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, November 30, 2006

Shades of Diallo: The mystery man in black

News broke today that the New York Police Department has identified the fourth man who allegedly fled the scene of the officer-involved shooting in Queens on Nov. 25. You can read about it here.

Unidentified sources in the police department said that two witnesses picked this man out of a photo lineup and the department believes that he may have fled the scene with a gun. The same gun that the police no doubt searched for inside the bullet-ridden wreckage that was once Sean Bell's car and never found. The same gun they have been looking for since the shooting in order to make sense of what their employees had just unleashed on a city street. Apparently they are hoping a series of arrests will lead them to the mystery man in black.

The department also stated that it would conduct toxicology tests on Bell to see if he was under the influence when he was shot to death, which is fair enough and could provide valuable information on what happened. However, the department has declined to comment on whether or not they will test their own officers who between the five of them fired 50 bullets at Bell's car. In many law enforcement agencies, doing this in some capacity is routine. However in the Riverside Police Department, officers who are involved in incustody deaths including fatal shootings no longer provide voluntary blood or urine samples to investigators unless they are ordered to do so by the Internal Affairs Division for its own administrative review. If they were under the influence of any alcohol or controlled substance, the public will never learn that truth.

That testing process in my city's police department came under scrutiny in 1998, after the shooting of a young Black woman inside her car, who had 12 bullets strike her body that were only about half of those fired by four police officers. When it came time to test their urine samples, one of the samples apparently never made it to the state DOJ laboratory. No explanation was ever provided by the police department as to where that urine sample went.

Still, back in Queens, it's important to know what blood or urine tests done on these officers will reveal particularly in the case of the undercover officer whose perceptions of events as they unfolded is what catalyzed the barrage of bullets that followed.

That officer who fired first in Queens had been working undercover in the strip club for over three hours and had been authorized by the department to consume two alcoholic beverages in order to "blend in" with the crowd, but no more than that. It is not clear whether he drank any alcohol that night and if so, how much.

Bell, 23, died in the hail of gunfire after suffering bullet wounds to the neck and arm. Two of his friends were also shot and wounded that morning, including Joseph Guzman who lies in a hospital bed hooked up to an oxygen mask and with 17 bullet wounds in his body.

He has not yet been questioned by the police department. He has been visited by family members and community leaders including Al Sharpton.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

"Saturday he was unconscious, handcuffed," Sharpton said outside Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens. "Yesterday he was groggy. Today for the first time he spoke."

But Sharpton said Guzman, 31, was "very clear" about what he was saying.

"Even at one point, when we pulled back from the bed after having prayed, he called us back and said, 'They tried to kill us, they tried to kill us,'" Sharpton said.

Yolanda, Guzman's fiancee had her opinion on what happened as well expressed in that same news article.

Surveying the crime scene, Guzman's sister said the cops' story just doesn't add up.

"A dog doesn't deserve to die like that," Yolanda Guzman said.

I was reading an article on a New Zealand Web site, where African-Americans and Latinos, mostly young men, were interviewed by reporters in New York City including Queens about what it is like to be a young man of color inside and outside their neighborhoods.

Comments on racial profiling

Edgemere housing project is populated mostly by Black families. A male 16-year-old had been killed by two unidentified men, only several days after the Bell shooting in Queens. Low Lopez, who was interviewed by the reporter appeared to be between a rock and a hard place, a common spot for men and women of color. Afraid to venture outside after Christopher Glenn's murder, yet unable to trust the law enforcement agency assigned the task of trying to solve it. I have had many similar conversations with young men of color in Riverside, 3,000 miles away in several neighborhoods. Particularly after the 1998 shooting of Tyisha Miller by four officers and the more recent shooting earlier this year of Lee Deante Brown, but also the eight years in between.

(excerpt, article)

"It's all the cops. The white cops, the black cops, the Latino cops, the Chinese cops. Yeah, they harass us. That's not news. Nothing's changed," said Lopez, 24.

The officer interviewed in the article who was not named said that he and other officers were just trying to keep the peace, because there was a lot of gang violence.


It's almost all black, so unfortunately anyone who gets caught doing something wrong there is probably going to be that colour," said the officer, who did not want his name used because he was not authorised to speak to reporters.

The Eastside in Riverside, is mostly Black and Latino. Young men and women who live there have shared similar accounts of how they feel about police officers who either protect their communities or police them depending on the season. Some police officers who have worked in that neighborhood have tried to build bridges with the community members there and worked with youth, often in sports programs.

In other cases, the behavior of officers is the opposite. Including perhaps in my blog where unidentified persons claiming to be Riverside Police Department officers have made it clear how they feel about the residents of a neighborhood which was created at least in part from racist housing laws that are no longer officially on the books. Racism hasn't gone away, or even into hiding, too often it is ignored or in some cases accepted, with a wink and a smile. The jokes may not be in the roll call room anymore but does that mean that they aren't out there?

"Cosmo Kramer" is apparently the latest alias of an unidentified individual who created a furor in the police department when it discovered that he and apparently others were posting comments about the police department including racist comments about community members, derogatory comments about the department's female police officers and information leaked from several internal investigations involving separate acts of alleged misconduct by a Black male and a White female officer. He pops up now and then, often with a new moniker or two, especially when there is an officer-involved shooting in the news. Lately, the one in NYPD has him completely enthralled.

This time around, he wrote that Black people were "spear chuckers" and ranted about Black people in the Eastside spending their days on welfare, searching for pocket change in public pay phones so they can buy lottery tickets at the Western Liquor Store, which is why they didn't attend a community forum on the shooting of Lee Deante Brown last April. That's when he is not complaining that it's not safe for him to work as a police officer in Riverside because every Black person is out to kill them. He appears to have dropped the fried chicken and malt liquor jokes for now, but clings to his racist stereotypes like they are a security blanket, and believes I am intent on figuring out who he is, especially if he is one of my city's police officers.

On the contrary, I have very little interest in learning that information. After seeing several police officers associated in one way or another with my blog standing on the award podium at City Hall so far, including one who I was told had a sustained allegation of conduct unbecoming of an officer for racial comments he made and another one who apparently leaked the blog to the press sans site address last November, I have no desire to be put in that situation again.

Ignorance is probably bliss, in this case because to have that information changes nothing. I'd rather watch the monthly award ceremonies involving young, mostly male, police officers getting proclamations from Mayor Ron Loveridge without knowing if they participated in appalling behavior on my blog and if they received their department's apparent blessing, just like everyone else in the chambers including the city government who watches these ceremonies. I do not want to be in an accomplice to a joke being manifested by the police department on its other two partners in the ongoing reform process, the city's officials and the community members.

Besides, events like this just go to show that the focus needs to be on the larger picture, the culture of the RPD that may or may not create individuals similar to those who have posted here. "Cosmo Kramer", whomever he is, and his earlier incarnations as "Starsky", "Lighter Shade of Brown" and "Asti Spamanti", not to mention "Kevin, R.P.D. and those alteregos, "Serpico" and "Gramps" just provide the necessary kick in the butt to keep fighting for reform in this police department.

Most times, the officers honored deserve the accolades, but in the end, they still have to share that honor at year's end with those who don't deserve to be in their group and wouldn't be if the department's leadership had the courage to reject the culture that teaches them that racist behavior is to be overlooked or not viewed as anything but a necessary componant of a law enforcement agency or something that can be easily removed like a dinner jacket. Then there are the other officers who have long deserved similar awards who have to be displaced by those officers who again, do not.

The passage of time doesn't stop several unidentified individuals from appearing time to time like a bad cold and whining about, whatever. They are a good shot in the arm when it comes to being reminded that it is up to community members to address the issues that the department's leadership lacks the courage to address or even dialogue with the community about, if even just to offer an explanation for its actions.

The officers who appeared and dialogued in the Human Relations Commission's study circles in 2003 showed much more courage in that regard. They did it face to face, not hiding behind silly names.

In Casa Blanca, which is also primarily a Latino neighborhood and miles away from the Eastside, community members have begun to appear at the city council's public safety meeting to complain that some residents there have been discouraged from filing complaints there. They are told by the current area commander that he will "handle it" and then they wait to hear back from him but that doesn't happen. It is perfectly fine and indeed commendable for an area commander to tell someone who has a complaint that they will look into it personally but that should complement the complaint process that is established and governed by PC 832.5 and other state laws, not replace it. It is not clear what is happening in this circumstance, except that is apparently taking place, but it warrants further dialogue between the community that has never been shy about speaking out and the area commander who is its public servant.

The city council members present asked some questions, and Capt. Meredyth Meredith provided some good information based on her experiences in field operations and as the former head of the Internal Affairs Division.

More and more, the term "contagious shooting" is working itself in the venicular in connection with the Bell shooting. Here in Slate, columnist William Saletan critiques what has been defined as an event that begins when one officer in a group of officers begins to shoot at what he or she perceives to be a deadly threat and ends with one or more of the officers following suit.

The end result is shootings where the number of bullets fired are in the double digits and the "threat" is usually dead.

Saletan wonders if this "mechanical" condition is real, or simply serves as a convenient excuse to explain away shootings like that of Amadou Diallo where 41 shots were fired, Tyisha Miller where at least 24 shots were fired and even Bell, where 50 shots were fired.

He raised the issue of culpibility by asking that if when an officer shoots, is that officer making a choice to use his weapon or has he caught a disease?

It's merely "reflex", or "it's automatic, your body takes over" is the response from the law enforcement corner. And it is only difficult to pull the trigger on the first shot, because any shots fired after that require less pressure on the trigger, according to a defense attorney who gave an opening statement in the criminal trial involving the four NYPD officers who shot and killed Diallo, according to transcripts provided by Court TV here.

(excerpt, by attorney Bennett M. Epstein)

Members of the jury, you are going to hear about how the danger to police officers from the number of illegal guns and automatic weapons that were getting into the hands of criminals caused the NYPD just a couple of years ago to switch from the standard .38 revolver, six-shot police .38 special, that New York City police officers used to carry and to now require that the officers carry nine millimeter semi-automatic pistols with 16 shots in the magazine and the first trigger pull being a conventional trigger pull and all subsequent trigger pulls being a hair trigger pull, and to further require that the ammunition that they carry be known as pointed full-metal jacket ammunition, as opposed to the other kind of ammunition, which is called hollow point, hollow-point bullets.

After the shooting of Miller, people in Riverside heard of something similar to what is now called, contagious shooting. Here, it had been called "sympathetic" shooting, as in comparison to what is called a "sympathetic muscle response". Contagious shooting sounds like a more apt term, but still does not paint a complete picture, in the minds of many.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shades of Diallo: Should the feds intervene?

Where are the feds, asks columnist Rochelle Riley, of the Detroit Free Press here .

Riley is referring to the Nov. 25 shooting of three unarmed Black men by five armed plainclothed NYPD officers.


"There is no worse crime, so perhaps every high-profile murder should be investigated by state and federal officials. Oh, there will be no confusion about what high-profile means. Those slayings usually involve law enforcement (or celebrities), and they usually get away with it -- which makes life harder for the by-the-book, dedicated officers who don't bend, break or fire 50 bullets into the rules."

The Department of Justice did not investigate the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo and so far, has not launched an investigation into the fatal shooting of Sean Bell, 23, opting instead to observe from a distance. However, this agency did launch a pattern and practices investigation involving the department after the incidents involving Diallo and Abner Louima who was beaten and sodomized by a broom handle by several officers inside a bathroom at one of the station houses. The city of New York and the Justice Department brokered a settlement in which the NYPD was to implement a list of reforms. The department has paid out at least $20 million in settlements in connection with at least five incidents involving fatal shootings or other acts involving excessive force since that decree was implemented.

Juan Gonzalez asks the question, has the culture of the NYPD changed in the past few years? He doesn't mention the federal investigations that were supposed to produce reform, but addresses prior and more recent incidents involving shootings, including the fatal shooting of Timothy Stansbury in 2004. Only one bullet was fired in that shooting in comparison to the latest 50 rounds that were fired last Saturday. The officer who shot him, Richard Neri, was deposed for the civil law suit, an occasion Gonzalez discusses in his column. Neri was asked why he pulled the trigger, an event he had said earlier he did not remember.

"It was a reflexive action. There was no conscious decision of mine to pull," Neri said, according to a copy of the transcript obtained by the Daily News.

"What do you mean by that?" the lawyer asked.

"It was more of a startling action like a flinch, like if someone got scared, you flinch. You make a fist," he said.

Still, seven years after the shooting of Diallo, many people including community leaders wonder if the feds' involvement with their city's police department has improved its operation and how it protects and serves all the city's communities. Community leaders say that it is the police department and city hall that must enforce the reforms and create the climate of change. Whether it can be done by outside forces is often a subject of much debate about most police departments in most cities.

The same words were said here many times, by different people at different meetings in the months after Tyisha Miller died in a hail of bullets fired by four Riverside Police Department officers in 1998. Now eight years and one consent decree later, the city is once again facing about a half-dozen law suits or claims for damages filed in connection with four officer-involved deaths, including one in a neighborhood that one officer wrote here should be patrolled by animal control. Again, over a hundred angry city residents have congregated at the scene of one fatal shooting in that neighborhood, the Eastside, in the case of Lee Deante Brown, according to police reports submitted in that investigation. The FBI is conducting its own probe of that shooting.

The New York Daily News continues to cover the pre-dawn shooting of Bell and two of his friends outside a strip club in Queens. In one article, it described photographs which were taken of the officers who had fired their weapons including Det. Mike Oliver who had shot 31 times, expending two magazines from his gun. Those who saw the photographs said that afterwards, Oliver had stood apart from the scene of the shooting, a stunned look on his face.

Snapshots of a shooting's aftermath

The still unnamed undercover officer who fired first, made a statement through his attorney that he had identified himself as an officer to the three men, long before he fired at them, according to another article in the New York Daily News.

This cop screamed, 'Police!' and he had his shield out," attorney Philip Karasyk told the Daily News.

Snapshots of a shooting's aftermath

Karasyk also said that the other officers had fired at Bell's car because they believed the shots were coming from the car and they were in mortal fear for their lives. Afraid of being endangered by their own bullets it turned out.

This article on the photographs reminded me of what John Gonzalez, who witnessed the April 3 shooting of Lee Deante Brown in Riverside said to me about the aftermath of that shooting. After Riverside Police Department Officer Terry Ellefson had fired twice into Brown, Gonzalez saw Officer Michael Paul Stucker flinch from where Gonzalez stood on an elevated walkway 80 feet away, as if he were in shock. As if he had not seen that one coming, Gonzalez had said and perhaps Stucker hadn't.

At the time, Stucker had just struck Brown twice with his expandable baton and was preparing to hit him again when he heard the gunshots, according to his statement. Brown had allegedly grabbed Ellefson's taser, the same one that had already tased Stucker accidently and the two officers reacted much differently, each unaware of the other's presence and what the other was doing. Both said in their interviews with department investigators that they feared for their safety. One responded with his baton. The other with his gun, and when it came down to deciding which of their disparate accounts of events involving the instant the shooting actually took place, the department sided with Ellefson's, both in narratives it produced in its case book and at the initial briefing it held before the Community Police Review Commission last April. Even though Ellefson's version of events which had placed Brown on his feet also conflicted with the official coroner's report.

"We want answers."

The family of the men who were shot in Queens are still grappling with trying to find the answers to why a day of anticipated celebration became a day of tragic mourning. In this article, it details Nichole Paultre's, Bell's fiancee, efforts to try to find funeral clothes to wear to his funeral this Friday, after she had dropped clothes at the funeral house to bury him in.

At the hospital, Yolanda Guzman refused to allow NYPD detectives in her brother, Joseph's hospital room to interview him.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

"She believes the officers tried to kill all of them and she's afraid someone is going to come and finish the job," said family spokesman Charles Aziz Bilal

The NYPD had also received vague threats against its department, by unidentified sources, after the shooting, telling its officers at roll call sessions to be cautious, alert and to wear their bullet proof vests.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is still trying to keep attending meetings with community leaders to try to keep things calm in Queens, while elected officials in the state senate and heads of civil rights organizations ask for an independent investigator to take over the investigation currently being conducted by the Queens' District Attorney office. Bloomberg's meeting with community leaders especially with the Al Sharpton was sharply criticized by a New York Sun editorial.

After the Miller shooting, Riverside's mayor, Ron Loveridge had remained silent for nearly a month even as thousands filled the streets in two protests the first month. It was only later that he decided to create a Use of Force panel to examine the practices of the department. Its findings and recommendations mirrored those of the State Attorney General's office which conducted its own investigation.

Here, in the New York Sun, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown advises Bloomberg to stop making comments about the shooting, because if charges are filed, it could give the potential defendants grounds to argue for a change of venue.

Readers of the New York Post weighed in on the shooting here.

Blogger Daniel Finkelstein at Times online applies the shooting and that of Diallo to criticize a theory raised in a popular book, titled Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. More discussion at the Lede. Many discussions sure to take place in many venues in the weeks to come.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shades of Diallo: the main characters

The New York Police Department has begun to circle its wagons, even as its commissioner, Raymond Kelly admits that there were likely policy violations committed by five of his officers when they opened fire on three unarmed Black men in a car, according to statements he made in today's edition of the New York Daily News.

In a flash, a tragic turn

Kelly said NYPD rules prohibit cops from shooting at a car, even when it's being used as a weapon. He also said this appears to be a case of "contagious fire."

"We stress, when officers go to the range, that they fire no more than three rounds," he said. "And, then, they look."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to hold meetings with the family of Sean Bell, 23, who was killed during the Nov. 25 incident and community leaders.

It's hard for me to understand why 50-odd shots were taken," Bloomberg said at the City Hall news conference, where he stood alongside several black elected officials. "To me that sounds like excessive force."

In strong disagreement with both of these men was the president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, Michael Palladino, who represents one of the five officers involved in the shooting. In the same article, he said that the shooting was justified because Bell was using his vehicle as a "deadly weapon". It doesn't seem like Palladino, who told CNN that he did not believe that the number of bullets fired was "excessive", is no less quick to rush to judgement than anyone else.

If the driver of the vehicle had responded to the detective's command this would not have happened," he said. "He would be a married man today."

What remains under dispute is who first identified themselves as police officers and when this was done. "Sources" from the department maintained that the undercover officer identified himself before he fired his weapon. Yet, the department has also admitted that so far it has found no witnesses who saw this officer actually do so. It has only interviewed the two officers at the scene who did not fire their weapons because it has no access to speak with those who did shoot. One of the officers it did interview was more than a block away at the time of the shooting; the other was Lt. Jerry Napoli who had ducked for cover beneath the dashboard of his vehicle while all the shooting was going on around him.

Besides Napoli, two other officers, both White, were identified as Det. Mike Oliver, the 12 year veteran who fired 31 shots and Officer Mike Carey who fired three times. Two Black officers and one Latino officer remain unidentified.

The New York Times did publish an article which provided further information on the backgrounds of the involved officers.

No shots fired for years, then 50 all at once


The male undercover officer is 28, a six-year veteran. He fired the first shots after confronting the men and being hit by their car. An acquaintance of the officer said yesterday that Saturday’s shooting had left him “ a little shaky,” adding, “He was upset.”

The officer grew up in Brooklyn, is single and lives with his mother, the acquaintance said. He has only 50 or 60 arrests because he has been undercover for most of his career, the acquaintance said. The number is low because undercover officers are not usually credited with arrests and, in fact, are expected to leave the scene before other officers make arrests, to protect their cover. He has one citation for meritorious police duty.

“He feels very bad for the family of the deceased,” the acquaintance said. “He feels badly that this had to come to this. He sincerely, sincerely felt that he was in mortal danger. He’s never fired his gun before and he hopes he will never fire it again.”

He fired a total of 11 shots as the other officers also fired.

All five officers have waived their immunity and agreed to testify in front of a grand jury. The Queens' District Attorney's office is handling the case.

Prosecutors received the Police Department’s preliminary report yesterday, which the person said raised as many questions as it answered, adding, “We’ve just begun to scratch the surface.”

The United States Department of Justice is also monitoring the situation as Councilman James Sanders, Jr. warns of possible unrest here.

"The temperature on the streets has increased to a large degree. While we are sitting in these meetings, a lot of people are out on the streets."

The police officers apparently believed the three men were hoods out to harm them. The three men apparently believed the officers were hoods out to harm them, as one of the wounded men apparently told others after he had been shot. Bloomberg believed that race had nothing to do with it, but from what is unfolding, it appears very much otherwise.

Here are some commentaries from the blogsphere.

bloggers speak on NYPD shooting

girl blue wrote that even with all the community leaders showing up, the real issues underlying these shootings goes unaddressed.


As usual some writers who think racism is a figment of our imagination resent the fact that Sharpton is making the shooting a "racial issue." But when is the last time you've read about an unarmed white man being gunned down by the police like a rabid animal???

At NYPD Confidential which claims to be an "inside" look at the NYPD, its author writes about how Commissioner Raymond Kelly will fare in comparison with prior commissioners who have been in his shoes. He said that Kelly had changed his tactics when dealing with officer-involved shootings since one that occurred several years ago.

Kelly’s critics say that when there’s good news he takes all credit. When it’s bad, he shares responsibility. For this news conference he mustered as many of his top brass as he apparently could find to stand silently behind him. Some haven’t been seen in years, such as First Deputy George Grasso, whom Kelly pulled from the crypt.

The folks at debate politics argue that the three men are "thugs" who ran over a police officer. Garvey's Ghost argued that it was the officers who committed the crimes. Bloggers debate the issue here as well.

Here, in Riverside, the city council received advice from its attorneys in closed session on how to proceed in litigating two law suits and three claims for damages that have been filed against the city, in relation to four officer-involved deaths. No doubt, the attorneys will be told to fight the law suits, deny the claims, business as usual even though facing all this litigation hasn't been business as usual for the past several years. The city council will probably forget what discussion took place the minute it leaves the boardroom to return to addressing its favorite subject, development issues which today include the construction of yet more high-density housing in the La Sierra area of the city.

The city council will probably not realize that at least two of the incustody deaths, Terry Rabb and Lee Deante Brown, involved individuals who were either mentally ill or medically ill. They also will not realize that many cities and counties across this country provide training for police officers including the creation of crisis intervention teams but Riverside is not one of them.

When asked about the possibility of the Riverside Police Department implementing its own crisis intervention team or any type of mental health training program, the city council members rolled their eyes, sighed and sat back in their chairs, waiting for public comment to be over so they could return to discussing their favorite topic. Only Councilman Andrew Melendrez, whose ward includes the block where Brown was killed in a motel parking lot, has expressed any interest at all and he had raised the issue on Oct. 10 when the police department gave its first "quarterly" report.

Perhaps after a few more closed sessions are held to discuss the current flurry of civil litigation as well as any future law suits or claims that come down the pike, the interest level will increase accordingly.

From inside the department, there has been no real update on the department's plans for creating mental health training for its officers, from the new personnel and training captain, Michael Blakely. Hopefully, he's just too busy working on it to be talking about it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Shades of Diallo: Walking while Black

"Clearly they were victims, and at the moment, from what I know, there is no evidence whatsoever that they were doing anything wrong," [Mayor Michael]Bloomberg said. "Period."

Michael Daly of the New York Daily News has been writing columns about the Nov. 25 shooting of three unarmed Black men including Sean Bell, 23, by five armed New York Police Department officers.

Fear of gun triggers death


Everything from the number of shell casings around the car to the absence of a gun inside it to the witness accounts suggests the police officers who shot three unarmed young men early Saturday morning did so in the mistaken and panicked belief they were in mortal danger.

The same facts and statements suggest the three young men in the car who repeatedly tried to crash past an unmarked police van did so in their own mistaken and panicked belief they were in mortal danger. One was climbing into the back of the car when he saw a tall figure in street attire approach in the early morning darkness.

"Yo, my man, come here, my man, let me holler at you," the figure was heard to call out.

The tall figure was holding something black by his side.

"He's got a gat! He's got a gat! Be out! Be out!" the young man climbing into the car shouted.

The figure was an undercover cop, but by one witness account neither he nor his comrades announced themselves as police officers until after Sean Bell tried in vain to drive away and six to 10 shots were fired.

"That's when somebody started shouting, 'Police! Police! Put your hands out! Put your hands out!'" recalls witness China Flores.

The shooting only intensified.

"That's when all hell broke loose," Flores says.

Daly goes on to write about how one White officer fired his weapon 31 times at Bell's vehicle and how the lieutenant's reaction was to duck underneath the dashboard of his vehicle while the officers in his charge kept shooting at the perceived threat that they believed surrounded them.

The stories coming in from different sources including those within the NYPD continue to conflict with each other as they do in most officer-involved shootings, in part due to the confusion of the events as well as for other reasons. The New York Post stated in its latest story that one of the officers may have fired into Bell's car and shattered the rear window leading the other officers to believe that they were being shot at.

Another eyewitness said that the police van had crashed into Bell's car and then the officers had jumped out and started shooting without shouting any warnings or identifying themselves as NYPD police officers.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg walked out of a meeting with community leaders yesterday, with much harsher words than he had used the day of the shooting. He admitted that it was possible that the involved police officers may not have identified themselves to Bell and his friends until after they began shooting.

Mayor Bloomberg's words on shooting

New York Times: Mayor calls shooting excessive


“I can tell you that it is to me unacceptable or inexplicable how you can have 50-odd shots fired, but that’s up to the investigation to find out what really happened,” Bloomberg said at a news conference after the meeting.

Bloomberg continued to defend NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly even as at least once city council member and a crowd of angry demonstrators demanded his ouster. In the difficult days ahead, it may remain difficult for Bloomberg to do so. After all, these are the kinds of shootings that can end a chief's or commissioner's career. Often enough, they are "fired" by the communities or the police unions depending on the outcome of their departments' investigations.

The officers involved in this shooting remain unidentified but all five of them have been placed on administrative leave and have surrendered their department issued firearms. Questions have been raised particularly about the "veteran" who expended two entire magazines into Bell's vehicle before he stopped shooting.

According to the department, he, along with the other four officers, had never fired his weapon in the field and had a "spotless" record which means little and is entirely dependent on the integrity of a police agency's ability to self-investigate alleged misconduct involving its own officers. After all, this is the same agency that was "stung" by the Police Complaint Center in 1999 for its failure to provide complaint forms at many of its precinct stations. In fact, in one case, a supervising officer physically dragged a complainant out of the station, an action that was caught on video tape. In seven years, it is hoped that this situation has been rectified.

Police Complaint Center says 40% of NYPD stations refused to give out complaint forms

What little information provided about the officer who shot 31 times appears here.


"He lost it. Four or five rounds maybe. But to reload? It's hard to understand. Even in the heat of the moment, it's overkill, " a law enforcement source told the New York Daily News.

And in this case, there wasn't even a battle taking place, except inside these officers' own heads. A sting operation involving the strip club where Bell and his friends had just left had somehow erupted into a frenzy of gunshots that hit Bell and his two friends and narrowly missed hitting two Port Authority officers in a nearby police station not to mention residents who lived in houses that were also struck by the officers' bullets.

The police department hasn't questioned the officers involved in the shooting, just those who witnessed it including the lieutenant who took cover in the car, apparently waiting for bullets that never came. The Queens' District Attorney's office is the one who will interview the officers who fired their weapons.

Bell's family continues to mourn him during the period of time which should be the happiest in any parents' life, the day when their son gets married. Bell's three-year-old daughter, Jada, has been given some hard information about her father's death.

The hardest part is that Jada still wants her father," said Bishop Lester Williams, who was supposed to preside at the wedding of Jada's parents.
He said that when Jada's puppy died recently, her dad told her to look to the sky, explaining, "When you see the sun, that's the puppy."

"This morning, we had to tell her, 'Daddy is taking care of the puppy. Look up and say hi to Daddy,'" Williams said.

Many people compared the shooting of Bell and his friends to the 1999 fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo by four plainclothed officers. Diallo's mother, Kaidatou, provided her perspective here.

Diallo's mom: I think it is unbearable.

She plans to add her voice to the others demanding answers. So did the New York Daily News editorial board here.

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, who represents the area, released this statement on the shooting.


"On the surface, it is hard to explain why five police officers found it necessary to fire 50 rounds into a vehicle with three unarmed individuals inside? It is even harder to explain what compelled one of the officers to empty his clip, reload and empty a second? Even if the officers thought the men were armed, it is hard to understand why the police officers simply didn't order Bell, Guzman, and Benefield to raise their hands and get out of the car?

"Justice and truth demands unvarnished answers. If this is yet another case of excessive force then the police officers must be held accountable to the fullest extent allowed by law. The investigation must be conducted with transparency, thoroughness, and priority. "

However, at least one more witness has surfaced who casts doubt on the NYPD's version of events. Trini Wright, a dancer at the Queens club, said that after the police van had crashed into the men's car, the officers "jumped out shooting...there was no 'stop'. No 'freeze'. No nothing."

As the temperature rises in New York City, an investigation continues and a grieving family watches as a time of celebration so quickly turned into a time of mourning.

Other articles on the NYPD shooting:

New York Post: Mayor disturbed by shooting

Calls for Justice in NYPD shooting

Mayor meets with community leaders about shooting

Fox: NYPD shooting

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Shades of Diallo: People are people

Seven years after four plainclothed New York Police Department officers shot and killed Amadou Diallo, after firing more than 40 bullets, another unarmed Black man was shot and killed by undercover police officers who fired at him and his two friends at least 50 times.

Groom shot by NYPD on wedding day

Dead was Sean Bell, 23, who was to be married to his long-time fiancee later that day. Also wounded were Trent Benefield, 23 and Joseph Guzman, 31 who suffered three and 11 bullet wounds respectively. For a while, both men were handcuffed to their hospital beds.

A New York Times article stated that the men were briefly handcuffed according to the police department, until it could be established that they were unarmed. Presumably that would have been done and that issue resolved before they were placed in hospital beds, let alone turned over to doctors to treat their injuries.


A woman who said she was Mr. Benefield’s mother but did not give her name, said her son had been treated like a criminal.

“He’s got a shattered leg,” she said. “And he’s handcuffed. Right hand, left leg.”

The shooting took place after the three men left a bachelor party at a strip club in Queens. The NYPD refuses to comment on the shooting, but one unidentified sergeant at the department allegedly said "it's as confusing as hell." A grand jury investigation has been initiated.

One unidentified officer with 13 years on the force fired 31 times, emptying two magazines at the car. Two White officers, two Hispanic officers and One Black officer were involved according to the department.

The police department released this preliminary statement on its version of events.

NYPD officers involved in shooting

(excerpt, New York Times)

In a statement, Commissioner Kelly said that about 4 a.m. a group of men confronted a man outside the strip club and that one man in the group yelled, “Yo, get my gun.”

The altercation broke up, and the men separated into two groups, with an undercover officer following one group. The men being followed by the undercover officer got into the Altima that then hit the minivan.

The police said that one officer who leaped from the minivan, a 12-year police veteran, fired 31 times, and an undercover officer with nine years on the force fired 11 times. The other officers fired three, four and five times. Shell casings from the officers’ 16-shot, 9-millimeter semiautomatic weapons littered the street; at least 40 were later recovered. A fourth person may have been in the Altima, police said.

One of Bell's relatives was nearly speechless after hearing the news of Bell's death.

Robert Porter, who identified himself as Bell's first cousin, said he was supposed to be a DJ at the wedding. He said about 250 people were invited to the ceremony and were flying in from all over the country. He said his cousin wasn't the type to confront police and that he was "on the straight-and-narrow."

"I can't really express myself. It's a numb feeling," Porter said. "I still don't want to believe it, a beautiful day like this, and he was going to have a beautiful wedding, he was going to live forever with his wife and children. And this happened."

Bullets fired by five police officers went flying everywhere according to eyewitnesses. Hitting cars, houses and a train station. Bullets that probably would not have been flying as haphazardly on Fifth Avenue or Park, or any of the more affluent neighborhoods.

(excerpt, New York Times article)

One neighbor said his car was hit by three bullets and a fourth smashed through his front window, piercing a lamp in the living room.

“There was bullets all over the place,” said Paul Gomes, 31, who awoke to the barrage of gunfire and pulled his wife and children onto the floor.

Robert and Vivian Hernandez, residents of Liverpool Street, were watching television when they heard the crashing of bullets and people yelling. When the gunfire finally died down, they went outside and saw a man leaning on a fence and moaning, “They shot me in the leg.”

Mr. Kelly said that two Port Authority Police Officers suffered minor facial injuries at a nearby AirTrain facility when one of the bullets shattered a window.

One police officer suffered abrasions. Another was hospitalized for hypertension.

A noon vigil is planned today on the day that would have been the second day of Bell's married life, by his family members.

Family plans vigil after fatal shooting

The Reverend Al Sharpton asked the question that many others have asked in the past 24 hours as well.

"How does one justify 50 shots at unarmed men?" Sharpton asked.

He forgot to mention unarmed Black men.

After all, Diallo stood on the stoop of his residence unarmed when four officers shot at him 41 times, while they were allegedly looking for a rape suspect in that neighborhood. Here in Riverside, Tyisha Miller, a Black woman, died inside her aunt's car with a gun on her lap for her protection as a lone woman in a "bad" neighborhood after four police officers shot at her at least 24 times. None of the gun shots that struck her body were to the front of her body.

Many a battered White woman came forward after the Miller shooting and spoke of nights they had spent sleeping in their cars after leaving their homes, with only a gun for protection. Others wished they had been able to do so and were upset about the shooting. Would police officers have viewed them as dangerous criminals as they had viewed Miller without knowing anything about her background at the time? Would they have hi-fived and re-enacted the shooting afterwards? These White women asked those questions just like many other people did.

In the hours that followed, Miller's death was the subject of comments and jokes in the police department, including racial comments and jokes. It was all harmless fun for those involved, until the investigations began, all from outside law enforcement agencies who looked at Riverside and no doubt wondered what the hell was going on.

The same thing happened across the country in New York City, after the shootings of several unarmed Black men including Diallo and the savage torture and beating of Abner Louima by several officers inside a bathroom at one of the station houses.

Soon after these incidents, which launched many protests in the streets of New York City just as the Miller shooting did here, the U.S. Department of Justice began its investigation of this police department. The two entities reached a settlement several years later, to reform the NYPD. Has it worked?

Often, it's never the residents who interface with the police the most in their own neighborhoods who are asked that question. Nor are they often asked what it must feel like to not only be the most to interface with police, but to be most often, the butt of humor for police officers either on or off-duty.

On Labor Day in 1998, Queens was the location of another incident involving NYPD officers, FDNY employees and a neighborhood parade. NYPD officer Joseph Locurto and FDNY fire fighters Jonathan Walters and Robert Steiner created a float that depicted racist stereotypes involving African-Americans including the use of blackface and afro wigs, eating watermelon. At the back of the float, there was a depiction of the horrible torture and death of James Byrd, jr. by White Supremacists who had chained him to the back of their pickup truck. The inclusion of this hate crime was intended to be humorous, but few outside of that particular crowd found it funny.

The float was titled, "Black to the Future - Broad Channel in 2098".

All three men were fired by the city, then unfired by the U.S. District Court before being refired by the appellate court, earlier this year.

Appeals Court reverses prior decision in racist float case

On April 27, 2006, the Second Circuit of Appeals in the federal court system reversed an earlier decision by one of its district courts to reinstate Locurto and the two fire fighters.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Elizabeth I. Freedman, who handled the case on appeal, stated, “We are
extremely gratified with the Second Circuit’s unanimous endorsement of the actions of the defendants in
this case. The decision properly balances the competing interests of public employees and public
employers. In this case, the Second Circuit properly balanced those interests, finding that where the
employees’ conduct threatened “to bring discredit upon the Police and Fire Departments in the minority
community,” it was constitutionally permissible for the City to fire them.

One blogger's view of the appellate decision.

Basically, what the appellate court stated is that it matters if communities of color have faith that the law enforcement agency which receives their sales tax money to protect and serve them is not harboring racist attitudes towards them. If only this were true in real life.

If it were, then police officers would not make derogatory comments about those communities or engage in racist behavior mocking those communities, based on racist stereotypes they use as substitutes for their lack of ability and certainly, willingness to see these communities as anything less than inferior, animalistic and dangerous. After all, how many of these officers go home at the end of their shifts to homes in neighborhoods that are ethnically and racially diverse? Do they go home to their often White enclaves and think of how animalistic and horrible Whites are, because they encounter violent White criminals on the job?

One year before the Queens float incident, Louima would be tortured inside a bathroom, by several officers hiding in plain sight. One year after the float incident, Diallo would encounter the officers who feared for their safety and in response, would shoot him dozens more times than it takes to kill any one man. Both were treated as if they were not human at all, by those who abused one and by those who killed the other.

Maybe to these officers, they were just animals. After all, if an officer and two fire fighters can appear on a racist float in broad daylight(and on video it turned out) depicting the same racist stereotypes, that most people believed were eradicated years ago or at least were carefully kept hidden, then how safe did they feel to act like that, knowing that their employers would find out? If their actions had not become so public outside the sphere of their own cliques, would the department's leadership have terminated their employment or kept the incident hidden? The fact that these employees including Locurto acted like this in public actually speaks volumes about the agencies that employ them.

Here in Riverside, the same investigations done in New York City and more were conducted, at least in part to address racist comments, jokes and stereotypes that were so pervasive in the department, they were also made by the sergeants who conducted the roll call sessions. That is why today, there are closed circuited cameras in that room, hooked up to different locations including the chief's office.

The Miller shooting was also preceded by years and years of racist and sexist jokes, comments and other forms of behavior which were reported in law suits filed by Officer Roger Sutton and former officers, Rene Rodriquez and Christine Keers.

Questions still exist in people's minds.

Have racist remarks, jokes and other forms of humor done at the expense of men of color and women gone away? Or have they gone underground? If it were determined that officers participated in this behavior, would they be disciplined? Would they be rewarded? Would they be disciplined and then rewarded when no one was paying attention? Would these officers be later held up as part of the new, exciting RPD? What about the ones who choose not to participate in that behavior? Are they rewarded or are they penalized by sitting and watching those who participate in this behavior get rewarded in their stead?

I ask myself these questions a bit, particularly when I get phone calls after Black men have died in police custody, which has happened three times between October 2005 and November 2006. Many others have asked them as well.

After Terry Rabb succumbed to cardiac arrest minutes after being restrained by two police officers to be treated for hypoglycemic shock, I received phone calls asking me if it was safe to call the police if you were Black and in medical distress or if the police would just assume you were on drugs, because Black people apparently don't get diabetes no matter what the dispatcher told both officers about Rabb's illnesses. One of Rabb's friends alleged that one of the officers made comments that Rabb appeared to be on an illegal drug, either crack or PCP. Rabb tested negative for both drugs and the department's investigators apparently did not question either officer about the alleged comments.

After the shooting of Lee Deante Brown, I received calls asking me if it was safe to be Black and mentally ill in Riverside and whether or not the police department had any mental illness crisis intervention training. The answer to the second question, which is no, is easier to answer than the first one. That shooting is still under investigation by the department, the Community Police Review Commission and the FBI.

After the Douglas Steven Cloud shooting, I received phone calls asking me if it was safe to be in a car accident within city limits even though Cloud was White. That shooting created a great deal of concern because many African-Americans and Latinos said that if the police shot a White man who crashed his car, how much more quickly would they shoot a man of color?

The frequency of phone calls and other contacts after the most recent shootings and incidents was last matched in 2001. People have concerns and questions, after incidents like these ones and don't receive many answers.

After the Brown shooting, over 100 local residents gathered on the street to yell and scream at police officers for shooting him, according to statements submitted by various police officers who responded to the shooting after it happened to the case investigators. More officers were quickly dispatched to "control" this angry crowd. These people also live in the neighborhood that one Riverside Police Department officer apparently believes should be patrolled by animal control, which is why any concerns they have will be ignored. Both parts of this incident are disturbing, in some ways it appears like this city has come or is coming full circle since 1998.

Afterwards, the local NAACP and other organizations tried to reach out to these individuals and sponsored a public forum on the shooting. Most people were too angry to come.

Earlier this year, the department announced plans to revamp its cultural diversity training program for its officers.

Not much has been said about that new "cultural sensitivity" training that the department plans to implement this fall which will either replace or supplement the training that Leach has said is "inadequate, infrequent and insufficient". There was mention of "focus groups" and controlled dialogues where "community members" and police officers were kept segregated, but not much else has been revealed to the public at this time.

They will probably be far different than the Human Relations Commission's study circles conducted in the summer of 2003 where community members and police officers engaged in a series of dialogues. However, apparently some lieutenants who participated complained to their superiors that the sessions involved "cop bashing" so that was that, even though the participants, both community members and police officers, in the session I attended agreed it was a good beginning for building relations.

Any cultural sensitivity training should be attended by those at the top of the department's structure before it is required of those at the bottom. Recent events both here and 3,000 miles away have proven once again, they need it the most.

Meanwhile in New York City, a large crowd of angry people protest the most recent shooting there. Earlier, an organization calling itself the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care issued Commissioner Raymond Kelly a no confidence vote. Things have clearly come full circle there.

Kin holds vigil for Sean Bell

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What's past is prologue part 2

The Riverside City Council will be quite busy during its closed session in its city council meeting on Nov. 28. Five actions involving ongoing or pending civil litigation will be discussed behind closed doors including at least four that are directly related to fatal shootings or other incustody deaths involving Riverside Police Department officers. There has been five incustody deaths from Oct. 2005 to November 2006 including two last month.

Terry Rabb:

The Estate of Terry Rabb, et al., v the City of Riverside (Claim No. : o6-03-13)

Terra Rabb, el al., v the City of Riverside, et al.; (RCSC Case No. RIC459245)

Summer Marie Lane:

Michael Bradford Lane, et al., v the City of Riverside, et al.; (USDC Case No. CVO6-03358 ER(AJWx)

Lee Deante Brown:

Makayla Brown v the City of Riverside (Claim No. : 06/07/17)

At least one claim against the city was also filed by the father of Douglas Steven Cloud and has already been discussed in closed session several weeks ago. It is not clear whether or not there will be claims filed in relation to the fatal officer-involved shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill.

Winners this week: Two RPD canines, Aldo and VonFips and their officers, David Taylor and Mike Mears in a competition in Las Vegas, Nevada, winning second place over all and placing in several other categories.

Canines win in Las Vegas, officers tag along

I was watching a demonstration of the canine unit last July during a career fair at Bordwell Park in the Eastside. Officer Ray Soto was out with his latest dog, Xian, trying to get him to "guard and bark" an officer in a padded suit. Unfortunately, Xian kept leaping on the officer and biting him instead, until he performed the task. The audience applauded Xian just as enthusiastically either way, though it's doubtful that City Attorney Gregory Priamos would have felt the same way had he been in attendance.

Speaking of dogs biting police officers, if you watched any part of the civil trial involving Officer Roger Sutton's racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation law suit, you would have heard testimony from police officers about getting bit by their own dogs, often numerous times in different situations.

David Reaver, the so-called "dog whisperer" who purchases, trains and evaluates canines for various local law enforcement agencies including the Riverside Police Department gets sued a lot. His latest case involves a dog that bit another officer.

Canine handler sued at least a dozen times by same attorney


Sgt. Bruce Leamer, 48, alleges that he was attacked and bitten on the hand and leg by Ygor, a Belgian Malinois, in June 2005, while assisting another officer on a burglary call.
Ygor, who was wearing an electric collar, ignored the electric shocks and the dog's handler had to pull the canine off Leamer, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit refers to the dog as "an uncontrollable deadly and dangerous weapon." It alleges that, as the animal's trainer, Reaver should have known that the dog posed a risk of serious injury.

Reaver's apparently won all of these cases including two that went to trial. He testified for the winning side in the Sutton case as well, beating out the city's own expert canine handler, Brad Smith. Both did have good stage presence.

But has there ever been a case where an officer bit his own dog? Perhaps. And if so, would the Internal Affairs and risk management launch an investigation of that incident?

The U.S. Department of Justice dropped in on the Riverside Police Department's canine unit several years ago. Among the reforms it imposed on that division was for it to rewrite its policy particularly the section involving the deployment of canines.

Losers this week: The Eastside community. Using derogatory language against this community in any medium can reap career accolades in this post-consent decree department as long as no one is watching. Some times, the days of comments like "the animals are coming by the busload" don't seem so far away, including this week.

In other places:

UCLA is the only campus in the University of California system which tases noncombative students, according to an article published today in the Mercury News. The interest in this issue has risen after the Nov. 14 tasing of UCLA senior Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23 by Officer Terrence Duren.

Taser used limited at most UC campuses


Police at six of the 10 UC campuses carry Taser guns. Most are restricted to only using the guns against violent suspects, according to interviews with top UC law enforcement officials.
UCLA's police rules, however, allow officers to use Tasers on passive resisters as "a pain compliance technique," Assistant Chief Jeff Young said last week.

Police departments at UC Merced, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Riverside also equip their officers with tasers, but their rules are different.

"It can only be used when it appears reasonable under the circumstances to restrain or arrest a violent or threatening suspect," said UC Riverside Police Chief Michael Lane

Monday, November 20, 2006

What's past is prologue

Each month, the public safety subcommittee of the city council meets to discuss issues involving well, public safety. Since the meetings are held at 10 a.m. in the morning, few people can attend them. It's a shame, because at this one, City Manager Brad Hudson let it all hang out when it came to explaining the role he felt that the Community Police Review Commission should play in its investigation of officer-involved deaths.


Well, maybe not none, but the next best thing would be for it to hold a very small role. Perhaps smaller than Hudson's own role, which on at least one officer-involved death consisted entirely of passing the buck?

Who knows? Hudson might have thrown out the CPRC's power to investigate officer-involved deaths altogether if those damned city voters hadn't come out in droves to put the beleaguered CPRC in the city's charter. So he can't do that but if it comes out with a decision that an officer involved in the death of an individual engaged in excessive force, he can pretend that it doesn't exist, like he did on the Summer Lane case.

Hudson appeared critical of all the complaints that he had heard about the CPRC not being able to deliberate cases and release findings before the statutory period set by state law in which to discipline police officers had expired. Why, did it matter since the CPRC had no influence in whether or not Chief Russ Leach would discipline his officers. Say what? How's that for a strawman argument? No one ever alleged that the CPRC should play the role of disciplinarian over the police department. So Hudson should put his worries to rest.

Hudson waxed on about its perceived role, by starting off with complaints about the CPRC's own complaints involving problems it had meeting the statutory timeline on several officer-involved death investigations. According to state law, a police officer has to be disciplined within one year of the date of any sustained misconduct against him or her.

On two officer-involved death cases, Volne Lamont Stokes in 2003 and Terry Rabb in 2005, the CPRC reached its finding after that deadline had expired. On the Stokes investigation, the delay was blamed on the fact that it took over nine months for the commission to receive the case book on the department's investigation paired up with a lengthy process which involved the commission's decision to subpoena one of the involved officers, Tina Banfill Gould, to appear before the commission. The finding on the Stokes shooting was finally decided by the CPRC nearly two years after the shooting had occurred and it had decided for the first time not to issue a public report.

This year, delays by the police department's Internal Affairs division which took 10 months to complete its administrative review on the Rabb case made it impossible for the CPRC to meet the deadline in that case. It finally did reach a finding on that incident several weeks after that deadline had passed.

Hudson argued that the deadline was pretty much irrevelent to the commission because its role was not to provide input on discipline. This is true, but it is also an overused strawman argument. The CPRC's role in the process according to the charter is to investigate officer-involved deaths. This process includes discussing and deliberating on each case until it reaches a finding of whether or not the incident was in violation of the department's use of force policy. Its role is to pass its finding on to Hudson's office and his role is to use that finding and that determined by the police department to make a final decision.

After all, that is how citizen complaints are handled by Hudson's office and there are no arguments in that case that the CPRC is overstepping its role and recommending discipline simply because it reaches a sustained finding on a complaint. That argument seems to be limited to officer-involved deaths. Maybe Hudson and his sidekick Tom DeSantis just aren't up to it themselves unlike their predecessors including that guy who got fired several years back.

Hudson went on to say that Chief Russ Leach relies on his own investigations including that provided by the Officer-Involved Death team and Internal Affairs when making his decision on these incidents and that he's not going to wait until the CPRC reaches its findings. Certainly not if the behavior associated with the incident was "egregious".

Well, last year, ten commissioners apparently felt that there had been "egregious" behavior committed during the shooting of Summer Lane by Officer Ryan Wilson and voted unaminously that the shooting violated departmental policy. According to Hudson, he held several "consultations" with Leach on that shooting but left the final decision up to him.

So, people left the meeting wondering why the CPRC was investigating shootings at all, and the turmoil the commission faced during the past nine months began to make more sense. But at least Hudson came out and said what he said, even as his associate DeSantis appeared to fume silently.

Hudson's comments came after the CPRC's executive director, Pedro Payne had presented its quarterly report to city council members, Andrew Melendrez, Nancy Hart and Steve Adams. None of which, seemed to notice or even hear exactly what Hudson was saying. And these are two of the commission's three alleged allies sitting on the city council. With friends like these, who needs enemies? And the CPRC has plently of those as well.

Though with five officer-involved deaths committed by RPD officers during a twelve month period, it's pretty obvious that another accountability mechanism that has worked so well in the past has once again moved into the forefront and that is civil litigation under the 42 USSC 1983 provision. During the past year, three law suits have been filed in state and federal court involving the deaths of Lane and Rabb. Two more claims for damages have been submitted to the city attorney's office and risk management division in connection with the fatal shootings of Lee Deante Brown and Douglas Steven Cloud.

There might also be one filed by Joseph Hill's family as well if information they claimed to have discovered and revealed at the last CPRC meeting about Officer Jeffrey Adcox's failed attempt to get hired by a different law enforcement agency before being hired by the RPD is true. We shall see if and when that case is brought to a public arena even if it's not the CPRC.

Speaking of litigation involving law enforcement, try looking a little further west today

Meanwhile, back at U.C.L.A., the officer who tased student Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23 broke his silence after being interviewed in a Los Angeles Times article. It turns out that Officer Terrance Duren is no stranger to trouble.

Officer who tased man was fired before coming to U.C.L.A.

Duren, who is African-American has already been terminated from one law enforcement agency before being hired by U.C.L.A. and also was recommended for termination from his current agency, after several incidents including an officer-involved shooting and an alleged beating that occurred on U.C.L.A.'s fraternity row.

Here is Duren's history in his own words.


Duren said Monday that he joined the UCLA police force after being fired from the Long Beach Police Department in the late 1980s. He said he was a probationary officer at the time and was let go because of poor report-writing skills and geographical knowledge.

In May 1990, he was accused of using his nightstick to choke someone who was hanging out on a Saturday in front of a UCLA fraternity. Kente S. Scott alleged that Duren confronted him while he was walking on the street outside the Theta Xi fraternity house.Scott sued the university, and according to court records, UCLA officials moved to have Duren dismissed from the police force. But after an independent administrative hearing, officials overturned the dismissal, suspending him for 90 days.

Duren on Monday disputed the allegations made by Scott.

In October 2003, Duren shot and wounded a homeless man he encountered in Kerckhoff Hall. Duren chased the man into a bathroom, where they struggled and he fired two shots.The homeless man, Willie Davis Frazier, was later convicted of assaulting an officer. Duren said Frasier had tried to grab his gun during the struggle. But Frazier's attorney, John Raphling, said his client was mentally ill and didn't do anything to provoke the shooting.

Campus administrators have said that they have received a flurry of emails and phone calls from students' parents and alumni about the incident. Given this latest information, the fire storm that has erupted on the campus regarding the latest video to be seen around the world has probably just begun.

The audit and compliance what?

I received notice that the unveiling of the much ballyhooed Audit and Compliance Bureau would be conducted at California Baptist University at 4pm today, albeit for only a small fraction of the city of Riverside whose taxes pay for its operation. Given the little publicity the department has focused on this alleged event involving this important division, I thought surely, it must be a rumor. Hopefully, they will introduce their bureau to a much larger crowd at a later date.

The invitation-only event was to take place for two hours today and six months after the department stated that the bureau had began reorganization. That means that 99.99999% of this city will hopefully read about it in a media outlet even if they can't be there.

Those invited included members of Chief Russ Leach's advisory committee which is where the bulk of the information came from. This committee, created in 2001, is supposed to serve as a conduit of sorts between the department's leadership and the community through community leaders selected by the department. However, since its meetings are more secretive than a CIA briefing and members are apparently told not to repeat what they hear to the outside world, it doesn't seem to serve that purpose. But it looks nice, and I heard the food and drinks are good.

That is apparently what Asst. Attorney General Lou Verdugo would refer to as encouraging "community engagement" in your police department. Maybe it's close, in the same ball park if you want to start small. But if you were one of the 100 or so people who congregated at University and Ottawa moments after the shooting of Lee Deante Brown in frustration and anger, committees like this one must feel a million miles away.

The event turned out to be an award ceremony for police officers and not a presentation on the audit and compliance bureau but it led to more interesting conversations today with people about what this bureau is and what it does. Most people simply have never heard of it, don't know what it does and there's no real reason why they should. Even the name created confusion.

For the 99.9999% of Riverside in the dark, the Audit and Compliance Bureau is simply the offspring of the previous Attorney General's Task Force. If you guessed that this original panel had anything to do with State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's stipulated judgment then you have guessed correctly. It was originally set up in 2001 to directly oversee the implementation of the mandated reforms in that decree. Originally it consisted of a cross-section of the department, meaning that it was headed by a lieutenant and included a sergeant, detective and officer in its membership, along with clerical support. Its responsibilities were to oversee the day to day implementation of Lockyer's list of reforms.

The old task force issued semiannual reports to the city council and that is pretty much all anyone ever saw of it. If you ask people on the street what the attorney general task force, or the chief's advisory board for that matter are, the vast majority of the people questioned will have never heard of either. Why should they? The department has kept both of these elements of its implementation of first the stipulated judgment and the Strategic Plan pretty much under wraps, but it does allow city residents about six minutes(three, per city council meeting) input on its operations each year. Few people take advantage of those two opportunities, including many who can't make those two meetings which originally were held in May or December each year.

Towards the end of the reign of the original task force, the progress reports were relegated further and further down the discussion calendar at city council meetings, back in the day when they actually had lengthy discussion calendars. In 2005, it was relegated even lower than that, to the consent calendar, to the ire of many community members who complained about that.

The new bureau was originally created after the city's budget sheet showed that the attorney general's task force would only receive operation funds until the expiration of the stipulated judgment in March 2006. Members of the public including several in that 99.99999% not invited to these events protested its planned dissolution. Apparently, the new bureau is the compromise of sorts.

The newer, down-graded audit and compliance panel is headed by Lt. Brian Baitx and includes two sergeants including one who told the chief's advisory board a couple months ago that when it came to deciding whether or not to work in the bureau or as a field supervisor on the graveyard shift, he chose the former. Which means that this appears to be only the second least coveted job assignment for a sergeant in the RPD. Makes you wonder how well a bureau assignment would stack up against a stint in the Internal Affairs Division.

What's wrong with this picture is why does this bureau appear to be tucked away some where in one of the department's facilities, rather than standing front and center out in the community where everyone, not just a select few, can learn about its operations and its purpose? The bureau should give presentations and take regular input from the community on how it can improve its function even further and become a more effective mechanism for promoting accountability and further reform of the department.

It would also be helpful if the department could staff it with officers who really want to serve on it, not just because they'd rather not be somewhere else.

Speaking of the Strategic Plan, City Manager Brad Hudson provided an update on the acquisition of the promised digital video recorders that the city had assured the state attorney general's office that it would purchase last year. The city will be testing out two or three models next January, and then will decide which to implement, before purchasing enough recorders to equip the rest of the squad car fleet. Hopefully, the $500,000 allotted by the city council on this purchase will be spent on this equipment.

Of course, that is subject to change at a moment's notice.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's raining reviews again

The Riverside Police Department's Internal Affairs Division is conducting a "review" of an incident involving a brawl at a local sports bar that was apparently witnessed by five police officers and a sergeant, including several who allegedly left the bar during the fight, according to an article published in today's Press Enterprise. Some people contacted me this morning about this article before I had even read it.

RPD officers present during brawl at local sports bar

The inquiry is being launched, according to the department's press information officer, Steven Frasher because of the scope of the incident. The officers were all allegedly off-duty and not in uniform at the time, yet Frasher said that some of them may not have been formally logged off of their shifts, in what he called a "technicality".

"The presence of the officers and any action they may or may not have taken will be reviewed by Internal Affairs," Frasher said. That "doesn't presuppose that there's anything wrong with what they did," he added.

The exact nature of the injuries suffered by the two victims of the fight is not known but it was assumed in the article that because charges of attempted murder were filed against two men, Sione Telua Faanunu, 26, and Siosefa Telva Faanunu, 22, that the victims were either left in a comatose condition or paralyzed as a result of their beatings. At one point, at least one of them was beaten by a table and chair. The two assailants who were apparently brothers were also charged with torture and aggravated mayhem.

The officers who stood by and watched, as "good witnesses" could wind up hindering the case as much as their observations of the melee might help it, depending on how it goes. If it goes to trial, any jury might ask itself, if this fight was really as bad as the prosecutors and their witnesses including these officers make it out to be, then why did the individuals in the bar who had the training and experience to intervene, choose not to do so? Hopefully, the fact that the officers were present and watching, if not actively intervening, might lead to the involved parties opting for plea bargains.

The fight which took place at Events Sports Grill on Nov. 10 at around 11:45 started small and turned into a melee, with the officers still present. It's not clear what shifts these police officers had worked prior to coming to the bar, which is housed in the same business complex as the newly completed Magnolia Police Station. Based on Frasher's comments in the news articles, one officer was on the phone with the dispatch center while the fight was going on, several others were acting as "good witnesses" in accordance with the departmental policy and the rest of them left the bar while the melee was ongoing.

The attorney who represents the Riverside Police Officers Association had this to say about the incident, according to the news article.


Mike Lackie, attorney for the Riverside Police Officers Association, said he had heard that officers were at the bar during the brawl. The union attorney said none of the officers was on duty.
"They were all off duty," Lackie said Friday. "There's nothing to it."

The people who contacted me were mostly upset about the officers who did nothing at all, not even in terms of being "good witnesses" for further prosecution whether it be as a criminal case involving murder, attempted murder or aggravated assault, because at the time the brawl was taking place, it was not certain how it would end and who would end it. They asked why these officers chose to simply leave the bar, rather than even remain as witnesses. I'll leave it to the police department to answer that one, because it is the agency which is most knowledgable about its own policies and procedures for situations involving its employees. Maybe that response will come on the tail to responses to questions about the process used by the department to select its candidates for the "public safety of the month" awards. The department does not appear up to answering tough questions this week.

The city might disagree with Lackie's assertion that there is nothing to it, if the victims of this beating recover enough to file a law suit against the city. Then the fact that several officers may or may have logged off duty will probably be more than just a "technicality" if there is written policy and procedure which requires it. That practice, probably more than their actions or inactions during the melee in question will probably be a major hurdle if they do get sued. A lesson the department should have learned the last time the city was sued(and later settled that law suit) involving an incident at TGIF restaurant in 1999 where determining whether the involved officers were onduty or not posed similar problems.

It will be interesting to find out what the administrative review being conducted by the Internal Affairs will reveal, except the public won't ever find out, pursuant to PC 832.7.

Over 500 people showed up at UCLA yesterday to protest the recent tasing incident involving Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a 23-year-old senior who is an Iranian-American. He was tased at least five times on Nov. 14 by UCLA police officers who showed up to eject him from the library after he did not produce a photo identification card during a "routine" check.

The students then marched to the police station, yelling, "Tasers out of UCLA" and carrying signs reading, "I am a student. Don't tase me."

UCLA administrators have also decided to hand off the investigation of this incident to Merrick Bobb who served as staff attorney to the Christopher Commission's investigation into the LAPD and currently serves as the Los Angeles County's Board of Supervisors' watch dog over the Sheriff's Department. The students and more importantly to the university, the students' parents have spoken on this incident, much to the administration's dismay.

UCLA to farm out investigation to outside resource

The police chief continued to defend the officers' actions.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times article)

UCLA Police Chief Karl Ross said the officers decided to use the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad after he went limp while they were escorting him out and urged other library patrons to join his resistance.

Mavrick Goodrich, a chemical engineering major who observed the incident, said Tabatabainejad shouted, "Am I the only martyr?"

Some witnesses disputed the officers' account, saying that when campus police arrived, Tabatabainejad had begun to walk toward the door.

However, representatives of other law enforcement agencies pointed out differences between their own policies on taser use and the tactics practiced by UCLA's officers.


Several local police agencies — including the LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department — allow officers to use Tasers only if a suspect poses a physical threat or is acting combatively.The sheriff's policies expressly say deputies can't use Tasers simply to move someone.

"We look for assaultive conduct," said Bill McSweeney, chief of the sheriff's leadership and training division "We generally don't use the Taser on passive resisters except when an individual indicates explosive action to follow, such as a verbal threat."

Assistant Police Chief Jeff Young said that his officers were allowed to use their tasers in the drive stun mode against passive resisters for "pain compliance". The drive stun mode is when officers press the taser directly against the body part, rather than using it in the mode where the device fires two probes, which send an electrical shock that incapacitates the individual.

Students continued to ask the questions which the administrative officials should be asking and perhaps would be if they weren't in damage control mode.

"Once you have him subdued, you don't have to keep Tasing him," said Rohit Mahajan, a psychobiology major who watched the video. "You could see him crying. He's not a threat. He's maybe acting like a smartass, but he doesn't" deserve that.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Videos and verdicts

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23 and a senior at UCLA announced plans to file a law suit, through his attorney, Stephen Yagman, according to a Los Angeles Times article published today.

Man stunned by UCLA police plans to sue

Both Tabatabainejad, who is Iranian-American, and his attorney alleged that UCLA officers used excessive force when they tased the young man five times at the campus's library on Nov. 14, because he would not produce a photo identification card on request. Yagman called the incident, profiling by the officers that was done based on his client's Middle-Eastern appearance.

The tasing was captured on a web phone and transmitted around the world, through the media and via a YouTube Web site. The incident has sparked protest at UCLA including a planned demonstration today.

In a prepared statement released late Thursday, UCLA's interim chancellor, Norman Abrams, urged the public to "withhold judgment" while the campus police department investigates.

"I, too, have watched the videos, and I do not believe that one can make a fair judgment regarding the matter from the videos alone. I am encouraged that a number of witnesses have come forward and are participating in the investigation."

The UCLA Daily Bruin's article on the incident provides a detailed account of what took place, when community service officers performed what the article called a "random" ID check on Tabatabainejad.

The CSOs left, returning minutes later, and police officers arrived to escort the student out. By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well. The student began to yell "get off me," repeating himself several times. It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain.

The student also told the officers he had a medical condition. UCPD officers confirmed that the man involved in the incident was a student, but did not give a name or any additional information about his identity.

Video shot from a student's camera phone captured the student yelling, "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power," while he struggled with the officers. As the student was screaming, UCPD officers repeatedly told him to stand up and said "stop fighting us."

The student did not stand up as the officers requested and they shot him with the Taser at least once more

. "It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life," said David Remesnitsky, a 2006 UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident.

As the student and the officers were struggling, bystanders repeatedly asked the police officers to stop, and at one point officers told the gathered crowd to stand back and threatened to use a Taser on anyone who got too close. Laila Gordy, a fourth-year economics student who was present in the library during the incident, said police officers threatened to shoot her with a Taser when she asked an officer for his name and his badge number.

Gordy was visibly upset by the incident and said other students were also disturbed.

"It's a shock that something like this can happen at UCLA," she said. "It was unnecessary what they did."

Another witness who was interviewed by NBC agreed.

"Any student who witnessed it was left with an image you don't want to remember," said a witness who asked not to be identified.

When asked whether the student resisted when officer attempted to escort him from the building, the witness said, "In the beginning, no. But when they were holding onto him and they were on the ground, he was trying to just break free. He was saying, 'I'm leaving, I'm leaving.' It was so disturbing to watch that I cannot be concise on that. I can just say that he was willing to leave. He had his backpack on his shoulder and he was walking out when the cops approached him. It was unnecessary."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Los Angeles director, Hussam Ayloush said that his organization was very concerned about the incident.

"It is hard to see the justification for repeatedly using pain-inducing weapons on a person who was apparently not a threat to any officer or student. We call on state and national authorities, including the FBI, to launch an independent investigation of this disturbing incident. Given the circumstances involved, only an outside, independent probe will ensure that the civil rights aspects of this case are being taken seriously and will be addressed in an impartial manner."

UCLA finally responded via its media relations division here.

Date: November 17, 2006
Contact: Office of Media Relations ( )
Phone: 310-825-2585

Updated Statement from Chancellor Abrams About the Incident at Powell Library

A number of students, parents and members of the public have contacted me to express their concern about Tuesday evening's incident in which university police took a student into custody at Powell Library. Since the incident, I have been in close contact with the chief of police and have asked that the investigation into the actions of all involved move at the quickest pace possible without sacrificing fairness.

I am committed to our country's system of due process — which counsels us not to rush to judgment. It would be best if everyone, within and without the university, would withhold judgment pending review of the matter. I, too, have watched the videos, and I do not believe that one can make a fair judgment regarding the matter from the videos alone. I am encouraged that a number of witnesses have come forward and are participating in the investigation.

To parents who are concerned about the safety of their children at the university, student safety and treatment are of paramount concern at UCLA. Indeed, this incident arose out of a university policy that is designed to ensure student safety, which requires persons in the library after 11:00 p.m. to be prepared to identify themselves.

There are conflicting reports of what transpired in this matter. I am confident that the review process underway will lead to a complete and accurate story of what took place. We must let the fact-finding process take its course.

In another article published by the Daily Bruin, there were more details released and more response from the UCLA community.

"I realize when looking at these kind of arrest tapes that they don't always show the full picture. ... But that six minutes that we can watch just seems like it's a ridiculous amount of force for someone being escorted because they forgot their BruinCard," said Ali Ghandour, a fourth-year anthropology student.

"It certainly makes you wonder if something as small as forgetting your BruinCard can eventually lead to getting Tased several times in front of the library," he added.

Edouard Tchertchian, a third-year mathematics student, said he was concerned that the student was not offered any other means of showing that he was a UCLA student.


NBC's links to video

UCLA Daily Bruin article

The American Muslim article on CAIR-L.A. call for probe

Council on American-Islamic Relations press release

Life continues on in Riverside, where tasers have played critical roles in the deaths of two Black men. They did not die from being tased by the devices, but because they had allegedly grabbed them from the possession of police officers before they were shot to death by the police. Both of those onduty shootings are currently being investigated by the Riverside Police Department and the Community Police Review Commission.

The city council has also decided to forgo its appeal of the huge jury verdict awarded to Black officer, Roger Sutton after his racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation law suit filed in 2000 finally made it to trial.

City drops appeal, pays out settlement

"I am relieved this is finally over," Sutton said in a statement released Thursday. "Hopefully, my case encourages the department to apply equal standards of justice to its officers and not to lash out at officers when they protest unfair treatment."

His attorney, Scott Silverman responded as well.

The settlement announced Thursday "sends a message that Riverside police need to take racial discrimination and harassment seriously," Scott Silverman, Sutton's attorney, said in a statement.

The city's attorneys did not respond.

Sutton will receive $1.64 million and $67,103 in other costs. His attorneys will receive $825,000 in fees, which will put the city and its insurance carriers out over $2.5 million.

What the city will receive instead is this message, racism costs.

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