Tom Radzyminski, former White House Marine guard and highly decorated LAPD officer, and wife Kellene Brooks, also an LAPD officer, were tired of the rat race in the big city. In 1995, they lateralled to the Santa Maria Police Department in search of a better quality of life. While Radzyminski received stacks of commendations and awards from LAPD, including the Police Medal for Bravery for wresting a loaded handgun from a suicidal suspect, the cleaner air, cheaper housing and less stressful living along the Central Coast seemed like a dream come true. Radzyminski and Brooks settled into their patrol positions in Santa Maria, and to no one’s surprise excelled as they had in Los Angeles.
Then, one ill-fated p.m. shift during the evening of July 25, 1997, Radzyminski and a fellow officer became involved in an altercation with a resisting suspect who was attempting to dispose of illegal drugs. During the melee Radzyminski struck his head and shoulder on the pavement. He shook off his injuries and gave chase to the suspect in his unit, eventually apprehending him. During the altercation, an Explorer Scout in Radzyminski’s care also sustained minor injuries. Radzyminski went to Urgent Care with his Explorer. When asked by a doctor about his injuries, he said he was “O.K.”, in order to attend to his Explorer and finish his arrest report.
Later that shift, Radzyminski was told by his sergeant not to go out in the field except in the event of an officer safety issue due to his visible injuries. As fate would have it, at around 12:30 a.m. a call for assistance was broadcast on the radio. The officer involved was Kellene Brooks. Officers hearing the broadcast thought that she was getting physically accosted. Three officers, including Radzyminski, ran to their units. Radzyminski backed out of his parking spot, concentrating on the radio broadcast to learn of Brooks’ location. While doing so, his unit apparently made contact with a small mailbox, causing minor damage to the unit and negligible damage to the mailbox. Radzyminski was unaware of this slight collision. As Radzyminski began driving to the scene, the situation was broadcast as “Code 4″, so he returned to the station. When he emerged from his vehicle he viewed the damage to the unit with disbelief. He waited for his sergeant to return from his wife’s call and immediately reported the damage, accepting full responsibility as the officer in charge of the unit. After consulting with his sergeant, Radzyminski traced the route of his earlier call regarding the resisting suspect as he felt the damage may have occurred during this earlier call.
When their shifts were completed, Radzyminski and his wife departed for their annual vacation. Days later, a lieutenant found the obvious damage on and around the mailbox consisting of a paint transfer and some tail light fragments. Upon viewing the damage, the chief announced that “there must be more to this,” concluding that Radzyminski was somehow withholding information as to the cause of the damage despite his acceptance of responsibility. The chief had his staff look into the matter further. This preliminary inquiry consisted of a commander essentially telling Radzyminski that if he could “clear the matter up” no discipline would follow. Radzyminski was unable to do so because he simply did not know the cause of the damage. The commander sent Radzyminski to see the internal affairs lieutenant across the hall. The lieutenant activated a surreptitious micro-cassette recorder upon Radzyminski’s entry into the office. The lieutenant questioned Radzyminski without informing him that the was the subject of an investigation. Radzyminski then told the lieutenant what happened to the best of his recollection, but still could not identify exactly how the damage had occurred. Radzyminski was told that he must have struck the mailbox, and he immediately stated again that he would accept responsibility for the damage.
After a perfunctory investigation, which not surprisingly parroted the initial finding of the chief, Radzyminski was terminated for alleged dishonesty.
The City of Santa Maria then proceeded to deny Radzyminski unemployment benefits. In support of its position, the city provided a lengthy denunciation of Radzyminski set forth on letterhead from the city manager’s office. The administrative law judge hearing the matter issued a decision that questioned the city’s motives, and granted Radzyminski his full benefits. Howard Liberman of Silver, Hadden & Silver represented Radzyminski at that hearing.
Radzyminski’s battle with the City of Santa Maria was far from over. City manager Tim Ness was designated by the MOU between the police association and the city to hear Radzyminski’s appeal. However, Ness made it clear that he did not want to hear the case, and unilaterally chose a former member of law enforcement management inexperienced in such matters to preside over the matter. When Bill Hadden, counsel for Radzyminski, advised the city manager that the MOU was a negotiated agreement that could not be arbitrarily changed at the city manager’s whim, Ness still refused to revoke his selection. With the backing of the PORAC Legal Defense Fund, Hadden and Liberman then brought court action to prevent the city from choosing its own hearing officer in violation of the MOU. Furthermore, in light of the indication of bias by Ness stemming from the city’s response in the unemployment hearing and its belligerent insistence on being able to choose its own hearing officer, Radzyminski’s counsel asked that Ness be precluded from hearing the case, and that the parties be required to agree to an independent factfinder. A Superior Court judge ruled that Ness could not pick his own hearing officer, and required him to hear the case. However, the court refused to find that Ness was sufficiently biased so as to demand his recusal, as the City’s papers in the unemployment hearing were purportedly drafted by the assistant city manager on the city manager’s letterhead, which, the court said, failed to prove actual bias by Ness himself.
In a three day hearing held in March 1998, Ness predictably proceeded to uphold the decision of his chief of police. Immediately thereafter, Hadden, who represented Radzyminski at that hearing, filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate in Superior Court to overturn the city’s termination of Radzyminski.
Finally, on January 5, 2000, Radzyminski received the first impartial review of his termination. Superior Court Judge Zel Canter granted the Petition, citing specific unfair findings by Ness as the basis for rejecting the city’s decision. In his slanted analysis, Ness found Radzyminski to lack credibility for two preposterous reasons. First, he claimed that Radzyminski’s assertion that his lieutenant had violated Penal Code Section 632 by surreptitiously recording his internal affairs interview was “a lie.” Second, Ness alleged that Radzyminski’s statement to the doctor that he was “OK”, made in an effort to get back to work after he had been struck on the head, was a grievous act of dishonesty.
In exercising his independent judgment on the record of the proceedings, Judge Canter found those findings to have no merit. Radzyminski’s assertion that the lieutenant had violated Penal Code Section 632 was a legal conclusion he was entitled to make, and had nothing to do with dishonesty. Moreover, as was vigorously stated in oral argument at the hearing, Radzyminski’s decision to return to duty under difficult circumstances was no different than that of San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young fighting to get back into a game after being battered by defensive linemen. Judge Canter said, “That’s a good analogy because that’s exactly what was occurring. It’s the same thing.” The judge found that the city manager essentially had taken things out of context and “turned them on their heads.”
As a direct response to the manner in which Ness conducted Radzyminski’s hearing, the Santa Maria Police Officers’ Association, represented by Robert Wexler, of Silver, Hadden & Silver, negotiated a greatly improved disciplinary procedure calling for review by a neutral arbitrator for disciplinary actions in excess of a 40-hour suspension.
Radzyminski and his wife were elated by the decision, and are hopeful that their two year nightmare has finally come to an end. “Bill Hadden, Howard Liberman, and Rob Wexler were constantly fighting for me and our association members despite enormous obstacles. I am extremely grateful for the resources provided to them by the PORAC Legal Defense Fund. I also wish to thank my wonderful wife for her dedication and support throughout this ordeal.”
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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[My representative] has been in my corner for 28 years. I have been represented by this firm probably 6 times in my career from minor to major discipline cases with a great outcome for me. They're batting 100%
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- Marshall Henderson Vancouver Police Officers Guild
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[My Representative] was great! Thank you.
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Those who foolishly feel LDF is not a valuable resource, do so only because they have not yet needed legal representation.
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- Steven E. Lopez Santa Maria POA
Keep up the Good Work! Your service was extremely helpful to me. Thank you.
- 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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Thank you for all of the work related to my officer involved shooting case.
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Outstanding service from bottom-to-top.
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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.
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You guys are Great! Very professional and well informed. THANK YOU!
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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.
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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.
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Very well informed group.
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[ My representative ] is an awesome attorney.
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[My representative] is an excellent attorney. I would use him again. He communicates with his clients and is very competent.
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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.
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Excellent service, prompt and courteous.
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Keep up the great work.
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My representative was very helpful and informative.
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Thank you for your help. I feel very secure as you assisted me.
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- 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].
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They did a great job!
- Daniel Smock Ventura County PPOA
Everything went smooth. I think the current system works very well.
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Thank God for the L.D.F.
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Amazing job, Thank you.
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Keep up the good work.
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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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Don't go to work without LDF!
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My attorney provided outstanding representation.
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Can’t say enough. Both representatives that I had in 2016 were excellent. ( My attorney ) made himself available to me in late night hours, which made me feel comfortable and at ease. This program is essential to us in law enforcement.
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[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.
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- Linda Mendez Imperial Co Prob and Corr
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Although this incident was unfounded, it's still stressful. My LDF rep kept me informed and kept "work" at work.
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I have held leadership positions in our POA most of my career. Because of my role as President and Vice President I have been a target to management. I feel that if it were not for LDF I wouldn't have a job
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LDF was there when I needed them!! In this litigious world, it's nice to know LDF has GREAT lawyers on our side who look out for us!! [My Representative] is a great attorney and a person I would trust in any circumstance!!!
- Keith Braden Los Angeles School Police Mgmt Assn
Great work, no complaints.
- Nicholas Ward Antioch POA
[ Representative ] did a great job. My case was extremely complicated and difficult. She did a great job.
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LDF is a very valuable resource. I would not do this job without it.
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All the LDF representatives were very courteous and attentive with a punctual response to all of my concerns, inquiries and appointment scheduling. My representative was very informative about the legalities and kept in contact with me regularly. He was also very patient and straight forward. I would definitely want to use the LDF again and felt more confident through my proceedings because I had representation!
- Christopher M. Fuzie Modesto POA
I was very impressed with the speed at which the case was handled. Thank you!
- Wendy Morrow Chico Public Safety Association
I had never been through an I.A. in my 21 years. I was scared and ashamed and humiliated. ( My attorney ) was excellent. He helped me through one of the worst times of my life. Had great outcome and I am grateful.
- 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!
- Jonathan Smith San Diego D.A. Investigators
I couldn't be happier or more satisfied with my LDF Representative, the process and the outcome of my case.
- George Fierro El Monte POA
I am a firm believer that LDF serves an essential part in the assistance to protect an officer's POBR & in the integrity of an investigation or complaint. I highly recommend the law office of [My Represenative].
- 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.
- Nestor Hernandez San Diego POA
This is a great program designed to protect LEO’s in need
- Christine Farmer Tehama Co DSA
Mine was a fairly simple situation and I may not have needed representative. I am glad I called for help, it gave me peace of mind and reassurance.
- Ricky L. Hemphill Los Angeles School PA
[My representative] was an excellent lawyer.
- Robert Muelberg Denver PPA
I could not have had a better attorney. [My representative ] went way above and beyond his duties. I would not have had a better experience with my representative. I believe that the LDF is the single most important benefit a police officer could have!
- 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
- Steven Moorehouse Redding POA
Thank you for your help.
- 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!
- Patrick Beggs Fresno Co DSA
Good service. Thank you.
- Ronald J. Danison El Monte POA
The LDF is a tool available to me which I hope never goes away. It makes me feel that much more confident to do my job knowing LDF has my back when police work gets ugly. And it usually does..
- Anthony Alonzo South Gate POA
Very pleased with the way the process was explained to me. Received updated info faster than I expected. Overall a good experience in a not so good situation. Thanks to LDF.
- Anthony Gregori Sonoma Co Jr College P O A
Excellent work and well worth it.
- Steven Mayorga Ventura County DSA
I was well represented and very glad to have LDF. Thank you.
- 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.
- Sherri Coral Riverside Community College
He was very professional. I trusted him to defend and he did! I am very thankful he was here for me.
- 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.
- Robert Hartman Contra Costa Co DSA
Quick response, experienced and knowledgeable attorney which assisted in every step. [My representative] kept me apprised through the process. Thank you.
- 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.
- William DeWitt CPPA
Everything was awesome...could not be happier!
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent representation. [My representative] is a great attorney.
- Nick Bannister Phoenix LEA
I was extremely grateful for professional representation provided by ( my attorney ) during this extremely stressful situation
- 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.
- Scott Muir Tracy POA
Very satisfied with the service I was given.
- Jack Ellis Lompoc POA
An excellent plan. Very valuable to its members.
- 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].
- Emery Eccle Culver City POA
LDF is THE most important asset / resource that police officers have. "Thank you" to all involved and keep up the good work!
- 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.
- Gina Romines San Joaquin Co Corr POA
I couldn't have been more satisfied with the representative!
- David Heller Yolo County DSA
The charges against me, if sustained, would have likely ended my LE career. I was rightfully exonerated on all charges. I was well represented by [My Representative] and thank him for a job well done!!
- 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.
- Paul Spencer Santa Paula POA
[My Representative] was great!
- David Baker Placerville POA
My experience through dealing with this matter was horrific. Without the efforts of the LDF and more specifically [my representative], I would most certainly have fallen victim to a corrupt and unethical administration. The LDF has saved my career and brought me justice.
- 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.
- Eric White Emeryville POA
Very satisfied with the LDF services provided. Thank you.
- Shandon Murphy San Mateo POA
Great work! Thank you so much!
- 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.
- Cathleen Weldon Siskiyou Correctional POA
Very Comforting to have a knowledgeable person looking out for my best inerests. Thx!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stacey Bonilla San Mateo County DSA
[My Represenative] is an excellent attorney. He is very professional yet personable and I would definitely use him again. Thank you!
- Christopher Adams Modesto POA
Thank you for all your help!
- Kenneth S. Blonski East Bay Regional Parks PMA
I was very pleased with my representative.
- Eric Olson Escondido POA
You guys did an amazing job! Thank you L.D.F. !
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.
- Christopher Wells Hollister POA
My rep was great.
- Kenneth Nelson Plumas Co SA
Good job. Thank you! [My representative] does an outstanding job representing the employees and seems to be very intimidating to the [County Management]. We like it this way!
- 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.
- Rick Stephens Alpine CO DSA
My representative was very good. I highly recommend my lawyer to anyone.