Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada has filed a claim against the city alleging its policies “led directly to polarization” of the police department and resulted in 87 percent of police union voters deciding they had no confidence in the chief.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said Thursday he backs the chief despite the union vote.
The union claims Quezada has lost the trust of his officers and mishandled major incidents like last year’s Ku Klux Klan rally where several people were stabbed and arrested.
It called for his resignation, retirement or dismissal.
“There has been a hostile work environment for a long time in the department, and it is in a downward spiral,” the Anaheim Police Association (APA) said. “More items will only surface and it will only get worse for him and [the union] members unless he resigns, retires and/or is dismissed.”
In a statement, APA President Edgar Hampton said “This is not something you do to someone you work for; we respect the office, authority and chain of command. However, working for Chief Quezada has become near impossible and we are on a downward spiral.”
Quezada alleges in his claim, filed Aug. 4, several accounts of wrongdoing by a police captain who accused Quezada of time card fraud last year, and discrimination and neglect by city officials resulting in members of the police department being unable to place their trust in him.
As a result of actions by the city, he claims “Chief Quezada’s working conditions have become intolerable… While it was, of course, Chief Quezada’s plan and desire to end his law enforcement career with the City, the City’s actions and inactions have made this essentially impossible. ”
“The current Vote of No Confidence- no matter what the result – caused entirely by the City’s lack of action and/or improper actions have damaged Quezada’s earning capability, reputation, shattered his credibility and damaged his career (current and future), likely beyond repair.”
Quezada is the city’s first Latino police chief.
Among the allegations in his claim, he said former Human Resources Department Director Kristine Ridge allegedly questioned an Anaheim Police employee about Quezada’s sexuality “implying that he was a homosexual,” according to Quezada’s claim. He accuses Ridge of calling him a “gay married captain.” The claim states Quezada reported this conduct to city officials as well as audio and video of Ridge “appear[ing] to abuse her authority.”
Quezada did not specify in his claim how Ridge appeared to do so and said “[d]espite the gravity of the incident” he believes no investigation was launched.
Quezada also claimed to have received an email on June 8, 2016 from Bill McLeod, the former human resources director, warning him Ridge “may attempt to directly or indirectly… take reprisals against a [third party] or even you.” The police chief’s claim says the city manager told him to “disregard it.”
According to the claim, “Quezada had repeatedly made city officials aware that he believed Police Capt. Jarret Young was in violation of state and federal laws and failed to comply with state and federal regulations. The officials had the ability to investigate and correct the violations but have not acted to Quezada’s knowledge.”
The claim alleges Young’s decisions “potentially” placed officers and community members at risk while exposing the city to significant liability” but does not specify the actions. According to Quezada, soon after he made his allegations the city placed “‘untouchable’ status” on Young “thereby emboldening him (and his followers) to complain at-will about Quezada.”
In October 2016, Quezada said Young distributed an internal memo accusing Quezada of “fraud” and “theft of public funds.” The media later acquired the memo, as ABC7 Eyewitness News reported.
In a letter to the Anaheim city manager, the Orange County District Attorney’s office concluded Young’s claims against Quezada and his Deputy Chief Dan Cahill were unfounded.
“There is no evidence showing a crime was committed by either Chief Quezada or Deputy Chief Cahill,” the letter reads.
Quezada called Young’s actions toward him an “improper vendetta” and “insubordination.”
He alleges the city “entirely ignore[ed] Chief Quezada’s disclosures and complaints… conversely, conducting full-fledged investigations into Captain Young’s allegations against Chief Quezada.”
Quezada believes this “led directly to polarization in the Department, significant leadership challenges, and to Chief Quezada’s irreparable damage.” He claims Young’s behavior was allowed to “flourish” by the city and “resulted in” the police union’s vote of no confidence.
“This created an erroneous harmful perception that Chief Quezada was simply ‘allowing’ subordinates to defame and disrespect him… further undermining both Chief Quezada’s authority, as well as the organization as a whole.”
He alleges this created a “significant appearance of ‘double standards’ where Quezada was unable to hold officers accountable when he was unable to hold Young accountable for his actions.
“The City proceeded to only investigate Captain Young’s claims against Chief Quezada. Per past practice, the City claimed it could not/would not investigated Chief Quezada’s complaints as it feared Captain Young would claim ‘retaliation.’”
The claim says the city recently notified Quezada it will not be investigating any misconduct he alleged about Captain Young.
The police union decided unanimously (14-0) at its July 24 meeting to hold the vote. Ballots were cast anonymously through union members’ emails beginning July 28 and closed on Aug. 7 at 5 p.m.
The Anaheim police union released a statement early Thursday announcing the “overwhelming” vote of no confidence by its members. Among the reasons for the vote, the Anaheim Police Association cited Quezada’s decision to remove tourniquets from officers’ belts, failing to hold managers accountable for mishandling incidents like the KKK rally last year and showing favoritism by bypassing his own selection process for prestigious assignments.
In a phone interview Thursday, union president Hampton had no comment on the police chief’s claim against the city and said, “my primary concern is the leadership of the police department.”
He said the chief “deflects responsibility.”
“I’m looking for strong leadership… at the management level.”
Hampton said he was in favor of Quezada’s focus on community engagement and his effort to install body cameras.
In a statement Thursday, Quezada said “despite the union vote, I continue to have confidence in the men and women of APD. I can’t help but question whether no confidence votes against reform-minded police chiefs who have yet to hit retirement age are part of a new playbook some local police unions are using to attempt to strong arm cities and police agencies.”
Tait said he believes “our chief has done an excellent job” and that he has the “support of the community.” Tait praised Quezada’s focus on “community engagement” and said crime was down under the police chief’s leadership.
He said of the union vote “I think there’s politics involved… Our duty is to serve the people of the community and I think he’s done that well.”
The mayor defended Quezada from one of the police union’s criticisms in particular: his handling of the KKK rally last year.
“That is one incident in a four or five-year career. I don’t know if it’s fair to hold the chief responsible for a fight breaking out at a highly charged rally.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Bill McLeod, as the current Human Resources director. He is a former Human Resources director. Voice of OC regrets the error.
Jose Ochoa is a Voice of OC intern. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.