Earlier this week, Long Beach community groups filed a complaint against the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) charging that the LBPD willingly hosted a large COVID-19 super-spreader event in early November.
The complaint, filed by the People of Long Beach and the Long Beach Reform Coalition community groups to the Citizen Police Complaint Commission oversight board, says that on November 5th, a gathering of 300 Long Beach police officers, mostly maskless and not social distancing, met at the Long Beach Convention Center for a training day centered on the 2020 general election. LBPD Chief Robert Luna was specifically named in the complaint as the one who called the gathering. The complaint also said that, because of the number of people involved and that no PPE use or other factors were mandated, the event constituted being a “super-spreader” event.
“Not only was the assembly a violation of Health Department mandates but also a direct contradiction and demonstration of impunity that countered Mayor Robert Garcia’s pleas for all persons, including city employees to practice social distancing and wear masks,” said the complaint. “It took place without requiring compliance with Health Department mandates associated with social distancing and masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, thereby knowingly and willfully ordering a super-spreader event to take place.
“We want a probe to be conducted by issuing subpoenas for personnel lists and documents, administering sworn oaths for testimony from the rank and file, and to hold public hearings so as to prevent the LBPD or the city administration from covering up yet another wholesale violation of the public trust.”
Photos of the event, showing lines of officers without masks, also fueled outrage, seemingly confirming the allegation.
“How can they stand there smiling knowing that they’re risking the lives of so many people,” questioned Long Beach public activist Antonio Cruz to the Globe on Wednesday. “The community already has a fractured relationship with the LBPD. And now they are coming together like this at a time where minorities are getting COVID-19 cases higher than other groups. It’s like they’re saying that they hate us by doing this.”
Long Beach Police responds to allegations
The Long Beach Police have responded to these allegations saying that while there was a mobile field force training exercise on November 5th in the Convention Center, there have been no positive COVID-19 cases coming from the event. It was also noted that the training was to be for possible unrest following the results of the election, necessitating the gathering as essential and for the public good.
“To effectively train our officers on large-scale mobilization tactics, these trainings gradually grew in size and scope, culminating in the training event on November 5th, which was the largest day of training,” said the LBPD in a statement. “On this day, the Department’s executive staff decided to attend the training event to address our officers and recognize and thank them for their time, dedication, and sacrifice during this election period. At the conclusion, a photograph was taken with officers wearing facial coverings. However, other photographs were taken where officers are not wearing facial coverings.
“While we recognize the potential health and safety concerns that the photo raises regarding COVID-19, we have also verified no positive COVID-19 cases have been attributed to this specific training day. Lastly, we want to clarify that our City was still sufficiently staffed with other units to ensure that this training exercise did not impact our Department’s ability to respond to calls for service.”
A further statement clarified that it was important for personnel to “attend the training event to address our officers and recognize and thank them for their time, dedication, and sacrifice during this election period. We have also verified no positive COVID-19 cases have been attributed to this specific training day.”
As of Wednesday, the Citizen Police Complaint Commission has yet to make a decision on the incident, which may be further complicated by how COVID-19 guidelines had been in place in early November.
A ruling, and possible action, on the incident is expected in the near future.