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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The computer generated cop speaks out!

HOST: Good evening, ladies and gents, welcome to our show...Our guest once again is Officer "Hands Tied", who was the center figure in a high-priced political campaign by the RPOA Political Action Committee against Measure II. Though given the success of the campaign to place the CPRC in the city charter, speculation has been raised among several circles that Officer "Hands Tied" was really working for the other side.

Now upon the revelation by the Washington Post that the source "Deep Throat" who exposed Watergate, is really an ex-#2 man in the FBI, Officer "Hands Tied" was contacted by this show to provide expert analysis.

HOST: Is that true, Officer?

OFFICER: Hell no, I could get my brand new BMW convertable keyed for that!

HOST: What do you think of Deep Throat?

OFFICER: Hell of a flick. Got the unrated DVD.

HOST: I mean the former FBI agent who just admitted that he was the source of the information Woodward and Bernstein received for their stories on Watergate.

OFFICER: You mean the snitch? If he'd worked for us, we'd put dead frogs in his car, stink bombs..that kind of stuff. You have to send the right message to these traitorous malcontents.

HOST: Some might look at him as being a hero. There was some bad stuff going on at that hotel.

OFFICER: Is Benedict Arnold a hero? You can't be telling the world our business.

HOST: Okay, gotcha. So....what do you think of the State Attorney General?

OFFICER: You mean, the carpetbagger from the North. *shrugs* Next year, he's gone and we are going to paaaaaarty.

HOST: What about the kinder, gentler police department?

OFFICER: Reform is for wusses. Sure, we got us some nice toys, except for those dang audiorecorders. Of course, that's nothing that a good elbow block won't fix. But the tasers are kind of coool.

HOST: So no racial profiling?

OFFICER: You mean criminal profiling, of course. That's good police work. Community policing and all that. Some people complain too much. We listen to them a few years, but then it's back to business. We've got stuff to do. We can't win everyone over. *shrug*

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

Friday, May 20, 2005

Gregory 2, RPD 0

Daxius Gregory is an African-American man who lives with his family in the Eastside community of Riverside. As a resident of the Eastside, he is property of the Riverside Police Department, to be subjected to search and seizure at their whim. And there's been a lot of whim on the part of several of RPD's finest.

Last week, Gregory, who has a propensity for serving as his own lawyer in court, took his second criminal case filed by the RPD to trial, and within 43 minutes of when the jury began deliberating over his case behind closed doors, he was acquitted of the misdemeanor charge of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana.

This incident stemmed from a Jan. 8 traffic stop conducted by Traffic Officer and RPOA board member Brian C. Smith. Smith had stopped his car behind that driven by Gregory's friend Jemal Lilly, and stated in his report that he had witnessed Lilly turning left in a "no left turn zone" on Lemon Street towards University Ave in downtown Riverside. The way the street is designed, is that since it is a one-way street, there are two left-turn lanes and one straight lane. Smith followed Lilly's car until it crossed Market Street, then pulled it over.

Immediately, he focused his attention on Gregory who he said was trying to hide something in his shoe. He asked Gregory to get out of the car, so he could search his shoe. First, he handcuffed Gregory for the duration of the search. Smith then told Lilly he would search the car for marijuana and he allegedly found 0.5 gram of the stuff inside a small bag underneath one of the seats.

Interestingly enough, Smith said in the statement which accompanied a motion filed by the Riverside County DA's office, that he identified Gregory, yet he does not explain how. Gregory did not say anything. Lilly was asked to produce a license to ID himself, the details of that process outlined by Smith, yet nothing on Gregory. Even more interesting, Gregory had recently changed his name to Ankhenaten Ra El in honor of his Moorish roots.

Smith cited Gregory for PC11357(b) and released him.

When he was being sentenced for his PC 148 conviction on the earlier case with the RPD, Judge Robert Spitzer asked him if he wanted to toss in a guilty plea to the marijuana case alongside it. Gregory said no, he intended to fight the case.

It turned out to be the right decision for Gregory, once again...

More about Gregory:

racial profiling at Bordwall Park

Gregory 1, RPD 1

Gregory picks jail over probation on COC charge

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Why is Detective Miera under investigation?

An interesting case from the Riverside County Superior Court criminal case files....

Dione Mckinnon, a long time member of the 1200 bloc gangster Crips, according to police detectives, was sitting in a car close to five to eight Black male juveniles. Police officer Joshua Ontko was driving with his field training officer Michael Stamps, on June 26, 2004, when they received a complaint from a woman in the Eastside who said that she saws the teenagers loitering near a motel, and that she believed a drugs transaction was taking place. Although still a probational officer, Ontko was finishing up his final rotation in the training program, and Stamps was dressed in plainclothes as he evaluated Ontko's job performance.

They pulled up at the motel and got out of the vehicle to deal with the five young men loitering, allegedly up to no good. Their attention did not stay on the young men long, because Stamps recognized McKinnon who was sitting in his vehicle, apart from the other men. The two officers ordered him out of the vehicle, he left and began to return to it, when they ordered him out again. Ontko then grabbed him with assistance from Stamps and they assisted him(job venicular for using force to put someone in the position of complying) in sitting down on the curb. Of course, in the preliminary hearing after Mckinnon was charged with various offenses, Ontko testified that Mckinnon resisted and he had to push him down on the curb, but what's two different versions of the same event from one officer anyway? Business as usual, because recollections change and events change, and Ontko is the student here. Whether another reality will exist for new officers in the future, still is uncertain.

They released Mckinnon, and went on their ways. It's unclear from police reports exactly what became of the five loitering juveniles who had been the initial focus of the call to police.

Two days later, Ontko visited Mckinnon at his home to see how he was doing. Ontko admits doing so, but can not recall the address he visited, nor can he recall under cross-examination at the preliminary hearing, whether he had also asked if Mckinnon was okay, or shook his hand. The response, "I can not or do not recall" has to be taken with a grain of salt, because it is the stock answer law enforcement officers give on the stand when they don't want to tell the truth, or, when an officer says these words, they might really not remember but the blurring of failure to remember and failure to tell the truth has made it difficult to know which is which at this point. Hopefully, the truth is what prevails on the stand.

Fast forward to July 14, no wait, July 13 when Sgt. Frank Assuma, who heads the gang unit, and Mark Rossi, another officer, said they were were shooting the breeze with Mckinnon who was bragging to them about all the people he could have killed and did not. Assuma claimed he had issued a citation to appear in court. To this day, this citation has never been filed in court, nor has it surfaced in any court papers at all. Mckinnon's attorney alleged that it was never written at all. It turned up, but isn't making threats against an officer of violence, PC 71, and thus an arrestable offense?

The next day, Det. Joe Miera, a gang unit member, was scoping out some Black men, allegedly gang members including Mckinnon at Bobby Bonds Park. Not wanting to face all of them while he apprehended Mckinnon, he chose to follow Mckinnon to Thrifty's at Townsquare and arrest him there. When Miera searched a secret compartment in Mckinnon's car, he allegedly discovered an ounce of rock cocaine and a handgun. Mckinnon is arrested and charged with crimes in relation to the search as well as the incident with Ontko and Stamps in June.

Six months later, something unexpectantly happens, according to a Pitchess motion filed on Mckinnon's behalf by the Public Defender's office.

Mckinnon, while in jail, tells his attorney that the lieutenant from Internal Affairs has come to talk to him because the division is conducting an internal investigation of Miera. Mckinnon's lawyer calls I.A. to check this out and Sgt. Vic "Women are my punching bag" Williams, who is a member of the "cops in cuffs" brigade, confirms that the investigation is being done.Why a man with domestic violence in his background would be working I.A. is a whole issue in itself. Williams said to the attorney that a Pitchess motion would be needed to uncover any details of the investigation of Miera's conduct. Otherwise, anyone who comes in contact with Miera must remain in the dark about the ongoing investigation and any potential misconduct which has now apparently been the focus of some inhouse attention.

Most likely, any investigation has been completed.
What were the results?
Were any allegations sustained?
Was there any criminal conduct involved?
What was Miera's fate?

More questions generated by a department that can not or will not provide any answers.

San Bernardino PD's war against pet owners

Just to the north and east of us lies San Bernardino, which is Riverside without the layers.....

Inside U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin's courtroom during a recent trial, there was a running joke between himself and the plaintiff, Shirley Goodwin.

Timlin called the retired San Bernardino County Sheriff Department sergeant "Dorothy" several times in court instead of her own name.

Goodwin said she finally told Timlin that the reason he called her Dorothy was because they were in Oz. However, it was not the Emerald City that was on trial, but the city of San Bernardino, courtesy of a civil rights law suit filed by Goodwin.

Central to the trial were two of San Bernardino's most ardent activists, both of whom have spent time in county jail for exceeding the three-minute speaking limit at San Bernardino City Council and San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors meetings. Both activists spent years speaking against corruption in San Bernardino County, a place which has seen more than its share of elected officials and law enforcement officers investigated or indicted by various agencies, including the United States Attorney's office and the State Attorney General's office.

Because of their activism, Goodwin and other activists were arrested and sentenced to jail, often for months at a time for allegedly disrupting public meetings. In response, the California First Amendment Coalition, a governmental watchdog organization, presented the city of San Bernardino five years ago, with its annual Black Hole award in commemoration of the actions the city and county have taken against residents trying to address or criticize their elected officials at public meetings.

Recently, Goodwin had sold the house she had spent most of her life in and left San Bernardino for more peaceful pastures outside the reaches of its police department, which had seemed more concerned about her pet violations, than with the city's astronomical violent crime rate, among the state's highest according to annual statistics from the Department of Justice.

First, however, there was still her long-awaited day in court.

On May 12, closing arguments were presented by both parties in this case which began with an incident between Goodwin and San Bernardino Police Department officer Joseph Shuck in 1997. Shuck had allegedly come to her house in San Bernardino to assist an animal control officer in issuing a $35 ticket to Goodwin for owning a fourth dog, and two that were unlicensed. Minutes later, Shuck was inside her house, had grabbed Goodwin by the wrists and pulled her down to the floor, before handcuffing her. Photographs presented in court showed her injuries including a bruised wrist which had resulted from the tightness of Shuck's grip.

"We can all agree that something went horribly wrong on June 27, 1997," Goodwin's attorney, Andre E. Jardini said to the jury, "A 51-year-old former sheriff deputy with a love for animals suffered from the actions of an inexperienced officer who acted improperly and with anger."

Shuck sat in the courtroom, next to his attorney Joseph Arias, looking arrogant one minute, nervous the next, depending on which side was addressing the jury. Goodwin sat the entire time in her chair, her back to the officer who she was putting on trial. Her eyes remained riveted on the nine-member jury, which would decide the fates of both parties behind closed doors after the lawyers were finished talking. This court date had been a long time coming for Goodwin. She had already faced criminal charges in relation to the incident which were dismissed in court as well as a prior civil trial in 2003 that had ended in a deadlocked jury. Hopefully, this time there would be a better ending for her.

Not surprisingly, Arias had a different view of the incident, which he presented to the jury during his own argument.

"Nobody is above the law," he said, adding that in society, laws are what keep things in order. In both the city of San Bernardino and its county, many residents have wondered if this group of people included either elected officials or law enforcement officers. Electronic diaries known as blogs abound on the Internet discussing various allegations against and investigations into misconduct involving many in local politics from former county supervisor Jerry Eaves, to former County District Attorney Dennis Stout, to the entire San Bernardino Police Department.

Arias, who has long represented San Bernardino and its agencies in civil litigation, still contended that if there were any lawbreakers, they included people like Goodwin, who subjected people in her neighborhood to the possibility of a bite from a rabid dog. He said he could think of nothing more painful than suffering from rabies after being bitten by a loose, unvaccinated dog.

"What is this case about," Arias asked, "A hard-headed, obstinate woman named Shirley Goodwin who flaunted city laws again and again."

Arias said that Shuck was a police officer trying to do his duty, and that the injuries Goodwin suffered at the officer's hands were due to her failure to sign a citation. After all, Shuck had testified during the trial that "when she struck me with the(front)door, that was the straw that broke the camel's back", so Shuck was not responsible for what happened inside the house.

However, Jardini argued that Shuck did not belong inside the house.

He outlined the incident, calling Goodwin's arrest illegal, because Shuck had no probable cause to enter her house and reminding them that Shuck had changed what probable cause he did claim, several times under oath during his deposition and at trial.

"We all want to believe a police officer," Jardini said, "The truth is police officers are just people. They're human beings. They get angry. They act inappropriately. They can be vicious. Thank goodness that's not the norm."

Shuck had entered the threshold of Goodwin's house, while she was on the phone with a relative, who though hundreds of miles away, overheard the whole incident after Goodwin dropped her phone. Also present was the animal control officer, who had stood behind Shuck, but had testified at the trial that no assault and battery committed by Goodwin had taken place in her presence.

After arresting Goodwin, Shuck had called his supervisor, then Sgt. Ernest Lemos to come to the scene, to discuss what criminal charges to use for probable cause for entering Goodwin's residence, Jardini said. Jardini told the jury that Lemos and Shuck had most likely decided that the pet violations were not sufficient enough cause for the arrest to have taken place. The alleged violations did not occur in Shuck's presence nor did they constitute a public offense. At some point, the decision was made to use PC 243(b), battery of a peace officer committed when a screen door allegedly struck Shuck while he was forcing his way in the house. Shuck had testified under oath during an earlier deposition that this was the offense he had intended to arrest Goodwin for committing.

"The screen door is an after-the-fact justification that he works out with Sgt. Lemos," Jardini said, "which comes down to maybe the screen door touched me."

But the animal control officer had also testified that she did not remember seeing the screen door, Jardini said. Shuck had testified that it was Goodwin who had tried to close the screen door to prevent him from coming in the front door, although his body stood between her and the screen door handle.

Jardini added that even several of the department's witnesses including a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department captain admitted on the stand that they would never have gone into Goodwin's house or arrested her for such a minor thing. So, Jardini said, it later became all about obstructing or delaying a public official or peace officer outside the residence, meaning that Goodwin failed to cooperate with the animal control officer who was issuing her the citation. In fact, he said while the police department and the city had constantly changed its version of events including the intent behind Goodwin's arrest over the past eight years, Goodwin herself had remained consistent with her own account.

"It really mattered to her," Jardini said.

Arias said during his argument that Shuck had only called for Lemos because all acts of force had to be reported to an officer's supervisor under departmental policy. Arias repeatedly reminded the jury of how disturbed he was at the implication that pet violations were minor problems and unimportant.

"These laws were all designed for the public good," Arias said.

After her arrest, Goodwin was taken to a hospital, where Shuck left her chained to a gurney while he went back to her house, for undisclosed reasons. She was later charged battery of a peace officer, a misdemeanor which was later dismissed by a judge who ruled that Shuck was not legally authorized to enter Goodwin's house. Goodwin had received a citation through the mail from the animal control agency regarding her dogs and had taken care of it after she left the hospital.

It was not the first time that Goodwin had been arrested by San Bernardino Police Department officers where a charge of battery of a peace officer had been dismissed due to illegal behavior by the officers. In July 2002, San Bernardino County Superior Court judge Kenneth Barr had ordered that a search warrant in that case be quashed and suppressed after finding that a police detective had altered it, after it had been signed by a magistrate, according to transcript records. A year later, the case was dismissed in the interest of justice, according to court records.

As a result of all she had faced, Goodwin said she left San Bernardino and lives in a more remote region, with vacant land all around, where no one can say that she or her animals are bothering anyone.

Jardini finished his closing argument to the jury by saying that the jury needed to send a message in its verdict that this behavior by police officers is not appropriate.

"It's a small step, but an important one," he said.

However, after two days of deliberation, it is a small step that will have to wait for another day. The jury returned to the courtroom, hopelessly deadlocked. Goodwin's fight would once again have to wait until another day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Money, Money, Money

The PE ran an article, one of those get-to-know-me, feel-good pieces on economic crime detective, Brian Money. Before you get put on the cops beat, you are told to write soft pieces, or profiles on police officers to keep your sources that you need so badly for stories happy enough to keep giving them to you. In reality, however, you most often get the best story ideas from cops when they are unhappy.

It was a pretty good article, on a pretty level-headed officer who except for carrying more meat on his frame than he did several years ago, and wearing the long-sleeved sky-blue shirts which dominate every detective and DA's closet, showing a bit more wear on his face, might be the same officer who got himself in a bit of a pickle when one of his trainees blew the whistle on the police department. Uh-oh!

Former RPD officer Rene Rodriguez trained with four senior field training officers during his short stint with the RPD. Frank Patino, Mike Andrews, Dave Ruddy and Money. Two of them, Andrews and Money, had something in common. They were White male officers married to Black women in a police department which according to a law suit filed by another officer, African-American Roger Sutton, was not very enlightened about interracial relationships.

The reason the commonality between Andrews and Money came to the center of the controversy regarding Rodriguez's claims of racism within the department was because one of those claims was that a White male field training officer had told him that he was married to a Black woman but that he kept that fact a secret from the other White officers. This White male field training officer, along with the others, also allegedly taught Rodriguez how to racially profile Black and Hispanic motorists, or how to work as a patrol officer in the Riverside Police Department. This same officer later denied he had said any of these things when Internal Affairs, and then later the Press Enterprise newspaper started trying to chip away at Rodriguez's credibility and his allegations.

The officer who denied the allegations made by Rodriguez in a 2000 PE article was never named, but several people talked about who it was, and how what he had said, saddened them. Because they thought they knew him.

Sutton, in depositions he gave in his civil law suit Sutton v the City of Riverside said that when he dated several White woman, other officers would tell the girlfriends(but never him)that they did not like or approve of the relationship and the women should break them off. Another Black officer, Mike Carroll allegedly told Sutton once according to Sutton's deposition that Sutton should not push his relationships with White women in the faces of the other officers. Nothing was said or stated in Sutton's law suit about the situation in reverse, White male officers who dated or married Black women.

Well, except for his allegation that when he had spoken one time to Andrews, the other officer had come up to him and said, "What's up, my n____r?" Sutton said in his suit that he was fairly sure Andrews meant the comment as a joke, but that did not make it funny.

This officer's defection after Rene Rodriguez's allegations of racism in the RPD came to light is an unforgivable sin to some people. I consider it expedience. After all, if you want to get promoted in the RPD, you can't mention racism. I don't know if it's true that you can't mention interracial marriage, but it doesn't seem to put you on the upward track to be associated with it. But that's simplified.

Are officers keeping interracial relationships and marriages in the closet in the RPD? Only those inside the blue wall of silence know, and if it's an intolerable environment for racial intermingling, then only those in the relationships know. If they have to be told like Sutton that merely going public in an interracial relationship is shoving it in the faces of white officers' or even worse, being done to deliberately provoke White officers(who are of course, blamelessly racist if they're upset), then no wonder they would remain silent on the issue. Hopefully, that's no longer the case.

I remember talking to a White woman who was involved with a Black man, who died and was being investigated as most Black murders are in Riverside, by the minimum assignment of two homicide detectives. I had recently uncovered in Sutton's law suit an allegation that one of the White homicide detectives involved in her ex-husband's case had made a comment to a White girlfriend of Sutton's who was a former city employee. He had told her that the officers disapproved of the relationship and to break it off. If that is indeed true, then how does that affect how this detective investigates the homicides of people who are intimately involved in interracial relationships?

But then again, another homicide detective was alleged to have stuck his fist out of the window of his squad car and yelled "White Power" at Rodriguez right when he was dealing with a motorist yelling racist slurs at him. Money was present with Rodriguez according to the state complaint, when that incident allegedly took place. I wonder what his version of the events would be, back in 1999 and now.

Apparently, if Rodriguez's allegations involving his field training officers are true, they including Money and Andrews were left with difficult choices, when the spotlight turned unwelcomely on them. Patino, for one, was quoted in a PE article as being upset and offended by Rodriguez's allegations pertaining to him. He was Hispanic himself, so why would he teach other officers to racially profile Hispanic motorists?

In my opinion, the involved officer had told Rodriguez about racism in the RPD while training him, not knowing that his words would ever spread outside their conversations, let alone to administrators who run that same department that has the racism talked about. So next thing, he knows is Rodriguez has gone to Internal Affairs! Eek! What else can an officer in the hot seat do but deny the statements he made to Rodriguez? He sits and watches Rodriguez get driven off of his job to unpaid leave by the wrath of the vengeful officers. Does he want to suffer the same fate? No sane person would want to follow in Rodriguez's tracks so he denies his words, thus in some eyes discrediting Rodriguez and his words. The only problem is with his jumping onto the "Rene is lying" bandwagon with his peers is that Rodriguez was not the only one that this officer had talked to about racism in the RPD. He gave identical accounts of its activities to other people, as he did to Rodriguez and so far has not recanted those accounts. But, the people who remember his words expressed disappointment in them, and in him. He copped out so to speak when it counted. Everyone's career advanced as expected of those who keep quiet. Andrews and Patino remained as field Training Officers. Money was promoted to detective after being placed on the Attorney General's Task Force and life went on.

But, it makes it impossible to take a White officer at his or her word when they talk candidly about racism within their ranks, if that were ever to happen. The moment the heat is on them, they forget they have ever said a thing. After all, would Money be standing in that PE photograph, hands on his hips, looking determined, if he had said to the department in 1999, yeah there's racism here in this agency if that's what he believed. Probably not. Would any of the others who were included in Rodriguez's complaint? More likely, the community would have had to agitate on behalf of two officers instead of one, because if the officers of the RPD are unwilling to respond to 11-10s sent by officers who talk about racism, plenty of people in the community will do that in their stead. But none of the training officers who Rodriguez alleged had taught him racial profiling 101 or how to treat people of color in Riverside stood up to be counted, when it counted. What are they teaching now?

After all, good things were said about Money at least and how he said he viewed the issues of race and racism but if things changed in the heat of an investigation, well then that's something to cry over. Andrews was alleged to have made that racial comment to Sutton, in his law suit. Unfortunately, being in an interracial marriage by itself does not make you immune from racism.

Rodriguez was eventually given a stress retirement after much agitation by the community and eventually hired by Lance Gilmer at UCR. The RPOA tried to block his hiring by UCR but failed. Other officers told Gilmer that they couldn't protect his life from other officers if he hired Rodriguez. But Gilmer hired Rodriguez and they worked together until a detail from 15 years earlier in Gilmer's life leaked out myseriously and he lost his job because he falsely claimed an academic credential he did not have. But, he does still have his life. How his distant past came back to bit him remains one of those mysteries in life.

As far as Money is considered, history is still fresh enough in this person's mind to gaze at his picture and ask, was it you?

link to article:


Rodriguez whistleblows

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Dognapping Caper

The Dognapping Caper
First of all, this tale has nothing to do with kidnapping dogs. It has to do with false arrests, and using police powers to politically retaliate against another person. It's another sordid chapter from Riverside's history....told by one of its most ardent activists...

Letitia Pepper is a long-known community activist for parks and other vital city services. She is a well-known attorney with no criminal record. She ran for the mayor's spot in 2001 and has been heavily involved in other successful political campaigns for current city councilman Dom Betro and current county supervisor, Bob Buster. Herego lay the problem....Both Betro and Buster won their respective elections by narrow margins, and not everyone was happy about that!

Last Spring, Letitia was arrested for the first time in her life, for conversion of stolen property and obstructing an officer. She spent a lot of her spare time involved in animal rescue, reuniting lost animals with their owners. One day, she found a lost golden retriever, and posted notices for the dog, for weeks, without any response. She spent over $300 in vet bills because the dog had been hurt when she found it. One day, she received a call from a man purporting to be the dog's owner, but he couldn't provide much information about the dog, so she asked for some proof of ownership. Instead, he allegedly called the police on her, and FIVE squad cars showed up at her house demanding the dog back. She asked if she was arrested or detained, and Offr. Rod McMillan said no, so she stepped to go in her own house, and two officers grabbed her, cuffed her and put her inside a squad car for three hours. They then took her to the station, for processing and released her. She later asked Lt. Ken Carpenter(freshly promoted out of a stint in Internal Affairs) for a complaint form, and he said no, you can't have one because this isn't something you can file a complaint on. Later, she asked newly assigned I.A. head, Lt. Meredith Meredyth for a complaint form, and got one mailed to her. The case was then forwarded to the D.A.'s office.

I first heard about this incident through email from Letitia and friends. It came up again at a March 17 CPRC meeting where Chief Leach was addressing commissioners' questions. He joked about the 'dog caper' as if it were a funny event. If he knew the truth about it, humor would be the last thing on his mind.

After talking to Letitia about why she was subjected to spending five hours in handcuffs and put on display in front of at least a half-dozen officers, for what basically was a civil tort issue, Letitia provided her own explanation as to why she felt she was targetted. The following describes her story.

You see, Letitia had worked on Betro's campaign as one of his main supporters. She had worked on Buster's campaign. Both won, narrowly and both ran against candidates fronted(financially and otherwise) by the Riverside Police Officers Association. Against Betro, the RPOA had fronted prosecutor and home owner-turned-renter,  Paul Fick. Against Buster, they had run the widow of a deceased sheriff deputy, Linda Soubirous, whose main platform not surprisingly, was law enforcement and keeping welfare recipients from obtaining plastic surgery. Letitia's contact information was on the fliers she distributed city and county wide during those elections, so her enemies knew where she lived. Her arresting officer, McMillan, is a member of the RPOA board, and was probably like his fellow board members, devastated when both of the choice candidates lost their elections. Somebody had to pay, one would think. Did anyone perhaps consider Letitia an easy mark? It wouldn't be the first time.

(later overheard conversations by a source reported against Letitia belied claims that none of the RPOA board members and officers involved in her arrest knew who she was)

But the D.A. declined to file charges, most likely to prevent embarassment if Letitia took the case to trial and any unsavory information came up involving one of its own employees, Fick or any of its favorite cousins, from the RPD. But it still might see its day in U.S. District Court b/c Letitia filed a law suit against the city of Riverside and its police department.

Alas, the city "investigated" Letitia's complaint that she filed with the police department and exonerated all of the officers involved including a lieutenant who initially refused to allow a complaint to be filed. The fact that the original recording of the incident differed from the copy Letitia received when she subpoened the city for the evidence, failed to move either the CPRC or the city to investigate the department, to determine why that was so. To determine why Offr. McMillan was heard saying "yes you are" to Letitia's question of whether or not she was being detained, on the copy, but alas, not on the original.

Huge shock there, what with the liability issues and all that the city wouldn't want to serve as an accomplice in a law suit filed against it by Letitia, who though living in fear for a while after this embarassing use of police power against her, has lived to fight more battles on behalf of the city's residents. But was she right? Did her arrest by the RPD have little to do with stolen property and more to do with her political activities?

When "road rage" is a job requirement

The latest of the ongoing "cops in cuffs" series stars current RPD officer Aaron Perkins, convicted of Disturbing the Peace and Vandelism.

The city became $50,000 poorer when it paid that much out to Jason Gambill, who last year, was the victim of a brutal assault by Aaron "road rage" Perkins. But the residents of this city have lost so much more than that, because we're the ones in danger with this loose cannon running around the streets doing god knows what b/c Chief Leach was too chicken to fire him.

The city attorney said that the city settled with Perkins because of the outcomes of both the criminal prosecution(slap on the wrist) and internal investigation(ditto) didn't favor them, and because Perkins had apparently identified himself as an RPD officer while battering Gambill and brandishing a firearm, that the city might be liable for damages as a result of Perkins' actions.

The sweetheart deal with the D.A. to drop the battery charge against Perkins ensured that he would remain employed by the RPD as an officer. After all, a battery conviction carries a firearm prohibition that lasts 10 years. It wouldn't do for poor Aaron to be fired, now would it? Better to have him armed and angry on the streets of Riverside, with only the thin tether of three years of unsupervised probation to keep him in line.

So once again, Aaron Perkins is approximately 29 years old, 5'11, 195 pounds, white, with brown hair, blue eyes, armed and potentially very dangerous. If you see him in your rear view mirror, pray to the diety of your choice. It's the only hope you've got.

Perkins, who is currently assigned to grave yard shift, b/c the powers that be believe it's easier to hide him in th cover of darkness, is one of the military laterals who slipped into the department, riding the coattails of his mother, the former deputy chief. He's a military(army) lateral hire, who was stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and Ft. Benning, Georgia during his stint. These two qualities probably worked in his favor when he was hired, in terms of ensuring that he would not be properly screened for psychological problems. Is the rest of society going to have to pay for his uncontrollable anger?

A promotion to sergeant is probably part of this young man's bright future....

A tale of two lies

Someone once was arrested during a protest while wearing a button which read, "Cops lie too" on his shirt. The photo of him being pulled out of a group of people, a look of panic on his face, filled the front page of the Metro section of the Press Enterprise, on Nov. 16, 1999.

a group of white activists tsked tsked over his selection of a button to wear during the protest. Instead of criticizing the police action, they criticized the button. Either because cops don't lie, or because even if they do, we should not say so in public lest the conservative majority take offense at our words.

But yes, they do lie. And this is a tale of two lies, told by two Riverside Police Department officers in two different incidents which occurred the same year. The fates of both were determined by the same arbitrators.

The first lie was told by Officer Eric Feimer who was involved in an arrest in 2001, where he used force but when asked about it, failed to report it. He failed to report it in his written account of what happened, failed to report it later to both his supervising sergeant and the area commander.

Feimer probably wishes he never met the man he arrested, furthermore known as S/Elliot. He arrested him, and left him with abrasions and bruises on his face. His report was short and to the point.

"I put suspect in handcuffs" is what it stated.

Something must have struck the attention of his supervisors because Sgt. Paul Villeneuva asked him over the radio, did you use force during the arrest?

Feimer answered back, "negative."

Lt. Jim Cannon, the area commander, asked him if he used force, and at first Feimer told him the same account, but the next day, he came in to talk to Cannon and provide further details about his encounter with Elliot. HE said that he wanted to change his statement to add significant details including the fact that the suspect(Elliot) had struck at him twice, so he brought him down to the ground with a bar hold.

Well, if that is so, why not mention it in the original written report? All acts of force are supposed to be reported according to the department's policy, and that certainly includes the bar hold.

An internal investigation was launched by Internal Affairs and after its completion, Feimer was found to have violated several departmental policies including

1) failure to report force to a supervisor
2)failure to document injuries

Chief Russ Leach terminated Feimer's employment on Dec. 13, 2001. Feimer decided to fight his termination, through arbitration. His arbitrator was Alexander Cohn. Cohn took testimony from both sides, and decided that Feimer's firing was improper. Instead, he ruled that a suspension without loss of seniority was proper. So Feimer was reinstated back on the force.

Cohn's ruling was based on his belief that the city did not prove that Feimer was willfully dishonest. He did violate policies but not willfully. His lie about his use of force against Elliot, wasn't really a lie. It was not really the truth. Cohn chose instead to blame the policy(9.1(b)) calling it "vague."

The city appealed the arbitrator's ruling in Riverside County Superior Court but lost.So did the residents of Riverside, but the residents have never really been all that important.

The second lie, or series of lies was told by former officer Derek McGowan, to several of his supervisors in 2001 concerning his whereabouts while he was supposed to be onduty. Sgt. Tim Bacon, Sgt. Guy Toussaint and others heard varying stories from McGowan concerning his whereabouts. He was undergoing SWAT training, when he was supposed to be working on several robbery investigations, in that division after he had been transferred to Robbery from his stint in the Traffic Division.

On Aug. 8, 2001, he allegedly went home without being released by Toussaint. On that date, McGowan had allegedly told Sgt. Hoxmeier that Toussaint had excused him because he was ill. On Aug. 9, he was absent one hour when he shifted his work schedule without prior approval. Different sergeants received different accounts from McGowan regarding where he was, and what he was doing. No one seemed sure which versions were true.

Officer Christian Dinco, who was on the SWAT team with Toussaint and McGowan said at one point that the two men were at odds over SWAT techniques and that he believed that Toussaint might lie, but that McGowan would not. He also said that Toussaint was furious at McGowan and had made some comment that Dinco took to mean that Toussaint would "get" McGowan, but he did not report him.

(hopefully Toussaint would not "get" McGowan with his bare hands because Toussaint's hands cost the city over $1 million dollars in the Derek Hayward wrongful death case)

When the dust settled, and an investigation was done, McGowan was fired by Leach on April 25, 2002. McGowan appealed that ruling and the case was arbitrated once again, by Cohn, who decided this time that it was egregious to lie to three sergeants because that did harm to the police agency and whether or not it could be trusted. McGowan appealed that ruling in Superior Court and lost again, last year.

So when is a lie, a lie?

When it is told to three sergeants about one's whereabouts, but not when it involves the omission of an act of force against a member of the public? Is not the image of an agency harmed when it has to reinstate an officer who has lied about an act of force committed against the member of the public?

But then again, who knows what happened?

The firing of Feimer and McGowan is only known because the minute the two arbitration findings by Cohn were appealed, the firings and the details leading up to them, became public information. If it were not for the appeals, no one would know that either of these two officers had been fired, and why. If officers are lying to their supervisors, that information should be public, because if they lie to their supervisors, then that probably means they lie on the job, in other ways.

Do they lie when they write their reports?
Do they lie when they testify in court?
Do they lie when their supervisors check on them?
Do they lie about evidence, or probable cause?
Do their supervisors lie for them?
Do they teach lying?

Scary, indeed.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Culture, what culture?


Every police department has the above problems within its ranks. Each one of them is part and parcel of the overall police culture within each law enforcement agency. If you are white, male and straight, then for the most part, you have a ticket in, once your brothers learn you can be trusted. If you do not are not a white straight man, then you will never fit within the brotherhood, no matter how hard you try. Yet, many still try.

The main underpinning of the police culture is to trust no one outside the brotherhood with anything. If asked, do not tell. If your brother needs you to cover for him, you cover. If he needs your 11-10, then you give him that, no questions asked. Not that you would receive any answers.

There are two forces in the world. US and THEM. The blue brotherhood consists of US. Everyone else, even civilian supporters(and it would pain them to know this) are THEM.

When THEM, is not the enemy, THEM is not the friend. THEM is why even when you walk down the street, your head involuntary flinches at any movement behind you, or why you don't sit with your back to the doorway, unless another brother covers you.

The one thing that's funny in a not so humorous way is how people will talk about police culture in hushed whispers but no one wants to get involved in any substantive discussion of such a thing. Just keep the whispers flowing in hushed tones, while pasting a smile on faces to reassure people that all is well. But the topic itself, remains taboo.

Here we are, in May 2005, with 10 months remaining until the state attorney general's office goes away, and for better or worse, the city of Riverside once again has full control of its police department.

The police department has checked off a list of reforms, it negotiated with the state, and apparently did them well, according to the state's representatives, not that they have any basis of comparison as Riverside Police Department was the first and remains the only law enforcement agency placed under consent decree by the state attorney general's office.

Yet, people have asked, what of the police culture, which is what really needed to change...beginning with the racist sexist behavior shown by five officers which led to them shooting 12 bullets into Tyisha Miller's body, all in the rear, and then celebrating their feat afterwards. A few really bold people say that nothing has changed. If it had, then the same issues would not be revisited over and over and over again...five years after they had been brought forward for not-the-first-time-but-let-us-do-the-new-slate-thing.

People have responded, why not focus on the PROGRESS made by the police department during the past four years? Be careful of how you talk about the bad stuff, even when it's happening around you because you'll dampen the parade. Usually, it's progressive white people leading this charge. They appear to be the only folks who get upset when there's too much focus about remaining problems in the RPD.

What's frustrating is that the people who could have the biggest influence in reform have settled for merely following the list given to the agency by the state, and have neatly sidestepped the more thorny issues involving prevailing and pervasive attitudes which collide and collude to make up the police culture. On March 6, 2006, maybe they'll be part of some class photo, beaming over the completion if this arduous period of Riverside's history, but out there, it will be business as usual. They'll move on to the next cause, and once again, the police department will be left to its own devices.

The four officers standing yesterday morning in the Orange St. Station's parking lot are most likely counting down the days and hours until their cuffs are removed by the state, and they can as they've said often enough, return to business as usual. Police culture is at work, when one says something to the others and without thinking, they react to what's been said despite what their own experiences have told them.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bicycling while Black

While surfing through cases for a research project, I found this interesting one. The name of the officer, Michael Cupido, award recipient and currently #1 on the list of officers with the highest number of incidents involving resisting arrest and battery of an officer.

In 2004, Cupido was one of 18 officers who recieved a "10851" award from both the CHP and the Automobile Club of Riverside for recovery of at least 12 stolen vehicles, including three with occupants inside.

More on topic, Cupido was also a motorcross rider. And this story involves a man on a bike named Steve Jackson. Jackson, who was Black and on parole, was riding his bicycle down the middle of Franklin street, which runs through the Eastside neighborhood. Michael Cupido, a White officer, was in his squad car when he saw Jackson and decided to pull him over, because riding a bicycle in the middle of the road was a violation of Riverside Municipal Code, 1-64.330. So Cupido tailed Jackson until Jackson stopped his bike at the residence where he lived. From that point on, the stories told of what followed, differed.

According to Jackson's statement presented as part of a Pitchess motion in his criminal case, Jackson stopped his bike and Cupido yelled at him to come on over to talk to him. Jackson said he had not done anything wrong and that Cupido was harassing him. He yelled back, "You can't tell me what to do" as he ran into the house. Cupido then pulled his weapon and told Cupido to come out of the residence. Since Jackson had relatives who were in law enforcement, he exited. He then pulled up his shirt and raised his clenched fists.

"All I have is these," he said. "bring all the cops you want. It's not going to change things."

Cupido lowered his gun when Michael Stamps arrived. He asked Stamps if he had a taser, and Stamps said no, so Stamps pulled out his baton and began hitting Jackson in the ankles, feet, legs and knees after saying that Jackson, "took a swing". Stamps then hit Jackson on his back while he was on the ground with closed fists. Jackson stated that while he was being handcuffed, he asked why he was being arrested but received no answer.

In police reports submitted as part of the Pitchess motion, Cupido said that Jackson tried to hit him on the head. and that his shin was kicked. He suffered a sprained thumb. The lawyer for Jackson, a public defender named Richard Verlato, argued that there were no documented records of Cupido's injuries. Two witnesses to the incident filed complaints with the CPRC.

Cupido said in his police report that he had done a bicycle stop with Jackson, and said that he became violent and struck him. A meth pipe and marijuana cigarette were taken in as evidence. Jackson exhibited "objective" signs including dilated pupils, extreme profanity, high heart-rate, loud repetitive talking and he was excited. His pupilometer reading was only 4.5 mm, which is within the normal range. Dilated pupils measure 6.5mm or higher.

Cupido wrote that he had pulled out his gun, because Jackson was leaning against the building, his right side hidden. He was trying to jump the fence behind the property, when Cupido and Stamps caught up to him. Outgoing lateral, Keith Zagorin, participated in the arrest, but submitted no report. Originally assigned to the North side of town, Zagorin spent a very eventful night in Casa Blanca on Oct. 23, 2004 when he and fellow officer Daniel Floyd, were accused of using excessive force on a woman and her two teenaged sons, 18 and 16, during a traffic stop.

The department recommended the filing of multiple charges including being under the influence of meth, posessing the paraphanlia, battery of an officer with an intent to inflict harm and felony resisting arrest.

After the D.A. took the case, they only filed on the resisting and battery charges. The fate of the drug charges remains a mystery. Usually with parolees, any criminal charges are a slam dunk and even a negative test would not provide much of an obstacle for a return to jail card. But, for whatever reason, the DA opted to prosecute only on the contempt charges.

Oh well, it wouldn't be the first time an RPD cop was SO sure a Black man was on meth, until the blood tests came back negative...for the fifth time. And Jsckson had several convictions for posession of a controlled substance and DV.

Verlato's Pitchess motion was granted by the court, and an encamera hearing was heard on the personnel records of Cupido and Stamps. All information involving personnel complaints was handed to Verlato. Then the minute record was sealed, because peace officers are the only employees with the right to privacy.

Driving while Black
Walking while Black
and now....
Bicycling while Black.

How many white kids or men drive down the middle of the street, or on the sidewalks, while police cars drive on by? But if you're Black, even in your own neighborhood, different story...Whether parolee, or neighborhood kid, Might as well stay at home, under house arrest.

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