Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Monday, January 01, 2007

Elections past and present

The arguments continue at Inside Riverside a blog that addresses what's going on with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department especially at its helm. Its author whoever that is has written entries about Sheriff Bob Doyle, former Asst. Sheriff Stan Sniff and other assorted employees. Not without some criticism from individuals who identify themselves as "Legal Eagle" and "Ghost of Ben Clark". The only individual on the site identifying himself by name is Mark Lohman who used to serve as the sheriff's department's public information officer and that's assuming that this individual is really Lohman.

(excerpt from a poster named "pdr")

"I hope Sheriff Doyle does run for re-election, but if he doesn't, I hope Assistant Sheriff Andrews does. He definitely has my vote and support. And let me stop you before you say, "Everyone doesn't feel the same." Who you, who cares.. I know he (Andrews) will have the support and backing of a lot of citizens and troops.."

Except that the Riverside Sheriffs' Association apparently did not endorse him in the last election. On the bright side for Doyle, he's got four years to change minds.

One of the most popular topics on that blog is the conflict that exists between the department's leadership, which in this case is elected and the law enforcement labor union, a conflict that is very common in law enforcement agencies. However, this one allegedly centers around the bankroll the Riverside Sheriffs' Association Political Action Committee has collected, which is over $500,000 in size. The author of "Inside Riverside" surmised that the recent federal investigation of the sheriffs' union was instigated by those in management to weaken the association's political influence by discrediting its leadership before the next sheriff's election in 2010.

The problem with that theory is that sheriff elections unlike those involving city or county political officials do not tend to be very competitive and Doyle still won his reelection without the apparent support of most of the rank and file. Besides, the sheriff election is not a real election, it's a coronation. But it might provide the sheriff with more political stability in his position than he or she would receive as a police chief appointed by a city government to preside over a law enforcement agency if his employees decide to turn on him.

Usually what happens is six months or so before the election actually takes place, there is a process where the current sheriff decides to step down and "endorse" a replacement, usually at a press conference with a long line of civic and government leaders standing right next to him. This individual usually faces little opposition in the actual election and usually waltzes off with a lionshare of the popular vote. A political chest compiled by a law enforcement labor union usually is more useful being spent in elections involving city councils, if they are police department officers or board of supervisors if they are county sheriff deputies.

And sure enough, the Riverside Sheriffs' Association PAC has put a lot of money in the elections involving county supervisors, including several election campaigns of individuals running against County Supervisor Bob Buster. Just like the Riverside Police Officers' Association has endorsed and financed various political candidates for city council, mayor and even county supervisor.

The list of grand jury reports is here. Three of them center on the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and include responses from this law enforcement agency as well as the Board of Supervisors.

It's also an election year in the city of Riverside, with three city council seats up for grabs including one open seat in the fifth ward after Councilman Ed Adkison decided not to seek reelection. Council members Dom Betro(Ward 1), Steve Adams(Ward 7) and Art Gage(Ward 3) do plan to seek second terms.

In 1999, Adkison set a record for the amount of money spent during an election when $117,317 from his war chest was spent on winning the runoff in January 2000, against Greg Craft, according to this Press Enterprise article. Many people believe that Adkison is taking a breather before running for political office again and comments he made at a city council meeting not too long ago lend some support to that popular theory.

It's predicted that a lot of money will be thrown in to elect his successor and open seats tend to attract quite a few candidates to compete for them.

Expect a lot of money to be spent fighting over Betro's seat in Ward 1. Simply because it's downtown and some of the most contentious elections have been conducted in this ward. In 2003, Betro fought it out with prosecutor Paul Fick, all the way to the runoff election. At first Betro countered the quartet of Gage, Adams, Adkison and Frank Schiavone, but now it appears that Betro has almost displaced Adkison in terms of being Schiavone's other half.

The most vulnerable candidate is Adams given that elected officials who run for higher office while serving out their stint always tend to alienate a portion of their voting base. He also won his runoff election four years ago by relatively few votes, after running a fairly aggressive and expensive campaign. Part of the reason he won narrowly was because few residents in that ward had even heard of him, because earlier that year, he had allegedly set up residence in Ward 3 and was gathering signatures to run for that council seat before deciding instead to run for office in the La Sierra area.

During the past several days, I have been contacted by several people about a house fire on University Avenue in Riverside. Just today, the Press Enterprise wrote about it here. The house was apparently owned by the city and was being used as a training spot for the city's fire department. The city allowed the department to do this on the condition that its employees didn't use fire or light any fires during their training exercises.

The house caught fire some how and burned down anyway.


"We want to make this point clear," said Riverside Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Dredla. "We never lit a fire in that home."

The house used to belong to the late DeVonne Armstrong, who was a Black realtor and long-time figure in this city and it was where he housed his business. At least one person told me that they had believed that the Black historical society was going to renovate or relocate the house. This is not the only house that was scheduled for relocation to another part of the city which has been struck by fire. At least four other historic residences have burned down in the Eastside neighborhood including several apparently either owned by the city. The previous fires were blamed on neighborhood youth or homeless people.

The people who contacted me were upset that the fire fighters just stood by and let the Victorian house burn to the ground. In the news article, the fire department's response was that it had made the decision to protect the surrounding area and just let it burn itself out. The house was abandoned at the time and no injuries were reported.


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