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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Forums and follies

Yesterday, people were forced to evacuate from City Hall because of a bad smell, which turned out to be a gas leak that occurred after a contruction worker nearby accidently broke a pipe. Far from being upset, the people shown leaving the building are chatting away on their cell phones.

Not much in the Press Enterprise about the actual meeting itself which saw a big project affecting the Eastside on its discussion agenda but not anything on the vote. But it's fairly likely that it passed 7-0 as occurs with most development projects that go before the city council.

When the developers involved with this project held a community meeting a couple of months ago, it focused on the Eastside, but in the agenda item that went before city council last night, it appeared to pertain almost exclusively to University Avenue, which is but one small part of that neighborhood. The Eastside, a predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood has always been a thorn in the city's side blocking the University of California, Riverside's view and conduit to the jewel of Riverside which is the downtown area. Its residents are lucky if they are even seen as being people at all and if those who call them less than human are not later lauded as role models in their profession by their superiors, as happened at a city council meeting not too long ago. One person's progress is another person's gentrification. And I suppose a person who makes derogatory comments can be viewed as someone else's role model as well.

Inland Empire magazine ran an article in a recent issue on the anticipated battle for the mayor's seat between current councilmen Dom Betro and Art Gage. Both of them happen to be up for reelection this year but due to a change in the election laws passed by the voters last November, the mayor's seat will come up for grabs in 2008. According to the article and most rumor mills, the two most likely candidates for the throne expected to be vacated by current mayor, Ron Loveridge are indeed Betro and Gage.

City council watchers were witnesses to a preview of the coming attractions when the two men apparently traded jabs and some might say, cheap shots through intermediaries this month.

GASS quartet member Gage has seen his membership in that bloc revoked in recent months by two other members along with Betro and Councilman Andrew Melendrez who decided to endorse his election opponant, neophyte Rusty Bailey. Loveridge had joined in the party by his decision to also back Bailey. Earlier this month, members of the newest quartet on the city council made insinuations that Gage had been leaking confidential information with not much in the way of evidence to back up their claims.

Then Gage's former campaign manager, Richard Paul, came to city council with news that he was being visited by FBI agents and claimed they were actually investigating Betro, again without anything in the way of evidence to prove those claims. Similar rumors had plagued Betro during his first election campaign but didn't amount to much.

It makes good soap opera but these antics do cause the city government to be looked at in a not so flattering light. Hopefully people will show their displeasure for all this behavior at the polls in 2007 and 2008, including those who dream of days when candidates just ran on issues.

The magazine article detailed the visions that three elected officials had for the city's future. Actually, it was the same vision drawn three different ways. It remains to be seen first of all, if Loveridge's current term will truly be his last and who will ultimately step up to run to replace him.

The community forum on the Community Police Review Commission was written about in the Press Enterprise. According to the article, it attracted over 70 people. Looking around the conference room, I think I recognized nearly every person as either being a member of a board or commission, as an elected official or even as a plainclothed police officer, like the guy sitting in the back row near the video camera being operated by Charter Communications.

Forum draws crowd

Many people in the community were still shocked by the actions of the city manager's office and some say even the police department against the CPRC during the holiday break. Several said the city took advantage of the holiday season to make its move against the only real mechanism for community participation in oversight of the police department. The older city residents said this wasn't anything they hadn't seen in the days before the shooting at the corner of Central and Brockton that was heard around the world. What history has taught them, is that whenever there are issues impacting the police department, the city takes action against whatever civilian oversight mechanism is within its reach and in the 1980s and 90s, that was LEPAC.

Which is why many people didn't even attend the forum, because as far as they were concerned their only form of oversight is gone if its burgeoning independence is being discouraged by the city and the police department. And for the 99.9999% who will never be asked to serve on a board, commission, ad-hoc committee, "community panel", advisory board or task force, this is one of the remaining ways to have a voice on what happens with the police department. Especially the people who live in the communities that are policed the most by the Riverside Police Department.

So the city has decided after all this time, that the CPRC is in need of some fixing and interestingly enough, this decision was made in the wake of three fatal shootings of unarmed men by officers from the police department last year. Yet, has the city even gone to the communities and asked their opinions on what needs to be done? No, they held meetings behind closed doors at City Hall during the lull of the holiday season and made decisions without public imput. Even most of the commissioners had no idea what had happened when they returned in January and found out that the commission as it had existed at its last meeting in November, didn't exist anymore.

What has replaced it was announced at two meetings through a powerpoint presentation last week and no doubt, will be shown to the city council at a future date. The majority of the city's residents have yet to see it.

But despite the low turnout from community members not tied with the city in any way, there were questions asked that really were through-provoking and indicates that people indeed are paying attention to what is going on with both the police department and the politics at City Hall, which is exactly how it should be among the three partners that former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer referred to in his statement on the department and that the department itself referred to in its own Strategic Plan. And if the city and police department circle the wagons to keep the remaining party out(which is what has happened historically as well as now), then the community needs to butt its way back into the dialogue.

Steve Lopez, a columnist from the Los Angeles Times wrote this article this morning on a disabled woman's runin with a parking officer. A long battle with cancer has left Shari Kahane with limited mobility because she relies on portable tanks to provide her with the oxygen she needs to live. She had been going to her attorney's office to sign her last will and testment after finding out her cancer was likely terminal.


My husband was trying to explain the circumstances, that I had terminal cancer, that there was no place to pull off the street, and the officer said, 'I don't care about that.' People were starting to gather around who were walking on the sidewalk, telling him to leave us alone….

I started crying because it was very upsetting, having to go and sign your will to begin with, and this guy was more than I could deal with."

She thought she'd seen the worst of it, but she hadn't. Cheating death is one thing, but getting the best of a traffic officer is an entirely different challenge.

"I'm five-two, and this big fella leans into my face and yells at me, 'Why are you crying? You shouldn't be crying. I'm not giving you the ticket. I'm giving the ticket to the car.' "

Her husband tried to explain the situation to the parking officer, a futile effort.


"My husband said, 'I wonder how you sleep at night when you do things like this,' and he said, 'I sleep very well, thank you.' And then he drove off."

Then Lopez drove his own car and parked in the same spot that the couple had and waited at least 20 minutes without being approached by a parking officer and saw other cars pull up and let people out of, and he asked the question as to why the parking officer could not wait two minutes for a disabled woman to get out of a car.

After reading his column, he won't be the only one asking that question.

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