Saturday, November 23, 2013

Baldwin Park CEO and Chief of Police Ready to Receive A Police Vote of No Confidence

The Baldwin Park Police Association (POA) in an unprecedented and historical move will vote as to whether the City's CEO, Vijay Singhal; Chief of Police, Lili Hadsell; and Human Resource Manager, Leticia Lara are unfit for their positions. If the majority of the members of the police union vote they are unfit, the POA will publicly announce their vote of no confidence with a letter, which will be placed in the HR files of the three named. The vote of no confidence will become part of their permanent record.

A vote of no confidence is almost never invoked by a police association against their chief or city officials.  The move can be analogized to maritime or military mutiny, in which a crew openly overthrows their authority.  Only, a vote of no confidence is a civilized and legal instrument, whereas mutiny is not.  Nonetheless, the two phenomenon are motivated by the same violation: a deep breach of trust by the authority against his or her servicemen and women.

One reason that a vote of no confidence is almost never invoked is because the officers can suffer retaliation by those in power.  Another is that organizations prefer to keep their problems from public attention.  Such a move can negatively impact the reputation of the city.  It's the final ultimatum after all other attempts to resolves issues have failed.

The POA ballot, however, comes after a bitterly fought battle for the swing vote council seat.  Previous to the city elections, the majority voting block, comprised of Mayor Lozano, Council Member Marlen and Raquel Garcia; the City Manager; and the Chief of Police all conspired to have the Baldwin Park Police Officers fired and replaced by the Sheriffs.  On record, the administration stated that the reason they were "outsourcing" the officers was because the City had no money.  Nonetheless, the Police Association has stated that their plan was all a pretext for union busting.  

Although the majority council voting bloc has been in power for fourteen years, their series of poor decision galvanized the community to overthrow the Garcia-Lozano majority bloc.  A number of community groups, which included the POA, banded together, protested, and sponsored the challenger, Cruz Baca.  As a result, not only were they victorious in winning the seat, they also ended the political career of Marlen Garcia, the main decision maker in the City Council.  Ending A Municipal Regime

The grievances against the Singhal Administration are many.  The POA is mainly justifying holding a ballot for no confidence because the administration 1) has obstructed police operations, 2)  were not supportive of the police during talks about their outsourcing to the sheriffs, and 3) misappropriated police funds.

Members of the community feel violated by the Marlen-Garcia bloc and the administrators.  Besides trying to fire all the police officers, Marlen and Singhal have refused to promote qualified officers because they exercised their right to free speech by picketing public officials.  The three administrators have jointly cost the City $300,000 in legal fees because they refuse to settle, outsourced another law firm, and frivolously challenged interlocutory motions: such as depositions motions.  Singhal has falsely trumped up charges of theft against part time City employees, violated Due Process Procedural Rights, misappropriated funds, attacked citizens of Baldwin Park with code and law enforcement, and violated federal and state labor law.

For instance, in the most recent news, Singhal refused to provide tetanus or hepatitis B shots to a part time employee who dealt with hazardous waste.  His reasoning to do so was to save money.  Leticia Lara, the HR Manager, has further aided and officiated these acts.  Chief Hadsell has engaged in a number of illegal and poor decisions, all which can be read here.  Police Chief's Daughter Caught With Narcotics.  Allegedly, she continues to promote her friends into positions, even though the City is allegedly on the verge of bankruptcy.

When the administrators found out that a vote of no confidence was being held against them, Singhal wrote a letter to defend and justify his administration's behavior.  In his letter dated on November 20, 2013, Singhal encouraged the police to vote in any way they see fit.  According to him, however, the POA's justifications are all lies.

He goes on to defend Police Chief Hadsell's office because she is the "first female and Latino Chief." 

Regarding Leticia Lara, Singhal states, "a vote of no confidence in [Lara] would only prove that [the police] don’t like to play by the rules."  (Incidentally, Lara pressed the panic button against me one day because I tried to file a complaint against her.  I was supposed to have a swarm of law enforcement surround the building, but because the panic button wasn't working that day, nobody came.  This is her way of dealing with complaints as an HR manager.)

Singhal then characterizes the police, by stating, "I have been informed that now the POA controls the Council and can get what it wants."  He proceeds with a number of statements that are logically confusing and unsound.  He then ends his letter with this: "Whatever you decide to do, always remember that being vindictive may not give one [error: it should be you] the happiness they [error: it should be you again] seek."  (Letter attached below.)

All three administrators fear finding a new job, especially now that they have been made infamous by blogs, youtubes, and the press.  A google search with their names and "Baldwin Park" will bring this blog as a top hit.

Vijay Singhal makes over $195,987, plus an annual pension payout of $56,851.  Lili Hadsell makes $161,265, plus an annual pension payout of $64,848.  Leticia Lara makes $105,914, plus an annual pension payout of $33,747.

Put another way, Singhal brings home $7,500 every paycheck or $15,000 a month.  Hadsell $6,200 every paycheck or $12,400 every month.  Lara brings home $4,078 every paycheck or $8,156 a month.  In contrast, the Singhal Administration has stated over and over again on the record that the City has no money.  It also gave the head boxing coach a 40 cent raise after he served the city's youth for fourteen years.  That brings the coach's pay to $8.80 an hour.

The Singhal ship has weathered all types of disasters, but it looks like it may finally sink with the common citizens and employees that have taken over and are now on board.

* * * *

Join the fight.  Share the story.  War's not over yet.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Controversy On The Publication Of Lili Hadsell

Picture of Chief Lili Hadsell

My most controversial writing has to have been the Lili Hadsell piece.  (Article here: Police Chief's Daughter Caught With Narcotics).  I've never had a piece go more viral nor one that generated so much controversy and discussion.  In my Chief of Police, Lili Hadsell piece, I discuss how the Chief's daughter was caught possessing narcotics, outside Motel 6 with a strange man named Chase.  Most of the article, however, focused on her gross under-performance and failure as a city police Chief.

A good majority of my readers and critics expressed a sense of justice when reading it.  A minority of them; however, were concerned I "went too far."  Their logic was that it was too personal and that the link between Hadsell's drug use had no bearing on her leadership.  I'm writing this comment to explore these criticism.

First, let me start by stating what was said to me by these critics.  A long time blog reader and a dear friend of mine told me that it went too far because she's in a position of leadership and that her child's failure shouldn't reflect on it.  I have nothing but respect for this reader and the great wisdom and advice she's given me over the years, and I don't believe if her child committed a crime of commission or omission, it would be her fault at all.

Another reader told me she had a sister who was a heroin addict and that her father was one of the best fathers you could have asked for.  I knew the father too, and I agree.  In this case, as well, it seems highly unlikely that there is a link between the daughter's drug use and the father's competence.  To be sympathetic, this reader had said, "Oh, the suffering that family must be going through."

Yet, human and emotional reasoning tends to make this jump: drug addicts come from broken families.  People believe this because there is a high correlation between the two, even though it doesn't mean the two are always linked.

Also, in my defense, which isn't much of one, I'm a biased writer.  I try not to be.  But I am.  To be honest, I became an accidental journalist.  I never thought my blog would take the role of the local newspaper, but the San Gabriel Valley Tribune was doing such a horrible job in exposing the issues in my city.  I definitely remember the moment when I told myself - the hell with the Tribune.  I'll write myself.  And I did, and it had a huge impact on our community.  It cost the former Council Member Marlen Garcia her election.

But because I took on this role, of course I couldn't be as objective as a journalist should be.  One, Chief Hadsell retaliated against my First Amendment rights.  And instead of apologizing, she only snickered at me, when I brought it up.  Two, she had her police called upon me just because I was going to file a complaint at City Hall against her.  This was another retaliation against my rights as a citizen.  So, my view of Hadsell is  that she was certainly a Chief that promoted corruption, instead of taking on the role of keeping the citizen's needs first and foremost.

Therefore, although it's possible that Megan Hadsell's drug use could have been independent of Lili's influence, I personally doubt it.  I base that off of my previous experience with Hadsell.  Marlen Garcia simply put an unqualified lieutenant in a position she couldn't handle in exchanging for sponsoring the illegal actions of the Garcia-Lozano regime.

Furthermore, something I didn't mention previously, was that Lili used to head the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE).  Yes, again, there's a tenuous link between her mothering and her police leadership, but how are we supposed to expect the DARE Head to help prevent drug use in our city when she can't do it at home?  In all probablity, DARE doesn't work.  Or Hadsell doesn't work.  Or both of them don't work.

Another point - the publication of the piece helped prevent Hadsell from tampering with witnesses and the justice system.  Once already, West Covina had to open an investigation against Hadsell for intimidating her sister-in-law from testifying against her brother.  Why?  Because Hadsell's brother had allegedly spousally raped the sister-in-law.  Although the final outcome from the internal police probe was that the Chief was exonerated, members of our community believe otherwise.

Although I sincerely feel sorry for any youth who gets caught up in our justice system, especially for drug use, such as Megan Hadsell, I have a deeper conviction that the law should be enforced equally against the rich and the poor, the commoners and the daughters of police chiefs.  Empirical research is fairly consistent that blacks and the Latins get over-policed, over-prosecuted, and under-protected.  What will happen in Megan's case?  We're waiting  We're seeing.

Also - I just wanted to mention that Megan's arrest and court filing is a public record.  Therefore, I didn't breach any duty that Megan or Lili may have had to privacy.

Nonetheless, I'm glad for the criticisms I received.  It will make me more careful in evaluating such a controversial move in the future.  In the end, balancing all the factors, and sincerely believing that Hadsell is an unfit leader as well as an unfit parent, I did publish what I thought I had to.

Finally - I wanted to end with the point that any good piece of journalism should encourage a discussion with the community.  When readers in France are asking what's happening with the family of police Chiefs, when my readers of the minority populace are talking about the disparity in punishment for blacks and browns, and when my boxing kids are saying "Oh my God!", I believe, at the very least, I have achieved the purpose of provoking the readers to admit America has a bigger drug problem than we wanted to admit.  Baldwin Park isn't evening keeping good statistics on drug related arrests.  But in line with Alcoholics Anonymous' motto: the first step is to admit you have a problem.  Baldwin Park, and it looks like LA at large, has a big drug problem.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Teenage Boxers Knock Out Politician Marlen Garcia - Ending Her Political Career


I, representing the teenage boxers, ended the fourteen year political career of the soon-to-be "former Council Member" of Baldwin Park, Marlen Garcia.  Garcia had the backing of powerful players like Kaiser Permanente; State Senator Edward Hernandez; the public officers from the City of Baldwin Park, Irwindale, Azusa, West Covina, and many, many more.  She had campaign contributions of thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.

In stark contrast, the boxers didn't get or spend a dime.  We didn't have any political support.  In fact, we were laughed at because many of the boxers weren't 18, therefore, couldn't even vote.  This is the story of how a small boxing club, against all odds, stood up to a political bully and prevailed.

The battle began when Council Member Garcia and her Parks and Recreation Director Manuel Carrillo, Jr. refused to give the City Boxing program a day it had cut.  It amounted to four hours and was the most costly mistake of both Carrillo and Garcia's life.  The reason they most often cited was that there was no money in the budget.  A closer investigation by the club revealed misappropriation and extravagant salaries and perks for the few in power at the cost of the many - such as the teenagers who needed their boxing program.  Both of them spoke before they thought.  Over and over again, Garcia said boxing didn't matter because it was just entertainment anyways.

The road to victory seemed impossible.  How was it, without any resources, were the boxers going to oust Garcia?  The ordeal resembled the battle between David and Goliath, or perhaps more apt for me, Perseus and Medusa.  King Polydectus assigned Perseus the impossible challenge of beheading and fetching the head of Medusa - the Gorgon who had the power to petrify men into stone.  Perseus, knowing that fate favored his death, accepted the challenge without knowing how he'd achieve it.

Like Perseus, I had no idea how I was to go up against a corrupt, entrenched and resourceful system.  Nonetheless, I knew the key to Garcia's defeat would be held in a grand strategy of accountability.  In America, our political system is divided into three official branches and one unofficial one: the executive, the legislative, the judicial, and journalism.  Since Baldwin Park had full control of the executive and legislative by a failed democratic system, which promoted electioneering fraud, citizen bullying, and the chilling of free speech, I had to rely on judicial review and writing that could expose.

This is an important point to remember: Baldwin Park was by no means ruled by the people for the people.  It was an oligarchic dictatorship, in which the Garcia-Lozano regime self-perpetuated their power by intimidating the citizens and at least on several occasions was suspected of defrauding the vote by mail.  Thus, dismantling the regime, especially when the boxers seemed so weak, appeared utterly hopeless.

But for the boxers, we had no choice: it was do or die.  Carrillo and Garcia, for whatever reason hated boxing, and would've strangled the program if we did not prevail.

If the ancient Greek heroes sought out oracles, I had wise counsel from the living and the dead.  As even the Hebrew Scriptures state, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."  My mentors chimed in to tweak my strategy and draft the execution tactics.  

Dead heroes and heroines like Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell, Earnest Hemmingway, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and King Solomon lent me their wisdom.  Perhaps, above all else, I understood one lesson that Holmes imparted: "[T]he most far-reaching form of power is not money, it is the command of ideas."  Note, Holmes doesn't say power belongs to the person who has ideas, knows them, or creates them.  No; the battle belongs to the commander of ideas, who understand how to execute them to achieve his ends.

If the British launched their assaults against the Nazis by land, air, and sea, the boxers - being armed to the teeth with passion, vision, and an arsenal of executable plans - took to demonstrating, suing, and journalism.  

At first, the entrenched powers found our demonstrations and organizing cute and laughable.  The boxers' debut at the first city council meeting, nonetheless, was met with welcome by the citizens.  The story could be found here: Baldwin Park Grand Showdown.  

The publication of that story gave me hope because the story went viral and across the world.  Its publication was a sign that I was on the right path.  I knew then I could breach the barrier of the Garcia-Lozano regime's rubbish propaganda, which they spewed out at the local paper: The San Gabriel Valley Tribune.  For four months, we published the truth against the current City Council.  

The boxers also called for judicial review against the corrupt regime.  Because the City Manager, Vijay Singhal, wouldn't hand us records and wanted to hide the truth, the head boxing coach sued him.  Head Boxing Coach Sues City Manager Vijay Singhal.  

The lawsuit was a turning point.  We were no longer being laughed at.  We were now being taken seriously.  The lawsuit was a landmark in the city's history.  It was the first suit by a resident of the city, against the city, whose lawyer was also resident of the city, to enforce a constitutional right of the common citizen.

All of our efforts were working.  I know because Julian, the head boxing coach, and I would be stopped at the most random locations, such as McDonald, by people.  They would tell us they heard about the high school students protesting the City.  For those of you in power, whether it be in government, school, or business, it's never a good idea to go against teenagers protesting you for a legimitate injury.

Finally - the press started picking up my blog pieces.  The boxers made it on the front page of La Opinion, and twice my stories made it on the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

But if Perseus had the gods and goddesses give him weapons and shields, the stars, divine intervention, and - or luck, threw the last windfalls I needed to defeat Marlen.  Perhaps it is true: fate favors the fearless.  And courage is and will be rewarded.

First, the Police Chief's daughter was arrested for narcotics outside Motel 6, and I was told immediately.  The story was released a week before the elections: Police Chief's Daugher Arrest At Motel 6.  It is my most controversial piece, but nonetheless, even without the arrest, I was going to write a piece against our "beloved" Police Chief anyways. 

Lady Luck blew me a kiss before the eve of battle.  Four days before the elections, an informant emailed me a list of 2,000 email addresses for the registered voters of District Three.  

The incident could have came from a spy movie.  The informant on the other end of the phone gave me simple instructions: "Ruin Marlen Garcia."  

I replied, "I'll do my best." 

I spent a few hours to set up the software to email thousands of email addresses.  The first story I sent the voters was the Chief of Police's story.  On the next day, I sent the viral story of the boxers' protest.  On the third day, I emailed out the story in which I foiled a robbery and how the police caught the robbers.  The Foiled Robbery.  (The last story collaterally damaged Garcia, who has a contentious relationship with the city police.)  In my mind, I imagined the thousands of emails being a barrage of bombs landing on enemy territory.  

Nonetheless, I was disappointed in myself.  Of the 2,000, my computer program confirmed that 300 registered voters opened my email.  The numbers were confirmed because it corresponded with the new hits on my blog site.  I had made the resolve to expose her, even if she won the trustee election.

On election night, I had dinner with my boxers.  I was convinced Garcia had won, and it would be another six months to a year before I ousted her out of office through a forced resignation.  I knew in my heart I had done my part in the war.  It was the best job I could do.  

But when Julian and I entered the after party at the Marriott Hotel, I saw that Garcia was losing by 151 votes.  I saw my anti-campaign signature reflected in the results.  And yes, I could take the credit for this (proof posted at the end of the story).  
At the election party, I saw my informant and told him, "Mission accomplished."  I had given him news that I ended Garcia's political career.  I gave him Medusa's head.

He patted my back and said, "Good job."  

The cause of Garcia's fall were mainly caused by the boxers.  The factions that hated Garcia spent most of their energy supporting the challenger for the Council seat, and not trying to block Garcia from the Trustee one.  Lara Santos, Garcia's rival, was outspent and out-campaigned by Garcia in all regards.  The boxers didn't have the resources to promote votes, but we certainly had utilized the truth in a way to take them away.

Without having any money or political support, I outgeneraled Marlen.  In response to her first political defeat, Garcia awaited the provisional votes, which only widened her margin of loss by 181 votes.  

Then she lost control of her emotions at the Veteran Day's function and muttered to Santos that she only won because she had police donations.  On Facebook, she released a press release, which stated her campaign was lost because she didn't do enough mudslinging by announcing that Santos was a disbarred attorney.  

Really, Garcia lost because of a number of factors, but the main one was that her decisions had really left our City damaged, hurt, wounded, and crippled.  Someone just had to expose it all and have the courage to carry out the ordeal.

I know now the democratic weapons of organizing, protesting, writing, and suing could overpower the regimented ones of big business, incumbent political support, and electioneering fraud. The former are democratic because they give us common people a fighting chance.  The latter is regimented because they are out of the access to the average person and are designed to perpetuate those in power.  George Orwell said it best: corruption is "designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."  The remedy to all of this was the truth, written in simple English.

* * * *

Here's proof of the registered voters I reached.  I guess some of my voters now live in new countries.

Top locations by opens

  • USA
    298 98.0%
  • Japan
    2 0.7%
  • Mexico
    2 0.7%
  • France
    1 0.3%
  • Taiwan
    1 0.3%

Here's all the supporters that sponsored Marlen Garcia and should be associated with corruption:

Honorable Hilda L. Solis – Former United States Secretary of Labor and Congress Member

Congresswoman Grace Napolitano – United States Congress, 32nd Congressional District

Congresswoman Judy Chu – United States Congress, 32nd Congressional District

Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez, O.D. – California 24th Senate District

Former Assemblymember Anthony Portantino – California 44th Assembly District

Supervisor Gloria Molina – Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, First District

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich – Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Fifth District

Supervisor Don Knabe – Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Fourth District

Governing Board Member Rosanne Bader – Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees

Governing Board Member Judy Chen-Haggerty – Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees

Governing Board Member Fred Chyr – Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees

Mayor Manuel Lozano – City of Baldwin Park

Mayor Pro Tem Monica Garcia – City of Baldwin Park

Treasurer Maria Contreras – City of Baldwin Park

School Board Member Teresa Vargas-Ong – Baldwin Park Unified School District

School Board Member Hugo Tzec – Baldwin Park Unified School District

Commissioner David Muse – Baldwin Park Planning Commission

Commissioner Natalie Ybarra – Baldwin Park Planning Commission

Commissioner George Silva – Baldwin Park Planning Commission

Commissioner Edwin Borques – Baldwin Park Planning Commission

Commissioner Cecelia Bernal – Baldwin Park Recreation & Community Services Commission

Commissioner Irma Tarango – Baldwin Park Recreation & Community Services Commission

Commissioner Martha Reyes – Baldwin Park Recreation & Community Services Commission

Commissioner Magda Torrelas – Baldwin Park Housing Commission

School Board Member Paul Solano – Bassett Unified School District

School Board Member Anthony Duarte – Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District

Councilmember Steve Herfert – City of West Covina

Councilmember Mark Breceda – City of Irwindale

Councilmember Manuel Garcia – City of Irwindale

Councilmember David Argudo – City of La Puente

Councilmember John King – City of Covina

Director Margarita Vargas – Valley County Water District

Director Mariana Lake – Valley County Water District

Director Bryan Urias – Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District

Director Michael Touhey – Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District

Anthony R. (Tony) Fellow, Ph.D. – Director, Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District

& Governing Board Member – Pasadena Community College

Mayor Joseph Rocha – City of Azusa

Councilmember Angel Carrillo – City of Azusa

Councilmember Robert Gonzales – City of Azusa

Councilmember Victoria Martinez – City of El Monte

Councilmember Alex Vargas – City of Hawthorne

Councilmember Marcel Rodarte – City of Norwalk

Councilmember Miguel Canales – City of Norwalk

School Board Member John Vargas – Hawthorne Unified School District

School Board Member Robert Cruz – Charter Oak Unified School District

Commissioner Don Meredith – County of Los Angeles Probation Commission

Former Mayor Fidel Vargas – City of Baldwin Park

Former Councilmember Anthony Bejarano – City of Baldwin Park

Former Councilmember Linda Gair – City of Baldwin Park

Former Councilmember Raul Martinez – City of Baldwin Park

Former Councilmember Teri Muse – City of Baldwin Park

Friday, November 8, 2013

Overthrowing A Municipal Regime - From the Boxers to the Police

 Bastille in Demolition July 1789

At 11:00 pm, on November 4, 2013, at the Marriott Hotel in Baldwin Park, the computer screen refreshed with the updates of the local elections.  At seeing the concrete results, the crowds roared and cheered with joy.  The challenger Cruz Baca won the swing-vote council seat.  Control for the seat was the most bitter, most expensive, and fiercest political battle in the city's history.

For the first time in Baldwin Park's election party, the crowd wasn't limited to friends, family, and the political sponsors of the candidates. Also, celebrating their efforts were a number of police officers, small business owners, and the city's boxing club.  Baca's victory ushered in a new age and has ended the fourteen year reign of Mayor Lozano and Council Member Marlen Garcia.

Currently, the City Council has five seats.  For fourteen years, the Lozano-Garcia bloc controlled the three dominating votes, chilling the minority voice.  Garcia decided not to run for her seat again.  Instead, the majority bloc attempted to place in their candidate Natalie Ybarra; while, the minority one ran Cruz Baca.

The story of the changing of the guards on the surface may appear to be a limited and localized one.  But, really, the epic battle proved that the ordinary citizen could and did take back their City from a regime.  The feat, originally, appeared impossible.

In their fourteen years in power, Lozano and Garcia curried favor with extensive political networks and sponsorships and had the powerful backing of players like Kaiser Permanente, the regional politicians, and California State Senators like Edward Hernandez.  Therefore, the loss of the council seat came as a shock to Mayor Lozano, Mayor Pro Tem Raquel Garcia, and the management team.

The tensions have been building between the citizens and employees of Baldwin Park and the public officials and their administrators.  Employees complained against the excesses the administrators were deciding for themselves, which came at the expense of withholding pay raises against the majority of employees.  Furthermore, administrators promoted staff on the basis of nepotism and cronyism instead of merit and qualifications.  Sports and community programs were cut, while unnecessary parking structures were built at the cost of $8.4 million dollars.

A number of reporters couldn't believe the public officials' insensitivity towards its own citizens.  Their irritability against citizens and employees showed in Garcia and Lozano's decorum and disrespectful behavior at council meetings.  Marlen Garcia has told her citizens on one occasion that they could go back home to Tijuana, if they didn't like how she ran the city.

Mayor Lozano shutdown public comments period when the boxers were going to announce their lawsuit against the City.  Chilling the limited public forum was illegal pursuant to the Constitution, the California Constitution, California Brown Act, and Baldwin Park's own municipal code.  He's also labeled those who criticize him a fabricator.  Garcia and Lozano have also sent code and law enforcement to bully and intimidate any residents who publicly spoke out against them.

The political battle, however, took a great turn when Council Member Garcia and Mayor Lozano blamed all of the city's problems on the allegedly expensive Baldwin Park Police Department.  In an attempt to get rid of them, Council Member Marlen Garcia, Council Member Raquel Garcia, Mayor Lozano, City Manager Vijay Singhal, and City Attorney Joseph Pannone, planned to fire all the police, give the chief a severance pay, and bring in the sheriffs.  In response, the Police Association banded together and aggressively campaigned for the challenger, Cruz Baca.

Baca earned another supporter, when Marlen called a press conference to falsely accuse State Assemblyman Roger Hernandez of punching his ex-girlfriend.  Apparently, he was also a drug addict.  Without having any of evidence of these allegations, she demanded his resignation.  But after having his reputation cleared, Hernandez enthusiastically joined the battle to rid the City of the Lozano-Garcia faction.

Finally, Marlen Garcia on record opposed the thirty four year old boxing club and refused to save it from closing its doors.  She stated, "Boxing's just entertainment anyways."

The criticism galvanized the Head Boxing Coach, Julian Casas, and one of his boxers - Paul Cook - who is also an attorney at law.  Together, they organized the teenage boxers, protested, sued, and exposed the City and its corruption.

Yet, even with the uprising of community groups, catalyzing change in local politics seemed impossible because politicians like the Mayor appear to be immune to accountability.  Twice, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office attempted to press charges against Manuel Lozano.  The first time was for electioneering fraud.  The second time was for accepting kickbacks to go to China.  Twice, the charges were dropped.

Thus, in response to these concerns, the Baca-Rubio team had citizens posted at every ballot booth to monitor any unethical behavior.  Regarding the vote by mail fraud, Cook and Police President Jason Adams visited care facility homes to deliver notice that they were being monitored for it.

The community effort worked.  Out of the three councillor candidates, Baca finished with the most votes.  Baca, a music producer, had lost twice in the past

When asked what kept her going she said, "What helped me persevere was the advice my father gave me.  Never give up.  Never.  Never.  Never.  I remember he told me that when I was five years old and I lost my music contest.  That advice has never failed me.  And his words spoke to me when I lost the election last time."  She said the advice fueled her to win two Grammys and a nomination for an academy award for the movie Flashdance (1983).

Following the election victory, the council chamber was full.  Cook, representing the boxers, kicked off the victory speeches.  He stated, "Today, we come in peace because it is a victorious day.  But the War on Corruption will continue."  To that, the crowds cheered.

Greg Tuttle, representative of the small business owners, followed and stated, "I know now I can finally retire with the new council seat filled.  The City can finally be cleaned up."

Jason Adams announced, "If we didn't win, you [Lozano and the Garcias] would be talking about outsourcing the police today.  I'm here to tell you, 'We're here to stay.'  And we will not forget what you tried to do to us, Mayor Lozano."

Ricardo Pacheco, a Council Member who sat in the minority position at council said, "It's a change.  A new leadership.  A new vision."

During the entire Council meeting, Marlen Garcia and Chief Lili Hadsell hid their faces behind their computer monitors.  Both Mayor Lozano and Council Member Marlen Garcia refused an interview.  Susan Rubio couldn't be reached for one.

To echo the spirit of Baca's father, the citizens of Baldwin Park learned an important lesson regarding democracy.  As Churchill stated, "Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Foiled Robbery: A Community's Effort To Catch Thieves

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." - Genesis 50:20 (NIV).

This is a story of the chance encounter of a number of lucky factors, the uprising of good people, and the grace of God.

I was sitting at my usual chair at the Baldwin Park Starbucks, when a thief snatched my wallet.  A youth who had a shaved head, a piercing in his eyebrows, and one through his mouth,  who was about 5' 5", 120 lbs (57 kilos), drugged up on meth, approached the front counter of the Starbucks.  He asked to cash out ten dollars from his Starbucks gift cards, which he most likely stole.

I set my wallet on the left bottom corner of the desk, which was a special desk because it was the same desk I sat at to study for the bar, write my first fictional short story, my latest academic piece, and a number of journalism articles.  My wallet was out because I was paying my bills online.  It was at an arm's length from me.  But before I paid my bills, I used my online banking to donate money to a Christian charity, in which one of the executives gave a talk for my boxers.  Money was tight.  But nonetheless, a living is made by what someone earns.  Lives are made by what you give.

And after I clicked to give that donation away, I saw my wallet swiped from the desk and a youth running out the door.  My cup fell over and splashed coffee everywhere.  And I thought to myself, Oh, hell no!  In less than a second, I kicked off my leather flip flops.  Barefooted, I chased him to his getaway car.  Inside, was a fat, Hispanic girl with straight hair, waiting at the wheel.

He hopped in.  The passenger window was open.  I saw my wallet on his lap.  I thrust my arm in and grabbed my wallet.  It turned into a tug of war for the wallet.  He kept shouting, "Go!  Go!  Go!"  She accelerated the car.  I was running with the car to keep up.  She was confused and nervous.

But I could see he was shocked that I had caught up to him.  I was waiting for him to punch me, so I could jump in through the window and pommel him.  He never did.  After feeling the shock of my aggression, he released the wallet. 

The silver Toyota Camry sped towards the freeway.  I tried to memorize the license plate number.  I jogged back to the Starbucks, barefooted still, and was met by the crowds inside who wondered what happened.  I held out my wallet to show them the trophy I got back.

A customer had taken down the license plate on a napkin.  I called nine-one-one.  The Baldwin Park Police came to the Starbucks in five minutes.  The Sergeant on duty studied me and said, "The Boxing Lawyer."

I smiled and said, "That's me."  The customer who got the license plate number and I gave it to the Sergeant.  He ran the plate.  He jumped in his SUV.  He was off hunting the suspects.

A Felipe Gallegos, who was on the force for three weeks, took the police report.  He was thorough and spent a good hour interviewing all the customers, staff, and myself.  His partner was Steve Manjeras.

After he took my report, I called my head boxing coach - Julian Casas.  I started the phone call by saying, "You'll never guess what happened.  I was robbed."  I proceeded to tell him the whole story.

He was over in fifteen minutes.  The Starbucks store manager gave me a small salted caramel Frappuccino to calm me down.  The adrenaline was pumping in me still.  Julian got a coffee.

Outside, in the fall, golden sunshine, I told Julian everything that happened.  It was good he came over to see that I was fine and safe.  The strange thing was all the details of the flight and the struggle with the youth was one blur because of the adrenaline rush.

My mother kept calling.  Her instincts must have kicked in to tell her that all was not right.  She said, "Hey!  Where are you?  You were supposed to come home already?"

I replied, "I was just robbed!"


"Yeah.  But I'm ok now."

"Well - go get some chicken food.  They're hungry."  We have three of chickens.  We enjoy watching them very much because they lay eggs and act like the Three Stooges.

After Julian and I finished chatting, I drove off to go get the chicken food in El Monte - the city East of Baldwin Park.  While I drove back home with the chicken feed, I received a phone call from Officer Manjeras.  The sergeant drove to the house of the registered owner of the vehicle.  On his second visit to the home, he caught the suspects and needed me to identify them at the field.  I told him I'd be at the station right away.

I drove to the police station.  The officers on duty had greeted me with a smile.  They had heard that I had foiled the robbers.  I met the Officer.  We walked to his fastback squad car together, at which point, he opened the back door for me.  I sat on the hard plastic.  While he drove to the field site, I interviewed him.  He looked familiar. 

Officer Manjeras originally wanted to become a priest.  Then he had a powerful spiritual experience, which changed his life and committed himself to the Christian faith.  He joined the police because he wanted to do good for people.

He asked me why I became a lawyer.  I didn't really have a good answer for him, except I said I thought I could make a bigger difference for people as a lawyer than a doctor.  He then admitted something to me, "Hey, I already know you."

"You do?"

"Yeah, remember when that crazy punk kid pulled a gun on you?"

And the torrent of memories flashed before me.  In the summer of 2012, while I was at my mother's house, the son of the Cholo drew a gun on me.  Officer Manjeras arrested him, after I reported him to the police.

"Oh," I said.  "No wonder why you looked so familiar."

We had reached the field site.  It was at a dirty trailer park.  The 20 year old ugly, fat, 200 pound girl was in handcuffs and so was the small, 16 year old youth.  She had gym shorts on of the local community college.  She looked so ashamed, had been crying, and pathetic.  He had that look of defiance.  I felt so bad for both of them.  Their lives flashed before my eyes.  Having a poor self-image, she must have did what this youth said so she could feel loved.  But he didn't love her.  He was using her.  It was so tragic.

I told Officer Manjeras, "That's them."

Manjeras drove me back to Baldwin Park.  I thanked him from the bottom of my heart.  I was grateful for the thorough and quick response of the BPPD.

I was truly grateful to God that day.  I got my wallet back.  I wasn't harmed.  And the suspects were caught - although I felt bad for what might happen to their lives.  They were so young.  I even felt that my day opened with the Christian act of generosity and ended with a person of faith sharing his life with me and serving me.

I entered into my Z3.  While driving back home, I realized something important.  The evil and danger I had faced that day really brought out the natural responses of the community.  There was my quick, confident, and athletic response to the thief from all the training I learned at our boxing club.  Then there was the concerned boxing coach, who came over right away.  There was the customer at Starbucks, who came to rescue of a stranger.  The Starbucks staff, several of them who live in Baldwin Park, helped the police.  And let's not forget the thorough and compassionate police.

The only question my reader may have left is: why it was considered a robbery without a gun or knife?  For those of you, interested in legal analysis, it started as larceny.  The boy ran off with my wallet that was on the desk.  But when I ran to the car and grabbed my wallet, I committed the crimes of trespass and battery.  I had invaded their space by putting my arm through and touched the boy without his consent.  Nonetheless, the trespass and battery were privileged by the self-defense of property.  The moment the boy told the girl to go, they were using the car as a weapon and that constitutes the use of force.  Since I was holding the wallet, it was attached to my body.  And that's how a grand larceny turned into a robbery.

And this story is about how a robbery turned into a community's caring response for one of it's citizens.