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

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quartets and questions

The election season in Riverside officially opened on Feb. 12 and the candidates have begun to pull papers at City Hall and are beginning to hold fundraisers to garner endorsements and earn money.

Harry Karuni, a candidate for the seat in Ward 5 which will be vacated by Councilman Ed Adkison spoke at a community meeting this morning to a packed room at the Coffee Depot. He was endorsed up front by Human Relations Commissioner Chani Beeman and questioned by other individuals.

Harry Kurani campaign bio

In Riverside, there are two types of candidates and elected officials. Those who place emphasis on the building of the infrastructure of the city's basic services including police, fire, parks, public works, utilities, streets and libraries. The other type of candidate and the dominant force on the current city council are those who focus on development and more importantly, redevelopment, the city be damned. It's not very rare to see a candidate who balances the two interests but it's very rare to see one of them win, because if you're not for development, development and more development, then you're not going to attract their financial support of your political campaign.

That's one reason why the most recent city council elections have involved more fundraising as well as spending among candidates. And there are no caps on how much money can be raised by candidates at the local level.

There was mention of city council members being handpicked by development, and perhaps there is truth to that. But even grass-roots elected candidates have found themselves pulled in that direction as has been seen with Councilman Dom Betro, who one could argue is more focused on development and developers than the others, mainly because his territory which is the downtown is seen by developers as the jewel of the city. This latest city council brought former Economic Development Agency head, Brad Hudson, on board to engineer the proposed five-year Riverside Renaissance project. The other major short-term development project is the University Charette, which proposes major changes to the strip connecting the University of California, Riverside to downtown, yet for some reason apparently forgot to include its plans for parking in the project proposal unveiled in the Eastside several months ago. Oops. If you build it, they may come, but "they" need a place to park their cars.

His speech appeared prepared like he's been prepped but he didn't know much outside his support for public safety and traffic control and neither of those issues really in depth. He didn't appear to know about the Community Police Review Commission or even what it was called, until reminded of its name by someone in the audience.

Karuni will be holding a campaign fundraiser on Feb. 15 to launch off his campaign bid. He's the latest in the Michael Williams Company stable of elected officials, which include councilmen Betro, Ed Adkison, Frank Schiavone, Steve Adams and candidate Rusty Bailey, who has already been endorsed by the new quartet.

That new quartet(hint, the acronym spells a game fish) continued its ongoing tiff with a local gadfly by calling up the police and having two of them and a sergeant serve as escorts at a city council subcommitee meeting. Councilmen Ed Adkison, Frank Schiavone and Art Gage(former quartet member) were part of the Land Use committee which was discussing the placement of restrictions on roosters in several rural areas of the city. So quick to call the police to eject a gadfly, so slow to approve them a livable working contract. Why to both? Because of unchecked development and efforts to silence its critics or reduce the forum they can participate in, especially if they apparently pulled papers to run against one of your own.

But what is being lost in the vast expenditures involved with the recently passed Riverside Renaissance?

One thing, was the 25 police officer positions that were promised by the latest city council to supplement the 25 positions approved in the autumn of 2005. Currently, the department has 11 vacancies according to its personnel and training division and is already lagging behind the tremendous growth of this city, not to mention the growth that will be part of this renaissance. If you read the text that was included in the original law suit written by then State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, you will see that there was a lot of references to the failure of the department to implement many programs including community policing due to inadequate staffing. Some mistakes like City Manager Brad Hudson made when he withdrew these new positions should only be made once if that and enough should be learned from the experience not to repeat them.

Another thing, are the city residents who lost their homes including one man who was in tears, to eminent domain to make room for the new fire station which was supposed to be built on Olivewood under the renaissance plan. Those plans quickly fell through and now that land is being offered to private developers. If that is true, then essentially the city has violated its promise not to take people's homes away to provide land for private development less than two years after it made that promise. Perhaps that land needed to be sold to developers to offset the money that the city needed to pull in from selling the park land associated with the land swap that Betro went retro and stopped to save his political campaign.

The Los Angeles Police Department got a fairly good progress report from its monitor who was assigned to oversee its implementation of reforms as part of its federal consent decree. Work was still needed in several areas including the implementation of its early warning system, which still lags behind its scheduled completion.

But the department will be able to change the way it gathers data for its racial profiling audits.

LAPD tries racial profiling study


In his quarterly report on the department's compliance with a federal consent decree mandating LAPD reforms, Independent Monitor Michael Cherkasky said the agency might be able to meet the requirement for checking on racial profiling by methods other than the one currently used to collect data.

"It is the monitor's belief that the dollars that would need to be spent in continuing the current method of collection and aggregation can, in fact, be better spent on enhancing the city's ability to detect, investigate and prevent biased policing," Cherkasky wrote.

That opens the door for the city to propose alternatives such as installing video cameras in all patrol cars, though any change would require final approval from Cherkasky, the Justice Department and a federal judge.

The department also conducted an audit of its complaint process to see if officers and their supervisors were following policies regarding the accessibility of citizen complaint forms. Alas, the department only found full compliance in 74% of its facilities and in some of them, the person trying to get the complaint form was unable to even get the form. Rather embarassing to score less than 95% six years into a five-year consent decree. It's kind of like getting anything less than an "A" on a health inspection form at your restaurant.

Riverside is closing in on its first anniversary of being decree-free and with the exception of one belated quarterly report, there hasn't been much news by the increasingly removed department on that front. And what has been provided outside of the top-secret chief's advisory board hasn't been much, and it's not easy as one member found out to ask too many pressing questions on a board which vets its membership roster twice annually.

The department will maintain and expand both its field and investigations division to match the area and population growth of this city through immigration and annexations. Well, no, only 30 new positions have been approved since 2005 and last summer, 25 proposed positions were allegedly taken off the table by Hudson who decided the city didn't need them.

The department will implement new training as needed, which is a componant of several objectives in the strategic plan. Well, the only training information the community is privy to learning about is the stop-start process involving the implementation of mental health intervention training. Originally, it appeared that the department would go with the crisis intervention model implemented in Memphis, Cincinnati and many other cities. Then the process stalled in the summer time when Capt. Pete Esquival was shipped off to Magnolia Center with the beleagured Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez and replaced by Capt. Michael Blakely who had spent most of the duration of the period of the stipulated judgement heading the traffic division. Then the mental health training was reborn as a model similar to LAPD's SMART co-partner version. A meeting was to take place several days after the public safety committee meeting and the timeline for its implementation is still being worked out.

Objective #1.5 which is the "general idea" that the department should more closely reflect the diversity in the city that it serves still has no clear vision but the department's numbers have improved in the past year somewhat. There are no plans to create programs to address retention issues because even though many larger agencies have embraced them in the modern era, this city still is stuck in the past and views these programs as "remedial training for those who can't cut it".

Then there is the recommendation that the Community Police Review Commission should be stronger and more independent. People in this city have championed that cause and city and police leaders including Chief Russ Leach had pushed for its independence and power when they needed to do so. Unfortunately they didn't appear to really mean it as the actions directed by City Hall and the police department this past year have clearly shown. They dusted off the "killing it through kindness" strategy used against LEPAC in the 1980s and 90s and brought it back to life here. With the city facing five, possibly six law suits(depending on whether litigation is filed in the shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill) for wrongful death, what choice did the city have?

It would be refreshing if this city would actually deal with these issues in an open and honest fashion, outside the watchful eye of an outside agency. Unfortunately, that day hasn't arrived yet. And when the city's risk management division makes decisions, neither the public nor the department will benefit. Just like the city should explain why it's not approving staffing positions for the police department in both its field and investigations division so it can match the growth of the city around it. Unfortunately, it appears that this day hasn't yet arrived either.

Though the current situation could be worse, as it appears that what was clearly the original plan, which was to essentially weaken the CPRC by banning it from conducting its own independent investigations of officer-involved deaths has at least slowed for the time being. Actions that it is very doubtful, they would have dared taken a year ago, which further questions their legitimacy.

It is only the involvement of community leaders especially those who are outside the normal crowd, many of whom have been as publicly silent on this issue as the council members they support. Concern and dismay on the recent actions by the city have spread city-wide and there is concern that the CPRC should be able to currently able to both continue its investigation of the Lee Deante Brown shooting and officer-involved deaths in general. However, if the police department and city manager's office have it their way, the CPRC will have to wait 3-6 months or longer, to initiate its own investigations until after the police department has conducted its own.

A good degree of credit goes to Councilman Andrew Melendrez who has provided a venue for discussion on the CPRC through his public safety commitee, where last month the partners in the process to implement changes to its operations finally held a meeting where their partners in the reform process, the community, could attend to at least bear witness to what had already been done.

With the year anniversary of the consent decree upon this city, it's fitting that the Brown shooting is coming up for its final briefing by CPRC Investigator Butch Warnburg at the general meeting later this month. The department has promised the disclosure of new evidence that will cast this shooting in a new light. This likely includes the reveal on the long-delayed DNA test that was conducted on Officer Terry Ellefson's taser. But if it's reflective of the past, it's more than likely that this piece of evidence too will raise more questions than answers. That's usually the nature of things.

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