Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Culture, what culture?


Every police department has the above problems within its ranks. Each one of them is part and parcel of the overall police culture within each law enforcement agency. If you are white, male and straight, then for the most part, you have a ticket in, once your brothers learn you can be trusted. If you do not are not a white straight man, then you will never fit within the brotherhood, no matter how hard you try. Yet, many still try.

The main underpinning of the police culture is to trust no one outside the brotherhood with anything. If asked, do not tell. If your brother needs you to cover for him, you cover. If he needs your 11-10, then you give him that, no questions asked. Not that you would receive any answers.

There are two forces in the world. US and THEM. The blue brotherhood consists of US. Everyone else, even civilian supporters(and it would pain them to know this) are THEM.

When THEM, is not the enemy, THEM is not the friend. THEM is why even when you walk down the street, your head involuntary flinches at any movement behind you, or why you don't sit with your back to the doorway, unless another brother covers you.

The one thing that's funny in a not so humorous way is how people will talk about police culture in hushed whispers but no one wants to get involved in any substantive discussion of such a thing. Just keep the whispers flowing in hushed tones, while pasting a smile on faces to reassure people that all is well. But the topic itself, remains taboo.

Here we are, in May 2005, with 10 months remaining until the state attorney general's office goes away, and for better or worse, the city of Riverside once again has full control of its police department.

The police department has checked off a list of reforms, it negotiated with the state, and apparently did them well, according to the state's representatives, not that they have any basis of comparison as Riverside Police Department was the first and remains the only law enforcement agency placed under consent decree by the state attorney general's office.

Yet, people have asked, what of the police culture, which is what really needed to change...beginning with the racist sexist behavior shown by five officers which led to them shooting 12 bullets into Tyisha Miller's body, all in the rear, and then celebrating their feat afterwards. A few really bold people say that nothing has changed. If it had, then the same issues would not be revisited over and over and over again...five years after they had been brought forward for not-the-first-time-but-let-us-do-the-new-slate-thing.

People have responded, why not focus on the PROGRESS made by the police department during the past four years? Be careful of how you talk about the bad stuff, even when it's happening around you because you'll dampen the parade. Usually, it's progressive white people leading this charge. They appear to be the only folks who get upset when there's too much focus about remaining problems in the RPD.

What's frustrating is that the people who could have the biggest influence in reform have settled for merely following the list given to the agency by the state, and have neatly sidestepped the more thorny issues involving prevailing and pervasive attitudes which collide and collude to make up the police culture. On March 6, 2006, maybe they'll be part of some class photo, beaming over the completion if this arduous period of Riverside's history, but out there, it will be business as usual. They'll move on to the next cause, and once again, the police department will be left to its own devices.

The four officers standing yesterday morning in the Orange St. Station's parking lot are most likely counting down the days and hours until their cuffs are removed by the state, and they can as they've said often enough, return to business as usual. Police culture is at work, when one says something to the others and without thinking, they react to what's been said despite what their own experiences have told them.


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