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, June 19, 2006

Drops in the Bucket

As the mercury hit over 100 degrees several weeks ago, there were no rain drops in sight. There were however, drops in the bucket.

On May 31, Presiding Judge Richard Fields dismissed murder charges against two defendants standing trial for the 2002 fatal shooting of Black teenager, Anthony Sweat and ordered them to be released from custody. Riverside County District Attorney's Office prosecutor, John Molloy asked for the dismissal after he had turned over new discovery to the men's defense attorneys.

This discovery allegedly pertained to DNA tests that were taken on evidence obtained from clothing discarded with a gun near the crime scene. According to their attorneys, the two defendants tested negative and Molloy presented this exculpatory evidence to the defense attorneys, before asking that the charges be dismissed. Molloy said that the charges may be refiled against the defendants later on or that the investigation may be headed in a different direction altogether.

The city met recently in closed session to receive legal advice from the City Attorney's office on its appeal of the reinstatement of former Det. Al Kennedy.

Kennedy was fired by Chief Russ Leach in 2001 after an internal investigation revealed that he had sexual relations with an alleged rape victim from a case under his investigation. Initially, a divisional captain recommended that he be served with a written reprimand for his misconduct. Former Deputy Chief Audrey Wilson then recommended that he receive a brief suspension, according to court documents.

Former Lt. Jay Theuer in a scathing memo, had blamed Kennedy's transgressions on staffing problems in the department's Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Division, according to court records.

Kennedy appealed his suspension in arbitration and it was overturned, although he was not awarded any back pay for the three years that had passed since his termination. That action left all involved parties scratching their heads and heading off to court. The city quickly appealed the arbitrator's finding in Riverside County Superior Court. The Court, as it usually does, upheld the arbitrator's decision, so the city appealed that ruling in the Court of Appeals last year.

The city council also voted in closed session to appeal the reinstatement of former officer Vince Thomas who was fired for allegedly molesting a teenaged girl who lived in his household. In its appeal, the city argued that the arbitrator had applied a standard of guilt used in criminal trials to an administrative proceeding.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney's office declined to continue its prosecution of Thomas after two trials resulted in hung juries.

Because in many cases, the courts back the arbitrator's decision, it is very likely that these cases will ultimately return back to the city council for final disposition, meaning that either the officers will be reinstated to the department or more likely, provided with financial incentives in the form of retirements to go away.

No ruling has been issued thus far in the city's appeal against the $1.64 million jury verdict awarded to Officer Roger Sutton in his racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation law suit.

Last year, a jury had determined that Sutton had been racially discriminated against when he was removed from the department's canine unit after his dog accidentally bit a former police officer. Jury members apparently accepted the argument that Sutton had received disparate treatment in the form of discipline than White officers in the unit had received when their dogs were involved in accidental bites. A half-dozen White canine officers, past and present, had testified at trial about losing control of their dogs and having them either run off or bite other individuals nearby. In their cases, the department treated them as "training issues" rather than as a disciplinary one.

One example cited by Sutton's attorneys was that involving then-Officer Tim Bacon whose dog was involved in an incident that led to the retirement of another officer and severe injuries to himself. Bacon did not receive any discipline for his incident according to trial testimony, has been promoted twice since and currently serves as a lieutenant.

An (as always) unidentified correspondent here had this to say in response, on an earlier thread about the Sutton case:

"In case you haven't heard Lt. Bacon is the departments biggest buffon and Roger Sutton is still one of the worst officers they have."

The jury also decided that Sutton had faced harassment and retaliation after he had sought an examination and redress of his grievances from the police department. The city quickly appealed the jury's decision by filing a motion for a new trial, which Judge Joan Burgess nipped in the bud last January. The city then filed a motion of appeal at the Court of Appeals where it awaits a decision. Although Sutton's case was filed at about the same time as the reverse race and gender discrimination claims filed by a group of White male sergeants, his case still remains unresolved over three years after the other case was settled by the city.

Before the case went to trial, an arbitrator had awarded Sutton $200,000, but the city quickly decided to appeal that. In retrospect, that award might have been a bargain in comparison to the money spent on the proceedings from that date forward.

The police department held a job fair at Bordwell Park in the Eastside this Saturday, June 17. Candidates interested in applying as officers, cadets, crossing guards or dispatchers were encouraged to attend. Hopefully, the fair will have proven to be a success especially if it is indeed true, as at least one unidentified correspondent stated, that there is an exodus of younger officers fleeing from the police department. However, representatives from the police department said that 150 candidates had shown up to take the written exam, with about 20% being women. Since all the department's sworn positions had been filled, those who are qualified to be hired will most likely be placed on an eligibility list.

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