Mired in controversy culminating in last year's street clashes in Anaheim between protestors and police, Sergeant Tony Montanarella believes the time is ripe for his department to recover.
In a guest column he authored for the OC Register on Thursday (sheathed behind the Great Paywall of Grand Avenue) Montanarella says that progress has been made, but outlines three key changes that still need to take place. Claiming to speak solely on his own behalf and not for his fellow officers, the police sergeant criticizes what he calls a system of cronyism and corruption in promotions within the department over the past few years–strong allegations indeed!
And as Anaheim awaits the appointment of a new police chief, Montanarella lets it be known, in a not-so-thinly veiled swipe, that current Interim Chief Raul Quezada is not the right person for the job.
Interestingly, the opinion piece publicly hashes out a number of areas of internal dissension within the department in the wake of the riots. Aside from a vapid point about better utilizing social media, the outspoken sergeant declared that the APD needed to get its house in order first and foremost.
“Currently, [it] is obsessed with catering to a very angry vocal minority with political agendas at the expense of the overwhelming majority of the population we serve who support us,” Montanarella says. While revealing in terms of where he's coming from, who ever could he be referring to?
Interim Chief Quezada and Captain Julian Harvey recently participated in a roundtable in July at the office of a thrift store run by the East Street Community Renewal Initiative (ESCRI). Donna Acevedo and Theresa Smith, mothers whose sons were killed in officer-involved shootings in Anaheim and have since turned into accountability activists, were among the participants. The public discussion was largely a rehash of previously held private meetings.
Of the few key issues to arise over two hours, Interim Chief Quezada reconfirmed that officer Kelly Phillips, who was recently cleared in the killing of Acevedo's son, Joel, last year, was, in a discretionary move, assigned out of Guinida Lane where the fatal shooting occurred.
Is this the kind of interaction and decision making that Sgt. Montanarella finds fault with and describes as obsessive catering? The brief essay doesn't delve into the details. Nevertheless, he rounded up his guest column outlining what the department needed in terms of leadership moving forward deeming the selection of the next chief as “the most important” in its history.
“The city must select a Chief from outside the department: someone who is not beholden to anyone, who owes nothing to anyone and who will bring new blood to an organization in need of a strong independent, experienced police leader,” wrote Montanarella in a description that doesn't fit an insider like Quezada who could be visibly seen attached to ex-Chief John Welter's hip in the months leading up to his interim appointment.
Montanarella's outline may sound reasonable on the surface, but hasn't Anaheim been here before? When controversial ex-Chief Roger Baker retired at the end of 2003, the city brought in Welter, an outsider from the San Diego Police Department.
His term ended nine years later in retirement ironically leaving behind a department that Montanarella now says is in need of recuperation.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz