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To LBPD’s Use of TigerText, Long Beach Residents Call for the Firing of City Manager Patrick West and Police Chief Robert Luna

3 Oct

James Suazo of DSA-LB, with bullhorn, speaks, on Oct. 2 at TigerText, press conference. To Suzao’s left, in front is Dawn Modkins of BLM-LB and to Modkins’s left is Jamie Garcia of Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. Photo by Barry Saks

A press conference, with more than 20 residents attending, outside the Long Beach City Hall, was held, on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to protest the Long Beach Police Department’s previous use of the direct messaging software called TigerText, which deleted LBPD messages among police personnel.

According to the press release, Black Lives Matter LBC (city of Long Beach), Democratic Socialists of America (Long Beach Chapter) and the Stop LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) Spying Coalition organized the press conference.  Among the demands in the press release were the immediate firing of City Manager Patrick West and LBPD Chief Robert Luna.

During public comments, James Suazo, representing DSA-LB, pointed out that the use of such software was an abuse of the public trust and of public funds and said, “(I)n any other kind of situation, this would be immediate grounds for termination (of employment).”

Long Beach resident Jamie Garcia also commented.  Garcia, representing the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, said, “(While) doing our advocacy work…we have come to find out that lot of the city officials (of Los Angeles) are not aware of the technology that LAPD is using and I bring that up because it seems like the same case is happened here in Long Beach, where TigerText app was being used and a lot of the city officials, the community itself were not aware this technology existed and that it was being used by Long Beach PD.”

BLM LBC activist Dawn Modkins also commented.  Modkins listed some of the Long Beach residents of color LBPD killed in 2015.  She then spoke of the unsolved murder of African-American and longshoreman Fredrick Taft, 57, who was murdered and found dead in a bathroom in Long Beach’s Pan American Park.  Regarding Taft’s murder, Modkins said, “It took for community organizing to raise awareness in that community that the murder even happened.  It took a community investigation to learn that the residents asked for a second time in mass numbers, over 300 people who said they wanted an investigation of a hate crime for the murder of Frederick Taft…They (LBPD) only came out the day before we held the community investigation.”

The last two community members who provided public comment were also critical of LBPD.

After public comment, the city council went into closed session for the personnel evaluation of the city manager.

The press conference followed.

Suazo emceed the press conference.  In his opening remarks, he reiterated the seven demands that were given to the city council during public comment.  Regarding LBPD Chief Luna, Suazo said, “We demand the city of Long Beach fire Police Chief Robert Luna immediately.  As the chief of police for Long Beach since November 2014, Chief Luna is responsible for the actions and activities of the Long Beach Police Department in regards to the conduct, training and instructions given to his officers in how they carry out their duties.  Directing his officers to use a technology platform that clearly violates California public records laws as well the rules of evidence is a clear case of malfeasance and we don’t need to pay millions of dollars to an independent firm to figure that out.”

At the end of the press conference, the audience vigorously chanted, “Delete Chief Luna. Delete Pat West.  Cut PD’s budget and reinvest.” and “Deleting evidence with TigerText.  What’ll Chief Luna think of next.”

The city of Long Beach, on Sept. 21, issued a press release.  The first paragraph said, “The City of Long Beach is announcing an independent outside review of the Long Beach Police Department’s use of a direct messaging application called Tiger Connect (TigerText). The review was initiated by the City Manager in partnership with the City Attorney and will consist of an outside firm hired to independently review the use of the messaging application within the Long Beach Police Department.”

The same press release also said, “Of the 291 Police Department-issued mobile devices, the Tiger Connect texting application is installed on 145 mobile devices, including the mobile devices of Command Staff and specialized details such as Homicide and Internal Affairs. For reference, the Police Department has a total of 1,214 employees.

Three days before the city’s press release, with the headline, “TigerText – LBPD’s Illegal Destruction of Evidence,” the Beachcomber, on Sept.18, broke the story.  It said, “In February 2018 a confidential source inside the LBPD informed the Beachcomber that the app was in use by detectives assigned to narcotics, gangs, intelligence and homicide units, including detectives who investigate officer involved shootings.  The source said that when the app was assigned the detectives received no written instruction and were told: ‘The app is to be used in situations where we don’t want the texting information to get out to the public – or to be discoverable.’ Beachcomber research and consultation with a legal scholar confirmed that the LBPD’s use of TigerText in investigations is a violation of Penal Code Section 135, destroying or concealing evidence and Penal Code Section 153, compounding or concealing crimes.”