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

Monday, November 20, 2006

What's past is prologue

Each month, the public safety subcommittee of the city council meets to discuss issues involving well, public safety. Since the meetings are held at 10 a.m. in the morning, few people can attend them. It's a shame, because at this one, City Manager Brad Hudson let it all hang out when it came to explaining the role he felt that the Community Police Review Commission should play in its investigation of officer-involved deaths.


Well, maybe not none, but the next best thing would be for it to hold a very small role. Perhaps smaller than Hudson's own role, which on at least one officer-involved death consisted entirely of passing the buck?

Who knows? Hudson might have thrown out the CPRC's power to investigate officer-involved deaths altogether if those damned city voters hadn't come out in droves to put the beleaguered CPRC in the city's charter. So he can't do that but if it comes out with a decision that an officer involved in the death of an individual engaged in excessive force, he can pretend that it doesn't exist, like he did on the Summer Lane case.

Hudson appeared critical of all the complaints that he had heard about the CPRC not being able to deliberate cases and release findings before the statutory period set by state law in which to discipline police officers had expired. Why, did it matter since the CPRC had no influence in whether or not Chief Russ Leach would discipline his officers. Say what? How's that for a strawman argument? No one ever alleged that the CPRC should play the role of disciplinarian over the police department. So Hudson should put his worries to rest.

Hudson waxed on about its perceived role, by starting off with complaints about the CPRC's own complaints involving problems it had meeting the statutory timeline on several officer-involved death investigations. According to state law, a police officer has to be disciplined within one year of the date of any sustained misconduct against him or her.

On two officer-involved death cases, Volne Lamont Stokes in 2003 and Terry Rabb in 2005, the CPRC reached its finding after that deadline had expired. On the Stokes investigation, the delay was blamed on the fact that it took over nine months for the commission to receive the case book on the department's investigation paired up with a lengthy process which involved the commission's decision to subpoena one of the involved officers, Tina Banfill Gould, to appear before the commission. The finding on the Stokes shooting was finally decided by the CPRC nearly two years after the shooting had occurred and it had decided for the first time not to issue a public report.

This year, delays by the police department's Internal Affairs division which took 10 months to complete its administrative review on the Rabb case made it impossible for the CPRC to meet the deadline in that case. It finally did reach a finding on that incident several weeks after that deadline had passed.

Hudson argued that the deadline was pretty much irrevelent to the commission because its role was not to provide input on discipline. This is true, but it is also an overused strawman argument. The CPRC's role in the process according to the charter is to investigate officer-involved deaths. This process includes discussing and deliberating on each case until it reaches a finding of whether or not the incident was in violation of the department's use of force policy. Its role is to pass its finding on to Hudson's office and his role is to use that finding and that determined by the police department to make a final decision.

After all, that is how citizen complaints are handled by Hudson's office and there are no arguments in that case that the CPRC is overstepping its role and recommending discipline simply because it reaches a sustained finding on a complaint. That argument seems to be limited to officer-involved deaths. Maybe Hudson and his sidekick Tom DeSantis just aren't up to it themselves unlike their predecessors including that guy who got fired several years back.

Hudson went on to say that Chief Russ Leach relies on his own investigations including that provided by the Officer-Involved Death team and Internal Affairs when making his decision on these incidents and that he's not going to wait until the CPRC reaches its findings. Certainly not if the behavior associated with the incident was "egregious".

Well, last year, ten commissioners apparently felt that there had been "egregious" behavior committed during the shooting of Summer Lane by Officer Ryan Wilson and voted unaminously that the shooting violated departmental policy. According to Hudson, he held several "consultations" with Leach on that shooting but left the final decision up to him.

So, people left the meeting wondering why the CPRC was investigating shootings at all, and the turmoil the commission faced during the past nine months began to make more sense. But at least Hudson came out and said what he said, even as his associate DeSantis appeared to fume silently.

Hudson's comments came after the CPRC's executive director, Pedro Payne had presented its quarterly report to city council members, Andrew Melendrez, Nancy Hart and Steve Adams. None of which, seemed to notice or even hear exactly what Hudson was saying. And these are two of the commission's three alleged allies sitting on the city council. With friends like these, who needs enemies? And the CPRC has plently of those as well.

Though with five officer-involved deaths committed by RPD officers during a twelve month period, it's pretty obvious that another accountability mechanism that has worked so well in the past has once again moved into the forefront and that is civil litigation under the 42 USSC 1983 provision. During the past year, three law suits have been filed in state and federal court involving the deaths of Lane and Rabb. Two more claims for damages have been submitted to the city attorney's office and risk management division in connection with the fatal shootings of Lee Deante Brown and Douglas Steven Cloud.

There might also be one filed by Joseph Hill's family as well if information they claimed to have discovered and revealed at the last CPRC meeting about Officer Jeffrey Adcox's failed attempt to get hired by a different law enforcement agency before being hired by the RPD is true. We shall see if and when that case is brought to a public arena even if it's not the CPRC.

Speaking of litigation involving law enforcement, try looking a little further west today

Meanwhile, back at U.C.L.A., the officer who tased student Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23 broke his silence after being interviewed in a Los Angeles Times article. It turns out that Officer Terrance Duren is no stranger to trouble.

Officer who tased man was fired before coming to U.C.L.A.

Duren, who is African-American has already been terminated from one law enforcement agency before being hired by U.C.L.A. and also was recommended for termination from his current agency, after several incidents including an officer-involved shooting and an alleged beating that occurred on U.C.L.A.'s fraternity row.

Here is Duren's history in his own words.


Duren said Monday that he joined the UCLA police force after being fired from the Long Beach Police Department in the late 1980s. He said he was a probationary officer at the time and was let go because of poor report-writing skills and geographical knowledge.

In May 1990, he was accused of using his nightstick to choke someone who was hanging out on a Saturday in front of a UCLA fraternity. Kente S. Scott alleged that Duren confronted him while he was walking on the street outside the Theta Xi fraternity house.Scott sued the university, and according to court records, UCLA officials moved to have Duren dismissed from the police force. But after an independent administrative hearing, officials overturned the dismissal, suspending him for 90 days.

Duren on Monday disputed the allegations made by Scott.

In October 2003, Duren shot and wounded a homeless man he encountered in Kerckhoff Hall. Duren chased the man into a bathroom, where they struggled and he fired two shots.The homeless man, Willie Davis Frazier, was later convicted of assaulting an officer. Duren said Frasier had tried to grab his gun during the struggle. But Frazier's attorney, John Raphling, said his client was mentally ill and didn't do anything to provoke the shooting.

Campus administrators have said that they have received a flurry of emails and phone calls from students' parents and alumni about the incident. Given this latest information, the fire storm that has erupted on the campus regarding the latest video to be seen around the world has probably just begun.


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