Illegal Fireworks At Center Of Huntington Beach Police Controversy

HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) – An investigation into community complaints of Huntington Beach police officers setting off illegal fireworks over a neighborhood east of Central Park early on July 5 appears to be the focus of a dispute between the city’s police chief and the officers’ union, it was reported Thursday.

In recent months, tensions have increased between Chief Robert Handy and the Huntington Beach Police Officers Association, culminating in the union’s Aug. 15 announcement of a 92 percent vote of no confidence in Handy, the Orange County Register reported.

This comes as the officers’ union is negotiating a new contract.

The city, in an Aug. 25 letter in support of Handy, said police were conducting “an internal affairs investigation of a citizen’s complaint of officer misconduct that occurred outside a union facility.”

The letter did not elaborate on the alleged misconduct, the Register reported.

On Tuesday, Councilman Erik Peterson addressed anonymous reports about the investigation, saying that it’s about community-driven complaints of officers lighting off illegal fireworks in front of their club, according to The Register.

Peterson said several citizen complaints had been lodged involving multiple officers.

Handy declined Wednesday to comment, saying any information about police misconduct investigations is confidential.

Residents said they were awakened between 2 and 3 a.m. July 5 by large fireworks explosions over their homes. Police logs requested by the Register show a police call for service at Gothard Street and Prodan Drive, adjacent to the police officers’ facility and the neighborhood.

The city’s letter supporting Handy said union leadership “unprofessionally and profanely” demanded the chief drop the investigation into the misconduct complaint.

Handy and the union leadership have been at odds for much of his three-year tenure as police chief since he arrived from San Bernardino. After the no-confidence vote, the union asked that Handy step down or be removed.

The city and union have been negotiating since to renew the contract that ends Sept. 30. When the last contract was approved in June 2016, officers had gone nearly nine months without a contract.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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