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, February 12, 2007

Louder than Words: Two steps forward, one back

The University of Illinois newspaper printed an article about civilian review coming to small communities in that state. Although civilian review mechanisms are not yet popular in Illinois, that is beginning to change as more and more cities and towns begin dialogues and debates on this important issue.

Another civilian review mechanism coming to Illinois

Ricky Baldwin, who chairs the Champaign Couny Coalition for Police Review had this to say.


"There is a democratic principle involved," he said. "Even if there were no incidents, police still need oversight. They have a very broad authority, they're armed, they can arrest people and put people in jail. It's very important that they do everything right and that they have the trust of the community."

And in cities and towns in Illinois just like in other states, people believe that establishing civilian oversight is one way to develop trust within communities towards police departments through giving them a voice in the process.

Urbana may establish a civilian review board by later this year. The issue of how to go about doing that will be coming to the city council in that city later this month or in March for further discussion.

Dusty Rhodes writes about her resolution on writing about the civilian review process in Springfield, Illinois.

Keeping a resolution

Riverside has spent the past few months, actually the past year showing how unprepared its current leaders, not to mention the city manager's office was to fully implement charter-mandated civilian review in this city. No doubt, it will continue to do so until it has come full circle. But in other states, it appears that the important lessons are being learned early on.

The news isn't as good in Berkeley, home of one of the most powerful if beleagured commissions in the state which saw a judge uphold the closure of its hearings earlier this month, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Berkeley can't hold public hearings

Excellent news, as stated by the Berkeley Police Officers Association's attorney after the ruling. For that organization, that is true but only in the short term. The erosion of public trust in this law enforcement agency will be felt over time. Civilian oversight was born in places like Berkely for a reason, and it is spreading nationwide, one David in a field of Goliaths at a time, for a reason. That reason will not go away with the loss of powers by several civilian review mechanisms that are challenged by those who fear them the most.

Instead, it is efforts like those made by the police unions which only reinforce and serve as testament as to why they exist at all. With every one that is stifled like Berkeley for the short term, five more will spring up in its place for the longer. It's great advertising and in the long run, very helpful to the process especially in terms of educating the public as to why civilian review is important even if it's less helpful at building trust between communities and law enforcement. But then when it comes to the fears associated with building that trust, as evidenced in these battles against civilian review, the communities don't corner the market on that.

City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque, a city attorney who at least is familiar with standing up for some form of accountability had this to say about the ruling.


But Berkeley City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque said Monday that the city may appeal the ruling.

"This is a sad day for public accountability," she said. "The decision therefore shields police conduct from public scrutiny even though police officers wield awesome and intrusive powers and even though other public officials have no such protection."

Oakland and San Francisco closed their hearings after the Copley decision and they have remained that way ever since.

Election, the series premiere

Whoo hooo! Stand aside Survivor and American Idol, the reality show which will have them all beat premiered yesterday at City Hall when the election season officially began.

The official season of city elections was kicked off yesterday when the city clerk's office began receiving papers filed by city residents interested in running for four city council seats up for grabs this year.

For candidates living in Wards 1, 3 and 7, the filing deadline is March 5. For those wishing to run for the Ward 5 spot, the deadline has been extended until March 14 because it is what they call, an open seat due to Councilman Ed Adkison's decision not to seek another term, at least on the city council. But, for all practical purposes, all the seats are open to anyone who has the willingness to audition for the greatest show in town.

Of course, it takes a lot of money to win a seat, so it helps to have good fundraising skills or to be connected with those who do.

The initial election will take place on June 5, with any runoffs taking place in November.

It will be interesting for all the talk that's been going on about who wants to run, to see who will actually put their hat in the ring.

Three incumbants have already declared an interest to run, that being Dom Betro(Ward 1), Art Gage(Ward 3) and Steve Adams(Ward 7).

As to how the candidates will present themselves on the issue of civilian review and the implementation of it in the city of Riverside amidst a climate at City Hall which remains hostile to it remains to be seen.

Adams said at the public safety meeting last month that he fully supported the CPRC and had since before his election, even though he received over $10,000 in financial contributions from the Riverside Police Officers Association which opposes it. He avowed that the city council has been fully supportive of civilian review and would continue to do so at that meeting, which I suppose means that Adams has come a long way from his action of providing a tepid second to Councilman Art Gage's motion to reduce the CPRC's operating budget by 95% at the budget reconciliation hearings in 2004. No doubt, he will continue to espouse his commitment to the CPRC during his upcoming campaign.

Gage who is running to hold his seat in Ward 3 did say initially that he was open to civilian review when running for office, even though he also received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the RPOA, which vets its prospective candidates carefully on the issue of the CPRC, according to individuals who have undergone their past interview process for endorsement. Gage proposed several motions in 2004 to reduce the CPRC's budget by up to 95%, but didn't receive much support in the wake of a threatened veto by Mayor Ron Loveridge who has never actually used that mayoral power.

Gage would go on in a public meeting to call the CPRC a "piece of trash" or "junk" depending on people's recollection of that day, but at least he's honest, in that other city council members may not call it that but may issue directions to city employees to treat it like that.

Betro ran on a grass-roots platform in 2003 which included supporting civilian review culminating in his support of the ballot measure to include it in the charter, but don't expect to see the same campaign run by him and his supporters this time. He's the incumbant and his primary supporters have staked their positions out well since his last election so expect them all to use this election to prepare for the next step, which is in accordance with the political rulebook in Riverside. Betro will probably attract a lot of campaign contributions from development interests, much more than last time, especially as is often the case, his ward turns out to be an expensive prize to win.

His tendency to incite the public to fight his own battles for him was not only apparent at a recent city council meeting, but also last autumn when he berated people at a community meeting last fall to challenge the RPOA, who during its last election had fielded a candidate against him. Don't be surprised if his silence on the issue of the CPRC changes after March 5, when he knows who he must run against to keep his seat. Whether or not his opposition is backed by the police unions will probably dictate his strategy in this area.

If he remembers his roots, it might be a more interesting contest. Will that happen? Not likely and not if he wants the majority of the city council and most importantly Loveridge to back him for the 2008 mayoral race if he decides to go that route. After all, he told the Inland Empire magazine that anything's possible after 2007. Don't be surprised if Gage has something to say about that which is why the election preseason appeared to be more about them running against each other than any rivals they might face in their respective ward bids. If both of them still want to be mayor, expect the gloves to come off well before 2008.

Not too many candidates have announced yet, mainly Riverside Poly High School teacher Rusty Bailey, who has already drawn the endorsements of Mayor Ron Loveridge and four city council members which was done more as an indictment against his rival Gage for breaking ranks with the new quartet than as an endorsement of an untested political novice.

Coming soon to a state legislative agency near you may be the issue of civilain review, as detailed in the following resolution that was passed by a committee from the state's Democratic Party.

Support of Public Law Enforcement Accountability for the Use of Lethal or Excessive Force

WHEREAS our government and law is constituionally founded "by the people and for the people" and the power and authority of each branch of government emanaes directly from its citizens and for its citizens' benefit; and

WHEREAS law enforcement personnel in its furtherance of their duties utilizes deadly force which many times raises the concerns in the communities in which this deadly force is used; and

WHEREAS to provide transparency and integrity in law enforcement in these communities and to determine whether the use of such deadly force is justified

BE IT RESOLVED that the California Democratic Party calls for the establishment of citizen review boards open to public participation and with full public transparency for the investigation of all incidents of law enforcement use of lethal or excessive force, and to ensure public confidence in law enforcement.

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