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Journey through the Riverside Police Department Internal Affairs: The coverup

by Mary Shelton Tuesday, May. 15, 2001 at 10:03 AM

After filing the complaint with Internal Affairs, I waited months for a response. What I finally got, was a phone call from one of my witnesses, that one of the involved officers was trying to contact him, with questions. And when I contacted the department with my concerns about this officer's interference in the investigation, I received the most shocking words so far, that he had been assigned by the field captain to investigate the complaint.

errorThe turmoil of 1999 merged into the more tranquil days of the new millennium, as the weekly demonstrations came to a halt, and activists returned to their daily lives that had been put on hold, when they had picked up the mantle for justice, and marched for over a year. A feeling of quiet resignation had settled over the city, under siege since the shooting that was heard around the world. Federal and state investigations of the police department continued, with no word of how much longer there was to wait, until the results were announced to an increasingly apathetic populace.

The negative peace, was broken in mid -January by the announcement that nine white male sergeants from the police department had been secretly negotiating with the city, to receive promotions they felt had been denied them, and given instead to two men of color and a white woman. Led by the officer associations president, Jay Theuer, the contingent of angry white men filed grievances with the city citing reverse discrimination. In reponse, city officials had considered creating new lieutenant positions for three of the white men, and to pay off the remainder, to avoid a court battle. Chief Jerry Carroll had gotten wind of the negotiations when City Manager John Holmes was undergoing his semiannual performance evaluation by the City Council, and was furious, at how his authority as chief, was being thwarted, by the citys attempt to avoid the embarrassment of such a law suit, during a time when it was under a microscope. And that his power to promote officers of his choice, was being called into question, by both the city and the officers closest to him, in rank.

After Carroll had promoted Ron Orrantia, a Hispanic officer, Alex Tortes, an American Indian and Meredyth Meredith, a white woman to fill lieutenant positions, two captains, Richard Dana and Mike Blakely had gone to the head of Human Resources, Judith Griffith, to complain that the process was discriminatory. Not entirely incorrect, as historically the promotion procedure had proved far more beneficial to white men, than to white women or people of color. Four captains, all white men, had submitted a list of candidates to the chief that did not include any people of color at the top. One captain had also reported that Carroll had said in a meeting that he felt he had to promote one individual, because he was black, even though that person actually was Indian. Many other people felt that since these officers especially Tortes were far more experienced than any of the white candidates, they deserved to be promoted. At months end, the city had decided to not settle with the officers, and Chief Jerry Carroll tendered his retirement. The fourth chief of police to be ousted by his subjects in less than 10 years for disobedience. His name had never even been painted on the glass door of the departments main headquarters, and then he was gone. And the city once again launched a search nationwide for a replacement.

As the department recoiled from the promotion scandal, another embarrassing revelation emerged. The police officers associations vice-president, Bill Rhetts had pursued a registered sex offender into a dog house, and even though the man was unarmed, blew his leg off. An incident that might not have gathered much attention, except for the fact that Rhetts was already under internal investigation for several other incidents. The first involved a racial joke he had told some less experienced officers, about the death of Tyisha Miller. His exact words, were in L.A. they treat you like a King. In Riverside, its Miller time. At the time that revelation broke through the ennui of the local newspaper, he was representing the Association on a committee researching improved models of civilian oversight that had been set up in response to Millers death. After being confronted by community activists at a meeting, he quietly resigned. The investigation into that joke, lasted at least nine months, with no resolution in sight. Yes, he had made the comment, but the investigators were grappling with the task of deciding exactly what he meant by it.

The bigger controversy surrounding Rhetts, an ex-LAPD officer who had worked in some of its toughest divisions and had once been partnered with Rafael Perezs partner in crime, David Mack, was his controversial web site( Homophobic in content, it contained essays that advocated using force to exert Gods wrath against sinners, and non-Christians. He scribed letters praising the hiring of Tyisha Miller shooter, Paul Bugar, by San Bernardino Sheriff, Gary Penrod, and criticizing the diversity training program for law enforcement officers at the Simon Weisenthal museum in Los Angeles. This letter, had been a topic of discussion on radio stations such as KPFK, much to the departments chagrin. Community members were pressuring then Interim Chief, Robert Luman to do something about Rhetts, who already had at least three officer-involved shootings underneath his belt, and was known for embracing people he had shot, in forgiveness. The last straw occurred when was revealed that Internal Affairs Detective Skip Showwaters essay on the shooting of an officer was posted on Rhetts sight, Luman finally decided to view the web site, and later assured community activists that Rhetts somehow would be let go, without getting into specifics, as required by state law.

While all this turmoil shook the department to its foundation, District Attorney Grover Trask announced that 20 protesters involved with the shutdown of the 91 freeway would be indicted for assorted misdemeanors. The law enforcement agency that had jurisdiction in this matter, the California Highway Patrol, had foisted off the criminal investigation to the Riverside Police Departments Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Division which had pushed for prosecution of these activists. So the year for these chosen individuals that was to be spent inside courtrooms was about to begin. Tyisha Millers killers would never see the inside of a courtroom.

I tried to encourage other activists to file complaints with Internal Affairs in relation to Retaliatory Monday, but they demurred, saying that they did not want to waste time with an agency that would investigate itself, and justify what happened on Retaliatory Monday. I agreed that dealing with Internal Affairs most likely was a waste of time, but said that whatever the department decided, I wanted it on paper. If they chose to justify the force used at that rally, and the selection of white male activists to be ticketed, I wanted it in writing. If the department tried to sell me the song and dance that yes, the SWAT team does routinely use force to issue traffic citations to the public, I wanted it in writing.

And so after waiting weeks, to get photographs enlarged and my statement in order, I filed it with the police department, with the stipulation that Detective Showwater, not be assigned to investigate it. Members of the Gay and Lesbian community had informed me that Showwater shared the homophobic viewpoints of his friend, Rhetts, and they had unpleasant experiences with him while trying to enfranchise gays in the ultra-conservative nest of Redlands, the city which housed a large number of police officers, attracted by its white middle-class neighborhoods.

Internal Affairs was headed by Lt. Robert Meier, though all the officers called him Bobby. Or at least every officer, I ever encountered. A few months previously, he had led a SWAT team into City Hall, to apprehend Joseph Neal, a black former city employee who had shot the mayor and several city council members, and taken them hostage. Meier had headed Internal Affairs for three years, longer than the usual stint.

I received a phone call from his office, several weeks after submitting my complaint, and walked to the station. He spoke to me, in the hallway, despite the presense of two detectives who had spent months following the Tyisha Miller protesters, with camcorders. The topic of conversation had little to do with my complaint, but instead dealt with the incident involving an officers apparent refusal to take a police report regarding the racist fliers. He wanted a copy of the flier, obviously thinking I would not be able to produce a copy. I called his bluff, and produced a copy, and pictures of the fliers posted on several traffic poles, and dropped it off the next day. Before I left, he assured me that as soon as one of his sergeants closed out a case, he would handle mine. When I walked out, I heard a masculine voice boisterously shout, Yo, Bobby, how ya doin So much for the separation of Internal Affairs from the rest of the department, I thought.

Weeks went by, and I become more preoccupied with getting arraigned and making court appearances, than with a complaint I figured would never be fairly investigated anyway. Hiring and then losing an attorney, to an untimely suspension by the state bar, and dealing with arrogant baby prosecutors kept me busy, as did the responsibilities of my life. Of all the white activists ticketed by the SWAT team, only one paid his ticket. The rest of the cases, were dropped, though activist Larry Halstead had his temporarily bumped up to a misdemeanor, that trailed his freeway case.

May became June, and June, July. No word from the police department even though they are suppose to dispose of cases within 60 days. Well, more days than that had come and gone, and my witnesses still had not been contacted, for interviews by the department. I did receive the usual form letter sent out to discourage people from filing complaints by telling them that the alleged misconduct was all in their head, and that the vast majority of contacts between officers and civilians are positive. I tossed it in the trash, where it belonged.

On July 27, all that changed. Gallegoes, the artist who had been the target of the SWAT team that day, called me and said that Lt. Orrantia had phoned him, asking to talk with him. Gallegoes refused to return his call, remembering the day, that four officers had held him, while he received a citation, and that Orrantia had been standing nearby, watching. He had been incensed when he read articles about the crackdown in the newspaper, and Orrantia had defended the use of force, as necessary for his safety. As I hung up, I asked myself, what the hell is an officer on my complaint trying to do by contacting my witnesses? Is he trying to intimidate them, to persuade them not to give their statements? I called the police department, and left a message for Meier, even though I knew that by 10am in the morning, every lieutenant and captain had already left for lunch, and it would never be returned.

Gallegos called me again several days, and told me that Orrantia had contacted his mother at 10:30 one night and asked questions about her son. A half hour later, a squad car parked in front of her house, and Detective Steve Lee knocked on her door. Gallegos mother answered, and Lee asked to speak to Gallegos, on behalf of Orrantia. The woman was scared, and told the officer, she had always taught her son not to run away from police and to do what they said. Lee said, that Gallegos was not in trouble, but he needed to talk with him. Lee left, and got back into his squad car with another officer, and they remained parked in front of the house, for about 20 minutes, before leaving.

I contacted Meier again, and also acting Police Chief Michael Smith, a 30 year veteren of the department who had desperately sought the chief spot, but so far it had eluded him. He had applied for the job, during the citys national search, and had reached the final three. I asked them, why my witness was being contacted by Orrantia, one of the officers whom the complaint was filed against. I said, that someone needed to tell him to back off.

Two days later, I received my answer in the form of a phone message left by the departments field captain, Audrey Wilson, but her matter-of-fact words shocked me, as she informed me that the complaint had been referred to her office by Meier, and she had made the decision to assign Orrantia to investigate it.
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Reply to Mary Shelton

by Bill Rhetts Tuesday, May. 15, 2001 at 5:28 PM PO Box 8668 Redlands CA 92375

Dear Mary,

Mary you are so bias and deceived in your comments. Mary I would love to sit with you and tell you the whole truth (off line.)

With one condition; That I tape record our conversation. That way nothing can be 'legally' taken out of context. Mary I am about to hold you civilly liable for your slander. Although, I am willing to be forgiving.

You have my email address. Let's have lunch. Anywhere in the Inland Empire, or Riverside where you live. I will pay for the tab.


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Oh, hi Bill

by mary Wednesday, May. 16, 2001 at 11:30 AM

Dear Bill:

I was surprised to see a presense like yours on a web site for activists, but I imagine retirement leaves you with plenty of time to check out new web sites. And I'm one of the taxpayers paying for that retirement, however you choose to spend it.

You ask me to email you, but you did not email me, obviously because you wanted to say your piece out in the open. Fair enough. I'll return that favor.

If you want to hold me civilly for slander, okay. Make sure how ever, that it is slander that you want to hold me accountable for, I'm not sure it's the word you are thinking of. Ask Robert Krause to be sure that you are using the right terminology.

Interestingly enough, virtually all of the information I included in regards to you, was from the Press Enterprise, as well as your own writings:

Depiction of problems middle management had with your web site.

Cowardly Christians and churches
(problems within the RPD)

Cross and the Badge--account of a shooting you committed in March 1997 while at the LAPD. You spoke of holding a man you had shot, and forgiving him:

"Rhetts' latest shooting happened in March 1997. "I shot a gang member twice. He lived. But what was profound and so awesome was I was able to hold this man in my arms as he bled. I was able to tell him I forgave him and show him I cared for him. Praise God he lived."


To the San Bernardino Co Sheriff
Sheriff Gary Penrod
by Bill Rhetts
County of San Bernardino
655 E. Third St.
San Bernardino, CA 92415-0061

Jan 1st , 2000

Dear Sheriff Penrod,

I want to thank you and express my support for your decision to hire Paul Bugar as a sheriff's dispatcher.

What the negative press has lost and/or failed to mention, is the fact that Paul did nothing wrong on the night of Dec. 28, 1998, that would result in termination. I am extremely confident that the arbitration process will result in the complete vindication of Paul.

Having said that, you obviously knew beforehand that you would be criticized for hiring Paul, yet you still chose to hire him. That shows us that you have both moral fortitude and political courage, traits that are seriously lacking in today's society.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with Paul on the streets of Riverside. I remember looking at Paul under all circumstances and thinking, "what a gentleman!" He was an excellent dispatcher and officer for the Riverside Police Department, and I'm sure that he will serve your agency well. I have enjoyed my relationship with Paul as a fellow police officer. He is a man of character, integrity, and compassion.

Again, I thank you for willingly stepping up to the plate and making a decision that is right, in spite of the fact that it might be controversial. Geographically your county is the biggest in the nation, and in the realm of whole heartedness it is too, because of you.


Bill Rhetts

cc: Riverside City Manager John Holmes
Riverside Chief of Police Gerry Carroll
Riverside City Council
Paul Bugar

LETTER TO SIMON WEISENTHAL MUSEUM(no longer on your web site, but we both have read it, as have many others and know what it says)

FEELINGS ABOUT GAYS(letter to Russ Leach)

Riverside Police Department
Chief Russ Leach
4102 Orange St
Riverside, CA 92500

Sept 3rd, 2000

I was saddened to learn that the management of the City of Riverside and its police department have succumbed to political pressure from the gay community. The Riverside Police Department states they will now actively and specifically begin the recruiting of homosexuals as police officers.

The gay community continues to exercise their 1st Amendment rights while at the same time hypocritically attempting to keep Christians from using their freedom of speech. I should remind you that a Christian, a person of faith, is a member of a protected class, just as a member of an ethnic group is. Under Title 6 of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964, Christians are a protected people.

Specifically hiring gay police officers is in direct violation of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, which every officer is sworn to uphold. Homosexual behavior also precludes a person from meeting the standards of certification set forth by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.). One of P.O.S.T.’s requirements for certification is that officers must have "fulfilled the requirements of character..." Homosexuality is neither a display of good character from within, nor good conduct from without.

I write this letter to you with some professional experience. As a former LAPD officer who worked an undercover VICE assignment for two years, I worked in a predominantly gay community. I experienced this life style from an undercover capacity. I participated in investigations in bars, clubs, bath houses, public parks, restrooms and even via the "adult-oriented," pornographic LA X-Press newspapers. I have made hundreds of arrests for many different crimes within the gay sub-culture. I have testified in the Superior Court as an expert witness involving their conduct.

I also know it is wrong for a law enforcement agency to hire a felon, or one who is actively engaged in felonious conduct. California State Penal Code 286(a) states; "Sodomy is sexual conduct consisting of contact between the penis of one person and the anus of another person. Any sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime of sodomy."

Gay affirmative action creates a negative reaction. It sends a message of division, inequality, prejudice and even discrimination in many cases. We must hire based solely on merit.

As Riverside police Lieutenant McBride stated in a recent newspaper article, "We have to work on tolerance!" There is nothing wrong with tolerance. We should respectfully love and tolerate each other, but a Christian shall not tolerate sin, including one’s own. We are living in times when many have lost their moral compass, and have replaced truth with tolerance.

I was quoted in the February 2nd, 2000 PRESS-ENTERPRISE as stating, "We must love the sinner, but hate the sin!" Indeed, we must be compassionate and sensitive toward each other’s needs, but not by replacing common sense with sensitivity.

Many gays will call my letter "hate mail," but it is quite the opposite. As children, most of us had an earthly father who did not want us to engage in bad behaviors, immorality or unhealthy activities. Why? Because he loved us. The gays have a Heavenly Father, who grieves at their lifestyle. Why? Because He loves them!!! The Lord wishes they would come to repentance. If I didn’t care for the lost souls of gays, I wouldn’t be pointing them in the direction of the Savior who has the power to deliver them from their sin.

In God’s love and Truth,

Officer Bill Rhetts


by Michael Swift, "Gay Revolutionary" (from the Gay Community News, Feb. 15-21, 1987, reprinted from The Congressional Record)

"We shall sodomize your sons, emblems of your feeble masculinity, of your shallow dreams and vulgar lies. We shall seduce them in your schools, in your dormitories, in your gymnasiums, in your locker rooms, in your sports arenas, in your seminaries, in your youth groups, in your movie theater bathrooms, in your army bunkhouses, in your truck stops, in your all male clubs, in your houses of Congress, wherever men are with men together. Your sons shall become our minions and do our bidding. They will be recast in our image. They will come to crave and adore us.

Women, you cry for freedom. You say you are no longer satisfied with men; they make you unhappy. We, connoisseurs of the masculine face, the masculine physique, shall take your men from you then. We will amuse them; we will instruct them; we will embrace them when they weep. Women, you say you wish to live with each other instead of with men. Then go and be with each other. We shall give your men pleasures they have never known because we are foremost men too, and only one man knows how to truly please another man; only one man can understand the depth and feeling, the mind and body of another man.

All laws banning homosexual activity will be revoked. Instead, legislation shall be passed which engenders love between men.

All homosexuals must stand together as brothers; we must be united artistically, philosophically, socially, politically and financially. We will triumph only when we present a common face to the vicious heterosexual enemy.

If you dare to cry faggot, fairy, queer, at us, we will stab you in your cowardly hearts and defile your dead, puny bodies.

We shall write poems of the love between men; we shall stage plays in which man openly caresses man; we shall make films about the love between heroic men which will replace the cheap, superficial, sentimental, insipid, juvenile, heterosexual infatuations presently dominating your cinema screens. We shall sculpt statues of beautiful young men, of bold athletes which will be placed in your parks, your squares, your plazas. The museums of the world will be filled only with paintings of graceful, naked lads.

Our writers and artists will make love between men fashionable and de rigueur, and we will succeed because we are adept at setting styles. We will eliminate heterosexual liaisons through usage of the devices of wit and ridicule, devices which we are skilled in employing.

We will unmask the powerful homosexuals who masquerade as heterosexuals. You will be shocked and frightened when you find that your presidents and their sons, your industrialists, your senators, your mayors, your generals, your athletes, your film stars, your television personalities, your civic leaders, your priests are not the safe, familiar, bourgeois, heterosexual figures you assumed them to be. We are everywhere; we have infiltrated your ranks. Be careful when you speak of homosexuals because we are always among you; we may be sitting across the desk from you; we may be sleeping in the same bed with you.

There will be no compromises. We are not middle-class weaklings. Highly intelligent, we are the natural aristocrats of the human race, and steely-minded aristocrats never settle for less. Those who oppose us will be exiled.

We shall raise vast private armies, as Mishima did, to defeat you. We shall conquer the world because warriors inspired by and banded together by homosexual love and honor are invincible as were the ancient Greek soldiers.

The family unit-spawning ground of lies, betrayals, mediocrity, hypocrisy and violence--will be abolished. "The family unit, which only dampens imagination and curbs free will, must be eliminated. Perfect boys will be conceived and grown in the genetic laboratory. They will be bonded together in communal setting, under the control and instruction of homosexual savants.

All churches who condemn us will be closed. Our only gods are handsome young men. We adhere to a cult of beauty, moral and esthetic. All that is ugly and vulgar and banal will be annihilated. Since we are alienated from middle-class heterosexual conventions, we are free to live our lives according to the dictates of the pure imagination. For us too much is not enough.

The exquisite society to emerge will be governed by an elite comprised of gay poets. One of the major requirements for a position of power in the new society of homoeroticism will be indulgence in the Greek passion. Any man contaminated with heterosexual lust will be automatically barred from a position of influence. All males who insist on remaining stupidly heterosexual will be tried in homosexual courts of justice and will become invisible men.

We shall rewrite history, history filled and debased with your heterosexual lies and distortions. We shall portray the homosexuality of the great leaders and thinkers who have shaped the world. We will demonstrate that homosexuality and intelligence and imagination are inextricably linked, and that homosexuality is a requirement for true nobility, true beauty in a man.

We shall be victorious because we are fueled with the ferocious bitterness of the oppressed who have been forced to play seemingly bit parts in your dumb, heterosexual shows throughout the ages. We too are capable of firing guns and manning the barricades of the ultimate revolution.

Tremble, hetero swine, when we appear before you without our masks."

USE OF FORCE VIEWS:(under Bible Studies section of web site)

A Biblical Use of Force
by Officer Bill Rhetts

In front of my Police station is a Police Officer's memorial. It is a large iron statue of a Policeman. The Policeman is holding a small child. The name of the statue is "safe in his arms."

On the bottom of the statue, is the inscribed scriptures Romans 13:1-4. I often wonder how many Officers and citizens may not know the meaning and significance of that holy scripture.

Rom 13:1-4: Vs1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Vs 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. Vs 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. Vs 4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

In verses 1-4, Scripture challenges us as believers to subject ourselves to what ever governments we live under. Submission to authority is never easy, especially for the non-Christian, or a resisting suspect. Human nature tends towards resistance and even rebellion, especially if government is imposed, incompetent, and/or corrupt. But as we struggle with how to respond to the systems in which we live, this passage offers some helpful perspectives:

In vs 1) God is the ultimate authority. God has established three institutions, a) Marriage, b) the church and c) government. In government, God raises up, and does away with leaders.

He is in control. Although as Christians we should still pray and vote for those leaders.

Vs 2) Both followers and Leaders are ultimately accountable to God.
Submission to human authority reflects our submission to God's authority.

Vs 3) God uses His government to carry out His purposes on earth.
Without question, some governments sometimes persecute those who do good. We see that even more in the 1990's.

Remember what God says in Isa 5:20 "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" The Apostle Paul had firsthand experienced that.

In Vs 3, ultimately it is the lawbreaker, not the law-abiding citizen, who has something to fear from the government or the Police Officer.

Vs 4) Obedience is a matter of inner conviction as well as external law. Yes when a fleeing suspect resists an arrest, or becomes a threat to us police Officers, we must execute that wrath. That wrath may be from "level 1" in our use of force contingency, or all the way to the top "death." I would hope and pray, that the wrath/force would be minimal, but in an uncontrolled environment, it is not easy to control the outcome.

The resisting suspect makes that decision for us. As a Christian Cop we are commanded to love our enemy, but we do have that authority to "take care of our threat."

Time and time again, suspects resist, and may have force used against them. If the suspect is wrong, then the Cop is right. The suspect is commanded to submit to the Police Officer by God's law as well as mans.

In closing, I want to emphasize that a Christian police officers goal and desire is; to only use the minimum amount of force necessary to effect the arrest, to overcome resistance, or to protect another's life.


Article Text:


The Riverside Police Department is recruiting to hire gays and lesbians as part of its effort to create a more diverse force.

A more varied police force means better cultural awareness and helps problem solving in the community, said department spokesman Lt. Ed McBride.

Police recruiters met with four lesbians and three gay men Thursday afternoon to send out a message to the entire gay community.

"We have to work on tolerance," McBride said.

The meeting came about after gays and lesbians became offended by retired police Officer BILLRHETTS'Web site. At that time, police officials said they could not control the actions of staff when off-duty, but former interim Chief Robert Luman agreed that he would begin recruiting homosexuals, said Chani Beeman, co-chairwoman of the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability.

Even if police efforts to recruit gays yield little or no interested applicants, the attempt will encourage gays to
trust police more, Beeman said at the meeting, which she helped bring about.

"Something has to change," she said. "In the same way they are committed to recruiting people of color, they need to do the same with the gay and lesbian community, because we live here."

Sensitivity training for instructors in the police academy may have to come into play so that openly gay cadets are not treated differently, police officials and community members agreed.

"I guarantee you, no one is going to be treated differently," said Sgt. Hector Heredia, of the department's Personnel Services Division.

McBride admitted that it will be more difficult for pioneers than for those who follow in their footsteps,.

"It's always tough when you're the first one," he said. "We owe it to the pioneers to be with you every step of the way."

"Riverside is a good place for us to be ground breaking," he said. "And maybe because we've been so conservative, we'll shake it up."

Two people at the meeting said they will apply to the Riverside Police Department; others were there in support.

Amy Lane, 25, said she had considered the police academy in the past, but did not want to have to hide her homosexuality.

"Life in general for gay people is hard, why is it going to be any different here," she asked.

But, after Thursday's meeting, Lane said she felt more confident about the support she would get on the police force and will apply.

Nineteen positions are open at the Riverside Police Department. Applicants must pass written, oral and physical tests, and must submit to a psychological evaluation, a polygraph test and an extensive background check. Beginning salary for police officers is $42,912 to $54,756 a year. Information: (909) 826-5808.

Riverside officer linked to controversy retires: Bill Rhetts made waves with a comment about the Miller case and with a Web site he ran in Redlands.

By Lisa O'Neill Hill; The Press-Enterprise

Section: LOCAL
Page: B01
Estimated Printed Pages: 3

Index Terms:

Article Text:


A controversial Riverside police officer, who shot an unarmed parolee in a doghouse and who was accused of making an inappropriate racial comment after police killed Tyisha Miller, has left the department.

Officer Bill Rhetts was granted an industrial retirement on May 24, Riverside police Lt. Andy Pytlak said Friday. Rhetts, who founded a pro-police organization and a Web site on which he discusses his previous shootings and his religious and conservative views, had filed at least one worker's compensation claim, saying he was injured on the job, the lieutenant said.

Officers who are granted an industrial retirement can receive 50 percent of their annual salary tax-free for the rest of their lives.

Reached on Friday, Rhetts did not know his retirement had been approved. He declined to comment.

"The check is in the mail, literally," said Robert Krause, Rhetts' attorney.

Krause said the retirement has nothing to do with the racial comment Rhetts is accused of making.

"This was not a negotiated deal to avoid any kind of discipline because none was ever proposed," Krause said.

David Hackman, another officer who was accused of making an inappropriate comment after the Miller shooting, has also left the Riverside Police Department, officials said Friday. Hackman, who was suspended for comparing Miller's relatives and friends cries of grief to "death wails," resigned from the department a few weeks ago.

An appeal has been filed to contest the suspension, the lawyer said, but Hackman has left to work for another law enforcement agency.

Chani Beeman, spokeswoman for the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability, said Rhetts' departure gives her little solace. Rhetts "stands as sort of the poster boy for why transparency in the complaint process is so important," Beeman said.

"The Police Department and the city may feel satisfied and relieved that they have taken care of the problem, but as a community member, it only escalates my concern," Beeman said. "My question is how many more are there in our department? How many more are we going to hire?"

Rhetts' Web site for his Redlands-based Inland Police Officers Coalition drew criticism from local civil-rights activists.

On the site, he describes homosexuals as sinners, praises the officers who were fired over the Miller shooting, and criticizes several local civil-rights groups and liberals.

A former Los Angeles Police Department officer, Rhetts also discusses several on-duty shootings he was involved in while with that agency. He has said it is First Amendment right to speak his mind.

Rhetts first came into the limelight shortly after the December 1998 Miller shooting, when he was accused of saying, "In LA, they treat you like a king, and in Riverside, it's Miller time," an alleged comparison to the Rodney King beating.

Rhetts has declined to repeat what he said, but he has said that his comment was not a joke, not racist and not made out of bias or hatred. He has said it was "intentionally taken out of context."

In February, Rhetts shot Joseph Haran, a 45-year-old sex offender who had been with a 15-year-old runaway.

Police have said Rhetts shot Haran once in the leg after the parolee made a threatening move toward the officer. Haran, who was hiding in a doghouse at the time, concealed his right hand with a light gray jacket and pointed it at Rhetts in a fast, threatening manner, police have said.

Two other officers held their fire.

Haran's left leg was amputated after the shooting.

Krause has said that Rhetts would have been in the direct line of fire had Haran had a gun. Police are still investigating the shooting, Lt. Bob Meier said. Rhetts' departure will not affect those investigations, Meier said.

After the shooting, Rhetts stepped down as vice president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association on an interim basis, said Detective Steve Johnson, a spokesman for the union.

Johnson said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on details of Rhetts' departure.

"Bill Rhetts has served the Los Angeles Police Department and Riverside for a number of years," Johnson said. "We wish him well in his future endeavors."

Letter written about Bill Rhetts' site:

By his own Web site

Why does the RPD employ delusional religious fanatics like Officer Bill Rhett? It is frightening to read that this individual is patrolling the streets of Riverside, interacting with the public backed by police powers and loaded weapons.

I read portions of Officer Rhett's Web site mentioned in a Press-Enterprise article, and I was very troubled by what I encountered there. Every decent citizen should be troubled by Officer Rhett's tangle of personal beliefs. . . .

If Interim Chief Luman wants to start healing the rift between the police and the policed town, he needs to examine and question seriously the mental fitness of officers like Rhett. Officer Rhett is an embarrassment and potential liability to the city.

Police officers must enforce the law, not engage in some cosmic crusade against Satan and his angels according to rules the officers have concocted. It is not their job to make or change or question the laws of the society, only to enforce them.



Officer uses Web to tell his views: The Riverside patrolman's text, a mix of conservative opinions and shoptalk, dismays some.

By Ben Goad; The Press-Enterprise

Section: LOCAL
Page: B03
Estimated Printed Pages: 3

Index Terms:

Article Text:


Bill Rhetts, the police officer found to have shot an unarmed parolee last week in Riverside, has created a pro-police organization and a Web site on which he discusses his religious and conservative views -- and his past involvements in police shootings.

The Web site for Rhetts' Redlands-based Inland Police Officers Coalition, which features a photograph of Rhetts in uniform with a patrol car, describes homosexuals as sinners, praises four former Riverside officers fired over the fatal shooting of a black woman and criticizes several local civil- rights groups and liberals.

While Rhetts says it's his First Amendment right to speak his mind, the views on the site have drawn criticism from local civil-rights activists.

Rhetts, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, discusses on the site several past instances in which he has shot people in the line of duty.

"I had more Officer involved shootings (with hits) that I did personnel complaints," wrote Rhett.

He describes his history with the LAPD and how a particular gun battle affirmed his Christian faith.

"A shooting is a terrible event to have to experience; having said that, I hope never to be in one again," he writes.

Another writing on the site is titled "A Biblical Use of Force."

"Yes when a fleeing suspect resists an arrest, or becomes a threat to us police Officers, we must execute that wrath. That wrath may be from 'level 1' in our use of force contingency, or all the way to the top 'death,' " Rhetts write.

"The resisting suspect makes that decision for us. As a Christian Cop we are commanded to love our enemy, but we do have that authority to 'take care of our threat.' . . . The suspect is commanded to submit to the Police Officer by God's law as well as mans."

In another piece, Rhetts describes members of the American Civil Liberties Union, the media, the court system and the liberal church as "adversaries working for Satan."

Elsewhere, Rhetts assures readers that his beliefs do not impair his work as a patrolman.

"Love the sinner," he states. "Hate the sin."

The site also includes a letter of support that Rhetts wrote to San Bernardino County Sheriff Gary Penrod after Penrod hired Paul Bugar, one of four Riverside officers fired after the Tyisha Miller shooting. Bugar was hired as a civilian dispatcher and later transferred to a position with no responsibility for public safety.

"You obviously knew beforehand that you would be criticized for hiring Paul, yet you still chose to hire him," Rhetts writes. "That shows us that you have both moral fortitude and political courage, traits that are seriously lacking in today's society."

In response to a newspaper article about a San Bernardino church that ministers to gay and lesbian parishioners, Rhetts writes: "Homosexuality is, and always will be a sin. As a Christian, I am compassionate to homosexuals and do treat them with respect. We must not, however, condone the sin."

The site could cause those who don't share Rhetts' beliefs to lose their trust in law enforcement, said Tamara Galatzan, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League's Western States division.

"If you were gay, and the victim of a crime, would you feel comfortable with this officer arriving at your door?" Galatzan asked. "Whatever the answer is, the fact that the question is being asked means there's a problem."

Adnan Hasan, a member of the Rainbow Council, a San Bernardino-based gay-rights group, and of the Redlands Human Relations Commission, said: "I would be very surprised if he leaves that kind of homophobia and hate at home.

"This man can not possibly remain unbiased in his job."

Interim Riverside Police Chief Robert Luman said he hopes the site, which he has not seen, will not further damage the already-volatile relationship between his department and the community.

"If he is exercising his legal rights, it makes it difficult for us, as an institution, to do anything about it," Luman said.

The Inland Police Officers Coalition was formed last month and is undergoing incorporation procedures, Rhetts said. Since J. 2, the Web site - -- has been visited more than 2,300 times

Accused patrolman elected by officers : Bill Rhetts, alleged to have made an insensitive remark during the Miller shooting, is the new union vice president.

By Lisa O'Neill Hill; The Press-Enterprise

Section: LOCAL
Page: B01
Estimated Printed Pages: 2

Index Terms:

Article Text:


A Riverside police officer accused by another patrolman of making a racially insensitive remark has been elected vice president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association.

Officer Bill Rhetts' term will begin on Jan. 1. The union's new president is Sgt. Jay Theuer, who will replace police Detective Jeffrey Joseph.

Rhetts has been accused of saying, "In LA, they treat you like a king, and in Riverside, it's Miller time," an alleged reference to the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles and the police shooting of Tyisha Miller on Dec. 28.

The officer declined to say Tuesday what he said, but he said his comment was not a joke, not racist, and not made out of bias or hatred. He said it was "intentionally taken out of context."

He said he is committed to serving the police union and working toward healing and reconciliation, but without compromise.

"My concept is truth, integrity, courage and what's right for our membership," Rhetts said.

Rhetts is being investigated by the department's internal affairs division in connection with the alleged remark. His attorney, Robert Krause, said neither he nor his client has been given an update on the status of the investigation.

Krause said Rhetts said something similar to what has been alleged but it was said in the context of trying to educate other, younger officers about what to expect.

"Bill Rhetts is a fine man," the attorney said.

Theuer said that he hopes the association will become more aggressive under his leadership.

"We will continue to be outspoken about what we think is right and what we think is wrong," Theuer said.

Joseph, who ran for re-election, said the membership felt it was time for a change and he did not think he lost the election because of his performance.

The detective said Rhetts will serve the association well.

But Chani Beeman, co-chairperson of the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability, said she does not see the election results as good news.

"Bill Rhetts has been very on the record about his opinions and his perspective, and we disagree with it, probably 180 degrees," she said.

Rhetts represented the police union on the Police Review Policy Committee, a 15-member group formed to make recommendations about citizen oversight to the City Council. He resigned from the panel after members of Beeman's group said his participation undermined the committee's credibility.

Other board members are: Detective Steve Johnson, detective representative; Officers Terry Meyer, Bruce Loftus, Brian Money and Darren Woolley, officer representatives.

Activists want officer off police-review panel: He is accused by another lawman of making a racist remark. The panel chairwoman says the decision is up to the police union.

By Phil Pitchford; The Press-Enterprise

Section: LOCAL
Page: B01
Estimated Printed Pages: 2

Index Terms:

Article Text:


A police officer on a Riverside city committee studying options for citizen oversight of the department should step down because he is being investigated for making a racial joke after the Tyisha Miller shooting, activists said Thursday.

Officer Bill Rhetts, who represents the Riverside Police Officers' Association on the committee, declined to comment after the meeting. His attorney has said that Rhetts did not make the comment out of ill will.

Rhetts is accused by a fellow officer of joking that, "In LA they treat you like a king and in Riverside, it's Miller time," an apparent reference to the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles and the fatal shooting of Miller on Dec. 28.

Three members of the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability called on Rhetts to not participate on the committee until the police complete an internal affairs investigation of his comment.

"The credibility of this committee is now in question," said Chani Beeman, co-chair of the coalition, which is trying to create a review board.

Councilwoman Maureen Kane, chairwoman of the group, said in an interview that Rhetts' committee membership is between him and the union.

Union president Jeffrey Joseph could not be reached for comment. Ron Wright, past president of the union, declined to comment.

Riverside police Officer Rene Rodriguez has claimed in a 39-page statement that he overheard Rhetts make the remark. Rodriguez, who has been on unpaid leave since March, has filed a complaint alleging a hostile work environment.

Rhetts' attorney, Robert Krause, has said the department had not determined whether the remark violated any policy or regulation. Krause said the comment was made "in a totally benign context."

The committee also heard a presentation from representatives of Long Beach's Citizen Police Complaint Commission, formed in 1990.

Ronald C. Waugh, the commission's executive director, said the commission has a $300,000 budget and has heard as many as 381 complaints in a year, but typically hears 10 to 15 a month. He said the commission's work has been well-received by residents and the police

I would continue, but I'm running out of space. And thank you, but I have no interest eating lunch with you, under any circumstances.

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chica loca. Huh?

by stew Wednesday, May. 16, 2001 at 1:38 PM

Chica loca?

What the hell statement are you trying to make? quit using those types of names they intimidate me! I am shaking while I write this. Brown pride, right?

Obviously you have plenty of time to write all of your drivel. Get off of the welfare nipple and do something constructive. Isn't it beautiful to know that Rhetts is getting paid by the same government that gives you food stamps. A bit jealous are we?

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Hi Stu

by mary shelton Thursday, May. 17, 2001 at 5:20 AM

Hi, stew

thanks for your comments. Always nice to hear from local folk. There is an old adage Stew, about throwing stones while in a glass house. You made a bunch of assumptions about me, based on nothing.

I'm not brown, latino, hispanic, but I don't knock people who are for having pride in their heritage, after being denied that right for a long time. I know whose land I am standing on.

I've never been on welfare. Either that for the poor or for corporations either, since I believe they both count. But I don't condemn those who are, because there are many different circumstances that affect people in life, and it is too easy to generalize why people are on welfare, especially if one does not read up on the issue, and easier to demonize them.

Actually, I don't have a lot of time I just use my limited time, in a very constructive, well organized fashion. Obviously you had time to serve the web(I highly doubt you hang out here regularly) yet I won't make judgements or crass comments behind the veil of anomynity about how much time you have available or why.

have a nice day,

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The Nazis are Out

by Fellow Freeway Protester Friday, May. 18, 2001 at 6:33 AM

Bill Rhetts is at it again-justifing murder in the name of God and the state. So does the Bible state that we submitt to the likes of Hitler? Bill Rhetts seems to think so, especially when he's been busy behaving like an SS trooper. Then we have other fascists like this "Stu" character. How many other "Sieg Heilers" do we have out there? We better wake up-the Nazis are back in effect!
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need more help

by Margaret Monday, Jun. 18, 2001 at 4:04 AM

June 15, 2001
FARC Writes
to Narco News
And We Agree to Publish:
"They Should Not Cry Later"
By Gabriel Ángel
Member, Issues Commission
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
Narco News 2001

Author Gabriel Ángel with FARC Commander Manuel Farulanda Vélez
Haga Click Para Leerlo En Español
Publisher's Note: We received an email in the Narco Newsroom last night. This is what it said:
Dear Friends,
I have read your pages in Spanish and they seem very interesting. I am a guerrilla soldier in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - Popular Army, FARC-EP. In my country we are victims, perhaps like no one else in the world, of the arbitrary policies of the government of the United States, particularly in recent times, with the implementation of Plan Colombia.
I would like to humbly send you an attached article that I have written about the issue of the war on drugs in Colombia, and I would be honored if you decide to publish it.
Sincerely yours,
Gabriel Ángel
We decided to investigate whether Mr. Ángel was, in fact, an insurgent with the FARC, the largest guerrilla army in the world. We also wrote to Mr. Ángel, who wrote us back, in response to various questions we posed to him, saying:
Dear Sir,
I infinitely appreciate your attention. I am a member of the Issues Commission (Comisión Temática) of the FARC-EP (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia-Popular Army) that is in charge of the public appearances in the zone of distension. You can find that at the direction:, which is the magazine of the National Secretariat of the FARC-EP. There, in the most recent issue, are two of my articles.
I understand perfectly your prudence in verifying this communication…
With this email I'm sending you an exclusive photograph taken with Comandante Manuel Marulanda Vélez during the 37th anniversary celebration of the FARC, last May 28th.
Gabriel Ángel
At the Narco News Bulletin, we believe that robust speech and dialogue is a necessary component of democracy, peace with justice, liberty and human rights. We have often published the communiqués of Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos from Mexico.
Today, we are very honored to translate and publish for you this exclusive column by Gabriel Ángel, issues commissioner for the FARC, so that our English-speaking readers may hear from the insurgent movement in Colombia, in its own words, without distortion or censorship from the commercial media, on the very important public policy issue of the war on drugs.
From somewhere in a country called América,
Al Giordano, Publisher
The Narco News Bulletin
"They Should Not Cry Later"
The Nefarious Effects of Repressive
Logic and the War on Drugs
By Gabriel Ángel
Translated by The Narco News Bulletin
Conforming with the criminological conceptions of North American Congressmen, crimes are committed by people who decide on their own initiative to be outlaws, led by their morbid inclination to do evil, consciously assuming the role of the bad guys. Consequently, they must be punished, as examples, so that the rest of the good citizens are warned and learn that they can't live like that. That's why the punishments are so severe: to prison, life sentence or death, according to the estimated seriousness of the laws.
The gringos surely identify themselves with the Christian God of the Old Testament, a barbaric, cruel and despotic God who brutally punishes those who oppose his will. Rains of fire, infernal plagues, genocides… The religious dedication of U.S. citizens to the Bible is not by coincidence. It seems more like identity. We see them on TV or in the movies listening attentively to the pastor, swallowing, as absolute truths, the history of the prophets, the chosen people. It fits their character well. We've even seen presidents with pastors in cultlike-trance on the news.
All these visions of the world are poisoned by dogmatism. The Anglo-Saxon thinking persona is openly reactionary and his legal, judicial and penal doctrines are no exception, ill fated when they relate to us. With the Colombian people, with the Latin American people, with the inhabitants of the Third World, or the Fourth of that world they recently invented. So it is in the case of drugs. The North Americans pass judgment that the phenomenon of drug trafficking begins and ends in the sphere of criminality and criminal laws. It's just a crime, an illicit act that must be combated with all the weight of the State, with all its force, with all its power.
For some reason that cannot be explained, the bad guys dedicated to drug trafficking are experiencing a notable growth, an authentic rise. They are a true challenge for the champions of justice. As bounty hunters, they must search the entire planet for them, reduce them, imprison them and annihilate them. There are poisoning the youth, destroying the tranquility of their homes, inducing sin in every form. Disgracefully for us, they have concluded that the hideout of the rogues is in Colombia, that on the sidewalks, the farms and the jungles of this strategic South American country the ones responsible for their grand social defects can be found.
We, the Latin American people, have very different positions in almost all things related to them. Our cultural and historical traditions lead us to think in another way. In the end, the role of the losers, of the subordinated, of the simple dominoes of foreign domination always corresponds to us. We have seen ourselves obligated by the circumstances to look to all sides, to doubt all powers, to drink from the most multiple fountains of consciousness. All of our presumed benefactors have ended up escaping after sinking their claws in our backs. That's why we are so distrusting. Our inclination is to inquire more, to investigate more, to examine more together and observe all the sides of the coin. We prefer to place ourselves in reality, however hard it may be.
Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, one of the most brilliant and recognized minds that Colombian genius has produced, joined the positive school of civil rights founded by Enrico Ferri in Italy with such enthusiasm. And our criminal codes made, as their own, the idea that the delinquent is, in a certain way, an ill person, a product of the conjunction of innumerable economic and social causes that must be taken into account at the hour of thinking about imposing a penalty. This could not be understood as a punishment, but rather as a method of rehabilitating the prisoner, of recuperating him for society. Many aggravating and extenuating circumstances of a conduct had to be looked at, including the danger posed by the subject. Acting justly was much more complicated than applying an ironclad sole criteria with orthodoxy. It was about human beings.
Since the end of the 1970s, the efforts by the Colombian oligarchy to adopt the inspiring philosophy of the gringos began to be sustained. Above all because they were interested in initiating a frontal assault against drug trafficking and imposed it upon our country, that since then is no longer just a folkloric producer of marijuana without grand crime bosses and international mafias. There were various attempts to adopt the judicial system of the prosecutors and their semi-secret trials, as well as the Anglo-Saxon penal conceptions in the legal code. Today, absurd penalties of 60 years and more in prison are spoken of, in time to propose, without blushing, the death penalty as the best method to fight crime: the secret witnesses, the judicial deals, the pardon for sloth and the entire gamut of corruption and legal blackmail that is now its daily bread.
Any sociological vision of reality has completely disappeared. The repressive logic, the wrath of God, has become dogma. A man of the size of Alberto Lleras Camargo, liberal patriarch of other epochs, had come to write in 1979 in the daily El Tiempo of Bogotá, as the magazine Elmalpensante reminded us recently, of secret services, those that elevated the price of drugs so high that they fed the creation of a mafia disposed to obtain them in any part of the world to bring them to the United States and make their grand business. And he warned how our country would become the scapegoat for a responsibility that the gringo government has alone. "The war on drugs will stain the reputation of our countrymen in the future," he prophesied. The spheres of power completely disappeared this kind of analysis. The subjection to the empire was total.
Presidents Turbay, Betancur, Barco, Gaviria, Samper and Pastrana, in succession, increased the legal, police and military methods against drug trafficking, turning their governments into mere executors of the erratic North American policies. If all the dilapidated efforts by the recent Colombian governments had been better dedicated to solve the problems of rural property, economic development and social justice in the countryside, it is absolutely certain that our peasant farmers would never have recurred to the cultivation of illicit crops. It would not have been necessary. They would have enough to live, and live well. And if instead of similarly undertaking a crusade against drug trafficking, the North Americans had adopted the legalization of drugs with all their educative, preventative and medical ability, the narco-trafficking mafias would have disappeared a long time ago. The problem would not exist.
The satanization of the drug problem has turned anyone who demonstrates a point of view opposed to the logic of the North Americans into a drug trafficker, to face repressive and brutal solution. This is the case of the FARC. Very much in the historical tradition of the Latin American people, the FARC have sustained that the solution to the drug problem cannot be military, but must be social. And they have proposed legalization to the gringos. The revolutionary fight in Colombia has the peculiar quality of being tangled up in a social reality marked by illicit crops, something that has never occurred in any of the revolutionary processes of other homelands. But the FARC have demonstrated on repeated occasions, over and over again, its condemnation of drug trafficking. It's just that the solution proposed by our organization doesn't fit under the lens of the United States. That's why they stigmatize us as a narco-guerrilla. And that's why Plan Colombia, designed in the Pentagon, forwards a warlike solution.
The North Americans employ immeasurable efforts to prove connections by the FARC with drug trafficking. It is barely an excuse to give legitimacy to its propositions of domination and control over factors it considers strategic for its economic interest, like Venezuelan petroleum and the Amazonian bio-diversity. And they cover it up with their absurd war on drugs, a war that only succeeds in aggravating the problem. It raises the prices, stimulates conformity with the mafias, generates widespread corruption, and increases addiction. Worst of all it drowns the Colombian people in a sea of blood, destruction and horror. How can it be that the leading classes of the country betray the interests of the country in this manner? The way things are, we believe that it's not going to last for long. Those who believe that Plan Colombia will flatten the struggle of the Colombian people will see. They should not cry later.

A War of Words Against the War on Drugs
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Taco Bell

by Fwsc Monday, Jun. 18, 2001 at 4:06 AM

Support Florida Tomato Pickers
Boycott Taco Bell
Protest in front of Taco Bell,
1953 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.
June 21. NOON. (at intersection of Berkeley and Colorado, about five blocks east of Pasadena City College)
(please forward)

Support Farmworkers' Rights...BOYCOTT TACO BELL

Come to a protest to raise awareness about the boycott..

Protest in front of Taco Bell,
1953 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.
June 21. NOON. (at intersection of Berkeley and Colorado, about five blocks east of Pasadena City College)

On April 1, 2001 the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker union in Florida, called a NATIONAL boycott
of Taco Bell, because;

Tomato pickers: $7,500 per year.
Taco Bell: $5.2 billion in revenues
in 1999.

Tomato pickers in Florida who pick tomatoes for Taco Bell are paid below-poverty wages, have no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid holidays, no paid vacations, no pension and they are denied the right to organize a union and the right to overtime pay for overtime work. The pickers are paid 40 cents for every bucket they pick, the same rate they were getting in 1978.

Taco Bell earned $5.2 billion in revenues in 1999 and Tricon Global, which owns Taco Bell, owns more
restaurants than any company in the world, and yet Taco Bell refuses to negotiate increases in wages for the
people who pick their tomatoes.

For more info. please visit

Please consider the situation of the farmworkers that picked the tomatoes you will eat today and let Taco Bell
know that you expect them to meet with the farmworkers' representatives. Call or write: Emil J. Brolick, President
and Chief Concept Officer,Taco Bell Corp., 17901 Von Karman, Irvine, California 92614, tel. (949) 863-4500

Organizers of protest: Farm Worker Support Committee (part of UCB California Students Against Sweatshops)-UC Berkeley, Santa Monica College Progressive Alliance, Pasadena City College Students for Social Justice

(For more information about the protest call (323) 962-6045)

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Federal agent interview

by Mr Marks Tuesday, Jul. 03, 2001 at 4:26 PM

Interview With The Bogeyman

The Chaplain of the Second Amendment PD and Attorney Jess B. Guy (BATF Ret.) sit down for a heart to heart on gun ownership, the Second Amendment and U.S. Constitution, and all things law enforcement.

Mike Baker: Hi, Mr. Guy. How are you?

Jess Guy: Just fine, thank you very much.

Mike Baker: Thanks for this great opportunity. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for many, many years. I think this interview will prove to be an insightful look into the Federal law enforcement community, both for those in other fields of professional law enforcement, as well as the private citizenry at large.

Jess Guy: I hope so. As long as we all remember that the views, opinions, thoughts, beliefs and actions are my own, and not those of anyone else. I would also warn you that some of my observations may not follow the path some people would like, on both sides of the issue. I can only say my responses are honest and forthright.

Mike Baker: Understood. So, how long did you serve with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF)?

Jess Guy: I was an agent from November 1971 to January 1998. The first 12 years I spent as a field agent in various assignments and the final 15 or so as Resident Agent in Charge of the San Jose (CA) Field Office. For 5 years (1989-1994) I was the team leader for the San Francisco District Special Response Team (SRT) in addition to my other duties

Mike Baker: What is it exactly, within the Federal LE framework overall, that the BATF does?

Jess Guy: ATF (we never did like the “B”).

Mike Baker: Understood. Mental note: Drop the “B.”

Jess Guy: ATF is responsible for insuring industry compliance with laws relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, explosives. That includes product manufacturing, labeling, and distribution. It also includes collection of taxes on those products. ATF actually collects over 13 billion dollars a year in taxes. This is generically called the compliance operations side of the shop. The law enforcement side is the responsibility of the agents, who investigate allegations of crimes in the areas of firearms, arson, explosives, alcohol, and tobacco. In these areas you have seen ATF agents investigate high profile bombings, international arms smuggling, major narcotics dealers with guns, and “extremist” groups. In the field of arson we have investigated primarily arson for profit schemes. Alcohol crimes, while not a high priority, are a concern if appropriate taxes are not paid, products are intentionally mislabeled, or the materials used are fraudulently misrepresented. Tobacco investigations generally involve hijacking of trucks and resale of cigarettes on the black market. The tax loss can be enormous to states and the risk of violence is very high. Something the public may not be aware of, is that ATF agents are also seconded to the U.S. Secret Service to provide security for candidates during national elections, and to the Department of State to assist in security details for foreign dignitaries and the United Nations General Assembly opening ceremonies. ATF also has small offices in Mexico, France, and Columbia.

Mike Baker: Are you a member of the National Rifle Association or any other pro-Second Amendment group or organization?

Jess Guy: I am an Endowment member of the NRA. I am a life member of the Police Marksman Association and I have belonged to several shooting clubs and organizations.

Mike Baker: For how long?

Jess Guy: All at least 20 plus years.

Mike Baker: To start, I’d like to go back a couple years, near the beginning of the Clinton years. You were on active duty in 1995 when NRA Executive Vice-president Wayne LaPierre made the infamous “jack-booted thugs” statement in the NRA fund-raising letter in reference to federal law-enforcement agents at Waco, Ruby Ridge, and elsewhere. This was right after the Oklahoma City bombing of the Fred Murrah Federal building. The controversy was thunderous. What was your reaction to that statement, as well as ATF rank and file at the time?

Jess Guy: The jack booted thug statement came out as a result of a number of complaints to certain congressional representatives. In many of the cases upon which the statement was based, there was a dearth of factual information. While I would not defend any agency in the violation of anyone’s Constitutional Rights, I know that individuals in a law enforcement setting have done things for which they should, at minimum, be fired. Even though Mr. LaPierre was certainly trying to focus on some common enemy (i.e. ATF) for gun rights groups, I really don’t think it served a purpose to help the public or NRA members to really understand what was going on within ATF at the time. It also polarized factions on both sides, to the point of almost five years of extreme rhetoric and distrust. It may have sold some magazines and got things stirred up, but it did little to win any supporters in Congress. Most of the agents thought the remark an ill-conceived joke. We looked all over for a pair of jackboots, but never found them.

Mike Baker: If you recall, Ex-President George Bush Sr. issued a strongly worded letter of resignation to the NRA for that statement, but in light of the documented evidence of Federal LE excess put for by then NRA President Tom Washington in response to the Senior Bush’s resignation, do you feel he was justified?

Jess Guy: I would certainly support anyone’s right to join or unjoin any association. President Bush obviously resigned based on those words and accusations from Mr. LaPierre. That was one of the unfortunate losses that Mr. LaPierre’s pejoratives caused. I can’t accept the total accuracy of Mr. Washington’s allegations—see below.

Mike Baker: What was, if any, the response of the ATF rank and file to many of these reports and complaints chronicled in Tom Washington’s letter?

Jess Guy: Generally the ATF rank and filed paid little attention to the complaints. ATF internal documents addressed the charges and responded accordingly. The responses were also documented in Congressional hearings. I read a number of materials from The American Rifleman, Soldier of Fortune, and actual ATF reports. I spoke with some agents involved in some of the incidents. I really don’t think any of the charges were as egregious as represented by the anti-ATF sources. There were certainly examples of extremely poor judgment, and those areas should have been addressed by ATF internally.

As to other, larger, events. I was actively involved in the Ruby Ridge/Randy Weaver incident and know that some of the accusations against the government were outright lies. Don’t get me wrong, I have very strong feelings about what the FBI did, as to their so-called “rules of engagement” on that mountain top, and I also have strong feelings about the right of Randy Weaver to believe and live as he pleased. However, I also see the death of a Deputy US Marshal (Bill Deegan) as a senseless tragedy.

Further, while not part of the original Mt. Carmel Branch Davidian operation, I was involved in the subsequent trial of the Branch Davidians. (My SRT was responsible for government witness security.) Speaking with people, witnesses, agents, and being on scene during the trial has provided me with information upon which I base my conclusions. I poured over hundreds of photographs of Mt. Carmel. I saw the weapons the Branch Davidians had. I saw the photos of the bullet holes in the Branch Davidian structure and also the bullet holes in the house used by ATF. Others may disagree with my conclusions. I don’t care—I’ll be happy to discuss it, argue it, debate it. Intelligent minds can disagree. I have also learned that the right wing press can get just as distorted as the left. Especially when someone has a real political agenda. Having also read the newspaper accounts in liberal publications, I do know that they have a serious lack of understanding of firearms, firearms laws, and the impact these laws have on law-abiding citizens. So both sides have propaganda elements. I strongly suggest anyone who has an interest obtain a copy of the Treasury Report on the ATF actions in the Vernon Howell/David Koresh investigation. It is thorough and, in my opinion, accurate. It is also critical of certain ATF actions.

Mike Baker: The ATF has been characterized, from many quarters, as a “rogue agency” with no accountability to anyone, haunted by “... Mistakes that have undermined the public's confidence in its ability to do its job.” Indeed, many inquiries I field from the American citizenry relates to the fear they have of the Federal LE framework. What are your opinions of these characterizations? Are they justified?

Jess Guy: See above as to the Mt. Carmel and Randy Weaver incidents. There is one undeniable fact about ATF. It has been saddled with enforcing some of the most unpopular laws ever enacted in the United States. Tax collection itself is unpopular. Prohibition, from the Whiskey Rebellion to the Roaring 20's, was never popular with the general public. Gun laws are a unique animal—usually addressing possession rather than use. That frequently places law abiding citizens in the same basket as law breakers. ATF is not a rogue agency. It enforces those unpopular laws. As to the issue of mistakes. Many times they are mischaracterized, overblown, rumors, or lies. Sometimes they are true. The agents will do their jobs as directed by ATF/Treasury policy. They will enforce the law, and if that law is bad—which many gun laws are—oversight needs to address the law, and give direction to policy changes within the agency. The agents we have today are not as versed in the history, tradition or Constitutional provisions of firearms ownership. They have little military experience, limited prior police experience, and sometimes have their first exposure to firearms at the basic academy. In training they are given an exposure to the Second Amendment issue, but that rarely goes beyond the current government position: Second Amendment=Militia=State Reserve Unit/National Guard=Collective Right. The individual rights of Americans to keep and bear arms is not accepted. There are other issues facing ATF. Funding (always important for federal agencies) becomes a series of turf wars between federal agencies. Why else do you see so many different gold letters on the backs of various federal agents at major bombings, large scale operations, etc? Not because they are cooperating, but because they all want to have a piece of the money pie. Media exposure equals recognition equals the ability to go before Congress and ask for more money. It never ends.

Many times the laws themselves are ignored by Congress, or ATF is ordered to ignore the law.

For example, the Gun Control Act of 1968 has authorized ATF to conduct background investigations of persons convicted of certain felonies, in order to restore some felon’s right to own a firearm (only under federal law). This is because Congress, in 1968, recognized that some felons were not a threat to society, they had 30-40 year old felonies with otherwise exemplary records, some of the felonies were non-violent (e.g. bad checks), or some other factor would address the intent to prohibit firearms to felons while recognizing a felony conviction alone should not necessarily take away all of a person’s rights. Once this background investigation was completed and restoration granted, as per federal law, that individual could then legally own firearms without violating federal law. It was a valuable program which recognized not only the realities of rehabilitation, and the fact that there was a right to possess firearms in a lawful manner, but, that Congress actually intended that these people should be allowed to posses firearms. One of the last such investigations I reviewed was the application of Colonel Oliver North. He was granted such relief based on a number of valid reasons. However, some in Congress have argued against this law and have intentionally refused to fund any ATF activity in this area—due to their blind hatred of firearms. So, for almost 15 years, no person has been afforded the opportunity under the law to apply for such relief. ATF has to follow the dictates of Congress or risk loss of funds.

As a result of Congressional funding ATF has been able to establish a Firearms Data Base. That is ostensibly designed to track guns used in crime. It is basic firearms tracing. Unfortunately the data base also has information about law abiding gun owners, gun owners who were victims of crime (stolen guns), and others, who didn’t even commit a crime, such a those who had a multiple sale form filled out because they bought two handguns from a dealer. A mandate was issued that all firearms coming into ATF custody—even if found property to be returned to its lawful owner, and all firearms referred to ATF for anything would be traced. All of this data is on the government computer. Names, addresses, dates of purchase, where purchased, etc.

So those who would have rightfully been allowed to have gun rights restored are denied that right, while those who have never committed a crime have their names as gun owners in a government computer. All based on congressional funding.

Mike Baker: The NRA has been traditionally supportive of the law enforcement community. From what I understand, it’s their qualified instructors that train the bulk of rank and file street cops. Over the expanse of your career, is it your impression that the NRA did the bulk of LEO training? Do you think this aforementioned conflict damaged them in the eyes of the LE community overall?

Jess Guy: My experience has been that the NRA programs for law enforcement are excellent. I am an NRA instructor (albeit not in NRA police training), and anything that has been done by the NRA which increases the skills of line police officers, especially as to safety, is paramount. I would like to see the NRA establish a legal training workshop for law enforcement officers. In my experience, especially with today’s officers who have no military background or prior firearms training, there is abysmal misunderstanding of the legalities of firearms ownership, the role of firearms in our nation, and the state and federal laws of firearms violations. As a member of several ATF pistol teams I competed heavily in NRA PPC competitions for years. Good training, good camaraderie, good feelings about shooting sports.

I believe that many in law enforcement were concerned that the NRA had gone to extremes in their attacks on ATF. My experience has been that local law enforcement generally has a good opinion of ATF and such attacks did cause concern. Again, not good for the NRA, when it should have been a leader in promoting intelligent reviews of the Randy Weaver incident and the Mt. Carmel incident. There were enough mistakes, errors, and federal distortions in both of those events to justify NRA action in a restrained professional manner.

Mike Baker: In my opinion, during the Clinton/Gore years and under the influence of the Reno DOJ, the Federal law enforcement framework in it’s entirety has been tainted. Yet, I have noticed a tempering of the combativeness coming from the Militia and Patriot community since Bush attained the Presidency and Ashcroft assumed command of the DOJ. A LEO friend said to me in response to this, “Good for them. Good men rise when it's necessary and do other things when it's not, but they also remember that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom and liberty. The Militia, OKC and McVeigh showed the US Government that extreme lawlessness on their part breeds it on the people's part. And it's ugly.” Do you feel there is still work to be done to return balance, objectivity, and impartiality—as well as public trust—to the US DOJ?

Jess Guy: My personal views about the Department of Justice are mixed. It is a huge organization, with thousands of personnel, both in the enforcement arms and the prosecution arm. You have to remember that the FBI, DEA, INS-Border Patrol, and US Marshals Service are all under the umbrella of the Department of Justice. Tens of thousands of individuals—most carrying guns. The FBI is the single largest federal law enforcement agency in the United States. It dwarfs all others. When an agency, any agency, gets that big, with relatively unrestricted power, the chances for abuse, illegality, error, and arrogance rises dramatically. The current issue of the McVeigh “found” files is a good example. Some will see this a conspiracy by the FBI to withhold information about unknown others involved in the Oklahoma City bombing. I see it as incompetent paperwork negligence. The FBI spy scandals, the Wen-Ho Lee case, and others are examples of an agency which has outgrown its charter. Too much, too big, too many arms in too many pots, that is the FBI. However, because the FBI has screwed up in this area, they will ask for more money to upgrade records systems, more money to hire more records personnel, more money to hire more analysts, more money to hire more agents, etc. A new director will be brought in. He (or she) will go to Congress with promises of reform, modernization, and upgrades. All they need is more money and more personnel. And Congress will give it to them.

The militia and patriot community needs to address these realities, rather than worry about dark conspiracy theories of government agencies. Believe me, there is enough for any watchdog group to investigate without trying to make the Oklahoma City bombing more than it was. It was not a major government conspiracy. The morning of the bombing I was in an ATF supervisor’s meeting in San Francisco. It was the consensus of those present that the militia movement did not represent a threat to America, that open lines of communication were the best method of relating to militia/patriot groups, and that acts such as Oklahoma City were the result of a small faction of really deranged people who rarely were “members” of anything. Even Randy Weaver wasn’t a member of any right-wing group. Red herrings are often created by those who want to believe in such conspiracies. They are their worst enemies. In other words, why worry about phantom gunshots by the FBI during the fire at Mt. Carmel, when we should be asking why did the government decide to use tactics of broadcasting sounds of squealing dying rabbits, loud rock music, and other “psychological” devices which actually drove the residents of Mt. Carmel closer together, thereby justifying Koresh’s predictions. Don’t worry about any suggested “explosive” nature of the tear gas used, but rather ask why did the government even think of using tear gas in an open, windy area? Don’t waste time debating about the reason Vicky Weaver was shot. It was an accident, pure and simple. A bad shot by a supposedly trained federal agent. A tragedy. More importantly, we should ask how and why do we allow the federal government to authorize use of deadly force on those people on that mountain top in the first place? The Deputy US Marshal, Bill Deegan, who was probably shot and killed by Kevin Harris, was really only trying to arrest Randy Weaver without creating a violent confrontation. That one occurred, initially resulting in the deaths of deputy Deegan and Sammy Weaver, was a tragedy for all. If they wanted to take out (read kill) Randy Weaver or anyone, it could have been done expeditiously. Their goal was a safe arrest, not a gun battle. Remember, Randy Weaver had basically isolated himself on that mountain top. He was as good as in jail already. We should be asking the government why it had to place those Marshals in harm’s way? Because a gun law was violated? Weaver did sell sawed-off shotguns to ATF. That is a serious charge. But, did the government mind set about Randy Weaver’s politics play a part in this? Absolutely. Remember, the issues of Randy Weaver, Mt. Carmel, Oklahoma City, and dozens more, are the topic for books. We can’t argue them all here. Politics and the law should not mix; there must be a wall between the enacting of laws and the enforcement of laws. Unfortunately, the political processes have now driven the enactment and enforcement of laws into the same bowl. Vote.

There is a strong anti-gun movement within Congress. I watched an MSNBC program “The .50 Caliber Militia” the other night. An interesting program. Unfortunately it was weak on technical data and strong on emotion. Spokesmen/women for pro-gun activities were fringy at best, goofy at worst. However, Congressman Henry Waxman (29th District) from California was the most frightening spectre of a person in political power that I have seen in many years. He actually reminded me of Himmler when he spoke of taking firearms away from the American public. 50 caliber is not the issue, we know that. Lawful ownership of firearms is the issue. We need to organize efforts to defeat these sorts during re-election times. Senator Dianne Feinstein is a rabid anti-gun representative. Long before the federal “assault weapon” law was passed I spoke with some of her staffers about the silliness of the proposed legislation. They knew it! It was just a step in the process of eliminating firearms from the civilian population.

Mike Baker: I have found that, by and large, the Second Amendment community is either naive or willfully ignorant of the criminal element in their midst, as well as the criminal element, by and large, who don’t care either way about the law and the Constitution. Many of these elements are foundational reasons for the undermining our Second Amendment rights because they are simply criminals, trafficking in illegal arms, etc. Can you recount one of your more high-profile criminal cases you worked on while serving with the ATF?

Jess Guy: Unfortunately, many in the gun rights movement haven’t been able to recognize the dangerous hanger-on. Tim McVeigh was (is) just such a person. Also, some of those in the gun rights movement use words like “war,” “armed resistance,” “shoot them in the head,” “pry cold fingers,” etc. Many of us see this as just rhetoric, but some may see it as a mandate for violent anti-government action. These types of threats don’t work against a government agency or its agents. Congress, however, reacts to this sort of thing by expanding federal “anti-terrorism” laws, hiring more federal agents, arguing for limitations of individual’s rights (as they relate to firearms ownership), and passing more onerous firearms laws. We need to be voices of reason.

As far as “high-profile” cases, most of my cases were directed at felons with guns, drug dealers with guns, and some people who were converting semi-auto weapons to full-auto for resale. Several cases dealt with arms smuggling from the US to Japan, South America, or other countries. Several cases dealt with arms being bought for sale directly for drug gangs, violent street gangs, etc. Some gun dealers were actually crooks (surprise) and let greed get the better of them. Some dealers sold guns with false records or no records at all. In one case we arrested three people, one a deputy sheriff who was a federal firearms dealer, who had sold over 1200 handguns at gun shows, and falsified the records on every sale. Names of relatives and co-workers were used instead of the actual purchaser. One 80 year old lady had over 50 Ravens registered to her in the California system. I also spent several years working undercover on motorcycle gangs (drugs, guns, bombs, etc.) I was not unique. Many ATF agents also worked in this capacity. Some getting into situations which were life-threatening. Agents have been injured, assaulted, shot, beaten, and kidnapped in some of these investigations. This includes both male and female agents. We all could tell stories about our “exploits”...some of them might even be true!

Mike Baker: What are your opinions and views on the “militarization” within the field of Federal, State, and Local law enforcement? Most “Old School” law enforcement officers have stated their alarm at some of these trends within the field.

Jess Guy: This is not a new phenomenon. Law enforcement in the United States has always been quasi-militaristic. Uniforms, rank, organizational structures, policies and procedures are reflective of military operations. Equipment parallels military hardware, from weapons to radios, from crowd control to security assignments. The downsizing of the military has opened up entirely new sources of equipment to local, state and federal agencies. From armored cars to night vision goggles. Surplus machine-guns have been offered to city police departments. When I was in ATF, and our budget was nonexistent, we established what would be known as Special Response Teams (SRT). Sort of like a SWAT team, but multi-dimensional. We had no equipment, no budget, nothing special—just a catchy name. I contacted the military surplus programs at various bases, and began obtaining camouflage outfits, web gear, and whatever hardware might be available. It was free to law enforcement. City, county, and state law enforcement agencies also obtained equipment. Los Angeles actually had a tractor trailer to pick up gear from the military. Generally, the use of military equipment isn’t a bad thing. It is primarily based on safety—usually for the officers. I don’t agree with the use of machine-guns by civilian law enforcement (including federal agencies)—although many police experts would disagree with me. We are not at war with the citizenry.

Militarization does create an atmosphere of warlike persona with some officers. That can be a bad thing if the officer goes in the streets considering him/herself as some sort of “warrior” in a battle against evil. Pretty soon the rules go out the window (ends justify means), good versus bad, no grey areas, no discretion. The Constitution is mangled. Agencies need to look at their policies toward implementation of use of force, increase interaction with community social services (as an option to arrest), and increased emphasis on recognizing the rights of the citizenry. There are no easy answers to law enforcement issues. The easy ones are usually wrong and dangerous. Banning semi-auto weapons is an easy answer, and wrong, and dangerous, and tyrannical.

Training on military bases has been a common practice for law enforcement agencies for years. The use of military facilities has given law enforcement new areas of practice, mostly for high risk warrant executions, large scale operations, command and control training for supervisors, and the like. The military does a good job of moving armed personnel in conflict situations. Law enforcement has accepted those concepts and applied them to their own operations. A caveat is that US (domestic) law enforcement must not adopt a “warfare” mind set. See above. Law enforcement is a societal phenomenon—designed to insure domestic tranquility. That is, keep the peace and protect the citizenry. It is not occupation nor control. Unfortunately we have accepted these concepts of war on drugs, war against terrorists, war against drunk drivers, war against domestic violence, war against pornography, war against gangs, war against graffiti, ad stupidity.

One good example of the military aspect of ATF was the acquisition of several OV-10 Bronco’s by ATF from the military. Boy, did that raise a stink! Soldier of Fortune, and others, all saw that as ATF’s attempt to attack ground personnel (gun owners) with these wonderful aircraft. The truth was ATF for years had used aircraft, primarily for aerial surveillance, and we always leased them, at a rather high cost. We got the OV-10's from the military for free! But the catch (isn’t there always?) was that we had to civilianize them, remove all military armament—which was done, and then set them up for maintenance. The overall cost of maintenance and operation of this wonderful bird, was more than our original lease costs for civilian aircraft. We also found that while the airplane could carry lots of gear and stay on station for a long time, it was very noisy. That meant that it sort of gave itself away when hovering over an area! Not a good thing for surveillance. Its unique profile also was a dead giveaway anywhere we landed. Sort of like, “I’m not really from the government, ignore my airplane, I’ll go away and don’t talk to me.” So ATF turned them over to the Forest Service.

Mike Baker: In the last ten years, there have been a number of big city agencies nationwide that have been seized by the Federal government and bound to “consent decrees,” most under the pretext of “civil rights violations.” These are campaigns that continue, spearheaded by people with big government ideologies and proponents of centralized control. Recently, in Riverside County, CA, the Riverside PD was bound to an “agreement” with the state DOJ and AG Bill Lockyer under the same pretext, a changing of the legal terms but basically the same thing. What are your opinions and views concerning the “Federalization” of the Local LE agency?

Jess Guy: Bad, bad, bad. I firmly believe that the police powers in this country rest primarily with state and local officers (based on Constitutional authority and I know that large federal law enforcement agencies are susceptible to secret abuses of power). That dictates there is need for some sort of watchdog to insure that those protections afforded all of us under the Constitution are recognized and available to all persons within the borders of the United States. Sometimes this can only be assured through some outside neutral agency. That may mean a civil rights agency or police review agency. This would be someone removed from the enforcement of laws, but well versed in law enforcement.

The bad part of federalization is where “task forces” are created, where federal, state, local agencies “cooperate” in investigations. This dilutes the federal concern to doing local police work, ingratiates the local agencies to the feds (because of $$$), and allows the federal agencies to claim inflated statistics of crime fighting which have no bearing on federal matters. That means more money to the federal agency, more federal agents, more federalization, etc. It really blurs the line between a federal enforcement agency and a local enforcement agency, and makes “feds” of all police. This is not a good thing. Law enforcement must be responsive to the community where it works.

Mike Baker: Why is the Federalization of the Local LE agency so dangerous, especially within the framework of the Second Amendment debate?

Jess Guy: See above, but also...lets look at the 4th, 5th, 6th, 14th Amendments first. There are so many exceptions to Constitutional search and seizure proscriptions that defense attorneys are fighting every day to overcome what used to be “unreasonable” search and seizures. This country, and NRA members also, have allowed the police to violate certain people’s rights for so long, that it now is coming home to roost. Who really cares if a drug dealer’s rights are long as the drugs are off the streets? Guess what? Violation of anyone’s Constitutional Rights affects us all. So much for the Fourth Amendment. The right to remain silent and not be forced to incriminate oneself had to go back to the Supreme Court recently for confirmation. Many conservatives have said that it doesn’t matter how you get the murderer, rapist, drug dealer to confess. Guess what? Gun owners are now seeing, what they thought were innocent comments, used against them in court. So much for the First and Fifth Amendment. The right to have an attorney when questioned by the police has actually been weakened in many cases. Persons arrested for one crime can be questioned about a separate and unrelated crime without benefit of counsel, even after they have invoked Miranda. So much for the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Of course, the 14th Amendment applies these protections to state and local actions...but if the courts continue to whittle away at such rights Due Process itself falls by the wayside....

As to the Second Amendment, as long as the Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue of collective v. individual rights, there will be conflict. We have to remind police officers that they are not immune from federal gun prosecution—just as any other citizen, even if they innocently break certain laws. The misdemeanor domestic violence law for example. The fact is, that as long as police officers have been given exemptions under most gun laws, they don’t have a concern about the loss of those rights to the rest of the public. They need to be reminded, that can change very quickly, and they can lose those exemptions. The bottom line is that the framers of the Constitution did a good thing when they decreed equal justice for all.

Mike Baker: Do you feel the Federal LE framework has over-stepped its Constitutional bounds in intruding on local LE affairs?

Jess Guy: Yes. The Constitution sets up a federal government of limited powers. There is no true police power therein. Federal law enforcement is generally based on taxation or commerce clauses. That’s why unlawful possession of a machine-gun was a tax code violation for over 50 years. What federal interest is there in prosecuting a person who possesses a hunting rifle and has a 10 year old felony for bad checks. A local issue, sure (maybe)...but not federal. Most domestic violence cases are family, husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, ex-spouse, ex-date, etc. They are easily handled in local courts. But a federal law now says that if one is convicted of a domestic violence charge, even a misdemeanor, you are banned from firearms possession for life. Why? ATF has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to find old domestic violation misdemeanors and take guns away from those person so affected. Arguments are made that these are tools to use against the truly bad person, but they are actually being used against persons who have no clue as to the prohibitions so suffered as a result of their convictions. There exists numerous laws about proscribed violence in society. Robbery, rape, murder, burglary of dwellings, carjackings, shootings, etc. Therein lies the area for punishment. In state and local courts. Not federal. It has become a cheap and easy way for politicians to “pass a law” and claim they are fighting crime. They don’t care about the results. Federal agencies should stay within an arena of bank fraud, securities crimes, espionage, matters which have a direct impact on interstate commerce (not some tenuous whimsical relationship), matters directly relate to national security, and the like. We need to downsize the federal agencies to get a better handle on appropriate crimes. The FBI has too much to do. That’s why it screws up, and is also why it’s so scary. It can poke its nose into anything now. Spies, organized crime, national security, bank/stocks/securities, are the areas for the FBI. They do not belong on the streets chasing some low level drug dealer. Or even a mid-level drug dealer.

Mike Baker: In a letter dated August 22, 2000, an unnamed NRA member, in response to his personal query, received a letter from the U. S. Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General, stating that the U.S. Government: “...Did indeed take the position that the Second Amendment does not extend an individual right to keep and bear arms.” This was after stating a few examples of case law. At first I laughed at the transparency of it all, then was grieved at the implications. What is your opinion of this?

Jess Guy: Do you want my opinion of the stated government position or my opinion of the individual right to keep and bear arms?

Mike Baker: Oh, please address both. You have the floor.

Jess Guy: What the Department of Justice says about its position is just that. A position. Until the US Supreme Court directly addresses the issue of individual vs. collective right, there will be disagreement. Of course, even after that, disagreement will continue, but there will be some sort of judicial agreement anyway. A lot depends on the Attorney General and his/her staff. We have come out of a very incompetent (my opinion) infrastructure within the Department of Justice, and now are moving into an unknown future. Will the Attorney General’s Office argue before the Supreme Court about these rights? I don’t know. The power of Congress to fund the Executive Branch is a strong means of influence. See my remark on Congressman Waxman above. However, I do know that the official Department of Justice policy, and therefore the policy of all the enforcement agencies is as stated, the Second Amendment does not extend an individual right to keep and bear arms.

As to my personal opinion about the individual right, under the U.S. Constitution, to keep and bear arms, I’m leaning more towards the individual right aspect, but still haven’t read enough of the Federalist Papers, Jefferson, and all the other founders, to honestly decide at this time. There is no doubt in my mind that the Second Amendment refers to the right of a State to maintain a self-defense force. Whether this is a militia of all citizens, or an organized state reserve or guard, I don’t know. Again, there is Constitutional authority for some vehicle which a state may use, without federal intervention, for security.

Also, I do believe in a God-given right to defend oneself, family, and country. That means use of arms, not words or lawsuits. To defend myself and my family no government, whether legally constituted or not, can deprive me of the means of such defense. That means arms (firearms). Period. So I guess my answer is that my belief starts beyond the Constitution. To defend my country, I’ll accept government tanks, helicopter gunships, frigates, etc. I don’t need them to defend myself or my family (yet)—but that’s my stance.

Mike Baker: Now, if we could explore the international front a little. The United Nations is convening “... An 11-day meeting beginning July 9 (2001) at U.N. headquarters in New York, where every extremist anti-gun group in the world will show up at a summit on ‘small arms’.” Their stated goal is to “... Attempt to create a global standard of gun control, banning civilian fire arms ownership worldwide.” The American people are naive to think they will be exempt from this. What is your opinion of this?

Jess Guy: Somalia, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Middle East (Lebanon, Palestine), Sri Lanka, Peru, Columbia, Afghanistan, ad nauseam. No one can ban small arms from global conflict. Banning civilian firearms is the predecessor to tyranny. That is one concept I accept. I see the reality that a tyrant in any country will go to the UN and say, “My country is in turmoil, we need the UN troops to come and take all the guns from our civilians.” Sort of like King George in 1776. What a frightening thought! I would rather live in a country in anarchy than in a dictatorship. I do not fear my neighbor as much as I fear my government. But neither need be if we use the power of the ballot—not the bullet, and we look carefully at our elected officials.

Mike Baker: With the ever growing influence and communications capabilities of the Internet and the world-wide communications hook-up, the American LE community is coming under the ever-increasing influence of overseas law enforcement, especially within private email groups and small organizations. The main offenders are Great Britain, Australia, and Canada, our “allies,” governments whose citizens and Police officials have grown up under monarchical, authoritarian regimes, with no concept of personal freedom as guaranteed under our unique Constitution. Do you have any comments for the American LE community in resisting this negative influence?

Jess Guy: The United States of America is a unique nation with a unique Constitution. We must resist the temptation to fall into line with other nations who have abrogated individual rights, become socialistic paternalistic controllers of thoughts, minds and hearts (!) of their citizenry. Power corrupts—that is one true fact of society and history. Power must be decentralized, fragmented, scrupulously examined, and held accountable. The American law enforcement community has to be a protector of the rights of citizens against the tyrannies of government even more than it sees its responsibilities to apprehend criminals. Incarceration of law breakers doesn’t insure a free democracy. The world is full of jailed dissidents (criminals) in communist countries. American law enforcement must stay within the confines of social service. Law enforcement is but a part of the overall picture however. As long as politicians are using law enforcement officers to repress democracy—we have a serious problem. We must look to the politicians first.

Mike Baker: Now to California. You’re currently a California resident, correct?

Jess Guy: Yes.

Mike Baker: Did you ever serve with the BATF in California?

Jess Guy: Yes, 1971-1974 and 1983-1998. I also worked in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Nevada, the Territory of Guam and the Northern Marianas. I further worked numerous investigations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and several investigations with the Japanese National Police.

Mike Baker: What an impressive career! I’m curious, and this is a personal query. Officer Leroy Pyle, founder of the Second Amendment PD and a former member of the NRA BOD, was a solitary voice for a long time in his defense of the Second Amendment as an active California street cop. He’s an interesting piece of California LE history. At the time officer Leroy Pyle was serving with the San Jose PD, the feud between he and Chief McNamara was pretty well known. What were, at the time, and are, your thoughts and observations of the conflict?

Jess Guy: I was the ATF RAC in San Jose when this “feud” existed. Both Leroy Pyle and Chief McNamara talked with me once or twice about the subject. I tried to remain neutral. I believe Joseph McNamara was a good Chief for San Jose, and I hold Leroy Pyle in the highest esteem as a police officer and an advocate for firearms owners’ rights. That may sound wishy-washy, but it really means that intelligent minds can differ greatly on a single issue. Both of these gentlemen argued their causes effectively, although Leroy was hampered by in-house constraints, whereas the Chief was not. I personally disagreed with the concepts of semi-auto firearms being some sort of evil, and the technical arguments made by the anti-gun crowd were specious and weak. Leroy made some very good presentations about the fallacies and inaccuracies of the anti-gunners. Chief McNamara has gone on to the Hoover Institute to support decriminalization of some controlled substances, strict control of police activity, and still is pro-gun control. Leroy is obviously continuing his service through NRA training programs and gun rights advocacy.

Mike Baker: You were recently featured in an NRA infomercial, I believe the NRA refers to it as the “Banned” video, that ran in California before the 2000 Presidential elections, as well as published in the February, 2001, issue of the NRA’s magazine, “America’s 1st Freedom.” It chronicles the views of, not only you, but other active duty and retired law enforcement professionals on gun ownership and the Second Amendment. Although I wasn’t too surprised at the presence of the State and Local LE organizations represented in these other men, you, being a retired ATF Agent was pretty unique. After all, the ATF is considered “anti-gun” and the “enforcement arm of the anti-gun extremists.” Why did you feel led to do this; take this high-profile stand?

Jess Guy: First, it was the right thing to do, in light of the onerous restrictions imposed on the citizens of California by a legislature bent on abolishing private firearms ownership. Second, the case or Mr. Roy Denny was so appalling to me that I had to make some sort of statement. Again, this was a case which I had direct personal knowledge and involvement with. I didn’t read anything from any right or left publication which caused me to respond. I was angered that an individual, with no prior criminal record, about to retire from years of faithful government service, could be charged with a crime regarding a firearm he had lawfully owned for over 20 years. The police took legal firearms from his home, without a warrant, searched his home without a warrant, charged him with crimes for which they had to later drop—due to ignorance of the firearms they took, and ultimately brought a felony charge against him, through a district attorney’s office which took months to admit that, at best, they had a minor technical violation of the law. The police mischaracterized many of Mr. Denny’s firearms, they tried to make him into some sort of survivalist/militia member, which was a total fabrication. Their actions cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees. They also stored his firearms inappropriately, allowing several unfired collector’s items to rust badly. Even though the city responsible did pay damages to Mr. Denny for the negligent storage of his firearms, their value was still reduced considerably. All in all, it was a terrible example of law enforcement and prosecution out of control in the firearms’ world. There are others....

Mike Baker: Hmmmm.... Your views on the Second Amendment, private gun ownership, and personal self-defense had to have put you at odds with ATF administration at one time or another when you were serving. Where you ever penalized or suffered loss for this? How did you cope with this?

Jess Guy: I was always one of the few ATF agents with a real interest in firearms. That labeled me in-house as a “gun nut”, and other less than polite terms. However, the knowledge I had caused those same people to seek me out for court, for search warrants, for accurate firearms identification, and ultimately to be used as an instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center-ATF Academy, in firearms technology. I was also privileged to represent ATF for a number of years as a member of its national pistol team in PPC competition. In all honesty, no one in the administration of ATF, nor any of my supervisors ever pressured me or hinted at anything about my firearms interest, where it might negatively impact on my job performance or evaluations. I would like to believe that they recognized my interest and knowledge, and my professional approach to the job as an asset to the agency. I know of many other agents with the same interests in firearms, but under some of today’s pressures and politics, that interest has been kept somewhat hidden. And we no longer have any pistol team.

Mike Baker: Many active duty street cops I correspond with—many—are adamantly opposed to current gun control schemes, as they have now careened into the absurd. They only serve to disarm the law-abiding and they are loath to supporting any of it as it now stands. Do you have anything to say to the American law enforcement community concerning the Second Amendment and their vows to the U.S. Constitution, gun registration, confiscation, and control, and their place and voice in the matter?

Jess Guy: Any law enforcement officer must take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and usually the state constitution, and all laws pertaining thereto. That means that the officer must uphold the law. He or she cannot break the law. The Second Amendment is debated constantly by academics, historians, legal scholars, and the courts. Again, intelligent minds disagree. The issue is not settled and may not be for a number of years. However, one of the greatest tenants of American law enforcement is the reality of discretion, that ability of any law enforcement officer to decide what is in the best interests of the community in which he or she serves and what is in the best interests of justice. I always advise police officers to use discretion, without violating an oath of office. That means that an arrest doesn’t have to be made if some other alternative is more appropriate. The possession of a machine-gun is a federal felony. But even ATF has policies which allowed for the simple abandonment of a machine-gun if no criminal intent was present. That is a good example of official discretion. If discretion is taken away from the law enforcement officer, as it has been in domestic violence cases and alcohol related driving cases, you see systemic abuses of citizens’ rights. You see lives and professions disrupted and almost ruined, when discretion, on the part of the police, or the prosecutor, or the courts could have resolved a situation with justice, not injustice. If discretion is taken away in the area of firearms ownership, use, or possession, abuses will (and have) occur(ed).

Yet many of the laws passed reach a point of absurdity which are impossible to debate. The presence or absence of a flash hider, bayonet lug, or other arcane device becomes a law enforcement problem. They can’t even define a flash hider accurately. What is an officer to do? The officer must make a legal decision on a legislatively dishonest law.

One extreme cross-over example is in California (where else?). If a husband and wife have an argument, and an allegation of striking, pushing, shoving occurs, the police have a legal right per California law to seize every firearm in the residence and request they be destroyed. They need no warrant to do this (“consent”—always given by “someone” for the entry—there goes the Fourth Amendment again), even if there is no allegation of firearms abuse, use, threat, hint, suggestion, mention, memory, etc. While discretion should allow an officer to order the suspect to give his firearms to a family member, or his attorney, it is rarely done. The politics of domestic violence laws ignore this option. Officers have abrogated that discretion and now take all firearms, regardless of the nature of the event. Guns are confiscated and serious court actions are required to protect the rights of the client, not only for the alleged criminal charge, but also in the ownership rights of the property seized.

So, while I would never advise an officer to ignore the law or violate an oath of office, I do strongly support an officer’s use of discretion in the field.

Mike Baker: Do you have any suggestions for wholly independent, pro-Second Amendment law enforcement organizations, like the Second Amendment Police Department and Law Enforcement for the Preservation of the Second Amendment, in continuing the effective execution of their stated endeavors, specifically, reaching out to the American law enforcement community in all its forms?

Jess Guy: We all need to remind law enforcement officers that the restrictions now being forced on private citizens can very easily reach even to law enforcement officers, especially while off-duty. One local large city is now mandating that its officers keep service weapons locked up at home when off-duty. Police officers have traditionally been immune from any firearms laws. That will not continue, so they need to understand that their special rights are threatened also. Further, they need to understand that seizure and confiscation laws which are passed ultimately may place them at odds with those Americans who have never committed a crime, other than “(un)lawful” firearms ownership. Willful resistance to those laws could easily lead to justifications for disobeying other laws. More onerous laws are passed to force citizens to comply, Constitutional rights are lost, extremists on both sides have a greater voice, and lines are drawn. Society suffers, the police are put in an untenable position, greater rifts develop within factions, and we either see a police state develop or anarchy. Both are bad.

Mike Baker: Do you have anything to say to those American citizens who, by and large, don’t think the Second Amendment debate has any bearing on or relevance to them?

Jess Guy: Once again, I would point to the chipping away of those other Constitutional Rights upon which this nation is based. This is not just a Second Amendment issue, although it has strong merit in the rights of all citizens. If firearms’ owners are suspect because of nothing more than possession of certain type of firearm, then so will possession of anything that activist groups denounce become a crime. That could mean tobacco (oops—already there), alcohol (oops—already there), Playboy (getting close), and so it goes. Your right to live your life “in the pursuit of happiness” is at stake. Do you think Dianne Feinstein and her multi-million dollar “mountain cabin” in Vail, Colorado, cares about your right to privacy? The issue is what laws will allow the government to enter your life and control your actions? This means the loss of rights to privacy, rights to travel, rights to speak your mind, rights to property, rights to run your business as you see fit, rights to hire/fire/promote. However, and this is something no one should be allowed to forget, the Second Amendment is the only Amendment in the Constitution which deals with the right of the people to posses a particular item (arms). Not buggies, wagons, horses, sewing machines, plows, boats, or any other item common to own in the late 1700's. That means something. It goes beyond ownership or possession. The right to keep and bear arms is Constitutionally mandated.

As to the direct reference to the Second Amendment, there is an underlying right ascribed to by the words “the security of a free State.” Security denotes a means of defense. Keeping and bearing arms for the security of a free State requires the citizens of that state to actively exercise that right. Each person also has the inalienable (unalienable—per John Adams) right to self-defense. Whether a person wants to exercise that right is immaterial. It exists. I want to exercise that right and my ownership of firearms allows me to realize that right. I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Read the Declaration of Independence. Ownership of firearms allows me to be secure in my life and liberty—and prevents others from denying me my right to “pursue” happiness. Again, if someone elects not to exercise that right, it’s fine with me. But the right is there, it exists, and I have that right. Period.

Mike Baker: An NRA Grassroots Coordinator I know, in private conversation, was shrewd in stating that the NRA is the only gun-rights organization out there with the political, media, and social framework, in place to make a credible impact on the national forum for the defense of the Second Amendment—that in countering the leftist money being poured into organizations like HCI. I tend to agree, although at times it appears they are impotent. Although I believe law enforcement organizations like the Second Amendment Police Department and Law Enforcement for the Preservation of the Second Amendment deal with a very exclusive and unique community, do you feel membership in the NRA is still the best way to go for the private citizen?

Jess Guy: Yes. The NRA isn’t impotent, it has just hitched its wagon to some faces in Congress who really haven’t been supportive recently. I really think we need to reach outside of traditional supporters and recruit businesspeople, more movie stars (!), judges, those who can counter the negative image of gun-toting extremists so regularly seen on the 6 o’clock news. Thank God for Charlton Heston. He may be getting a little long in the tooth, and he may say some things which have caused me to cringe, but he is nationally recognized figure of broad based appeal. We need such people. Handgun Control is a very politically astute organization. They have a lot of money and the soul of the California political administration. They also prove the point that you don’t have to know anything about the topic to influence legislation. We argue facts, they argue emotion.

Mike Baker: Any other ideas on solutions?

Jess Guy: Vote, vote, vote. Make your voice heard. Don’t call them names, don’t threaten warfare, don’t say “they’ll have to pry my cold dead fingers,” etc. Ask pertinent questions—”Why, Mr. or Mrs./Ms. Legislator do you think I am a threat to society?” “How does my ownership of a firearm become a crime?” “What have I done that harms anyone?” Look to local elections and local politicians. Friends of the NRA groups are very important. Ask questions of law enforcement leaders, police chiefs, sheriffs, etc. Invite them to speak to your groups. Open a dialogue. As an ATF supervisor I accepted every invitation to speak to any organization.

Mike Baker: Yes, dialoguing as we have done here. It certainly removes the cloak of mystery and fear. One more thing, and this is a little off topic. Have you ever owned, worn, or seen worn by any other Federal agent, at any time, a pair of “jack boots”? :-D

Jess Guy: See my attached letter to the editor (San Jose Mercury News-June 19, 1995)

Mike Baker: Once again, sir, my personal thanks and appreciation for this interview, not only for myself and the American people, but the law enforcement community as well. This has been absolutely fascinating and insightful.

Jess Guy: Thank you for listening to my pontificating. Keep the Faith.

Mike Baker: Roger that, sir! Outstanding!

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