LONG BEACH — The newest officer of the Long Beach Police Department was fired from the Seattle Police Department last year for derogatory social media posts that violated the department’s social media policy and prompted the U.S. Secret Service to open a criminal investigation into the matter.

Officer Duane Goodman was an 11-year veteran of the SPD when he was fired in January 2020 in part because of a pair of posts he made on Instagram that the department’s police chief said caused her to lose confidence in his ability to protect and serve the public. Goodman was hired this summer by the LBPD, and his first day on-duty was Sept. 1.

Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright said LBPD did its due diligence on Goodman throughout the hiring process, including speaking with the officer’s former supervisors and co-workers at SPD and conducting a thorough background investigation.

Instagram posts

One of Goodman’s posts, from 2018, suggested violence against former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to documents from an investigation into Goodman from SPD’s Office of Police Accountability, the post included a picture of a package bomb with the message: “I don’t condone sending package bombs but god it would be nice for Killary and Anti-cop Obama to finally STFU! Maybe Obama will stop lying and claiming the good economy is from him.”

The post was made during a time when several packages containing pipe bombs were mailed to public figures and critics of then-President Donald Trump, including Obama, Clinton, then-Senator Kamala Harris, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, two Democratic members of Congress, two former U.S. intelligence chiefs, actor Robert De Niro and two Democratic donors and activists, as well as a package that was addressed to CNN and sent to its world headquarters in Atlanta.

Cesar Sayoc, a Florida man who frequently shared pro-Trump and anti-liberal messages on social media, including far-right conspiracy theories, was arrested and pled guilty in 2019 to 65 felony counts stemming from the incident and is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence.

In a formal disciplinary report informing Goodman of his termination, then-SPD Police Chief Carmen Best wrote that the post “appeared to endorse violence” against Obama and Clinton and was malicious and threatening.

“For you to … embrace violence as a ‘solution’ for a public figure with whom you disagree is a betrayal of the values of our profession,” Best wrote.

SPD turned the information over to the U.S. Secret Service, which opened a criminal investigation. The case was referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which declined to file charges.

The second of Goodman’s Instagram posts included a photo of Goodman raising his middle finger to the camera, with the following caption: “If you support illegal immigrants coming into our country so much then make a difference and bring them into your home and YOU support them you (expletive).”

Best said Goodman’s post about illegal immigration undercut the department’s mission to fairly serve all members of the community — regardless of beliefs or immigration status.

“The department’s ability to fulfill its public safety duties depends on communities believing that officers will treat them equally and with dignity, regardless of their immigration status,” Best wrote in a disciplinary report informing Goodman of his termination. “Your comments suggest that you will not do so. They could have substantial negative consequences to the relationship between members of the Department and those that we serve and showed exceeding poor judgment.”

According to the disciplinary report, Goodman acknowledged to Best that his posts were a mistake, and “vowed not to make a similar mistake in the future.” 

Best acknowledged Goodman’s pledge to learn from his mistakes, but wrote in the report that she “cannot, and will not, take the risk of subjecting the public we serve to another lapse in judgment that could further impact members of the community and the department.” She also referenced another incident in 2019 in which Goodman had been suspended “for unnecessarily escalating an incident, using threatening and inappropriate language, and behaving in a manner that made another officer concerned for his safety.”

Chief explains decision

In talking with the Observer, Wright stressed that LBPD did its homework before bringing Goodman aboard, and explained the department’s rigorous hiring process.

Wright said that they talked with Goodman “at length,” and said he was regretful about the posts. The chief said they interviewed former co-workers and supervisors, as well as family and friends, as part of the hiring process, and also vetted him thoroughly to see if the department had to be concerned about any biases — which Wright said was standard when hiring a new officer. He said nothing concerning came up during the vetting process.

“[Best’s] decision is her decision. She lives in a different world politically and in a different environment. She made her decision, and I don’t know if it was right or wrong,” Wright said. “We looked at him and we felt with his years of experience as a police officer, 11 years, and the way he answered our questions and our concerns, we felt comfortable giving him a chance.”

The hiring process for Goodman and other LBPD officers is a thorough one, Wright said, beginning with an extensive application that prospective officers must fill out. From there, a hearing is held by the three-member Long Beach Civil Service Commission, which ranks the candidates, followed by the interview process.

The background investigations start once the department has decided who it’s going to offer the job to, Wright said, stressing that it’s important to get the full picture on an applicant.

“So if a person comes to you and they have job experience in law enforcement, you do look for commendations, atta-boys and good jobs, but you’re also looking for the concerns. You want to try and get the full picture on any applicant, because nobody’s perfect,” Wright said.

A psychological screening is given as part of the background investigation, as well as a polygraph exam, talking with the applicant’s references, going through their file and even going through their home.

“It’s pretty extensive, and it’s one of those things where you talk to people and you want to get an honest evaluation. I think people are sometimes reluctant to talk about stuff like that, but we didn’t get that in [Goodman’s] case,” Wright said, adding that people who were concerned could give him a call to talk about it. “We weren’t blindsided by it … You live and learn, and some of the questions that we were really after were about any biases and anything that’s going to affect his police work, and the answers we got were very satisfactory. Very satisfactory.”

Wright said the days of doing a quick application are over, and was complimentary of Washington’s hiring standards for law enforcement, saying the state has some of the best standards in the nation. “They’re way ahead of the curve on what they require,” he said, which includes having to check with prosecutor offices that a prospective officer has worked with over whether there are any concerns about their truthfulness or other issues.

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(2) comments

Toni

I'm not sure what the point is of writing a hit piece on our new officer, but I hope he doesn't think we all are ok with it. Because I think it's a cheap shot, personally. Welcome to the Long Beach peninsula, Officer Goodman. Good to have you here.

Kaydan Braztad

Welcome to Long Beach Officer Goodman! Excited to have you as part of our community!

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