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

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Vigils and votes

Valerie Bell, the mother of Sean Bell, 23, and other family members are holding a 50 day vigil outside the New York City Police Department precinct in Jamaica, Queens to press for criminal indictments in the officer-involved shooting death of her son. One day for each bullet that was fired from the guns of five plain-clothed police officers who shot Bell on Nov. 25, which was also his wedding day.

The International Herald Tribune wrote about the vigil here.


"We're trying to get the point across to the world that we are standing for justice," Sean Bell's mother, Valerie, said Tuesday morning. "The thing that happened to my son shouldn't happen to anyone again."

The shooting of Bell and two of his friends, all of them unarmed led to numerous marches and rallies in protest of the shooting.

A grand jury will convene to hear evidence in the case, according to the New York Daily News.

Grand jury empaneled in Queens


"The journey for justice has begun," said lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, who represents Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre-Bell, and the two wounded friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield.

"Still, we've said from the beginning that what we want is the thorough and complete investigation," Rubenstein said.

Still, it is expected to take months before the grand jury hears evidence in the Bell shooting.

Meanwhile in New Orleans, seven officers from that city's police department turned themselves in to authorities after being notified that they faced murder and attempted murder charges in relation to an officer-involved shooting that took place on Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005 after Hurricane Katrina had hit and devastated the city.

Yahoo: Seven police officers facing criminal charges surrender to authorities

Two men were killed and four were injured in the shooting including a 40-year-old Black mentally disabled man who the officers said they shot because he was reaching for something. However, an autopsy showed that he had been shot seven times including five times in the back. His brother was initially charged with attempted murder but the charges were dropped. The police officers wound up being charged instead.

In Savannah, Georgia, the city council and county commission are searching for answers from the firms that were hired to recruit and vet the new police chief and have begun asking questions. This development stems from the growing controversy involving the city's hiring of former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief, Michael Berkow to serve as its police chief, according to this article in Savannah Now. Likely there is also a vigil going on by the city to pray that nothing else comes out about its golden boy.

Even though Berkow and several other employees have caused LAPD chief William Bratton some headaches, the mayor still likes him which will probably help him get reappointed this year for another five-year term.

Berkow left a flurry of internal investigations and law suits in his wake when he took the job in Savannah. At least two law suits stemming from his stint as head of the LAPD's Internal Affairs Division have been filed. The first was filed by a female sergeant who made allegations that Berkow gave promotions to female officers he had sexual relationships with, and another law suit was filed by four male officers of color alleging that Berkow and the department discriminated against them due to their race and disability.

Apparently, what was news to Savannah's city manager, Michael Brown and the city council, not to mention both of the recruitment firms hired by the city to conduct background checks on applicants for the chief position including Berkow, was that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with another employee. Brown said here that he will wait until the law suit filed by LAPD officer, Ya-May Christle is resolved, before deciding whether or not Berkow will remain as police chief in Savannah.

Jim Morekis had plenty to say about it in his blog.

As for the $8,000 the city of Savannah spent on Berkow's background check, not the best financial investment that city's ever made.

And in Riverside, the scepter was officially handed from longtime Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask to new hire Rod Pacheco in a formal ceremony in front of the historic courthouse in Riverside. Hundreds of elected officials, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, probation officers and judges showed up to witness this rare event in RiverCity, when a new D.A. takes office.

And a coronation it was, as Pacheco pretty much inherited the position from his predecessor, Trask Although he took some years off to be a politician up in Sacramento, he slid back effortlessly into a high-ranking position in the D.A.'s office without having to submit an application and a resume and then ran unopposed in an election last year.

Speaking of submitting applications and resumes, one thing the crowd of about 500 people showed is that there's still not much racial diversity in this crowd. You could count the number of African-Americans who attended on one hand.

One passerby saw the huge American flag on display and an audience of dark suits and assumed it was a memorial event put on for the late former president Gerald Ford. No, everyone was just in uniform.

Former elected officials congregated with current elected officials. Law enforcement officers hung out together, although at one point RPD Chief Russ Leach was breaking bread with City Manager Brad Hudson and Community Police Review Commissioner Brian Pearcy, in the midst of a flurry of rumors that an announcement will be made about the relationship between the three entities. Many but not all of the judges were present, so much for objectivity unless an equal number of them attended the swearing in of Riverside County Public Defender Gary Windom who was also in attendance. It makes the justice system seem more like a fraternity than the process that it's supposed to be.

Noticeably absent from the proceedings was Judge Robert Spitzer who has been the subject of many complaints from Trask's office.

Judge gets charged by CJP

Pacheco focused on the often made references to fighting gangs and sex offenders in his speech, but he branched out into other areas as well including environmental crimes such as dumping.

Unintended comic relief came when he made the following statements, as quoted in the Press Enterprise.


Political-corruption investigations will also get more attention, he said.
"That's not because there is a huge problem in Riverside County," Pacheco said, "But that is something you need to keep a check on, because if it gets out of control, it is pervasive."

No actually, it gets pervasive first and then it gets out of control.

That newspaper generally had good things to say about the event as its sentiments towards local elected officials has warmed up considerably since its purchase by Belo Enterprises in the distant state of Texas.

New D.A. heralds new day in Riverside

The barely here Los Angeles Times did as well here.

After the ceremony, people retired to the rotunda where several buffets were set up, although most people who attend these events don't show up to eat, but to talk shop, though people did stop by and listen to the orchastra which including a moonlighting Dan Bernstein, columnist for the Press Enterprise, who was impressive on the trombone. Or they act as if they haven't seen each other in months when it's probably been since earlier that morning.

The shrimp was excellent as were the cheesecake squares, although I don't understand the fruit and vegetable motif in the middle of the rotunda as people cautiously picked out grapes and strawberries, not quite sure what else on the table was edible.


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