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

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Who's Watching the Hen House?

After reading Liz Venable's good review of the CPRC in the May 24, 2005 issue of the Highlander, it made me reflect on the past five years that Riverside's choice of civilian review mechanism has been in place. I have a unique perspective on the issue and what became its reality, because unlike the vast majority of residents in Riverside, I have attended a CPRC montly meeting. Numerous monthly meetings, something other civilian review board watchers in this city can not claim. I am the only person who does not watch the CPRC from afar. Most of the community it serves, for a variety of reasons, stays away.

That is why it was interesting to read Venable's take on the issue of the number of complaints filed against police officers which has decreased since last year. There was really no answer to that question. Was it more efficient training, as implied by Chair Michael Gardner, and other city people? Was it disillusionment with the process? No one would come out and say that on record. Although one person did ask the question, of whether that could be the case, and whether the decline was as welcome as it appeared to many folks.

The true answer, is probably both, though improved training probably has not made quite the impact yet that it would, on complaints. It takes years, for improvements in training to be felt first among the rank and file officers, then through trickle-down affect, the communities they serve, particularly the policed ones.

Gardner, said further in a Press Enterprise article by Sarah Burge not long ago defended the CPRC's low sustain rate on complaints by saying that most of the complaints did not happen, or the police officers were merely doing something to the persons that they did not like. Otherwords, the majority of complaintants are either liars or malcontents, who were probably doing something wrong when they crossed paths with the officers. Per usual, I am scratching my head at Gardner's reasoning, just as I did when he ran for city council in 2003 and tried to get an endorsement from the RPOA, but I can make one prediction for the future....

The number of complaints will most certainly decrease markedly this year...

After all, if the CPRC, the mechanism that is supposed to restore the community's trust in its police agency doesn't believe the complainant, who will? Who is there left? And with a complaint sustain rate of a whopping 10 percent, is this the body that will provide the trust between the two entities, or is it there to install a false sense of trust on the part of the community, while for the department, it's just business as usual. The CPRC could have cruised happily for its five year history, if the department had a police union whose leadership was smart enough to realize that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. The department's brass has just figured that out in the past several months, and has put that knowlege to good use.

After all, in the application, a negative contact with police, or what Councilman Ed Adkison refers to as, "Being in trouble with the law" is probably an automatic disqualifier. However, you can be a cop, an ex-cop or a badge bunny, and you'll get on the board much easier, like you are on the express line.

So the deck is stacked against the communities the commission was established to serve.

So unless you want to start over from scratch, what you have is what you have. Accountability and truth, will have to wait.

review of CPRC


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