We’re not against the police. We’re not against the police department, but we are against police who commit misconduct (and those who help cover it up).
Today begins a new series taking a closer look at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Internal Affairs 650 Squad also known as the secret police. Why IA? Well for one, IA is who the department likes to fall back on whenever some shenanigans are exposed or there’s a controversial officer involved shooting. It’s where the department investigates itself. However, who’s watching them? Exactly.
Glossary of Terms
PSB = Professional Standards Bureau
IAG/IA = Internal Affairs Group / Internal Affairs
SOD = Special Operations Division
EES = Ethics Enforcement Section
ISU = Internal Surveillance Unit
The Professional Standards Bureau commonly referred to as PSB by those in the know operates as the investigative arm of the Chief of Police to identify and report corruption and misconduct.
Under the PSB umbrella you have the Internal Affairs Group, also known as IA or IAG, which conducts disciplinary Board of Rights hearings and reviews all complaint investigations for consistency and fairness. Complaints are then presented to the Chief of Police for a fair and appropriate adjudication.
Under Internal Affairs you have the Special Operations Division (SOD), which reports directly to the Commanding Officer of the Professional Standards Bureau. It is comprised of officers who provide support for internal investigations. The SOD also provides support for the Ethics Enforcement Section (EES), which conducts secret operations on police officers as required by the Consent Decree.
So you may recall the story of the Orange County parents who busted Los Angeles Detective III Shelley Villanueva for her blatant misuse of her take home vehicle and for driving solo in the diamond lane.
What made Detective Villanueva such an interesting subject to me is that she was the investigator on the Christopher Dorner case but more importantly she is a supervisor in the department’s 650 Squad, otherwise known as the secret police.
The secret police aka 650 Squad was born out of the department’s old Parker Center building. For those who don’t now, the 6th floor was where Internal Affairs was housed and room #650 was where the secret police were located—hence the term 650 Squad.
The LAPD’s legal term for the secret police is Special Operations Divisions (SOD). The 650 Squad is split in half. The west unit or 80s Squad handles the West and Valley bureaus while the east or 70s Squad handles Central and South bureaus and members are assigned to either unit based on where they live.
Believe it or not, as a sergeant, Chief Charlie Beck was one of the division’s original undercover investigators.
According to the department, the Special Operations Division tackles the most serious crimes by their own, such as planted evidence, drugs, and thefts to name a few. Basically, the 650 Squad among other things sets up other cops in hopes of catching them doing something bad. Because of the work involved and the double life 650 Squad officers must live, only those handpicked by Chief Beck, Deputy Chief Debra McCarthy, and other high ranking commanding officers are selected to join the secret police.
And I will add that this particular unit sucks up a huge amount of money every year with extreme overtime. In addition, members are given some major perks all thanks to Angelenos. Those perks include a take home car, gas card, unlimited cash overtime, cell phones, laptops, unlimited comp time, special treatment and recognition and much more. However, there are many doubts as to the return on investment for all of the money that is spent in and on SOD.
Keeping in mind that in theory and on paper Internal Affairs sounds exactly like the watchdog that the public so desperately wants, but I will soon show you that in practice SOD has problems far bigger than Detective Villanueva’s illegal parking and misuse of the diamond lane and with no one to put their shenanigans in check they just get away it.
Today’s caper comes courtesy of Detective Shelley “I’ll park where I want to” Villanueva’s predecessor in the 650 Squad, one Detective II Silvia Ruize. Ruize has since moved on to Gangs and Narcotics Division but not before she left her mark on SOD and the division is still dealing with the after effects.
Back in November of 2011, the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) receives an anonymous letter addressed to now retired Deputy Chief Mark Perez via mail that alleges that certain employees assigned to the Special Operations Division (SOD) are engaged in an inappropriate relationship and have jeopardized the safety of other police officers.
The letter points the finger at now retired Captain III Paul Hernandez and Detective II Silvia Ruize. Hernandez at the time was the commanding officer in SOD while Ruize was assigned there.
The investigating officer for the case was Lonnie Benson for Central Patrol Division and while the department conducted a seemingly thorough investigation, of the three allegations presented, none were sustained. Not even the one where it was alleged that Hernandez and Ruize put officer’s lives in danger when officer testimony indicated otherwise.
The investigation involved the interviewing of 32 witnesses including the two accused. And while no one could say for sure that they saw Hernandez and Ruize get down while on the job, they did have a lot to say about the last allegation– jeopardizing the safety of other police officers.
On June 6, 2012 then Sergeant Michael Beloud of Administrative Investigation Division Valley Section provided a compelled statement that including testimony that in the fall of 2011, Ruize set up an operation in the Foothill Division at a hotel that utilized a male Black undercover officer and a male Asian undercover. During the operation, the subjects were to be told that the male Black and male Asian undercovers were running guns.
In layman’s terms, they were going to try and set up some unsuspecting civilian or officer to see if they could trick them into committing misconduct using a Black male and an Asian male in the Valley of all places.
So Sgt. Beloud says that during the planning portion of the operation that using a Black and Asian would stand out in that part of town. He also added that he didn’t think it was safe to bring guns into an operation where armed officers would respond to the scene. In addition, Beloud believed the operation was too complex for the experience level of the undercovers used in the operation.
At the end of the day, the objections voiced by Beloud and the other Internal Surveillance Unit (ISU) officers involved were overridden and when the subjects arrived at the hotel they took one look at the Black and Asian undercover officers and kept it pushing. The operation failed.
Enter then Detective II Juan Martinez who also provided a compelled statement.
Detective Martinez didn’t have any info on the alleged on duty sexual relationship between Hernandez and Ruize but he did mention a little incident in September of 2010 where Ruize participated in an ISU surveillance audit using Ethics Enforcement Section female undercovers. The thinking was that the female undercovers would be placed inside of a hotel room alone engaged in a party.
Well Martinez said that he knew placing undercovers in a hotel room was very dangerous and that every undercover ever killed in the line of duty was in a hotel room.
Apparently, the response time of officers in the adjacent hotel room was poor and there was a lack of back up due to the enclosed location and sometimes the wire they were using during the operation didn’t work.
So Martinez raised his concerns about the operation but both Captain Hernandez and Ruize decided to go through with it.
The subjects they were trying to set up didn’t respond and the operation failed.
Which brings me to then Sergeant Greg Gonzales from the Information Technology Bureau who went into great detail about how Captain Hernandez planned a SOD operation related to a narcotics investigation that would place undercovers in a hotel room. Gonzales like Martinez said that placing undercovers in a hotel room was very dangerous because there would be no close backup and no way of monitoring the undercover operations.
Gonzales said that he believed that the operation should have been set up outside in the open so that they could monitor the undercover officers. With the objections of quite a few more officers including retired Detective II Jimmy Covera the operation was cancelled with those in charge citing logistic issues. Yeah, I bet. That’s all they needed was for someone to get killed during one of their “audits” or “operations.”
Witness Sergeant II David Hwang who was at the time assigned to Hollenbeck Patrol Division provided an interesting commentary.
Sgt. Hwang testified that during one operation, Ruize directed an undercover to turn onto a certain street without notifying the other emergency response vehicles trailing behind.
For clarity, whenever the Special Operation Division (SOD) was involved in an operation where they used an undercover they deploy an emergency response team that consists of two vehicles with three supervisors in each vehicle.
The undercover coordinator, usually Ruize was assigned to one of the emergency response vehicles. Ruize was responsible for deploying and maintaining communication with the undercover who usually was not armed.
Because the undercovers were usually not armed, the undercovers traveled between the two emergency response vehicles with the three vehicles in trail when the undercover was taken to, dropped off or picked up from an operation.
Well it just so happens that when Ruize directed the undercover to take that turn none of the emergency response vehicles could keep up and so they lost the unarmed undercover officer.
Like I said I couldn’t make this up even if I wanted to. Needless to say that operation was a complete failure as well.
While this seems like a script from the television show Reno 911, I assure you this is all courtesy of your Los Angeles Police Department.
Wasted man-hours and wasted money—probably in the tens of thousands of dollars on all of these botched investigations.
The investigation officer concluded that there was no corroborative evidence brought forth to prove that Hernandez and Ruize endangered the lives of officers—even though several officers testified to just the opposite. In his narrative, Lt. Benson said that no operation is perfect and that errors or shortcomings occur among other things.
I don’t know about you, but if this is the leadership of the group of people charged with investigating the LAPD, Houston we have a problem.
This is exactly why the public doesn’t trust the police to investigate themselves—because they can’t. Here you have blatant misconduct starring them in the face, in their own personnel complaint with testimony from their own officers telling them that something is wrong and still nothing.
Now I have better understanding of why Detective Villanueva failed to detect that a group of parents had her under surveillance. If her detecting skills are anything like Detective Ruize’s—I’ll let you finish that sentence.
Now mind you, I believe that most (not all) police officers are good at their job. But when they are under the leadership and direction of characters like Villanueva, Hernandez and Ruize, this is what you get our own version of Reno 911.
Still it begs the question, if you can’t even follow your own undercover officer what the hell are you doing investigating anything or anybody? I’m just saying.
In the next chapter of IA capers we’ll learn a lot more about Captain Hernandez and how the department is still dealing with the after effects of his many bad decisions.