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 08, 2006

More drops in the bucket

A San Bernardino County supervisor is taking fire for some comments she made, while joking with other county employees, according to this story in the Press Enterprise.


"After I said, 'Get home safe, get home alive,' I said, 'Shoot first, ask questions later. I will take care of the lawsuits,' " Gonzales said in a telephone interview Thursday.

She added that she was joking when she said the comments, which were her last before she left the stage.

The comments were made by Josie Gonzalez during a training session with county employees on how to deliver good customer service.

Luis Carillo, the attorney for a United States Air Force captain who was shot by a San Bernardino County Sheriff deputy earlier this year did not see the humor in Gonzalez’s words.


Whether it is serious or not, you don't want to spread the word that it is OK to shoot people," said Luis Carrillo, the attorney for U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Elio Carrion, who was wounded by a sheriff's deputy in January.

"It is totally outrageous," Carrillo said when told of the supervisor's comments. "That is not what we need from elected officials."

Carrion's shooting was captured on video and the footage was aired throughout the world.

Deputy Ivory J. Webb, jr. who shot Carrion faces criminal charges in San Bernardino County Superior Court. No doubt he and his attorney probably didn’t find Gonzalez’s comments funny either.

Next time, you feel tempted to make a comment like this as a "joke", don't or at least reserve these conversations to closed sessions when you are discussing civil law suits filed in connection with your county's law enforcement agency. That way, you can joke about it quite frequently and not be written up in the daily newspaper.

The Los Angeles Police Department is back in the news again, with you guessed it another videotaped incident. This time, however the department took quick action and arrested the officer involved, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

LAPD officer arrested in attack on teen

On the tape, Officer Sean Joseph Meade, 41 is apparently shown applying a “chokehold” on a handcuffed teenaged Latino man inside a holding room.

Chief William Bratton condemned the behavior, had Meade taken into custody and even contacted the FBI.


Bratton said the alleged attack on the teenager was "without any physical provocation."

"Based on what I and my command staff witnessed on the video, we felt the behavior was nothing that we as a department can tolerate or condone," Bratton said.

A former LAPD chief criticized the department. Bernard Parks, now a councilman, said that this latest incident indicated serious problems inside the department.

"It is apparent that there is a crisis in the LAPD."

As someone who led that agency for five years, one would think Parks would probably be in the know.

The latest incident prompted some discussion at the LAPD’s own blog

“Policegirl” left a comment in support of Meade.

"This seems completely out of character for the Sean Meade I know. Before he is tried in the court of public opinion, please be respectful of the fact that he not only has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, he has friends and family who may be reading this blog. Let the investigation and the law take its course.”

Maybe this is the “Sean” you didn’t know, the side of him he shows when his friends aren’t around. In this case, the video camera was not his friend.

The intrigue continues out in Redlands, with the investigation into allegations that the department was giving out its work-related disability retirements in a fraudulent fashion. An investigation into this matter is ongoing, but recently the city cleared Capt. Thomas Fitzmaurice of any wrongdoing in an investigation stemming from a conversation that Head of Administrative Services Marjie Pettus had with former City Manager John Davidson.

In that conversation, she had alleged that Fitzmaurice was “dirty” and had heard that he lied on the witness stand during court proceedings. Davidson had believed that the comments meant that Fitzmaurice was a “Brady” officer although the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office denied there were any Redlands Police Department officers on the county’s “Brady” list.

Is anyone actually on the "Brady" list that still has a job at a law enforcement agency? If these agencies were handling any police officers determined to have perjured themselves properly, there wouldn't be such a list because they would all be unemployed. Perhaps with work-related disability retirements as the city of Redlands moves away from Fitzmaurice and towards its next administrative investigation.

A separate but related investigation into whether or not the department is misusing its disability retirements is still being conducted, after allegations of possible fraudulent behavior were raised after at least three officers retired this year after being investigated for allegations of misconduct.

One officer was allegedly given a work-related disability retirement after facing discipline and possible termination after being investigated by the department for viewing adult-related internet sites on the job. Another was given a retirement in lieu of being disciplined for what was called "a number of alleged violations of departmental policy". A third was given a retirement within a week after the city settled a law suit filed against him.

In at least one of those cases, a retirement was allegedly given even after a doctor said that that officer had not experienced significant medical impairment.

Retirement deals probed

An expert in the article said that at least 66% of all retirements by Redlands' police officers were work-related disabilities, a figure he believed was excessive. A more normal range would be between 30-40% of all retirements.

The curious thing about this situation is that there is a law enforcement agency actually being investigated for how it's been handing out disability retirements to its officers. Several years ago, the city of Riverside was handing out similar retirements like candy, most notably to three of the five police officers involved in the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998. One of them, Michael Alagna had allegedly suffered a shoulder injury several days before the shooting. Two years after being fired for his role in the shooting, Alagna was reinstated and later given a work-related disability retirement due to an injury that hadn't even kept him out of work that long if even at all. If that injury had been truly incapacitating in order to necessitate a retirement, he probably would have been on the injured list and consequently would not have been working on Dec. 28, 1998, the last day he would ever report to work. But he did work that day and fired at least five shots from his gun at Miller allegedly with his "bad" shoulder.

Alagna's retirement

Despite suffering what the city of Riverside represented as a career ending injury, Alagna was hired several years ago as a sheriff deputy up in San Joaquin County. He still collects his retirement from his stint in Riverside, while working in law enforcement some place else. The Press Enterprise criticized the practice of "double dipping" which is legal in this editorial, but it didn't challenge the legitimacy of what was done in terms of whether Alagna's injury really had prevented him from working as a police officer while in Riverside.

Reaction in San Joaquin County

Alagna's former colleagues Wayne Stewart and Gregory Preece also received cash payments and similar retirements. Stewart received his plus $100,000 in cash after the city council had initially voted in an earlier closed session to appeal his reinstatement at the court of appeals. When people stopped protesting at City Hall about Stewart's reinstatement, the city council quietly ended the case just after Labor Day in 2003.

More recently, former officer, Tina Banfill Gould received a disability retirement after having been threatened with termination, suspended, threatened with termination again and then finally retired in March 2005 not long after she refused to answer questions from the Community Police Review Commission after it had issued her a subpoena to appear before it. The discipline centered around her decision not to be interviewed in a particular room at the investigation division's headquarters after being involved in a fatal onduty shooting.

While this is going on, legitimate work-related disability claims go ignored, drag through the system or the employees have to deal with red tape before even being able to receive medical treatment, let alone receive a retirement as several city employees explained during the period of time the city was granting these ahem, retirements. Several of them even complained to the city council.

A detective in the Riverside Police Department has started a new Web site to document the history of this police agency. You can read about it here.

Det. Mike Eveland's site:

RPD remembers

Eveland includes an article about an old departmental program called Policemen: Agents of Change, which was implemented in 1974 in attempts to improve relations between the RPD and Latino communities in Riverside including the Eastside and Casa Blanca. One of its officers, Gerry Carroll who discussed his own experience in the Eastside later was appointed as police chief some years later.

Agents of change program

It's too bad the department doesn't have a program like that today. Usually police officers ask that city residents walk in their shoes. Here was one program where apparently the shoes were on the other feet. Apparently, the officers who participated in the program were none the worse to wear for it.


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