By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Illustration by Ward Sutton It's Halloween, a season of rapid transformations, when your neighbors reveal who they really are by dimming their lights and pretending they're not home. When alcoholics who haven't been drunk since United Nations Day (Oct. 24) take advantage of the last holiday before All Saints Day (Nov. 1) to get completely faced. When Jesus comes out of his hole to see if, by clever examination of his lengthy shadow, he can predict the exact start of winter.
And on this occasion, the Weekly typically celebrates the holiday by identifying the 31 Orange Countians who don't need costumes to make us scream like people on a ride at Disneyland who think they're going to crash and die and then crash and die.
But this year, something different. In a bid to purge the ranks of cops who've ridden the national passion for all men in all uniforms, we're looking at cops. Cops who rape girls. Cops who drive drunk at high speed and then lie about it. Cops who prosecute guys with guns and then celebrate by listening to REO Speedwagon and firing their pistols in the air like they just don't care because, hell, they've got a badge.
Among all scary people, bad cops can be the scariest because they're supposed to be heroes. These 31 are anti-heroes. We're not saying watch your back around these guys or obey the law because these guys might get you. We're saying none of that matters. You might as well do whatever because, hell, they've got you surrounded.
1 DERRICK WATKINS Santa Ana cop
On May 20, Watkins, who was attached to the department's gang unit, attended a triple-header classic-rock marathon at LA's Staples Center featuring REO Speedwagon, Journey and Styx. After the show, Watkins carpooled back home to Orange County with several pals—most of them gang-unit prosecutors with the Orange County district attorney's office. As their SUV raced down the 91 freeway through Compton, Watkins decided it was time to celebrate an almost-perfect evening: he took out his police-issue handgun, aimed it out the window and started firing. Also in the SUV was the wife of a high-ranking DA's office official as well as Larry Yellin, an OC DA homicide prosecutor, and Alison Gyves and Mark Geller, both of whom are gang-unit prosecutors working alongside Watkins in an office at the Santa Ana Police Department and recently teamed up in an effort to send a Latino suspected of gang membership to prison for life. That man's crime? Shooting a gun in the air. Talk about your wheels in the sky! MITIGATING FACTOR: Rock & roll will never die, but Styx—God willing—eventually will.
2 MARK TRACHMAN Huntington Beach cop
Trachman was fired, arrested and convicted earlier this year for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl he was interviewing at her home about a statutory-rape complaint. He was also popped on a misdemeanor count for coercing a 26-year-old woman to expose her breasts during a 1999 traffic stop. Trachman, who joined the Surf City force in 1999 after three years with the LAPD, used the old let-me-check-you-for-scars-and-bruises trick when he touched the girl's breasts, had her expose other parts of her body and asked her about her underwear of choice. The girl complied because her parents told her to do whatever the good officer told her to do. If that's not fucked-up enough, consider this: the three-year prison sentence Trachman got was less than the maximum five years prosecutors sought because Judge James A. Stotler feared for Trachman's safety in prison. MITIGATING FACTOR: Trachman's safe. Fourteen-year-old girls? Not so much.
3 MARK WERSCHING Huntington Beach cop
Wersching is probably the most expensive cop in Huntington Beach history. On May 5, 2001, he fatally shot Antonio Saldivar, an unarmed 18-year-old Costa Mesa resident, in the back, after mistaking him for a gangbanger he'd been chasing moments earlier. His justification —that Saldivar had aimed a rifle at him—evaporated when the rifle was determined to be a toy gun. This summer, a jury awarded Saldivar's family $2.1 million.
During that trial, Wersching's disciplinary record became public. It suggested that Wersching should have been fired long before he had the chance to shoot an unarmed kid in the back. In October 1998, two women filed a complaint alleging they saw Wersching use excessive force in downtown Huntington Beach while arresting a guy who yelled at Wersching while he was arresting another guy. In May 1999, HBPD investigated Wersching again, this time for an off-duty "altercation" in which Wersching, who had been drinking, was hit in the head with a bottle.
On July 5, 1999, Wersching and a fellow officer stole a large quantity of confiscated fireworks from a locked container at the Huntington Beach Fire Department—and then celebrated by setting off the fireworks at the HBPD union headquarters. Because of the value of the stolen fireworks, the fire department filed a felony grand-theft report, which HBPD spent months investigating before determining that Wersching was one of the officers responsible for the theft. He was suspended for just 30 hours without pay.
But that didn't stop Huntington Beach's fun-loving cop from getting into more trouble. In January 1999, Wersching and several fellow off-duty HBPD officers and their wives and girlfriends were celebrating a victorious softball game by barhopping around the city. Late that night, Wersching offered to drive an officer and his wife home but took a detour—onto the city beach. Reaching speeds of 50 mph, he raced his car along the beach until crashing into a cement ditch and totaling the car. A civilian employee of the police department suffered a partially collapsed lung and broken ribs. (She later sued Wersching.) Rather than report the accident and request an ambulance, however, Wersching had another passenger drive her to the hospital and called the police dispatcher to send a tow truck to pull his car out of the sand.