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, June 15, 2005

The RPD goes to Court: Cast of Characters

Just in case, the law suit, Roger Sutton v the City of Riverside goes to trial inside a courtroom in Riverside County Superior Court any time soon, here are some production notes including a partial listing of the show's cast of characters.

Bill Burnett:
Served as the chairman of the civil grand jury from July 1999 to May 2000. He undertook an investigation to study the administrative review and morale of PD including complaints of racial discrimination. Internal Affairs provided files and documents relating to complaints of racial comments by RPD officers to civilians and members of the grand jury including Burnett would pick them up.

~October 1999, Burnett went to the RPD to pick up documents from I.A. As he left, Lt. Robert Meier came out of his office and added a manila envelope to the rest of the documents, and said, “you might find this interesting.” Upon returning to the office, Burnett opened up the envelop and found a copy of Roger Sutton’s file. It included his entire disciplinary actions and grievances as well as a detailed list of complaints, inquiries, incidents and investigations involving Sutton.

“I was puzzled and did not understand why we had been given the documents regarding Roger Sutton because they were not related to the issues we were investigating and to my knowledge, they had never been requested.”

Soon after, Burnett asked Meier why he had given him the Sutton file even though it was not requested nor was it related to the investigation. Meier said that Sutton was dating a white woman who was the sister of John Tavaglione. Meier said that Dana had supposedly made a racial comment to her about her relationship with Sutton. The comment might cost Dana his job. Meier refered to Sutton as a “troublemaker.”

“the occasion on which Robert Meier gave me a copy of Roger Sutton’s file was the only instance in which I was given documents by the RPD that were entirely irrevelent to this particular grand jury investigation.”

Although considering that Bill Burnett was not only the Chair of the Riverside County Grand Jury, which investigated the department(see report on link list)but also an author, it is questionable where his allegiance lies. Especially when you considered that the book he authored, was called Justice for None and was co-authored by none other, than former RPD sergeant, Gregory Preece.

Gregory Preece's Memoirs

Lt. Alex Tortes
long-time officer, who joined in part because of the way officers treated people in the Eastside neighborhood where Tortes grew up. He was promoted to lieutenant with Ron Orrantia and Meredyth Meredith in 1999, which led to a furor among nine White male sergeants who naturally thought the promotions were theirs. Their temper tantrums led to them filing grievances with the city. And did the city fight their allegations of reverse racial and gender discrimination just like it fought the racial discrimination experienced by minority employees? Of course not. Behind closed doors and out of earshot of then Chief Jerry Carroll, the city council negotiated with the sergeants to promote three of them and pay the rest of them off. When the community found out and opposed these actions, the city council backed off the negotiations, which caused the sergeants to sell their tale to the U.S. District Court. The city, however, ultimately settled with the disgruntled White sergeants, because as it knew, the truly oppressed person in society is of course, the White male.


(Rene Ramirez made allegations of racial comments)

1996-97: Tortes and Ron Orrantia and Darryl Hart filed a racial discrimination claim with the EEO board.

When Tortes and Orrantia were promoted to lieutenant in April 1999, the command staff did not attend their ceremony. Tortes received negative treatment and feedback through emails and other means. No positive feedback from Deputy Chief Audrey Wilson and other command staff members. He had no problems with the rank and file. He is still receiving negative treatment as of January 2002. He was put on night shift even though that’s supposed to be by seniority. Told he lacked experience. –told by Audrey Wilson.

He asked to go to school b/c they paid for one lt. to attend and was repeatedly told to “pay your own way. You can’t go” by Audrey Wilson. He felt excluded, not allowed to participate in decision making or to provide imput. He and Darryl Hurt had both experienced what they call the “exclusionary rule.”

New Captain Dave Dominguez allowed him to do things. Tortes’ first positive experiences were with Dominguez.

Ron Orrantia was forced to retire by Audrey Wilson his direct supervisor and others.

“I’m finally referred to being the last of Jerry’s kids(by other lieutenants). We were promoted. I’m the last one.”

Sgt. Ed Blevins, Internal Affairs

His only investigation involved Rene Rodriguez.

He had received a memo from Lt. Jim Cannon who had met with Rene Rodriguez about perceived treatment that Rodriguez had experienced.

Rodriguez said his mistreatment had started at the academy. Poor grades on written product, and no recommendation for hiring.

Other allegations included:

FTO Dave Ruddy made him eat at a separate table during lunch breaks and taught him racial filing of Mexicans by telling him that Mexicans didn’t have licenses. Black officers were not allowed to work together or sign up for shifts.

Mike Andrews(FTO) taught probational officers how to racially profile black motorists with cornrows or jerrycurls.

Carl Turner said that the officers should turn their radios on to rap stations in honor of Tyisha Miller.

Tattoo references, were they swastikas? Not sure, long sleeves in summertime.

Hackman, Preece and Brown admitted to making the comments. Hackman was suspended. Brown was suspended. Preece was fired.

Bryan Dowell, made comments about Blacks, n-words, Blevins said he didn’t like to hang around him b/c he didn’t care for Dowell.

Cheryl Tavaglione:

Told Jay Theuer who was a friend of hers. Richard Dana came to Tava Lanes w/ Mike Smith one day. Dana was a family friend but stopped coming by after her husband died. She told him she ha a boyfriend, but didn’t think anyone would go with her b/c of her family.

Dana said, “if I had known you were going to start dating, I would have found you a brown haired browneyed, olive-complected man to go out with?"

When Cheryl told Sutton, he was furious about it. Bob Arnold snubbed him. She also said that Sgt. Darryl Hurt said that it was going to make it tougher on all of us, in regards to their relationship with “all of us” referring to Black officers.

Commander Richard Dana

Racial comments were Al Brown, Bill Rhetts and Dave Hackman.
Brian Money was married to a Black woman and was upset when Rodriguez made the allegation that he couldn’t tell anyone about his wife.

Aaron Perkins put the stink bomb in the car. Got a written reprimand b/c the act was not determined to be racist and he had put stinkbombs in other cars.

Al Brown was suspended for his comments that he admitted

Bill Rhetts was not disciplined b/c they considered comment inappropriate but not racist.

I.A. determined that Rodriguez had not experienced worst treatment on the basis of race.

Investigated Jim Cannon for leaking memos to Ameal Moore, Lee Wagner, Mike Smith and others. He was investigated by Lt. Meier, the same officer who leaked Sutton's entire personnel file to Barnett(see Barnett and Sutton declarations).

Hall who advocated for Sutton said he would drop the complaint against Dana if he was restored to the canine unit.

Lt. Jeffrey Collopy

believed Sutton should have been dealt with or terminated a long time ago.

(Maybe that's why during the Motion for Summary Judgement, Collapy(sitting with his officer son)smirked at the few parts of Judge Richard Field's decision that backed the department then looked upset when Fields upheld the majority of Sutton's case.)

Sgt. Skip Showalter
Present during interrogations of Rodriguez.

“He never wanted to own up to the fact that he had made his own mistakes and then maybe that’s the reason why but he seemed to be focusing on the fact that people were harassing b/c he was black.”

Showalter had reason to be bitter. His coworker and friend, Bill Rhetts was one of the officers being investigated for allegations of racist comment, because of Rodriguez.

Rhetts' homophobic, racist Web site, IPOC Ministries, still hosts an essay written by Showalter as it had in 1999. His essay is not racist or homophobic, or offensive, but the site that hosts it is both of these things. When I asked Showalter about this in 2000, he simply said he wrote the essay and put it out there for anyone's use. Showalter's essay being posted on Rhetts' site led to then Chief Robert Luman's decision to investigate the Web site.

Interestingly, Showalter and other IA personnel investigated Rhetts for several different internal investigations for 18 months and did not sustain one of them. Rhetts eventually took a stress retirement.

Showalter's essay

Frank Patino, Field Training Officer:

upset that he was alleged to teach Rene racial profiling of Hispanics. Why would a Hispanic officer do this?

Lt. Darryl Hurt

Second highest-ranking African-American officer and close friend of Gregory Preece. Hurt's advanced up the administrative ladder by playing it safe, which has brought him criticism, most notably his decision to testify on behalf of Preece during his arbitration hearing. For a man who wrote in Preece's memoirs that he dislikes racial politics, he's not above using them himself. He's come a long way since the frustrated officer who filed a claim with two other officers in 1997, protesting the promotional practices of the RPD. Would he recognize his former self, some have asked.

Heard probably more than a dozen racial comments. Last time was late 1980s. Comments were made in groups, parties, getogethers, choir practice(post-work drinking parties).

“You can’t be thin-skinned to work in LE.”

There is a lot of things to put up with. Do you go around crying or do you suck it up? Said you would be at a disadvantage if you reported comments.

links on Sutton case:

Judge refuses to dismiss Sutton suit

disparities in handling of law suits by race

City appeals Sutton's $200,000 award


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