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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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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- 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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I have used LDF in 3 OIS's. Each time I have been very well taken care of. I highly recommend [ representative ] and the PORAC system. Well done and thank you.
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[My Representative] truly is an exceptional attorney. He has always represented me with honesty and compassion. Well Done.
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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.
- Shandon Murphy San Mateo POA
Great work! Thank you so much!
- Dwayne Sue Oakland POA
[My representative was] great! She kept me informed and was very professional. She would be my choice if I should need her services in the future! (But I hope I won't) Thanks!
- Eric Olson Escondido POA
You guys did an amazing job! Thank you L.D.F. !
- Alvaro Ancheta Glendora POA
I felt I was represented in a thorough and professional manner.
- Alex Camarillo LASchool P A
[My Representative] did an excellent job with my case. He was very professional and kept me well informed throughout this case. Thank you for an awesome job.
- Larry Fitch Shasta Co DSA
My LDF rep was great, always returned my calls quickly and kept me up to date with what was going on with the case. Thank you.
- 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.
- Keith Stiver Hayward POA
[My representative] brings a superlative reputation, a comforting and confidence building demeanor and a clear expertise to the table. In particular I appreciate her philosophy that she gives her total undivided attention to her clients during their appointments.
- Christopher Wells Hollister POA
My rep was great.
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.
- Brendan Dolan Milwaukee PA
Everything went very smooth and they handled everything! Thank you.
- Jason Kearsing Elk Grove POA
Very happy with LDF.
- Oliver Sansen Concord POA
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!
- Jorge Garcia San Joaquin Co Corr Officers
No criticism to give. Very well.
- Russell Wise Alameda POA
- 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.
- Marco Flores Ventura County PPOA
Great program. I was lost until the attorneys explained the situation. I was very impressed and satisfied. Thanks LDF.
- Gilbert Garcia Oceanside POA
My attorney provided outstanding representation.
- 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.
- 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.
- Anthony Gregori Sonoma Co Jr College P O A
Excellent work and well worth it.
- Patricia Goss San Anselmo POA
[My Representative] is fabulous! Thanks for all the exra work she did 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.
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent representation. [My representative] is a great attorney.
- Clyde Williams San Diego Harbor POA
Thank you for all of the work related to my officer involved shooting case.
- Brendan Tinney UC Berkeley POA
[My representative] has represented me twice now and both times I have been very pleased with his thoroughness with handling my cases. I appreciate all what LDF and [my representative] have done for me.
- Brian Schopf Elk Grove POA
Keep up the good work.
- Allison Clark Twin Cities POA
[My representative] is the best attorney LDF has. Her attention to details, professionalism, and intelligence were off the charts. If I did not have her as a rep I would probably be out of a job. She is fair and she was honestly concerned about me, my family and my case.
- Paul Hernandez LA Gen Services POA Inc.
[My Representative] was very helpful in my situation and I can't thank him enough.
- Scott Cox Tulare Co DSA
I just want to say [my representative] did a great job! Thank you.
- Juan Pascua, Jr. San Diego Co DSA
Very helpful and very informative!
- Michael Shephard Suisun City POA
LDF is a very valuable resource. I would not do this job without it.
- James Hika Border Patrol Supervisors Association
They did a great job!
- Steven Moorehouse Redding POA
Thank you for your help.
- 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
- Anthony Russo Clark Co School District
The members of my Association are very pleased with the level of representation that PORAC has given to us. As the President I can not thank you all enough.
- 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.
- Carl Miller Clearlake POA
- Ron Ruddy Riverside POA
- 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].
- Cathleen Weldon Siskiyou Correctional POA
Very Comforting to have a knowledgeable person looking out for my best inerests. Thx!
- 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.
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent program, no one should be without this coverage.
- 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.
- Dan Lovelace Chandler LEA
Thank you for the funding and support. I would be in jail right now if it were not for LDF. I would not have had the funding to pay for the case. It was a tremendous help having [my representative] and his support team and the many experts supplied by LDF. I speak for myself, my family and other members of my association.
- Nicholas Belliveau Sebastopol POA
High quality service, proficient, well informed. Overall, very happy with experience.
- Chad Sakamoto National City POA
Although this incident was unfounded, it's still stressful. My LDF rep kept me informed and kept "work" at work.
- Patrick Davis Oakland POA
Very knowledgeable and thorough and would use the rep again.
- 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.
- 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!
- Ken Burbank Shasta Co DSA
[ My representative ] was professional, articulate and prepared, but most importantly he understood the emotional impact the investigation was having on me as a person and peace officer. I highly recommend [my representative].
- Chris Lyon Tulare Co DSA
Very thorough group of sharp/smart government concerned [attorneys]. They understood what was happening and briefed me on everything. I was very impressed.
- Albert Contreas Imperial Co. DSA
Thank you for your services.
- Daniel Smock Ventura County PPOA
Everything went smooth. I think the current system works very well.
- Jurell Snyder Oakland POA
My LDF representative had a power point presentation, which was extremely professional.
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- Miguel Suarez Monterey Co DSA
[My representative] was very knowledgeable and courteous. He knew his stuff, and I couldn't have asked for a better guy to be on my side on this matter. Thanks.
- Jaime Kim Oakland POA
My rep did a good job. First we met and he explained that there might be culpability on my part but not nothing close to the allegations. I appreciated his honesty as we have all done things that can be taken out of context so it was important he told me to realize that.