Amidst an environment of questionable practices by the administration of his department, including “gag orders” and the attempts to intimidate other witness officers, Manhattan police officer Robert Richmond took a stand for truth and justice. As a result, Richmond now has had his own rights trampled and is facing discipline for not keeping his mouth shut about evidence that may have helped keep an innocent police officer from going to jail.
The facts, as stated in the pleadings filed on Richmond’s behalf by this author are as follows: In August 2002, Manhattan Beach police officer Eric Eccles was facing criminal prosecution for using excessive force. (He would subsequently be acquitted of all charges.) I hired a private investigator to look into all aspects of the charges and the witnesses against him. Richmond supported Eccles and believed that he had an obligation to insure that Eccles received the fair trial to which he was entitled. He gave the private investigator a statement that included his personal knowledge about police department employees who were slated to be witnesses against Eccles.
The statement included his personal belief that Sergeant Robert Cochran had been caught lying in the past. Although Richmond had made an earlier accusation against Cochran about untruthfulness, he had never been interviewed by the department or told the outcome of the investigation. Unbeknownst to him, Cochran evidently had been found to have been untruthful and had been disciplined by the department. Eccles’ defense attorney purportedly used the information obtained from Richmond and other officers to support the filing of a “Pitchess Motion” seeking to review Cochran’s personnel file for impeachment evidence.
In September 2002, a local newspaper ran an article with information believed to have been obtained from a review of the Pitchess Motion identifying Cochran and noting the allegation that Cochran had been untruthful in the past. To retaliate, Cochran filed a personnel complaint against Richmond on October 5, 2002. Though it is believed that the department had knowledge of Richmond’s conduct prior to October 5, it waited until Cochran filed his complaint to initiate a personnel investigation against Richmond. According to police department documents, the investigation was to be completed by November 1, 2002.
Seven months later, on May 26, 2003, Richmond was first notified that an internal complaint had been filed against him and that he was to be interviewed on June 11. He was not told who the complainant was or when the complaint was filed. Without this information, Richmond and his representative could only guess the nature and scope of the investigation.
On January 2, 2004, over six months after his interrogation and nearly 15 months after the initial complaint was filed, Richmond was served with a notice that Chief of Police Klevesahl had determined that the charges against him were sustained and that he was to be disciplined.
When served, Richmond was not given all the documents reviewed and considered as part of the internal investigation and the decision to sustain the charges against him. Such was the chief’s usual practice. Richmond was not provided with a copy of his personnel file even though it was referenced in the notice of intent to discipline, or with a copy of the memorandum and reprimand for untruthfulness against Cochran, from which he was accused of releasing information, or Cochran’s 1996 evaluation in which the department contends confidential information from the reprimand is currently maintained, or a copy of a December 1, 2001, “Gag Order” issued by Klevesahl in an attempt to prevent officers from discussing the criminal prosecution of Eccles.
On January 15, 2004, Richmond and I met with Klevesahl for the pre-disciplinary hearing. In addition to responding to the charges, I raised the issue of the violations of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights (POBR) and asked that, in order to avoid litigation, Klevesahl comply with the law. On January 31, 2004, Klevesahl served his notice of disciplinary action and, knowing that legal action was imminent, ordered that the disciplinary action be implemented within three business days.
Fortunately, the Legal Defense Fund authorized me to seek immediate judicial intervention to enforce Richmond’s rights under AB301. On February 4, 2004, Judge Hight of the Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city of Manhattan Beach, the Manhattan Beach Police Department, and the chief of police, from moving forward with the proposed disciplinary action, and ordered the city to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be granted.
On February 18, after the city had the opportunity to submit evidence and argument in opposition to the preliminary injunction, the court granted my request for a preliminary injunction finding that it was likely that Richmond would prevail on his claim that the defendants violated Government Code §3303(c), by failing to properly notify him of the nature of the investigation; Government Code §3303(g), by failing to produced all documents obtained or reviewed during the internal investigation; and Government Code §3304(d) by failing to complete and serve a notice of proposed discipline within a one year period.
The most surprising part of this case is not the conduct of the police chief, since many Manhattan Beach officers have claimed that they have suffered for speaking out. What is amazing is that during oral argument at the hearing on the preliminary injunction, after the judge indicated his tentative ruling, the city attorney told him, on the record, that the city, police department and chief would do the exact same thing again, even with the court’s ruling. Clearly, they believe they are above the law and they are not going to allow a judge to tell them that they are wrong.
As the facts giving rise to the violations of the POBR have been admitted to, Richmond and his attorney are now proceeding to prove that this is a proper case for statutory damages and attorney fees. Richmond will, in order to prevent other officers from having to endure this type of ridiculous behavior, ask the judge to order the chief to change the manner in which the department conducts internal affairs investigations.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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- 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
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In 14 years I have never had to deal with an "IA." [My representative] was wonderful & put my mind at ease throughout the entire process. Thank you!
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- Christopher Connally Assn of LEA
To whom it may concern: Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the opportunity to join the PORAC Legal Defense Fund. This is a great benefit for our membership. During the past twelve months I was fortunate to have access to the Legal Defense Fund through MPCA. Earlier this year I was both surprise, and disappointed, when realized that I needed to provide counsel to mediate pending litigation. In accessing the Legal Defense Fund I found your staff to be very professional and reassuring. The staff felt that [my representative]., would be the best ft for the situation. I would like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for being represented by [Rick Barry]. Not only was he a good fit for the circumstances, at times it seemed as if he was the only attorney out of several involved that really had a grasp on the issues. Again, I would like to thank the PORAC staff, and know that I could not have been better served than by what was provided by [my representative].
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LDF is a valuable resource that no law enforcement officer should be without.
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Thank you for all of the work related to my officer involved shooting case.
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Thank you for your help.
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[I'm very satisfied and grateful] for LDF representing me. My attorney was professional, honest, and very knowledgeable of his profession. During these tough times my attorney would contact me on a regular basis to see how I was doing. This was obviously not part of his job description, but it kept me at ease and not losing my mind. I'm thankful that I was represented by LDF.
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Outstanding service. Thanks.
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They did a great job!
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Quick response, experienced and knowledgeable attorney which assisted in every step. [My representative] kept me apprised through the process. Thank you.
- William Burdette Newport Beach PMA
26 years and I have never needed a LDF rep, but the one time you need one, it was worth the fee’s paid.”
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Unfortunately, I have been placed in the position to use LDF several times in my career. Without their valued services, I would not be here to write this. I and my family thank you.
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Good service. Thank you.
- Jack Ellis Lompoc POA
An excellent plan. Very valuable to its members.
- Alfredo Hernandez El Centro POA
[My representative] was very attentive, [informative] and knowledgeable. He spoke very clearly and explained things in ways easy to understand. [He] made me feel like he truly cared about what was going on with this case and me. Not to mention [he] was funny and witty, traits which made him trustworthy and someone who would stand by me and other police officers.
- Michelle Foerder Pinole PEA
I thank God for the support of LDF and my attorney. I had a letter of intent to be fired and he helped me turn it all around. I still have my job and I'm so grateful.
- Linda Mendez Imperial Co Prob and Corr
I'm very pleased with the services offered by the LDF. I feel so fortunate to enjoy the benefits of having the membership. The services provided by LDF to its members is simply 110% professional, supportive, great!! LDF care for its members is reflected by the quality of Best Law Firm offered, simply the best!
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- Tigran Topadzhikyan Glendale POA
[My representative] is an excellent attorney. I would use him again. He communicates with his clients and is very competent.
- James Walker Yakima Police Patrolsman Assn
This attorney and her legal team were one of the best I’ve seen and interacted with. I was always in the loop and constantly updated on the case status. I would use (my attorney) again if the need came and recommend her to anyone.
- John M. Laser Oceanside POA
[My representative] always took my calls or returned them within hours. Put my mind at ease and kept me well informed. LDF is well served by this law firm!
- Anthony Zack Vernon POA
This was the first time in my twenty-five year career that I had to use the services of my legal defense fund. My LDF Representative was extremely courteous, informative and professional.. She addressed all of my concerns and answered all of my questions. She did an overall outstanding job of representing me and handling my case. I could not have been any more pleased or satisfied with the job she did! I would definitely request her to represent me in the future if I needed representation.
- Korey Lankow Assn Highway Patrol of Arizona
Outstanding service from bottom-to-top.
- Patricia Goss San Anselmo POA
[My Representative] is fabulous! Thanks for all the exra work she did for me!
- Joseph A. Henderson Merced POA
The firm I used was very valuable to my career and kept me updated as to status of the case. Thank you!
- Christopher M. Fuzie Modesto POA
I was very impressed with the speed at which the case was handled. Thank you!
- Cathleen Weldon Siskiyou Correctional POA
Very Comforting to have a knowledgeable person looking out for my best inerests. Thx!
- Keith Braden Los Angeles School Police Mgmt Assn
Great work, no complaints.
- 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.
- Phillip Flores Oxnard POA
My attorney was excellent. I would use her again.
- Scott King Ripon POA
[My representative] is the best LDF rep I have ever had. If I were to need an LDF rep again I would want it to be [my representative].
- Kip RIngen Lake Co DSA
My LDF rep kept me well informed concerning the progress of my case. I was extremely satisfied with the service I received. Thanks.
- Rodd N. Joseph Clearlake MMA
I appreciate the fact that my representative met with me in a social setting prior to the interview, during which time she learned the facts of the case. She was prepared for the interview. She seemed to have a genuine interest in my case.
- Joseph Barrett LA Airport POA
I was very well represented by a professional. I felt well represented and got great advice.
- Christopher Adams Modesto POA
Thank you for all your help!
- Roy Iler San Benito CO LEM
[My representative] always returned phone calls and let me know if he was contacted with information.
- Steven Moorehouse Redding POA
You guys are Great! Very professional and well informed. THANK YOU!
- Gina Reyes Broadmoor POA
[My representative] was wonderful! Even though my situation didn't end in my favor, he was very supportive, informative & patient. He always answered every email in a timely fashion and was very accessible. I appreciated everything he was able to do for me.
- Diana Drummey Coronado POA
I so appreciated my LDF rep - his kindness and understanding re my case during an embarrassing and uncomfortable time - he was so caring.
- RIchard Okeson Hesperia USD POA
I can't express how satisfying and comforting it was to have such a well qualified and pleasant attorney at my side. Thank you so much for everything you did for me, and if you can, please thank [ my representative] again for being there for me.
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.
- John Tinder Chino POA
Having an LDF attorney who is experienced, knowledgeable and professional is an outstanding quality. [My representative ]exhibit all of these qualities and more. They are outstanding and I would not entrust my career to anyone else!
- Caitlin Collins Tiburon POA
[My representative] made himself available 7 days a week understanding that those were my needs. He was very well informed and kept me on the right track and in the right frame of mind.
- Malcolm Norrington LA School PA
I am very pleased with LDF and would use and recommend them again and again and again.
- Daniel Smock Ventura County PPOA
Everything went smooth. I think the current system works very well.
- Juan Espinoza Fresno DSA
[My representative] did a great job. He is both thorough and well educated. I would use him again.
- Erik Kusmerz Lyon Co SEA
Amazing job, Thank you.
- Dennis W. Ostini Lake County DSA
[My Representative] was fantastic, knowledgeable, professional and easy to talk and work with. Even though the allegations lodged have not been resolved, [My Representative] continued to communicate with me, to offer his assistance.
- Noe Cordero San Diego POA
Thank you for your help. I feel very secure as you assisted me.
- Roman Fernandez Inglewood POA
My representatives were always well-prepared and organized for hearings and meetings. Their efforts, hard work and full support is truly appreciated.
- Kelly K. Roe San Joaquin Co Corr Officers
[My representative] did a fantastic job at returning my phone calls and keeping me informed of any and all information pertaining to my case. I would recommend him to anyone.
- Christopher Wells Hollister POA
My rep was great.
- 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.
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Excellent service everytime.
- Nicholas Belliveau Sebastopol POA
High quality service, proficient, well informed. Overall, very happy with experience.
- William DeWitt CPPA
Everything was awesome...could not be happier!
- Brian Markert Lakewood Police Indp Guild
I feel that I was very well represented by the LDF regarding a fatal officer involved shooting. Both attorneys assigned to assist me - our guild attorney plus a criminal defense attorney - were very aggressive and helpful. Their work was instrumental in helping me to navigate the criminal and internal investigations so that I could return to full duty status.
- Greg Gladson LA Airport POA
[My representative] was very professional and helpful. She kept me informed with my options and the direction of the investigation.
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Highly recommend this program for any LEO!
- Nestor Hernandez San Diego POA
This is a great program designed to protect LEO’s in need
- Carl Miller Clearlake POA
- Robin Gonzalez Yolo Co. DSA
[My representative was] very quick to respond, helpful and professional. Thank you!
- 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.
- Aaron Delgado Monterey POA
My representative called me back promptly and kept me informed. I had the impression she cared and was there to help.
- Ernest Marugg San Diego Deputy DA Association
The LDF responded immediately upon my request for counsel. LDF provided the best representative I could receive! When I called LDF for advice, I was given advice again immediately. Thank you LDF for your concern.