Fontana Police Chief Green Resists Being Inveigled Into Fielding Tough & Leading Questions

By Carlos Avalos On July 14, 2020, Mt. Zion Church of Ontario lead by Pastor Brian Eric Kennedy and the Ontario Police Department held an online community forum with prominent public service professionals in San Bernardino County. San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson, Ontario Police Chief Derek Williams, Upland Police Chief Darren Goodman, Fontana Police Chief William Green, and Chief Investigator Eric Hopley of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office were all in attendance. The topic was “Change From The Inside Out in Local Policing.” From May 25, the day George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis police, until now, criminal justice reform, police brutality, and people taking to the streets to voice their concerns about policing have been major issues at the forefront of American society. All the parties mentioned, who are some of the most influential and powerful people in the county, wanted to jump out ahead of what is happening nationally and convey to the people of San Bernardino County a simple message. This was conveyed by Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who said, “We are reading your emails and messages. We hear you.” This online community event started off with each person stating his name, position, and his law enforcement stance. Routinely, as usually happens, up and down the line they all condemned the actions of the Minneapolis Police Department. Most of the panel admitted or alluded to the fact that minorities, specifically African Americans, are not treated fairly when it comes to the criminal justice system. This is at every level of law enforcement, and at every stage of the criminal justice system, from arrest, conviction, to sentencing, they collectively acknowledged. There were three or four specific topics discussed before the question and answer part of the symposium took place. The topics were the typical we care/ there’s a problem/we are with you type of talk. When the live questions started pouring in, observers remarked that the symposium on behalf of S.B County law enforcement officials, rather than the Mt. Zion Church, was being done for show rather than as a forum for the discussion of serious reform. Softball questions were answered. After the participants had warmed up, some real hardball questions were posed, ones that were directed mostly to William Green, the Fontana Police Department’s police chief, and San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson. Some residents sought to impose upon Green a question about Ismael Banda, David Michael Tyler and Fermin Rincon, three men killed in a span of five months while in Fontana police custody, all by the same group of officers. One of those was Obie Rodriguez, who retired prematurely after press reports on the incidents. Chief Green was accused of excessive force many times over the course of his career. In 2003 Green and the Fontana Police Department’s so-called SMASH unit, the anti-gang detail known as the San Bernardino Movement Against Street Hoodlums, were sued by attorney Dale Galipo for the in-custody deaths of the three minorities. To clear Green and the other SMASH officers, FPD hired a team of experts to investigate the deaths, which were all eloquently explained away. All of the involved officers were promoted and soared upward in the organization, including Green, who is now chief. A question was submitted that inquired into a rumor that one of these men was thrown off of an industrial building, which had proximately led to that man’s death. This question was not asked of William Green by the panel. William Green’s demeanor changed after the first hardball question was submitted to the panel by a member of the public. A video of the symposium shows the subdued and quiet Green looking off into space most of the time. Upon being confronted with the first aggressive question, the Fontana police chief’s body language and facial expressions changed notably. While questions came in from members of the public participating in the forum, and the questions were then displayed to those watching the forum, the hosts had ultimate discretion as to which of the incoming questions were to be posed to the panelists. Though Green was given a reprieve from having to actually field some of the more pointed questions relating to his department, he could see them coming in as the participants logged in. Green was asked about former Fontana Chief of Police Edward Stout. One question intended for Green related to reports that Stout had swastikas tattooed on his forearms, which several members of the department had seen on occasion. The questioner sought to determine whether former Fontana Police Sergeant Darren Robb had indeed testified about Stout’s tattoos during depositions. The question was not asked of Green by the panel. Another set of related questions intended for Green consisted of whether he was familiar with the Jimmy Burleson murder case handled by the Fontana Police Department in which the victim’s corpse was desecrated by a Fontana police official and whether the incident was ever investigated and if he would at this point call for an investigation into this crime. The question dwelled on Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren’s alleged knowledge of what had occurred and that she had turned a blind eye to finding out the truth because of the bad publicity. The panel elected not to ask Green that question. Another question a member of the public had for Green related to whether the Fontana Police Department has a problem with racial disparity. Those hosting the forum decided not to put Green on the spot by pressing him on that matter. District Attorney Jason Anderson was asked if he saw a conflict of interest in allowing law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations into incidents wherein those agencies became involved in the use of force. Anderson replied that doing it any other way would involve what he said would be re-inventing the wheel. Deflecting the question’s suggesting that the current arrangement involved an inherent conflict of interest, he sought to substitute a reference to the community input concept he had championed during his successful 2018 election campaign. He spoke about the community commission he intends to create composed of community leaders from each of the county’s five supervisor districts. Anderson’s thought process behind this, he indicated, was to “better inform the community about how the criminal justice system works, and get their feedback on ways to use the offices’ resources.” Anderson indicated he had no problem stacking the commission with members of the political establishment handpicked by the members of the board of supervisors with a final look over by the district attorney’s office. In his response, Anderson seemed more fixated on propounding the appearance of community involvement, seemingly unconcerned that the question pertained to the shooting of the disenfranchised members of the community whose interests are far afield, indeed contrary to any fake community commissions and yes men and women the county’s most powerful personages are willing to appoint. Anderson was not pressed as to whether he considered whether those who supported him in his run for San Bernardino County district attorney did so believing he would substitute a commission chartered to deliver a whitewash of police activity for accountability. Anderson also touched on his creation of a team/taskforce which is to respond to cases in which officers or deputies use force, one which is comprised of deputy district attorneys and investigators. In a 2019 article Anderson stated that “it would benefit everybody to have a professional team that is going to make the right decision. We are the final arbitrators. Why aren’t we out there getting into it at the beginning?” When citizens participating sought to question the district attorney as to whether he agreed that it would be better for those who police the police to originate from an outside unbiased agency or entity, the question was killed as dead as certain San Bernardino County residents who have had fatal encounters with various police agencies. The topic of police officers and their agencies being held accountable for breaking the law to the same standard applied to common citizens came up in the discussion. Anderson claimed that his office is not blinded by color, agency, or political party. If someone breaks the law, police officer or not, he said, the officer will be prosecuted. When members of the public in response suggested that Anderson be asked how many times the district attorney’s office has filed charges against police officers as well as how many civil cases for racial discrimination or police brutality have ever been successful within the County of San Bernardino, the panel considered it to be impolite to ask the district attorney those questions. The only question vaguely approaching the characterization of hardball that the panel consented to to ask Green concerned the remodeling of the Fontana Police Station. He was asked why the department opted, in its choice of décor, for exhibiting old photos from civil rights protests, which showed police and police dogs surrounding black people as well as photos of police officers detaining and arresting minorities. Green first responded by adamantly saying that was not true. Green went on to say that there are no pictures of officers surrounding minorities during the civil rights protests, and that the pictures in the station only show officers performing their duties. This contradicted multiple retired and current police officers who informed the Sentinel that in fact the Fontana Police Station did have that type of décor, backed up by a dozen photos taken at various locations within headquarters, both downstairs and upstairs. After his initial demonstrably false statement, Green conceded that “Pictures of arrests will show more minorities in Fontana because the city is comprised of mostly minorities.” Over the years, little has changed within the Fontana Police Department with regard to diversity. Photos taken at the inception of the Fontana Police Department in the 1950s show virtually no officers of what today is referred to as protected minorities under U.S. Law – African Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Asians. Currently, Fontana’s police department remains the least diverse police agency in the Inland Empire. In answering the one question set that was passed on to him by the forum’s panel, Green characterized as hyperbole and misinformation suggestions that the policing profession in America originated for the purpose of capturing runaway slaves.

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