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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

When vinegar is disguised to taste like sugar

This is not a blog about the CPRC but the panel plays a supporting role in it because it is considered to be an important mechanism to try to promote accountability in the police department, at least by many of the city's residents. As to how the police department and its various factions view it, that's another story and a rather lengthy one.

CPRC: the history

Created by popular demand in 2000, the idea of civilian oversight was initially a brain child of a grass roots organization that had formed after the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998. That organization, the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability began gathering signatures in 1999 within the city limits to place an initiative on the ballot for the elections later that year. It hoped to have a civilian review board in place by 2000.

At about the same time, a panel of citizens appointed by Mayor Ron Loveridge met to discuss recommendations for reforms to be implemented by the Riverside Police Department. One of the suggestions that they presented to a packed city council chambers in April 1999, was the creation of a civilian form of oversight. Out of that recommendation came a research committee known as the Police Policy Review Committee.

This committee consisted of three city council members, three Human Relations Commission members, three members of Loveridge's task force and single representatives from both the RCPA and the Riverside Police Officers Association. However, in the midst of the process then RPOA vice-president Bill Rhetts was asked to step down after it came to light that he had been under investigation by the department's Internal Affairs Division for comments he had made in relation to the Miller shooting while he was allegedly "educating" younger officers in the roll call room. He was replaced by then Sgt. Gary Leach for the duration of the process.

The committee researched the various mechanisms of police oversight in the country and narrowed down their choices to three different models. The first, was Model A, which was based on that used in Berkeley. It was the most independent and powerful of the three models. The second, was model B, which mirrored the auditor system used by the city of San Jose. The third, Model C, was a much weaker version of Model A, and based on commissions in the cities of Long Beach and San Diego. The committee had spent weeks listening to representatives from Long Beach, San Diego city and county, San Jose and Berkeley. They had even listened to a police lieutenant whose expertise was in the area of research. He spent most of his allotted time blasting the Berkeley model and cursing its existence.

The debate and discussion on which model to forward to the city council for further discussion and hopefully, approval was contentious with opinions sharply split between Model A and Model C except for the RPOA which did not want any model approved at all. In the final vote, Model A prevailed by only one vote, with the final tally being 8 to 7. Two out of three of the city council members on the committee had voted against Model A, a piece of information that would become relevant later.

It was agreed that Model A would be presented to the city council by committee Chair(and city council member) Maureen Kane.

What actually happened, again in a packed city council chambers, was that Model A was sidelined and a council member who had not been a member of the PPRC presented a model very similar to Model C, which had not even been included in the report presented to the city council. Many people talked afterwards about what had transpired and wondered how Council Member Joy Defanbaugh had accessed information on Model C in the first place when it was not included in the report and she had not been on the committee. The Brown Act crossed the lips of more than a few people.

Model C passed the city council's approval and an ordinance was quickly drafted to create the Community Police Review Commission. Everyone scratched their heads for a little while but quickly embraced the new commission.

In 2004 after attempts were made by several city council members to defund the CPRC, several members of the Charter Review Committee decided to draft a proposed amendment to place it in the city's charter. That gave birth to another initiative which was put to a vote along with other proposed charter amendments that autumn. Despite an expensive and horribly misguided campaign by the RPOA in opposition, the ballot measure passed handily in every precinct in the city. The city's voters had spoken and the CPRC was included in the city's charter.

Kane said during a 2004 workshop held by the CPRC that the creation of a model of civilian oversight was one of the few points the city had in its favor when it was negotiating with the State Attorney General's office over what reforms would be imposed on the police department. During the past five years, her attitude had obviously softened towards the idea of civilian oversight.

CPRC: the present

That is the story of its origins in a nutshell. What has happened since is at least as interesting, especially after it became clear that this was what the public wanted. Suddenly, the CPRC was not only a more permanent fixture of the city's fabric, it was also everyone's newest darling. Members of the department's management said that they would work with the commission more closely, a development welcomed by many in the community. The RPOA leadership had also made some overtures, in marked contrast to its petulant showing at a March 2004 workshop. That was seen as a positive sign as well.

The overall mood changed when the commission released its finding on the Summer Lane shooting last year. One meeting between the heads of the CPRC, the police department, the city attorney's office and the city manager's office left a lasting impression on everyone. The mood became more pessimistic and somber at several CPRC meetings earlier this year after that meeting took place. A workshop was held to invite community input on what the role of the CPRC should be, five years after its creation. Most of the community residents who appeared told the CPRC residents to do the task assigned to them because its members were in a position to act in ways the majority of the city's residents were not.

In the midst of this turmoil, a curious development took place involving one itty-bitty word, exonerated.

The public first heard about it when Commissioner Jim Ward said at one meeting that he had been asked to sign a document at City Hall in order to acknowledge that the language used to define one of the four possible complaint findings had been changed. He was upset by the experience, because he felt he had been ambushed. He shared his concerns with the rest of the commission.

The finding that had its definition and essentially its history rewritten, was the "exonerated" finding. For years, the text of that particular finding had consisted of, "the alleged act occurred but was justified, legal and proper." For years, the CPRC, like the police department had used this definition including its legal terminology when evaluating whether or not to assign a complaint an "exonerated" finding. For years it did so without any problems and without receiving any complaints from City Hall. All that was about to change, because of Summer Lane.

That particular case's finding by the CPRC had just become a thorn in the side of those overseeing the commission and more importantly, had placed the city and its police department at risk of being found civilly liable in any law suit that might be filed in connection with it. However, disregarding or ignoring the CPRC's finding was not enough to make it go away. So they decided instead to condemn it based on a technicality and then to go back and rewrite the history which had paved the way for the CPRC to make that kind of decision.

First, to explain why it had rejected the finding submitted by the CPRC, the city management and police department instead referred to the commission's public report(which is independent of the finding) and it's final sentence.

Therefore, the legal justification for Officer Ryan Wilson's action in shooting Ms Lane appears to be absent.

The city and police department argued that the commission had overstepped its bounds by using legal language in its explanation of why Wilson's actions did not comply with the department's use of force policy. That was the sole domain of the Riverside County District Attorney's office, they said. When it comes to determining the criteria for deciding whether criminal charges will be filed, their assertion is absolutely correct in almost all cases outside of indictments handed out by a grand jury. However, the city and the police department themselves had laid the precedent for the CPRC to use legal language when analyzing either a citizen complaint's allegations or an officer-involved death to determine whether they were within policy through the language written into the "exonerated" finding and implied in its polar opposite, the "sustained" finding. The city and police department themselves had already set up the foundation which if allowed to stand, defeated its own argument. That foundation had been established by the use of the "exonerated" finding to decide citizen complaints which the CPRC had done for five years during what was an administrative, not a criminal, investigative and review process.

CPRC: the rewrite

In response to this dilemma, the city decided to change the text of that finding to where it would instead read that the alleged act occurred but had complied with departmental policy. With the stroke of a pen, they had removed the word "legal" from the definition of the "exonerated" finding and life could go on as if it had never existed and the commission had never had to make decisions based in part on satisfying legal criteria. With the new definition in place, the city could firm up its argument for refusing to consider the CPRC's finding on the Lane shooting. The strange thing in all this revisionist behavior, is that this legal terminology which was the source of condemnation against the CPRC's finding was never actually expressed in the actual finding. Not that this technicality mattered.

I believe George Orwell who wrote 1984 had a term for all of what happened above, which fits it quite nicely. He just got his dates wrong.

Riverside City Charter(2005)

Charter: Community Police Review Commission

Charter: Subpoena power

CPRC Policies, Procedures and By Laws

Municipal Code: CPRC(2000)

A few more drops

Isolated thunderstorms had been forecast for next week, but the skies will remain sunny, according to the latest report. However, a few more drops were added to the bucket.

The Riverside Police Department has once again moved its upper management personnel around. Capt. Pete Esquival has left his stint helming the Personnel and Training office and has been assigned to Special Operations at the new and finally opened, Magnolia Station. During his stint in Personnel and Training, Esquival and his staff members including Officer Cheryl Hayes had worked hard to recruit a diverse group of applicants to begin the process of becoming police officers. In July, they sponsored a forum where 120 men and 30 women appeared to take their written tests inside the Stratton Center, while their families and friends waited outside, watching demonstrations held by several canine officers.

He has been replaced by Capt. Michael Blakely. Maybe former officers Lee Wagner, Alex Tortes and Ron Orrantia can appreciate the irony of that more fully than the rest of us. Hopefully, Blakely will continue to implement and improve upon a recruitment program that ensures that the demographics of the department reflect those of the communities it serves.The community leaders plan to keep his feet to the fire on that one.

Blakely will also oversee the Internal Affairs Division. He will be supervised by new Deputy Chief John De La Rosa.

Salary negotiations still continue for many city employees even as the city's fire fighter union and employees represented by the SEIU have negotiated their contracts. City Manager Brad Hudson should remember that with everything, you get what you pay for, and that includes police officers. They need to be paid well, provided with good benefits and compensated when they retire. Also, if you want your police officers to Live Riverside and "Shop Riverside" like the rest of us, they need to be paid well enough to afford to pay the rising housing costs in this city. Give them a good contract and you will hopefully attract the best applicants. In the long run, attracting and hiring the wrong applicants is just so much more expensive.

The department's management union is currently in litigation with the city in Riverside County Superior Court. When Lt. Darryl Hurt, who heads it, tried to explain his bargaining unit's position at a city council meeting, Mayor Ron Loveridge cut him off. Bad form, mayor.

CPRA Watch: 37 days without a response. Second request submitted to the police department and City Attorney's office on Aug. 28 at 12:36 pm.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Race against the clock

CPRA Watch: 35 days without a written response

Number of times a city attorney has attended a CPRC meeting: once, on Aug. 23, 2006

Once again, time is ticking away for the Community Police Review Commission when it comes to completing its investigation and review of an officer-involved death case before the clock runs out. The clock in question is a state law that dictates that if an officer is to be disciplined for a sustained finding of misconduct against him, it must be done within one year of the date that misconduct occurred.

That time restriction presents problems in the case of the officer-involved death of Terry Rabb as it approaches its first anniversary.

Rabb died on Nov. 2, 2005 at a local hospital after he had suffered a heart attack within minutes of being physically restrained by two Riverside Police Department officers. Both the police department and the CPRC launched their investigations quickly after Rabb’s death.

The police department completed its criminal inquiry last spring and submitted its case book to the CPRC in May, close to the same time that the CPRC investigator completed his own investigation. At one CPRC meeting, it was revealed that the department's upper management had sent its investigation back down the chain of command for further work at least once. Still, the department's OID investigation was completed before the summer months.

However, the department’s Internal Affairs Division, which simply conducts an administrative review of these incidents, did not submit its own findings in this case to the CPRC until some time in July. Even though departmental policy 4.8 requires that the Internal Affairs Division conduct its own independent investigation, that division instead relies on the work product of the OID investigation to fulfill its role as the department's administrative oversight, an issue that the CPRC included in several of its public reports on incustody deaths. Consequently, it also had to wait until at least portions of the OID Team's investigation were completed in order for it to perform its own analysis and reach its own conclusions on the Rabb death.

That left the CPRC in a quandary, when it came to sticking to its own set timeline to release its own finding on Rabb well before the case marked its first anniversary. It also relies on the OID Team's work product which provides its only access to the statements given by the involved police officers. It is unable to gain access to them for further questioning without issuing a subpoena compelling them to appear before the commission.

The CPRC used material from both its own investigation as well as that of the department’s OID investigation to draft its public report on the Rabb incident. The content of that report will include a narrative of the events leading up to and including Rabb’s cardiac arrest as well as a tactical analysis and conclusions. After releasing its report to the public, the commissioners will review the material submitted by the Internal Affairs Division before going into closed session to determine their own finding of whether or not the officers violated departmental policy. The CPRC customarily waits until after the release of the public report to do so, to avoid cross-contamination of the public information included in its and the OID investigations with that information included in the Internal Affairs Division's report which is prohibited from public disclosure by state law.

After they determine a finding, it is then forwarded to City Manager Brad Hudson for final disposition. In theory, Hudson is supposed to review the findings from both the CPRC and the police department before making a decision. In reality, this has not happened in at least one case, that being the Summer Lane case last year.

Unfortunately in the Rabb case, the closed session may not take place until the second week in October, which would place it about nine days after the statutory deadline for that case. This case was further complicated by the fact that the fatal shooting of Todd Argow was also nearing its statutory deadline, which fell on November 14 and its work product was received before that in the Rabb case.

The department's OID investigation case book in the Argow case was not given to the CPRC until June. The commission decided in July to streamline the process of writing and approving its public report, the goal being that the book would be closed on the Argow case early enough to give them enough time to deal with the Rabb case. However, even those changes to the public process will likely not prove to be enough to allow the Rabb incident to clear its Oct. 2 deadline.

At its special meeting on Aug. 23, CPRC Chair Les Davidson expressed his frustration with the delays that left the CPRC with only one month to review the Rabb case.

“I quite frankly find it unbelievable that anyone would give us one month,” Davidson said.

Davidson said that placed the commission in a position of having to rush, rush, hurry, hurry to make its decisions. He also found it upsetting that the CPRC was being unfairly blamed for many of the problems resulting from these delays.

“We have it and it’s not right,” he said.

The CPRC discussed taking its frustration to the attention of the public, including the 60% of the city's voters who placed the CPRC in the city's charter during the November 2004 elction when they passed Measure II. The Rabb case will likely be front and center in that upcoming debate if it does take place, especially if its finding on that case is reached after the statutory deadline.

This issue involving timing first reared its ugly head during the CPRC’s investigation into the Lane shooting last year.

In that case, both the CPRC and the police department had completed their investigations by April 2005. However, the CPRC delayed its own process because it was experiencing a period of transition, which took place after Interim City Manager Tom Evans decided to make staff changes affecting that commission.

In January 2005, its first executive director Don Williams was replaced by then interim director, Pedro Payne. In addition, Payne had to split his time between directing that commission and also serving as director of the Human Relations Commission, a position he had originally held. While Payne was adjusting to the increased workload and challenges of overseeing two commissions, two new commissioners, Ric Castro and Frank Arroela were appointed to the CPRC to fill vacancies. Due to all these changes, the review into the Lane shooting was postponed until the end of September. Perhaps, events would have occurred differently if the CPRC had known earlier in the process that its investigator, Norm Wight was about to drop a bombshell.

At its Sept. 28, 2005 meeting, Wight told the commission that he believed that Officer Ryan Wilson was not in immediate danger when he shot and killed Lane, a conclusion later reached by the commissioners in their own public report. This meeting became the turning point in its process because the CPRC realized for the first time that it might issue a finding that could result in an officer being disciplined by the police department for an onduty shooting. Consequently, the clock began to run on whether or not that decision could be made with enough time to spare before the statutory deadline of Dec. 6 in order to allow the commission's finding to be evaluated alongside that already reached by the police department.

The CPRC released its public report on Nov. 2 and two weeks later, met for over an hour in closed session before voting unanimously that Wilson had violated the department's use of force policy when he shot Lane. That finding was then forwarded to Hudson's office where it sat, as the deadline approached. Everyone waited to see what would happen next and what the final disposition would be. The deadline passed quietly, and it turned out that Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis had, as several individuals put it delicately, "punked" on assuming the role of final arbiter in this case. Instead, they relayed the decision making process back to Chief Russ Leach, who backed his own department's investigation. With that action, Hudson, DeSantis etal sent a strong message to both the CPRC and the community that has supported it, that the role it would play in investigating officer-involved deaths would be both minimal, and advisory only.

This outcome surprised only those individuals who believed that this city's leadership would ever place the decisions made by the citizens who fund the city's various departments with their tax dollars, on par with those made by their public servants even in situations permitted by the city's charter. It certainly did not surprise several unidentified individuals who posted here last autumn including He Who Likes Ampersands, who predicted that the truth would soon come out about how little power the CPRC would have in this area. They proved to be absolutely right in their reading of the situation.

Ironically, this development with the CPRC, the police department and the city government came not long before the city and the state attorney general's office dissolved their five-year marriage of convenience. One of the recommendations included in the final report submitted by former AG consultant, Joe Brann was that the CPRC be strengthened. That is indeed a worthy goal, but the action taken on the Lane case only proved that the city viewed the commission as a public relations tool to bridge the gap between some of the city's communities and its police department. Not as a viable mechanism that could be used by the city's residents to improve accountability in the police department.

Was this disregard towards the CPRC shown simply because of the case's outcome? Actually, no. Whatever Hudson had ultimately decided in the case of the Lane shooting would have shown at least respect for the process and that he respected both parties involved in the dispute equally. But that was not what happened, hence the disregard.

It was shown when Hudson and De Santis opted out of their roles and responsibilities as arbiters over a process which involved taking input from two different city departments and evaluating it in total before making a final decision. The deed was done when they decided at that moment in time not to act as city managers at a time when it was very important for them to do so. They showed that when faced with a difficult decision, the best they could do was toss it like a hot potato to one of the vested parties in the dispute that had arisen over the outcome of an officer-involved shooting. It was a lesson that would not be quickly forgotten by anyone.

Unfortunately when it came to "fixing" the CPRC's power to independently investigate incustody deaths, they had only just begun as the next several months would reveal. Some patterns were just never made to be broken, even in the aftermath of the aftermath of the shots that were heard around the world, only seven years ago.

Still, with the Rabb case in the process of being decided and the controversial shooting of Lee Deante Brown on the horizon, there are those who will watch to see what happens next. Even in cases when that last grain of sand has fallen out of the hour glass.

Time Frames on Recent OID Investigations:

Summer Lane:

Date: Dec. 6, 2004

CPRC investigation: March 2005

OIS investigation completed: April 2005

Date of public report: Nov. 2, 2005

Date of finding: Nov. 9, 2005 (outside of departmental policy)

Statutory deadline: Dec. 6, 2005

Case delayed several months by CPRC due to the appointment of two new commissioners during the spring and summer of 2005.

Todd Argow:

Date: Nov. 14, 2005

CPRC investigation completed: May 15, 2006

OIS investigation completed: June 2006

Date of public report: July 26, 2006

Date of finding: Aug. 23, 2006 (within department policy)

Statutory deadline: Nov. 14, 2006

Terry Rabb:

Date: Oct. 2, 2005

OIS investigation completed: March 2006

Internal Affairs Administrative review completed: July 2006

Date of public report: possibly Sept. 13, 2006

Delay attributed to the length of the Internal Affairs Division's review.

Date of finding: unknown, probably October at the earliest.

Statutory deadline: Oct. 2, 2006

Deputy's manslaughter case moved to trial

A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge has decided that a former sheriff deputy will face criminal charges for shooting an unarmed man after a police pursuit.

San Bernardino County Sheriff Deputy Ivory J. Webb, 45 is set to stand trial in the case for attempted manslaughter in the shooting of Air Force airman Elio Carrion. Carrion was shot three times by Webb while trying to comply with his verbal commands. The shooting was videotaped by a pedestrian and aired nationwide. Soon after, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office filed criminal charges against Webb.

The video tape of the shooting depicted Carrion on the ground and being told to rise by Webb, but when he does, Webb discharges his weapon, striking him several times.

Several parties and witnesses including Carrion and Jose Luis Valdes, the man who videotaped the incident testified during the day-long hearing.

With the preliminary hearing completed, the case is expected to head to a jury trial. It is the first criminal case involving an onduty shooting by a law enforcement officer in San Bernardino county's history. In neighboring Riverside County, only one law enforcement officer has been prosecuted for an onduty shooting. In 2003, Riverside County District Attorney investigator, Daniel Riter was tried on first degree murder charges for the onduty shooting of a man who was trying to leave the scene with a woman and her children in a pick up truck. Riter shot out the truck's front tires and then fired once at close range through the driver's window when the truck passed him. Riter initially claimed that the truck was trying to run him over, but when ballistics evidence contradicted his account, he later claimed that his gun had accidentally discharged. The jury believe him and convicted him of a lessor charge of involuntary manslaughter based on criminal negligence. He is currently serving seven years in state prison.

Riter is White. Webb, African-American. Their victims were both men of color.

The FBI is currently investigating at least two officer-involved shootings in the Inland Empire to determine whether there were any civil rights violations. The Carrion shooting is one of them.

Photo Gallery of Carrion and Webb

Riter and Webb

Deputy to face manslaughter charges

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rabb: Many questions, fewer answers

CPRA Watch: 31 days with no response

The Community Police Review Commission met on Aug. 23 to approve a public report that it hoped would provide answers in relation to the incustody death of Terry Rabb, a 35-year-old African-American man who suffered from diabetes.

Instead, the often heated meeting raised more questions than answers especially surrounding the use of force tactics used by Officers Camillo Bonome and John Garcia, to restrain Rabb so that he could be medically evaluated and treated by two Riverside City Fire Department employees. Soon after Bonome attempted to apply a carotid restraint on Rabb and both officers had handcuffed him, he stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. He died after being transported to a nearby hospital. The Riverside County Sheriff/Coroner's office which performed the autopsy stated that Rabb died from his underlying illnesses, with no mention of the chain of events which had preceded it. Still, for several commissioners doubts remained as to whether or not the officers' actions while restraining him played a role in his death.

"I'm really torn on this case," CPRC Chair Les Davidson said, "My heart tells me there were some things done here that were wrong."

Davidson said that CPRC investigator Butch Warnberg had concluded in his investigation that Rabb had died from cardiac arrest after the physical restraint by the police officers.

"That's a pretty strong statement," he said.

What upset Davidson the most, were comments allegedly made by Bonome that he suspected that Rabb was under the influence of an illegal drug, either crack cocaine or PCP even after being informed by the dispatcher who handled the 911 phone call that Rabb was diabetic and suffering from an insulin reaction. These comments were reported to investigators by family members of Rabb, yet the RPD's own detectives apparently failed to question either Bonome or Garcia about these alleged comments during their interviews, even after they had called in Bonome for a second interview, according to the department's own investigative report.

On the other hand, Davidson said that the officers may not have been trained or even obligated to know about Rabb's medical condition.

"Two sides of this, which really pull," an obviously conflicted Davidson said to the commission.

Commissioner Jack Brewer disagreed with Davidson.

He said that the officers had to restrain Rabb because the emergency medical technicians could not do so. In fact, their department has a policy that forbids them from restraining patients, which was why police officers had been dispatched to the scene to assist them. He called the alleged comments made by Bonome, "unfortunate".

Brian Pearcy, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, said that while it was unfortunate that Bonome made these comments in front of Rabb's family members, he might have done it to raise the consciousness of his partner about the situation. What it might have done was put both officers in a "heightened" mode and state of alertness.

Jim Ward, the only African-American on the nine-member panel, expressed many concerns about the incident, enough to lead him to decide to release a minority report. He said that he had problems with Bonome's assumption that Rabb was not ill, but under the influence of illegal drugs and whether that perception drove his behavior and determined what actions he took.

"The behavior of the officers are more in line with him being on drugs rather than because of his diabetic condition," Ward said.

Commissioner Ric Garcia said that he felt the comments if they were made, escalated the situation. A statement which mirrored that presented by Warnberg in his report.

"This is a very, very tough case", he said.

Even as commissioners disagreed with each other about the significance of the perceptions held by the officers concerning Rabb, all of them expressed frustration with their combined belief that the department's own investigation conducted by its Officer-Involved-Death Team had failed to adequately address the allegations raised about Bonome's alleged comments. In fact, as Pearcy said at one point, the department did not provide any evidence that provided any insight into the officers' state of mind during the entire incident. That shortfall was a source of great frustration to commissioners left with a difficult decision to make about the case. Without knowing the officers' state of mind during the incident, it would be difficult to determine whether the course of action they took was in line with the department's written policy governing the use of force.

Davidson, a former police officer, said that if he had received knowledge that the situation involved a medical emergency, then the last thing he would have been considering in that situation was using lethal force. A typical officer would have been careful in his attempts to restrain an ill person, he said.

"I don't think a chokehold is what should be used," Davidson said.

The "chokehold" is actually a nickname for the carotid restraint. It is a technique which is used by an officer to restrain or subdue an individual by using his arm to apply pressure to a person's neck region in order to temporarily cut off the blood supply which flows through the two carotid arteries and several veins in the neck to and from the brain. The restraint also impacts the vagus nerve and affects its function as well. This action and its combined effect usually renders a person unconscious for a brief period of time. However, in many documented cases where it has been used, the affected person has not regained consciousness and has died.

Use of force options: Pros and Cons

Different law enforcement agencies have different policies regarding its use. Some agencies including the Los Angeles Police Department have banned it (although this agency still uses the "modified" carotid restraint). Others have policies defining it as a lethal force option, one on par with an officer's firearm. Still other agencies including the RPD state in their use of force policies that the carotid restraint is considered a "less lethal" option, or as Bakersfield(CA) Police Department puts it, to have an "injuring" effect not a lethal one.

The agencies and their officers who support the use of the carotid restraint see it as an option bridging what they view as the wide gap between "control holds" and lethal force. Community leaders, human rights organizations, medical personnel and many law enforcement experts view this restraint as dangerous, even lethal and in many cities have asked for it to be banned.

In Riverside, at least three deaths connected with the deployment of the carotid restraint in the mid-1990s led to large settlements and in one case, a jury's verdict.

Derek Hayward: $1.1 million jury's verdict including legal fees

Adam Williamson: $215,000

Hector Islas: $790,000

Still, the deployment of the carotid restraint in the RPD is on the rise if the statistics quoted in a progress report written by former attorney general consultant Joe Brann in 2006 are any indication. Its use by officers has gradually increased during the past several years, even as the use of several other less lethal options including projectiles has decreased during that same period of time. It has not led to any more deaths, but without further data, it is not clear whether or not those who have been on the receiving end of it have not suffered significant injuries as a result.

Any information on the carotid restraint may be academic in this case, because according to the officers' statements, it was attempted but never completed because Rabb had tucked his chin to his chest and his face was pressed into the sofa cushions while Bonome placed his body weight on his back. The coroner's report showed no signs of bruising or other trauma to Rabb's neck region that could indicate that the restraint had been used. Still, the officers' decision to at least attempt it on an ill man disturbed at least one commissioner.

"Did that chokehold, was that the cause that brought Rabb to become deceased," Davidson said, "I think so."

Also challenged and even criticized by several commissioners was the department's use of force policy, which has been amended about a half-dozen times in the past seven years, reflecting the wide-sweeping reforms that have impacted the agency during that time period.

Ward had tough words for what he called the "serious ambiguities" present in that policy. He said its current language placed too much importance on the perception of the officer engaging in it and treated that perception as "infallible". It then required that the officer engage in the same amount of force in a given situation as a "reasonable" person would while adhering to a set legal standard. He believed the different criteria of what level of force to use in a given situation could conflict with one another and that it pretty much defended whatever action the officer took, whatever its consequences.

The department's use of force policy and its implementation drew attention after the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998 and become the focus of investigations by both federal and state law enforcement agencies as well as an investigation conducted by a panel of citizens appointed by Mayor Ron Loveridge in 1999. Consequently, it has undergone several revisions and currently includes a provision which states that officers are to recognize the sanctity and value of human life when considering its implementation. Several outside agencies also addressed the placement of the cartotid restraint in the use of force continuem and whether or not, it constituted lethal or less lethal force. Currently, it is considered a less lethal option for an officer to utilize in different situations.

The quality of the investigation received a lionshare of the criticism from the commission which was similar to what happened while it investigated the Summer Lane shooting.

Pearcy said that most of his criticisms would be directed towards the quality of the department's investigation, most notably the omission of any documentation regarding the officers' state of mind. Without it, it would be difficult to definitively state whether or not the use of force that would be in large part based on those perceptions was in violation of departmental policy. Even though the CPRC's investigator had followed up on the allegations regarding Bonome's comments, the department had failed to do so. This left the commission in an unenviable quandary.

"We don't have definitive answers as to why he died," Pearcy said, "We don't. We can't make that jump."

Not surprisingly, Ward had even more harsh comments regarding the department's investigation.

"They know how to do an investigation. They know what questions to ask," Ward said, " There is a clear effort to avoid the kind of questions that we need to make this transparent to the police department and to the public."

These criticisms mirrored those raised regarding the police department's investigation of the Lane shooting in 2004. At that time, commissioners had been critical of the interrogations detectives conducted with individuals, especially Officer Ryan Wilson. Several commissioners said while discussing the drafting of the public report that they believed that the detectives who interviewed Wilson asked him leading questions and assisted him in his interrogation. Those criticism were included in the CPRC's public report on the Lane shooting.

The Lane shooting was ultimately determined to have violated the department's use of force policy by the CPRC, if not the city or the police department. Whether or not the Rabb incident falls in the same category is uncertain at this point in time. What is certain that whatever finding is decided upon by the panel, it will come with an asterisk attached.

Monday, August 21, 2006

CPRC: Semi-annual Report

Three council members met to be briefed on the Community Police Review Commission's semiannual report presented to them by current full-time executive manager, Pedro Payne.

Committee Chair Andrew Melendrez, Nancy Hart and Steve Adams, along with City Attorney Gregory Priamos and Asst. City Manager Thomas DeSantis, listened as Payne reported the most recent trends noted by the commission in terms of complaints received and disposed. Melendrez told the committee members that he had decided to include periodic briefings from the CPRC to the agenda of the public safety committee.

Payne said that the number of complaints had decreased in comparison to this same time last year, but was unable to explain the reasons behind this shift. The number of complaints sustained stood at around 13%, a rate slightly lower than that of last year.

Geographically, most of the complaints involved alleged incidents that occurred in the downtown area, a trend which has stood since the CPRC started receiving complaints in 2001.

Payne said that one area the CPRC was interested in working on was increasing the efficiency of complaint investigations. The time frame between the initiation of the complaint and when it was finally adjudicated was still a lengthy period of time. The average time a category 1 complaint spent at the police department being investigated and processed by the administrative chain of command was 167 days and for category 2 complaints, it was 136 days, according to information listed in the CPRC's monthly reports. Payne said that establishing dialogues with representatives in the department's Internal Affairs Division had been productive in addressing some of these issues.

Adams lauded his own idea of appointing a department representative, currently Capt. Pete Esquival, to serve as a liaison between the CPRC and the police department as helping in bridging the gap between the two entities. Police officers in the department had more positive feelings about the CPRC's role in their professional lives because its practices were no longer unknown to them, Adams said. Those were interesting comments coming from a council member who had received over $15,000 in campaign contributions from the RPOA's political action committee when he ran for city council in 2003. All of the political candidates except for Mayor Ron Loveridge who had received financial contributions from the RPOA had publicly voiced their opposition to the CPRC either before or after they were elected to office.

Perhaps this is a sign that the tide is turning in favor of the CPRC in civic circles and it has woven itself more permanently into the city's fabric.

CPRC Stats:

(Source: CPRC Semi-annual Report)

Number of complaints:

2005: 58

2006: 38

Disposition of complaints:


2005: 18%

2006: 13%

Not Sustained:

2005: 19%

2006: 28%


2005: 38%

2006: 42%


2005: 19%

2006: 13%

RPD investigation and administrative processing:*

(Source: CPRC Monthly Reports)

January 2006:

Category 1(serious allegations including excessive force): 138 days

Category 2(less serious allegations): 102 days

February 2006:

198 days

180 days

March 2006:



April 2006:

230 days

143 days

May 2006:

116 days

121 days

June 2006:

154 days

134 days

CPRC processing and review:

January 2006:

Category 1(serious allegations including excessive force): 71 days

Category 2(less serious allegations): 51 days

February 2006:

19 days

42 days

March 2006:



April 2006:

77 days

99 days

May 2006:

79 days

99 days

June 2006:

57 days

42 days

*RPD policy 4.12(sections 5,6) state that the established goal time frames for category 1 complaints is 60 days and for category 2 complaints, 30 days. For time extensions, a division commander will seek approval from the Personnel Services/Internal Affairs Commander.

CPRC Special Meeting: Terry Rabb

The Community Police Review Commission has scheduled a special meeting to approve the final draft of its public report on the officer-involved-death case involving Terry Rabb.

Date: Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006

Time: 5:30pm

Location: Riverside Utility Building, 3901 Orange St.(1/2 block east of City Hall)

The CPRC was briefed on its own investigation of the Rabb incident by its private investigator Butch Warnberg at its last meeting. Then its members began collectively to draft a report to release to the public, detailing its narrative and analysis of the incident.

After the public report is approved by the CPRC, it will meet in closed session to determine whether or not the officers acted within departmental policy during the Rabb incident. That meeting is tentatively scheduled for the second Wednesday in September.

Earlier on Aug. 23, at 4:30pm, the CPRC will meet in closed session to determine whether or not the officer-involved shooting of Todd Argow was within the department's policy regarding the use of lethal force. It is expected that the CPRC will back its investigator's own findings and determine that the shooting was within policy.

CPRC Public Report: Todd Argow

(Adobe Acrobat required)

Other officer-involved death reports
(Adobe Acrobat required)

Summer Lane

Finding: Outside of policy

Volne Lamont Stokes

Finding: Within policy

Rene Guevara

Finding: Within policy

Vanpaseuth Phaisouphanh

Finding: Within policy

Sunday, August 20, 2006

CPRC Watch and Wait

This entry is what is officially referred to as a CPRC request watch for information requested in relation to the shooting of Lee Deante Brown earlier this year.

On July 24, 2006, I submitted a written request under the California Public Records Act to the police department to obtain documents and records in relation to several of the reforms that were to continue after the stipulated judgment was dissolved in March. I also asked for the department's policies and procedures pertaining to both the issuance and usage of tasers by its police officers. In addition to this information, I had requested copies of the training that each officer receives in regards to using tasers as well as statistical information on their usage and how many officers in the department were actually equipped with these devices. Included in the information I had requested with regards to taser training was what measures were taken during this training to avoid the occurrence of "friendly fire" discharges. The department had admitted that there were taser issues arising from the Lee Deante Brown shooting.

Under state law, the department was required to issue a written response either granting the request in full, granting it in part or denying it entirely within 10 days unless it had asked for an extension of time to determine what its response would be.

The CPRA law states:

California Government Code §6256. Any person may receive a copy of any identifiable public record or copy thereof. Upon request, an exact copy shall be provided unless impracticable to do so. Computer data shall be provided in a form determined by the agency.

Each agency, upon any request for a copy of records shall determine within 10 days after the receipt of such request whether to comply with the request and shall immediately notify the person making the request of such determination andthe reasonss thereforeer.

As of Aug. 22, I have not received a response to this written request either in writing or in any other format. Perhaps the written request for public information got lost in the process of its delivery to those who make the decisions of what information is to be released to the public and what information is not. Perhaps it is sitting on a stack of paperwork in an office some where waiting to be addressed. Perhaps it got lost through the mail service on its way back to me.

These possible explanations may be what actually took place in terms of why this CPRA request did not receive a written response. The only problem with them is that this was actually the second request that did not receive a written response from the police department involving several of the same issues.

An earlier request under the CPRA for similar information made last spring pertaining to department issued tasers also failed to elicit any written response from the department. A department representative later said that copies of the requested information including the department's own written policies could not be handed over to me or anyone else until the department had completed its own investigation into the Brown shooting. A shooting investigation by the police department usually takes from about five months to nearly a year to complete so this public information will remain out of the public's hands until after that period of time has passed. Essentially, it could take up to a year to receive even a copy of policies from the police department, pertaining not only to the use of department issued tasers but also addressing how the agency's police officers interface with mentally ill or incapacitated individuals in accordance with any existing policy.

The legal requirement held by the responding agency in terms of denial or delay is also included in this text.

California Government Code §6256.2. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit an agency to delay access for purposes of inspecting public records. Any notification of denial of any request for records shall set forth the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the denial.

What's funny about this situation involving departmental policies is that only several years ago, the department(upon request of the CPRC and several community members) had donated a volume of its policy and procedure manual to the Riverside City Public Library located in downtown Riverside for public access. All a person visiting the library had to do was remove the thick blue manual with the department's emblem off of the reference shelf and read it to find out for themselves what policies and procedures governed the actions and practices of their public servants. This practice worked for nearly a year, until one day the thick blue binder disappeared from the reference shelf of the library, the official explanation being that it had been returned to the police department to be "updated" to include either new policies or policies that had undergone revision. The blue binder has been missing in action from the library for about three years now.

If you were unable to get to the main library to read this binder, you could also submit a request in writing under the CPRA to obtain a copy of any policy that was included in that manual. In fact, I had received copies of numerous policies from the department using this method without experiencing any problems. Until these two times.

It is odd that no written response has been received from the department involving two CPRA requests made since the Brown shooting. Before this incident occurred, this same department had an excellent record of responding to my CPRA requests in a prompt manner whether it granted the request or not. Many of my requests for information were granted at least in part and several in total. Not many governmental agencies have been as cooperative with CPRA requests as the RPD has been in the past several years and the agency deserves credit for that. So where are the current problems coming from?

Some have opinionated that the problems might not be with the police department at all, but instead lie at the door of the city's risk management division. After all, civil litigation in the form of claims for damages and actual law suits have been filed involving three out of the department's last four fatal critical incidents. The family members of Summer Lane have filed civil litigation agains the city and individuals who are related to both Terry Rabb and Brown have also recently filed claims with the City Attorney's office, in relation to those two incidents. Such claims, which are routinely denied, usually serve as precursors for law suits filed in either federal or state district court. Consequently, thousands of dollars will be spent on attorneys' and court's fees for years and down the line, even more money could be potentially paid out in settlements and through jury verdicts if any of the law suits go to trial and returns with unfavorable results for the city. That happened with one law suit that went to trial in U.S. District Court twice in 1999.

However, true or not, that is neither here nor there, when it comes to the public's right under the state's "sunshine" laws to access public documents even those that may not place the department in the best position if they are released. Without "sunshine laws" and the public's right to access information about their governmental agencies, then it is difficult or even impossible for there to be any meaningful accountability inside those agencies in terms of how they serve the public.

If a department said that it can not give out even copies of its policies that are considered public information, until after a shooting investigation is complete as was said earlier this year, then that action is more indicative of a situation where those decisions are being made in accordance with risk management and fiscal liability concerns. Unfortunately, in situations like this if they occur, every other issue, even those pertaining to the safety of community members and departmental employees comes further down the list of priorities because it is difficult for them to compete with the fiscal reality of a department being sued or potentially sued in relation to a critical incident. The department is not an independent agency, but is under the jurisdiction of the city, including its city attorney's office and risk management divisions and thus must abide by decisions coming out of those departments on how it conducts at least this part of its business. In fact, most if not all of my CPRA requests to the police department have included in the written responses, language indicating that a representative of the city attorney's office, most often Asst. City Attorney Jeb Brown, had provided legal advice on the issue and/or had received a copy of the department's response to my requests.

The way to improve a potential risk management situation is to increase the safety of everyone involved, and addressing any serious problems or safety issues especially any arising from critical incidents. Inviting those with a stake in the process, the department, the city and the community, to have a voice in a process that is as transparent as possible is very important. Doing so allows the public to see that the department is committed to addressing issues and solving any actual or potential problems.

The answer is not to simply become reluctant to disclose personal information because you are worried that the truth might put you in a less than positive light in front of a jury.

For more information on the CPRA, here are some links.

California First Amendment Coalition

Web site with information on California's "sunshine" laws including the Brown Act(public meetings access) and the California Public Records Act.

CPRA law text

The nitty gritty of the CPRA.

CPRA letter template

How to write a CPRA request letter.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Black Men Acting Strangely, Are they on PCP?

Lee Deante Brown.
Terry Rabb.

Two Black men, both acting strangely in two separate incidents six months apart. Both died during or after encounters with Riverside Police Department officers. Both cases under investigation by both the Riverside Police Department and the Community Police Review Commission.

One might have been mentally ill. The other was certainly physically ill. In both cases, there would be allegations that these two men either were under the influence of PCP or that officers had believed that this could be true.

On April 3, Brown was shot and killed by a Riverside Police Department officer.
Three months after his death, his family filed a wrongful death claim against the city of Riverside.

"We think the system broke down on several levels," said Brian Dunn, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who is representing Brown's family. "I have not heard anything that suggested to me that he had to be shot out there."

In fact, not much has been said about the shooting at all by the police department since it briefed the CPRC on the events leading up to and including Brown's death. What's known is that officers were called to respond to reports that Brown was walking down the street, shouting and engaging in strange behavior including lying down in the street and exposing himself to other people. The department's briefing before the CPRC provided the following narrative of the shooting.

Officer Michael Paul Stucker was monitoring his radio and drove his squad car to the Welcome Inn, at the corner of Ottawa and University Avenue. When Stucker arrived, Brown was sitting in a corner of the parking lot, near several motel rooms. Stucker got out of his vehicle and approached him after hearing from a resident that Brown might be under the influence of PCP. Stucker then issued verbal commands and when Brown did not comply, he shocked him with his department issued taser. Officer Terry Ellefson, who had SWAT training, then arrived and assisted Stucker, after telling him not to tase Brown because Ellefson was standing too close to him. Ellefson then tried to handcuff Brown and was able to place the handcuffs on one arm. Brown continued to struggle and he and the two officers moved closer to the middle of the parking lot. Ellefson tased Brown and Stucker hit him several times in the legs with the baton. After he had tased Brown, Ellefson then fired two shots at Brown from his service weapon because he alleged that Brown had grabbed his taser and he was in fear for his safety. Brown fell on the ground and later died from gunshot wounds to the chest after being transported to a local hospital.

No civilian witness who was in the vicinity reported seeing anything in Brown's hand when Ellefson shot him. One recent report came from a woman who was ironically, a mental health expert. She had been driving down University Avenue when the shooting took place. She saw Brown fall to the ground, and like other civilian witnesses, did not see anything in his hands.

Pretty quickly, it became evident that more than one individual's safety might have been endangered that day, before Ellefson fired his gun.

It turned out that Brown was not the only individual who apparently had been shocked by Ellefson's taser. Stucker also had been struck by a taser dart in his hand around the time Ellefson used his taser on Brown. As a result, he briefly lost control of his hand and arm after tens of thousands of volts of electricity ran through his body. An officer who loses his ability to control himself due to being shocked by a taser is thus placed in a dangerous and vulnerable position. He would not be able to defend himself in an altercation and thus could potentially be in fear for his safety, correct?

After all, that's the same argument that was used by the department to explain why Ellefson resorted to using lethal force against Brown. The department stated that if Brown had gained control of Ellefson's taser, then he could have used it against Ellefson, thus potentially incapacitating him and placing his life in danger. Ironically, it might have been Ellefson himself that demonstrated that scenario on his own partner.

Initially, a department representative had said that it was not clear which officer's taser was the source of the dart that had struck Stucker in the hand. However, Stucker had used his taser in the initial few minutes of his encounter with Brown and it is unlikely that he shot himself with his own taser. That only leaves one taser present at the scene that could have been responsible, which would have been Ellefson's, with one dart hitting Stucker and the other dart apparently striking Brown.

At the time Stucker was allegedly hit by one of the darts from Ellefson's taser, he was standing in close proximity to Brown, trying to grab the loose handcuff fastened to one of Brown's arms, according to the department's own version of events. Ellefson fired his taser anyway, despite having warned Stucker earlier not to fire his taser at Brown until Ellefson removed the darts from a prior usage. Ellefson likely said this because he was standing in such close proximity to Brown at the time and recognized the potential danger of that situation. Perhaps this had been part of the training he had received at some point on taser usage. It is not clear that either Stucker or Ellefson were standing at an appropriate safe distance when discharging their tasers from the information provided thus far by the police department. Witnesses said that both officers were fairly close to Brown at all times during the incident including when the tasers were discharged.

The departmental representative who provided the briefing to the CPRC never actually said that Stucker had been struck by "friendly fire" but mentioned that at some point, Stucker had felt an intense electrical shock running through his body and that there was a taser dart fastened to one of his hands. There was no explanation as to how the taser dart became attached to an officer who was not its intended target. The department representative initially attributed the electric shock felt by Stucker to Brown had grabbing his arm while he was being tased by Ellefson, during that same briefing. However, it was fairly clear to anyone who listened to the briefing what had really happened. If you feel an electric shock passing through your body and you have a taser dart sticking to any part of your body, then you probably have been tased, whether it was intentional or not.

Toxicology issues also reared their heads, with the issue of PCP intoxication in the case of Brown.

As is standard for an officer-involved death, the police department performed a toxicology screening on Brown, for alcohol and controlled substances. In this case, the test was expedited by Chief Russ Leach, a fact he relayed at a community meeting that took place two days after the shooting.

The department ran its screenings on Brown, but remain mum about the results, even though departmental representatives had brought up PCP intoxication at several community meetings as a possible reason for Brown's erratic behavior. Most likely, this conclusion had been drawn because Brown had been arrested by police officers for being under the influence of a controlled substance several days before his fatal shooting. In fact, one unidentified correspondent here claimed that it had taken seven RPD officers to get Brown inside the squad car. On the day of the shooting, one of the witnesses had allegedly told Stucker that Brown might be under the influence of PCP. Stucker's reaction to that news was to approach Brown and issue verbal commands, without waiting for any backup assistance. This, despite oft-repeated stories about individuals on PCP displaying super human strength and being nearly impervious to pain or other external stimuli. However, PCP usage has decreased markedly since the 1980s so maybe that has impacted the training the newer officers have received on apprehending individuals on PCP. At the time Stucker approached him, Brown was on the ground, behaving fairly quietly.

Despite the initial attention given to PCP, the issue of mental illness soon entered into the discussions of the shooting as well, beginning on the day that it took place. Concerned city residents and community leaders wondered out loud if it was time for the department to examine how its officers were interfacing with the mentally ill population which has grown tremendously thanks to policies and procedures put into place for deinstitutionalization of the facilities provided for the mentally ill by former President Ronald Reagan. At least, one out of every nine hospital beds is being used by a patient suffering from schizophrenia, one of several different mental illnesses and about 1/3 of the homeless population suffers from a mental illness. Increasingly, police officers are placed in the position of being the primary responders in terms of interacting with the mentally ill population.

Some of these community leaders including those with backgrounds in mental health issues took their concerns to several community forums that were held to address the shooting soon after it happened. The response from the police department's management appeared to be cautiously receptive. If the department's leadership is intelligent and visionary, then it has already taken the initial steps needed to address this serious issue that will only increase in importance over time.

However, some of the unidentified correspondents here were not buying that mental illness of any kind played a role in the Brown shooting. Last April, one "Anonymous" stated:

"Did a little more, Mary, and I'm sure you'll find out what Mr. Brown's real legacy will be - and it has nothing to do with mental illness awareness."

Correspondent "Asti Spamanti" put in his two cents on the issue of mental illness and law enforcement response as well. In prior statements, "Asti Spamanti" had identified himself as a RPD officer.

"Now as for the mentally ill, can you define that please? Does the mentally ill include those that put illegal substances into their bodies like PCP and rock cocaine-sorry Sandalou, I know you get a little peeved when people start making fun of those who use rock cocaine---Mary, I hearby proclaim that all mentally ill people should be allowed to do whatever they want including imposing threats against cops because they are mentally ill!!!!"

Disturbingly, race entered into the fray.

During the past eight months, unidentified correspondents including "Asti Spamanti", "Starksy" and others had made numerous comments about the relationship between African-Americans and illegal drug use especially crack or rock cocaine. Some unidentified individuals went further and appropriated stereotypes in their comments.

"RPD does a good job. They took the crack right out of my ass and put me in jail. Now, I'm an upstanding citizen. Mary...leave those RPD guys alone. Come see me on the corner of Douglas/University and i'll take care of your underlying problem. You need some dick.....

Sincerly Huggy Bear"

They also fabricated quotes and attributed them to famous African-Americans involving drug use to *prove* their points.

"He who smoketh the fattest rock will get the biggest high."---Rick James...

Then there are the numerous comments made by unidentified individuals about how Hispanics were "gangsters", African-Americans were "drug addicts or dealers" and the crime victims unless they were White, did not have any racial identity at all.

"Starsky"'s statement that he provided last December provided this portrait of how these individuals viewed society in a succinct fashion.

"Afterall, with all of the time spent trying to rehabilitate our youth (particularly on the East side) and all of the stipulations and politics that have created a reactive police force instead of a pro-active one, there are still a number of black males with big afros selling rock cocaine and pimpin hookers; and there are still Hispanic gangters claiming turf and shooting innocent citizens; and there are still a large number of blacks pointing guns at the faces of innocent shop owners and employees and tying them up and taking things that don't belong to them while devestating these inncocent victims for life. Yup, the more things change,the more they stay the same!!!"

"Starsky" clearly is correct in that there are indeed Hispanics in gangs and African-Americans committing crimes. However, no where in his comments does "Starsky"(or any of the other commentators, for that matter) ever talk about African-Americans in any other context besides that of being criminals. These attitudes regarding African-Americans even extended to discussion of several officers employed by the RPD. Roger "Charlie 211" Sutton and the two Black officers involved in the 1997 Lake Evans incident appeared to represent the epitome of Black officers in the RPD to several of these unidentified correspondents.

Equally apparent is how "Starsky" and others view victims of crimes as being without race. None of these commentators ever depict African-Americans or Hispanics as being crime victims, even when discussing crime in communities where members of these two racial groups make up the vast majority of the crime victims. The "innocent shop victims" and the "vendors" are not assigned racial identities, like those who victimize them are so readily in comments made here. The 10-year-old boy who was shot last Christmas also does not have a racial identity, even though he was Hispanic, although his suspected killers did.

If these individuals are indeed police officers like they have claimed to be, then how they view both perpetrators and victims along racial lines can affect how they deal with not only individuals comprising both groups, but individuals who belong to different racial groups. If an African-American man can be so readily labeled as a drug dealer or crack cocaine addict but can not just as easily be referred to as a victim or at least a person in need of assistance, how is that going to impact how an African-American man is viewed by police officers if he is suffering from a physical or mental illness that manifests itself in ways that makes him appear "crazy" or "hostile"?

After all, the fatal shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998 originated as a 911 call for emergency medical assistance and ended with 12 bullets in her body and many more passing through her vehicle.

How many officers would look at a Black man experiencing symptoms similar to those shown by Brown or Rabb and think that he might be under the influence of an illegal drug? How many of them would still think this even after informed that he was suffering from a medical condition or a mental illness?

In November 2004, police officers fired dozens of rounds of less lethal munitions at a Black man suffering from mental illness who was trespassing on someone's roof. Fire fighters sprayed the man with their fire hoses, adding to his injuries. A version of this incident was related on this blog last November by an unidentified individual who called himself "Starsky" and claimed to be a RPD officer. Perhaps, if that incident had not been complicated by its own investigation and what it apparently uncovered, it could have been the watershed incident in terms of addressing the issue of mental illness. Unfortunately, for Rabb and Brown that would have to wait.

However, "Asti Spamanti"'s concerns about African-Americans and their drugs of choice became moot because it's still not clear whether or not Brown was even under the influence of PCP when he was shot. The police department is not making any claims either way while it conducts its own criminal investigation as well as its administrative review of that investigation. Likely, any toxicological test results(probably negative for PCP) will first be made public when the CPRC receives its briefing from its own investigator on the shooting in the upcoming months.

Unfortunately, that will make it appear as if the CPRC is detailing the facts and the department is keeping them under wraps. This is due in large part to the fact that after the department appears before the CPRC and gives the initial briefing on an officer-involved death, it closes its mouth on the matter in terms of public disclosure. In the past, it has stated that state law and the police officers' bill of rights require it to be circumspect about its inhouse investigations including officer involved deaths.

There has also been silence from the department in the public arena on whether or not it plans to implement a program geared towards dealing with individuals who are mentally ill or medically incapacitated. Some community leaders had expressed hopes that the department would adopt a program similar to DMH/SMART in Los Angeles or the renowned Memphis Police Department's program.

Southern California LE agencies' mental illness intervention programs

Memphis Police Department's CIT program

Several fatal incidents involving RPD officers and civilians in recent years have had either mental or medical conditions involved as contributory factors in terms of the behavior they exhibited that officers said left them with no alternative but to shoot them.

In November 2005, Todd Argow, a White man and a former city manager who suffered from depression, was shot and killed by Officer Terry Ellefson after he came outside of his house with an unloaded shotgun. Earlier, Argow had told one of his neighbors during a phone call that he had planned to commit "suicide by cop". The shooting was found to be in policy by the police department, a finding which will most likely be seconded by the CPRC in the next several weeks.

Mental illnesses like depression can greatly impact behavior. So can other types of medical conditions, which was apparent when examining the events leading up to the incustody death of Rabb.

Currently, the CPRC is drafting its public report for the incustody death involving Rabb. Its investigator Butch Warnberg presented his findings to the commission last week.

In October 2005, Rabb, who was a diabetic, died at a local hospital soon after he allegedly struggled with police officers who were called to assist paramedics in dealing with a "hostile" man. According to a briefing given by the police department on this incident, Rabb had been exhibiting symptoms of a diabetic episode throughout that day, culminating in the incident that led to his contact with both law enforcement and medical personnel.

Fire fighters onscene said that Rabb appeared to be in an "altered" state. They recognized his symptoms as being similar to what is seen in diabetics suffering from severe hypoglycemia, based on their statements to the CPRC's investigators. Hypoglycemic attacks can affect various bodily organs including the brain where it induces a mental state known as "hypoglycemic unawareness". Non-epileptic seizures and convulsions which can lead to unconsciousness may also occur with a severe hypoglycemic attack. Other symptoms include tremors, irritability, impaired judgment, anxiety, glassy looks, combativeness and slurred speech, all of which were exhibited by Rabb.

However, according to several witnesses, Officer Camillo Bonome made statements that indicated that he had a different theory that explained Rabb's behavior. Cathy Jones said in her interview with Warnberg that Bonome had said that he thought Rabb was on some sort of illegal drug, either crack cocaine or PCP. Hearing him say these words made her very angry with him, Jones admitted. Warnberg stated in his report that if these allegations were true, then it could have escalated the situation.

"If such statements were indeed made, they would have only served to inflame and disrupt an already chaotic scene and would have been a tactical error," Warnberg stated.

Rabb had exhibited signs that were similar to those exhibited by a person under the influence of a stimulant. However, in this particular situation, family members had informed the 911 dispatcher about Rabb's extensive medical problems, as related on the incident's CAD sheet. Fire fighters were able to identify the signs of severe hypoglycemia and were acting accordingly. Warnberg stated in his report that it appeared that the officers did not recognize Rabb's behavior as being indicative of any medical condition. In fact, he believed that the opposite might have occurred. That they may have believed that he was manifesting symptoms that were not related to any medical illness. If this is true, then it might have impacted how both officers acted in the situation. To them, was Rabb a seriously ill man or a relatively healthy drug addict?

That question is one that needed to be answered. The only problem is that apparently it was not even asked because these alleged statements made by Bonome apparently went uninvestigated.
Warnberg stated that there was no evidence whether the alleged statements were actually made by Bonome or not. What he was able to conclude is that the alleged statements were not investigated by the police department's homicide investigators assigned to the Rabb case. Even though in these cases the officers are often the last parties to be interviewed, it appeared that the detectives never asked either Bonome or Officer John Garcia about allegations that these statements had been heard by several witnesses. They never allowed them the opportunity to admit or deny making these statements, instead leaving the issue open to question. A situation which simply raises more questions.

Because the officers were dispatched to the call, current RPD policy did not require them to activate their department-issued digital audio recorders and it is not clear whether or not either officer did. The fire fighters said in their statements that they were too busy tending to Rabb to have overheard any conversations between the police officers and civilian witnesses.

Bonome did turn on his digital audio recorder after Rabb had gone into cardiac arrest, according to statement he gave to investigators. This information was provided in Warnberg's report. The reason Bonome gave for doing so was because he believed that the civilians present were upset about the incident and he wanted to protect himself from false allegations. About his use of force, Bonome stated that he and Garcia had shown a "tremendous amount of restraint" in the midst of Rabb's actions and threats, according to Warnberg's report.

The police investigators did ask both police officers about another allegation made by three civilian witnesses that one of them had hit Rabb in the face or neck with a closed fist while attempting to perform the carotid restraint. Bonome said he did not do it. Garcia said he had not done it either and that he had not seen Bonome do it, although he admitted that at one point in the altercation, he had been too busy handcuffing Rabb to see what Bonome was doing. Fire fighter Patrick Hopkins said he did not see either officer hit Rabb. At one point, Hopkins was assisting the officers in handcuffing Rabb by holding one of his arms steady, according to his interview with the CPRC's investigators.

The autopsy report for Rabb stated that there did not appear to be any bruising on his face consistent with a strike to it nor were there any obvious bruiseds or marks on his neck indicating that the cartoid restraint had been used.

According to an autopsy report submitted by the Riverside County Sheriff's/Coroner's Department, Rabb died of heart disease complicated by his diabetes and related kidney problems. Warnberg stated that Rabb's death was by cardiac arrest following his restraint by the police officer. His toxicology tests were negative for both crack and PCP, showing only the presence of THC, an ingredient found in marijuana.

Two members of Rabb's family filed claims with the city of Riverside alleging that excessive force was used against Rabb by members of both the RPD and the fire department. Claims filed in the cases of Brown and Rabb join at least one law suit filed last year involving the 2004 shooting death of Summer Lane.

The city routinely denies claims, which are often precursors to civil law suits.

Family Files Claim in Officer-Involved Shooting Death
Family files claims in Terry Rabb OID

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