God, law and politics in Merced

I didn’t like this lead in an Oct. 20 story in the Merced Sun-Star.

Two former Merced County lawmen took center stage Wednesday at a state law enforcement change of command ceremony held at the Christian Life Center.

I assumed it was factual and that the event actually took place. It is only in the ninth graph in the story that state Attorney General Bill Lockyer sneaked in, as if from the basement:

Following a traditional Division of Law Enforcement saber change, Oules was administered the oath of office by the attorney general.

Presumably again, because it is in no way made clear, the reason the ceremony was held in the mega-church had something to do with Merced police officers that have fallen in the line of duty.

Oules, in addressing the estimated 300 people who attended the ceremony, thanked the attorney general for his support and confidence, noting that Lockyer is a tremendous supporter of California law enforcement.

"I would ask that today we also remember some of the other sons of Merced County who, sadly, are not here today," he said.

"We will never forget Roger Gore, Walt Frago, Dennis Fuller, Art Parga, Stephan Gray and all of the others who have hailed from Merced County and that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our safety, and for the freedoms we all enjoy."

Is Oules a member of the Christian Life congregation? But he’s a graduate of St. Mary’s, which usually suggests a Catholic orientation. I once knew a St. Mary’s graduate who became an Episcopalian minister but he had been jailed at Santa Rita for participating in draft riots in Oakland and was never quite the same afterwards.

Has Pat Lunney, former Merced police chief and Oules’ retiring boss, seen the holy flood lights of the Christian Life Center that on occasion probe the heavens, as if to beam down the Son of Man to Merced to buy a new pickup or some room group?

Has Lockyer, after 30 years in the state Capitol, come to Jesus?

The Sun-Star leaves us in utter darkness on these vital spiritual issues. We are left equally in the dark about what, exactly, the director of the state Division of Law Enforcement does. The attorney general's website offers this brief description:

The mission of the Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) is to provide our customers and clients extraordinary services in forensic sciences and education, narcotic and criminal investigations, intelligence, and training. Our mission can best be achieved by working in partnership with local state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Justice under the law and the highest ethical standards shall be the focus of our service.

DLE Director’s Office serves as the policy making and oversight body for the branches and bureau’s within the California Department of Justice, as well as provides policy recommendations and guidance, from a law enforcement perspective, to the Attorney General.

Mission Support Branch enhances public safety through training, technical, and administrative support to the investigative and forensic components of DLE and other criminal justice agencies.

Bureau of Forensic Services assists the criminal justice system through the timely collection and scientific examination of physical evidence and the clear, objective interpretation of analytical findings. BFS maintains 10 full-service regional crime laboratories that provide forensic services to over 500 agencies in 46 of California’s 58 counties.

California Bureau of Investigation provides an expert level of investigative and criminal intelligence services through innovative programs, technological support, and dedicated, professional personnel.

CBI provides services to criminal justice and public agencies as well as the Department in criminal and civil cases.

Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement provides leadership, coordination, and support to law enforcement agencies in combating drugs, illegal weapons, and violent crime in California. BNE maintains 9 regional offices and 32 regional task forces located throughout California.

Advanced Training Center provides training in specialized investigative techniques to California law enforcement personnel and provides and coordinates inservice training for DOJ employees.

Professional Standards Unit provides investigative services to DLE and the Division of Criminal Justice Information Services in formal internal affairs management inquiries and background process reviews.

Facilities Protection & Security Group provides all levels of executive protection for the Attorney General, his executive staff and coordinates the security systems for all DOJ facilities within California. (3)

Another thing not mentioned in the paper was that Oules was appointed (effective immediately) to the position on Aug. 18, two months before the saber ceremony in the Merced mega-church. The attorney general probably swore in Oules where he swore in Lunney to be assistant director of DLE the day he was inaugurated in 1999, in a small pressroom in the Department of Justice building in Sacramento.

So why this ceremony blurring the traditional American separation of church and state? Is the state Capitol now regarding Merced as if it were a part of Kansas, where teachers are now required to present a fundamentalist Christian alternative to evolution in public schools? (2)

When things don’t make sense, my mind turns to political history.

We need to recall some Merced history that should not be drowned in the blood of the lamb. I refer in what immediately follows to reporting I did for the Sun-Star while covering the 1998 state elections. In the mid-1990s, a Merced citizen came to county District Attorney Gordon Spenser with a computer monitor of certain dimensions that he had purchased. The problem was that the monitor was smaller than the advertised dimensions. Spenser looked into it and found that this was a widespread example of consumer fraud. Realizing it was too big for his office to handle, he approached the state Attorney General’s office for help, on the condition they would not settle the case with the computer companies, which was exactly what they did, former Gov. George Deukmejian greasing the deal for Silicon Valley. Merced County got some computers from the companies for its schools.

The attorney general at the time was Republican Dan Lungren, who had it all to lose against Gray Davis in 1998, and lost it. The assistant attorney general was Republican Dave Stirling, who ran for attorney general. Bill Lockyer, Democrat president pro tem of the state Senate, opposed Stirling.

In Spenser’s mind, Stirling was either the guy who engineered the settlement, or at least the guy in the attorney general’s office vulnerable to the kind of punishment Spenser might be able to administer for the sellout to Silicon Valley.

Lockyer, on the other hand, had been in the state Legislature since winning a special election in 1973 to replace his boss, former Assemblyman Bob Crown (who died in office), and had started his liberal Democrat political career in 1965 on the San Leandro school board. He got his law degree while serving in the Legislature, had never tried a case, had been a fervent Young Democrat in his youth at UC Berkeley, and was altogether everything a country Republican DA like Spenser should mistrust.

Stirling, on the other hand, expressed the view to me during the general campaign season that “cow county district attorneys” like Spenser could not interfere with Big Business. Evidently he had made this view clear to Spenser earlier and must have had expressed similar views to other Republican district attorneys throughout the state, because Spenser organized 33 of them to endorse Lockyer. There was another credible candidate from the ranks of the state’s district attorneys but Spenser knew that Lockyer was the kind of candidate that could put Dave Stirling’s career where the sun never shines.

Lockyer, who has relatives in Merced and visited the town frequently as a youth, appreciated the considerable local effort on his behalf.

As mentioned above, Lunney, until then police chief Merced, was Lockyer’s first appointment, made about an hour after Lockyer was himself sworn in, in a small pressroom in the DOJ building. Oules background may make him the best choice in the state to succeed Lunney. But this religio-mystic changing of the sabers before a crowd of 300 of the usual county leadership suspects and law enforcement officials raised questions that should not have been raised – about Merced, Lockyer, Lunney and Oules.

From a statewide perspective, what was it the police chief of a 60,000-population city brought to the statewide law enforcement office that another officer might have brought more of? Lunney was an educated police officer, Merced had a reputation for being an excellent small-city force with an emphasis on community policing. “Community” was the buzzword of the era. There was even something called “community journalism” at the time, which has faded since. But, still, it looked like pure political payoff – as if these positions are part of a spoils system. In Lunney’s defense however, when Lockyer announced his retirement, he praised Lunney highly for his work developing a DNA bank for felon identification, among other accomplishments, including improved relations with county district attorneys.

The second question might be, having given the office to one Merced officer, why give it to another? Or is it just a legitimate coincidence that Oules was from Merced, although he’d spent the last 18 years working for the AG’s office, mainly in narcotics enforcement, but was also in the DLE before Lunney arrived. (4)

Does Merced have a lock on the state DOJ’s entire investigative capacity? If so, why? This question might never have arisen were it not for the blurring of the separation of church and state at a political moment when the radical rightwing seeks to advance the cause of the Christian fundamentalist Armageddon.

When entered the office, “attorney general” meant “governor-in-waiting” to Lockyer, who had just been termed out of the Legislature, left with nowhere to go but up or out. He and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante began barking at each other immediately when both weren’t chewing on Gov. Davis’ pant legs. Davis, working with billions of surplus in the state treasury, thought he’d make a dandy president. The last year of the 20th century was a moment of intense political posturing in the California State Capitol.

All three had been beneficiaries of a strategy that Republicans evidently never saw coming: three career Democrats took the San Joaquin Valley, known to swing at times, and were therefore elected.

This did not happen in church, but in the offices of Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres, and it did not come for free. What Condit and his able political staff required in return was that a project then often called UC San Joaquin Valley be sited on seasonal pastureland north of the City of Merced (instead of in Fresno), where it would stimulate a development boom. By this August, Merced ranked fifth among housing markets in USA Today “extremely overvalued and vulnerable to price correction.” Merced, Stockton and Madera were all in the top 10 of this study. (5)

Rumors around town today are that up to 60 percent of housing sales are to speculators.

Bustamante did not have much to dispense, but Davis and Lockyer paid up on the line in time. The Davis administration “fast-tracked” UC Merced through a host of state and federal environmental laws and regulations in record time. It was high hurdles in spiked flak shoes all the way, a situation where you had Democrats popular again in the Valley, the glamour of UC (nuclear weapons designer to the Empire) and the entire state land/housing development lobbyist community on that famous Same Page, speaking that One Voice, unity galore, with some UC regents making a pile on land speculation out of sight.

Lockyer’s particular contribution to Merced’s great land auction may only have been a kind of judicial blindness. Its DLE, “providing its customers and clients extraordinary services” particularly in the areas criminal investigations and intelligence, may be missing a few things. An argument could be made the division has been made a political sinecure of former Merced police officers missing a few things for local spiritual reasons.

Only time will tell, as the game gets rougher in Merced and investigation and intelligence may be requested of the state to enforce its own laws. How could Oules’ background in narcotics be useful for investigating the development community? This is probably a case of an excellent law enforcement officer who just lacks the skills set for this particular problem.

Glancing through two years’ worth of attorney general press releases, I didn’t notice any prosecutions of developers and only one story that related directly to Merced, a pot bust that netted 30 workers. But that could mean only that developers don’t break laws. Lockyer doesn’t seem to be too high on environmental causes, sticking mainly to the High Sierras when he considers them, but he appears to be excellent on consumer protections, and hell on illegal gambling (like a hapless bookie in Rohnert Park and an illegal poker game in Seaside). My web search for district-attorney complaints against how Lockyer runs his office revealed nothing. His office’s press releases showed a lot of coordination with local district attorneys and law enforcement. This year, his Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) uprooted more than a million plants, a doleful statistic for some, but no doubt bringing joy to the heart of Oules, former president of the state narcotics cops association.

Meanwhile, back in the Valley, Condit is gone, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, his replacement – hanging like a dirty hankie out of RichPAC Pombo’s back pocket – isn’t the boy to be carrying the Valley for anybody in 2006. Cardoza may survive because his last initial is D, but for all the wrong reasons. There may be more people in the Valley writing in Jesus on their ballots next year than ever before, but that won’t help Lockyer’s latest ambitions. He’s said he will pull a Dreaded Unruh and run for state treasurer, a post Phil Angelides will vacate to run for governor.



Angelides is a developer and a longtime associate of Angelo Tsakapoulos, northern California’s biggest developer. If Angelides makes it to the governor’s office, developers in California should have it all their own way, entirely, for four-to-eight years, perhaps their last great feeding frenzy before the rivers, the sewers, the traffic and smog strike back at us, who allowed this absurd state government to stand, and treated it with respect it has not deserved for some time.

After Austria’s big loss yesterday in the California initiative sweepstakes, things look better than ever for Greece? No, this is just another absurd path to try to make sense of these politics. The drugs and energy companies won two, on the basis of general displeasure with the Hun, who maybe played their cards better than was realized.

Meanwhile, as Lockyer runs for the state treasurer while state Treasurer Angelides runs for governor, former governor and mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown has begun to run for attorney general, while former Rep. Ron Dellums runs for Oakland mayor. John Garamendi, state insurance commissioner, is running for lieutenant governor, and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is running for insurance commissioner.

The whole ridiculous merry-go-round reminds me of my long relationship with former Gov. Pat Brown. The first time I met him I was 11 years old. Pat was running for his second term as attorney general. This historic meeting took place at the Topaz Room in Santa Rosa, under the disapproving eyes of my grandmother, a Republican (“Oh, it’s that Pat Brown, glad-handing again. A person can’t eat in peace in a public restaurant when he’s running for something.”) The last time I saw him, 20 years later, we talked about Watergate as I drove him to the airport from the Capitol. He said that in politics, one must either go for the power or for the money. “Nixon wanted both,” he said.

Like everything Brown said, it was delivered with sincerity, conviction and genuine love for “this great big, number-one state” of his and his cronies.

Oules could be the best thing since the invention of toothpaste for this position. But the political event in the mega-church was as tasteless as a fairy shrimp barbecue or the conversion of agricultural land to suburbs.

Bill Hatch

Oules now at helm of state's law enforcement

By Mike De La Cruz
Merced Sun-Star – Oct. 20, 2005
Two former Merced County lawmen took center stage Wednesday at a state law enforcement change of command ceremony held at the Christian Life Center.

Rick Oules, who served as a Merced County Sheriff's deputy, patrol sergeant, detective and narcotic officer, assumed command as the director of the Division of Law Enforcement for California and will work directly under state Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

He succeeds Patrick Lunney, another county lawman who began his career as a patrol officer with the Merced Police Department, stepping up to police chief after eight years of serving as an officer. Lunney held the police chief position for 15 years.

Prior to his appointment as director, Oules was the deputy director of the California Department of Justice Division of Law Enforcement.

In his new post, Oules will oversee the operation of one of the largest state investigative law enforcement agencies in the United States, managing well over 1,000 employees with an annual budget of $182 million.

Oules, in addressing the estimated 300 people who attended the ceremony, thanked the attorney general for his support and confidence, noting that Lockyer is a tremendous supporter of California law enforcement.

"I would ask that today we also remember some of the other sons of Merced County who, sadly, are not here today," he said.

"We will never forget Roger Gore, Walt Frago, Dennis Fuller, Art Parga, Stephan Gray and all of the others who have hailed from Merced County and that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our safety, and for the freedoms we all enjoy."

Following a traditional Division of Law Enforcement saber change, Oules was administered the oath of office by the attorney general.

Lockyer, in presenting the new director with his badge of office, noted Oules has a long law enforcement history that permits him to be a strong leader in this role.

He is the first director in more than 40 years to have been selected from within the ranks of special agents in the Department of Justice, Lockyer said.

Lockyer presented Lunney with his retirement credentials and a folded flag that flew over the State Capitol.

Lunney said, "I appreciate the opportunity to have served in the administration of the attorney general and look forward to continue contributing to law enforcement in another capacity."

The retired director will continue to work for the Department of Justice as Lockyer's senior law enforcement adviser.

Sheriff Mark Pazin, master of ceremonies for the event, knows Oules well.

"It was a great honor to be the master of ceremonies for the change of command, for not only outgoing and incoming directors, but more importantly for two great friends that I have worked with closely for over 25 years."

Merced Police Department Cmdr. Tom Martin is another friend, one who has known Oules since they played junior football together.

"I've known Rick Oules since elementary school in Merced prior to his moving to the Le Grand-Planada area. We started law enforcement careers about the same time in the late '70s and have been friends and professional associates since that time," Martin said.

"Rick has done an excellent job during the course of his law enforcement career and is very deserving of his appointment as director."

Oules began his law enforcement career in 1977, joining the state Department of Justice in 1987 as a special agent and was assigned to the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

During his tenure with the department, Oules has held managerial and leadership positions within BNE, the Criminal Intelligence Bureau and the Division of Law Enforcement.

Lunney came to the Department of Justice from the Merced Police Department as the Deputy Director of the Division of Law Enforcement in January 1999 and took over the position of director in August 2000.



(1) http://www.field.com/fieldpollonline/subscribers/

(2) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/08/AR200511...

(3) http://caag.state.ca.us/careers/descriptions/dle.htm

(4) http://ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/index.php?year=2005&month=8

(5) http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/housing/2005-08-17-housing-valuation...