On Pins & Needles: Retiring Police Chief Told Officials Anaheim Could Face ‘More Civil Unrest’
Retiring Anaheim Police Chief John Welter warned public officials back in May he was “very concerned” high tensions between cops and residents in Leatrice-Wakefield could spark “more civil unrest.”
By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher
According to copies of several emails the Anaheim Investigator obtained through a California Public Records Act request, retiring Anaheim Police Chief John Welter told the Mayor and City Council back in May he was “very concerned” escalating tensions between cops and residents in the Leatrice-Wakefield neighborhood, a working-class Mexican community located about one mile Southeast of the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks, could lead to a confrontation where somebody “will eventually cross the line and get arrested,” sparking “more civil unrest.”
All of the emails in question, which were sent to Susan Ray, an administrator for the Office of the Mayor and City Council, on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, touch upon a “major event” which occurred in that neighborhood the prior evening where the Anaheim Police Department deployed 12 patrol units, including two Sergeants and the Watch Commander, to handle a crowd “watching and yelling” at officers responding to a “disturbance” call. This incident was considered so serious the city activated its “Emergency Virtual Operations Center,” something usually done when a natural disaster, plane crash, or act of terrorism occurs.
In an email Chief Welter shot off about the incident the very next day, he contemptuously dismissed the crowd as being a “group of criminal residents” who feel “they have the right and power to drive the police from neighborhoods.” He complained “[t]hese incidence [sic] of community interference and threats to police have been going on for months now. I predict that someone will eventually cross the line and get arrested. Depending on who, when and where that arrest occurs, it will very likely cause more civil unrest.” In closing, he added: “These actions will only get worse as the criminal element gain power.”
The text of Welter’s email is as follows:
Good afternoon, At the bottom of this email is information on police/community activities that has me very concerned. I covered this situation at our monthly Department Head meeting on May 1. These incidence [sic] of community interference and threats to police have been going on for months now. I predict that someone will eventually cross the line and get arrested. Depending on who, when and where that arrest occurs, it will very likely cause more civil unrest.
I’m bringing this to your attention because of the increasing examples of disrespect and insults to others by many in Anaheim. When a group of criminal residents feels as though they have the right and power to drive the police from neighborhoods, we will have a very difficult time protecting the law abiding residents from escalating violence.
There have been instances of resident interference that prevented officers from engaging in routine activities like impounding abandoned or stolen cars. On one occasion, the resident interference provided an opportunity for a potential criminal suspect to evade police detainment during an investigation.
These actions will only get worse as the criminal element gain power. The law abiding residents will be the true losers in the end. Police will be made to be the ‘murderers’, ‘assassins’, and ‘criminals.’ And certain members of our community will use all of this as a platform to drive their individual agendas.
Attached to Welter’s email was several messages he exchanged with Captain Jarret Young earlier that same day. At 7:38 a.m., the Captain blasted out an email to all high-ranking members of the Anaheim Police Department offering them a brief summary of what transpired in the Leatrice-Wakefield neighborhood the night before. The brouhaha first began when “[o]fficers were handling a call in the alley of Wakefield,” typed Young. It was there, he said, that they encountered “subject on a scooter or bike” who “began yelling and resisting” when they “attempted to detain” him:
Ref this call … Lt Hale called me last night. Officers were handling a call in the alley of Wakefield when they were confront [sic] by a 415 (Disturbance) subject on a scooter or bike. When the officers attempted to detain the 415 subject he began yelling and resisting. Several residents came out to the alley and a crowd gathered. Most of the crowd was anti-police. Officers called for code 3 assistance. [REDACTED] responded to the help call along with several other units.
The mother and family of Martin Hernandez were some of the people in the crowd. When they saw [REDACTED] they focused their attention on him.
Lt Hale got [REDACTED] out of there and attempted to calm down the family/crowd.
I think there was only one arrest made.
I sent a message to Lt. Trapp to have the CPT [Community Policing Team] officers to reach out to their contacts in the neighborhood today and make sure they correct any misinformation about what happened.
I will pull the call and the reports when I get in later this morning.
At around 8:58 a.m., Welter asked:
What time was this? Approximately [h]ow many cops and residents?
Young later replied:
The time was about 2250 hrs…. After the call for assistance 12 units total went on-scene. This includes two sergeants and the WC. [Watch Commander]
According to the report about 60 residents were out watching and yelling at the officers.
In the first email cited above, the City of Anaheim redacted the name of the officer whom Young stated was hurriedly whisked out of the Leatrice-Wakefield neighborhood by Lieutenant Frank Hale, claiming various provisions of the California Public Records Act enabled them to withhold information about his identity. But the Anaheim Investigator has subsequently spoken to a witness who was present in the back alley at the time the incident occurred, and they have alleged the officer was Dan Hurtado, a policeman who shot and killed Martin Angel Hernandez, a 21-year old resident of that community, on Tuesday, March 6, 2012.
The aforementioned correspondence offers proof of something the Anaheim Investigator has always suspected but was unable to confirm up until now: that Anna Drive was only one of many working-class Mexican communities where tensions between cops and residents had been running high for months on end. In Leatrice-Wakefield, hostility toward the police never simmered down after Hernandez‘ death. If anything, it intensified as local residents continued organizing marches, vigils, and protests. The police have literally been on pins and needles in these neighborhoods; they have had to proceed very cautiously to avoid stirring up more anger.
In the aftermath of a week of “civil unrest” that had roiled the City of Anaheim in late July 2012, Leatrice-Wakefield was specifically identified by the Anaheim Police Department as one of ten neighborhoods in Central and South Anaheim that were considered to be “hot zones.” According to a copy of a highly confidential 43-page “Incident Action Plan” that was leaked to the public via the internet, police officers assigned to patrol this community one weekend were ordered by their superiors to adhere to “civil unrest protocols” at all times, donning “all appropriate PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]” as needed.
In respect to Welter’s remarks about “criminal residents,” the Anaheim Investigator doesn’t lend much credence to them. Although we can’t dismiss the possibility persons engaged in illegal activities might invoke the cry of “police brutality” as a ploy to discourage cops from investigating their wrongdoing, it is our opinion his comments reflect those of a man bitter his last year as Anaheim’s top lawman was sullied by intense criticism. But this was a partly a product of his own doing: had Welter not been so lackadaisical toward the spate of fatal officer-involved shootings that occurred under his watch, things might have turned out differently.
[Below are electronic reproductions of some of the documents referred to in this article. Click on them to enlarge.]
John Welter to City Council Re: Advisory, Wednesday, May 1, 2013 (1 of 3)
John Welter to City Council Re: Advisory, Wednesday, May 1, 2013 (3 of 3)
John Welter to City Council Re: Advisory, Wednesday, May 1, 2013 (3 of 3)