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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Shades of Diallo: People are people

Seven years after four plainclothed New York Police Department officers shot and killed Amadou Diallo, after firing more than 40 bullets, another unarmed Black man was shot and killed by undercover police officers who fired at him and his two friends at least 50 times.

Groom shot by NYPD on wedding day

Dead was Sean Bell, 23, who was to be married to his long-time fiancee later that day. Also wounded were Trent Benefield, 23 and Joseph Guzman, 31 who suffered three and 11 bullet wounds respectively. For a while, both men were handcuffed to their hospital beds.

A New York Times article stated that the men were briefly handcuffed according to the police department, until it could be established that they were unarmed. Presumably that would have been done and that issue resolved before they were placed in hospital beds, let alone turned over to doctors to treat their injuries.


A woman who said she was Mr. Benefield’s mother but did not give her name, said her son had been treated like a criminal.

“He’s got a shattered leg,” she said. “And he’s handcuffed. Right hand, left leg.”

The shooting took place after the three men left a bachelor party at a strip club in Queens. The NYPD refuses to comment on the shooting, but one unidentified sergeant at the department allegedly said "it's as confusing as hell." A grand jury investigation has been initiated.

One unidentified officer with 13 years on the force fired 31 times, emptying two magazines at the car. Two White officers, two Hispanic officers and One Black officer were involved according to the department.

The police department released this preliminary statement on its version of events.

NYPD officers involved in shooting

(excerpt, New York Times)

In a statement, Commissioner Kelly said that about 4 a.m. a group of men confronted a man outside the strip club and that one man in the group yelled, “Yo, get my gun.”

The altercation broke up, and the men separated into two groups, with an undercover officer following one group. The men being followed by the undercover officer got into the Altima that then hit the minivan.

The police said that one officer who leaped from the minivan, a 12-year police veteran, fired 31 times, and an undercover officer with nine years on the force fired 11 times. The other officers fired three, four and five times. Shell casings from the officers’ 16-shot, 9-millimeter semiautomatic weapons littered the street; at least 40 were later recovered. A fourth person may have been in the Altima, police said.

One of Bell's relatives was nearly speechless after hearing the news of Bell's death.

Robert Porter, who identified himself as Bell's first cousin, said he was supposed to be a DJ at the wedding. He said about 250 people were invited to the ceremony and were flying in from all over the country. He said his cousin wasn't the type to confront police and that he was "on the straight-and-narrow."

"I can't really express myself. It's a numb feeling," Porter said. "I still don't want to believe it, a beautiful day like this, and he was going to have a beautiful wedding, he was going to live forever with his wife and children. And this happened."

Bullets fired by five police officers went flying everywhere according to eyewitnesses. Hitting cars, houses and a train station. Bullets that probably would not have been flying as haphazardly on Fifth Avenue or Park, or any of the more affluent neighborhoods.

(excerpt, New York Times article)

One neighbor said his car was hit by three bullets and a fourth smashed through his front window, piercing a lamp in the living room.

“There was bullets all over the place,” said Paul Gomes, 31, who awoke to the barrage of gunfire and pulled his wife and children onto the floor.

Robert and Vivian Hernandez, residents of Liverpool Street, were watching television when they heard the crashing of bullets and people yelling. When the gunfire finally died down, they went outside and saw a man leaning on a fence and moaning, “They shot me in the leg.”

Mr. Kelly said that two Port Authority Police Officers suffered minor facial injuries at a nearby AirTrain facility when one of the bullets shattered a window.

One police officer suffered abrasions. Another was hospitalized for hypertension.

A noon vigil is planned today on the day that would have been the second day of Bell's married life, by his family members.

Family plans vigil after fatal shooting

The Reverend Al Sharpton asked the question that many others have asked in the past 24 hours as well.

"How does one justify 50 shots at unarmed men?" Sharpton asked.

He forgot to mention unarmed Black men.

After all, Diallo stood on the stoop of his residence unarmed when four officers shot at him 41 times, while they were allegedly looking for a rape suspect in that neighborhood. Here in Riverside, Tyisha Miller, a Black woman, died inside her aunt's car with a gun on her lap for her protection as a lone woman in a "bad" neighborhood after four police officers shot at her at least 24 times. None of the gun shots that struck her body were to the front of her body.

Many a battered White woman came forward after the Miller shooting and spoke of nights they had spent sleeping in their cars after leaving their homes, with only a gun for protection. Others wished they had been able to do so and were upset about the shooting. Would police officers have viewed them as dangerous criminals as they had viewed Miller without knowing anything about her background at the time? Would they have hi-fived and re-enacted the shooting afterwards? These White women asked those questions just like many other people did.

In the hours that followed, Miller's death was the subject of comments and jokes in the police department, including racial comments and jokes. It was all harmless fun for those involved, until the investigations began, all from outside law enforcement agencies who looked at Riverside and no doubt wondered what the hell was going on.

The same thing happened across the country in New York City, after the shootings of several unarmed Black men including Diallo and the savage torture and beating of Abner Louima by several officers inside a bathroom at one of the station houses.

Soon after these incidents, which launched many protests in the streets of New York City just as the Miller shooting did here, the U.S. Department of Justice began its investigation of this police department. The two entities reached a settlement several years later, to reform the NYPD. Has it worked?

Often, it's never the residents who interface with the police the most in their own neighborhoods who are asked that question. Nor are they often asked what it must feel like to not only be the most to interface with police, but to be most often, the butt of humor for police officers either on or off-duty.

On Labor Day in 1998, Queens was the location of another incident involving NYPD officers, FDNY employees and a neighborhood parade. NYPD officer Joseph Locurto and FDNY fire fighters Jonathan Walters and Robert Steiner created a float that depicted racist stereotypes involving African-Americans including the use of blackface and afro wigs, eating watermelon. At the back of the float, there was a depiction of the horrible torture and death of James Byrd, jr. by White Supremacists who had chained him to the back of their pickup truck. The inclusion of this hate crime was intended to be humorous, but few outside of that particular crowd found it funny.

The float was titled, "Black to the Future - Broad Channel in 2098".

All three men were fired by the city, then unfired by the U.S. District Court before being refired by the appellate court, earlier this year.

Appeals Court reverses prior decision in racist float case

On April 27, 2006, the Second Circuit of Appeals in the federal court system reversed an earlier decision by one of its district courts to reinstate Locurto and the two fire fighters.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Elizabeth I. Freedman, who handled the case on appeal, stated, “We are
extremely gratified with the Second Circuit’s unanimous endorsement of the actions of the defendants in
this case. The decision properly balances the competing interests of public employees and public
employers. In this case, the Second Circuit properly balanced those interests, finding that where the
employees’ conduct threatened “to bring discredit upon the Police and Fire Departments in the minority
community,” it was constitutionally permissible for the City to fire them.

One blogger's view of the appellate decision.

Basically, what the appellate court stated is that it matters if communities of color have faith that the law enforcement agency which receives their sales tax money to protect and serve them is not harboring racist attitudes towards them. If only this were true in real life.

If it were, then police officers would not make derogatory comments about those communities or engage in racist behavior mocking those communities, based on racist stereotypes they use as substitutes for their lack of ability and certainly, willingness to see these communities as anything less than inferior, animalistic and dangerous. After all, how many of these officers go home at the end of their shifts to homes in neighborhoods that are ethnically and racially diverse? Do they go home to their often White enclaves and think of how animalistic and horrible Whites are, because they encounter violent White criminals on the job?

One year before the Queens float incident, Louima would be tortured inside a bathroom, by several officers hiding in plain sight. One year after the float incident, Diallo would encounter the officers who feared for their safety and in response, would shoot him dozens more times than it takes to kill any one man. Both were treated as if they were not human at all, by those who abused one and by those who killed the other.

Maybe to these officers, they were just animals. After all, if an officer and two fire fighters can appear on a racist float in broad daylight(and on video it turned out) depicting the same racist stereotypes, that most people believed were eradicated years ago or at least were carefully kept hidden, then how safe did they feel to act like that, knowing that their employers would find out? If their actions had not become so public outside the sphere of their own cliques, would the department's leadership have terminated their employment or kept the incident hidden? The fact that these employees including Locurto acted like this in public actually speaks volumes about the agencies that employ them.

Here in Riverside, the same investigations done in New York City and more were conducted, at least in part to address racist comments, jokes and stereotypes that were so pervasive in the department, they were also made by the sergeants who conducted the roll call sessions. That is why today, there are closed circuited cameras in that room, hooked up to different locations including the chief's office.

The Miller shooting was also preceded by years and years of racist and sexist jokes, comments and other forms of behavior which were reported in law suits filed by Officer Roger Sutton and former officers, Rene Rodriquez and Christine Keers.

Questions still exist in people's minds.

Have racist remarks, jokes and other forms of humor done at the expense of men of color and women gone away? Or have they gone underground? If it were determined that officers participated in this behavior, would they be disciplined? Would they be rewarded? Would they be disciplined and then rewarded when no one was paying attention? Would these officers be later held up as part of the new, exciting RPD? What about the ones who choose not to participate in that behavior? Are they rewarded or are they penalized by sitting and watching those who participate in this behavior get rewarded in their stead?

I ask myself these questions a bit, particularly when I get phone calls after Black men have died in police custody, which has happened three times between October 2005 and November 2006. Many others have asked them as well.

After Terry Rabb succumbed to cardiac arrest minutes after being restrained by two police officers to be treated for hypoglycemic shock, I received phone calls asking me if it was safe to call the police if you were Black and in medical distress or if the police would just assume you were on drugs, because Black people apparently don't get diabetes no matter what the dispatcher told both officers about Rabb's illnesses. One of Rabb's friends alleged that one of the officers made comments that Rabb appeared to be on an illegal drug, either crack or PCP. Rabb tested negative for both drugs and the department's investigators apparently did not question either officer about the alleged comments.

After the shooting of Lee Deante Brown, I received calls asking me if it was safe to be Black and mentally ill in Riverside and whether or not the police department had any mental illness crisis intervention training. The answer to the second question, which is no, is easier to answer than the first one. That shooting is still under investigation by the department, the Community Police Review Commission and the FBI.

After the Douglas Steven Cloud shooting, I received phone calls asking me if it was safe to be in a car accident within city limits even though Cloud was White. That shooting created a great deal of concern because many African-Americans and Latinos said that if the police shot a White man who crashed his car, how much more quickly would they shoot a man of color?

The frequency of phone calls and other contacts after the most recent shootings and incidents was last matched in 2001. People have concerns and questions, after incidents like these ones and don't receive many answers.

After the Brown shooting, over 100 local residents gathered on the street to yell and scream at police officers for shooting him, according to statements submitted by various police officers who responded to the shooting after it happened to the case investigators. More officers were quickly dispatched to "control" this angry crowd. These people also live in the neighborhood that one Riverside Police Department officer apparently believes should be patrolled by animal control, which is why any concerns they have will be ignored. Both parts of this incident are disturbing, in some ways it appears like this city has come or is coming full circle since 1998.

Afterwards, the local NAACP and other organizations tried to reach out to these individuals and sponsored a public forum on the shooting. Most people were too angry to come.

Earlier this year, the department announced plans to revamp its cultural diversity training program for its officers.

Not much has been said about that new "cultural sensitivity" training that the department plans to implement this fall which will either replace or supplement the training that Leach has said is "inadequate, infrequent and insufficient". There was mention of "focus groups" and controlled dialogues where "community members" and police officers were kept segregated, but not much else has been revealed to the public at this time.

They will probably be far different than the Human Relations Commission's study circles conducted in the summer of 2003 where community members and police officers engaged in a series of dialogues. However, apparently some lieutenants who participated complained to their superiors that the sessions involved "cop bashing" so that was that, even though the participants, both community members and police officers, in the session I attended agreed it was a good beginning for building relations.

Any cultural sensitivity training should be attended by those at the top of the department's structure before it is required of those at the bottom. Recent events both here and 3,000 miles away have proven once again, they need it the most.

Meanwhile in New York City, a large crowd of angry people protest the most recent shooting there. Earlier, an organization calling itself the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care issued Commissioner Raymond Kelly a no confidence vote. Things have clearly come full circle there.

Kin holds vigil for Sean Bell


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mary is it safe to be a police officer in Riverside or is every black in the city gonna try and kill us? Check out the incidents of all RPD officers killed in line of duty and tell me of those killed, how many were committed by blacks? I beleive this study has been suggested before and you never conducted it.


Cosmo Kramer

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 1:50:00 AM  
Blogger Five Before Midnight said...

Dear Cosmo Kramer:

Thank you for responding to my thread and your new alias is just as creative and as useful at creating a window into who you really are as all of your other choices have been.

Actually, I asked around about the racial identities of those who have killed officers from the Riverside Police Department throughout its history and it is a multiracial group indeed. Pity, that you appear only to focus on those who were Black but then your history of posting here indicates that you apparently believe all Black people are either criminals or drug addicts even if they are police officers. Double the pity, if you are really a police officer anywhere, let alone in Riverside. Hopefully, you are just a teenager with an overactive imagination. Most of the time you write like one.

Of course, you and your buddy "Kevin, RPD" both fail in your ability to see Black men and women as individuals rather than as a member of some larger group, labeled "criminal", "drug addict" or in his case, "animal". Not that the department cares. If you were really working in the RPD and came out of hiding, you might be surprised at how well received you would be by that same management you whine about so much here. They might even throw you a party.

But you're too scared to find out, which is why you hide behind silly names. You're almost as scared at revealing yourself as you are scared of Black people. Maybe you're one of those officers they stick in the predominantly White neighborhoods for years because of complaints you have received by people of color. Maybe you're just a teenaged racist skinhead in one of those neighborhoods who beats up immigrants and laughs, knowing that the police department still considers your gang a social club.

Your words do explain why I'm getting all those phone calls from individuals worried about interfacing with Riverside Police Department officers. They were right to call, if your ilk looks at them and views them in the light of being a criminal, even if they are mentally ill, medically ill or unconscious. The pity is, that it's the behavior of a relatively few of them that createse that fear. Most of the officers in the police department are dedicated professionals. You just aren't one of them.

Why else would you be hiding behind the name of a sitcom character played by an actor who uses racial slurs and jokes about lynchings? Because you think that kind of thing is so funny. Pity, the city that is careless enough to employ you to protect it.

Have a nice day,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 8:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary, Cosmo doesn't hate black people and he does not think they are all criminals. He just does not like idiots, no matter the color of their skin; and the people that were mentioned are morons including Sandalou's hero, Maxine Waters. See, you're white and Cosmo thinks your an idiot. The reason nobody attended that metting hosted by the NAACP was because they were all at Western Liquor searching the payphones for left over change so they could scratch their lottery scratcher tickets that they pay for with their welfare checks. And I don't condone Cosmo's use of the "N" word. He would have been much better off using spear chucker. Im sorry, the "SC" word. As for your "sources" who say the murderers of RPD cops have been multiracial, who are your sources dear? Okay, lets start from 1970 to the present and count for me how many have been black. This is not a racist statement; It's reality. And it just goes to show how stupid your comments are about all of these people scared of "Riverside Cops." Especailly when you take the case of a whiteguy who police believed (based on witness statements)had just committed a robbery and fled the scene, and then crashed the car, and then tried to drive away as officers approached. My God, you made it sound like some white dude was in a fender bender and a couple of cops responded to the traffic accident and blew him away. Just remember Mary, when Cosmo says that O.J. murdered two white people, he's not saying it cuz O.J.'s black. He's saying it cuz O.J. murdered two white people.



P.S. Quit trying to act like you have my work schedule figured out. Maybe I call in sick a lot...Oh ya, and don't bunch me and my friends from New York in with Serpico. He was a tattle tale and we don't like tattle tales.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 8:37:00 PM  
Blogger Five Before Midnight said...

Dear "Newman":

Who said anything about your work schedule? Am I supposed to believe that you really work for the RPD? Are you even out of high school? You did once claim under a different alias that you had worked a lot of overtime or was that your former best friend forever, "Serpico"?

Now that "Serpico" has apparently ditched you after some squabble on the playground no doubt, I guess that means it's just you and your "friends". I mean aliases and a few lurking cohorts who probably are laughing at you as much as they are at me if they are still hanging around at this point.

You shouldn't be so defensive. Have a glass of milk and cookies or do some yoga. If you do really work for the police department you should let the department's management know who you are, so they can throw you a proper party. It's really not fair of them not to give you your accolades too. You whined about how management treated you ad nauseum while the violins played in the background and you and your assorted aliases threw yourself a pity party. In reality the department appears to hold officers like yourself in particularly high esteem, despite your considerable shortcomings so there's no longer any reason to hide who you are. Wasn't it you who said be true to yourself, or maybe that was well, you know who. It wasn't the other guy, the one they think only posted twice so that leaves "Serpico".

You are aware "Cosmo" is not a real person aren't you? I wasn't aware that "Serpico" had tattled on you. I just thought he was a much better storyteller. Are you jealous of him and where he is now, in neutral territory?

I'm so sorry that you and him have had a falling out. Did you have a fight in the hallway at school? He did pick better aliases if not intelligent ones.

Have a nice day,

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 8:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary, why all of the sudden interest in blogger names? You seem to be straying from Newman's comments about the white guy in the accident and the stupidity behind all of your racism propaganda. And don't act like it does not bother you when someone brings up valid points that you know make sense, and that you cannot argue with. I know you print out all of these blogger messages, hang them on your walls at home and study them for similarities. Like the times that these messages are typed, the sentence structure, how some messages don't have paragraphs and some do. And then after you stir up enough anger, you get out your thesaurus and respond with phrases and words that make you sound smart.

And I really like this new thing you have about calling some of your "blogger guests" children and using phrases like "your mommy and daddy wont let you use the computer after a certain time" or something like that. Is this another one of your attempts at psycho analysis and/or reverse psychology. You need to get a job cuz your watching too much Discovery Channel. Are you back to "blogger profiling" Ms. Shelton? And I'm starting to sense a little hostility towards those in management. It was not to long ago that you working side by side with them in an attempt identify these United States citizens who were exercising their 1st Ammendment right. So why do you think that these same people would throw a party for someone who you think is a racist?

I will credit you with posting these messages. I figured Newman's would have been deleted by you. And Cosmo Kramer is real Mary. If you do not believe me, go out and buy Season 7 of Seinfeld!!!You have to admit, that was a good one, though, Jesse would not think so.

I have to go now. Got big plans tonight. Gonna have some drinks down at Events. Logging Off now.

Venus Flytrap

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 9:49:00 PM  
Blogger Five Before Midnight said...

Dear Venus Fly Trap:

LOL, as if!

Scaredy cat. Scaredy cat. Still hiding behind your silly little aliases, lol. You must be in high school. Adults don't conduct themelves this way and if you are a police officer, you must be a sorry excuse for one indeed. I suspect if you are, at this point in your career, you know that to be true. Maybe you worked some place else, washed out there first and the RPD inherited you and your shortcomings. Then again, maybe not.

As for "helping" the department, I believe it was officers in the RPD who reported this blog to the police chief because comments including yours bothered them enough to break the code of silence to do so. I believe you derided them as tattlers here, like you just did "Serpico".

Whatever you need to tell yourself so you are not reminded of how disgusting they found your conduct, you will tell yourself. I can't think of anything more humiliating for an officer than to have his brothers report his behavior to the police chief. Can you? Of course if you're not one, it doesn't matter.

I'm starting to sense some hostility between you and your ex best friend forever "Serpico". Do spill. Did he burn you? Did he break the sacred bond of brotherhood and rat you out?

You poor thing. He ran off to neutral territory and left you behind? Did he tell on you? It's like you said, you just can't trust someone who would pick an alias like that not to turn on you. And that other guy, I wonder what he told them about you to save himself? For what it's worth, I would guess he kept his suspicions to himself.

Monday...Tuesday...Wednesday...interesting. All early evenings, well except for the other night. Will I see you Thursday? No. Friday? Maybe. Saturday, no. Sunday, maybe if it's later in the evening. You do stick to a schedule.

And hey, it's not like I follow you around sight unseen and try to tell you what you are wearing underneath your clothes in creepy detail. I'm not like you hiding behind anonymous names and making it clear that you know what neighborhood I live in.

Oh, and I'm still waiting for you to make a salient point and it's been like a year now and you are still engaging in this pathetic behavior so will you ever get to your point? You kind of hit your high point in terms of your intelligence and delivery when you were cracking jokes about fried chicken and watermelon and tossing out assorted racist stereotypes involving African-Americans. It's been all down hill from there, I see. No wonder you're running around calling yourself "Cosmo Kramer" now. How else is anyone going to pay attention to you?

Oh yeah, I forgot, weren't you the one who said he was working on his First Amendment defense? Whatever happened with that? You must not have gotten very far with it, because you are still hiding like a coward behind silly monikers, ashamed of yourself at this point to come forward with your true identity. I've got some great case law for you to use except the officer who was fired for that racist float depicting the dragging death of James Byrd, jr. something I'm sure you'd find hilarious, kind of got fired again by the appellate court. Sorry about that.

Don't forget your fake ID and decoder ring before you go,

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger Sandalou said...

So nice to see you remember me coward. Unfortunately for your profiling abilities, I haven't a clue who Maxine Waters is.

I find it hysterically amusing and scarily sad Mary that your resident inmates find it offensive that you would refer to them as children when they all want to have cartoon names so they can hide rather than face responsibility for their own words.

Friday, December 01, 2006 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Five Before Midnight said...

Dear Sandalou:

Maxine Waters is a congresswoman, who is Black who spoke at City Hall once in 1999 after the majority of the officers in the patrol division had shaved their heads to protest the firings of the four White officers who shot and killed Tyisha Miller, a young Black woman. Like many people, at first I thought it was a scabies outbreak among the White male police officers when I first saw three of them together, but it was apparently some sort of call to protest.

They claimed to be ignorant that they had adopted a symbol utilized by many White Supremacist groups, but one officer was more than happy to tell me back then that they had realized what they were doing might offend African-Americans but they didn't care. One of our current councilmen was in a front-page news photograph leaving the headshaving rally held at a local high school, but he claimed that he was just there to see what was going on.

Many of those officers are gone as a result of tremendous turnover that has taken place. I doubt anything like that would be repeated today. It's a smarter, and hopefully more enlightened crowd.

Everyone who is Black is supposed to know who Maxine Waters is, according to man-of-many-silly-aliases's view of African-Americans,which is one reason why he dropped her name. He'll be shocked at your ignorance!

Waters belonged to the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of African-Americans in Congress who played key roles in getting the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division to investigate the police department for patterns and practices of racism. I believe the head shaving campaign was an important catalyst in that effort and had sent shock waves all the way to Washington, D.C.

There's an officer who wrote a letter to the forum at the local newspaper, the Press Enterprise calling her a racist for calling them "skinheads" or something like that in her speech. I can't remember who that officer was, but I'm sure he must have used his name in the Press Enterprise which is required to get published.

Have a nice day,

Saturday, December 02, 2006 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Sandalou said...

Ah yes, that basic assumption that I am black. Why is that? Because I can spell and use punctuation? Because I see these sub-human specimens as the plague carrying rodents that they are?

Like I've said before I hope none of them are detectives because they have the deductive powers of Pavlov's dogs.

Sunday, December 03, 2006 8:08:00 PM  

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