Internal-affairs procedures, homelessness main topics of LBPD North Division community meeting

Lieutenant explains procedures LBPD undertakes in investigating complaints against officers

During+a+community+meeting+March+13%2C+Lt.+Darren+Lance+of+the+Long+Beach+Police+Department%E2%80%99s+Internal+Affairs+Division+discussed+how+investigations+into+complaints+against+officers+are+handled.+
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Internal-affairs procedures, homelessness main topics of LBPD North Division community meeting

During a community meeting March 13, Lt. Darren Lance of the Long Beach Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division discussed how investigations into complaints against officers are handled.

During a community meeting March 13, Lt. Darren Lance of the Long Beach Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division discussed how investigations into complaints against officers are handled.

Photos by Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune

During a community meeting March 13, Lt. Darren Lance of the Long Beach Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division discussed how investigations into complaints against officers are handled.

Photos by Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune

Photos by Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune

During a community meeting March 13, Lt. Darren Lance of the Long Beach Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division discussed how investigations into complaints against officers are handled.

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Those who feel compelled to file a complaint of misconduct against a police officer should expect to exercise patience, as the process of investigating such grievances is a multi-step and often lengthy procedure, according to Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) personnel during a March 13 community meeting at the North Division station.

Lt. Darren Lance of the department’s Internal Affairs Division explained that his office investigates allegations of police misconduct and violations of city policy and that those evaluations involve numerous stages and various entities, with several possible outcomes.

“We maintain records for complaints of misconduct, use of force, pursuits, forced entries, vehicle accidents, firearms discharges and in-custody deaths,” he said. “Every one of those things has a process that it goes through– a multi-level process of review.”

Lance said that after a complaint is made, there is a preliminary investigation, which leads to a bureau review. If it is determined that no official misconduct occurred, the department will still deem the incident as one to consider for future officer-instruction sessions, and the employee may be provided with further training and even counseling, Lance said.

However, if a formal investigation is conducted, the matter then heads to the chief of police, who will determine the disposition, which is classified as one of five: sustained, not sustained, unfounded, exonerated or other.

Despite whether there is a formal investigation or not, the case is always independently reviewed by the Citizens Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) and then the city manager, Lance said.

“A lot of what happens in those reviews is we notice training issues– things that we can do better,” he said. “It’s a dynamic job that we have, and there’s always something that we can do better.”

Lance explained that grievances against officers can be citizen or administrative complaints, the latter being the result of bureau evaluations, and he added that police officers are held to a high standard, whether they are on- or off-duty.

Attendees filled the community room of the Long Beach Police Department’s North Division on the evening of March 13 during a meeting with residents in which officers shared information and answered questions about procedures and crime statistics.

“Officers are expected to maintain their personal life in a way that represents the department in a good way,” he said. “A significant portion of administrative complaints happen when they’re off-duty.”

He said residents have several options for filing complaints: phone calls, emails, walk-ins, U.S. mail or by speaking directly to a supervisor or the CPCC. However, he said the preferred route is through a supervisor, because there is a direct interaction between the citizen and police staff.

“It’s a tough job that we have,” Lance said. “We don’t always do everything right. We have 900 employees, roughly– that’s civilian and sworn. Sometimes we make mistakes, so we would love the opportunity to fix it, and if a patrol supervisor comes out, they can interact with you and fix that problem.”

When the topic switched to addressing homelessness, North Patrol Division Commander Steve Lauricella said that the City’s approach is to try to break the cycle by getting to the root of the problem– be it drug addiction or mental-health issues– rather than arresting people for sleeping in a park or car, for example.

Lauricella explained that the LBPD now employs quality-of-life officers whose sole focus is to engage with and assist those experiencing homelessness by connecting them with resources.

During a March 13 community meeting, Art Trujillo, quality-of-life officer with the Long Beach Police Department’s North Division, discussed his and his colleagues’ efforts in helping those experiencing homelessness.

“Initially, the North Division didn’t have one,” Lauricella said, explaining that Patrol Resource Officer Cory Strang had been pulling “double duty” in attempting to meet the needs of the community at-large, as well as those who are without permanent homes. “Well, this last budget cycle, your elected officials actually pushed through and got a quality-of-life officer up here.”

He then introduced Art Trujillo, the new quality-of-life officer for the North Division, who discussed his and his colleagues’ efforts in helping those who are experiencing homelessness.

Trujillo said he makes contact with homeless individuals and tries to find out their stories, which are all unique.

“Everybody has a different story,” he said. “Everybody needs different services.”

He explained that, after an individual is found a place to stay for the night– in the winter shelter or a hotel, for example– they are then taken to the Multi-Service Center, where they receive help from social workers, the Long Beach Rescue Mission and Goodwill, which can provide assistance with job-readiness.

“[Goodwill] will teach them life skills, as far as building résumés [and] budgeting,” he said. “They don’t know how to do a résumé. They don’t have anything to put on a résumé, some people, so they go to Goodwill and they work there for a little bit.”

He also said the Department of Social Services will provide “general relief,” as well as helping with medical services and applying for food stamps.

In speaking about crime statistics, Lauricella said the primary challenge lately appears to be garage burglaries. He encouraged residents to better secure the locks on their garages, not leave them open and talk to neighbors about being aware of suspicious individuals in the neighborhood.

He also said there has been a slight uptick in violent crime, with two murders, but one appears to have occurred in Paramount and another was a family dispute.