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

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Civilian review in the West

On Monday, Jan. 29, there will be a forum on the Community Police Review Commission in Riverside, California.

It will be at the county's office of education building on 13th St. off of Market from 7:00p.m. to 8:30p.m. Panelists include CPRC Chair Les Davidson, Riverside Police Department Chief Russ Leach, Riverside County District Attorney's office prosecutor Sara Danville and Councilman Andrew Melendrez standing in for City Manager Brad Hudson. Hudson agreed to attend but won't say anything.

Topics include the following.

The mission of the CPRC.

The role of the police department's initial briefings to the CPRC on officer-involved deaths.

Role of the District Attorney's office in investigating officer-involved deaths.

The timeline of investigations into these deaths and also who gets to make the final decision on administrative investigations.

The residents of Spokane, Washington will also be invited to several forums on civilian review in their city.

A press release from that city's government:

Staff reports: January 26, 2007

Spokane residents will have two opportunities to give their input about how a citizen review panel for the police department should be structured.

"The need for a new way to provide for citizen review of complaints against the police department has been an issue since I started as chief last fall," said Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. "Through this process, we expect to develop a proposal that is the best fit for Spokane."

Two public forums for Spokane residents are scheduled: Feb. 7 at 6p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.,and Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St.

As previously reported by The Spokesman-Review, the city of Spokane has hired Sam Pailca, director of the Office of Professional Accountability for the Seattle Police Department for the past six years, to assist in development of a citizen review model. Pailca will take into consideration the public's comments as well as those of the city council's public safety committee, Police Advisory Committee members, police representatives and the Citizen's Review Commission.

In Pailca's role with the Seattle Police Department, she has advised Seattle's police chief, mayor and city council on accountability reforms, said city of Spokane spokeswoman Marlene Feist. Pailca has
overseen the investigation of almost 1,000 misconduct complaints annually.

Kirkpatrick expects a proposal to be developed for consideration by the city council in March, Feist said.

Spokane Police Department looks at changes

A press release out of Eugene, Oregon, another city which had been exploring civilian review mechanisms back in 2005, details the findings of the latest batch of complaints filed to the department's internal affairs division .

In 2005, online magazine West by Northwest Organization wrote an article in support of a ballot initiative which would allow for changes in civilian review by amending the city's charter. That measure passed and the city's auditor site is now here.

(excerpt, West by Northwest)

After more than a year of public outreach, research, and deliberation, the Police Commission recommended a plan for police oversight that combines an independent professional Police Auditor and a Civilian Review Board.

The Police Commission's report says: "To ensure structural independence of the oversight system, the commission recommends that the auditor be hired and report to the City Council, and that the City Council, with community input, appoints the review board members.

In the Emerald News article which was written on the passage of the ballot measure, here's an excerpt which is pivotal when examining the structure of effective civilian review.


The main opposition to the measure came from those concerned that the amendment would undermine the city's form of government by taking power away from the city manager and giving it to the council. Former city councilor Ken Tollenaar has opposed the measure, and he hopes that the City Council will stay close to the Police Commission recommendations now that the measure has passed.

"I hope they appoint a qualified auditor and relegate the day-to-day operations to the city manager," Tollenaar said.

Supporters insist that separating the auditor from the city manager will keep the position more independent.

Because the city manager hires the police chief, there were concerns that a city manager-hired auditor would not be able to disagree with his or her employer.

The following is from the city of Eugene.

Quarterly Report on Police Complaints Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007

Internal affairs case summaries October to December 2006

From October to December, the Eugene Police Department completed 10 investigations of complaints made against its employees.

The summaries are released quarterly and describe the complaint, the investigation and the finding. The department does not release the names of those involved or any action taken against employees. The department received 73 commendations during the same period.

Use of force, unsatisfactory performance, discourtesy - Thecomplainants alleged officers used excessive force in their arrest, including breaking a car window. They also said an officer looked through some confidential files inside the car and that an officer called a woman "scum." Investigators determined the officers used appropriate and reasonable force in the arrest. They broke the window when the suspect ignored officers' orders. The allegation of excessive force was deemed unfounded, meaning a preponderance of the evidence indicated the officer did not engage in the alleged behaviors. An officer looked through the files as part of a routine search following arrest, as required by department policy. The officer was exonerated,meaning the alleged behavior did occur but was consistent with policy. A lack of witnesses prevented investigators from determining whether an officer called a woman "scum," and the allegation was not sustained.

Use of force, discourtesy, constitutional rights - The complainant alleged that an officer needlessly used pepper spray to subdue him andwas rude while driving him to jail. He also said officers searched his house without legal authority. The investigation determined that pepper spray was not used during the arrest and the allegation was deemed unfounded. The complainant was not sure which officer had been rude, or what exactly had been said, so the accusation was deemed unfounded. Officers did search the house with consent from an adult who lived there, so they were exonerated of the allegation.

Use of force - The complainant alleged officers hurt her when they escorted her from her apartment for a mental health evaluation. The investigation revealed that the woman has mental health and alcohol problems and that she was, by her own description, suicidal and drunkat the time. She admitted going limp when officers told her they were taking her to the hospital for treatment. Investigators determined that the officers' use of arm holds and wrist locks during the incident was consistent with policies and procedures, and they were exonerated.

Discourtesy, performance - The complainant alleged that an officer was rude and abrupt to someone under arrest. The complainant said theofficer was rude when confronted about the behavior. Investigators learned that the officer used a loud and commanding voice because he knew the suspect had a history of being disruptive and trespassing.The complainant later admitted she had not been present during the entire arrest. The allegation was deemed unfounded.

Performance - The complainant alleged that officers responding to his report of assault and attempted robbery arrested him on a warrant andrefused to investigate his case. Investigators reviewed a digital recording of the interaction, which revealed that the officer tried to follow up on the assault and robbery, but the complainant was uncooperative. The allegation was deemed unfounded.

Use of force, judgment, discourtesy - The complainant alleged officers used excessive force during his arrest. He said officers withheld medicine for a medical condition and that an officer used profanity toward him. Investigators deemed the allegation of excessive force unfounded and learned that officers allowed the man to take his medicine once he arrived at the jail. Investigators learned the officer did use profanity and sustained the allegation of discourtesy.

Performance, truthfulness - The complainant alleged an officer tookhis money and used it to pay a fine at Eugene Municipal Court. Hebelieved the officer lied when he said the court had ordered that themoney be used to pay the fine. Investigators learned the officer found the money during a lawful search and that the court, indeed, had ordered it to be used to pay fines. The allegation was deemed unfounded.

Conformance to laws - The complainant alleged that detectives stole three rings from her home during a search. The woman told investigators she placed the rings in a dresser drawer two days beforethe search. Two weeks later, they were missing. Investigators learnedthat several people had access to the drawer. Detectives had searched a safe containing valuable jewelry, none of which was missing. Therewas no evidence that detectives took the rings, and the allegation was deemed unfounded.

Use of force - The complainant alleged an officer hit her son repeatedly on the head after taking him to the ground during his arrest for an alcohol violation at Autzen Stadium. Investigators learned the man had lunged at the officer and caused him to fall to the ground. The officer hit the man with a series of elbow strikes tothe upper back - not the head - because he was resisting arrest. The use of force complied with department policy and the allegation was deemed unfounded.

Constitutional rights, courtesy - The complainant alleged that an officer told a food vendor to stop selling to her and her friends. She also said an officer had been discourteous nine years ago.Investigators learned the vendor denied service because the woman had been cited for criminal conduct. The discourtesy allegation was too old to be investigated.

Eugene is a new member of the growing family of cities, counties and towns in the United States and Canada which have implemented civilian review mechanisms. The number of those that do continues to grow and many of these civilian review mechanisms follow roughly similar paths towards realization and even after that.

Usually, it is a series of incidents involving a law enforcement agency over a period of years culminating in a major incident that sparks community members and organizations which may include ACLU chapters, NAACP chapters and often grass-roots organizations or coalitions centered on the issue of police accountability and civilian oversight. They either try to place ballot initiatives up for a public vote, to create a civilian review board through amending the city or county's code or the charter itself, as happened in Eugene. These efforts are often very successful.

The major opponants to civilian review mechanisms in nearly all cases are labor unions representing the rank and file law enforcement employees impacted by the creation and implementation of civilian review mechanisms. They campaign against ballot initiatives, spending lots of money or appear at meetings to protest against a governing body's decision to amend the local municipal code.

If the civilian review mechanisms are put in place, these labor unions usually hire attorneys to sue the city over these boards and especially target the independent investigations of complaints or officer-involved deaths and subpoena powers. Interestingly enough, these are the componants of a review board that are most often deemed integral to that board by community members. When these legal challenges fail and most often they do, the labor unions then take a more political approach by funding city council members, mayors and county supervisors who oppose civilian oversight, even if their favorable candidate must move into the district to be able to run for election. If their candidates are elected and formulate a voting majority, then those council members or supervisors often try to either eliminate the civilian review mechanism or undercut its operations.

When this happened in several jurisdictions including Riverside, the residents then reorganized and pushed for inclusion of the civilian oversight mechanism in the city's charter. In Riverside, that succeeded at keeping the CPRC free of political influence by the city's government for only a little while, given that the CPRC has lost two executive directors in between the time the ballot measure passed in November 2004 and January 2007.

One commissioner, Jack Brewer, told the public safety committee that whenever the CPRC's executive directors ventured out into the community, they were pulled back in by the city. In fact, the CPRC's last executive director was actually banned from doing outreach into the community because Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis said it would give the CPRC the appearance of bias against the police department, despite the fact that under Pedro Payne's direction, new police officers were meeting with him when hired to discuss and ask questions about the CPRC and he had also met with the leadership of the Riverside Police Officers' Association.

Under the prior direction, the RPOA leadership had attended a workshop in 2004 to air its complaints although one of its board members couldn't seem to decide whether he liked the commission or hated it. That was a very interesting process that was never repeated.

The city has the task of trying to hire a new executive director to come fill a position that's become equal to navigating through a political minefield, thanks to actions taken by both the city manager's office and the police department. Will someone who is strong in the area of community outreach, which is included in the proposed changes to the CPRC, want to take a job and risk also being banned from doing outreach by DeSantis on his road out the door?

A point that seemed to be made by Brewer and Commissioner Jim Ward is that it doesn't matter who the city hires, because the pattern shows that when the community and the city's expectations for the CPRC differ, it is the executive director who is caught in the middle of that conflict. In two cases already, the executive director has been shown the door.

And each time the executive director exited stage right after coming to the same point in the city's script, the city manager's office then informs the community way after the fact, that changes will be made to the CPRC without the community's knowledge let alone imput on that process. And usually both the city manager's office and the police department claim that these changes are being done because they realize that the CPRC was put in the charter by the city's voters and that this is indeed a "special" commission.

What's so fascinating about this latest episode is that the involved parties actually believing that the strategy they are implementing is new when in fact it's simply been borrowed from the play book handed off from one city administration to the next. If you travel back in time even as far as the existance of LEPAC, which was the "special" subcommittee set up by the Human Relations Commission to oversee the police department's policy implementation after the controversial dog bite incident of the early 1980s, you will see that when the city and police department believed that LEPAC ventured out of its box into their comfort zones, they took similar actions. The best example of that was when LEPAC wanted to exercise subpoena power but the city denied its ability to do so.

Of course, the entire country knows what happened next and where we are today because of decisions made by our city governments and police department management teams of the past. The fact that the city is continuing down that same path just goes to show what a short collective memory it has and that simply knowing a city's history does not seem to be enough for it to learn from its mistakes and take a different path.

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