Cindy Allen, Long Beach vice mayor, seemingly pulls back from asking police to apologize to gay community

Cindy Allen, Long Beach’s vice mayor and Second District councilwoman, has seemingly put the brakes on asking the Long Beach police chief and city prosecutor to apologize to the gay community for decades of targeted discrimination and persecution related to false arrests for lewd conduct.

The Second District has the city’s largest LGBTQ+ population and its Alamitos Beach neighborhood is lovingly called the “gayborhood.”

The Broadway Corridor, and surrounding area, includes many LGBTQ+ owned businesses, including restaurants, coffee houses and cafes, bars, and retail spaces.

The Long Beach Pride Parade marches through the district on Ocean Boulevard.

Cindy Allen, who seeks a second term on the Long Beach City Council in the March 5 election, initially told Q Voice News during an August interview that she would ask Wally Hebeish, the city’s police chief, and Doug Haubert, the city prosecutor, to apologize to the gay community.

‘They absolutely should apologize’

“I’m not really familiar with it, but I know enough of the facts and know that there were things that were done wrong and that should never ever, ever, ever, ever happen again in our city,” Allen said.

“They absolutely should apologize. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Allen said.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying this is a part of our history, and we’re sorry, and we were wrong. We don’t lose anything from doing that,” she said. “I could definitely ask the chief and city prosecutor that.”

Halim Dhanidina discusses Long Beach lewd conduct ruling

Putting on the brakes?

But on Feb. 15, during a follow-up interview before a Second District candidate forum at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Cindy Allen seemed to pull back from her initial advocacy.

“I did speak with police and nothing happened,” Allen said. “I said, I know this is something that the community would like an apology, and they said, ‘OK. Noted’.”

Q Voice News tried to confirm the conversation with the police, but Cindy Allen wouldn’t say when or where it took place or with whom she spoke.

Cindy Allen said she had not spoken with Haubert, six months later, “but will when I have the time.”

Michael Buitron, a long-time LGBTQ+ activist in Long Beach, said the lack of an apology from the police and prosecutor’s office “tells me they are living in the 1950s and believe they can push gay people around.”

Seeking justice for decades

Local advocates started talking about an apology from the police department and city prosecutor’s office in 2016. That’s when a judge at the Long Beach courthouse threw out a lewd conduct arrest that resulted in a landmark ruling.

That decision was historic because it was the first time in Long Beach court history that a judge, during a preliminary hearing, had thrown out one of the police’s controversial lewd conduct arrests.

For decades, local advocates and attorneys had been pressuring police and the prosecutor’s office to cease these decoy sting operations and cases, but it all fell on deaf ears. 

These types of insidious arrests and operations had been taking place in Long Beach since 1914.

But in 2016, things changed.

Wally Hebeish, Long Beach police chief, hostile to gay community

Historic ruling

In his ruling, Judge Halim Dhanidina also admonished the police department’s tactics and behavior as unconstitutional and homophobic.

The judge said Haubert could only justify the police tactics and prosecute the case was “in the rhetoric of homophobia that seeks to portray homosexual men as sexual deviants and pedophiles.”

Since that ruling almost eight years ago, Haubert and Hebeish have refused to apologize or acknowledge any grievous behavior was committed in the police department’s decoy sting operations that targeted gay men or in how the city prosecutor’s office handled those cases.

Police chief, city prosecutor refuse

Hebeish was asked in December 2022 why neither he nor the department had apologized. He didn’t answer the question and became visibly upset.

Haubert, whose office prosecuted lewd conduct cases against gay men during his tenure, including the 2016 case, won a fourth term in the June election.

Reached via text message in the summer of 2022, Haubert refused to comment on his office’s role in the cases.

“I will not have a conversation with you unless it is off the record first. And I want to be very clear that it is completely off the record. I understand if you do not want to speak with me.”

Haubert did not respond when asked why he wanted to talk off the record.

Buitron, who was an expert witness for the defense in the 2016 case, said, “The apology is important. More importantly, it’s important to say they will not entrap gay men in decoy sting operations.

“It would be a sign that they are taking the steps to start a new relationship with the gay community,” Buitron said.

History of police discrimination

LGBTQ+ people in the United States have historically been subject to heightened surveillance, victimization, violence, and discrimination by law enforcement.

In fact, the gay liberation movement was motivated, in part, by police violence and discrimination.

The Black Cat demonstration in Silver Lake and the “Flower Power” protest at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Station in 1968 were the direct result of police terrorism.

A 2015 study by the Williams Institute found substantial evidence that “LGBT individuals and communities (continue to) face profiling, discrimination, and harassment at the hands of law enforcement officers.”

“There’s a history of negative relations between police departments and the LGBTQ community,” said Christy Mallory, legal director at the William Institute. “The tensions that started decades ago have not been eliminated.”

The roots run deep.

“Looking back over many decades of discrimination and the lingering effects in the public sector, we saw two areas with high rates of discrimination in employment, in education and law enforcement,” Mallory said. “We trace it to a legacy of discrimination of LGBTQ+ people in those sectors. We had sodomy laws on the books in many states.”

New York police apologize

Unlike Long Beach, other police departments in the nation have apologized for discrimination against the gay community.

Five decades after the 1969 raid on the Stonewall Inn, New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill apologized to the gay community. 

Officers raided the well-known gay bar on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village shortly after midnight on June 28, 1969.

Crowds of people, angered and fed up with police harassment, gathered outside and clashed with officers. Days of street protests followed, becoming a major turning point in the movement for gay rights.

But even as decades passed, discriminatory laws fell away and same-sex marriage became legal, the police department refused to take accountability for its behavior.

That changed in early June 2019, when New York hosted the global gathering WorldPride to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the uprising.

“The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize,” O’Neill said at the time.

A poll of Long Beach’s registered voters by the Long Beach Center for Urban Politics and Policy in June 2022 found that people who identify as LGBTQ+ were the only demographic category with a majority disapproving of the Long Beach Police Department.

Stephanie Loftin, one of the attorneys who worked on the groundbreaking 2016 Long Beach case, said any apology from the city should come with clearing the record of anyone convicted as a result of these discriminatory practices.

“All of those cases should be re-examined, and they should expunge their records,” she said. “If they were arrested by undercover decoys posing as gay men, then those are false arrests.”

Major study

Valerie Jenness, a criminology, law, and society professor at UC Irvine, and Stefan Vogler, a NORC research scientist at the University of Chicago, are among the authors on an upcoming report, “Policing the Rainbow.”

The study will be the first of its kind to understand the experiences of LGBTQ adults with and attitudes toward law enforcement.

“There is considerable evidence the LGBTQ community is over-policed and underserved,” Jenness said. “These long and ingrained practices have been allowed by police and communities. We still have big gaps despite decades of activism.”

Vogler added: “Not only will this study give us foundational knowledge from an academic perspective, it will give us great insight into how we might improve relations between police and the LGBTQ community.” 

As for Long Beach, Jenness said an apology would improve those relations.

“It’s really difficult to move on without acknowledgement. It gets you moving forward. These legacies have deep roots,” Jenness said, before stressing that “The community receiving the apology gets to decide how sincere it is.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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