Anaheim Investigator

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A Conflict of Interest: Cop-Funded OC Human Relations Wanted to Run Police Oversight Committees

Anaheim Police Human Relations Patch

Email reveals that Rusty Kennedy, Executive Director of OC Human Relations, quietly lobbied Anaheim Police Chief John Welter for a chance to run that city’s proposed police oversight committee.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

According to an email the Anaheim Investigator obtained from the City of Anaheim through a California Public Records Act request, Rusty Kennedy, Executive Director of OC Human Relations, quietly lobbied police chiefs in Anaheim and Fullerton last year to have his county-sanctioned non-profit develop “some type of Civilian Review Board (or alternative) process” that it could operate “in addition to our Police Community Reconciliation and Crisis Assistance programs on contract” with both law enforcement agencies.

Kennedy’s pitch to run proposed police oversight committees was included in a message sent to Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz, then acting-Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, and Anaheim Police Chief John Welter on Tuesday, October 2, 2012. In it, Kennedy notified them that he was withdrawing an earlier plea that they help OC Human Relations pay registration fees for an upcoming conference being organized by the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.

The text of Kennedy’s email is as follows:

John, Dan and Joe

Please disregard my request for assistance with registration. We went ahead and paid registration for this important conference. Alison Edwards, Deputy Director, and member of the APD Chief’s Advisory, and James Armendaris, Police Community Reconciliation Coordinator and Tustin Chief’s Advisory Committee member will be attending from OC Human Relations.

I am envisioning developing some type of Civilian Review Board (or alternative) process that we could offer in addition to our Police Community Reconciliation and Crisis Assistance Programs on contract with Fullerton and/or Anaheim, IF [sic] you are interested going forward.

rusty

A few minutes after receiving Kennedy’s email, Chief Welter responded, copying his reply to Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and City Manager Bob Wingenroth:

Thanks Rusty. I really can’t say what I’m interested in. The Mayor has come out in the media on wanting a CRB without conferring with me. I have no idea who he is talking to or working with on this issue.

I wanted to wait until I attend this conference on citizen oversight before discussing the need and type of CRB with others.

The existence of this email is quite revealing not only because it suggests Kennedy was pressuring city officials to have OC Human Relations run their proposed police oversight committees, but it completely contradicts a claim he made in a “fact sheet” disseminated to Los Amigos of Orange County on March 22nd. At the time, Kennedy wrote his non-profit had only “offered to consult with city and police and community on the creation of this type of organization,” and nothing more–an outright lie.

In addition, this email, along with other documents in the possession of the Anaheim Investigator, strongly hint what Welter and Wingenroth were looking for in the “type” of police oversight committee they sought for the City of Anaheim: a weak, ineffective body that would do little, if anything, to keep abusive police officers in check. That both men–specifically Wingenroth–wanted Kennedy’s non-profit, a paid contractor for the Anaheim Police Department, to be involved, is somewhat indicative of that.

For example, as we reported back in March:

Financial records from the City of Anaheim show that since July 2006, OC Human Relations has received $67,955 from the Anaheim Police Department. Of that amount, $22,251, or 33% of the entire total, was disbursed between November 2011 and September 2012 alone. Several invoices and check request forms show even the monies the city uses to pay yearly dues to OC Human Relations comes out of the police budget, not the general fund. All payments were approved by Welter.

In April, the Anaheim Investigator also published an eye-opening email which exposed the very close ties that existed between Welter and Kennedy, pointing out the fact that in November 2012, the latter personally invited the Police Chief to attend a “special reception” at the home of a wealthy Laguna Beach donor who funnels tens of thousands of dollars each year into OC Human Relations.

Given there is no lack of evidence showing OC Human Relations is financially dependent on support from law enforcement to do it’s “work”–a clear conflict of interest that Kennedy repeatedly fails to disclose in his dealings with the general public–how can it be expected to be fair and impartial in handling complaints about police misconduct if it is assigned the task of operating a police oversight committee?

The untrustworthiness of OC Human Relations has already been well-documented in the case of Anna Drive, where Kennedy inappropriately forwarded information gleaned from area residents to the Anaheim Police Department without their permission. Mediator ethics dictate that any sharing of information, even if it isn’t “confidential,” must be done with the consent of the affected parties.

At this time, it is unclear as to what’s going on with the proposed police oversight committee here in Anaheim. Recently, there has been a change of leadership in city government. Welter and Wingenroth, both strong allies of Kennedy, have since retired or moved onAlthough it’s premature to say OC Human Relations has “dropped the ball” on this matter, the Anaheim Investigator will continue to closely monitor the latest developments.

[Below is an electronic reproduction of the email referred to in this article.]

OC Human Relations Re Civilian Police Review Conference 10-2-12

Email to Felz, Hughes, and Welter from Kennedy re: “Civilian Review Police Conference,” Tuesday, October 2, 2012 (1 of 1)

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Lapdog for Law Enforcement: Emails Reveal OC Human Relations Gathered Info From Anna Drive Residents And Forwarded It To Anaheim Police Chief John Welter

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

According to copies of emails the Anaheim Investigator obtained last year from the City of Anaheim under provisions of the California Public Records Act, OC Human Relations, a county-sanctioned non-profit agency involved in issues ranging from dispute mediation to combating hate crimes, quickly dispatched a team of two persons to canvass the working-class Mexican neighborhood of Anna Drive in the aftermath of “Operation Halo,” a law enforcement operation which reportedly targeted a local “street gang” whose members were alleged to be engaged in drug trafficking, murder, and other offenses. Although on the surface, the canvassers’ activities appear to be relatively harmless, most of the information they gleaned from Anna Drive residents–some of it apparently quite sensitive–was immediately relayed to Anaheim Police Chief John Welter by Rusty Kennedy, Executive Director of OC Human Relations.

The emails in question, all written by Kennedy, state that canvassers Edgar Medina and Joyce Sanchez spent several hours knocking on doors and talking with Anna Drive residents during the morning of Friday, August 10, 2012–not long after dozens of Anaheim Police, FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm agents swept through the neighborhood, making a number of arrests.

In one email entitled, “Briefing from Anna Dr and Neighborhood,” Kennedy boasts to Chief Welter his canvassers “made contact with at least 25 families including those who had family members arrested. They assisted them to understand the process.” Among the information they collected, he writes, was that “Some associates of Manuel Diaz suggested that the raid was retaliation for the demonstrations and trash burning and rock throwing.” Kennedy warns Welter “Some of the youth might be more problematic tonight. Possibly lighting trash fires or blocking streets is possible.” In closing, he says “We are not sure how to manage potentially explosive gatherings in the neighborhood tonight and through the weekend.”

“I think the information you’re providing is very valuable,” Welter wrote back in response. “Did you plan on making any of this public? It could help other residents come forward if they see others trust to work with police. Thanks for you and your team for getting out there early.”

Kennedy replied: “I have been including all of the key leaders in the e-mails, and Edgar and Joyce have been open about our collaboration all in the hopes that we project an image of working together with you and your department.”

But despite the claim “key leaders”–most of whom don’t live anywhere near Anna Drive–were made aware of OC Human Relations collaborative efforts with the Anaheim Police Department, it is not clear if any of the residents themselves were notified beforehand that their information would be passed on to Welter. A more interesting question is whether or not anybody in that neighborhood would have cooperated with the canvassers had they known this was going to occur.

These emails, in addition to several others currently in the possession of the Anaheim Investigator, are revealing in that not only do they offer compelling evidence of the very close relationship that has always existed between the Anaheim Police Department and OC Human Relations, but it calls into question the latter agency’s ability to be fair and impartial in any future police oversight committee that might be created in the City of Anaheim.

At the Tuesday, January 15, 2013 meeting of the Anaheim City Council, City Manager Bob Wingenroth submitted a staff report strongly hinting the city could “utilize the pre-existing partnership with the Orange County Human Relations Commission” if it decides to form such a committee. He further added representatives from that agency “have already served our community in pivotal times, assisting our police department in fostering dialogue with the community.”

If by “community,”  Wingenroth was making reference to the Anaheim Police Department, then nobody can deny that, based on the flurry of emails that Kennedy exchanged with Welter throughout 2012, OC Human Relations has served them extremely well.

Following up on two officer-involved shootings that occurred back-to-back one weekend in July 2012, Kennedy shot off an email to Welter making a few revealing remarks which inadvertently exposed his agency for what it truly is: a lapdog for law enforcement:

I [sic] and my staff are completely available to you 24/7, let me know how we can help. If you would like another set of ears at the table as you process this and plan the community relations aspects, I can come over now.

[Below are electronic reproductions of emails used in this article. To read them, all you need to do is click on them to enlarge]

OC Human Relations 7-23-2012 842am p1

OC Human Relations 7-23-2012 842am p2

OC Human Relations 8-10-2012 929am

OC Human Relations 8-10-2012 218pm P3

OC Human Relations 8-10-2012 218pm P1OC Human Relations 8-10-2012 218pm P2

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