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, December 12, 2006

Shades of Diallo: "We are not target practice."

“We are not target practice.”

Those words were spoken by Abner Louima yesterday, in an article published by the New York Daily News, in response to the Nov. 25 fatal shooting of Sean Bell, 23, by five New York Police Department officers.

Louima: How many people have to die?

Louima, who now lives out of state, will travel to New York City to participate in a rally to be held on Dec. 16. It’s been nearly 10 years since he was beaten and sodomized with a broom handle by several officers inside the bathroom at one of the department’s precinct stations.

In the article, Louisma explained why he was returning to the city where it happened.


“It is something I have to do," he said. "I am a survivor. In my case, many people who I didn't even know were marching for me."

On Nov. 11, over 75 community and religious leaders including the congressman who represents Queens protested against what they call a “parallel investigation” being conducted by the police department in its attempts to track down what it said was the fourth man seen fleeing the scene of the shooting, purportedly with a gun. In recent weeks, officers allegedly with the department's internal affairs division have been arresting and detaining young Black men in Queens and interviewing others about the mystery man.

Bishop Lester Williams was particularly critical calling those conducting this investigation, “a rogue group of policemen”.

“They are not being questioned at a precinct because if they were, their attorneys would get involved," Williams said. "I think it's reprehensible and is a violation of our constitutional rights. The police seem to think they can do what they want, like it's a police state."

The NYPD continues to state that there is no other investigation besides that conducted by its Internal Affairs Division.

Juan Gonzalez, a columnist for the New York Daily News criticized the NYPD for making the assertion that a fourth man had been seen leaving the scene of the shooting. However, within its preliminary investigative report, there was little mention of this mystery man. In fact, according to Gonzalez's column, the "sources" of that information couldn't even agree on whether said man of mytery was getting into or out of Bell's vehicle.

An unnamed NYPD source also supplied Gonzalez with the following information:


Videotapes obtained by cops from two surveillance cameras at the Port Authority's Jamaica Ave. AirTrain station a half block away from the shooting site reveal that one of the bullets fired by the five cops narrowly missed striking a civilian and two Port Authority patrolmen who were standing on the station's elevated platform.

None of the members of the surveillance team that was backing up the undercover cops in the Kalua Cabaret that night was wearing an NYPD raid jacket, and none of the three cars used by the nine-member team was equipped with a portable police light that could alert civilians they were police.

Because of a communication foulup, a female detective and a female investigator who were part of the backup team and parked on 95th Ave. - a block from the shooting - had no idea the other members of the team had moved in to make an arrest. After the shots erupted, the two female cops received a cell phone call from another team member that the shots involved their team.
The female team members radioed a "10-13" [assist officer] call on their police radio, but they could not tell dispatchers their exact street location. They then raced to Liverpool St. by such a roundabout route that Internal Affairs investigators have dubbed theirs the "useless" car.

In Huntington Beach, California further developments have emerged in the controversy surrounding this city's police department and its practice of training its officers to find contraband by having other police officers plant it first in unsuspecting motorists' vehicles. After rethinking the issue, the police chief has decided that this practice is probably not a great idea.

The policy came under fire after Thomas Cox filed a complaint with the department after he saw an officer toss a gun in the trunk of his vehicle and then watched in horror as another officer "found" it, as detailed here. He filed a complaint against the police officers involved but received written notice that the officers had been exonerated of any alleged misconduct.

The Orange County Register's editorial board condemned the practice in its editorial, Don't plant junk in the trunk.


"We're also disturbed by reports that Officer Knorr was laughing at the suspect while he did this. There's certainly nothing illegal about police acting in such an unprofessional way, but this behavior – and the lack of punishment for it – should not make Huntington Beach residents feel any better about their department.

It should go without saying that when a person is pulled over for a violation, that he or she should not have guns, drugs, fake drugs or anything else planted in the car. And those arrested should be treated fairly and respectfully.
Fortunately, Chief Small has decided to change the "training" policy.

But it's one more reminder of the need for more oversight over the way law enforcement operates in this county.

Amen to that.

The law suit, Ryan Wilson v the City of Riverside (RIC456429) is currently off-calendar in Riverside County Superior Court which means that both parties are probably in settlement talks outside the logjammed civil courts. The court minutes provided for the latest hearing on the writ of mandamus that was scheduled for Dec. 8 instead state:


If it settles the case, the city council will have two choices. Will it grant Wilson, a police officer with the city, an administrative hearing or will it compel the Community Police Review Commission to nullify its sustained finding of excessive force against him regarding the Summer Lane shooting?

Time will tell.

Good news for both parties which are actually on the same side for different reasons that it is now apparently outside a courtroom.

The curious thing about this law suit is that even though the city and Wilson have found themselves on opposite sides of the courtroom, they are actually on the same page. If Wilson wins, the city government wins.

What may lose is a process that was supported by 60% of the city's voters in 2004, if the city decides in secret to nullify the CPRC's hard work to save itself from civic liability in connection with the Lane shooting. Lane's family filed a law suit against Wilson and the city, a case which has been moved to U.S. District Court. This law suit also survived recent attempts by the city's attorneys to get it tossed out for not being filed in a timely fashion. The city failed and the case will proceed. In its wake, are at least four other law suits or claims for damages that have been filed against the city in connection with three other officer-involved deaths. All three of these deaths have been investigated or are currently being investigated by the CPRC.

The law suit filed by the family members of Lane would be the reason why the city may act against one of the commissions that it created in 2000 and one where decisions are made by city residents who volunteer their time to peform a valuable service. The law suits which have followed or are sure to follow are reason enough for the city to stick to that path, if its number one priority is to reduce the civic liability it faces in connection with officer-involved deaths.

However, it is one thing to ignore or reject a commission's finding which the city and police department essentially did in the case of Lane. It would be another, to disrespect the process enough to nullify it out of existance. Riverside's city manager has essentially already done that and made it clear through his actions and his comments at a recent public safety committee meeting how little his office values the CPRC's contribution in the area of investigating officer-involved deaths.

Now, apparently it may be the city council's turn to decide what it will do.

Most likely, that will be bad news for the CPRC in the short term and the police department in the long term. However, it shall make for a very interesting election year.


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