The role of the OC Human Relations Commission, and other non-profits, in pacifying unrest in working class communities on behalf of the Anaheim Police Department.
The recent emergence of a thread of e-mails that were exchanged between Anaheim PD Chief, John Welter and OC Human Relations Executive Director, Rusty Kennedy, during the Anaheim uprising crisis last summer, have exposed the OCHR as the epitome of a paid co-opted non-profit organization available and subservient to the interests of the police state. Even more revealing is the fact that some of the most notable, and arguably influential, OC non-profit administrators and politicians were cc’d in some of the e-mails that provided the police with intelligence from Anna Dr. residents.
The records made public by The Anaheim Investigator, a local citizen journalist, offer absolute proof of police and the non-profit complex corruption.
On July 24th, 2012, just days after Manuel Diaz was shot and killed by an Anaheim PD officer, Kennedy sent Chief Welter an e-mail titled “APD Shooting Follow-Up” in which his initiative and readiness to cooperate with the efforts of the police were obvious.
“I and my staff are completely available to you 24/7, let me know how we can help. If you would like another set of ears at the table as you process this and plan the community relations aspect, I can come over now.” Suggested Kennedy.
A briefing he sent to the OC Board of Supervisors was also included in the body of the e-mail.
“OC Human Relations Commission responded late Saturday afternoon to a growing fracas in Anaheim where a young man was shot and killed by the Anaheim police after a pursuit.”
“We dispatched a bilingual team that checked in with the APD on site, engaged community members and sought to be helpful, staying till the incident wound down. Then Again on Sunday we sent staff to the APD where a demonstration took place.”
About two weeks later, in the morning of August 10th, 2012, just as the APD completed Operation Halo in the Anna Dr. neighborhood, Kennedy sent an e-mail titled “Deployed OC Human Relations Staff” to inform Chief Welter and Lieutenant Jarret Young, OCHR’s Community Capacity Building Coordinator, Edgar Medina and Human Relations Specialist, Joyce Sanchez, were on their way to the site to talk to residents. He offered to “work community relations to share the accurate information available about what happened and the outcomes of (the) coordinated action.” Then he volunteered to “work some community relations” and reach out to share information with groups like OCCCO, OCCORD, and Los Amigos of OC.
That same afternoon, after the completion of the operation that resulted in dozens of supposed gang members arrested, Kennedy shared the findings of the OCHR canvassing team. Part of the conversation went as follows:
“Edgar and Joyce just returned from a couple hours of canvassing the Anna Dr. as well as the nearby neighborhood where some of the arrests went down.”
“The neighborhoods have lots of young people and apparent gang activity. Many of the families were more than happy to talk to our team, but some of the youth avoided them.”
“Some of the associates of Manuel Diaz suggested that the raid was retaliation for the demonstrations and trash burning and rock throwing. Others felt the police were coming after those who were pictured in the videos and photos during the demonstrations breaking the law. Some of the youth might be more problematic tonight. Possibly lighting trash fires or blocking streets is possible. CONCERN. We are not sure how to manage potentially explosive gatherings in the neighborhood tonight and through the weekend.”
“Thanks. Have you shared your information and concern with Amin David. I’m not sure that he has any influence in the area. I also heard there are some community members who are organized through the Edison School”
Did you meant to send your reply to everybody, including Amin who is on this list? I was including some of the key leaders you and we have been in conversation with. I will check with staff to see if we have any contacts at Edison.
“Oops… Sorry I didn’t see Amin’s name on the list. I think the information you’re providing is very valuable. Did you plan on making any of this public? It could help other residents come forward if they see others trust to work with police. Thanks for you and your team for getting out there early. I hope ther are no arsons or property damage. We will be prepared to respond if there is any out of control violence this weekend. We will continue with our normal operations.”
I have been including all of the key leaders in the e-mails, and Edgar and Joyce have been open about our collaboration all in the hopes that we project an image of working together with you and your department.“
The “key leaders” that Kennedy referred to and who were included in an e-mail titled “Briefing from Anna Dr. and Neighborhood” were: Julio Pérez, Staff Director/Political Director at the OC Labor Federation and former Democrat candidate to the 69th Assembly District, Eric Altman, Executive Director of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD), Deborah Phares, Executive Director of Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO), José Moreno, President of Los Amigos of OC, and Amin David founder and former chair of Los Amigos of OC.
Did these “leaders” not consider this blatant cooperation and breach of trust as something worthy of bringing to light and let Anna Dr. residents and community in general know? How much did they know and what else did they know?
We contacted the aforementioned persons to inquire about the e-mails they were cc’d on, and about additional information they could provide.
OCCCO’s Executive Director, Deborah Phares replied to us admitting to have received the e-mail in which Kennedy briefed Chief Welter and the other “leaders”.
”I remember being cc'd in an e-mail that gave a summary of conversations with residents on Ana Dr. I believe that Chief Welter was a part of the e-mail as well. I assume that this is the e-mail that you are referring to. I don't believe I responded. The staff member working in Anaheim at that time no longer works with us. I do not know if she met with Edgar.“ Said Phares.
She also mentioned Rusty Kennedy is currently an OCCCO board member and has a long history with the organization.
As of publication time, we haven’t gotten a response from Julio Pérez, Eric Altman, Amin David or Chief John Welter. José Moreno never replied to confirm the date we proposed after an initial contact.
Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, a community organizer, who at the time of the uprising was employed at OCCORD working in similar neighborhoods to Anna Dr., told The Rebel Press that neither he or any staff member at the Anaheim based non-profit knew about the e-mails his supervisor received from Kennedy.
“We (staff) were never told anything about this. OCCORD is asking municipal governments in Orange County for more transparency, like the Sunshine Ordinance in Santa ana, yet their CEO is not being transparent to his own staff, community leaders, and people in general. It seems hypocritical to me. Seeing this in retrospective, makes me sick. He (Eric Altaman) kept or is keeping important information to himself!” Said Tezcatlipoca.
We asked Kennedy whether it was regular procedure of OCHR to report and share information collected in canvassing campaigns with the APD and other non- profit organizations.
“This was not a campaign or anything that formal. In our current work we have been doing ‘Listening Sessions’ in African American churches over the past few months, we will write a report summarizing some of our learnings and publish it, and share it with decision makers at every level to help them understand the African American experience in OC. We hope this will build understanding in those who have not experienced racism, and sensitivity, and perhaps action to improve. We work closely with the Anaheim Police Chief and give him and his staff insight into the perceptions of the community; this includes cultural awareness training, police community reconciliation, and consultation. We help them to understand and have empathy for the residents that we meet. We work to increase the compassion of the department in working closely with the good neighbors of Anna Dr. against the gang violence that threatens their children.”
“I speak regularly with, and collaborate with OCCCO, OCCORD, Los Amigos, and occasionally with CLUE, Labor Federation, etc. as well as many others.” Said Kennedy.
Our questions about whether the OCHR had any type of business contract or received any monetary contributions from the APD, were ignored; however, the Anaheim Investigator gave us the answer on a recent post on his blog. An article and digitally scanned official city documents, obtained under provisions of the California Public Records, show that the OCHR received thousands of dollars to act as a proxy police agency. According to the piece:
“Financial records from the City of Anaheim show that since July 2006, OC Human Relations has received $67,955 from the Anaheim Police Department. Of that amount, $22,251, or 33% of the entire total, was disbursed between November 2011 and September 2012 alone. Several invoices and check request forms show even the monies the city uses to pay yearly dues to OC Human Relations comes out of the police budget, not the general fund. All payments were approved by Welter.”
An email sent on September 12th, 2012, in which Kennedy asks Welter for payment for the services he and his organization provided to the APD, is shown as part of the released records.
I wanted to ask about our invoice for Police Community Reconciliation Services. Our first year agreement with you was for $5,000 and we completed that year on June 30, 2012. It is time for me to invoice for another year. I would like to go ahead and invoice you for the $5,000 for FY 2012-13 as we are into it already. Additionally, you mentioned that you wanted to pay us for the added crisis services that we rendered in connection with the deployment of our staff in the Anna Dr. neighborhood on the morning after the gang member joint action arrests, and perhaps some of the time for the pre-shift briefings that we started this morning and consultation and support for the special city council meeting at Anaheim high school. If you are open to that I would add to the $5,000 invoice for the PCRP (Police Community Reconciliation Program) staffed by James Armendaris, additional services rendered by our staff members: Edgar Medina, Joyce Sanchez, Don Han, Seema Bhakta, Alison Edwards and myself, for and additional $5,000.”
The set of documents also contains a Request for Check Form ordered by Chief Welter on September 12th, 2012, which granted a $10,000 payment to the OCHR in annual dues and fees for services related to the case of Manuel Diaz, the subsequent unrest in the city and Operation Halo.
“Annual fee for Police Community Reconciliation services FY 12/13 (Fiscal Year 2012-2013) and added crisis services rendered in connection with Anna Dr. neighborhood unrest and gang member arrests, etc.” reads the request description.
Papers also show Welter approved a $7, 251 check for city dues to OCHR earlier last year on March 13th, about a week after the killing of Martin Angel Hernandez by APD officer Dan Hurtado in the Ponderosa neighborhood. Another $5,000 payment was approved specifically for OCHR’s Police Community Reconciliation Program a few months earlier, on November 22nd, 2011.
On their website, the OCHR’s describes its Police Community Reconciliation Program as an “award winning” program that employs “neutral mediators” to reconcile civil society and the police. “An alternative to the traditional complaint/disciplinary process”, in their own words.
“The mediator is ‘the person in the middle’, an impartial third party who helps people to talk through and resolve their differences. Mediators explain the ground rules and the process, each side gets the opportunity to talk about what happened from their own perspective, and then the mediators guide the parties through the dialog process.” Reads an excerpt from the program.
An article3 featured on their 2011-12 annual report about an event hosted by the APD and OCHR, intended to reconcile the police with the Ponderosa community after the fatal shooting of Martin Angel Hernandez, boasts the efficacy of the program in “helping make peace” in the neighborhood.
Commission “Saves Lives” In Anaheim.
When Angel Hernandez was shot to death by an Anaheim Police officer, rumors swirled in the community where he lived. One story was that the police had shot him in the leg then came up and put a gun to his head and shoot him point blank, execution style. The gang that Angel allegedly belonged to was rumored to have put out “a hit” on the Anaheim police. So when Angel’s toddler son and widow joined a few hundred neighbors crowded into a room in their neighborhood to confront the police chief with these accusations, the tension was palpable. OC Human Relations Commission staff facilitated the dialogue and controlled the forum, allowing everyone to air their grievances and for Chief John Welter to respond. And respond he did, in the face of extreme emotion and sadness Chief Welter took each person’s testimony and responded with grace, even when profanity, and overt hostility peppered the dialogue. The truth came out: a call from the community about a group of armed gang members hanging out in an alley brought the police. The suspects ran, including Angel who was in possession of a rifle. Angel attempted to jump a fence but failed and turned with gun in hand to confront the officer. The officer shot twice and hit Angel once killing him on site. Anaheim city manager, Bob Wingenroth approached Commission staff afterwards and said, “you saved lives that night.” He saw the community forums co-hosted by the Commission as the turning point in getting the truth to the neighborhood and helping make peace.
Besides the evident bias in favor of the police, there is one major problem with this epic account. The “truth”, was made public just last January in the DA’s official investigation report on Hernandez’s killing. There is no way the OCRH could have known what the “truth” was at the time of the release of this article, unless they had some type of inside information or simply decided to treat the initial police report as the “truth”. It also downplays the legitimate demands for justice and presents the residents of the Ponderosa community as an irrational and vociferous mob when all they were doing was asking for a fair investigation into the death of another civilian in the long list of APD victims.
The notion that the city manager Bob Wingenroth saw the community forum as a “turning point in getting the truth to the neighborhood and helping make peace”, indicates how out of touch city officials are with the reality of Ponderosa, and other communities, since the DA’s report is not considered as truth nor is peace prevalent in a neighborhood where police abuse is rampant.
The Rebel Press attended the forum and this is our version:
At the beginning of the event Chief Welter thanked the OCHR for their effort and collaboration.
“I do want to thank the Orange County Human Relations Commission for volunteering to help us pull this meeting together. Thank you Rusty.” Said Welter.
Sgt. Juan Reveles, head of the APD Gang Unit, started out by giving a long presentation on Anaheim gangs and essentially trying to justify racial profiling and other questionable methods the APD utilizes when patrolling working class neighborhoods. He showed statistics, infographics, etc.
What came next took the OCHR and APD representatives by surprise; the forum blew up in their faces and was never “under control” like the above article claims. Welter seemed nervous and even stuttered at times when trying to respond to the crowd which never seemed satisfied with his or Sgt. Revelees’ answers. As a matter of fact, most of the people walked out on Chief Welter, Mayor Tait and some other councilmembers who attended the forum.
According to the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators in the U.S., a code of ethics established jointly by The American Arbitration Association, the American Bar Association and the Association from Conflict Resolution, a mediating body or organization must be “free from favoritism, bias or prejudice for any reason. He must avoid any appearance of partiality. A mediator is not permitted to accept any gift, favor, loan or any other thing of value from the parties, with the exception of incidental items that are provided to facilitate the mediation.”
Standard III “requires that the mediator avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest arising from any past or present relationship between the mediator and any mediation participant, both during and after a mediation, whether it be professional or personal. She is ethically obliged to make inquiries to determine if a conflict of interest could exist or could likely be created. If she discovers a conflict of interest after the mediation process begins, she is required to disclose it as soon as practicable.”
It's important to highlight that OCHR members never disclosed to the Anaheim communities, where they were mediating and working in the “reconciliation” with the police, that their Police Community Reconciliation Program was being funded in part by the APD, neither did they explicitly let people know the observations they gathered in talks with community members were being relayed to Chief Welter.
Also, the fact that two of their staff members, Alison Edwards and James Armendaris, serve on the Anaheim Police Chief Advisory Board makes it harder to believe the OCHR is a neutral organization.
We will update this article as we get more information, in the meantime, we’ll keep waiting for responses from Julio Perez, Eric Altman, Chief Welter, Jose Moreno, and Amin David.
- "Emails Reveal OC Human Relations Gathered Info From Anna Drive Residents And Forwarded It To Anaheim Police Chief John Welter." Anaheim Investigator. Thu 07 Mar 2013.
- "Keeping The Rabble In Line: OC Human Relations Received Special $5,000 Payment From Anaheim Police Chief As Reward For Pacifying Angry Anna Drive Residents." Anaheim Investigator. Wed 18 Mar 2013.
- "2011-2012 Annual Report." OC Human Relations.