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

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The crossing of fingers

Oh, how quickly the city of Riverside forgets.

One day, its elected leaders appear passionate on an issue and vow to take leadership roles in implementing their vision. The next, they cast it on the shelf and move onto the next issue which will enrapture them for all of several minutes.

That is what has happened with the Riverside Police Department mere months after the city dissolved its marriage of convenience with the state. It's back on the shelf while Mayor Ron Loveridge and the city council play with their latest toy which appears to be once again, Eminent Domain. Okay, maybe they will enjoy that one for more than several minutes, given the glee all but two of them showed over the seizure of much of Market Avenue in downtown that took place last Tuesday.

They did fool some folks last spring, at the gathering they held where the three partners in the reform process, that being the police department, the community and the city officials, talked about what would be in store to ensure the continued growth of the police department.

But then are the community members to be blamed for believing their city leadership was acting in "good faith"?

On March 28, 2006, the city council conducted a workshop to determine the fate of the Riverside Police Department after it had dissolved its stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office earlier that month. Each city council member as well as Mayor Ron Loveridge spoke glowingly about the progress that had been made by the police department during the past five years. Each one of them said that they were committed to continue a process which to that point had cost the city over $22.5 million and a human price across the board which is immeasurable.

One by one, each elected official stressed the important role that the city council would play in the process. In fact, it would lead that process. In fact, city leaders were tripping over themelves trying to appear as if they were the ones most committed to continuing the process.

At the workshop's end, the city council had promised to continue a structured form of oversight over the department, less stringent than what had preceded it, but there nonetheless. They had agreed to retain former AG consultant Joe Brann to serve in an auditing capacity and to have its city leaders meet quarterly and distribute progress reports on the reform process.

City Manager Brad Hudson would supervise this process, even though his expertise is economic development, not law enforcement administration. As usual, he was glib with the sound bytes.

(excerpt from this Press Enterprise article. )

Hudson joked Tuesday that Brann is "an expensive guy," but that it would be a "logical extension" to retain him.

Six months later, none of those promises have been kept.

No quarterly reports have been released by the police department to be discussed by city leadership, let alone disseminated to the public. In fact, the police department, the Strategic Plan have apparently been erased from their collective memories.

The police department has returned to its former position as the "stepchild" of the city of Riverside. The "logical extension" referred to by Hudson is currently on ice, rather than serving as an auditor. There has been no more talk about the Strategic Plan, let alone its continued implementation by city officials. And Hudson, his office and the city council have even taken on a cavalier attitude with the police department's employees, during this summer's labor negotiations with the various bargaining units. Two lawsuits filed in Riverside County Superior Court and one "strike" vote have defined the process.

But let's start at the beginning, when information was given out that implied a far rosier picture of the relationship between the Riverside Police Department and the city of Riverside, post-consent decree. The first being, that Brann was on board.

Only three months ago, a police department representative had said that Brann had been signed to a three-year contract with the city. However, according to a written response included in a recent California Public Records Act request, the truth turned out to be far different.

(excerpt from the RPD's response to CPRA letter dated Aug. 1, 2006)

1)Quarterly process of implementation of strategic
plan pursuant to guidelines set by workshop on 3/28

Response: "To date, consultant is still considering
the proposal from the City Manager's office"

Still considering? Maybe the contract that was offered has changed, since the promises made last March when signing Brann onboard appeared to be according to Hudson's jovial demeanor, a done deal. Was the city really serious when it intended to retain Brann in the first place or is this a case of crossing fingers?

Let's move onto the reforms, including extended compliance with several components of the stipulated judgment. Attorney Bill Lockyer, Brann, even the Human Relations Commission(see below) had recommended that all or a portion of the 22 recommendations remain in place. During the workshop, the city council agreed to do just that. In fact, councilman Frank Schiavone wanted the city council to address policy issues albeit through its Governmental Affairs subcommittee which he chairs. The police department's policies or anything else for that matter have yet to appear on an agenda for that committee.

The $500,000 that was allotted to purchase 120 digital video recorders, enough to equip the remainder of the fleet of squad cars, at the eleventh hour of the end of the stipulated judgment still remains unspent, well at least on the video recorders. Hudson and his sidekick, Tom DeSantis presented a laundry list of items that had to be purchased before the promised video records, but that it would get done. Some day.

Last December, the department and city had also promised to revamp the department's "cultural sensitivity" curriculum, which Chief Russ Leach called "inadequate" and "outdated". That item was referred to the community relations office, for further work. However, according to the response to the CPRA request, which included an intra-department memo sent by Officer Melissa Brazil, from Personnel and Training, about a planned meeting in September, the department is still implementing the same diversity training program from the University of California, Riverside Extension Center which was part of that "outdated" training.

About $25,000 of the city's general fund has been allotted for the 2007 Traffic Stop Study, which is a good indication that this particular reform which was also picked to be continued will be carried out.

The department's Personnel and Training Division is also laying the ground work to create and implement a mentally ill crisis intervention program. This was initiated by the department in response to issues involving the mentally ill arising from various critical incidents during the past several years. The latest, was the fatal officer-involved shooting of Lee Deante Brown, which is the subject of investigations by the police department, the Riverside County District Attorney's office and apparently, a federal agency as well.

That was spring. As summer arrived, so did labor negotiations between the city and its various unions and bargaining units which represent its departments.

It would be a long, hot summer.

First, the SEIU, which represents many police department civilian employees including its dispatchers, was locked out of its labor negotiations after the city management accused its negotiators of bringing in unauthorized onlookers in the meetings. That lockout was brief. The leadership of the SEIU brought its members together and held a vote to call a strike. Now, the intention was never to actually strike but to show the city that it had the muscle to do so.

Oh, it did.

Hudson blinked, and the SEIU soon entered into its contract, but how it did would emerge later, in a document filed in county court, by another union, the Riverside Police Officers Association.

Before that union filed its law suit, its sibling, the Riverside Police Administrators' Association filed its own lawsuit alleging that the city was using a technical error in a memorandum of understanding to deny members of upper management benefits involving overtime pay and co-payments into health insurance. The RPAA's head representative, Lt. Darryl Hurt had tried to address the city council on the problems they were experiencing during public comment at a past city council meeting, but Loveridge cut him off with that wave of his hand. He told Hurt that he had to save his comments for an unrelated discussion item which hopefully would be heard in front of a sea of empty chairs.

The RPOA filed its law suit soon after, alleging that the city had violated its "good faith" practices in its negotiations with the union. According to its law suit, the city management team had gotten two other units, the SEIU and the Fire Unit(which represents city fire fighters) to sign contracts by promising that their medical benefits would match those received in the RPOA's contract, even though it was still negotiating with the police union at the time. Assuming that the city was not bluffing the other units into settlements, it appears to be a violation of trust between management and its employees. Without that trust, the purpose of union negotiations appears fruitless. Too many people have paid a high price to fight for the right for workers of all different professions to unionize and try to better the states of their workplaces through such negotiations to treat the process in such a fashion.

Whether or not the RPOA should receive higher medical benefits is something that both sides of the bargaining table need to hash out, but it needs to be done in an environment where one side will not betray the other and cross its fingers behind their backs while appearing to be operating in "good faith". It is also inappropriate for the city's management to play different unions off of one another to keep them all in line and most likely signing contracts giving their members less than what their labor is worth.

Another important reason to sign good labor contracts with police unions is to attract tomorrow's police officers, with good pay and benefits that are the best in the field. The top quality candidates often feel the pull from several different agencies before they pick which one they will work for. Offering top of the line salary and benefits is also good at diversifying police departments since many agencies compete for Asian-American, Black and Hispanic candidates particularly those who are bilingual.

The old adage, "you get what you pay for" is more true in law enforcement than in most other contexts and each generation of officers should always be followed by one that is better than it. That's something that any profession should aspire to doing, to continue improving itself or for some, to begin that process.

After seeing how the city's officials treated its own employees including the police officers it lauds and applauds, most often during "appreciation" dinners, award ceremonies and election year campaigns, it is difficult to believe that it cares any more towards its other partner in the continued process of improving the police department, community members. If it has made promises to city residents that it never intended to keep, then that will be shameful.

I think that has been amply demonstrated the past six months as well.

Memorandum to Mayor from Human Relations Commission

1) Fully implement the goals and objectives of the Strategic Plan which was approved by the courts during the implementation of the stipulated judgment.

2) Incorporate the 22 steps of the stipulated judgment as measurable objectives of the Strategic Plan

3) Require quarterly reports of performance of the goals of the Strategic Plan and the 22 measurable objectives

4) Retain an independent monitor, reporting to the Mayor and the City Council to review the reports and provide the annual performance audit

5)Conduct regular public meetings to report on progress and hear suggestions for improvement from the public

6) Upgrade the Community Police Review Commission through independent staff leadership including special legal counsel. Require regular reports to the City Council on policy issues facing the Riverside Police Department.

7) "Chief's Night Out" program which would provide the opportunity for the chief of police to hear concerns of the citizens in various communities in this city. It would not focus on presentation but as with the "Mayor's Night Out" would focus on "listening" to the concerns of the residents.

Strategic Plan Workshop Report
If you are concerned about the issues involving the city government's apparent failure to deliver on the promises made in its March 28 workshop on the Strategic Plan.
If you are concerned about the current lockouts or stalled negotiations of the police department's unions and want labor negotiations to resume in a fair and just matter.
Contact City Hall

City Hall

Mayor Ron Loveridge: 826-5551 email:

City Council: 826-5991

Dom Betro:

Andrew Melendrez:

Art Gage:

Frank Schiavone:

Ed Adkison:

Nancy Hart:

Steve Adams:


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older