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, July 07, 2006

State of the Unions

As the new fiscal year has begun for the city of Riverside, so continues one of its most contentious showdowns between the various bargaining units of city employees and city management.

The SEIU, which represents a large proportion of city employees in many different departments has been shut out of its own negotiation talks at least once since it started. The reason given by the office of City Manager Brad Hudson was that that unit's negotiators had brought two individuals with them to sit in on the talks. Hundreds of members of the SEIU led by their leader, Gregory Hagans appeared at city council meetings to protest this unfair treatment.

The city of Riverside is not the county, they told former Riverside County employee Brad Hudson, who as usual was chatting with City Attorney Gregory Priamos, with the microphones off. It is doubtful that he heard them.

Both the RPOA and the administrators' association have also been negotiating for salary hikes, but it is not clear what if any raises lie at the end of the arduous process that takes place usually once every two years.

If you want good, ethical professionals to become and remain police officers in this department, then they must be paid well. You do get what you pay for, in this area. A better adage might be, pay now or pay out a much greater sum later. Hopefully, the city management will remember this, each time it sits at the table. After all, as Hudson and others have said, the city is flush with money at this time. The city leadership had created 25 new police officer positions last year, and promised to repeat that performance this year.

One anonymous correspondent here predicted that the city would offer the police officers a huge pay raise to stem off the alleged flow of younger officers leaving the police department.

"city hall doesnt understand why so many officers want to leave and department heads are hoping that a hefty pay increase in July will stop the bleeding and stop young officers from leaving."

This was based on the statistic they offered up that eight officers had left the department to head off to greener pastures during a fairly short period. However, seven officers including six from the beleaguered Rialto Police Department have lateraled out of that agency and took positions in this department.

At the RPD's job fair held at Bordwell Park, Capt. Pete Esquival who heads the Personnel and Training Division appeared to send a different message. He said that Chief Russ Leach had ordered him to reduce the department's vacancy rate to zero, by the end of June. By mid-June, that was close to being done, he said. While he spoke, over 150 applicants including 30 women were inside the Stratton Center taking their first steps down the road of becoming RPD officers. Most will not make it and of those that do, Esquival said they will be placed on an eligibility list until positions open up.

Of course, there is a difference between recruiting officers and retaining them, and paying them well is one way to improve retention. However, if serious problems exist, it can never be a solution. You can not throw money at a problem and make it go away. Any problems that exist must be identified and addressed, before they take root and become crises. Too often, in Riverside's case, that had not been done.

In the meantime, various factions of the police department were busy at work trying to plump up the carrot needed to attract qualified applicants, which is the hopes of receiving a healthy pay check and good benefits including pensions.

Heading the negotiation efforts for the majority of the RPD's officers was its bargaining unit from the RPOA, which came fresh off its biennial elections with brand new leadership. The elections appeared to have been a contentious process, according to an earlier conversation that took place on this blog last October.

One unidentified individual started it off by expressing his displeasure with the then-current administration. He apparently believed that it was time for a change at the helm. Pat McCarthy was the current president at that time and had been for nearly four years. He had taken over the presidency from former Sgt. Jay Theuer as an officer and as is customary, was eventually promoted to sergeant. David Martin was apparently one of his challengers for the top spot.
Perhaps, this individual believed that this blog was as good place as any to put out a campaign pitch for his favorite candidate.

"Pat McCarthy is a company man with the company plan..Worthless...Dave Martin For RPOA President."

Another unidentified individual took serious objection to this criticism and responded back with the following harsh words.

Dave Martin is a disgruntled Long Beach PD washout who thinks all things are wrong....Pat McCarthy for Re-election!

Well, one member of the David Martin camp was not going to take this slam against their candidate sitting down so they responded in kind.

Why would we re-elect Pat? He has let the Admin walk all over us so he could get his Sgt Stripes. He continues to let them walk over us because he is on Sgt probation. got what you wanted. Now let someone who really cares about troop wellfare, not his golf handycap step in and fix all this BS. Pat...what have you done as RPOA Pres? You'll say "I got you two raises"...BFD...You suck Pat.DAVE MARTIN for RPOA Pres...He's the only choice..Tut wants to be a Sgt too.

This would not be the last comment we would read from this particular unidentified individual. He did not elaborate what he meant by "BS". That would have to wait for another day.

"Tut" by the way, was Det. Kent Tutwiler, who wound up winning the election when the votes were tallied. He promised in a Press Enterprise article published after the election that he would not try to be promoted to sergeant while he was in office. So far he has kept his promise, serving on a board which has seen a lot of officers promoted while on it especially in the first couple of years after the city entered into its consent decree with the State Attorney General's office. If McCarthy had gotten promoted while he served on the RPOA board, he was hardly the first one to have been so, yet his promotion apparently brought on some criticism by at least one individual. Tutwiler's promise to his charges seemed to reflect that the issue may have been a bone of contention during the process.

Tutwiler also promised to concentrate on issues pertaining to increasing officer position, salary negotiations and officer safety. He reactivated the Safety subcommittee, currently helmed by Officer Richard Aceves and even met with the CPRC director, Pedro Payne. But still there were hearts, minds and an election to win.

Clearly, the groundwork had been laid out for the upcoming election, in that the lines had been drawn between individuals who were dissatisfied with the current leadership and others who believed that the status quo was the way to go. Somehow, both perspectives managed to find their way here, though those who were dissatisfied would soon dominate. Perhaps that was because in the real world, they could not get their message out. Perhaps they felt shut off from both the RPOA leadership and department management.

One unidentified individual who called himself "A Lighter Shade of Brown" lamented over this in a comment made last autumn, while expressing his concern over an officer who he alleged was a bank robber called "Charles 211".

"As for officers going to the union or complaining to the admin, it usually does not work and that's probably why it did not happen (can't say for sure but just a guess). "

Issues arose including whether or not it was a conflict of interest to be promoted by departmental management while at the helm of the RPOA. McCarthy's promotion had clearly created a reaction of some form and galvanized a response. Did it cost him the election, or was it simply that there was a growing faction in the RPOA that was becoming more resistant to pressures put upon it by a management that had itself felt pressure from an outside agency for the past five years?

Perhaps, the newer officers, in a department that had turned over approximately 80% of its rank and file were making their presence known. Even wrestling two pay raises out of the city's management during more economically difficult times did not ensure a longer tenure at the helm for the current president. The newer officers hold the bulk of the votes unless apathy towards the process muted their participation, a state which would mirror that of the nation's voting population.

From the outside, some individuals look at the RPOA as a mixture of the most militant politically-motivated officers in the department and with some boards, that has clearly been apparent. But if this true, then it is not much different from the politics that have shaped other employment unions. Ultimately, it is the members that shape their union's leadership through the votes they cast in its elections and through the meetings they attend or the committees they participate on. They alone can extend the period of their leadership's tenure or hand it a pink slip and send it packing.

After the dust from the election had settled, police officers both representing the RPOA's leadership and the department's management congregated at City Hall to support Leach who was there, awaiting a vote which would determine whether or not he would be given a five-year contract to continue as head of the department. An interesting development considering it had been placed on the consent calendar and unless pulled, would not be discussed or voted upon separately. The consent calendar was approved en masse without fanfare by the city council, and the chief's contract remained on that list. A huge sigh of relief appeared to fill the chambers after the vote took place, as if there had been any doubt.

Whether that action was taken in anticipation of the upcoming dissolution of the marriage of convenience between the city of Riverside and the State Attorney General's office was a topic of speculation. After all, the RPD had gone through its fair share of police chiefs during the past decade or so. At least three were sent packing by the RPOA, after relatively short stints. Leach has served as chief almost six years, with five of them spent in a police department that was under the thumb of the State Attorney General's office. But, that tether was set to be untied on March 6, 2006 and the department would be heading off into the great unknown.

Still on that road, there are those who remain critical of the department, including several unidentified individuals who posted here like "Kevin, RPD".

"People in our department who voice there opinions, or speak out against incompetent administration suffer professionally...You want to talk about oppression?"

And "Asti Spamanti", who appeared to be pondering his future options in a department where although White male officers remain its majority, they have become victims of racism and sexism within the ranks in his opinion.

"They have created an atmosphere where it's every man for himself. No entity practices racism and discrimination more than the highest members of management in the department-fortunately for the public, you don't have to worry because it's not against you-it's against their own officers. But, hey, we make a lot of money. It's no longer about saving lives and protecting the public, it's about promoting to the next level at all costs. "

Yet, it is not clear how many officers in the department share these same sentiments. It is not clear on which road this department will travel as it implements its court-mandated Strategic Plan. The history can either be learned from, or it will be repeated until its lessons take root.

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