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 31, 2005

What about that 800 Pound Gorilla?

I was talking not too long ago to a police officer who made a point of saying that although he belonged to the department's labor union, the RPOA, he did not agree with the politics of its current board. The funny thing, is that he is not the only officer who has said this, or who has made it a point to separate themselves from the union. Which makes some sense, after all, because the closer you stand to King Kong when he's out wreaking havoc, the better your odds of being stepped on. The RPOA, is often called the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about....except apparently some disatisifed officers.

Maybe, it's backlash from that hideous campaign the RPOA ran in opposition to Measure II, where it basically stated that if you did not vote the way the union wanted, don't count on the police responding as quickly to save you from criminals, as it might have, well the day before the election. After all, it was about that time that the whispers started.

Several rank-and-file officers even said that they had stepped outside the official party line and voted in favor of the measure which would place the Community Police Review Commission in the city's charter. Not because they supported the CPRC, but in protest of the campaign the union was conducting, with the union dues they had put in the coffer. Hmm, that's an interesting event, to hear of officers protesting through their vote, the action taken which was payed for by their money. However, in a way it's a brave act of defiance against the RPOA to step outside the official stance. After all, if your actions were uncovered by its leadership, you might find out later how traitorous you are, when you call out for an 11-11, and no one comes to your rescue.

But contrast the anti-Measure II campaign and its lackluster response, at least publicly by the masses who are members of the union, with the 1999 parade of officers, with pale shaven heads reflecting the setting sun, marching two-by-two away from the city council meeting they had just unceremoniously crashed. Something has changed. Still, it is those officers who remember that night with perhaps, wistful nostalgia who are running the show, even one that someday might see its audience dwindle in size.

Maybe, it's the fact that this current union board arose from the ashes of the backlash that occurred after five White officers were fired as a result of their actions surrounding the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998. A good chunk of the current board of directors consists of former SWAT/METRO team members, which is significant considering that the METRO team was one of the units where its members threatened to resign enmasse to protest the firing of the Riverside 5, as they were called.

Source: Riverside Grand Jury report on RPD under "Findings"

Following the termination, most of the SWAT, Defensive Tactics and Field Training Officer teams offered their resignations to the department. These were not accepted, but many of the officers have requested to be rotated off these duty assignments.

Other members of the current RPOA board were supporters of Sgt. Gregory Preece, including current Vice President Chris Lanzillo, who was quoted in a March 2001 issue of the Press Enterprise newspaper as saying that Preece was the best sergeant he ever had(assuming that meant Preece's supervisory abilities).

Source: March 3, 2001, Press Enterprise

Treasurer Aaron Leigh Perkins(of "road rage" infamy) was once disciplined with a written reprimend for putting a stink bomb in Rene Rodriguez's car.

Source: Roger Sutton v the Riverside Police Department/City of Riverside deposition given by Capt. Richard Dana

Many if not all of the current RPOA board members had been in the forefront of the movement in June 1999 when over 200 officers, mostly patrol officers and detectives, decided to shave their heads bald "in protest" of the firing of the officers in connection with killing Miller. They knowingly, as one former officer-now sergeant said in August 1999, adopted a symbol associated with white supremacism. So much so, that during the officially sanctioned head shaving rally held at Ramona High School on one sunny afternoon in June 1999, some self-identifying racist skinheads were in the area and apparently confused the barbershop session, with a white supremacist revival event.

In contrast, most of the current pool of rank and file officers were hired after that turmoltous time period. Many of them have little to no memory of the Miller shooting and its aftermath. Many only know that they were recruited by a department that had recently entered into a stipulated agreement with the state, as a result, if they knew that much.

Each time, an officer vents about the union that he belongs to, I just say this. I tell him, and it's mostly men who vent, (although you would think it's the women that would feel most excluded from the "He mans women hater club" given their invisibility among its leadership) that he should get either through joining a committee or through running for a position on the board. If you are upset or feel alienated by the current leadership(and let's face it, who wouldn't?), if you don't want to put your career on the line to join a harassment/surveillance exercise against someone that the board members are mad at, especially for something stupid like the color of a police car, if you are partial to your hair and do not consider it a vestige to be sacrificed at the whims of the leadership(who might be worried about their lack of hair):

Otherwise, stop complaining because no one really wants to hear about it. Don't play the apathy game and decide not to vote for the leadership of the organization in which your hard-earned money is going, and don't sit on the sidelines looking embarassed if they ever spend your money on another embarassing campaign.


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