Anaheim Police & the KKK: Email Shows Top Brass Went Into Damage Control Mode After Park Clash
Police Captain Steve Marcin sent an email to his lieutenants saying top brass was “not allowing misguided public comments or media spin” to “misrepresent” police response at Pearson Park.
By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher
A copy of an email the Anaheim Investigator obtained through a California Public Records Act request last month shows that Steve Marcin, Captain of the Field Services Division of the Anaheim Police Department, with the support of Deputy Chief Dan Cahill, told lieutenants under his command that, in the aftermath of the Saturday, February 27th clash between knife-wielding Klansmen and anti-racist counter-protesters at Pearson Park, top brass was “not allowing misguided public comments or media spin” about police activity that day “to misrepresent our operational planning, uniformed response and investigative follow up.”
Marcin’s email, entitled “KKK Follow Up” and dated Wednesday, March 2, 2016, urged all “captains, lieutenants and sergeants” to “step up” and keep “our officers informed” about the February 27th incident, while the “Chief and Deputy Chiefs” were “working this issue externally.” As an example, he cited the fact they all “marched” at an “Anaheim Peace Rally” that took place on Monday, February 29th–a highly unusual move especially since Sergeant Daron Wyatt, Public Information Officer for the Anaheim Police Department, was quoted a few days earlier as saying “we don’t want [to] look like we are taking anyone’s side” in a protest.
Furthermore, Marcin wrote that “[t]he Chiefs and a number of captains attended the city council meeting” on Tuesday, March 1st and “listened to inaccurate, accusatory, and misinformed public comments about our preparation, response and investigation with respect to” police response to the violence at Pearson Park the previous Saturday. “The Chief,” typed Marcin, “addressed the Council in front of the audience. The Chief stood steadfast in setting the record straight…. The Chief emphasized that APD personnel were prepared and that our response and investigation was prompt, appropriate, fair, and complete.”
The text of Marcin’s email is as follows:
PLEASE communicate the following with your teams at your earliest convenience. It’s important for them to know our Chief and staff are supporting our teams and not allowing misguided public comments or media spin to misrepresent our operational planning, uniformed response and investigative follow up.
Anaheim Peace Rally — Monday February 29:
APD [Anaheim Police Department] Press Releases have made a point to note that virtually all of the people involved in Saturday’s violence were not from Anaheim. Consequently, a number of Anaheim faith based groups, non-profit organizations, community groups, political leaders and department heads held a peace rally in Pearson Park then walked to City Hall. Our Chief and Deputy Chiefs attended this rally and marched with the other Anaheim residents. The message of the event was that Anaheim does not want violence and that we as a city, stand for constitutional rights and public safety. The Chiefs attended to demonstrate APD’s support of this stance. A few individuals attempted to disrupt the march with their own agenda. However the organizers and virtually all of the participants stuck with the message that the Anaheim community denounces violence. It was important the Chiefs represented us all at that event.
City Council Meeting – March 1:
The Chiefs and a number of captains attended the city council meeting last night. We listened to inaccurate, accusatory, and misinformed public comments about our preparation, response and investigation with respect to Saturday. At the conclusion of public comments, the Chief addressed the Council in front of the audience. The Chief stood steadfast in setting the record straight. Anaheim Police had a plan to allow the public to exercise 1st amendment rights and would respond if needed to keep the peace or if violence occurred. Once the attack began, APD responded swiftly, regained control and conducted a thorough and complete investigation. Filing decisions are now with the OCDA. [Orange County District Attorney] The Chief emphasized that APD personnel were prepared and that our response and investigation was prompt, appropriate, fair, and complete.
I see firsthand how our Chiefs are working this issue externally. It is up to us to work it internally. The Chiefs are doing what they’re paid to do. We as captains, lieutenants and sergeants need to step up and do what we’re paid to do….. This department belongs to all of us. Let’s ensure we take good care of it by keeping our officers informed, maintaining a consistent message, and addressing any misguided or misinformed comments promptly.
The Investigator believes that Marcin’s email is a classic textbook example of what experts in the fields of business management, organizational theory, and public relations would call crisis containment and damage control. The actions it makes reference to were essentially part of a calculated strategy undertaken by top brass to minimize the negative impact the bloody Pearson Park skirmish had on the image of the Anaheim Police Department.
According to an article published in the Handbook of Research on Crisis Leadership in Organizations, when a business firm is suddenly confronted with a crisis that poses a serious threat to its well-being, its leaders quickly “turn to … activities” that limit “reputational and financial threats to the organization.” Although The Investigator realizes the Anaheim Police Department isn’t a “business,” it does function remarkably similar to one.
The following quotes neatly summarize the unwritten goals of Marcin’s email:
When crises cannot be avoided, despite careful planning or prevention activities, leaders must turn to the activities associated with crisis containment and damage control …. Crisis containment is defined as the decisions and actions aimed at mitigating the severity of the crisis, and, specifically, limiting the reputational and financial threats to the organization ….
[E]ffective crisis containment and damage control requires consistent message and communication to key stakeholders. In fact, the competency most closely identified with crisis leadership behavior is the ability to communicate effectively. Very often, the type of communication observed during a crisis event is one that is rooted in the public relations tradition and attempts to position the [organization] or the problem in relatively favorable terms. In other words, crisis communication is used to positively shape the stakeholders’ perceptions of the crisis and the organization. During the damage control or containment phase of a crisis, leaders will identify and connect with key organizational personnel, provide or solicit necessary information and instruction, and attempt to restore calmness or provide reassurance to affected constituents.
For the record, The Investigator has never had any objections to the Anaheim Police Department presenting an honest and truthful account about what precautions it took to mitigate the possibility that violence would erupt between Klansmen and counter-protesters at Pearson Park. What The Investigator opposes, however, were any attempts by top brass to misrepresent the facts about what transpired that day, not only to cover-up any mistakes or tactical errors that might have been made, but to manipulate public opinion.
That being said, The Investigator has proof suggesting that this is indeed what has occurred. There is evidence that Police Chief Raul Quezada has made misleading statements both to the Anaheim City Council and the Anaheim Public Safety Board when he claimed that his department didn’t know when and where the Klan would be at Pearson Park. Police emails obtained under a California Public Records Act request show that they did in fact know that information roughly 24-hours before they were expected to appear.
And contrary to the assertion that Marcin made in his email that the “investigation” into this matter was “prompt, appropriate, fair, and complete,” the OC Weekly has interviewed Tom Bibyan, one of the counter-protesters at Pearson Park who was allegedly stabbed by Charles Donner, a Klansman. Bibyan asserts he did nothing to provoke the violent assault that left him hospitalized for four days. Yet, as of the date of this posting, detectives from the Anaheim Police Department have still not interviewed him to get his side of the story. Why not?
[Below is Captain Marcin’s email]
Marcin Email 1 of 2
Marcin Email 2 of 2