And so the marriage ends
Soon after Officer B. Fife and his friends uncorked the cyber champagne and celebrated the noteworthy event, which brought to an end the relentless supervision that they had been forced to endure for the past five years. By the time, the last drop of cyber liquor had been consumed, their behavioral expert Dr. Lawman was urging people to forget about the consent decree because it was over and to go off and read a book some place. In other words, to not look behind the curtain.
If that was not strange enough, the next day a series of opinion articles appeared in the Press Enterprise from the various parties in the marriage that had lasted longer than many more traditional ones. Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who engineered the shotgun marriage and Chief Russ Leach, who carried it out. They urged the city's residents to take heart in the fact that the police department had improved greatly and was most certainly not the same department it had been in 1998, when four officers fired 25 bullets that were heard around the world. But their combined efforts seemed to be geared more towards addressing that other partner in both the marriage and its aftermath, the City Council.
In past years, the city council has neglected its duties of overseeing the operations of the police department, including the funding provided necessary for it to be a viable law enforcement agency operating both within state law and the state and federal constitutions. That trend had to change, both Lockyer and Leach in tandem admonished.
A third voice joined them in the campaign, abeit one who was more cautious in his choice of words. Jack Clarke, jr. who had chaired the original task force that had preceded the more formal marriage carefully mixed praise with caution in his piece.
First on the pulpit is Lockyer or as one former RPD officer not so affectionately called him in a letter to the Press Enterprise, "The Carpetbagger from the North".
The Job's Still unfinished
Lockyer was pretty positive that the police department had changed both its attitude and its operations. However, he did urge the reform process to continue forward to ensure that this time the reforms would stick.
It's crucial that the city continue to implement the policies and procedures required by the stipulated judgment. And it's imperative that the city provide the resources to implement the Police Department's strategic plan for community policing. That plan should be a driving force in the continuing effort to maintain a safer community and more responsive Police Department that continues to respect the law while it enforces it.
Leach was on deck next and he was just as effusive.
The new accountable RPD
Riverside overcame early feelings of resentment and resistance, and embraced the challenge of the consent decree as a rare opportunity to make substantive change and create a more transparent, "new" RPD. An effective partnership was forged between the department, the city and the community -- as "co-producers of public safety" -- to oversee and drive reforms.
Leach acknowleged the massive financial investment, which was over $22 million and touches on the more personal investment which has exacted a cost more difficult to measure.
Last, comes Clarke, jr. with his words of caution regarding the past practice of the city council of putting its toys on the shelf when it gets tired of playing with them.
Too Soon to Close the Book
If history is a predictor of the future, the city administration will want to move on to new projects and close the book on a job well done.
I hope that doesn't happen. If it does, we will have made a conscious decision to play the odds, assuming nothing like that could happen again. I hope not. But if the unthinkable does occur, I pray Riverside will be able to rely on the reservoir of goodwill that will result if community/police relations are cultivated rather than ignored.
Wise words, because too often what is past is prologue in the city of Riverside.
And before the chapter is closed on the marriage of convenience between the State of California and the city of Riverside, here's another viewpoint on this contentious issue. Oft-columnist and talk show guest, Officer "Hands Tied" is here to give his spin on the landmark event last week.
**Officer Hands Tied's words in his interview are a compilation of what this site's visitors have posted here on various topics. In a sense, he symbolizes the police culture that still maintains a hold on the department. Even his image and the campaign that surrounded the use of his image speaks to that police culture by saying hey do what we say, or we won't be there when you need us. Ignore him at your peril, because before you know it, he'll be back in charge again. **
HOST: The Stipulated Judgement went in like a lion and departed like a lamb. What do you think of the state's decision to dissolve the judgement?
HT: (puts down champagne glass) I think it's really great. Yeah, it's been a long and difficult five years, but we held up just fine. There's no way some outside agitator is going to tell us what to do. That has never happened and it never will.
HOST: So, what ahem, are your plans now?
HT: Why to take our department back of course. We'll take it back from the communists, the radicals, the hippies and the agitators. We'll make sure all our field training officers are proactive so they don't pass in these new lazy cowardly officers that we've got now. We will also not allow anyone to put the department in danger by hiring more women. Even though they're hired b/c like Leach says, they are the "best of the best", it's clear that's not true if they keep having to be rephased until they can find a weak FTO to pass them through. After we do all this to get back to the good old days, I think we'll be going to Disneyland.
HOST: What about the community?
HT: Well, the ones with people in them, they're happy as long as they can hold their soccer matches on time and they don't get cancelled by the referees on the account of rain. They don't care what we do because they never really see us. As for the others who know who they are, they don't matter because they're not people anyway. And if they don't like us, we'll just hand them off to that other agency.
HOST: Aren't you worried that management will be concerned?
HT: Not really. You see we're like those apples in the barrel. As soon as we ripen, all the apples in the vicinity will ripen as well. Our numbers may be small now, but they are not as small as management thinks and they will grow. City Council members will be concerned for a while, but then they will go back to being wrapped up in development projects and housing growth and they will soon forget all about us.
HOST: Are you sure about that?
HT: Oh yeah, management will try to shut us up because they don't want to hear the truth, but we'll always be the ones who will tell what's really going down. So if you really want to know what's going on, let's do lunch some time.
HOST: The truth?
HT: Oh yeah. Well this is been fun but I've got to go shave my head in a few...See you later!