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Irwindale Council Silent on Police Inquiry

May 25, 1986|MARK ARAX | Times Staff Writer

IRWINDALE — The city's public relations firm has completed a preliminary report into a longstanding feud that has split the Police Department into rival Latino and Anglo factions.

The confidential 12-page document was submitted to the council Thursday night in closed session with no public discussion. The report will be the subject of a special council meeting Wednesday. Council members said they would not discuss the report until they had an opportunity to study it.

The councilmen had earlier indicated that they would discuss the feud and possible solutions at the Thursday meeting.

In interviews just before the meeting, two councilmen restated their opposition to the hiring of the city's own public relations firm to conduct the investigation of the Police Department.

"I think it stinks, but now that he's been hired, I guess we'll wait and see what comes of it," Councilman Joseph Breceda said.

"I still think it would have been better to hire an independent investigator," Councilman Robert Diaz said. "The P.R. man being hired to investigate the Police Department is bad P.R. (for the city)."

Xavier Hermosillo, who handles public relations for the city and was hired by City Manager Charles Martin to investigate the feud, continued to dismiss the criticism as "premature." Hermosillo said last week that he had interviewed virtually every officer in the 27-man department and was surprised by the level of cooperation. But he refused to detail any specific findings.

"It would be premature to discuss the particulars of the investigation at this time," he said. "Careers are on the line. The integrity of the Police Department and the city is on the line.

"There are allegations of wrongdoing and may be allegations of criminal wrongdoing," Hermosillo continued. "It would be unfair to all to try this thing in the press."

Last week, several police officers said they were taken aback when Hermosillo walked into the department and told officers that he had been hired to investigate allegations raised in an article in The Times two weeks ago.

The article, based on a monthlong investigation, described a department so divided by ethnic feuding and allegations of police misconduct and brutality that some officers are wiring themselves for sound and secretly recording the conversations of fellow officers, the chief of police and City Manager Martin.

Because part of the article dealt with accusations that Martin had been indifferent to the department's problems, several officers expressed disbelief that Hermosillo, who has acted as Martin's press spokesman, would be hired to conduct the investigation. They argued that Hermosillo could not be objective investigating the very people who pay his salary. In 1985, Hermosillo earned $16,000 for six months of work for the city.

One Latino officer said Hermosillo appeared more interested in determining the identity of anonymous police sources quoted in the article than in investigating allegations that some Latino officers had received death threats after reporting assaults on Latino prisoners and incidents of police misconduct to the chief and city manager.

"After all is said and done, if we haven't uncovered the facts and have not made recommendations to the City Council that are implemented and lead to a resolution of the problem, until then it's premature for anyone to prejudge the conclusions of this investigation. . . ," Hermosillo said.

"We're looking at everything. I will not whitewash anything. I just won't."

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