Community Commentary: Retired officer takes issue with former chief's comments

August 25, 2011|By Dan Lowrey

Re. "Sellers takes heat in Fullerton," Aug. 12: I was a Laguna Beach police officer and police detective for 15 years. I was honorably medically retired in 2003 for injuries suffered on duty.

I do not receive or read your paper, as I am not a resident. Nor was I ever contacted by writer Barbara Diamond in connection with this article in which she used my name and quoted former LBPD Police Chief Neil Purcell about Officer Keith R. Knotek's case in 1991. This article was forwarded to me by a current, concerned LBPD officer.

I read the article, and it is apparent that Purcell is trying to compare his actions as chief during the Knotek case to what is currently happening in Fullerton with Chief Michael Sellers.


Purcell has once again climbed up onto his soapbox and is now telling the world that when he was a police chief, he took immediate action against his officers when he suspected any wrongdoing.

You read a lot of articles about police and their "rush to judgment" to arrest certain suspects in cases. However, you never really hear about a case where a chief's "rush to judgment" against an officer costs the city.

You see, in the article, Purcell forgot to say that in the Knotek case, his "rush to judgment" — although rapid — was illegal and ultimately cost his city. He also apparently is disregarding a federal court judgment with regard to my involvement in the Knotek case by mentioning my name in print.

The article stated the following quote from Purcell: "I immediately put Knotek and Dan Lowrey, who was the ranking officer at the incident, on administrative leave. When they were cleared of criminal charges, I fired them for behavior that violated departmental policies."

No. 1: I was not the "ranking officer" on scene that night. In fact, Knotek and other officers outranked me by seniority at that scene.

No. 2: I never faced any criminal charges — ever. I was one of five other officers that were at the scene, and we were interviewed as witnesses. It is true that Purcell fired Knotek and fired me (illegally). In fact, after being interviewed several times by his captain, Purcell called me in and terminated me. He blatantly violated my Police Officer's Bill of Rights and never charged me with any wrongdoing. He fired me because it was his opinion that I was being untruthful about what Knotek did at the scene. There are procedures that must be followed to fire a police officer, and apparently Purcell could care less.

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