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, August 17, 2005

The Latest Round of Occupation in the Eastside

RPD occupation strategy, 2005

It happened in 1997.
It happened in 2002.
It's happening again in the summer of 2005.
The Eastside is being occupied by the forces of the Riverside Police Department.
Chief Russ Leach, at times channeling LAPD Chief William Bratton, told community residents at a recent meeting that it was time to talk tough about crime and the gangsters in the streets.

People agreed. After all, people can not buy gas, pay utility bills, play in their yards, sit in their yards or walk home from a party without getting shot at in Riverside. Violence, including gang violence which plays some role here, is cyclical and it's that time in the biorhythem of life in this city again.

Leach fresh off of his vacation stint in Maui took the reins of the department away from Chief-in-training Andrew Pytlak and appeared before the Eastside Community at a meeting sponsored by current councilman and mayoral candidate Ameal Moore to be blunt, to talk tough. He said his troops were in the Eastside to do arrests, not smile and wave at people.

Smile and wave? Since when have cops done that in the Eastside? That's for functions sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Mission Grove and Orangecrest Neighborhood Watches. Cops come to the Eastside to get tough, or they do not come at all. And it's tough to see them smile and wave if they stay inside their squad cars, windows rolled up, until there is someone to chase and arrest.

An interesting idea, proposed by more than one middle-management officer, was to ask police officers to get out of their squad cars, take off their shades and talk to people from one end of a block to the other. Unfortunately, that frightens some of them more than chasing after a suspect. The idea that maybe everyone in a neighborhood isn't a suspect....

Leach continued:

"What are we?," Chief Leach said, "We are an occupying force for a short period of time."

And in between?

"We are going to be here," Chief Leach said, "We are going to stay here."

What he meant was that after the most recent exercise in suppression had ended, the department would go into a maintenance mode. But what is maintenance, a time period when police presense in the Eastside is less, because the troops have been moved to another neighborhood to put out the next fire. Not before scheduling the next return date about two hot summers from now.

This is the state of community policing in Riverside, California, four years, five months and 11 days into the stipulated judgement, with only six months and 25 days remaining until the state cuts our police department's strings loose.

For a good definition of Community Oriented Problem Solving Policing(COPS), check out Norm Stamper's book, Breaking Rank:A Top Cop's Expose of the Darker Side of Policing

It makes sense in that it actually involves the community rather than the community standing back while the police come in full force to do their thing, before leaving again to move to the next hot spot. But after spending over $10 million on reforms, and hours spent training officers how to better do their jobs, that concept still has not come to Riverside.

"We are here to make arrests. We are going to get complaints. We are profiling criminals. We have carte blanche within the law."

In other words, accountability be damned. Consent decree be damned. Let's just forget about that now, while we go about and do our business. We never make mistakes. If we do, do not think of telling us so, or we will spend valuable time telling you that you are wrong. And so forth. Read any manual on parimilitary watchman style policing in inner city neighborhoods and these words will start feeling familiar.

It might seem petty, in the face of all the violence, to even talk about the issue of accountability, but it is always an important componant of any police/community interaction, even one that is requested in a moment of desperation. The wise thing to say would have been, our police are coming in, but they are going to be held accountable by their supervisors, watch commanders, everyone up and down the chain, and most importantly, me for what they do. If they do something "over the line" then come to me, come to the area lieutenant(Alex Tortes) and there's the Community Police Review Commission. That would have given evidence that even given the department's decision to send its forces into the Eastside for the umpteenth time, that it at least has learned something in the past five years.

Oh well, maybe by the end of the next consent decree, perhaps...

Interviews involving Norm Stamper and Community Policing

Norm Stamper Q&A on Community Policing


Does your vision of community policing include a civilian review board?

I am a very strong supporter of civilian review, civilian oversight. In fact, I believe that we need civilian participation in policy making. I have said for twenty years that we are the people's police, that we belong to the communities that we serve. And that means vastly increased citizen participation in virtually everything that we do. That means a review of citizen complaints and allegations of police misconduct. The question is how to structure it.... I am a believer in the need for radical re form, which some would call revolution, and that is not a word that I use lightly. I think it is time for a fundamental, sweeping change in the way that we think about who we are, who we're here to serve, and what we do. For me that means getting out in to the community, talking about community policing and massive community organization and mobilization. I'll take the risk of helping to raise expectations, knowing that if they are not met that the crash, the fall, can be quite damaging. I don't think we have a choice. We have to believe that something can happen in this country. I think we have to believe that police officers and people in the community, including blind-and-loyal supporters, as well as critics and ideological adversaries, can actually find a way to make a difference at the neighborhood level. I believe that people are looking for a method that will allow us to put our best intentions to work. It's absolutely frightening in some neighborhoods to think about what community policing might really mean. Because for me it does mean direct citizen action. And it means a banding together of the disparate and different forces in the neighborhood and the community, all of whom are aligned under a desire for safety and civility and sanity on the streets. I don't care if you are from the far left or the christian right, or any other philosophical orientation, what matters to me is do you reject violence as a way of life. Do you want to make these streets safe for your children and yourself? If you do, let's find a way to work together. Leaders have to be living emblems of what they represent, what they stand for, what they believe in. I have worked very hard in my life to be able to stand in front of a group and say what is in my heart or in my head... I have to believe the same thing about beat cops and detectives, sergeants and captains, and people in the community. If we can create situations in which we can share our visions and not be embarrassed or ashamed of them, and raise expectations in that process, we damn well better get about that business.

Alternet interview with Stamper


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Wednesday, August 17, 2005 8:13:00 PM  

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