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

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hiding in plain sight: An update

Second in a series

The Riverside Police Officers Association reached a tentative agreement in its negotiation talks with the city of Riverside, not long after one was reached by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

RPOA and city come to tentative agreement

RPOA president and vice-president, Ken Tutwiler and Brian Smith spoke before the city council with a dozen other police officers in attendance.


Tutwiler expressed his gratitude to the City Council on Tuesday night.
"It has been a grueling experience," Tutwiler said, adding, "We're very pleased with the outcome."

The city council voted 7 to 0 in support of the agreement and one council member Frank Schiavone attributed the thawing in a long-lasting stalemate, to divine intervention. The sergeants of the RPOA still are negotiating as is the Riverside Police Administrators' Association. The tentative agreements are taken back to the unions' memberships for a vote.

This brings nearly to a conclusion, a summer of intense labor negotiations that most of the union heads called the worst in recent memory. The tally was one strike vote taken by the SEIU General Unit and two law suits filed by the RPOA and the RPAA, citing problems with the negotiations.

Members of the RPOA's negotiating unit have said that a better package will help in recruiting and retaining new officers including those from hard to attract groups, which will enhance the diversity of the department. These are commendable statements coming from the leadership of an organization that represents officers of all races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations.

After that, the police officers remained and sat with community members, city staff and the police department's leadership to listen to a presentation done by Police Chief Russ Leach on the status of the implementation of the Strategic Plan, six months after the city council voted to further reforms after the state attorney general's office dissolved its stipulated judgment in March.

The city council members participated in the process in a way they have not done so in years. Each asked good questions and several raised concerns. Let's hope they stay interested.

Other city officials like Councilman Steve Adams pontificated. A retired Riverside Police Department officer and a current businessman, Adams said that the police department did not hire officers on the basis of race, gender or even religion, but hired the best, most qualified officers who could make the grade. His speech was the only one made by a city official that was applauded by many of the White male officers in the audience. No female officers attended the meeting, nor were there any Black or Asian-American officers inside the chambers. A handful of male Latino officers from both the leadership and the rank and file did attend. They did not appear nearly as enthusiastic about Adams' words. There lies part of your ethnic, racial and gender divide.

To a White man like Adams, who has not faced institutional racism and/or sexism as a member of two privileged classes which when combined form the most privileged one, his words are just that, his affirmation that race and gender do not play a role in the RPD's hiring practices. Not when he was an officer in the 1980s and not in the present day. After all, he looks at the RPD and sees White men like himself and he sees no problem with that. There really is not a problem with that as long as people outside his race and gender can see themselves as integral parts of the department as well.

Several unidentified critics of prior commentaries here on race and gender have stated that I would not rest until Black officers had "taken over" the department(even though their percentage is currently around 7%) and that I advocated the police department kidnapping women off the street to force them to be police officers. Neither action has taken place, nor are they likely to take place in the near future.

After all, the RPD is still 73% White and 92% male in its composition, figures that have not changed greatly in the past 10 years. In fact, the percentage of female officers may have decreased, from its former high of 10%. The percentage of Latino officers has increased markedly in the past few years, in part due to aggressive recruiting efforts that obviously have gone beyond what Adams believes is acceptable or necessary and they have made some difference. However, the percentage of Latino officers still currently stands at 19%, which is less than half of the representation of Latinos in the city's population(which was 38.1% in its most recent census but has increased greatly since then).

The department should hire candidates who are qualified to do the job and it should go seek out and hire the "best of the best" candidates to become officers. However, Adams' perspective like that of everyone else is shaped by many different qualities including his race and gender. His perspective appears to be this, if the officers who are being hired constitute the only "best and the brightest" out there and if most of those being hired are currently White men, then those are two qualities among the rest that must help define what the "best and the brightest" means.

If this weren't true, then Adams would never have disagreed so strongly with the contention that if you can not adequately diversify your workforce by recruiting among a wealth of qualified candidates, then perhaps it is time to increase your efforts to widen the net that you cast when it comes to recruiting candidates to become officers in this department. He seems to think that if you fish from the same limited pools for qualified officers over and over and if what you catch is mostly White male officers, then that is the best that can be done. Adams should be the first to push for casting that net wider and broadening the search for better and fresher recruitment pools. The police department has made small strides in that direction, but it would have been helpful of Adams and other elected officials to take the lead and support increasing those search parameters even further.

His clear hostility towards retention programs also puts proof to the pudding that the above contentions are true, but those statements came later in the program.

Unfortunately for Adams and others who share his belief system, the Strategic Plan has an objective that specifically addresses this issue. That is objective #1.5 which is located on page 11 in this document. This means that diversifying the department is not optional, but a mandated goal included in a plan that is currently filed in Riverside County Superior Court. The exact text of #1.5 is:

Create a workforce that better reflects the city of Riverside

Adams' contention also appears to be that if the department is hiring the "best of the best" and if they are not hiring very many men of color or women, then they just are not out there. Or there are no men of color or women who are good enough to be Riverside Police Department officers anywhere.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are qualified men of color and women out there who would like to pursue a career in law enforcement. There are other men of color and women who may be too young to be police officers, who would want to pursue a career in law enforcement. And there are individuals who are men of color and women who perhaps would consider law enforcement as a career option if there were more men of color and women in law enforcement who were more visible to them. As one lieutenant I spoke with recently said after laughing in a "I've heard this too many times before" manner at Adams' diatribe, the best recruitment tool is for men of color and women in law enforcement to be front and center in the recruitment process. An example is that a Latina police officer would be the best person to recruit other Latinas as police officers because they could look at her and think, if she can do it, so can I.

However, there are only four Latinas currently working as police officers in the RPD and that is a number that has remained unchanged for several years. The department has not had a net gain in either female officers or Latino officers, male or female, in at least nine months, according to an EEOC report filed in September. When I brought up this issue at the city council meeting, city officials and community leaders(of which only one even spoke) did not see these figures as a problem or they did not seem to think that the EEOC figures were correct. If the latter is true, then I would like to see the numbers that actually are correct and if those different numbers exist, I would then ask the city of Riverside why it is sending erroneous statistics on the department's racial and gender breakdown to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

One community leader told her story of referring a Latina to the police department and that this process was going well. And she's right, the progress towards producing a department that mirrors the communities it serves comes in baby steps like that. Still, there needs to be an examination of the larger picture.

The reality is also that officers of all different races and genders and backgrounds came to be in the police department following different paths. Some cases, through the more traditional recruiting methods. Others were recruited through the equivalent of searching for a needle in a haystack. How many were hired outside of the usual fishing holes? Probably quite a few, including male Latinos and women. There are some good stories out there and perhaps the personnel and training division should put some of them in a handbook and distribute it and the first recipient on the list should be Adams. At least to remind itself and people like him that good officers of all races and both genders come from many different places. You just have to be a good fisherman like what's-his-name.

One can only hope that none of these individuals who weren't hired through the traditional recruitment pool were sitting in the audience when Adams made his comments. But then it would be doubtful that it is the first time they would have heard this attitude while in Riverside.

Officer Cheryl Hayes, who is one of the hardest working recruiting officers in the department's recent history had an interesting story about her career path. She began her career as a dispatcher. Now, she talks to women who start out wanting to be dispatchers and tells them that they can be police officers like her. She is also the department's second most senior Black female officer, a visible presence that shows that Black women are working as police officers. Since she began working in this division, the department has hired only its third Black female officer and has employed one who is a cadet.

Adams should receive some slack for his comments, as the department that employed him in the 1980s has moved on. The practices that Adams believed were appropriate back in the day, are not viewed quite the same way today, one decade and one stipulated judgment later. When you look at Adams, you are looking at an era that hopefully, is on its way to going bye-bye. By the time the expenses from that era came up past-due, the total costs to the city's residents were $22 million and counting. Not that the department does not still have its work cut out for it in many ways but it is hopefully working towards finishing an era that it and the city can't afford(including financially) to repeat. Still, it remains very much a work in progress with many challenges lying ahead.

Adams also blasted mentorships which have proved effective at improving retention in other law enforcement agencies as "remedial training" for those who can not cut it and should be out of the department. However, mentoring programs for both female and male officers and their families have provided dividends for many law enforcement agencies which operate in the modern day world. Men of color and female officers have benefited greatly, but what Adams is showing through his statements deriding these programs is that these officers clearly are not as valued as their White male counterparts. Ironically, White male officers benefit from mentoring programs as well.

Then Police Chief Russ Leach stood up to respond to questions on this issue and appeared to compare mentoring and other strategies for retaining officers as a form of "scared straight" presentation to new candidates before they enter the peace officer academies, so they know what police work is all about. If they drop out at what Leach called the "pre-academy" level, it was better, because it would save the city a lot of money.

The problem is that even by Leach's own admission earlier this year, quite a few of the candidates who dropped out recently, as was the case in the past during this phase of training, have been women including women of color. The statistic presented earlier this year, was as many as eight women dropping out, at least half at the pre-academy level. Capt. Pete Esquival, who formerly headed the department's Personnel and Training division, said several months later, it was three women who had dropped out.

You can look at new officers of all races and genders as commodities, or considering the expenditure put out by the city even to bring them to the pre-academy level, as investments. Candidates drop out at all levels of the process, for different reasons. Some of them do so because they find that they really do not want to be police officers. Others do so because they still do, but not at the RPD. Others just get discouraged because they look around and do not see anyone there who looks like them or understands what it is to be a female officer in training or a person of color who is training to be an officer or both. White male officers do not have to look far to see plenty of officers, field training officers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains who share their racial and gender identities. They see so many of them, many of them do not give it a second thought, take it for granted and question why it is important for others to have those experiences as they do.

A possible investigative technique to determine why women and men have dropped out at the pre-academy phase could include exit interviews of the women and men who drop out(as opposed to "washed out" or "couldn't cut it", two red flag terms if there ever were any), interviews of the officers who interact with these candidates, and perhaps even audio or video taping these interactions between trainee and "tour guide" for training purposes. Any process that is "working" involving a governmental agency can stand up to periodic examination without protest.

If there are good candidates who drop out, there are also candidates who survive that process who may not be the best candidates to be employed by the RPD. During the past several years, several RPD officers have been arrested and/or fired for being child molesters, planting evidence on individuals, the off-duty evasion of police officers while driving and other administrative or criminal offenses. These candidates likely survived this "survival of the fittest" process without experiencing many problems. Those came later on when they could really do damage to the department and the public through their misconduct. So, this process is not fool-proof yet it is apparently serving primarily as a litmus test to see who can survive it rather than as a measure to improve retention, from the descriptions provided by people who talk about it.

After all, any process that is designed as a weeding out process, does not serve to improve retention, even if it is advertised that way.

Mentoring and other similar strategies may be four letter words in some Riverside circles, but elsewhere they have served as useful tools for retention implemented by law enforcement agencies tackling with these same issues.

Sgt. Wilma Purcell of Ann Arbor Police Department in Michigan conducted research on whether a mentoring program would increase the retention rates in her agency. She selected the Communications Unit to perform her study so she could evaluate the effects of the program before taking it department-wide. At the time, the communications unit had a poor retention rate and she was trying to find a solution that would increase it, while minimizing financial costs.

Mentoring for Retention

Her research had taught her that mentoring was proactive and good at honing skills like leadership ability, communication and networking skills. It boosted department morale and did not cost very much. One important point however became very clear:

Police chiefs, upper management and line officers needed to endorse the principles as valid and viable for a mentoring approach to succeed.

Purcell goes further in her report by stating that although it is more common for law enforcement officers to embrace mentoring as a strategy to improve retention and boost morale, there are still traditionalists who frown upon it, believing it is "soft" and doesn't belong in law enforcement. Obviously Purcell has met her share of people like Steve Adams. What is interesting about Adams' derogatory comments about mentoring and other retention strategies is that even in his day, mentoring of some sort was always taking place. The only difference is that as Purcell stated, it was a more "closed and covert" system involving only a few select individuals, rather than more open and up front and allowing all employees to participate and thus benefit.

In his book, Brotherhood of Corruption, former Chicago Police Department narcotics detective Juan Antonio Juarez and other officers called their mentors, who were higher ranking officers, "The China men". These officers in management were instrumental to getting Juarez and others assigned to the department's narcotics unit, he wrote in his book. So informal mentoring of officers by other officers existed long before official programs were created.

Brotherhood of Corruption site

One of the reasons why Purcell stated that she chose the Communications unit, other than because it was a small manageable starting point for the process, was that she was hoping that positive feedback from its beneficiaries would reach sworn officers in the rest of the department and that they would have incentive to volunteer for the process rather than feel they were either pushed to sign up at its beginning or that they were excluded from the process.

Another useful tool, which was cost-effective to use in addressing retention, was the exit interview for employees who had left the agency. Purcell added that it was important to wait at least six months after the employee's departure to give that person a chance to recover from the experience, in order to answer the questions.

The United States Department of Justice in 2001 through its Office of Justice Programs division , published a guide for the recruitment and retention of female officers. The benefits of hiring more female officers were many, according to research conducted on the issue.


Research conducted both in the United States and internationally clearly demonstrated that women police officers use a style of policing that relies less on physical force. They are better at defusing and de-escalating potentially violent confrontations with citizens and are less likely to become involved in incidents of excessive force. Additionally,women officers often possess better communication skills than their male counterparts and are better able to facilitate the cooperation and trust required to implement a community policing model.

In 2001, only 14.1% of law enforcement officers in the United States were women. That figure has not changed very much in the last five years. The percentage of women in the RPD is lower still, currently nearly 9%. Women of color make up less than 25% of all female officers and less than 2% of total officers in the police department.

Interestingly for all the talk that female applicants are dropping out of the RPD during the pre-academy phase because they can't cut it after seeing first-hand what policing in Riverside is like, there are actually higher percentages of women working as police officers in larger agencies in cities with "tougher" streets than those in Riverside.

In the Los Angeles Police Department for example, female officers comprise 18.9% of all officers according to these figures from 2002. The percentages of women of color including Black, Latina and Asian-American officers are much higher than in the RPD. In 2004, women accounted for 17% of all sworn officer positions in the New York Police Department, a figure noted in this speech by Deborah J. Daniels, the assistant attorney general, in charge of the Office of Justice Programs in the D.O.J. So what is really at work here?

That office published the following report.

Recruiting and retaining women

This manual addresses the problem of recruiting and retaining qualified women to be police officers and included various strategies to address each issue. The major suggestion for enhancing the recruitment of female candidates was to widen the pool from which a department selects its candidates.

For retention, the manual also suggested that mentoring be used to increase retention. Many female officers often felt isolated and feel there is no one to talk to regarding advice and support. Mentoring helps fill this gap.


The goal of creating such programs is to cultivate one-to-one partnerships between new and veteran officers that will encourage employees to reach their fullest potential as law enforcement professionals.

Other strategies for improving the retention of women involved a zero-tolerance of sexual discrimination, racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation(for filing complaints) in the workplace. Updating the evaluation process to accommodate a community policing philosophy and providing positive feedback and awards for efforts and successes made in implementing community policing.

The National Center of Women and Policing has dedicated itself to the efforts of recruitment and retention in the workplace. It provides the following services to law enforcement agencies who are serious about improving their records in this area.

Assistance Available to Law Enforcement Agencies:

To assist law enforcement agencies that wish to increase the number of women employees in their workforce, the National Center for Women & Policing offers the following services:

o A regional training seminar on recruiting and retaining women. This 2-day seminar helps law enforcement agencies develop effective recruiting programs to increase the number of female employees.

o Online updates to the self-assessment guide. New programs in law enforcement agencies across the country are described on the Web site and readers can gain access to the latest research about women in policing and other critical issues (

o Onsite consulting by a team of professional law enforcement experts to help agencies identify and remove obstacles to recruiting and retaining women.

For additional information on these services, contact the National Center for Women & Policing at 323-651-2532 or via e-mail

The International Association of Police Chiefs also addressed the challenges of hiring female officers and tried to come up with an action plan to help law enforcement officers grappling with these issues. The association created an ad-hoc committee to deal with these issues, but mirroring a problem in law enforcement, it staffed the committee with female law enforcement management personnel and placed a man in charge. A survey of IAPC's members was conducted, with 97% of those being male and only 3%, female.

The future of women in policing

The fact that so few women were interviewed on issues that pertain to them and other women in their profession did impact the study, because the observations of male executives in management about female law enforcement officers including those in their own agencies would obviously differ greatly from responses given by women holding those positions. Since the basis of the entire report rested on the responses by its surveyed officers, it did provide a masculine slant on the issue. However, the results were very interesting.

The study did show that law enforcement agencies that were committed to recruiting and retaining women did have strategies in place to assist in that effort including mentorships and strong sexual discrimination and harassment policies, complete with enforcement of those policies. Virtually all medium and large law enforcement agencies did have these policies in place but differed in how effectively they were enforced.

Mentoring programs did not fare as well. Only 13% of all agencies surveyed had mentoring programs for women, with the percentage being between 20-25% at the larger sized agencies. The IACP report cited this as an area of great concern, citing how mentoring programs greatly benefited retention in the agencies that did provide them to women.

The IACP report made a series of recommendations in terms of increasing the recruitment and retention of women in law enforcement. Many are similar to those brought up in other investigations.

1) Educate local agencies on the importance of gender diversity

2) Design a comprehensive approach: Turning intentions into action

3) Advertise and recruit: Attract qualified women

4) Screen and hire: Bring on the best candidates

5) Train on sexual harassment: A zero tolerance approach

6) Train on gender discrimination: Recognition and reduction

7) Avoid actionable behavior: Understand litigation issues

8) Establish policies: Improve the role of women in policing

9) Mentor women officers: Strengthen the potential for longevity

10) Improve promotional strategies: More women in leadership roles

11) Evaluate agency action: Understand progress towards diversity

12) Expand research initiatives: Increase understanding of the issues

These recommendations seem like an excellent place to start in terms of addressing the issue of the recruitment and retention of women in the police department. However, they exclude the role that barriers based on racial discrimination in addition to those based on gender discrimination play in terms of affecting women of color who enter into law enforcement. Women of color in law enforcement often face both institutional racism and sexism inside their agencies and both impact their retention. Addressing barriers to women as a gender in law enforcement is only a partial solution to increasing the hiring and retention of women of color. Consequently, addressing racism must be part and parcel to addressing problems recruiting and retaining women of color in law enforcement or the strategies used to address sexism will not be effective.

The city council meeting did not provide me with great confidence in the department's commitment to fulfilling objective #1.5 of the Strategic Plan, dealing with ethnic, racial and gender diversity in the police department. It is likely that the percentage of women officers will continue to drop in the upcoming months.

In fact, I was surprised at some of the comments that were made(though not as much by Adams) and the response that they received. They just serve as a reminder that if you look behind you on the path towards reform, you can see that a great distance has been traveled but if you look ahead, the horizon still appears to be off in the distance and like any horizon, still elusive.


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