Serious questions need to be asked of the El Monte Police Department’s brass.
Last Wednesday the department came under scrutiny after one of its officers kicked a prone suspect in the head. That the kick came at the end of a high-speed pursuit offers little — if any — justification.
Richard Rodriguez, 22, of El Monte, a tattooed member of the El Monte Flores street gang took the full force kick to the head in stunning hi-def on live television.
Rodriguez was subsequently booked for parole violations, evading police and several other crimes. He is being held in Men’s Central — probably waiting for a bus back to state prison, where he belongs.
The officer who delivered the kick, identified as George Fierro, returned to work the next day. Fierro, come to find out, owns a clothing company that caters to gang members and glorifies the Mexican Mafia.
His “brand” so sickens good cops that at least one tried to warn California gang investigators about a potential rogue in their midst.
“Has anyone seen or know about this gang clothing that a police officer is selling to gangsters,” LAPD Detective David Espinoza wrote. “I understand the gangs really love this cop. I understand the clothing has hiding places for contraband, guns and dope. Things that can hurt our real cops on the street.”
It’s hard to believe, El Monte police Chief Tom Armstrong had no knowledge of Fierro’s extracurricular activities.
There are many other questions Armstrong needs to answer.
At a press conference the day following Rodriguez’s beat down, Armstrong sent Lt. Ken Alva to face the music. He read from a prepared statement, took a limited number of queries, then retreated to the safety of the police station.
On Friday, Armstrong and Alva took the day off. That came despite the fact that both men are very highly paid public servants and their department is facing a crisis.
Armstrong refused Monday to release a tape of the pursuit, which is a public record.
Did Fierro have a reason other than the catch-all “parole violation” for pulling over Rodriguez? Certainly a tape would show that.
What about the department procedures regarding so-called “distraction blows?”
The policy seems pretty vague compared to professional standards required by the LAPD and county Sheriff’s Department.
The City Council also needs to be questioned. For too long those who have taken campaign cash from police department sources have done nothing to improve its image.
Those who don’t get the money have been whining for years about public safety.
If there was ever a chance to clean house in El Monte, now’s the time.