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

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Dognapping Caper

The Dognapping Caper
First of all, this tale has nothing to do with kidnapping dogs. It has to do with false arrests, and using police powers to politically retaliate against another person. It's another sordid chapter from Riverside's history....told by one of its most ardent activists...

Letitia Pepper is a long-known community activist for parks and other vital city services. She is a well-known attorney with no criminal record. She ran for the mayor's spot in 2001 and has been heavily involved in other successful political campaigns for current city councilman Dom Betro and current county supervisor, Bob Buster. Herego lay the problem....Both Betro and Buster won their respective elections by narrow margins, and not everyone was happy about that!

Last Spring, Letitia was arrested for the first time in her life, for conversion of stolen property and obstructing an officer. She spent a lot of her spare time involved in animal rescue, reuniting lost animals with their owners. One day, she found a lost golden retriever, and posted notices for the dog, for weeks, without any response. She spent over $300 in vet bills because the dog had been hurt when she found it. One day, she received a call from a man purporting to be the dog's owner, but he couldn't provide much information about the dog, so she asked for some proof of ownership. Instead, he allegedly called the police on her, and FIVE squad cars showed up at her house demanding the dog back. She asked if she was arrested or detained, and Offr. Rod McMillan said no, so she stepped to go in her own house, and two officers grabbed her, cuffed her and put her inside a squad car for three hours. They then took her to the station, for processing and released her. She later asked Lt. Ken Carpenter(freshly promoted out of a stint in Internal Affairs) for a complaint form, and he said no, you can't have one because this isn't something you can file a complaint on. Later, she asked newly assigned I.A. head, Lt. Meredith Meredyth for a complaint form, and got one mailed to her. The case was then forwarded to the D.A.'s office.

I first heard about this incident through email from Letitia and friends. It came up again at a March 17 CPRC meeting where Chief Leach was addressing commissioners' questions. He joked about the 'dog caper' as if it were a funny event. If he knew the truth about it, humor would be the last thing on his mind.

After talking to Letitia about why she was subjected to spending five hours in handcuffs and put on display in front of at least a half-dozen officers, for what basically was a civil tort issue, Letitia provided her own explanation as to why she felt she was targetted. The following describes her story.

You see, Letitia had worked on Betro's campaign as one of his main supporters. She had worked on Buster's campaign. Both won, narrowly and both ran against candidates fronted(financially and otherwise) by the Riverside Police Officers Association. Against Betro, the RPOA had fronted prosecutor and home owner-turned-renter,  Paul Fick. Against Buster, they had run the widow of a deceased sheriff deputy, Linda Soubirous, whose main platform not surprisingly, was law enforcement and keeping welfare recipients from obtaining plastic surgery. Letitia's contact information was on the fliers she distributed city and county wide during those elections, so her enemies knew where she lived. Her arresting officer, McMillan, is a member of the RPOA board, and was probably like his fellow board members, devastated when both of the choice candidates lost their elections. Somebody had to pay, one would think. Did anyone perhaps consider Letitia an easy mark? It wouldn't be the first time.

(later overheard conversations by a source reported against Letitia belied claims that none of the RPOA board members and officers involved in her arrest knew who she was)

But the D.A. declined to file charges, most likely to prevent embarassment if Letitia took the case to trial and any unsavory information came up involving one of its own employees, Fick or any of its favorite cousins, from the RPD. But it still might see its day in U.S. District Court b/c Letitia filed a law suit against the city of Riverside and its police department.

Alas, the city "investigated" Letitia's complaint that she filed with the police department and exonerated all of the officers involved including a lieutenant who initially refused to allow a complaint to be filed. The fact that the original recording of the incident differed from the copy Letitia received when she subpoened the city for the evidence, failed to move either the CPRC or the city to investigate the department, to determine why that was so. To determine why Offr. McMillan was heard saying "yes you are" to Letitia's question of whether or not she was being detained, on the copy, but alas, not on the original.

Huge shock there, what with the liability issues and all that the city wouldn't want to serve as an accomplice in a law suit filed against it by Letitia, who though living in fear for a while after this embarassing use of police power against her, has lived to fight more battles on behalf of the city's residents. But was she right? Did her arrest by the RPD have little to do with stolen property and more to do with her political activities?


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