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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What's up with the RPD?

Inside the department are murmers of turmoil surrounding an investigation of at least one officer.

After receiving my second phone call about this unknown investigation, I scratched my head, wondering what it was all about.

Who was under investigation?

How many officers were involved?

Who turned them in to Internal Affairs?

Because of too-stringent state laws surrounding the confidentiality of peace officers' personnel records, the public can never know what lurks in the files of those who police their streets, and interface with the community at large. You can never learn whether or not the officers on the beat have had complaints sustained for anything from discourtesy, to false arrest, to excessive force. All this is done not to protect the public, but as a courtesy to those powerful peace officer unions, which along with the correctional officers unions have become the state's most powerful union lobbyists. These confidentiality laws also allow officers to keep their complaint histories private, except from prosecutory agencies, grand juries and Pitchess Motions filed by defense attorneys. Beware of what you don't know, that the cop who pulled you over on a traffic violation might have a sustained complaint for harassing women.

Then there are those behaviors that even when the officer is caught engaging in them, the complaints are never sustained. Lying, whether on a police report, in court(known as "testi-lying")is rarely sustained on, but some of those reports, it's not possible to read without rolling your eyes. My personal favorite is the officer with three hands, four legs and an identical clone.

(Ironically, only a month ago, I encountered an officer who joked that he didn't have enough hands to carry things)

Or the six reports filed by officers on the same incident which are virtually identical, meaning they were either written by robots, or in congress.

Still, how does one find out if the police officer who they interface with on the street has a history of trouble?

Some of them are easy. They ooze trouble. They wear it right next to that other badge on their shirt. Inevitably, if you were to have access to their personnel files, they would either be riddled with complaints, or if they were the darling of the supervisory unit, they would be bereft of complaints, particularly during that period of the department's history when it majored in circular filing of citizen complaints.

Other times, the task is much, much more difficult. Sometimes luck plays a part in your discovery.

Take for example, Det. Joseph Miera, a gang enforcement officer, who recently was the subject of an internal investigation conducted by the Internal Affairs Division. The only clue that this investigation actually took place is the declaration given by a Riverside County public defender who was submitting a Pitchess motion. What is not known, is why Miera was being investigated, and who inside the department became suspicious enough about how he was doing his job to report him to a supervisor and the Internal Affairs Division.

If it is true, according to the Pitchess motion, that the Internal Affairs lieutenant contacted at least one inmate at county jail about Miera, rather than have one of the unit's four sergeants handle it, then this raises questions as to how serious this investigation is.

Ironically, at the same time Miera was being investigated, his supervisor, Sgt. Frank Assuma attended a meeting of a subcommittee at the Casa Blanca Community Action Group and spent time attesting to the honesty and integrity of the department's gang unit, amidst criticism of that unit and its detectives, especially Terry Redfern. Redfern, who was the subject of at least one complaint, had allegedly approached witnesses at a criminal trial who were testifying for the defense and intimidated them. That complaint filed by two women went before the CPRC, but judging from the looks on some of the commissioners' faces when the two women spoke before the body last December, it's fairly obvious that they had already decided to exonerate Redfern. People are reluctant even to criticize members of the Special Investigations Units, because of the difficulties of their jobs, yet these are the divisions where the importance of ethics and integrity come into play the most. In no other assignment, are officers facing so many temptations to stray onto the path of corruption and other forms of misconduct. If scandal erupts in a police department, the epicenter is usually either the gang or narc unit. On a really bad day, both. It is far better to nip problems in the bud early on.

Miera's fate is unknown, as are any of the details of the investigation launched against him by Internal Affairs, let alone his guilt or innocence when it comes to any allegations of misconduct. The Pitchess motion filed by the public defender was granted by the judge who then imposed a gag order on the attorney, prohibiting him from releasing any information. Once again, the shroud of secrecy falls around another officer and because of this secrecy, even if Miera is innocent of any wrong doing, one can never look at him the same way ever again. Far too often, when officers are guilty of misconduct, the department turns a blind eye to them or downplays the problem. The public, of course, is none the wiser.

Still, this doesn't answer the questions which arise when the rumour mill buzzes with noise regarding trouble in the beleagured RPD. Or maybe it does.

Text of 832.7 from FindLaw:

832.7. (a) Peace officer or custodial officer personnel records and
records maintained by any state or local agency pursuant to Section
832.5, or information obtained from these records, are confidential
and shall not be disclosed in any criminal or civil proceeding except
by discovery pursuant to Sections 1043 and 1046 of the Evidence
Code. This section shall not apply to investigations or proceedings
concerning the conduct of peace officers or custodial officers, or an
agency or department that employs those officers, conducted by a
grand jury, a district attorney's office, or the Attorney General's
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a department or agency shall
release to the complaining party a copy of his or her own statements
at the time the complaint is filed.
(c) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a department or agency that
employs peace or custodial officers may disseminate data regarding
the number, type, or disposition of complaints (sustained, not
sustained, exonerated, or unfounded) made against its officers if
that information is in a form which does not identify the individuals
(d) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a department or agency that
employs peace or custodial officers may release factual information
concerning a disciplinary investigation if the officer who is the
subject of the disciplinary investigation, or the officer's agent or
representative, publicly makes a statement he or she knows to be
false concerning the investigation or the imposition of disciplinary
action. Information may not be disclosed by the peace or custodial
officer's employer unless the false statement was published by an
established medium of communication, such as television, radio, or a
newspaper. Disclosure of factual information by the employing agency
pursuant to this subdivision is limited to facts contained in the
officer's personnel file concerning the disciplinary investigation or
imposition of disciplinary action that specifically refute the false
statements made public by the peace or custodial officer or his or
her agent or representative.
(e) (1) The department or agency shall provide written
notification to the complaining party of the disposition of the
complaint within 30 days of the disposition.
(2) The notification described in this subdivision shall not be
conclusive or binding or admissible as evidence in any separate or
subsequent action or proceeding brought before an arbitrator, court,
or judge of this state or the United States.
(f) Nothing in this section shall affect the discovery or
disclosure of information contained in a peace or custodial officer's
personnel file pursuant to Section 1043 of the Evidence Code.

832.7 and other codes

previous entry on Miera


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older