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

Friday, February 09, 2007

Louder than words: Links and things

In Riverside County, the conflict between the Riverside County District Attorney's office and the Riverside County Superior Court's judges continues as criminal cases continue to pile up and the civil court system remains at a grinding halt.

District Attorney Rod Pacheco apparently had mentioned an audit on the court systems done last year at a soiree conducted by the Greater Chambers of Commerce in Riverside(which represents some businesses but certainly not the eminent domained ones) at the Mission Inn Hotel, according to today's edition of the Press Enterprise.

D.A. claims judicial mismanagement


The court system, quite candidly, has failed to adapt," Pacheco told a gathering of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce at the Mission Inn.

"The management practices of the court system and the manner in which they handle cases is the same as when I started in 1984."

Just six weeks into his term as the county's lead prosecutor, Pacheco used the meeting of the influential business and community group to take the offensive against claims by some of the area's legal leaders that his office's filing practices have contributed to clogged courts.

I guess peace talks had broken down which was why Pacheco was taking his case to the people, well a portion of the business crowd at the upscale Mission Inn Hotel.

Pacheco said that trials should begin before 9:3o A.M. I'm surprised he didn't know that the reason they don't is because those trials aren't the only business being conducted inside courtrooms on any given day. The hour or so before the trial resumes is spent attending to other criminal cases which are also traveling through the system. His solution to begin trials an hour earlier would cause the delay of many more cases.

Trials are often not held on Friday to give the involved attorneys including prosecutors and judges time available to address other cases. The article mentioned that preliminary and motion hearings were heard those days and that the judges were planning to have several courtrooms reserved for trials.

Jury selection for nine trials was delayed at least two hours or longer in early January because the backlog of criminal cases that needed to be tried led to an unprecedented number of jurors being called in with no provision made to ensure that there was enough available parking or transportation from the distant parking lots to the courthouse, or get their children into childcare even though this influx of jurors had been anticipated for at least a week.

Presiding Judge Richard Fields had this to say. The courts are currently functioning with less than half of the judges that they need. This leaves each judge with one of the state's highest caseload levels to handle. The District Attorney's office changed its rules on how it prosecutes cases, knowing full well it was trying them in an already overtaxed judicial system. Whether it intended to do so or not, it added to the problem that it is now insisting that the judges should solve. What will be its contribution to that process?

It looks like the two sides will continue to clash during this latest skirmish and civil cases will not be tried, and other cases will be dropped, but both will continue to insist that they are in the right. Well, just because.

With all the complaints coming from Pacheco's office, it may actually be the Riverside County Public Defender's office which has suffered the most in the employment ranks from the current situation based on statements made by Assistant Public Defender Robert K. Willey.


Willey also said, "I don't totally disagree with Rod on this. I can understand his frustration and we share his frustration." Willey said three attorneys resigned from his office in the past three weeks, all citing large caseloads.

"It's not as easy of a nut to crack, which is why it has taken time," he said. "They are all packed to the gills. You couldn't solve one problem without having an impact on the other courts."

Just several years ago, the Public Defender's office averaged more than 600 cases per employee. Given that this office handles the majority of cases where attorneys are involved in the court system because most defendants are too poor to afford legal representation, that number is probably much higher now.

And hopefully, this public defender isn't the only one who realizes just how true his last statement is and how the only way to solve the problem is to address that domino effect

Here's an idea for Fields. Some say, all is fair, in love and war. Why not insist that Pacheco submit his office to a similar audit to see if there are any areas where it could improve its performance? After all, the employees of that office get quite a few holidays off including those that most of the rest of the rest of society does not. How many people have Columbus Day off for example? Isn't that the perfect day to hold a trial?

Cut back on the holidays for everyone and if possible, the golf days. The reason why golf is mentioned as the sport(if you can call it that) of choice is that the District Attorney's office's Web site once stated that there were more golf courses in this county than in most others which was used to entice prospective employees to jump aboard. No information available on whether it worked as a recruitment tool but it was a very interesting read.

Oh and here's a concept, why not have a joint task force of all the involved parties specifically designed to lobby for more judges, even beyond the seven appointments slated for later this year.

Here's hoping that Fields is allowed to continue to have unchaparoned sidebar discussions with prosecutors in his courtroom unlike what was alleged about his fellow judge, Gary Tranbarger and that a mediator will step in to handle this ongoing dispute amongst the battling parties during this ongoing crisis.

The Oregonian detailed a law suit that was filed by the family of a schizophrenic man who died in police custody. James P. Chasse, Jr. died from injuries to his chest suffered during an altercation with police officers from Portland Police Bureau.

Law suit calls for changes in police department

The law suit also included a list of recommendations the family hoped to see implemented by the department to lessen what they said was its use of excessive force. These recommendations included an anti-discrimination policy against those who were mentally ill, an early warning system to track problem officers and what will probably be the most controversial item, which is the creation of an independent civilian review commission to investigate deaths caused by police officers. Hopefully, Portland will not run into the same obstacles faced by cities like Riverside where there was no problem for a civilian review mechanism that investigated officer-involved shootings as long as it agreed with the findings of the police agency.

In 2006, Boston struggled over the issue of civilian review with the residents wanting a strong board with subpoena power and the police unions and city officials shouting, no way. More recently, community organizations tried again by forwarding recommendations for independent, stronger civilian review to the mayor's office, according to this article by the Boston-Bay State Banner.


In their Jan. 30 letter, the American Friends Service Committee, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law of the Boston Bar Association and the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild commended the “excellent choices” to staff the panel.

But, they argued, “the ombudsmen will best be able to fulfill their mission if the civilian review panel operates in the open and effective manner that we propose.”“We continue to believe that for truly meaningful oversight, Boston needs a separate and independent board with the authority to accept both complaints and appeals of IAD decisions,” the letter states. “In order to do so, an independent board would need the authority, funds and staffing to conduct its own investigations, subpoena witnesses (including police officers) and recommend discipline.”

The lack of any independent investigative abilities, subpoena power and jurisdiction to make disciplinary decisions has led the civil rights coalition to question how much authority the mayor’s board will actually have, a question emphasized repeatedly in their recommendations.

A colorful diatribe against civilian review boards as part of a subversive communist plot can be found here. Of course, if that's true, then that means that the majority of the voting population in Riverside isn't actually Republican, it consists of communists apparently posing as Republicans.

In Los Angeles, a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times in 2004 had discovered that the Los Angeles Police Department had given misleading and erroneous information to that city's police commission concerning officer-involved shootings.

Investigating their own


The department's shooting reports routinely omit information that might cause the commission to question whether officers acted properly. Witnesses who told investigators that police fired without provocation have gone unmentioned. Physical evidence that contradicts an officer's claim of self-defense has been left out.

The Times studied dozens of shootings, comparing the information presented to the Police Commission with confidential Police Department files, court records and other documents.In at least 28 shootings, 15 of them fatal, the commission ruled that the use of force was "in policy" — that is, reasonable and justified — without knowing about evidence that pointed to the opposite conclusion.

The CPRC in Riverside has also struggled with receiving accurate information in briefings given by representatives from the Riverside Police Department. Erroneous information had been provided in the initial briefings of both the Summer Marie Lane shooting in 2004 and the Lee Deante Brown shooting in 2006.

In the Lane case, the department representative had said that the officer involved in that case had fired at Lane while on the ground behind her approaching vehicle. Intradepartmental memos, reports and a later briefing by CPRC investigator Norm Wight had shown that was not the case. Instead, the officer had gotten up on his feet, walked behind the stationary vehicle, up to the driver side window and fired his gun through the window. Soon after, the CPRC determined that the shooting had violated departmental policy.

In the Brown case, several portions in that briefing were told out of sequence compared to what was in several witness statements including that of a police officer, and several details could not be traced back to anyone's eyewitness account. The investigation of that case was suspended for over a month but rumor is, it will be coming back for discussion at a future meeting.

At a recent community forum on the CPRC, Chief Russ Leach announced that he would be conducting all briefings on officer-involved deaths from now on.

A paraplegic homeless man was dumped on skid row in Los Angeles by a woman driving a van belonging to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, according to about a dozen witnesses who spoke with a Los Angeles Times reporter. The man was seen crawling, with a broken colostomy bag.

Paraplegic man dumped on skid row

Far from being a unique incident, many homeless patients at hospitals including this one in 2005 and Kaiser Permanente which has been charged by L.A.'s city attorney's office for patient dumping. Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center and Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center have also been investigated for dumping patients on skid row.

A representative from Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center said that it drove patients to the Los Angeles Mission if they requested it. Other hospitals denied dumping patients but said that they brought them there for skid row services. However, what other homeless people described contradicts the accounts provided on the latest incident.


Police describe the homeless people who congregate around Gladys Park, in the heart of skid row, as a tough crowd who have seen much and say little. But there was no shortage of people willing to describe what they saw about 10:45 a.m. Thursday morning, when the white hospital van pulled up several feet from the curb.

"They were lining up to give their story," [LAPD Det. Russ]Long said. "They were collectively appalled. We were as shocked as the homeless folks."

Witnesses told police that the man propped himself up in the door of the van. He then hurled himself from the vehicle, tumbling to the street. He pulled himself along, dragging a bag of his belongings in his clenched teeth.

Police said several people began shouting at the driver, who in addition to applying makeup was more concerned that the seats of the van had been soiled, investigators said.

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