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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Forums and follies

Yesterday, people were forced to evacuate from City Hall because of a bad smell, which turned out to be a gas leak that occurred after a contruction worker nearby accidently broke a pipe. Far from being upset, the people shown leaving the building are chatting away on their cell phones.

Not much in the Press Enterprise about the actual meeting itself which saw a big project affecting the Eastside on its discussion agenda but not anything on the vote. But it's fairly likely that it passed 7-0 as occurs with most development projects that go before the city council.

When the developers involved with this project held a community meeting a couple of months ago, it focused on the Eastside, but in the agenda item that went before city council last night, it appeared to pertain almost exclusively to University Avenue, which is but one small part of that neighborhood. The Eastside, a predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood has always been a thorn in the city's side blocking the University of California, Riverside's view and conduit to the jewel of Riverside which is the downtown area. Its residents are lucky if they are even seen as being people at all and if those who call them less than human are not later lauded as role models in their profession by their superiors, as happened at a city council meeting not too long ago. One person's progress is another person's gentrification. And I suppose a person who makes derogatory comments can be viewed as someone else's role model as well.

Inland Empire magazine ran an article in a recent issue on the anticipated battle for the mayor's seat between current councilmen Dom Betro and Art Gage. Both of them happen to be up for reelection this year but due to a change in the election laws passed by the voters last November, the mayor's seat will come up for grabs in 2008. According to the article and most rumor mills, the two most likely candidates for the throne expected to be vacated by current mayor, Ron Loveridge are indeed Betro and Gage.

City council watchers were witnesses to a preview of the coming attractions when the two men apparently traded jabs and some might say, cheap shots through intermediaries this month.

GASS quartet member Gage has seen his membership in that bloc revoked in recent months by two other members along with Betro and Councilman Andrew Melendrez who decided to endorse his election opponant, neophyte Rusty Bailey. Loveridge had joined in the party by his decision to also back Bailey. Earlier this month, members of the newest quartet on the city council made insinuations that Gage had been leaking confidential information with not much in the way of evidence to back up their claims.

Then Gage's former campaign manager, Richard Paul, came to city council with news that he was being visited by FBI agents and claimed they were actually investigating Betro, again without anything in the way of evidence to prove those claims. Similar rumors had plagued Betro during his first election campaign but didn't amount to much.

It makes good soap opera but these antics do cause the city government to be looked at in a not so flattering light. Hopefully people will show their displeasure for all this behavior at the polls in 2007 and 2008, including those who dream of days when candidates just ran on issues.

The magazine article detailed the visions that three elected officials had for the city's future. Actually, it was the same vision drawn three different ways. It remains to be seen first of all, if Loveridge's current term will truly be his last and who will ultimately step up to run to replace him.

The community forum on the Community Police Review Commission was written about in the Press Enterprise. According to the article, it attracted over 70 people. Looking around the conference room, I think I recognized nearly every person as either being a member of a board or commission, as an elected official or even as a plainclothed police officer, like the guy sitting in the back row near the video camera being operated by Charter Communications.

Forum draws crowd

Many people in the community were still shocked by the actions of the city manager's office and some say even the police department against the CPRC during the holiday break. Several said the city took advantage of the holiday season to make its move against the only real mechanism for community participation in oversight of the police department. The older city residents said this wasn't anything they hadn't seen in the days before the shooting at the corner of Central and Brockton that was heard around the world. What history has taught them, is that whenever there are issues impacting the police department, the city takes action against whatever civilian oversight mechanism is within its reach and in the 1980s and 90s, that was LEPAC.

Which is why many people didn't even attend the forum, because as far as they were concerned their only form of oversight is gone if its burgeoning independence is being discouraged by the city and the police department. And for the 99.9999% who will never be asked to serve on a board, commission, ad-hoc committee, "community panel", advisory board or task force, this is one of the remaining ways to have a voice on what happens with the police department. Especially the people who live in the communities that are policed the most by the Riverside Police Department.

So the city has decided after all this time, that the CPRC is in need of some fixing and interestingly enough, this decision was made in the wake of three fatal shootings of unarmed men by officers from the police department last year. Yet, has the city even gone to the communities and asked their opinions on what needs to be done? No, they held meetings behind closed doors at City Hall during the lull of the holiday season and made decisions without public imput. Even most of the commissioners had no idea what had happened when they returned in January and found out that the commission as it had existed at its last meeting in November, didn't exist anymore.

What has replaced it was announced at two meetings through a powerpoint presentation last week and no doubt, will be shown to the city council at a future date. The majority of the city's residents have yet to see it.

But despite the low turnout from community members not tied with the city in any way, there were questions asked that really were through-provoking and indicates that people indeed are paying attention to what is going on with both the police department and the politics at City Hall, which is exactly how it should be among the three partners that former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer referred to in his statement on the department and that the department itself referred to in its own Strategic Plan. And if the city and police department circle the wagons to keep the remaining party out(which is what has happened historically as well as now), then the community needs to butt its way back into the dialogue.

Steve Lopez, a columnist from the Los Angeles Times wrote this article this morning on a disabled woman's runin with a parking officer. A long battle with cancer has left Shari Kahane with limited mobility because she relies on portable tanks to provide her with the oxygen she needs to live. She had been going to her attorney's office to sign her last will and testment after finding out her cancer was likely terminal.


My husband was trying to explain the circumstances, that I had terminal cancer, that there was no place to pull off the street, and the officer said, 'I don't care about that.' People were starting to gather around who were walking on the sidewalk, telling him to leave us alone….

I started crying because it was very upsetting, having to go and sign your will to begin with, and this guy was more than I could deal with."

She thought she'd seen the worst of it, but she hadn't. Cheating death is one thing, but getting the best of a traffic officer is an entirely different challenge.

"I'm five-two, and this big fella leans into my face and yells at me, 'Why are you crying? You shouldn't be crying. I'm not giving you the ticket. I'm giving the ticket to the car.' "

Her husband tried to explain the situation to the parking officer, a futile effort.


"My husband said, 'I wonder how you sleep at night when you do things like this,' and he said, 'I sleep very well, thank you.' And then he drove off."

Then Lopez drove his own car and parked in the same spot that the couple had and waited at least 20 minutes without being approached by a parking officer and saw other cars pull up and let people out of, and he asked the question as to why the parking officer could not wait two minutes for a disabled woman to get out of a car.

After reading his column, he won't be the only one asking that question.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Canary in the mine: The community forum

Barbaro (April 29, 2003-Jan. 29, 2007)

Over 50 community members appeared last night at a public forum centered on the Community Police Review Commission, to listen to four panelists address issues that have clouded the future of the panel in recent weeks.

Panelists included CPRC Chair Les Davidson, Riverside County District Attorney's office representative, Sara Danville, Riverside Police Department Chief Russ Leach and Councilman Andrew Melendrez.

Pulling a no-show, was City Manager Brad Hudson who instead sent Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis in his stead. Instead of addressing his office's role in determining how the CPRC operates especially now, DeSantis sat in the audience, with the interim executive manager, Mario Lara glued to his side. Even though the police department had initially said that no deputy chiefs would be attending, one of them, John DeLaRosa, did make an appearance while the other, Dave Dominguez, who is more familiar to the communities in the city, did not.

Two city council members Dom Betro and Nancy Hart who had run on campaigns supporting the CPRC finally made an appearance at a discussion on its future.

Questions abounded and as is often the case, they outshone the material provided by the speakers. Not that they didn't have plenty to say, and so little time to say it as each was only given 10 minutes to answer their questions but not all that much was said in terms of answering the questions.

Davidson spoke first and told the audience he was not an expert but a city resident like them, who had chosen to volunteer his services on the CPRC.

"I'm not sure I knew what I was getting myself into," Davidson said.

Of the police department, Davidson had this to say.

"There are good cops. There are bad cops," Davidson said, adding that he believed the majority of officers were good. He said that because of them, he had the freedom to drive to this forum without getting shot or beaten up.

When he made that statement, two Black women in the audience looked at each other. Their brother, Joseph Darnell Hill had been shot and killed by a police officer after a traffic stop. He was their second brother to be killed by law enforcement officers. The group of community members from Casa Blanca also looked at each other, as just a few weeks ago, the mentally challenged son of one of them had been struck by police officers after they spotted him walking through a park with his hands in his pocket and decided he looked "suspicious" and as if he were under the influence of a controlled substance. That showed there were different ways to look at that one statement sitting inside one room.

Davidson did deliver this message.

"You need to speak up. You need to get together. You need to do something," Davidson said, "The power of the police commission is only as powerful as you want to make it."

However, the CPRC saw more activity surrounding its operations during the usually slow holiday period when most boards and commissions go dark for the month. The CPRC didn't exactly shut down operations for December, it just apparently had its business conducted behind closed doors without any community members or commissioners present as it did so. By the time most of these people found out, it was too late and an executive director had resigned.

Danville spoke next and pretty much put the idea that's been circulated lately about the investigation that her office conducts on officer-involved deaths to rest. What the District Attorney's office does conduct is more akin to a review of another law enforcement agency's criminal investigation.

Yes, a representative of that office does show up at the scene after an officer kills a civilian and yes, they do appear at the interviews of the involved officers, but then again so does a representative of the city attorney's office, purportedly on behalf of the risk management division to monitor an incident in terms of how it might impact civil liability for the city. Representatives from the Internal Affairs Division also appear to monitor both situations, but the process conducted by its investigators appears in many ways to be more similar to the review conducted by the District Attorney's office rather than the investigation conducted by the department's Officer-Involved Death Team.

Departmental policy #4.8 states that the Internal Affairs Division is supposed to conduct its own independent investigation but whether that is what it actually does has been a subject of debate between the CPRC, which has issued policy recommendations to this effect and the department which has rejected these policy recommendations.

Danville told the audience that it wasn't her office's job to determine whether or not an officer violated departmental policies, only if they had committed a crime. Not only that, her office had to decide whether or not they could prove that an officer did so beyond a reasonable doubt.

At one point, after observing the process of the law enforcement agency's investigation, the District Attorney's office conducts a review meeting which includes members of its homicide unit, assistant district attorneys and sometimes the district attorney as well. They grill the police detectives who handle the investigation of an officer-involved death for a while, kick them out and then decide then and there whether or not charges will be filed against the involved officers.

Every time this review has been conducted involving onduty fatalities, the end result has always been the same, that no charges will be filed. And it's interesting to note that in Danville's presentation, she never mentioned anything about how such a case would be prosecuted after the review committee had decided to file criminal charges, probably because the District Attorney's office has no actual experience in this area at all, not that any is needed at this point in time.

Leach came on deck next, talking first about his relationship with the CPRC.

"We have had a great relationship," Leach said, "We have had a not so great relationship."

Leach lauded the year the commission had spent being chaired by former commissioner and retired police chief, Bill Howe, adding that seven policy recommendations had been forwarded to the police department under Howe's watch. After that there was a "breakdown in communications" between both sides.

Certainly, things must have been improved in recent months as Leach did attend the public safety committee meeting that Melendrez had convened a week ago. Leach did add that from now, he would be personally giving the briefings on the officer-involved deaths instead of a "junior" officer and that he would take questions but not answer them. The process of taking questions from commissioners was suspended after a briefing by the department on the Summer Lane shooting in 2004 had provided erroneous information, an action that was repeated in the April 2006 briefing on the Lee Deante Brown shooting.

Leach stressed the "credibility" and "integrity" which is important with officer-involved death investigations which made a statement he gave in response to a question during the forum that much more puzzling.

After both he and Danville had painstakedly laid out the course of their respective agencies' parallel investigations of these incidents, they received a question from a community member as to why there had been an increased rate of shootings and other incustody deaths by the Riverside Police Department especially involving people of color during the past 12 months.

Leach had few words to say in response to the question.

"That's a society question, "Leach said, "Not a police question."

His response was not all that surprising. You would probably receive the same response from any police chief of any law enforcement agency in this country, in that it is the "suspects" who cause the police officers to shoot them, not the actions of the police officer. From that perspective, it would be looked at as a "society question".

What was disconcerting is that a statement like that would be made by a police chief whose department was still in the process of investigating three fatal officer-involved shootings involving unarmed men, two of them being African-American.

To anyone in the audience, what this response implies is that the elimination of the possibility in Leach's mind that the shootings are a "police question" means that there also remains no possibility that the officers may have violated departmental policies when they committed those three shootings as far as he's concerned. This is during a time period when only one case has even reached the CPRC for discussion, albeit before its temporary suspension and two others have yet to reach that point. And this is despite the fact that the department's administrative review is specifically assigned the task of addressing "police questions" and not "society questions" and this is the process which by its end winds up at Leach's door.

It goes back to the comments that Hudson made at the November public safety committee meeting when he said that Leach did not wait until the CPRC reached its finding before deciding whether or not to discipline an officer for an incustody death.

Danville then piped up after one of Hill's sisters pressed Leach for a more detailed answer and said that she wanted to see the statistics backing up the assertion of that question that the rate of people of color dying in police custody is disproportionate.

Here's a starting point. Between Oct. 2005 and November 2006, five individuals died in police custody. Four were shot to death and one died of a heart attack not long after two officers attempted a carotid restraint on him. Three of the individuals, Terry Rabb, Brown and Hill were African-Americans and were members of a group which make up about 7% of the city's population according to the 2000 census. In this group of five people, the only one who was armed when police officers encountered him was Todd Argow, who was White.

Melendrez spoke to the audience about how important communication was in the process. He had convened the public safety committee on the issue of the CPRC because community members had voiced concern about the recent actions taken against it by the city. The main question he received from people was, are they weakening the CPRC?

One former commissioner who attended the forum was Gloria Huerta and she had brought a speech she had made to the city council the previous day that provided some answer to that question. In her speech, she criticized the recent actions against the CPRC including the resignation of Pedro Payne.

"City politics hav once again worked to undermine the will of the people and have been successful in driving Dr. Payne from city government and the important work that he was tasked with completing,"Huerta had said, "It appears that you are not done with your machinations and that you want to continue to try to gut the CPRC."

Melendrez did not pick up on the entire theme of Huerta's message but he understood part of it.

"The views voiced very strongly that a voice was needed in the community to oversee police," Melendrez said.

Melendrez added that many of the city council members did not even seem aware of what the CPRC was supposed to be doing. Melendrez also addressed people's concerns that the city manager's office was "censoring" the CPRC's agendas.

"Dialogue is extremely important," Melendrez said, "It is important to be as open as possible."

And dialogue between the three partners in former Attorney General Bill Lockyer's vision of continued reform has been very solid between the police department and the city, but both of these entities have pretty much left their third partner, the community sitting on the sidelines.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Abuse of Power: The Blue Wall

Part of a continuing series

"It can't be anti-cop to bring officer-involved family violence into the open. It's killing officers too. Things have to change."


In Greenley, Colorado, Heather Garraus, 37, was murdered by the girlfriend of her husband Ignacio this month. In Tacoma, Washington, Crystal Judson Brame was murderd by her husband David when he shot her in a parking lot before killing himself in 2003. In Tucson, Arizona investigators are looking into the shooting death of a woman and the role her boyfriend may have played into it. And so on.

What do these tragedies have in common? All of them involved individuals who were killed by members of their own family who also happened to be law enforcement officers or in one case, in a relationship with an officer. What I read in articles like this and I've read many would have surprised me years ago, before I attended a frontline feminism conference in the city of Riverside. At a round table held to discuss the issues surrounding domestic violence, a curious thing happened. Of the eight women who were brave enough to tell their stories, five of them had either been married or in relationships with law enforcement officers. In one case, the mother had to tell her daughter's story because her daughter had been killed by her husband.

At first, it seems like a contradiction that those entrusted with the responsibility of investigating crimes like domestic violence could themselves be committing them in such high numbers. And it's true, law enforcement officers are up to four times more likely to engage in domestic violence than the public in general, according to this study done by the National Organization for Women and Policing. By the time I found the study, its numbers didn't surprised me.

The study also noted that most law enforcement agencies investigated allegations of domestic violence against their employees informally, preferring to treat it as a private "family matter" and thus private. And when discipline is given to the involved officers for sustained allegation of domestic violence, it's usually very light. Very few law enforcement officers are prosecuted for domestic violence even in jurisdictions which otherwise, boast a very high rate of prosecuting offenders.

In 1996, federal legislation was passed that prohibits anyone with a domestic violence conviction, misdemeanor or felony, from owning or possessing a firearm. This was intended to apply to law enforcement officers but many agencies found ways to get around this restriction as did prosecuting agencies. Many county prosecutors use the recommendations of law enforcement investigators on whether or not charges are warranted and if so, which ones but in the end, they use their own discretion to decide the fate of each individual case.

One way, is to charge the officer with another crime or to persuade him or her to plead guilty to another offense. Also, the officer can be diverted to a program and then have his conviction either suspended upon completion of that program and later expunged. After this legislation was passed, the National Organization for Women and Policing did a study and found out of the 100 largest law enforcement agencies in the country, only 11 employees were affected by this legislation.

Initially when that legislation was passed, many law enforcement agencies tried to push for the exemption of law enforcement officers. Their energy and time would have been used more wisely if instead they had focused on the serious problems involving this issue within their circles. Often, it seems they do the opposite, feeding more fuel to the prevalent belief that law enforcement agencies are just not able to effectively investigate their own employees' misconduct. In fact, when a law enforcement officer is charged with domestic violence, often there is a litany of comments from his colleagues stating what a dedicated, hard-working, compassionate(especially to women) officer this person is, even if his wife's face was left black and blue from his fists.

Instead, it would be hoped that other law enforcement officers in the agency would be pushing individuals like this to seek help for their behavior before it comes to this point, or even further when their colleague has murdered a wife, a girlfriend or other family member. Law enforcement officers have the greatest influence on each other, given the insulated culture that they live in so they have the greatest ability to implement serious changes in this area yet for the most part, the only changes that arise come from outside forces usually in response to a tragic incident like the murder of Crystal Brame in Tacoma.

In some agencies, the internal affairs divisions would persuade the wives and girlfriends not to press charges on the officer instead of looking into the allegations themselves. Locally, in 2000, one such division in one law enforcement agency persuaded an officer's wife to drop a restraining order she took out on her husband because he was on a list of officers to be promoted and it would hurt his chances. Besides, the District Attorney's office wouldn't prosecute the involved officer anyway and that turned out to be true. It most often is.

But even the Riverside County District Attorney's office had not been spared from these problems as two cases involving investigators(many of whom are ex-law enforcement officers) working out of its Indio office. In 2005, one of them involved murder.

David McGowan, an investigator, killed five members of his family including three children before killing himself. The investigation didn't uncover much information as to why McGowan killed his family, except for a note quoting some song lyrics he had left behind. Not much is known about McGowan and his demons as they are often called by those who worked closest to him. That incident should have launched a wake up call in both his agency and his profession, but has it?

North County Times: McGowan murder-suicide

The tragedy involving the McGowan family was far from an aberration. Incidents like this and other forms of domestic violence involving law enforcement officers happen every day across the country.

The Tribune, in Greenley details the Garraus case here and speaks to a larger national trend involving violence in law enforcement families.

Experts eye trend in law enforcement officers

(excerpt, The Tribune)

"We're really seeing a new, alarming trend that's scaring the devil out of me," said Tom Gillan, director of the Central Florida Police Stress Unit, a nonprofit organization that offers support to law enforcement officers and their families.

"The stress of the job, the stress of the home life, it's causing this trend I'm seeing where officers are killing other officers and even their own spouses and children. It's more of a violent trend."

Tacoma, Washington

After Crystal's murder, local activists in that city got together and literally changed the face of domestic violence in law enforcement and how it's handled in their city including the creation and implementation of a policy for the investigation of domestic violence committed by police officers within that city's department. It is estimated that less than 50% of all law enforcement agencies in this country have similar policies.

The News Tribune: Stories on David and Crystal Brame

The Office of the State Attorney General in Washington developed the following protocol for addressing police-related domestic violence in law enforcement agencies in that state.

Los Angeles, California

Domestic violence was outed in the Los Angeles Police Department in a big way by an investigator who had been hired to work on one case.

(excerpt, National Organization for Women and Policing)

In 1997, the Los Angeles Office of the Inspector General conducted an investigation of the LAPD after a legal consultant named Bob Mullally leaked shocking LAPD personnel files to the press. These files documented scores of violent domestic crimes committed by LAPD officers. Mullally was so shocked by the LAPD's mishandling of this police family violence that he decided to violate the civil protective order in the case he was working on and turn the files over to the media, in the hopes of creating change in the LAPD.

Rather than reviewing the problem or recommending improvements, the LAPD sued Mullally for leaking the information.

In 2002, after multiple appeals, Mullally was sentenced to 45 days in federal prison. None of the police officers he exposed were ever prosecuted for their crimes, and many continue to serve as gun-carrying LAPD officers. Even the prosecutor in the case stated on record that this sentence was "extreme" for a violation of a civil protective order.

Mullally is the first person in United States history to ever serve a jail term for this type of violation. He served his time in 2003, 6 years after he exposed the files.

The National Center for Women & Policing and the Feminist Majority Foundation have been actively involved in this case, which was featured in 2000 in a 60 Minutes segment with Mike Wallace. For more information on the case or to obtain documents including the amicus brief submitted by the National Center for Women & Policing and the Feminist Majority Foundation, please contact our office at (310)556-2526.

S.A.B.L.E. and other similar Web sites on police-related domestic violence address the unique circumstances that victims face when their abusers are in the same profession that is entrusted with investigating these crimes. Often it's the training in this area in addition to law enforcement training in general that works against these victims. For example, if they want to leave their houses and go to a battered women's shelter, it is almost impossible. Most such shelters keep their locations a secret so that women who flee their batterers won't be followed by them to the shelters. However, in the case of law enforcement officers, many of them know where these shelters are already.

Here are other tools of the trade the officer may use as well.

(excerpt, S.A.B.L.E.)

"Patrolling" of your house, work place, children's day care center by abuser or fellow officers.

Use of surveillance tools such as phone taps; sound-activated audio and video recording of your activities in the house.

Use of police scanner to listen to cellular phone calls.

Attachment of vehicle tracking devices to your car.

Ability to run license plates, obtain documentation, find unlisted phone numbers and addresses of anyone whom you contact.

Your abuser to enter your house or vehicle at will using lock pick tools and skills.

Enlistment of neighbors to watch and report to him in return for "favors" from him.

Harassment of you, your family or friends with traffic stops, evidence planting, false arrests.

Abuse of Power, a site run by domestic violence expert Diane Wetendorf offers many resources for victims of law enforcement related domestic violence and breaks down strategies used by law enforcement officers who batter in terms of how to get the upper hand in the situation as shown through the Power Wheel and the Code of Silence which often protects law enforcement officers engaging in domestic violence.

(excerpt, Abuse of Power: The Brotherhood)

Good versus bad guys

The police personality serves to insulate officers from the rest of society. It fosters an "us versus them" mentality. The cops are the good guys and everyone else is a potential bad guy. There is a constant power struggle between the good and bad guys. Police believe that societal order depends on the good guys winning - at any cost.

When anyone challenges the police, the police defend their right to enforce control and authority. Officers must trust each other to provide assistance and back-up in their struggle to maintain control. They develop strong bonds of loyalty that ensure they will be there for each other. The Brotherhood must be reliable in life and death situations. Cops - and firefighters - stick together.

Code of Silence

When an officer is in trouble on the job or in trouble with his wife or girlfriend at home, he counts on his buddies to cover for him. He gives them a story that explains why he "had to do" whatever he did. They repeat his version of the story and they stick to that version. They put themselves on the line with their fellow officer. That's what the brotherhood is all about.

Simple rules

Whether testifying in court or smoothing things out at home, the rules are simple:

Say as little as possible.

Answer only the question asked.

Don't give details.

Deny all accusations.

Say "I don't remember", "I didn't see that", or "I don't know."

This Web site attributes a lot of the dynamics in law enforcement-related domestic violence to the existance of the police culture that is often mentioned in conversations about other problems in law enforcement. But how much of the problem lies at this door, a question that doesn't provide much in the way of answers.


Abuse of Power

Battered Women's Justice Project

Behind the Blue Wall

Police Domestic Violence

Central Florida Police Stress Unit, Inc.


South African study on police-related domestic violence

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Civilian review in the West

On Monday, Jan. 29, there will be a forum on the Community Police Review Commission in Riverside, California.

It will be at the county's office of education building on 13th St. off of Market from 7:00p.m. to 8:30p.m. Panelists include CPRC Chair Les Davidson, Riverside Police Department Chief Russ Leach, Riverside County District Attorney's office prosecutor Sara Danville and Councilman Andrew Melendrez standing in for City Manager Brad Hudson. Hudson agreed to attend but won't say anything.

Topics include the following.

The mission of the CPRC.

The role of the police department's initial briefings to the CPRC on officer-involved deaths.

Role of the District Attorney's office in investigating officer-involved deaths.

The timeline of investigations into these deaths and also who gets to make the final decision on administrative investigations.

The residents of Spokane, Washington will also be invited to several forums on civilian review in their city.

A press release from that city's government:

Staff reports: January 26, 2007

Spokane residents will have two opportunities to give their input about how a citizen review panel for the police department should be structured.

"The need for a new way to provide for citizen review of complaints against the police department has been an issue since I started as chief last fall," said Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. "Through this process, we expect to develop a proposal that is the best fit for Spokane."

Two public forums for Spokane residents are scheduled: Feb. 7 at 6p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.,and Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St.

As previously reported by The Spokesman-Review, the city of Spokane has hired Sam Pailca, director of the Office of Professional Accountability for the Seattle Police Department for the past six years, to assist in development of a citizen review model. Pailca will take into consideration the public's comments as well as those of the city council's public safety committee, Police Advisory Committee members, police representatives and the Citizen's Review Commission.

In Pailca's role with the Seattle Police Department, she has advised Seattle's police chief, mayor and city council on accountability reforms, said city of Spokane spokeswoman Marlene Feist. Pailca has
overseen the investigation of almost 1,000 misconduct complaints annually.

Kirkpatrick expects a proposal to be developed for consideration by the city council in March, Feist said.

Spokane Police Department looks at changes

A press release out of Eugene, Oregon, another city which had been exploring civilian review mechanisms back in 2005, details the findings of the latest batch of complaints filed to the department's internal affairs division .

In 2005, online magazine West by Northwest Organization wrote an article in support of a ballot initiative which would allow for changes in civilian review by amending the city's charter. That measure passed and the city's auditor site is now here.

(excerpt, West by Northwest)

After more than a year of public outreach, research, and deliberation, the Police Commission recommended a plan for police oversight that combines an independent professional Police Auditor and a Civilian Review Board.

The Police Commission's report says: "To ensure structural independence of the oversight system, the commission recommends that the auditor be hired and report to the City Council, and that the City Council, with community input, appoints the review board members.

In the Emerald News article which was written on the passage of the ballot measure, here's an excerpt which is pivotal when examining the structure of effective civilian review.


The main opposition to the measure came from those concerned that the amendment would undermine the city's form of government by taking power away from the city manager and giving it to the council. Former city councilor Ken Tollenaar has opposed the measure, and he hopes that the City Council will stay close to the Police Commission recommendations now that the measure has passed.

"I hope they appoint a qualified auditor and relegate the day-to-day operations to the city manager," Tollenaar said.

Supporters insist that separating the auditor from the city manager will keep the position more independent.

Because the city manager hires the police chief, there were concerns that a city manager-hired auditor would not be able to disagree with his or her employer.

The following is from the city of Eugene.

Quarterly Report on Police Complaints Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007

Internal affairs case summaries October to December 2006

From October to December, the Eugene Police Department completed 10 investigations of complaints made against its employees.

The summaries are released quarterly and describe the complaint, the investigation and the finding. The department does not release the names of those involved or any action taken against employees. The department received 73 commendations during the same period.

Use of force, unsatisfactory performance, discourtesy - Thecomplainants alleged officers used excessive force in their arrest, including breaking a car window. They also said an officer looked through some confidential files inside the car and that an officer called a woman "scum." Investigators determined the officers used appropriate and reasonable force in the arrest. They broke the window when the suspect ignored officers' orders. The allegation of excessive force was deemed unfounded, meaning a preponderance of the evidence indicated the officer did not engage in the alleged behaviors. An officer looked through the files as part of a routine search following arrest, as required by department policy. The officer was exonerated,meaning the alleged behavior did occur but was consistent with policy. A lack of witnesses prevented investigators from determining whether an officer called a woman "scum," and the allegation was not sustained.

Use of force, discourtesy, constitutional rights - The complainant alleged that an officer needlessly used pepper spray to subdue him andwas rude while driving him to jail. He also said officers searched his house without legal authority. The investigation determined that pepper spray was not used during the arrest and the allegation was deemed unfounded. The complainant was not sure which officer had been rude, or what exactly had been said, so the accusation was deemed unfounded. Officers did search the house with consent from an adult who lived there, so they were exonerated of the allegation.

Use of force - The complainant alleged officers hurt her when they escorted her from her apartment for a mental health evaluation. The investigation revealed that the woman has mental health and alcohol problems and that she was, by her own description, suicidal and drunkat the time. She admitted going limp when officers told her they were taking her to the hospital for treatment. Investigators determined that the officers' use of arm holds and wrist locks during the incident was consistent with policies and procedures, and they were exonerated.

Discourtesy, performance - The complainant alleged that an officer was rude and abrupt to someone under arrest. The complainant said theofficer was rude when confronted about the behavior. Investigators learned that the officer used a loud and commanding voice because he knew the suspect had a history of being disruptive and trespassing.The complainant later admitted she had not been present during the entire arrest. The allegation was deemed unfounded.

Performance - The complainant alleged that officers responding to his report of assault and attempted robbery arrested him on a warrant andrefused to investigate his case. Investigators reviewed a digital recording of the interaction, which revealed that the officer tried to follow up on the assault and robbery, but the complainant was uncooperative. The allegation was deemed unfounded.

Use of force, judgment, discourtesy - The complainant alleged officers used excessive force during his arrest. He said officers withheld medicine for a medical condition and that an officer used profanity toward him. Investigators deemed the allegation of excessive force unfounded and learned that officers allowed the man to take his medicine once he arrived at the jail. Investigators learned the officer did use profanity and sustained the allegation of discourtesy.

Performance, truthfulness - The complainant alleged an officer tookhis money and used it to pay a fine at Eugene Municipal Court. Hebelieved the officer lied when he said the court had ordered that themoney be used to pay the fine. Investigators learned the officer found the money during a lawful search and that the court, indeed, had ordered it to be used to pay fines. The allegation was deemed unfounded.

Conformance to laws - The complainant alleged that detectives stole three rings from her home during a search. The woman told investigators she placed the rings in a dresser drawer two days beforethe search. Two weeks later, they were missing. Investigators learnedthat several people had access to the drawer. Detectives had searched a safe containing valuable jewelry, none of which was missing. Therewas no evidence that detectives took the rings, and the allegation was deemed unfounded.

Use of force - The complainant alleged an officer hit her son repeatedly on the head after taking him to the ground during his arrest for an alcohol violation at Autzen Stadium. Investigators learned the man had lunged at the officer and caused him to fall to the ground. The officer hit the man with a series of elbow strikes tothe upper back - not the head - because he was resisting arrest. The use of force complied with department policy and the allegation was deemed unfounded.

Constitutional rights, courtesy - The complainant alleged that an officer told a food vendor to stop selling to her and her friends. She also said an officer had been discourteous nine years ago.Investigators learned the vendor denied service because the woman had been cited for criminal conduct. The discourtesy allegation was too old to be investigated.

Eugene is a new member of the growing family of cities, counties and towns in the United States and Canada which have implemented civilian review mechanisms. The number of those that do continues to grow and many of these civilian review mechanisms follow roughly similar paths towards realization and even after that.

Usually, it is a series of incidents involving a law enforcement agency over a period of years culminating in a major incident that sparks community members and organizations which may include ACLU chapters, NAACP chapters and often grass-roots organizations or coalitions centered on the issue of police accountability and civilian oversight. They either try to place ballot initiatives up for a public vote, to create a civilian review board through amending the city or county's code or the charter itself, as happened in Eugene. These efforts are often very successful.

The major opponants to civilian review mechanisms in nearly all cases are labor unions representing the rank and file law enforcement employees impacted by the creation and implementation of civilian review mechanisms. They campaign against ballot initiatives, spending lots of money or appear at meetings to protest against a governing body's decision to amend the local municipal code.

If the civilian review mechanisms are put in place, these labor unions usually hire attorneys to sue the city over these boards and especially target the independent investigations of complaints or officer-involved deaths and subpoena powers. Interestingly enough, these are the componants of a review board that are most often deemed integral to that board by community members. When these legal challenges fail and most often they do, the labor unions then take a more political approach by funding city council members, mayors and county supervisors who oppose civilian oversight, even if their favorable candidate must move into the district to be able to run for election. If their candidates are elected and formulate a voting majority, then those council members or supervisors often try to either eliminate the civilian review mechanism or undercut its operations.

When this happened in several jurisdictions including Riverside, the residents then reorganized and pushed for inclusion of the civilian oversight mechanism in the city's charter. In Riverside, that succeeded at keeping the CPRC free of political influence by the city's government for only a little while, given that the CPRC has lost two executive directors in between the time the ballot measure passed in November 2004 and January 2007.

One commissioner, Jack Brewer, told the public safety committee that whenever the CPRC's executive directors ventured out into the community, they were pulled back in by the city. In fact, the CPRC's last executive director was actually banned from doing outreach into the community because Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis said it would give the CPRC the appearance of bias against the police department, despite the fact that under Pedro Payne's direction, new police officers were meeting with him when hired to discuss and ask questions about the CPRC and he had also met with the leadership of the Riverside Police Officers' Association.

Under the prior direction, the RPOA leadership had attended a workshop in 2004 to air its complaints although one of its board members couldn't seem to decide whether he liked the commission or hated it. That was a very interesting process that was never repeated.

The city has the task of trying to hire a new executive director to come fill a position that's become equal to navigating through a political minefield, thanks to actions taken by both the city manager's office and the police department. Will someone who is strong in the area of community outreach, which is included in the proposed changes to the CPRC, want to take a job and risk also being banned from doing outreach by DeSantis on his road out the door?

A point that seemed to be made by Brewer and Commissioner Jim Ward is that it doesn't matter who the city hires, because the pattern shows that when the community and the city's expectations for the CPRC differ, it is the executive director who is caught in the middle of that conflict. In two cases already, the executive director has been shown the door.

And each time the executive director exited stage right after coming to the same point in the city's script, the city manager's office then informs the community way after the fact, that changes will be made to the CPRC without the community's knowledge let alone imput on that process. And usually both the city manager's office and the police department claim that these changes are being done because they realize that the CPRC was put in the charter by the city's voters and that this is indeed a "special" commission.

What's so fascinating about this latest episode is that the involved parties actually believing that the strategy they are implementing is new when in fact it's simply been borrowed from the play book handed off from one city administration to the next. If you travel back in time even as far as the existance of LEPAC, which was the "special" subcommittee set up by the Human Relations Commission to oversee the police department's policy implementation after the controversial dog bite incident of the early 1980s, you will see that when the city and police department believed that LEPAC ventured out of its box into their comfort zones, they took similar actions. The best example of that was when LEPAC wanted to exercise subpoena power but the city denied its ability to do so.

Of course, the entire country knows what happened next and where we are today because of decisions made by our city governments and police department management teams of the past. The fact that the city is continuing down that same path just goes to show what a short collective memory it has and that simply knowing a city's history does not seem to be enough for it to learn from its mistakes and take a different path.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Riverside County round and round

The Riveride County Sheriff's Department has promised that it will fully investigate a fatal officer-involved shooting involving a male motorist who hit a squad car after four officers shot him because he was heading towards them, according to the Press Enteprise. It was the first such shooting of the new year.

Riverside County Sheriff's Department investigates shooting


Deputies said they shot and killed Keith Watkins, 41, of Sun City, after he accelerated toward deputies and rammed a patrol car at the conclusion of a pursuit.

But Watkins' fiancée and family, who gathered Wednesday at the dead man's home, said they doubted the shooting was justified. Watkins' sister, Marion Watkins, of Hesperia, said she and her three siblings were considering filing a wrongful-death suit.

"They shot him so many times," said Watkins' fiancée Leilani Hollowell through steady weeping. "What's wrong with those people? If they're drunk, whatever the case may be, there's no reason to shoot somebody."

The Riverside coroner did not release information on how many bullets hit Watkins. Neighbors on the quiet cul-de-sac where he died reported hearing between 15 and 30 shots.

Sheriff's spokesman Gerald Franchville said doubt and questions about the shooting were natural.

"People are always going to have those questions, and that's why we investigate it so thoroughly," said Franchville. "To determine whether some who lost their life really had to."

The four deputies have been placed on administrative leave as is usually standard for shootings. Their experience levels ranged from very experienced to not so experienced.

More details about the shooting can be found here.

March Global Port, the company which manages operations at March Air Force Reserves Base is back in the news again because it is now facing 11 misdemeanor counts which have been filed by the Riverside County District Attorney's office alleging that its fuel storage site and the handling and storage of its material created a safety hazard that a representative from the Riverside County Fire Department called in the news article, "absolutely dangerous".


In a released statement, Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Weissman said Global Port's failure to report releases or threatened releases of hazardous materials to authorities placed citizens at great risk.

"The addition of the actual risk of fire or explosion makes this situation even more dangerous," said Weissman, who specializes in the prosecution of environmental crimes.

Company officials said previously that the tanks have been drained and pose no threat.

Each misdemeanor conviction carries a $1 million fine and a year in jail. The operations surrounding the DHL company at the reserve base have been the focus of much controversy in Riverside since before it set up shop amid protests by residents living in the surrounding neighborhoods who were concerned about the increased noise produced by flights which would be leaving the base every night. Those concerns bore fruition and many residents in the Mission Grove and Orangecrest neighborhoods have taken to sleeping in shifts and wearing earplugs to cope with the situation.

Two major development projects by the city of Riverside have been thwarted by grass-roots campaigns launched by two separate neighborhoods as detailed in Dan Bernstein's column in the Press Enterprise that was published on the day of Mayor Ron Loveridge's annual state of address.

Two on the Town

The first involves this story about the decision of developers trying to build a large fleet of high-priced houses on hills overlooking La Sierra not to appeal a judge's decision against them. A group of concerned city residents calling themselves Friends of the Hills had sued the city stating that this project violated two growth-control measures passed by city voters. Last year, a Riverside County Superior Court judge agreed and issued a major ruling in their favor. While the city and developers have arsenals of lawyers available at their disposal, this organization held regular rummage and yard sales to pay the fees charged by its attorney. And three of its members, Yolanda Garland, Terry Frizzel and Mary Humboldt appear regularly at city council to speak on this issue. Several weeks ago, Garland received one of those letters from City Attorney Gregory Priamos that she had disobeyed the city council and if she did it again, she would be facing arrest.

The other battlefront was Tequesquite Park which was part of a land swap proposed as part of the new Riverside Renaissance project. This componant of the city's newest five-year development plan was easily its most controversial.

Originally, the city council appeared to support the land swap involving this park and wetlands property adjacent to Fairmount Park which was necessary because the city wanted to develop Tesquesquite Park and in order to do so, it had to come up with equal acreage of park land to take its place. Tesquesquite Park would eventually be sold to a private developer and profits from the land sale would be then pumped back into the Riverside Renaissance project.

Residents from several neighborhoods protested this action and launched a unrelenting letter campaign in the Press Enterprise's readers' forum and spoke at several city council meetings on the issue.

Downtown councilman, Dom Betro met with these community members and groups hoping to find a compromise but that didn't happen and it being an election year, Betro had to do something about it so he came up with the new Betro plan. All he had to do was sell it to the rest of the city council and no one is sure how that happened but it did. On Tuesday night, the news was broken that the city will now have two new parks, Tesquesquite Park and the wetlands adjacent to Fairmount Park and Betro dodged an election year bullet. The question is, given that city government is often run on quid pro quo, at what price?

I heard the news that last week city council heroine Marjorie Van Poule, an 89-year-old city resident had also received a letter from Priamos stating that she could be facing arrest for disobeying a city council member, in this case probably her own councilman, Steve Adams. Adams who faces a tough reelection bid largely due to his failed efforts to seek higher office up in Sacramento in the middle of his term is obviously getting his campaign effort off to a good start.

Van Poule has been very vocal about changes made to public participation by community members at city council meetings that were passed in late 2005, including a decision to not allow city residents to pull items off of the consent calendars. Since that action passed, the number of consent items on weekly agendas has greatly increased while the number of discussion items on the same agendas has fallen.

Casa Blanca was the location of a series of raids by the police department this week, according to comments made by Sgt. Ken Banks in the Press Enterprise where weapons and drug paraphernalia was found. Banks rationalized that people in a community should not be afraid to be out in their front yards and I agree with that on all different fronts, having lived in a neighborhood for years where it was difficult to even feel safe in your home.

Jennie Rivera, a long-time community leader in Casa Blanca appeared this week before the beleagured Community Police Review Commission on behalf of one of her sons who is mentally challenged, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She had circulated photographs she had taken of her son's battered face that she had taken after his release from a three-day stint in jail without his medications. Apparently, medical aid had been called by the involved police officers to stop the bleeding from a laceration over his left eyebrow and the emergency medical technicians had a difficult time doing so.

On the day it happened which was Dec. 14, her son had gone out to pick up his nieces at a local school and bring them home as he routinely did, but he had disappeared and it took hours for his worried family members to learn what had happened to him. When they finally did, they became much more concerned.

All her son remembered was being hit by what he described as a long object that hit him causing him to see stars and that there were a number of police officers present. When Jennie had told one of the involved officers at a neighborhood meeting that her son had been mentally ill, he had told her he didn't know that and if he were, then he should not be allowed to be outside without an escort. He's absolutely right only it appears that he and his colleagues may be the ones who actually showed why that is necessary. If it's indeed true that those who are mentally ill and their families have an additional reason to be concerned if they leave their houses, something should be done about that.

Jennie like others including one tireless activist, Christina Duran have asked questions in different venues about whether or not the police department is planning to implement new mental health training for its police officers. Soon after, Duran received a letter from Police Chief Russ Leach that she wasn't being invited back on his advisory board which had undergone its twice-annual vetting process to "cycle" community leaders on and off of it. She recovered from that setback and still asks these questions as part of the 99.99999% of the population of this city that doesn't get invited to participate on advsiory boards or ad-hoc committees.

At the public safety committee meeting, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis attached at the end of his powerpoint on the major changes being made to the CPRC that the city realized after a "series of incidents" that it needed to implement mental health training. When questions were asked about that training, Adams said that it had nothing to do with what was on the agenda and then gave a speech on the mentally ill and the police which could provide some explanation as to why during the years he served on the police force, there were many officer-involved shootings in an agency that is smaller than it is today. One lieutenant at a recent meeting of Cops and Clergy meeting said that when he had first arrived at the police department after a stint in an even smaller law enforcement agency in the 1980s, that there were seven officer-involved shootings in as many months.

People who say silence is golden have never met Adams.

Leach spoke up and said there was no definite timeline on the mental health training which seems to be close to the co-partner model implemented by the Los Angeles Police Department and San Diego County where law enforcement officers and mental health professionals team. DeSantis had said that a meeting was planned involving the department, the fire department, American Medical Response and various county agencies to move this training forward.

Leach mentioned that the department had "stumbled" through this process in the past couple of months because they had been going in a different direction. Indeed the department's focus on this issue during the past six months has ebbed and flowed and stalled. Initially, the department had appeared interested in utilizing a crisis intervention team model and utilizing a mental health organization in Ohio which has trained police officers from different agencies in Ohio including one in Cincinnati. This latest announcement indicates a deviation from that path, perhaps that was what was the reason for Leach's reference to "cookie cutter" training. But then the crisis intervention team model has always been subjected to more resistance from law enforcement agencies than other models even though it is fast-growing in terms of its prevalence.

Hopefully, there will be an update on the development of this new training at the next quarterly progress report of the department's implementation of the Strategic Plan whenever that will be.

It remains to be seen what will work, what will actually be implemented and when, but is very much hoped by many people that this training program will be created and implemented by the department. In part, so that the concerns of Jennie and other families of mentally ill, medically ill or mentally challenged individuals are alleviated.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blogger outages


Due to several recent Blogger outages, this blog has not been visible for portions of each day for the past week. I apologize for that inconvenience. All I can say, is keep trying. The outages do not appear to be long in duration.

Unfortunately, Blogger is acting as if nothing is wrong during these outages and has provided very little information on exactly what the problem is on its end and what solutions it will implement to correct it that are long-lasting. They are in the midst of upgrading their services to a new format and this blog has already been switched to the newer service.

I have been exploring and researching alternative sights for this blog, hopefully one that stores its blogs on more reliable and stable computer servers. If this blog is going to be relocated, there will be notification ahead of time. Hopefully, Blogger will correct its issues and the blog will remain here.

Thank you,

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Canary in the mine: The CPRC meets

Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis' proposed changes to the Riverside Community Police Review Commission were taken to the commissioners themselves at their general meeting today. They didn't appear much more impressed with his powerpoint presentation than community members were when presented with it at Monday's public safety committee meeting. It's not like either the commissioners or community members were invited to be involved with or even informed about the efforts made by both the city manager's office and the police department to micromanage the CPRC.

But first some community leaders spoke on the issue.

Former CPRC commissioner and retired police chief, Bill Howe told the commission, DeSantis, City Attorney Gregory Priamos and interim executive director, Mario Lara that he believed that Pedro Payne, the former executive director was an intelligent, hard-working individual who had loved his job very much.

"His resignation shocked me," Howe said, of the man who he had personally trained to do the job, "I do not believe he resigned of his own free will."

After what had happened to Payne in the last few months including the decision by DeSantis and City Manager Brad Hudson to ban him from public outreach, few people do. Howe said that Payne was not allowed to even attend community meetings on his own time, which he believed was a violation of his civil rights.

Even fewer people believed DeSantis when during his presentation, he said that he realized the voters in Riverside had placed the CPRC in the city's charter and that it holds a "special degree of respect". One of those who didn't, was Howe.

Howe criticized the direction that the city was taking with the CPRC because it was detrimental not only to the commissioners but to community members. Howe also challenged the city on its decision to stop the CPRC from using private investigators from the Baker Street Group in San Diego County, explaining that it had done so to utilize investigators who were not personally or professionally connected with Riverside to avoid any potential bias or conflict of interest. The decision to delay sending the CPRC's investigators to interview witnesses of officer-involved deaths for three to six months or longer was not acceptable in his opinion because during that time, witnesses could move out of the area and might not be able to be contacted by the CPRC. He added that in some cases, it had taken a year for investigations to be completed by the police department.

Howe also reminded both the commissioners and city employees present at the meeting of one thing. Well, two things.

"This was put in the charter by the voters," Howe said, "The city is going to do its best to get rid of the commission one way or another."

Rev. Paul Mumford, from New Joy Baptist Church had served on the Mayor's Use of Force Panel in 1999, when that panel came up with a list of recommendations including one to create an ad-hoc committee that would research various forms of civilian oversight and come up with a recommendation of a model to implement in Riverside.

Mumford told the commission that it was ridiculous to ban Payne from talking to community groups. He reminded them that after the officer-involved shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998, there had been much upheaval in the community.

"The commission was born out of that situation," he said.

Mumford echoed Howe's words and said that if the commission is just there for window dressing and appeasement then there was no point in having one. But the community will have a voice, Mumford said, and it believed that having an accountability arm from the community was necessary to keep the police accountable to that community even if they didn't like it.

"Someone is trying to stir the pot," Mumford said, "And see how far you can go without accountability. "

Deborah Wong who chairs the Riverside Coalition of Police Accountability said she felt the latest chain of events created a "very delicate period for the CPRC" and asked that no major policy changes be made involving the commission until a permanent executive director was hired. Though she added that she felt Payne had been "pushed out of his position".

Vickie Jackson said that she was very, very disappointed by the way the commission was going and surprised that at a meeting she had attended in November, the commissioners had not been aware that Payne had been banned from doing outreach. She reminded the commissioners that Payne was yet another person of color working at City Hall who had been run out of his job by the city and that it disgusted her as a "minority who worked for the city" to see what was happening.

"Dr. Payne had the experience. He had the education. He had the dedication," Jackson said.

Payne was also Black, and two other Black employees, former interim asst. city manager, Jim Smith and former director of housing and community development Tranda Drumwright had been demoted and fired respectively already on City Manager Brad Hudson's and DeSantis' watch.

DeSantis fumed for the entire public comment period and City Attorney Gregory Priamos, who was making his CPRC meeting debut served mainly to give Commissioner Jim Ward, a primer on the Brown Act after Ward asked why an item he had requested to be placed on the agenda was rejected by Lara. Ward had wanted the commission to discuss the chain of events that had occurred over the holidays including the resignation of Payne. However, he had been informed by Lara just before the meeting that his item had been rejected and instead, Lara had the powerpoint presentation of his boss, DeSantis on the agenda.

At that point, Priamos scooted up to seat himself at the table in front of the commission to explain Lara's actions in a way he had never done for Payne by telling the commission that Ward's agenda item had been "too broad" and had been "20 words or less". Priamos added that he had told Ward to be make his agenda request more specific. What Lara showed at his first meeting is how difficult it is for an executive director to have two employers, the commission and DeSantis, and Lara clearly knows which side his bread is buttered on.

Few commissioners besides Ward commented on the proposed changes presented by DeSantis. Brian Pearcy, the chair of the Outreach Committee which has seen the most attritition lately said that he had been disturbed when he first found out that the city put the muzzle on Payne in terms of banning him from doing outreach. He backed the assertion that the commission needed to have its own investigator involved in officer-death cases from day one.

"We need to make sure our investigator is there when the tape is down," Pearcy said.

Pearcy added that it used to be that only police investigators were at the scenes of officer-involved deaths but that changed with the addition of officers performing administrative investigations, city attorneys and district attorneys being called on to show up. But Pearcy said that the commission had to look at the situation despite its misgivings as a "positive opportunity".

Chair Les Davidson spoke up in part to tabulate how many private meetings he and other commissioners had attended with DeSantis, Hudson, Chief Russ Leach and other city employees and said there had only been two such meetings. This was in response to Howe's contention that Davidson's vice-chair Ward had been excluded from at least one meeting.

The commission faces these latest challenges as it prepares to replace outgoing commissioner, Bob Garcia who is terming out and Bonavita Quinto who decided not accept a reappointment to a second term, a decision that surprised many people with its apparent suddeness. They face a potential weakening of their powers, as a community watches.

To be continued...

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Canary in the mine: The public safety committee meets

The public safety committee convened for the first time since November, and the stakeholders involving the Community Police Review Commission met for the first time in public since action was taken involving the CPRC earlier this month.

Representing the city, were Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, Riverside Police Department Chief Russ Leach, Lt. Larry Gonzalez and City Attorney Gregory Priamos. It wouldn't be the first time most of them had met on this issue. It would just be the first time the public was invited.

Of course, by the time the community was informed of the steps that its two other partners, the city and police department had taken involving the CPRC, its executive director, Pedro Payne had already submitted his resignation.

Still, community members appeared in a room stacked with city employees who in previous years had never given the CPRC much thought to find out what would happen next. The total appearances of DeSantis, Leach and Priamos at either CPRC meetings or meetings involving could probably be counted on one hand, five fingers.

That changed in 2006, after the CPRC had issued its sustained finding on the shooting of Summer Marie Lane by Officer Ryan Wilson when the chair and vice-chair of the CPRC at the time held their first private meeting with Leach, and representatives from both the city manager's and city attorney's offices. This wasn't long after City Manager Brad Hudson and DeSantis had decided not to be the ones to make the final ruling in the Lane case, but to allow Leach to make that decision and not surprisingly, he backed his own investigation.

Last autumn, Hudson banned Payne from attending any community meetings or engaging in any community outreach because he said it would appear that the CPRC was biased against the police department. The commission's outreach plummeted during this time period, according to its monthly reports. That was of course, blamed on Payne, even though the commissioners themselves admitted at several meetings that they lacked the time to do the outreach given that most of them had full-time jobs and already spent up to 18 hours or more each month reviewing citizen complaints. Not to mention that the three-member public outreach subcommittee lost two of those members due to the sudden resignation of one commissioner and a surprising decision by another commissioner not to be reappointed to a second term.

At the last public safety committee meeting in November, Hudson said that Leach did not wait until the CPRC issued its finding before making a decision on discipline in an officer-involved death case. That stunned quite a few people who thought that putting the commission in the city's charter had been enough to preserve its powers on investigating officer-involved deaths. It also provided a preview of what was to come, which was the largest change to the CPRC which would not be included in an accompanying written report or power point presentation that skirted that issue even as it listed elaborate changes in other areas of the CPRC's operation.

Commissioners have felt the pinch of City Hall's sudden concern about the CPRC's every move.

"We are almost being told step by step what we have to do," said Commissioner Jack Brewer.

At this latest public safety committee meeting, DeSantis unleashed a power point presentation which included the following actions taken involving the CPRC.

1) Hire a new executive director through a rigorous nationwide search who will offer outstanding technical qualifications as well as credibility with the local community.

2) The briefing of the CPRC's investigation into the Lee Deante Brown shooting that was supposed to take place in January will be postponed until at least February. DeSantis' reason was that the department's investigators had uncovered "new, highly relevent evidence" in this case and the CPRC will have the opportunity to see it after the recently rejuvenated investigation by the police department and the review by the Riverside County District Attorney's office concludes. Hopefully, this is the "evidence" that the CPRC requested from the department several months ago.

3) Outreach will be robust and encompass the community, which is interesting considering the recent ban on Payne's ability to do outreach and attend community meetings. Presumably the new executive director, when or if this person is ever hired, will not have his or her movements restricted in the same manner.

4) Consultant Joe Brann has apparently been retained to "formulize protocols(and related procedures) to further the Commission's accomplishment of its mission." Brann was formerly the auditor assigned by the former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer to oversee the implementation of the stipulated judgement which was dissolved last March.

Then at the end, DeSantis added a carrot on the list, and that was that the department was going to implement training to assist police officers in contact with individuals who were mentally incapacitated. He said that the city council and police department were enthusiastic about engaging in this work, but given some of the responses in the meeting to inquiries abut this training, that remains to be seen. The proof is in the pudding and Leach's comments on the timeline of the much needed training did not inspire much confidence. Leach had used "cookie cutter" terminology when asked questions about the development of the department's cultural diversity training and he raises a good point about needing to tailor the training to the needs of individual departments, but what came out of that process was diversity training that was later called "inadequate" and "outdated" by Leach and the push to develop more relevant training in this area which is still under way.

As mentioned, one thing noticeably missing from the list of "improvements" to the CPRC were any changes that would take place involving the CPRC's investigation of officer-involved deaths. Commissioners and community members quickly moved in to fill in the gaps in that area.

Brewer complained about the new decision not to allow the CPRC out to investigate officer-involved deaths until after the police department and D.A.'s office(working in tandem on different fronts, it appears) are finished with their respective investigations.

"We are told we can't send out an investigator for six months," Brewer said, "That is ridiculous."

But if some people complained that the new rules would not allow enough attention to be paid to officer-involved deaths, at least one person complained that too much attention was being paid to them. That was Leach who added that the CPRC should pay more attention to submitting policy recommendations and noting trends and patterns in the department which indicate problems with certain officers, watch commanders and shifts.

However, because the CPRC was given through circumstances, five officer-involved deaths from a department with less than 400 sworn police officers during the 12 month period between October 2005 to November 2006, it is simply doing one of the jobs that it was mandated to do by the city charter.

Brewer continued to express his concern about some of the other elements of the DeSantis plan as well. He questioned the wisdom of doing an expensive nation-wide search if the city was just going to hire another executive director who would be unable to do anything. He cited the hiring of two of them so far who when they went out into the community were pulled back by the city.

Not surprisingly, his colleague on the commission, Jim Ward was even more vocal. Ward, the only African-American on the nine-member commission said that it was the police department, not the CPRC which was experiencing the problems.

"The problem is with the Riverside Police Department and the city officials trying to micromanage the police commission," Ward said.

While Ward said he believed that improvements had been made during the stipulated judgement, he believed that more needed to be done, especially to address the culture that was still deeply entrenched in the police department. He said that the presence of DeSantis, Leach and Priamos at the meeting attested to the degree the CPRC was being micromanaged.

"I do not believe that we are the problem," Ward said, "I think it lies elsewhere."

He commented on Hudson's and DeSantis' decision last year to not allow the commissioners to place items on the agenda or even put an agenda out without their approval.

"We can't even put out an agenda," Ward said, "What kind of independence do you have if you can't put out an agenda?"

Community members spoke at the meeting and many of their comments along with those made by Ward and Brewer seemed to increase the displeasure of several of the city employees and at least one city council member.

Deborah Wong, of the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability urged the city not to make any major changes until a new executive director was in place. But at this point, that is like closing the barn door after the animals have departed because the city has already made these changes to this community mechanism before even bothering to inform the community, until after the fact.

City Council member Steve Adams provided the greatest gift that he can give, which is that he opened his mouth. By far the most colorful councilman on the panel, Adams doesn't hold back his words, decorum be damned, and there is something very refreshing about that.

The other interesting thing about Adams is that he is a retired Riverside Police Department officer from a while ago, who even today, well actually yesterday, appeared to merge his past as an officer with his present, as an elected official and a businessman, inserting "we" occasionally to include himself with more currently employed police officers including investigators even though it's been over 15 years since he wore a uniform. And it appears that Leach found comfort in numbers as the two left together with Priamos after the meeting's conclusion.

Adams first castigated Brewer's comments about not being able to put an investigator in the field right away. Like Adams, Brewer is a retired law enforcement officer having done his time with the Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Adams said that there were already two investigators from the police department and the District Attorney's office out doing investigations of officer-involved deaths and that adding a "third arm" would just cause problems, and even taint the investigations if witnesses were providing different accounts to different investigators.

"We investigate," Adams said including himself in with the police department and of the CPRC, "You review."

Obviously, Adams hasn't read the city's charter lately. Perhaps he should check it out before the recommendations by this subcommittee are sent to the entire city council.

Former CPRC commissoner Frank Arroela said he had enjoyed his short stint on the CPRC but felt the community and the police department needed to work together.

"We can't continue to bash it," Arroela said of the police department.

Arreola had served on the CPRC after Adams appointed him to represent his ward, before resigning in November or as one person put it going to Adams to get him removed from it. Arreola currently works for the city as Adams' legislative field representative, news that had shocked some current commissioners as well as community members who had believed at this point they have heard anything.

When the meeting was nearing its end, Chair Andrew Melendrez assured everyone that the CPRC will remain intact. Of course it will, because it would be a violation of the city's charter to disband it, much to the considerable pique of those sitting on the city council who oppose it.

Though it was interesting to hear Adams voice his continued support of the CPRC, especially when he added that he was a vocal supporter of it while running for his city council seat four years ago. Back then, he was endorsed by the Riverside Police Officers' Association Political Action Committee and received over $10,000 in campaign funding from them. The RPOA strongly opposes the CPRC and usually they endorse local candidates who oppose it as well. Perhaps, Adams slipped through that net, clever person that he is. Well, if the RPOA wasn't informed on his status regarding the CPRC during the last election, I would guess they know now because after all, an elected official would never say something at a public meeting if he believed something differently in private.

When the majority of the city's voters showed their support at the polls for the police commision by passing Measure II, many people thought the most difficult days of the CPRC were over. It turned out that the city was just getting warmed up. On the city council, there are four members who oppose the CPRC, but still have to put up with it because the voters' mandate.

"It's a different time, a different group," Councilwoman Nancy Hart said of the changes


No, not really. The faces might be the same. The time is from Riverside past and now, present.

This chain of events shouldn't be that surprising if you know your RiverCity history. The CPRC's much weaker predecessor was subjected to the same "killing with kindness" by the city and the police department until it was rendered ineffective. Of course, we all know what happened down the line after those actions. What is past is prologue and history is only repeated until the lessons it passes down from one generation to the next are fully understood.

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