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

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's raining reviews again

The Riverside Police Department's Internal Affairs Division is conducting a "review" of an incident involving a brawl at a local sports bar that was apparently witnessed by five police officers and a sergeant, including several who allegedly left the bar during the fight, according to an article published in today's Press Enterprise. Some people contacted me this morning about this article before I had even read it.

RPD officers present during brawl at local sports bar

The inquiry is being launched, according to the department's press information officer, Steven Frasher because of the scope of the incident. The officers were all allegedly off-duty and not in uniform at the time, yet Frasher said that some of them may not have been formally logged off of their shifts, in what he called a "technicality".

"The presence of the officers and any action they may or may not have taken will be reviewed by Internal Affairs," Frasher said. That "doesn't presuppose that there's anything wrong with what they did," he added.

The exact nature of the injuries suffered by the two victims of the fight is not known but it was assumed in the article that because charges of attempted murder were filed against two men, Sione Telua Faanunu, 26, and Siosefa Telva Faanunu, 22, that the victims were either left in a comatose condition or paralyzed as a result of their beatings. At one point, at least one of them was beaten by a table and chair. The two assailants who were apparently brothers were also charged with torture and aggravated mayhem.

The officers who stood by and watched, as "good witnesses" could wind up hindering the case as much as their observations of the melee might help it, depending on how it goes. If it goes to trial, any jury might ask itself, if this fight was really as bad as the prosecutors and their witnesses including these officers make it out to be, then why did the individuals in the bar who had the training and experience to intervene, choose not to do so? Hopefully, the fact that the officers were present and watching, if not actively intervening, might lead to the involved parties opting for plea bargains.

The fight which took place at Events Sports Grill on Nov. 10 at around 11:45 started small and turned into a melee, with the officers still present. It's not clear what shifts these police officers had worked prior to coming to the bar, which is housed in the same business complex as the newly completed Magnolia Police Station. Based on Frasher's comments in the news articles, one officer was on the phone with the dispatch center while the fight was going on, several others were acting as "good witnesses" in accordance with the departmental policy and the rest of them left the bar while the melee was ongoing.

The attorney who represents the Riverside Police Officers Association had this to say about the incident, according to the news article.


Mike Lackie, attorney for the Riverside Police Officers Association, said he had heard that officers were at the bar during the brawl. The union attorney said none of the officers was on duty.
"They were all off duty," Lackie said Friday. "There's nothing to it."

The people who contacted me were mostly upset about the officers who did nothing at all, not even in terms of being "good witnesses" for further prosecution whether it be as a criminal case involving murder, attempted murder or aggravated assault, because at the time the brawl was taking place, it was not certain how it would end and who would end it. They asked why these officers chose to simply leave the bar, rather than even remain as witnesses. I'll leave it to the police department to answer that one, because it is the agency which is most knowledgable about its own policies and procedures for situations involving its employees. Maybe that response will come on the tail to responses to questions about the process used by the department to select its candidates for the "public safety of the month" awards. The department does not appear up to answering tough questions this week.

The city might disagree with Lackie's assertion that there is nothing to it, if the victims of this beating recover enough to file a law suit against the city. Then the fact that several officers may or may have logged off duty will probably be more than just a "technicality" if there is written policy and procedure which requires it. That practice, probably more than their actions or inactions during the melee in question will probably be a major hurdle if they do get sued. A lesson the department should have learned the last time the city was sued(and later settled that law suit) involving an incident at TGIF restaurant in 1999 where determining whether the involved officers were onduty or not posed similar problems.

It will be interesting to find out what the administrative review being conducted by the Internal Affairs will reveal, except the public won't ever find out, pursuant to PC 832.7.

Over 500 people showed up at UCLA yesterday to protest the recent tasing incident involving Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a 23-year-old senior who is an Iranian-American. He was tased at least five times on Nov. 14 by UCLA police officers who showed up to eject him from the library after he did not produce a photo identification card during a "routine" check.

The students then marched to the police station, yelling, "Tasers out of UCLA" and carrying signs reading, "I am a student. Don't tase me."

UCLA administrators have also decided to hand off the investigation of this incident to Merrick Bobb who served as staff attorney to the Christopher Commission's investigation into the LAPD and currently serves as the Los Angeles County's Board of Supervisors' watch dog over the Sheriff's Department. The students and more importantly to the university, the students' parents have spoken on this incident, much to the administration's dismay.

UCLA to farm out investigation to outside resource

The police chief continued to defend the officers' actions.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times article)

UCLA Police Chief Karl Ross said the officers decided to use the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad after he went limp while they were escorting him out and urged other library patrons to join his resistance.

Mavrick Goodrich, a chemical engineering major who observed the incident, said Tabatabainejad shouted, "Am I the only martyr?"

Some witnesses disputed the officers' account, saying that when campus police arrived, Tabatabainejad had begun to walk toward the door.

However, representatives of other law enforcement agencies pointed out differences between their own policies on taser use and the tactics practiced by UCLA's officers.


Several local police agencies — including the LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department — allow officers to use Tasers only if a suspect poses a physical threat or is acting combatively.The sheriff's policies expressly say deputies can't use Tasers simply to move someone.

"We look for assaultive conduct," said Bill McSweeney, chief of the sheriff's leadership and training division "We generally don't use the Taser on passive resisters except when an individual indicates explosive action to follow, such as a verbal threat."

Assistant Police Chief Jeff Young said that his officers were allowed to use their tasers in the drive stun mode against passive resisters for "pain compliance". The drive stun mode is when officers press the taser directly against the body part, rather than using it in the mode where the device fires two probes, which send an electrical shock that incapacitates the individual.

Students continued to ask the questions which the administrative officials should be asking and perhaps would be if they weren't in damage control mode.

"Once you have him subdued, you don't have to keep Tasing him," said Rohit Mahajan, a psychobiology major who watched the video. "You could see him crying. He's not a threat. He's maybe acting like a smartass, but he doesn't" deserve that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You complain about what they did. You complain about what they didn't do. No matter what, they're wrong, right?

And, opining about tactics and legalities, which you know nothing about. Blah, blah, blah . . .

Monday, November 20, 2006 7:21:00 PM  
Blogger Five Before Midnight said...

Dear Mark,

I can still call you that, can't I? Even if you no longer do.

I could say the same thing about your complaints about reverse race and gender discrimination in a police department that is 75% White and 92% male and at the time of your alleged discrimination, included only White men within its management ranks.

It had a promotional process where only White men participated in making the selections and a White male chief made the final decisions.

Some people who have truly faced racial discrimination and a racially hostile work environment might call your attitude sour grapes. Including perhaps some of "Jerry's kids"?

Yet, you still insisted that the department was wrong, because you believe it denied you your promotion. You took your case to court, hopefully after you had completed your investigation of the complaints of racial discrimination and harassment alleged by Officer Roger Sutton, while working in Internal Affairs. An investigation which really should have gone to someone else, considering the circumstances.

Whether your law suit was right or wrong, a good portion of the city's general fund went towards paying both the legal fees for the city to defend itself against your case and its settlement. That generated interest in your case by the public. That and the fact that how the city handled it from day one led to the premature retirement of a police chief, which was also costly to the city.

Contrast that with the Black officer who never received a settlement offer, won his case in arbitration, was denied that $200,000 award, took his case to a jury at trial and became a millionaire until his attorneys took their cut. Apparently, the alleged retaliation, which the jury cited as one of the strongest parts of the case, continued into at least April 2005 when one of his watch commanders allegedly fudged with the time clock, subjecting him to the disciplinary process. If that is indeed true, it wasn't very smart. The department should really fix its clocks.

Have a nice day,

Monday, November 20, 2006 8:30:00 PM  

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