Anaheim Spooks

Report shows police spied on activists who complained about cops

Photo by Coral WilsonFollowing a well-publicized audit that gave the Anaheim Police Department's Internal Affairs Division a rave review for its investigations into its own officers, a new report proves what Latino activists have said all along: Anaheim cops are more interested in investigating the people who file complaints against them.

Specifically, the police department report shows that its own officers investigated Anaheim activists who have been vocal critics of police and claimed to find the activists had links to alleged "known criminals."

The report also officially cleared police of any wrongdoing in regard to several complaints made last year by four activists mentioned in the report: Amin David, chairman of Los Amigos of Orange County, and Josie Montoya, Jessica Castro and Francisco Ceja, all members of the Anaheim community group United Neighborhoods.

The Anaheim Police Department's investigation of the four activists remained a secret until The Orange County Register—apparently acting on leaked information about the Nov. 14 council meeting—requested and obtained a copy of the report through the California Public Records Act late last month. The police also leaked a copy of the report to the Los Angeles Times, and on Sept. 1, both papers published stories about the police investigation into local activists.

In seeking to discredit the department's most vocal critics by tying them to "known criminals," police investigators interviewed 31 people, generated 509 pages of documents, and spent 270 staff hours at a total cost of $10,300. Why it cost so much—and what happened to the hundreds of pages of documentation that weren't released to the public—remains unclear. Telephone calls to the department's public-information office seeking comment for this story were not returned.

Moreover, several of the 36 pages that were released to the public are missing, replaced in the report with blank pages that only say, "REDACTED MATERIAL." And what wasn't redacted mostly consists of newspaper clippings, flow charts, and biographical material on activists Montoya and David—with numerous references beneath the activists' names to pages that are missing from the report. While the flow charts purport to link activists to known criminals, the report fails to cite any evidence or allegations that the activists were themselves involved in criminal activity.

In fact, only one "known criminal" is mentioned by name in Anaheim's clandestine police report: Carlos Quiñones Sr., whom the police report also describes as a "community pastor." The report includes a portion of a clipping from an Oct. 13, 2000, story in OC Weekly, "The Wrong Profile." That article dealt with allegations that police brutalized Quiñones' son, Eddie, on July 15, 2000—one day after police arrested his father on weapons charges.

As the Weekly reported, police allegedly threw Carlos Quiñones Jr. to the ground during the raid and threatened to "take down" his younger brother, Eddie, whom they arrested for having a pocketknife. Eddie Quiñones voluntarily checked himself into juvenile hall rather than wait for a court hearing on the knife charge, telling the judge he was afraid of the police.

The secret report says Anaheim police investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing by officers in the July 15 incident. The report also describes as unfounded two other complaints: one by Montoya that she was verbally abused by police officers, and another by Ceja that police wrongfully searched his home—without his permission and while he wasn't there—when his two children answered the front door.

Police have so far refused to release the entire report, blaming threats of litigation by the activists they targeted. But in interviews with the Weekly, Montoya and David denied they ever threatened to sue police, calling on police officials to produce evidence to the contrary.

Yet Montoya and David also told the Weekly that after learning of the secret police investigation, they did meet with several attorneys, including Santa Ana-based lawyer David Haas, about how to respond to what they see as a violation of their civil rights. They said they are scheduled to meet with police on Sept. 18 in a meeting to be chaired by a mediator from the California attorney general's office.

At that meeting, they plan to raise three demands: the creation of a civilian review board to oversee police operations; accreditation of Anaheim's police force through the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), a law-enforcement group that requires police departments to meet high standards of professionalism; and, finally, a personal apology from Police Chief Roger Baker.

"The police were clearly trying to discredit us with this report," Montoya asserted. "Now they won't release their entire investigation because they say it's not public information. That means they must have gone into people's private files to make this report. If that's true, that's a clear violation of our civil rights."

"This kind of report is what you'd expect to see from a totalitarian police department," charged Los Amigos' David. "We want an apology from Baker before we go into this meeting."

David said he finds it particularly disturbing that police have refused to release most of the report. "I have no idea why they would investigate me," he said. "I'm a pretty uninteresting, mainstream kind of person. . . . It really rankles me that in this day and age, the police still do this kind of thing."

 
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