Thursday, June 4, 2020

Chief of Police accused of brutality and racism; Chief alleges retaliation for refusing to cancel standardized tests for Mayor's favored officers

Council Member Ricardo Pacheco, Council Member Monica Garcia,
and Mayor Manuel Lozano (from left to right)
Yesterday evening, Baldwin Park's Chief of Police, Steven McLean openly stated, "Mr. Mayor, Mr. City Attorney, Mr. Hernandez, Mr. CEO I'll see you in court. The corruption stops tonight. . . .Your time is up."

Mayor Manuel Lozano responded, "Ok; I don't know what that's about." The City Attorney, Robert Tafoya also echoed that ignorance.

After being employed as chief for six months, McLean is now on stress leave, unable to make any official police decisions. The Chief is fearful that he'll be the target of attacks from protesters after an anonymous officer accused him of police brutality and being a racist.

Earlier in the evening, the City Clerk, Jean Ayala read a 10-minute anonymous letter from an officer in the police department during public comments period (46:53-56:37). The letter stated that the chief had no character or ethics. Allegedly, the Chief "endorsed aggressive police tactics. Use of force incidents are at an all time high."

The accuser stated that the Chief has a helmet that was affiliated with the crime gang Bandidos and gave preferential treatment to some officers, which amounts to discrimination, because the Chief "needed a caucasian on the team." (McLean's origin however come from both Honduras and Costa Rica. McLean considers himself Hispanic.) The anonymous accuser asked for Chief McLean to be removed from office.

According to McLean, the letter and his stress leave are really retaliation for not cancelling standardized testing for three officers that Lozano wants to personally promote. McLean stated that when he first became chief, he interviewed all 102 officers. According to the majority of them, the largest problem in the Baldwin Park Police Department was corruption regarding police promotions. For this reason, McLean wanted to implement standardized testing for promotions.

About 90 days ago, McLean designed the standardized test Allegedly, the test was approved by the police association, the human resources department, and the city manager.

But according to McLean and a number of other police officers, three officers, Frank Real, Sgt. Cetina Gonzales, and Lt. George Huerta, were promised to be promoted by the Mayor, even though they lacked the experience or the qualifications for it. All three have been vocal about opposing standardized tests.

Chief Steve McLean
Even after being approved by the CEO, Shannon Yauchtezz, about a month ago, allegedly called up McLean to tell him that the Mayor pressured the CEO to cancel testing because of Baldwin Park's budget crisis. The CEO told the Mayor that the tests weren't too expensive, that they were already purchased, and that the Mayor should be reminded that the City had to settle a lawsuit for over $100,000 once, because the Mayor interfered before in the police promotional process.

Then a few weeks ago, Council Member Paul Hernandez visited the chief at the department and told McLean that the test didn't need to be followed. Hernandez stated that the chief could pick somebody who was bad at testing but "good at leadership" and possibly promote them over three or four other officers, who scored better in the exams.

McLean responded that the number one problem that the officers perceived in the department was nepotism and that he was going to make the process fair for everyone.

To that, Hernandez said that the Mayor and him wanted to meet with him at the Guadalajara Grill at 10:30A tomorrow in Baldwin Park.

McLean stated that would be fine, but that he would ask the Mayor and the Council Member two questions. One, do they want a fair, legitimate, and transparent process? Or do they want the promotion process to be designed to promote a select few?

At their 10:30A meeting, McLean stated that the issue of testing was never brought up.

Afterwards, the City Attorney texted McLean that he was being accused of insider cheating and that he was giving the answers to the test to some officers and not others. To this, McClean responded that he was giving tutorials to officers and the notes were from a lecture he was giving on test tasking. Furthermore, at that time, McLean couldn't have given answers to the test, because it hadn't been drafted yet.

Frank Real, one of the officer seeking a promotion and opposes testing has a bad reputation in the force. The last acting chief also refused to promote him. Furthermore, Real was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit (Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC333571) which looks like it settled. Finally, according to the Chief, Real and his family were used to structure over $20,000 in donations to the Mayor's political campaign. If true, this is a form of laundering money and evading campaign contribution reporting requirements. It also suggests a pay to play scheme within the police department.

The Mayor was asked to comment on Real and his family members contributing money. No comment has yet been provided. Furthermore, the CEO and the City Attorney have asked to confirm the facts in this article. They too have not commented either.

Currently, the decision of implementing testing has been left with the Human Resources Department, and not the police department. The department is determining whether testing has been compromised.

If fired, McLean would be the seventh police chief hired and fired in seven years in the City. Currently, there's a judgment of over $9 million being appealed against the City and a stack of pending lawsuits against it. The City's insurance deductible has been raised and the premium has already doubled from $350,000 to $700,000 a year because of them. But the Mayor has never mentioned lawsuits as a reason for the City's "budget crisis".

McLean has already stated that he's lost his reputation because of the Mayor and would like to be made whole again.

The controversy of Baldwin Park's police promotion process re-ignites the debate of cronyism, standardized testing, government accountability, merit, and affirmative action. According to Sunjay Adelaja, author of Mountain of Ignorance, “At the root of every form of ungodliness, injustice, nepotism, selfishness, every rivalry and competitive jealousy, is the monster called greed.”

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