Long Beach Civil Service Board to Hear Appeal of Officer Fired for Excessive Force
Decorated veteran Long Beach Police Officer was fired despite City Attorney’s declaration to the media that the investigation concluded no wrong-doing.
Long Beach, October 2, 2015: Veteran Long Beach Police officer, John Gibbs, was fired in 2013 after a video showed him stepping on the back of a suspect during a raid of a medical marijuana dispensary.
Gibbs was part of a team serving a search warrant on the THC Downtown Collective in June of 2012. Surveillance video uploaded to YouTube (http://bit.ly/1P9d6VV) shows Dorian Brooks, an employee of the collective, being ordered to the ground by officers in a small room. While Brooks is lying prone on the floor, the video shows Officer Gibbs stepping on his back while attempting to step over him.
According to David Givot, Gibbs’ attorney, “There is much more to the story than just an edited video.”
Throughout the Internal Affairs investigation, Gibbs’ openly acknowledged and never denied accidentally stepping on Brooks. Gibbs told investigators that he had exacerbated an existing back injury after swinging the heavy battering ram into the security door of the collective more than 30 times. Gibbs explained repeatedly, and will testify in the upcoming hearing, that, as he was stepping over Brooks in the narrow space, he suffered a sharp pain from his lower back that caused him to step short. “I never intended to step on anyone,” Gibbs said.
At least two other officers who were present when Gibbs accidentally stepped on Brooks told Internal Affairs investigators that Gibbs appeared immediately apologetic and that it did not look to them like the step was intentional.
“The video is obviously edited,” Givot said, “it conveniently cuts out the part where Gibbs apologizes to Brooks after helping him off the ground.”
According to Givot, “This termination was purely political. The Police Chief at the time, Jim McDonnell, was ramping up to run for Sheriff of Los Angeles County and wanted to be seen as a reformer, so he threw a decorated, highly respected, veteran officer under the bus.”
Both the FBI and the Los Angeles County District Attorney closed their investigations with no findings of wrong-doing. However, the termination raises many questions about how the Police Department and the City of Long Beach handled this case.
In a statement released one year to the day after Gibbs was notified about his termination for using excessive force, Assistant Long Beach City Attorney, Monte Machit, told the Long Beach Press Telegram (http://bit.ly/1WBWGaL) that “…it was determined that [Officer Gibbs] did not intentionally step on Brooks.” Machit went on to say that “…the City continues to maintain that [Officer Gibbs] did not use excessive force and that his actions were reasonable.”
“If the City concluded that the step was accidental and that Gibbs did not use excessive force, then why was Gibbs fired for stepping on Brooks and using excessive force?” That is among the questions Givot is looking forward to asking of witnesses in the upcoming hearing, especially Monte Machit. “The City can’t have it both ways,” Givot said, “If Machit is telling the truth, then the termination is wrongful. If the termination was proper, then the City Attorney’s Office lied to the public.”
The hearing, which begins with the City’s case on October 7th at 9:00 AM, is open to the public. The defense will present its case on October 14th. The hearing will be held in the Civil Service hearing room at City Hall, 333 West Ocean Boulevard, Seventh Floor, in Long Beach.
“We have absolutely nothing to hide,” Givot said, “but you don’t have to believe me. Come see for yourself. All of the evidence will be presented at the hearing.”