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, November 07, 2006

Litigating Rabb, take two

The second law suit to be filed in the officer-involved death of Terry Rabb was filed on Monday, Nov. 6 in U.S. District Court. It was filed by his father, four sisters and two daughters and alleged that Rabb's civil rights were violated when two Riverside Police Department officers and two fire fighters who worked for the city responded to a 911 call involving him that was made by his friends on Oct. 2, 2005.

The law suit stated that Rabb's rights were violated because he was an African-American and that he was denied mandatory medical care. It is filed against the two officers, Camillo Bonome and John Garcia, the city of Riverside and the county of Riverside and asks for damages of $20 million.

Terry Rabb's family files law suit

Tim Gaffery, who works for the law firm that filed this law suit called me last week, explaining that there were questions as to why instead of providing Rabb with medical care, he was subjected to a "chokehold" and being handcuffed. A major issue he raised was training, a common mantra these days involving a law enforcement agency that just completed an arduous consent decree imposed by State Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

This is the second law suit filed in the Rabb case. The first was filed last week by his daughter, Terre Rabb in Riverside County Superior Court, asking for damages, funeral costs and an injunction against the use of excessive force and the denial of medical care.

The Rabb case became the second incustody death to result in civil litigation joining the 2004 shooting of Summer Marie Lane. Litigation has also been initiated in the officer-involved deaths of Lee Deante Brown and Douglas Steven Cloud, both in 2006.

There have been five officer-involved deaths in relation to the police department in the last 12 months.

The city denies any responsibility in the allegations made in the federal law suit. The city has yet to respond in court to either law suit.


Jeb Brown, a supervising deputy Riverside city attorney, said he had not seen the federal court lawsuit, but was aware of the incident.

"It was fully investigated by the Police Department and we don't believe the officers' actions played any role in Mr. Rabb's untimely demise," Brown said Monday.

Rabb died at a local hospital after going into cardiac arrest minutes after being restrained by the two officers. His friends had called for emergency assistance after he experienced a severe hypoglycemic episode and began acting strangely. One of the friends told dispatchers that he was "tearing up shit" in the apartment. It was dispatched as a 51/50 call.

Both officers arrived onscene shortly after, and one of them, Bonome, allegedly made comments that Rabb appeared to be on PCP or crack, which infuriated a friend of Rabb's who was in hearing range. The alleged comments were never investigated by the police department, and Bonome only turned on his digital audio recorder after Rabb lost consciousness.

Neither crack nor PCP were discovered in toxicology tests on Rabb. The dispatcher had provided information to both the police officers and fire fighters before they arrived that Rabb suffered from different illnesses.

The officers had restrained Rabb because he was unable to consent or refuse medical treatment that he desperately needed from the fire fighters, according to statements included in the public report on the Rabb incident by the Community Police Review Commission.

The CPRC had stated in its public report that after considering the available evidence, the two officers had been within the department's use of force policy when they restrained Rabb. However, there was concern raised by the CPRC about actions taken by the officers that led to Rabb's face being shoved into sofa cushions for an undetermined amount of time, as well as Bonome's decision to use the carotid restraint on Rabb, a maneuver that was never completed according to officers' statements. The Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's report showed there was no evidence with bruising or other trauma associated with the restraint.

The police department has a policy last updated in August 1986 that addresses 51/50 cases and officers receive training on this procedure. According to the written policy, it applies mostly to cases of mentally ill people particularly those who may be engaging in criminal behavior. There is no language on medical illness that causes an individual to be unable to understand or respond to verbal orders provided by police officers. Obviously, a 72 hour stint in a county mental health facility was not indicated for an individual suffering a severe episode of "hypoglycemic unawareness" and shock due to diabetes.

The fire fighters were unable to use force to restrain combatant patients because that is not in accordance with their department's policy, although one of them did assist the two officers in handcuffing Brown on the couch, according to his interview with CPRC investigators. Those handcuffs remained on Rabb until he stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. Unlike the two officers, the fire fighters recognized Rabb's symptoms as being from a hypoglycemic episode from the beginning. Being able to do so quickly is part of their training.

Training particularly that involving how police officers interact with the mentally ill or medically ill in Riverside has come under much recent discussion. Chief Russ Leach said at a Oct. 10 city council meeting that his department was currently researching different programs utilized by different agencies to determine which one best fit their needs. Many large and medium-sized agencies in this country already have similar programs and training in place, in most cases crisis intervention teams modeled after that created in Memphis, Tennessee.

If the attitudes expressed here are any indication, it might be a tough sell in Riverside, much like anything else that is new.

Currently, officers in the police department receive the training that is required by the state's Peace Officer Standards and Training. Many people do not believe that is enough. Crisis Intervention Team training usually requires 40 hours of intensive training.

The current, if somewhat old 51/50 policy also states that the officers may use the amount of force to affect a "detention" in accordance with law and departmental procedure. In all cases of unconscious individuals, they are to be evaluated by medical personnel and sent by ambulance to a local hospital. At the point that Rabb was transported by ambulance, he was already in cardiac arrest from which he would not recover.

Dead men tell no tales or so it's been stated.


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