June 30, 1983
Harassment by police alleged
Morgan orders probe of Hispanic complaints
By CHERYL McKINNON
Star News Staff Writer
With instructions to use an "outside course" if necessary, National City Mayor Kile Morgan Tuesday this week instructed City Manager Tom McCabe to investigate all charges that some city police officers have been harassing, beating and verbally abusing Hispanics.
The instructions came following an hour of sometimes emotional testimony from Chicano Federation spokesman Roberto Martinez and National City residents, who complained of excessive force and harassment by police officers. In particular Martinez and others cited Officer James Ullmer.
"WHAT we are demanding, because we are through asking, is that there be a stop to the beatings, harassment, and unfounded and petty charges and insults to our people," Martinez told the council.
Martinez contended that, because of "intimidation and terrorizing of Chicano, we feel like prisoners in our own homes."
MARTINEZ said he has received 18 complaints from Hispanics against National City police officers in the last six months. He added that if the complaints continue, "it looks like we're in for a long, hot summer."
"If the police chief is not aware of the problems or believes them untrue, if he is unwilling to accept that his men falsify their reports and lie to their superiors, then we will exhaust every level of responsibility until he is convinced," Martinez said.
Martinez told the council that he has filed a dozen complaints with the police department, and he said he planned to file three more Wednesday.
POLICE CHIEF Terry Hart has indicated previously that his department has received the complaints and is investigating them. In a press conference last week, Hart said the department will not complete inquiries into the charges until after those complaints arrested in connection with the various incidents have gone to trial.
Hart has reaffirmed his support of Ullmer and his belief that officer has acted appropriately as conditions indicated for each of the incidents in question.
Most of the incidents resulted in such charges as resisting arrest or interfering with an officer and assault on an officer. Hart has stated that other officers were present during the various situations, and they support Ullmer's reports.
WHEN THE complaints against officers were first aired several weeks ago, Hart said allegations would be brought out and examined during court testimony. He promised to attend the various trials.
Martinez this week presented several witnesses who gave their side of previously mentioned complaints and incidents.
Jose Alfredo Pina Martinez, who stated he has lived in National City for five years, said that on June 3 he was arrested for "no reason" and, while handcuffed, watched as officers "beat" his mother and younger brother.
Pino Martinez broke into tears as he told how officers allegedly beat him and his mother. He gave the council photographs of bruises they allegedly suffered in the beating.
With Martinez interpreting, Pina Martinez stated the version given by Chief Hart was not correct and denied allegations that the family attacked police officers.
OTHERS who testified included Raymond Rodriguez, who reviewed an incident that also occurred June 3, when Rodriguez states officers kicked in the door to his house and dragged out another person without explanation. He asked the council to put an end to the harassment.
Ana Lopez also addressed the council through Martinez. She stated that Ullmer has been "harassing my family for months over nothing," and that when they tried to file complaints, no one at the department would cooperate.
Lopez and her sister are currently charged with assaulting an officer stemming from a recent incident where Lopez was cited by Ullmer for parking violations.
Following the testimony, Martinez told council members the Chicano community doesn't expect special treatment, only fair treatment equal to what others receive.
AT ONE point City Attorney Don McLean advised Martinez and others that because of the city's relationship with its employees, matters of this nature are not handled soley by the council, but come under the jurisdiction of state law. He advised them that no public reporting on anything would occur until all investigations were over.
"There are strict laws here that are designed for everyone's protection, both citizens and officers," McLean said.
Moments before instructing McCabe to conduct the investigation, Morgan told Martinez that "this police department is operated by law" and that he (Martinez) was free to take his complaints directly to the district attorney's officer if he so desired.
While testimony was being given, many of the approximately 75 people present, most of them Hispanics, brandished signs calling for "Justice Now" and "Stop Police Brutality."
Shortly after the meeting, it was discovered that while testimony was being given, some members of the group took time to paint obscene graffiti on the men's bathroom wall.