Prejudiced Policing Still Walks Like a Duck in South Pasadena

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Written by William J. Kelly

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

That old saying—now a standard of inductive legal reasoning—seems to have been ignored by the South Pasadena Police Department in events that unfolded last summer and leading up to the 2020 election.

At issue is how SPPD handled two assaults by one individual and intimidation by another of Black Lives Matter demonstrators at the corner of Mission and Fair Oaks. There was also the separate incident shortly before the 2020 Presidential Election in which a local teen was beaten at a rally at the same corner by boisterous Trump supporters waving blue lives matter flags.

In all of these cases, it apparently never occurred to nine or more SPPD officers involved in handling the resulting complaints that the perpetrators just might have been motivated by racial and political hatred. That’s the subtext of a recent internal SPPD investigation.

But what else could possibly explain the behavior of one of the assailants, Joe Richcreek, now on trial for simple assault. He rode the bus from Monterey Park, where he lives, to South Pasadena on several occasions to harass BLM demonstrators. 

Turns out Richcreek has a long history of being on the wrong side of the law, with 20 convictions since 1985 on such charges as battery, arson, weapons, resisting arrest, trespassing, receiving stolen property, making a criminal threat, making a threatening call, grand theft, and drunk driving. A very fine fellow, indeed.

Yet, the officers who handled complaints about the assaults on peaceful demonstrators seemed to think, perhaps, that Richcreek just came up from Monterey Park to do a little shopping and have lunch in town then suddenly spit on people waving BLM signs. On yet another shopping spree, he chased them down with rocks and a sharpened stick. No hatred there, of course.

How about the case of Richard Cheney, who drove his pickup truck from the right hand lane north bound across four lanes of traffic, running a left turn stop light, onto a street corner filled with demonstrators and pedestrians to complain about a BLM sign?

He was released by police, who didn’t even cite him for a traffic violation. Since then Cheney, who spewed political and racist vitriol on social media, including a suggestion that BLM demonstrators be hosed down with raw sewage from a septic tank pumping truck, has quietly disappeared.  Ostensibly his case was referred to the District Attorney, but almost a year later there hasn’t been word one from SPPD or City Hall on why he apparently got off Scot free.

Yes, it simply never occurred to nine separate police officers who became involved in “investigating” the various transgressions that hatred was the chief motivation. That’s no surprise, though, with police unions’ all-out support for Trump and the presence of police and plenty of blue lives matter flags at the January 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

What is clear is that for many police and far right supporters, when it comes to attacking Blacks, liberals, and even members of Congress, anything goes and nothing matters. Welcome to the new Jim Crow and don’t expect it to change until our local elected officials stand up against prejudice wherever it’s manifested.

In the case of SPPD, the internal investigation by a former Los Angeles Police officer commissioned by the city for $40,000 detailed how the involved officers lacked training and knowledge of how to investigate hate crimes. It also concluded that they did a generally shoddy job of handling the cases. But the report said there was no evidence of bias, despite the clear pattern of prejudicial policing over the summer and leading up to the election.

In the eyes of the city council, these matters are past and future problems can be prevented by merely training the biased officers who violated policy and did a generally poor job.  No further action or explanation to the community is needed.

But at a time when discussion and concern about racial and political hatred and armed White supremacist militias dominates the nation’s headlines and airwaves, how could police have ignored racial and political hatred as a potential motivation for assaults on those exercising their free speech rights?

Even the most casual observer must conclude that the nine officers acted in a prejudicial manner and that it was tolerated by their superiors.  And those nine account for more than a quarter of SPPD’s sworn officers. That sure looks like systemic racism and political prejudice.

And remember: “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.”

This article represents the views and opinions of the author solely and does not express the opinions of all ARC members.

The ARC Community Board is meant to be a collaborative community space. If you are interested in having something posted here, please email

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