Jun 132011

SLPD officers involved in fatal shooting identified.

Anthony Morgan and Ryan Gill have record of police brutality.

The arrest of San Leandro Police Officer Jason Fredriksson for furnishing marijuana to a confidential informant with whom he was having an affair has put the San Leandro Police Department (SLPD) in the spotlight. In its wake, there have been several allegations of misconduct by Fredriksson and other San Leandro police officers. The SLPD has responded with its usual wall of silence and the City Council continues to look the other way. It’s hard to know how deep the problems at the SLPD are, but it’s becoming more and more clear than the Fredriksson case may be the tip of the iceberg.

Gwendolyn Killings

In late December 2010, a San Leandro police officer shot to death Gwendolyn Killings, an African-American woman from Hayward. Killings was driving a car that had been reported stolen earlier in the day; SLPD officers spotted it and chased it until it crashed just after the Oakland border, near the San Leandro city limits. The passenger got out of the car and fled. The two officers got out of their own car;  one officer chased the escaping passenger while the other approached the stopped car. That officer shot and killed Killings while she was in the car. The police would later say that the officer was afraid Killings would put the car in reverse and hit his partner. However, witnesses said the car was boxed in and couldn’t go anywhere. The SLPD has not disputed that account. The case is being investigated by the Oakland police as the shooting happened in Oakland, but no report has been released so far.

The Oakland Police, however, have released documents identifying Ryan Gill and Anthony Morgan as the two SLPD officers involved in the incident. We don’t know at this point which officer shot Killings but both officers have a history of allegations of police misconduct that should concern anyone interested in having a clean police department.

San Leandro Police Officer Ryan Gill

Ryan Gill, 33, is an affable and well-liked officer. He was named San Leandro Officer of the year in April 2011 and is admired for his broad knowledge and as a mentor of younger officers. He started his police career in the Oakland Police Department and was there for 7 years – which casts doubts on how  objectively Oakland PD will investigate their former colleague. In 2003, Gill shot to death an unarmed man. Gill and his partner entered the apartment of the victim while he was sleeping, woke him up and claim they were trying to restraint him when he struggled and tried to get Gill’s gun. Both Gill and his partner shot him. The City of Oakland settled the ensuing lawsuit. In another lawsuit settled by Oakland, Gill was accused of beating a man while arresting him. In a third incident, Gill walked out of a review board conduct hearing where he was to be questioned about a charge of falsely arresting a teenager after his partner ram a car into him.

San Leandro Police Officer Anthony Morgan

Gill’s partner, Anthony Morgan, has spent less time in the press but probably just as much in the courtroom. A quick search of the district court’s database shows two recent lawsuits against Morgan for police brutality. One was settled, but the other one is still open.

Unfortunately, the Killings shooting has not been the only recent killing at the hands of San Leandro Police. In 2005, SLPD officers tasered a man to death; the city settled that lawsuit for nearly $400,000. And Morgan is far from being the only SLPD officer with a history of brutality. Tricia Hynes, the lawyer most often appointed by Meyers Nave to represent the city in litigation, boasts on her webpage of how – thanks to her representation – the City of San Leandro only had to pay a few hundred thousand dollars in damages to seven plaintiffs who were beaten by a dozen SLPD officers while searching a home during a 4th of July party. She is even prouder of another case in which the brutal beating of an unarmed man by SLPD officers only cost the city $20,000.

Gill was hired by then-Police Chief Dale Attarian, an old-style San Leandro cop during whose tenure the City was subjected to multiple lawsuits for civil rights violations, sexual harassment and discrimination and police brutality. Attarian was hired by former City Manager John Jermanis, himself a product of the old-all-white-boys network that ruled San Leandro for decades. Jermanis’ hand-picked successor, Steve Hollister, was a former policeman and did not keep a close eye on the SLPD. Under both men, SPLD officers learned that they could do as they pleased with almost no risk of consequences.

SLPD Chief Sandra Spagnoli

It’s a new day in town, however. Sandra Spagnoli was recently hired as Police Chief with the express purpose of reforming the department – at least ridding it of its culture of sexual harassment. It is too soon to know whether she’ll undertake real, rather than purely cosmetic reforms. So far the indications are mixed – Spagnoli investigated the allegations against Fredriksson, but only after an independent witness had contacted multiple authorities with his accusations. Spagnoli has done nothing to discipline the handler of a police dog that got loose and killed another dog earlier in the year – and Gill was named “officer of the year” after Spagnoli became Chief.

San Leandro needs more than a perhaps-well-intentioned Chief of Police to clean up the Police Department of any criminality or maverick behavior by its officers. It needs elected officials willing to tackle the issue of the police head on. This is hard, because politicians usually kowtow to the police union in order to get their support during elections – Council members Ursula Reed and Joyce Starosciak, in particular, have relied on heavy police support for their campaigns. Starosciak herself is married to an Alameda County Deputy Sheriff.   However, even the strongest police advocates should note that a department that allows criminal behavior and abuse by its members tarnishes both the city and the institution of the police itself.

The City of San Leandro needs to do two things to nip this problem in the bud. One is to appoint a strong City Manager with experience dealing with insubordinate Police Departments. The other is to form a Citizens Police Oversight Commission (aka Review Board) to evaluate complaints of police misconduct, help set hiring practices and discipline standards and act as a liaison with the community. Currently, the city of Oakland is considering following San Francisco in getting private citizens to investigate allegations of Police misconduct, we might want to look into that as well. While Police Officers are protected by an incredibly generous bill of rights, a Citizens Commission could at least identify systematic problems within the police department and push for their resolution.

The question is whether the City Council has the political will to push for a meaningful review of what’s really going on at the Police Department, or whether the powers-that-be in San Leandro will just hope that the community forgets about the recent incidents and pray that there are no big scandals during their term of office.

  10 Responses to “Time to clean up the San Leandro Police Department”

  1. A Citizens Police Oversight Commission is a great idea. Did you see the article today in the Oakland Tribune? http://www.insidebayarea.com/top-stories/ci_18260072
    Some people think because they are upstanding citizens they needn’t worry about the police. These lawsuits affect everyone in San Leandro. More money for lawsuits = less money for services. Do you know if Gwendolyn Killings family is suing?

    • It doesn’t seem that a lawsuit has been filed in Federal court yet. I don’t know about state court. I haven’t seen anything in the City Council agendas about it. If the family is smart they’ll hire Burris, he’s represented people against these two particular officers before.

  2. Wow.

    Are we likely to ever find out which of the two police officers were the shooter?

    It would speak volumes about the attitudes central to the department if it happens to be the same officer named Officer of the Year only 4 months later.

    • Oakland PD denied my request for the police report on the actual shooting. That report would show who the killer was. Given Gill’s relationship with the Oakland PD, I don’t really think they’ll be forthcoming.

      We might find out if and when Killings’ families sues the city. My bet is that they’re waiting for the conclusion of the criminal investigation. Now, there is no reason for that criminal investigation to be taking this long, so my wild guess is that the Oakland PD is keeping it open just to slow everything down. With time, the witnesses that saw what happened may move away, their memories will be foggier, evidence can disappear, etc.

      But people within the SLPD and the circle of these two officers know who the shooter was. At some point they’ll realize that until that information comes through the other person will live under a cloud of suspicion. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the information came out in an “informal” way.

      I am hoping beyond hope that the killer was not Gill. I don’t even want to contemplate what it would mean for the SLPD to be naming someone “Officer of the Year” when there is an /open/ criminal investigation for homicide against him.

  3. San Leandro urgently needs a Citizens Oversight Committee for the Police Department. It will help bring about much needed reform and would save millions in settlement fees.

  4. officer gil is the worst officer ever, he pulled me over and i just left the bar wasnt drunk was totally cooperating. he said put your hands behind your back and when i did he pulled my arm up so high that anyone would have pulled it back down. your arm is not made to go above your head when they r behind you! so when i pulled it down he slammed me on the ground rubbed my face into the concrete scraping it all up, and the whole time morgan stood and watched and laughed when he finally picked me up by my hair he slammed my head on the hood of his car three times before he finally put me in the car. he is a piece of shit if i had the money i would have sued the shit out of him. when tudor was taking me to jail he says ahh yeah your gonna be cited out dont worry i was all ok had to be at work the next day. well when i get to the station as soon as i walk in all the cops r all wat happened to her cause there was blood all over my face. they put me in the cell and i wqaited they cited some girl out who got there after me and im all wats up i thought i was getting cited. hes all your going to court i said for wat he said battery on an officer i said wat! i totally recall that night never forget it. officer gill filed charges cause he seen the reaction of his fellow officers and thought i better say something awful lot of blood i forget my blood point level i remember the cop looking at me and shaking his head like wat the hell barely over the limit. i know how to pass the additude. he said put your hands behind your back i did w a smile knowing that i had a drink and he got me i was smiling and this piece of shit beat the hell out of me. if i was combative at all y wouldnt morgon of stepped in and helped him detain me? cause they r faulty police officers. never had noone put there hands on me like that it was crazy i remeber crying as hes slamming my head into the concrete hoping he didnt knock my teeth out. if he ever got behind me again i wouldnt pull over till i got to the station and i would not open my door until a different officer came out. morgan your a piece of crap to and you guysa better hope and pray that this never happens to your mom,daughter or wife. i cant even tell you how u two men r nothing but lame ass cowards i hate you two and this is the truth . i would like to have them separated and tell there sides because theres no way the could match there stories cause they would be lieing.hate you

  5. i hope denise lenz reads this. gods honest truth

  6. well i’m another victim of this batman and robin police misconduct,i have charges of evading police(2 blks from my mother’s home in senior park),resisting arrest,at 5:30am on november 23,2012,tried to ask them for there time so that i could explain that i was our families caregiver to my mother,officer ryan gill(what a name) repeatedly called me a”CRIMINAL” APPROX. 6 TIMES,i toldhim i was an military veteran,ryan gill said so!! i don’t care if your a veteran and your going to jail and were towing your mothers car!there were 5 cars around me and gill was the only officer yelling at me,also said “these senior’s don’t want you living here,your a criminal!his riding partner was “failing to intervene”on my constitutional rights,i’m white,51 and i’d ask for a hanging on misconduct,violation of rights,alsobased on my mental disorders,1 is PTSD… THEY ARE BULLIES……………..END……

  7. On Saturday July 6, 2013, I received a doorbell around 8 PM. I opened the door and it was a young Hispanic woman of perhaps 18 or so who asked to use my phone. I was reserved but let her in and let her use my phone making sure to lock the door. The person she called went to voicemail and she hung up. She was crying so I asked her what was happening and she said she went to visit her sister or girlfriend or some such that was difficult to understand because of the crying. She said that her sister’s boyfriend lived several houses down from me.

    She said that he was there alone and demanded sex from her and when she refused he said that he was calling someone that would come over and beat her up. She believed this a credible threat so she ran down the street ringing doorbells and I was the only one to answer.

    When she didn’t get an answer and explained to me I called 911 and gave them all of the pertinent information. The operator asked to talk to her and she told the same story over again.

    While waiting, here I was lecturing her that in order to remain out of trouble she must avoid all people that are trouble. Only minutes later I discovered something a lot more frightening than that.

    We waited approximately 10 minutes and the doorbell rang. Because of the threats to her I looked first through the peephole. There was no one within sight. So I walked around to my bedroom and looked out of the drawn curtain and there was no one on the porch. Fearing that someone might be coming around back or some such, since she had been threatened, I pulled my .38 revolver and took it out of it’s holster and looked out of several windows from drawn curtains until finally I saw an officer standing out in my driveway. His car was parked down the block in a position that wasn’t obvious.

    I went over and opened the door with relief and told him he could come in. He saw me placing my pistol back in its holster and taking it back into my bedroom. Apparently he told me to stop and drop my gun from out in the driveway but I was too far away to hear him with the TV on and the young woman crying. I came back out and he was still standing outside so I went our to explain what was going on. I was wearing a T-shirt and pants and it was obvious that I didn’t have any sort of weapon on me. He drew his large caliber pistol and pointed it at my head from about a foot away. He demanded that I sit on the lawn until other officers appeared and then they HANDCUFFED ME!!! And made me sit out on the curb with all of the neighbors looking out and seeing the police leading me around in handcuffs. If they were so afraid that I might have a hidden weapon why didn’t they frisk me or even ask for an ID? This was done for one reason only – to give themselves time to ransack through my home looking for other possible weapons or drug or some such. And yet without a search warrant this was completely and totally illegal.

    They angrily asked me where my gun was and I explained where I keep it. Three different officers asked me this same question and since I almost had to shout it through my anger, now half of the neighborhood knows where I keep my gun. Again the fact that I own a weapon is none of the police’s business in a case like this.

    Several officers went into my house and the sergeant finally appeared and asked if he could check the serial number to assure it wasn’t stolen. Since the pistol is probably 100 years old I certainly don’t know how they would ever be able to assure themselves that it was registered to me. It might have belonged to my father since I can’t remember ever buying it. The pistol was patented over 100 years ago.

    After perhaps 10 minutes or more they came out and released me and then started talking to the girl as an afterthought. As far as I know they didn’t even try to question the perpetrator of the threat.

    This is my home and I have the right to have any legal weapon and brandish it as long as I do not threaten anyone save for legal protection. Not only did the police check my pistol but they, without permission, ransacked all of the drawers in the bureau, the closets in two rooms, the hallway closets and down into my garage. And left things in a mess and me so upset that I cannot go to sleep any more than an hour or two at night. They had no right whatsoever to ask for my pistol let alone look for more weapons. This was simply illegal. It was a criminal action committed by the police who are supposed to be trained to know what a criminal action is and so have no excuse.

    The police were fully informed of the situation from the 911 call. They never once asked me for identification and treated me in this manner. They almost didn’t bother with the girl who was the subject of the entire episode.

    Is this what happens when you attempt to do a good deed in San Leandro? I wonder what became of the neighbor who offered sanctuary to the women who escaped from ten years of imprisonment under Raul Castro. I suspect that the San Leandro Police would have beat him senseless with nightsticks and stuck a gun in his face and jailed him while looking the other way while claiming that there was no evidence to question Castro.

    The actions of the police department of San Leandro were little more than that of a gang and they committed a criminal act against my person and property.

    When I contacted the Chief of Police she turned it over to an assistant. After he heard my story what he essentially said was that once the police officer saw a gun he had free rein to do anything he and his gang members wished. This was entirely supported by the duty sergeant that was on the scene. The Chief’s assistant stated that I could lodge a formal complaint on a form if I wished and that he would send me one. He was polite but was nothing but another member of the gang. They have more than enough information to take this to a higher level and are accomplishing nothing more than a delaying tactic.

    I have also contacted the San Leandro Mayors office and it was demoted to being “overseen” by the City Controller. I never heard from them again.

    There needs to be major changes in the management of the police department and possibly the other city offices as well. Having a police force that believes that they are above the law cannot be allowed to stand.

    Questions that come to my mind:

    1. If the police had ANY reason to be worried about me in the first place they could have listened to the 911 recording. If they still had misgivings the single officer only had to wait a minute or so for the other cars to show up. Why did he ring the doorbell if he was frightened?

    2. When I came out he acted as if he was frightened that I might have a gun on me still. If that was the case why even after handcuffing me was I never searched? The only reason has to be that because I was wearing a t-shirt and pants and it was obvious that I was unarmed and no threat. So WHY was I handcuffed?

    3. Why was I never once asked to provide an ID? Obviously because I gave my name and address on the 911 call and was looked up.

    4. Since I was outside of my home why did they not call the woman outside instead of illegally entering my home? Of what interest was my gun to the police? And why was my home illegally ransacked? Does anyone believe that after having a gun placed to my head and being handcuffed by little more than a gang that I should have refused them anything they were demanding?

    5. Why was the man who provided safe haven and called 911 the person that suffered from this act of kindness and as far as I could tell the instigator of the threat left entirely alone?

    6. Of what use at all is a 911 call system that results in this sort of police action? It is bad enough that it takes so long for police to arrive. In a serious case they could only arrive after any actions. Would I ever call such a so-called “service” again? A resounding NO! So why are we paying for it?

    I do not know about the rest of this city but I do not want to pay my taxes to hire a police force that is so frightened that they act irrationally. This appears to be a matter for the state Attorney’s office to investigate since there’s no local actions equivalent to the seriousness of the crime.

    And who am I? I am retired and living on Social Security. I was an engineer and scientist who spent the better part of my life developing medical instruments some of which may save your life some day. I’m a Vietnam Veteran.

    Is this what you expect from San Leandro City officials and police?

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