coronavirus pandemic

Long Beach Community Groups Say Police Chief Caused COVID-19 Superspreader Event

The organizations are asking that the Citizen Police Complaint Commission conduct a probe by issuing subpoenas for personnel lists and documents, administering sworn oaths for testimony from the rank and file, and to hold public hearings.

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Two Long Beach community groups on Monday filed a complaint with a police oversight board, alleging that the city's police department command staff allowed a dangerous COVID-19 superspreader event to take place last month.

The complaint filed with the Citizen Police Complaint Commission alleges that on Nov. 5, Police Chief Robert Luna, along with members of his senior staff, initiated a gathering of about 300 officers inside the Long Beach Convention Center that constituted a superspreader event because the attendees were not ordered to wear masks or safely distance themselves.

People of Long Beach and the Long Beach Reform Coalition allege that the gathering took place "without requiring compliance with Health Department mandates associated with social distancing and masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, thereby knowingly and willfully ordering a superspreader event to take place."

The community groups contend that not only was the assembly a violation of Health Department mandates, "but also a direct contradiction and demonstration of impunity that countered Mayor Robert Garcia's pleas on local and national television, email, press releases and Twitter alerts for all persons, including city employees to practice social distancing and wear masks."

The organizations are asking that the Citizen Police Complaint Commission conduct a probe by issuing subpoenas for personnel lists and documents, administering sworn oaths for testimony from the rank and file, and to hold public hearings "so as to prevent the LBPD or the city administration from covering up yet another wholesale violation of the public trust," according to the emailed letter signed by Carlos Ovalle, executive director of the community group People of Long Beach.

In a statement, police said a photo of the gathering was taken during a mobile field force training exercise. There are no positive COVID-19 cases associated with the training day, the department said.

“To effectively train our officers on large-scale mobilization tactics, these trainings gradually grew in size and scope, culminating in the training event on November 5th, which was the largest day of training,” the department said in the statement. “On this day, the Department's executive staff decided to attend the training event to address our officers and recognize and thank them for their time, dedication, and sacrifice during this election period. At the conclusion, a photograph was taken with officers wearing facial coverings. However, other photographs were taken where officers are not wearing facial coverings. 

“While we recognize the potential health and safety concerns that the photo raises regarding COVID-19. We have also verified no positive COVID-19 cases have been attributed to this specific training day. Lastly, we want to clarify that our City was still sufficiently staffed with other units to ensure that this training exercise did not impact our Department's ability to respond to calls for service."

The department reported 81 positive cases since the start of the year among its uniformed personnel. The figure includes police officers, uniformed airport personnel and park rangers. The number of positive cases reported since Nov. 1 is 49 uniformed personnel, the department said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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