A federal civil rights lawsuit and a trove of misdemeanor criminal cases could be compromised after two Long Beach police officers were arrested and charged this month with lying on a police report.
Long Beach Police Officers Dedier Reyes, 38, and David Salcedo, 28, were charged on Dec. 6 with felonies for allegedly lying about the manner in which they recovered a gun in a 2018 arrest. The incident led to the wrong person being arrested and briefly jailed, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling the case.
The pending criminal charges against the officers have now affected at least one civil lawsuit against Reyes and have prompted the review of hundreds of criminal cases in which the officers assisted on calls or made arrests.
Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert this month said his office is reviewing 151 pending cases connected to Reyes and 52 involving Salcedo. Haubert said he is also looking into 635 closed cases for Reyes, a 16-year veteran with the department.
He said his office will work to notify defense lawyers about potentially compromised cases and will post all cases, whether active or closed, on the city prosecutor’s website to help notify defendants.
“This is unprecedented for us considering the number of cases,” Haubert said. “My office is taking this matter very seriously and we want to make sure we do the right thing on each case.”
In addition to his criminal case, Reyes is facing a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in 2019 from Christopher Williams, a bus driver from Lomita, who alleges the officer twisted his arm and fractured his right elbow while handcuffing him outside a Pine Avenue bar in March 2018.
There’d been a fight outside the bar and police, mistakenly thinking Williams had been involved, briefly detained him, according to court papers. The lawsuit centers, in part, around a dispute about who cuffed Williams. He alleges two officers, including Reyes, roughly took him into custody, prompting him to scream in pain. The city of Long Beach and the officers involved, who are named as defendants, say it was a different officer who cuffed Williams. But Williams maintains they lied to protect Reyes, knowing he had “a history of disciplinary issues regarding excessive force.”
On Monday, a judge—in a rare move—tentatively issued a sanction against the city of Long Beach in the case for failing to disclose to Williams’ lawyer that Reyes was the subject of an internal affairs and criminal investigation.
Just one month before the Williams incident in February 2018, the Long Beach Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division had launched an investigation into Reyes for allegedly lying on a police report, which is the case that resulted in the criminal charges from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office this month.
Williams’ lawyer, Narine Mkrtchyan, said she only learned of the investigations after the charges were filed, despite three years of requests for details about Reyes’ personal records.
Court records show that Reyes since at least 2014 has been the subject of multiple complaints, including 14 use-of-force investigations and 11 citizen complaints.
Mkrtchyan said the fact that Reyes was under an internal affairs investigation at the time of his alleged incident with Williams is key for her client’s case because it brings his credibility into question.
“It shows he would have a motive to lie,” she said.
Moreover, she said Reyes never mentioned the internal affairs investigation when questioned in the civil case.
In an explanation in court records, Long Beach Police Commander Darren Lance said the city mistakenly did not disclose the internal affairs investigation against Reyes because it was suspended pending the criminal investigation, which takes precedent over any disciplinary proceedings.
Lance said the department’s system when searching for internal affairs history reports does not include suspended investigations, “which was an inadvertent function of the Long Beach Police Department’s reporting program.”
Lance said the department has since “taken steps to change this reporting function so that this does not occur again.”
Mkrtchyan said she’s concerned that this reporting process has not only impacted her case, but countless other cases in which lawyers have requested police personnel files.
“If this is how the Long Beach Police Department keeps track of their pending investigations, it’s very disturbing,” she said. “Think of how much more we don’t know and how much information hasn’t been given to other litigants.”
The Long Beach Police Department in a statement said it is working with the City Attorney’s Office to determine whether the reporting function could have caused similar problems in other cases.
“The accuracy of Long Beach Police Department reporting functions is of critical importance,” the department said. “Upon discovery of a technology error with this particular matter, we immediately took steps to fix the issue to ensure it does not happen in the future. We have since conducted system reprogramming and testing to verify accurate results. The LBPD continues to review other internal systems as well to ensure reliability of data and transparency.”
In his ruling on Tuesday, United States District Judge Otis Wright sided with Williams, calling the city’s explanation of its search efforts “conspicuously threadbare,” considering the seriousness of the allegations.
“The City’s fact-barren declaration fails to persuade the Court that the City’s prior search was conducted reasonably and diligently,” Wright wrote. “Moreover, a system that omits returns from its searches when those returns have been escalated to a higher level of importance is not a system that is reasonably maintained in the first place, so conducting a single search of that system and calling it enough is unreasonable.”
The judge also noted that Reyes was aware of the investigations and “did not disclose those investigations when asked to by way of special interrogatories.”
As a sanction against the city, the judge has ordered an additional jury instruction before the trial that would let jurors know that the city and Reyes failed to disclose evidence in the case.
The trial is expected to start next month in Los Angeles federal court.
As for the use of force allegations, Reyes’ lawyer, James Touchstone, in a statement said it was another officer that handcuffed Williams that night and that Reyes did not touch Williams.
“Moreover, Mr. Williams did not report any injuries on the night of the incident to any police officer,” Touchstone said. “In sum, we are confident that a jury will not find any liability as to Officer Reyes, or any other officer, in the pending case.”
Mkrtchyan said she is pursuing this trial because she wants justice to be served.
“He doesn’t deserve that badge,” she said of Reyes. “What he did to my client, he did to others. Time for him to get terminated.”
The LBPD suspended Reyes and Salcedo from the force in early December after learning the District Attorney’s office planned to charge them. They’d been allowed to stay on the force until then because, “A preliminary review of the investigation did not initially warrant the officers to be removed from their work,” LBPD spokesman Richard Mejia said at the time.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a response from the Long Beach Police Department.