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Cop Happenings

ChiefCelanoA couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting our new Tustin Police Chief, Charles Cellano. Cellano was named the interim Chief immediately after Scott Jordan’s retirement in mid-2013. He was given a permanent appointment in February of this year.

During our conversation, the Chief reminded me of last weekend’s 18th Annual Tustin Police Department Open House and the upcoming “Coffee With a Cop” to be held this Wednesday at Keans Coffee.

Open the Doors

While we briefly attended the Open House, we were not able to stay long. However, we did run into a couple of our fine councilmen, the honorable Chuck Puckett and the honorable John Nielsen. Chuck admitted this is the earliest he has ever attended the event, usually opting for a late afternoon appearance. See what being a councilman does for you, Chuck? John looked quite relaxed, probably owing to that new wife of his.

The line for tours of the police station and the mobile command post were both quite long even before the first hour was up. I would say the only longer line was the one for hot dogs, graciously being handed out by volunteers. There was a great display of vintage army vehicles manned by a gentleman in period costume. And, while I did not get to see the demonstration, the police motorcycle unit was out in force to show off their skills.

Cop Talk

One of the things that excited Chief Cellano most is the upcoming Coffee With a Cop happening tomorrow at Keans Coffee. The Chief emphasized the informal nature of the event. This is the chance for Tustin residents, who may never otherwise have contact with our police, to sit down ever-so-briefly and speak about anything of interest to them. The event is only one of many planned around Our Town and is an effort by the chief to make sure Tustin PD remains accessible to the residents.

I could not let the discussion go much further without asking about the recent officer involved shooting. Cellano said that, despite repeated efforts to reach out to the family and protesters, no  one has stepped forward to take up his invitation of a meeting.

That is disconcerting as the family and others have attended multiple meetings of the city council, demanding justice and policy change. And, although the city, both Chief Cellano and City Manager Jeff Parker have offered to meet with them, they have, so far refused. That leads me to believe they have no real interest in seeing meaningful changes that they have the opportunity to be a part of. Instead, they would rather join the police-bashing bandwagon where their voices will be lost in the cacophony..

There are a few more events coming this year and the Tustin Police Department will be a large part of it. Of course, the Tustin Tiller Days and the accompanying parade could not happen without the organization of the police department. Which, by the way, is another thing about our Chief. He is obviously proud of the 97 sworn officers of the department –  he speaks just as proudly of the professional staff, the dispatchers, service officers and office personnel, as well as his small but fiesty cadre of volunteers. To hear him tell it, the official Accreditation of TPD would not be possible without them. We agree but as we’ve said before, it takes a good coach to get them there.

When asked about the volunteers, he said that most are recruited from the Citizens Police Academy held every year. The academy is a mini-introduction to police work in general and Tustin Police policies and procedures specifically. The sessions are held once a week (this time on Thursday evening) and include a variety of topics including police procedure and a ridealong. An academy is forming now, if you are interested. Yes, he asked me, but once you’ve been through the real thing, you’re not in a hurry to head back there. If you go, however, I guarantee you will come out with a new perspective of modern police work.

Too soon, our time was up and Chief Cellano and I parted company with an agreement to stay in touch.

Make sure, if you get a chance, to head over to Keans on Wednesday morning. If you do, make sure you say hi to me as well. If you’re a fan, I’ll shake your hand. If you’re a critic, well, I made you think.

 

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Sticking Your Foot In Your Mouth

lucille kringYou’ll be surprised and, hopefully, pleased to know it wasn’t a Jerry Amante wannabe or crony that stepped in it – this time. It could have been, but it wasn’t. This time it was another aspiring idiot and mayoral candidate from the north in Anaheim.

As reported in that pendejo hating news source, the OC Weekly, Gabriel San Roman (writing amazingly in the genre of Gustavo Arellano) noted Anaheim mayoral candidate and current councilperson Lucille Kring, actually had the nerve to write on an Anaheim mailing list for the Anaheim Colony residents:

“Bruno is a true hero as are all the canine police officers. And the shooting saved us a trial. Always a good outcome.”

Bruno is an Anaheim police dog who was shot by Robert Moreno, a known gang member, after he allegedly shot at a couple of Orange County probation officers. The officers were on a home call (presumably not for Moreno) when they encountered Moreno and a couple of his cronies nearby. A brief chase and a couple of gunshots later, the probation officers were high-tailing for cover and calling for help.

Enter Bruno the police K-9 who bravely went after the criminals and was subsequently shot during the incident. The police returned fire and killed Moreno. And, while probably no one outside the deceased’ family & friends is overly sorry he is dead, it is rather cold of anyone, particularly a local politician, to say what she said. Quite honestly, to see this from Kring is rather shocking. Deborah Pauley, maybe, Kring no.

Kring did apologize, saying the remark was careless and insensitive. But, the damage was done and few, if any of her critics, are willing to forgive so easily. The Weekly’s Roman certainly didn’t, saying she “womaned up” while sticking to her original remarks. We do agree with Roman, however, that Kring is about as fork-tongued as one can get.

Kring was better treated over at the Voice of OC where they compared her remark to another Anaheim councilwoman. Gail Eastman came under fire a year and a half ago for using the same mailing list to opine that a riot that occurred in Anaheim was a “big time win” for her political team because it prevented the consideration of ballot measures she opposed. The meeting where a vote on tax subsidies was up for discussion, was stopped due to the violence outside.

Voice of OC reported the retraction, less the Weekly’s ascerbic criticism (hey, they are a news blog, after all). The story was so controversial only two comments were made on the VOC article. We won’t count the Weekly’s only because you never know which comment is directly related to their story.

The incident was a tragic one, to be sure. The young man was a known gang member and no one is disputing he fired shots at the probation and police officers. A K-9 was shot and, fortunately, will survive (although he will probably be retired). Police, believing they were under attack, responded with deadly force. In this case, they were not given the option to bring the perpetrator to justice in a court of law. And,that is the sad part. What is really sad, and seemed to be lost on Councilwoman Kring and others, is that more attention was paid to the injured dog than was the dead man who, as Kring herself acknowledged, was someone’s son, maybe an uncle, brother, father.

 

No Rush to Judgement

credit: Voice of OC

credit: Voice of OC

If you attended the city council meeting on Tuesday, you might have decided to leave before the real business went down. That’s because an angry mob descended on the council hall demanding justice for a young man shot by Tustin Police last week. If you watch the video, as I normally do, you won’t see much of the crowd. That’s because the city, in its infinite wisdom, decided  to black out that portion of the video when the crowd got aroused and nearly stormed the dais. I’m sure that someone thought that was a good idea. What it really does is help inculcate a sense of a coverup.

Even though the city’s video cameras went dark during the protest, “someone” thought to notify the media who arrived with at least one camera crew to catch the action the city hoped they could squelch. So, if you want to see the missing 4 minutes, you can watch the entire sordid affair below.

In just over 4 minutes, the crowd of at least fifty people armed with protest signs, face masks and other assorted protesting paraphernalia,  interrupted, yelled, screamed and wailed laments toward the dais and the few “regular” folks who looked around for an easy escape. Many of the protesters were obviously locals or friends and family of Villa. However, there were quite a few protesters who were just as obviously from out of town. Notably, at least one Guy Fawks mask was seen and it’s a good bet that an organized protest like this would bring out the professional rabblerousers.

To bring you up to speed, on February 9th Tustin Police responded to a domestic violence call in apartments near Redhill and Nisson Rd. When they arrived on scene, according to the TPD press release, they were confronted by 23 year old Robert Villa armed with a knife. What occurred next is unclear but “more than one” officer shot the suspect who was later pronounced dead after being transported to Western Medical Center.

As is often the case, so-called “witnesses” came out of the woodwork to refute the claim of a knife. The OC Weekly, which takes every opportunity to slam police regardless of locale or reputation, was quick to interview family members who weren’t there and accept at face value their opinions on whether deadly force was necessary.  The family retained a lawyer (fancy that) who quickly disputed the police claim of a knife. They also indicated what a swell guy Villa was by saying he was reported to be working a regular job and attending college. He also had a family.

The lawyer, by the way, is Humberto Guizar who also represents the families of two men shot by police in Anaheim in 2012. Apparently, he makes a living on other peoples tragedies.

What no one bothered to say about the 23 year old Villa that you can pick up in the OC Register story (if you have a subscription) is that a man by the same name and birthdate had, “several previous run-ins with the law, including pleading guilty to felony burglary, felony inflicting corporal injury and misdemeanor violating a protective order in 2012, and pleading guilty to misdemeanor inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or significant other in 2011.”

At this point, there is not much to go on. Contrary to popular belief, the Tustin Police are not trying to hide evidence. There is no grand conspiracy to “get the cops off”. The truth is, like any investigation whether it involves cops or not, the facts must remain in relative confidence until it the situation can be sorted out.

But, the rabblerousers who hate authority and the police in particular, have been fueled by the Thomas Kelly murder, riots in Anaheim and recent officer involved shootings in Santa Ana. What they fail to understand is that Tustin Police Department, besides the OC Weekly’s meager attempts at slur, is an exemplary, accredited department. The former chief, with the help of our new Chief Charles Celano, had taken extraordinary steps to insure a high degree of professionalism and training of our department. I’ve had the opportunity to see that training in action more than once as they deal with mental health issues in our community. In fact, it was Chief Celano that initiated a short course in dealing with the emotionally charged, and often, mentally ill offender. The purpose of this training is, of course, to mitigate situations like the one that caused the death of Robert Villa.

For what it is worth, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, of which at least one investigator hails from Tustin Police Department, is investigating the officer involved shooting. So, no matter what the result of the investigation, in the eyes of Villa’s friends and family, it is already tainted and no outcome short of lynching the officers, whom they have already tried in the court of (their) public opinion, will satisfy their lust for vengeance.

As a former police officer and current peace officer with the second largest law enforcement agency in the county, as a 20 year resident of this community, I have a vested interest in this case. I don’t know any of the parties to the incident. What I do know is that we cannot take this case at face value. It is incumbent upon the community to await the outcome of the DA investigation and the city’s response.  While I would like to think the officers conducted themselves in appropriate fashion and used the appropriate amount of force, I am willing to see what the investigation reveals.

In the meantime, if the family really wants justice, they should not buy into the kind of antics and rhetoric displayed by outsiders and “Occupiers” at Tuesday’s council meeting. Mob rule is no rule. Wait to see what the investigation reveals. If there was impropriety by the police, those responsible should be called to account for their actions. To do any less is to bring less than honor to the memory of their lost one.

Officer Involved Shooting in Tustin

Saturday’s calm in Tustin was broken by gunfire when Tustin Police Officers responded to a domestic violence call that resulted in an officer-involved-shooting. The responding officers were confronted by a man with a gun who refused repeated directions to drop his weapon. The man was subsequently transported to the hospital for treatement of a single gunshot wound. From the press release:

Officers were dispatched to the 14400 block of Newport Ave reference a call of a disturbance in the in which one of the involved parties was armed with a handgun. The first officers on scene entered the residence where they encountered a 46 year old male along with a female subject and a juvenile male. The 46 year old male was armed with a handgun; the female and the juvenile male were arguing with the male and attempting to get the gun away from him. Officers ordered all subjects away and gave the 46 year old male commands to drop the gun. The male did not comply with the officers commands and an officer involved shooting occurred. The shooting caused the suspect to drop the gun and officers then began medical aid.

We are fortunate that things like this are a rare occurrence around our town Tustin. When they do happen, I have enough confidence in officers of our department to have done the right thing. While no one wants something like this to happen, it is good to know the department takes their job seriously to protect our citizens. It should be noted that, after the shooting, the officers immediately responded by performing first aid on the suspect until paramedics arrived (as opposed to a celebratory high five). The conspiracy theorists and cop haters, who have already inundated the Register story on the shooting, will disagree. They would like to lump all cops into the same basket and call them all rotten. One of the things that makes our department unique is the accreditation due to the training they receive. It does make a difference.

The shooting investigation has been turned over to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. As one commenter on the Register put it, the OCDA will investigate and exonerate. But, guess what? Most shootings of this type are legitimate. Why? Because the officer was trained to respond with the appropriate use of force, not because the DA wants to cover up another shooting. And, with our DA’s current track record, I doubt if a coverup is much on his mind these days.