HUNTINGTON BEACH – An investigation into community complaints of Huntington Beach police officers setting off illegal fireworks over a neighborhood east of Central Park in the early morning hours of July 5 appears to be at the center of a dispute between the city’s police chief and the police officers union, the Register has learned.
In recent months, tensions have increased between Chief Robert Handy and the Huntington Beach Police Officers Association, culminating in the union’s Aug. 15 announcement of a 92 percent vote of no-confidence in Handy. Police are in the midst of negotiating with the city on a new contract.
At the time of the vote, Handy attributed some of the friction to “how I’ve dealt with misconduct.”
The city, in an Aug. 25 letter in support of Handy, said police were conducting “an internal affairs investigation of a citizen’s complaint of officer misconduct that occurred outside a union facility.”
The letter did not elaborate on the alleged misconduct, but it led to community speculation about the investigation.
On Tuesday, Sept. 13, Councilman Erik Peterson addressed anonymous reports about the investigation. “I can confirm it’s about community-driven complaints of officers lighting off illegal fireworks in front of their (club),” he said.
Peterson said several citizen complaints had been lodged involving multiple officers.
Dave Humphreys, president of the police union, was unavailable for comment Wednesday, Sept. 14.
Handy declined Wednesday to comment, saying any information about police misconduct investigations is confidential. Under the Police Department’s policy, the findings and discipline, if any, will also be confidential.
However, residents in the neighborhood said they were awakened between 2 and 3 a.m. July 5 by large fireworks explosions over their homes.
Police logs requested by The Orange County Register show a police call for service at Gothard Street and Prodan Drive, adjacent to the police officers’ facility and the neighborhood.
Resident Bill Cuppy said his family and pets were awakened by loud bangs overhead in the early morning. He said he did not know where the fireworks came from.
“They were some big Disneyland-grade fireworks,” he said. “Obviously, they were not the kind that you find at a roadside stand.”
Resident Gary Bosiljevac was also awakened and said the sounds were much louder than firecrackers.
“We heard it for about three or four minutes and thought the…