Anaheim Police Chief Quezada strongly affirms our right to Film The Police.


So yesterday we all met with the new Interim Police Chief (and probable next permanent Chief) Raul Quezada – at his request.  “We” was Donna Acevedo (mother of cop-slain Joey Acevedo), Theresa Smith (mother of cop-slain Caesar Cruz), Dr Jose Moreno and me tagging along.  Quezada brought along Captain Julian Harvey.

The Spanish-speaking son of a Mexican immigrant, and Deputy Chief since last summer’s “unrest,” Quezada is smooth and well-spoken – which we all already knew – but appears to really want to make some positive changes and have a respectful dialogue with the community.   Still let’s not succumb to a man-crush just yet, until we see some real change, some of which should be immediate, some of which may take a year.

And of course he doesn’t have the permanent job yet.   He will have to be approved by the Council majority, which we all know will do whatever the Anaheim Police Association tells them.   So … will he support a Citizens’ Review Board, unlike his predecessor and the APA?   Will he support phasing out gang injunction zones?   Will he admit that despite what his predecessor claimed, the July 24 riot was a spontaneous local reaction to real grievances and not the work of “outside agitators” and Occupy?  We hope so, but we knew better than to ask at this point.  

He said he’s open to meeting with us any time in the future, including as soon as he’s Chief.

What we DID talk about

Our immediate concern, which has been making all the press this week, was our request to have officers like Kelly Phillips and Dan Hurtado moved out of the neighborhoods where they killed young men, and continue to boast, harass the survivors, and (in Kelly’s case) intimidate witnesses in an ongoing investigation.  Theresa and Donna both have the impression he is really going to do something about this, although he didn’t really commit to it and emphasized how complicated it is to re-assign gang unit members.  But he does realize the seriousness of this issue and the legitimacy of the relatives’ complaints.

Donna filling out a complaint form at the police station, underneath one of their slogans.

This brings up “policies” – it’s been impossible for us to know when cops are not following policy, as the webpage listing the APD policies has been “under construction” as long as anyone can remember.  Captain Harvey apologized for that, and had hoped to have the policies online by this week, and promises they will be up next week.  This is a complaint he’s heard at meetings and read on the blogs, and to which he is doing his best to respond.  The policies are 350 pages long, and a few of those pages are being redacted because they are “tactical.”

Wanting to demonstrate how responsive the new improved APD is under his watch, Quezada pointed out how complaint forms, once nearly impossible to find, are now available online, at the library, and right in front at the police station.  They can be filled out anonymously if residents are afraid of reprisal.   We all agreed that 19 complaints in one year is a ridiculously low number for such a huge city with so much “unrest.”  Quezada wondered how we can make people feel more comfortable about coming forward – the first problem is obviously fear of retaliation, including deportation or eviction (see below) – but I also brought up that people probably feel it’s useless and nothing will happen.  Which led us again to this point:  when people start seeing RESULTS from complaints – like the moving of killer cops from their neighborhoods – they may feel like there’s a point complaining.

Treating Donna like a real community leader, which was nice to see, Quezada and Harvey repeatedly asked how the APD could improve relations with the Guinida neighborhood.   Again, we emphasized that “Moving Phillips would be a good start” – also moving the bald lunkhead who knocked over Joey’s memorial – but of course it will take a lot more and a lot more time.

Raul Sez:  Film the Police!

Both Quezada and Harvey strongly affirmed that it’s the citizens’ First Amendment right – confirmed in countless court cases – to film the police (which has become all the rage in Santa Ana and Anaheim.)  They agree that – at least theoretically – this protects the cops as much as it protects the people.  Ergo, the Anaheim cops should not be preventing us from filming them, right?

This didn’t occur to me till after the meeting, but I know all you cops read this blog, so:  There are at least two things that the Gang Unit (at least) has been doing to prevent filming, which it seems to me should now be against policy and forbidden by the new leadership:

  • Shining bright lights directly at the people who are trying to film them at night, making everything invisible.
  • Forming human shields around the area of what they’re doing so that nobody can see.

Shouldn’t these practices be prohibited, if it’s our right to Film the Police?

As a flip side to their (claimed) embracing of FTP, Quezada and Harvey made what they intended to be one of their most important points:  Many community members (including Donna) are coming very close to being arrested for OBSTRUCTING the work of police who respond to calls – Penal Code 148, they want us all to know.  This would mostly consist of getting in their way physically – I think we need to stay 20 feet away when filming them if they ask us to – but he also brought up people yelling something like “Don’t shoot him!” which the cops could take as a warning that somebody was about to shoot THEM.  You can see that it could be hard to know if you’re “obstructing” – I asked if people could be warned first that they’re obstructing and they said if there’s time but there’s not always time.

New, big, developing problem – punitive evictions

Just as we think we’re beginning to get some abuses straightened out, new ones pop up. I’ll mention this first here since I know you cops read this blog, but we’ll have to bring this to the Chief too, as well as the ACLU:   Certain members of the neighborhood – including one key witness to Joel’s killing as well as a family who regularly Films The Police, are now being threatened with EVICTION from their apartments after the cops complained FALSELY to the landlords about drug and gang connections that DON’T EXIST.

So, let’s move forward with all this, yes?

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.