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

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday tidings from coast to coast

It looks like members of the Riverside Sheriffs' Association will not be facing criminal charges from the United States Attorney's office after all, according to an article published in today's Press Enterprise.

Federal probe of deputies' union ends

The beleagured labor union celebrated and called the federal agencies' decision to drop the case as a vindication of its innocence of allegations which were made through a series of anonymous faxes that were sent to different stations in the Riverside County Sheriff's Department during at least two separate time periods this year. These faxes were unsigned and alleged that there was corruption inside the sheriffs' association. An investigation was soon initiated by both the FBI and the Department of Labor which included a raid that was conducted on the association's headquarters.

The sheriff's department's response to the news was a bit more guarded.


Riverside County Undersheriff Neil Lingle said his department had not received official word from the U.S. Attorney's Office that the case has been closed.

"However, we have learned preliminarily that they are not going to seek federal charges because of a lack of resources," he said, without elaborating. "As with all of these types of cases, we will now have to determine if there have been any violations of departmental policy and move forward accordingly."

Michael J. Proctor, attorney for the Legal Defense Fund division of the association, said that on a scale of one to 10, his clients had received a 10 for exoneration as if he were talking about a gymnastics meet. The joint investigation was conducted to determine whether the dues of the union's members placed in the defense fund had been misappropriated by several board members and a former trust officer when they were spent on legal fees surrounding civil and criminal actions involving a former deputy. Hopefully, that wasn't the case. Every member of a labor union including those in law enforcement agencies should be able to trust that their financial contributions are being appropriately spent. When that trust is undermined, it produces a bad situation that isn't completely erased by annoucements such as this one.

Earlier news:

Federal warrant served at Riverside Sheriffs' Association

Everyone will have to wait and see whether this latest development in FaxGate elicits another flurry of faxes during the holiday season.

A former Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputy received bad news when a Riverside County Superior Court jury convicted him of 10 felony charges including conflict of interest, misappropriation of funds and grand theft.

Ex-RCC administrator convicted of 10 felonies

William O'Rafferty who was formerly an administrator at both Riverside Community College and the Ben Clark Training Academy faces up to eight years in state prison. Two other former deputies and administrators, Steve Bailey and Ron Curtin plead guilty to lessor charges and received restitution fines and probation.

Several jurors commented on the case afterwards, according to the news article.


Three members of the jury said outside the courtroom that they found the evidence against O'Rafferty overwhelming.
Joel Ballina, 53, called the case straightforward.

"There was no way to interpret the law any differently," said Ballina, a maintenance mechanic.

Laury Godwin, another member of the jury, said it was not easy decision, but that she was convinced O'Rafferty "used his role" for his personal financial gain. Godwin said she is a teacher who works for the state and that it was clear to her that O'Rafferty's actions were wrong.

Another member of the jury, Joan McCullough, a homemaker, said it was a tough decision, but that she also believed O'Rafferty was guilty.

McCullough added that she didn't think that Palo Verde and RCC administrators did their jobs well.

"Unfortunately, we don't all believe we broke the law when we park illegally, but we still get the fine and have to pay," McCullough said.

Earlier articles by San Diego Union-Tribune

Defendent testifies at embezzlement trial

Prosecution witness testifies

Further testimony in embezzlement trial

The Los Angeles Times published an article today about how fewer LAPD complaints were upheld pertaining to gender bias while former Deputy Chief Michael Berkow supervised the department's internal affairs division. According to the article, the percentage of sustained complaints in this category decreased from 25% to only 10% during his tenure.

Surprise, surprise.

After all, Berkow is currently under investigation for allegations that he had given promotions to female officers he had slept with. These accusations stemmed from a law suit filed by a female officer which is currently under litigation and they erupted into the public sphere after court records in that case were made public.

The reaction even among those in the department was immediate.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

"The public should be real concerned," said LAPD Det. Art Placencia, president of the Latin American Law Enforcement Assn. "That's a real big red flag. They did a mediocre job."

Placecia's association has filed discrimination claims against the department. He also said that the department was reluctant to sustain complaints involving discrimination because of fear that the city would then have to pay out on discrimination law suits. During a six year period which included Berkow's tenure, not one discrimination complaint was sustained.

Another attorney who has also represented LAPD officers in similar cases also said that this development is a big concern, because it showed that the sustain rate of particular complaints went down at the same time the head of the internal affairs division may have been engaging in similar misconduct.

The sustain rate on complaints in the LAPD was lower overall than in previous years even though the number of complaints filed has increased, especially since the department committed "stings" to improve the process as required under its federal consent decree.


In its annual report to the Police Commission, the group reported a sustained rate on complaints of 36% in 2001 and 26% in 2002. In the year Berkow joined the department, 2003, the sustained rate stayed at 26%. It dropped to 23% in 2004 and to 21% in 2005, the last year for which the report was filed.

As far as those people in Savannah, Georgia who now employee Berkow are concerned, they have decided to wait and see how it all turns out before deciding whether or not to keep him employed in their midst.

Coverage in Savannah, Georgia:

(courtesy of Savannah Now)

City Manager delays decision on city's new police chief


Absolutely, something will be done. But the case needs to go through its course."

---Savannah City Manager Michael Brown, Dec. 20

Apparently, Brown and the city he manages hired Berkow sight unseen, not even knowing about his alleged affair with a subordinate until this week.

"We knew he had marital difficulties. We did not ask these firms to get into personal lives," Brown said. "In hindsight, I see it as a factor in his job. It does call into question his judgment."

Beware of things that come in strange packages and that includes lateral officers even at the top of the chain of command and the background checks of lateral candidates may not catch everything, especially if the agency that last employed them no longer wants to keep them. It's not clear yet exactly what was the case involving Berkow.

Savannah's city council apparently had little clue of what was going on but the city's mayor, Otis Johnson planned to brief them during a meeting behind closed doors.


"I don't know what effect it's going to have on the department," the mayor said about the revelations.

"But it's my expectation that Berkow is going to work his you-know-what off to prove that he's worthy of remaining here. That's what I expect."

One city official described the embarassing episode as a "soap opera" while another asked for a thorough investigation adding that he didn't believe that Brown's investigation had been thorough enough.


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