Fontana Police Discrimination Case Moves Forward
By Dianne Anderson
Speaking out against racism in the Fontana Police Department has been a hard fight for David Moore, now in his third year trying to recover from a chain of events that started when he and a co-worker peeked in to check on their neighbor.
After filing their initial 2016 complaint alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, he said the department targeted both he and his co-worker, Andrew Anderson, who was forced into early retirement from a mental disability due to workplace stress.
Neither had ever been in trouble before, but both were outspoken against racial disparities at the Fontana department, which he said opened the door to unusual and unofficial investigations.
Moore said FPD fired him for leaving his spouse on his insurance, even though she was included by the order of the court.
“They [the police department] tried to take this opportunity to make us as liars, and ruin our careers. In their mind, we were a liability to them because we knew too much,” he said.
It started in 2015 when then Cpl. Moore and Cpl. Anderson were neighbors in Hesperia. While off duty, they both decided to check on an elderly neighbor on their block to make sure he was okay. Both officers were seasoned investigators and concerned over signs of elder abuse of now deceased Steven Olsen.
“He would show up to various family functions with black eyes and busted lip, broken arm,” Moore said. “We reported it to our department just in case.”
During the visit, they heard moans from the garage, and when they entered, he said they noticed another individual squatting. Moore said the female invited him into the house, and the woman’s boyfriend came out of the dark, reaching for a knife. He and Cpl. Anderson tried to stop the man, and both held him until the police came.
He said the local sheriff department, which has jurisdiction in the Hesperia area, found no wrongdoing on the part of Moore or Anderson, but at that point, FPD picked up the investigation for police misconduct.
He said they became a target for openly complaining against the department.
As police officers, he said they followed protocol and reported the Hesperia incident to FPD, but the supervisor that took his statement said he and Anderson were dishonest, and withheld information.
Moore said he also recorded that conversation as proof that he accurately reported the event. Eventually, the lieutenant that took the report wasn’t disciplined, but was reassigned. The investigator, Lt. Billy Green was then promoted, and is now the police chief.
Moore said they thought the reassignment of the former chief was the end of their problems. Instead, he said the department gave them a 30-day suspension without a reason why.
He feels the Hesperia incident set the harassment in motion because he and Anderson did not quietly accept the suspension for checking in on their neighbor.
Throughout his 22 year career, Moore said he’s never been in trouble, and both he and Anderson have racked up awards, including Officer of the Year, and the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Executives, among many others.
“I had a stellar reputation, but I had never had the concrete evidence that I have today, to show the chicken-bone photo. To have someone come to testify to show what he knew as an insider,” he said.
Among the numerous racially charged incidents against FPD named in the complaint includes the 1994 case of a Black man that was viciously killed behind a KFC, along with a picture of his autopsy that circulated for years as a joke.
“During the autopsy, an officer placed a piece of chicken in the hand of the victim, took a picture, and passed it around the FPD. This photo continued to circulate the department for years,” states the complaint, Anderson & Moore v. City of Fontana, Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint for Damages and Demand for Jury Trial.
Moore said a white officer tried to lodge a complaint regarding that picture in 2008, and he was also forced out of FPD and labeled a belligerent officer. There were no investigations, and the coroner never wrote a report, Moore said.
“These officers thought it was okay to allow this to happen. Imagine how many criminal investigations were botched,” he said. “It’s a crime to tamper with a corpse because you’re introducing DNA and evidence to contaminate that investigation.”
Of about 200 officers at FPD, he said the nepotism is thick. There were only four African Americans at the department, including himself and Anderson, and the department consists of mostly friends and relatives.
Fontana has a long history of Klan activity. He is also concerned that FPD uniform logos resemble Nazi symbolism. The Regional Response Team patch includes a department eagle that is nearly identical to the Nazi Waffen-SS Party eagle, he said. The lightning bolts on the SWAT RRT logo is similar to the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) party of KKK grand wizard Tom Metzger.
“What does an old Nordic owl have to do with law enforcement?” Moore said. “Look at our eagle, most department’s use their city seal. Fontana chose an eagle. There are no eagles in Fontana.”
Both he and Anderson were unsuccessful in voicing their concerns at city council, and he was shocked to hear a Police Officers Association representative comment that they could improve African American hires if the department lowered the standards.
“That’s appalling,” Moore said. “I know personally five officers who were relieved of duty for frivolous reasons, and they happen to all be Black.”
Attorney Bradley J. Mancuso said a lot has happened in the past two years as the case has wound through arbitration, and the city council hearing. Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren voted against Moore’s reinstatement.
Now that the arbitration is winding down, Mancuso said the court case will ramp up.
He expects a trial will be set over the next year to year and a half. Depositions should start at the beginning to the middle of next year. He said information about the case was not readily available, and the FPD database and access seems limited.
There are several police shootings and color of authority cases pending right now, he said.
“For a while, Dave was trying to go through the internal channels hoping somebody would do the right thing, but it’s clear they are not going to, so it’s time to start fighting in another way,” Mancuso said.