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

The RPD by the numbers

The Human Resources Department released the following EEOC quarterly report on the Riverside Police Department and its numbers were in several ways better than they had been in previous months. There were notable net gains in the hiring of women, particularly Latinas as well as in the hiring of Asian-American and Black officers.

A report drawn in September showed similar gains for Asian-American and Black officers but there were no net gains for either Latinos of both genders or women of all races.

The growth of Latino officers still is fairly slow and the percentages of Latino officers overall and female officers overall still lag below the mean percentage(for women) and the percentage that group holds in terms of the overall city population( for Latinos). More work needs to be done to target individuals in those groups for recruitment. Much more work that is well-focused in this area in order to be effective, but this department had not had a net gain in hiring either Latinos and/or women during a six month period earlier this year so things have improved a bit.

Still, it's encouraging to see numbers like these ones of officers who have been recruited, screened, selected and hired by the police department. A lot of credit goes to the personnel and training unit which during the relevent time period was headed by Capt. Pete Esquival and staffed by officers including Cheryl Hayes who herself did a lot of the recruiting. Hayes hit different spots to recruit including churches.

Here are some preliminary statistics from the report.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Statistics:

(Jan. 31, 2007 in comparison to Jan. 26, 2006)

By Gender:

Male officers: 353[+12] 90.75%[-.15]

Female officers: 36[+2] 9.25%[.15%]

By Race:

American Indian officers: 0[0]

Asian-American officers: 8[+2] 2.05%[+.40]

Black officers: 28[+3] 7.2%[+.5%]

Latino officers: 75[+4] 19.3%[+.4]

White officers: 278[+5] 71.45%[-1.35%]

What these numbers show for the various groups is that it is possible to recruit and hire officers from outside the White male dynamic if you put the time and effort into doing so. It puts paid to comments made by Councilman Steve Adams that if you hire officers and all or most of them are White and/or male, then that's all there is out there.

But even though the personnel and training division when headed by Esquival hired one of the most diverse pools of police officers in recent department history, his stay in that division would be a short one.

In July, Esquival was transferred along with Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez to the new Magnolia Station in the La Sierra area of the city. Dominguez would head the field operations and investigations divisions and Esquival would head the special operations division. Replacing Esquival in the personnel and training division, which is located at the department's administrative headquarters would be Capt. Michael Blakely.

Blakely hails back to the days of former Chief Ken Fortier. Both men worked at the San Diego Police Department and when Fortier became the new chief, Blakely came with him to Riverside as his deputy chief until Fortier's retirement in 1997. It's not clear how the officers in the department felt about having both a chief and a second-in-command who were both outsiders at least in the beginning. Fortier ultimately ran into the same fate as had befallen both his predecessor Linford Richardson and his successor, Jerry Carroll and after being "fired" by the police union, he left while Blakely stayed on and worked on several different divisions including Investigations and Traffic before this latest assignment which went down last summer.

Blakely and then Capt. Richard Dana were involved in a memorable chapter of Riverside's history when nine White male sergeants filed grievances against the city of Riverside alleging that they had been discriminated against by race and gender after Carroll promoted two men of color and a White women into lieutenant positions.

However, besides then Lt. Meredith Meredyth, two other White individuals, Capt. Audrey Wilson and Deputy Chief Michael Smith were also promoted into those positions, meaning that 60% of the promotions given out in that cycle went to White officers and 60% went to men. It's interesting to note that when White women are promoted, somehow they aren't considered by their male counterparts to be White enough to be counted as a member of that racial group. It would be much harder to argue that reverse racial discrimination was taking place that way.

Still, the nine men filed their papers and their complaints were delivered to Human Resources by Blakely and Dana according to several articles in the Press Enterprise on this issue. Six White male sergeants ultimately filed their law suits in U.S. District Court and the city rushed to settle with them even as they allowed racial discrimination lawsuits filed by a Black officer and a group of Black city employees to proceed in a knock-down dragged out fight for five and nine years respectively spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate each one and over a million to pay out a verdict on the officer's case.

That officer, Roger Sutton, testified during his own trial in 2005 that another officer had told him that when a former Black RPD officer, Lee Wagner was promoted about 10 years earlier, Blakely had been unhappy about it. Wagner left the department in the mid-1990s and is currently chief of police of the Riveride Community College District's department.

While still a captain, Blakely has been given an important job overseeing two critical assignments in the department, personnel and training. Will he be able to continue this trend that was recently seen in the hiring of new officers? Or will the trend reverse itself? It remains to be seen what the future will hold. Many times the RPD has moved forward in this area, then slipped backwards.

And it is an issue that will continue to be a concern in the future thanks to objective #1.5 in the Strategic Plan, which is the blueprint used to guide the police department on the path of reform until 2009.

When asked what the specific plan was for the implementation of this objective which states that the department is to better reflect the city it serves, Chief Russ Leach said that it was just a "general idea" and not about quotas. However, no one had mentioned or advocated any form of quotas. Hopefully, by the next progress report, which by the way is a month past due, there will be more definitive information from either Leach, Blakely or better yet from both of them.

Even if the department can recruit and hire a diverse work force, that doesn't necessarily mean it will keep one. More important than the issue of recruitment is the issue of retention and historically, the department has struggled in its retention of female officers of all races. The issue of creating and implementing retention programs including mentorships which can be helpful to officers of different races and genders was raised at the first quarterly progress report of the department's implementation of the Strategic Plan. However, it didn't get much in the way of a positive response from the department or the city council.

Riverside is a growing city but still behind the times in many ways. Once again, the golden tongue award went to Adams.

Adams, a retired RPD officer, said that retention programs were "remedial training for those who can't cut it" and judging by the applause in the back of the room from the White officers to those and other comments made by Adams, some of them apparently agree. When asked by a city council member to describe a method used by the department for retaining officers, Leach instead described the pre-academy phase which had seen quite a few female applicants drop out during the earlier part of 2006. Leach lauded the program saying that it had saved the city money that could have been spent basically on officers who couldn't cut it or didn't want to do so there. That's not exactly what retention programs are set up to do.

By the time applicants are hired by the department and placed in the pre-academy or academy phase of the process, the city has already spent an enormous amount of money and time bringing them up to that point. At that point, it would be hoped that officers would be looked at more as investments than commodities. Retention programs might help in this area.

There are those like Adams who think they are a waste of time but Adams was a police officer during an era the city has hopefully put behind it, when it balanced its budget on a $22 million reform process.

Studies from agencies and organizations as diverse as the Department of Justice, the National Center for Women and Policing and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have made it clear that well-thought out and implemented retention strategies do make a difference in keeping officers in a department especially men of color and women. Mentorships in particular are helpful to officers although less than 20% of law enforcement have formal mentorship programs. They are especially helpful for officers who want to advance up the ranks and do not have access to the often informal mentorships which have traditionally favored White male officers.

These programs are the wave of the future as is the diversifying of law enforcement agencies to better represent the cities and counties they protect and serve. Hopefully, Riverside will figure that out and jump aboard.

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