Anaheim Police Didn’t Spy on Activists, Inquiry Finds
After a yearlong inquiry into the Anaheim Police Department, state investigators this week said they found no evidence that Anaheim police spied on city residents in the late 1990s, including two political activists who are now City Council members.
But the state attorney general’s office, in a report issued Wednesday, criticized the former police chief for using “extremely poor judgment” in ordering background reports on Latino activists who had accused the police of misconduct.
The officials who were investigated have since left the police force and city government. A new police chief, John Welter, was hired from San Diego and has implemented a series of guidelines prohibiting background checks on residents not suspected of a crime.
A longtime Latino leader and police critic who was investigated by police in the 1990s said Thursday that the reforms were welcome.
“I truly believe there’s a renaissance going in the Anaheim Police Department with Chief Welter coming in,” Amin David said. “If the trampling upon ourselves caused this renaissance, it was worth it. I’m saddened that our city did this to us, but that’s to be resolved in the courts.”
David and several other Latino activists filed a federal lawsuit contending their civil rights were violated in the late 1990s by former Police Chief Roger Baker. The case is pending.
Welter requested the state probe after retired police Capt. Marc Hedgepeth said he was directed by two former police chiefs to spy on two activists who later joined the City Council.
One was Richard Chavez, a former firefighter and labor activist who was elected to the council in 2002. He was frequently at odds with the former city manager, James Ruth, because of contract negotiations.
The other was Lorri Galloway, director of the Eli Home shelter for abused women and children, who was elected in 2004. She was targeted because of her friendship with Chavez.
Chavez said Thursday he was disappointed with the investigation, saying that incriminating evidence against Baker was either discounted or dismissed.
Investigators were given notes by the police captain showing that “Chief Baker’s No. 1 priority was to investigate Richard Chavez and discredit him,” Chavez said Thursday. “I also wonder why investigators decided to rely upon internal police officers who have a vested stake in the investigation’s outcome.”
Investigators interviewed more than 30 current and former members of the Police Department during the probe and said they found no proof that the city’s previous top management ordered politically motivated police surveillance of activists.
“We were very disturbed by these claims, and we didn’t leave any stone unturned,” said Timothy Muscat, deputy attorney general. “But we found no one who could corroborate these claims. We’re not concluding Capt. Hedgepeth’s allegations are false, we just couldn’t corroborate that they occurred.”
Anaheim police did not come out of the investigation unscathed.
Investigators concluded that Ruth asked Baker to present a background analysis of Latino activists, including David, to the Anaheim City Council in November 2000.
The activists learned later they were the subject of a 36-page “link analysis,” including newspaper clippings, that detailed their relationships with one another.
But this week’s report said witnesses disagreed about the former city manager and police chief’s motivations for the analysis.
“Even if these assumptions are made in Chief Baker’s favor,” the report states, “he still demonstrated extremely poor judgment in using a link chart.”
Now that the investigation is over, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle said he hoped the community could move on.
“We wanted an independent third party to bring the issue to a head,” said Pringle, who added that the recommended guidelines were already in place in the Police Department.