alto for three years.
Upon arriving at the party, he realized he knew virtually no one there and called his fellow officer, Johnny Taflinger, Jr., to see if he would come over and keep him company at the party. Taflinger agreed, and Rivers was driven by Tapia-Torres to pick up Taflinger. On returning to the party, Rivers had a couple of shots of tequila and about half a beer by the time the party was winding down. A civilian couple (the Barrons) offered to take Rivers and Taflinger, as well as Tapia-Torres and his friend “Juan”, to a nearby 7-11 to pick up more beer and cigarettes. As the vehicle, driven by Mrs. Barron began to leave the parking lot of the 7-11 heading back to the party, the vehicle was approached by a drug user and dealer named Calvin Brooks. Brooks was known by Rivers and Taflinger before that night, but due to his dress (hooded shirt) was not recognized by them. Brooks offered to sell Rivers some crack cocaine but was too far from the vehicle for Rivers to take any enforcement action. Rivers cajoled Brooks into getting closer to the vehicle, and when Brooks did, Rivers reached out and grabbed Brooks by the hand in which Brooks was holding numerous twists of rock crack cocaine. Rivers announced “I am a cop” and Brooks struggled, breaking free and running away.
Rivers, angry that someone was trying to sell him narcotics in his neighborhood while he was off-duty, jumped out of the vehicle and gave chase. Taflinger, in order to assist Rivers with the apprehension of Brooks, and to provide him additional safety, followed immediately behind Rivers. Brooks began a zigzag pattern of running back and forth across this dark tree-lined street in order to avoid Rivers, and Rivers, not watching where he was going hit a tree, and fell down. Taflinger, picked up Rivers and placed him back in the Barrons’ vehicle which had now pulled up to their location, and they all left and returned to the party.
Neither Rivers nor Taflinger called for a supervisor to come to the scene, notified a supervisor, nor wrote any reports about the incident, since neither of them had recognized Calvin Brooks, nor had they caught a suspect nor recovered any drugs. In East Palo Alto it is not unusual for unidentified suspects to be chased by officers only to loose the suspect over the fences or in the yards. Under those circumstances (like here) no reports are written. The department remains critical of Rivers and Taflinger, however, for not doing off-duty, what they would not have done even if on duty.
David Carson of the East Palo Police Department, a long time critic of both Rivers and Taflinger, claimed that Rivers had made statements to him (unrecorded) claiming responsibility for, “beating up a crack head”, and claimed these statements were also made in Rivers presence by Tapia-Torres (also unrecorded). Carson went to the District Attorney’s Office in San Mateo County and reported these alleged misdeeds after finding Brooks and convincing Brooks that he had been the victim of an assault. The district attorney’s officer provided Carson with a digital recorder with which he surreptitiously tape recorded Rivers in an attempt to get him to admit culpability for the assault. Rivers, from day one, has always acknowledged that he chased Brooks, but always indicated that he hit a tree and fell down never catching Brooks. While being surreptitiously taped by Carson, Rivers said nothing different than he had always said i.e., he hit a tree and fell down, never catching Brooks. Nevertheless, the District Attorney’s Office told Brooks that they believed he was the victim of an assault and didn’t care about his attempted drug sales. They then took the case to the grand jury, which indicted Rivers, Taflinger and Tapia-Torres in February 2005. They were all indicted for violations of Penal Code Section 149 (assault under the code of authority), 245(a)(1)(assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury), and misdemeanor Penal Code Section 242(simple battery). Even a conviction for simple battery would have prohibited Rivers and Taflinger from carrying a gun for 10 years and, therefore, would have ended their careers.
Brooks, who claimed at trial that he had been caught by anywhere from two-to-six persons (depending on which statement he gave to whom), testified at the criminal trial of Rivers and Taflinger that he was “beat to a bloody pulp” by Rivers and others from the vehicle he was traveling in. Brooks presented himself to the Stanford Hospital Emergency Room 14 hours after the alleged assault and claimed that unknown persons had assaulted him. He complained of being kicked on the right side, but neither the triage nurse, the registered nurse, nor any doctor found any scratches, bumps, bruises or visible injuries of any kind. Despite that, the Emergency Department doctor diagnosed Brooks as having a right rib fracture (unspecified), despite an X-ray that revealed no fracture at all.
Criminal trial for Rivers and Taflinger (Tapia-Torres case was severed out by the district attorney to be tried later) began on March 6, 2006 and ended after less than 3 hours of jury deliberation on April 25, 2006 with verdicts of not guilty on the P.C. Section 245(a)(1) and 242. The court, at the conclusion of the prosecution’s case-in-chief earlier, dismissed the Penal Code Section 149 charge on motion of the defense. The prosecution’s “star” witnesses were Calvin Brooks (I was only allowed to impeach him with seven of his felony convictions) and Carson (who admitted lying in two separate Internal Affairs’ investigations in 2003). Carson’s testimony about alleged statements made by Rivers to him, and about statements allegedly made by Tapia-Torres in front of Rivers, were not believed by the jury.
Despite the quick not guilty verdicts, the city of East Palo Alto is continuing with the termination proceedings against Rivers and Taflinger, and the arbitration in those matters is scheduled for October 2006. It would appear, based on the city’s determination to terminate these officers, that if you are a police officer in East Palo Alto and you see a crime being committed while you are off-duty, run, don’t walk, away if you are expecting support from your department, unless you have very specific definite policies on off-duty enforcement activities. All police officer organizations would be well advised to immediately review your off-duty enforcement policies and develop a clear understanding with management on these issues.
It is obvious that both officers Rivers and Taflinger could not have presented a successful defense in the criminal case without the continued support of the Legal Defense Fund. This writer represented Officer Rivers, and Craig Brown of San Jose, CA, represented Officer Taflinger. Counsel, the officers and their families all gratefully acknowledged this continued support.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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Everything was great!
- Adam Laird Eureka POA
Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund, This email has been weighing on my heart and should have been sent a long time ago. However, time seems to move fast even though your life has been put on hold. I have been on administrative leave since December of 2012. In April of 2013, I was arrested for the performance of my duties. Since the administrative side this case has not been resolved, I won't be getting into specific details regarding my case. However, I will say that I never thought that my life would turned upside down by doing the job that I love, and doing it in a way that I had been trained. I have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years, and I have been paying my monthly dues all along. I never really understood how important paying dues might be for me, I just thought it was the "cost of business". After being arrested, I understood the real worth of that investment. Because of politics, my case was given the "full court press". On January 3rd of 2014, the case against me was dismissed. It took no less than 5 experts to convince the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office to request dismissal. The time, effort, and money that this case cost couldn't have been endured by me as the sole provider of a family of four. LDF was there, big time. The panel attorney's under LDF were the best in the business. In the uncertain time during the criminal process, I couldn't have imagined how much help they could be. What a relief to know that LDF had my back. I am used to defending those who can't defend themselves. That's my job. When I was defenseless, LDF and the attorneys assigned to my case were my advocates and defenders. I thank you. My criminal attorney said it best at the conclusion of my criminal case: "Adam and his family are thankful that they can now move forward. The evidence showing Sgt. Laird was innocent was overwhelming. The expert EPD hired said that the suspect was rising up when Sgt. Laird pushed him back to the ground. The two experts that the DA’s office hired said that the force was reasonable and appropriate. The defensive tactics instructor who trained Adam said he acted consistent with his training in apprehending a high risk suspect in a dangerous situation. In total, five separate police practices experts reviewed the case and unanimously said Sgt. Laird acted appropriately". "It is hard to imagine what it must be like to risk your life apprehending a known gang member only to be charged with using excessive force when the suspect stated that he did not even feel the contact at issue. It is simply bizarre that Sgt. Laird was ever charged with a crime". Thank you. My family and I will forever be grateful for your service, Sergeant Adam Laird
- Scot Hicks Humbolt County DSO
My experience was made much less stressful thanks to the LDF representation.
- Derwin Longmire Oakland POA
Outstanding [law firm] - incredible firm. And, LDF was easy to work and correspond with.
- Katherine Comesana Mountain View POA
Hope to never in a situation again, however, glad to know that LDF is there to help.
- Cherie Rye Lyon Co SEA
I am very happy with the service I received from LDF. I am grateful that our association includes LDF as part of our dues.
- Joe Charvez Santa Clara Co DSA
I could not be happier with the interest, work put into my case, and assistance from [my representative]. Thanks !!
- Martha Tschetter Carson City Sheriffs PA
The LDF process was painless and I was able to get immediate representation in an urgent time of need. Thank you LDF
- Billy Aldridge Chico POA
[My representative] was awesome! He provided an excellent explanation of the process and was very professional. This was my first IA in 11 years of LE and [my representative] did a great job of reassuring me that I had nothing to worry about. Thank you so much for all your help.
- Jon Seabron Oceanside POA
[My Representative] was the best and if I ever need to call al lawyer again for anything, I'll be calling her.
- Andrew Hill Statewide University PA
I have used this law firm for union related business for the last several years. It was a no brainer to call them for LDF.
- Richard Salcido Brea PA
LDF is a great organization that not only helps their clients but many of those around them such as coworkers and family members.
- Dan McDow San Luis Obispo POA
[My representative] is the poster face representative of the greatest attorney (representative) that anyone could possibly ask for. She gets a 12 out of 10 star rating. Nobody works harder.
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- Gerhard Wallace Santa Clara Co DSA
I think that [my representative] did a great job in presenting my case. I would recommend her to any deputy (officer) facing disciplinary action. My case was minor compared to other cases but [she] still did a professional job.
- Steven Curtiss Shasta Co DSA
This was my first need for LDF support and I was very happy with the level of service. Thank you.
- Jorge Garcia San Joaquin Co Corr Officers
No criticism to give. Very well.
- Kim Prout Upland Firefighters Assoc
It was great comfort to know somebody would be there for me in this matter. I was able to finally sleep @ night & wake up with confidence that I would be ok. Thanks.
- Scott Muir Tracy POA
Very satisfied with the service I was given.
- Michael Kan Palo Alto POA
I have always been and will continue to be a strong supporter of LDF and would not work as a police officer without it. I am extremely happy with the service I have received both from LDF and [my representative].
- Patricia Goss San Anselmo POA
[My Representative] is fabulous! Thanks for all the exra work she did for me!
- Robyn Delaney Mono County PSOA
[My Representative] truly is an exceptional attorney. He has always represented me with honesty and compassion. Well Done.
- Tyler Robins Pasadena City College POA
At a time when no one cares about you it's nice to have someone on your side who does. (My attorney ) made a stressful six months a lot more tolerable.
- Omar Daza-Quiroz Oakland POA
I have had (2) two cases in which LDF represented me. Both lawyers were exceptionally professional, intelligent and caring for me. They were friendly and very helpful.
- Patrick Davis Oakland POA
Very knowledgeable and thorough and would use the rep again.
- Yvonne Heuston ERS/SPPOA Supervisors
My representative was outstanding and knew what to lookout for and how to handle situations as they appeared. He told me what to expect and how he proposed to handle the hurdles. Just telling what to expect helped put me at ease as the situation was so foreign to me, and intimidating.
- Sean Tinney Berkeley PA
[My representative] was very attentive to my case and thorough with his investigation. I would request [him] again in the future.
- Todd Costa Santa Clara Co DSA
This was my first Internal Affairs investigation, my lawyer walked me through every step and answered all of my questions, without my lawyer's advice, I would have been lost throughout the investigation and a complete disadvantage against my department.
- Andrea Salas Sonoma County DSA
[My Representative] was great! Thank you.
- Roy Iler San Benito CO LEM
[My representative] always returned phone calls and let me know if he was contacted with information.
- Carlos Gonzalez Oakland POA
Very well informed group.
- Robert Mickschl SAN DIEGO HARBOR P O A
From my initial call to LDF, to my "Thank You" email to (my attorney ) I had the best representation I could have hoped for. The "800" number call receptionists were very professional & understanding. (My Attorney's) office & staff kept me informed & updated. I am forever thankful to LDF & exceptional representation by ( my attorney ) & staff.
- Tia Dixione Inglewood POA
My representative was very helpful and informative.
- Melissa Geraci Oakland POA
This is my 1st time using LDF and was very pleased with the service I got. [My representative] was so friendly & always returned my calls & even called to update me without provocation.
- Melvarene Hayes LA Airport POA
They were there when I needed them and my whole case was handled on the phone. I met my representative after my case closed and he was at our union meeting when I had the pleasure to meet him and thank him in person.
- Shaun Luciano LA School PA
LDF assisted by taking a stressful situation and calmed it down by thoroughly explaining the entire process. It was nice to know that I had an ally when I was sure that I was alone.
- Evelyn Hooks Shasta CO PPOA
Thank God for the L.D.F.
- Katie Angermiller Tuolumne Co DSA
I was very satisfied with the work the LDF performed. The lawyers and clerical staff at [law firm] were all very kind, professional and they always assisted me when I called and never made me feel like I was a burden. Thank you LDF!
- Christopher Delaney Upland POA
Your rep was very personal. Even though my case involved something minor, your rep made me [feel] my case was his most important. I am very satisfied with my LDF team.
- Christopher M. Fuzie Modesto POA
I was very impressed with the speed at which the case was handled. Thank you!
- Robert Curato Anderson POA
He did a great job for me!!! He always returned my phone calls within 24-hours. He showed an interest in my case and we were able to get the issue resolved in less than 45 minutes. Thank you for being there when I needed the legal assistance.
- Rachael Van Sloten Oakland POA
LDF is absolutely essential to help make a system that is somewhat broken work more effectively. [My Representative] is excellent and takes a great deal of time to lisen and represent.
- Albert Contreas Imperial Co. DSA
Thank you for your services.
- Micheal Chad Heiser Santa Rosa POA
LDF is a valuable resource that no law enforcement officer should be without.
- Scott Hamilton San Bernardino Co SEBA
Don't go to work without LDF!
- Grace Castro AFGE Local 2455 – Laredo, TX
My representative was very kind and showed he cared when explaining what my legal rights were when dealing with an internal investigation.
- Stephanie Haas Lyon Co SEA
When I first contacted LDF re: my case I was unsure of how well/poor I'd actually be represented. I was impressed beyond belief. From the timely responses from my attorney, his knowledge in my case, advising me what my rights were and where I stood. I felt like I was genuinely being protected from unwarranted and unfounded accusations and believe, as long as I am in the right, I have someone fighting for me. Thank you, Thank you.
- Scott Cox Tulare Co DSA
I just want to say [my representative] did a great job! Thank you.