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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

From acorns to oaks: civilian review is spreading

Up in Berkeley, the city council just voted 8-0 to sign on to the proposed legislation up in Sacramento that is intended to overturn the California State Supreme Court's decision to close the complaint process to the public.

Council supports open police complaint legislation

With only one city council member absent, the body sent a message that it's been listening to the voices in the community that have expressed great concern about the integrity of the complaint process involving Berkeley's civilian review board since the Copley decision was released last summer.


“Unlike all other public employees, the public is prevented by state law from learning about serious police misconduct and any discipline that came as a result of misconduct,” wrote Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, who introduced the resolution.

“This prevents the public from learning about the extent to which problems exist within the Police Department [and] also from learning about how management addresses misconduct when it occurs,” Capitelli wrote.

A lot of criticism had been launched against Berkeley's city attorney, Manuela Albuquerque but if given a choice between her and Riverside's own city attorney, Gregory Priamos, Albuquerque is by far the bigger champion not only for civilian review but also for the public's participation in the process. Priamos sits in local meetings of the Community Police Review Commission and tells its members what they can't do, just like he tells the city council all the ways that the state's Brown Act restricts public participation at meetings.

In contrast, Albuquerque is in court fighting for her city's right to maintain its civilian review process and for it to maintain its transparency to the public. Maybe she understands that doing so helps promote public confidence both in that process and in Berkeley's police department. Or at least, those who give her marching orders do.

But you can't blame Priamos for just doing what he's been told and what he has to do to keep his job in Riverside, which means at least once or twice annually, he needs at least four votes from the city council to remain employed with the city. He is after all, "at will" and must do the elected government's bidding.

It's also clear that this elected government is ignoring the will of the city's voters who in every precinct in every ward in this city voted to affirm the necessity of civilian review in the city of Riverside. Even those who used their support of both the CPRC and the ballot measure that put it in the city's charter are quiet on the issue, except for Councilman Andrew Melendrez.

But what usually happens in cases like this is that down the road, the city's residents decide to push for an even stronger, more independent form of civilian review and for Riverside, that point in the juncture is probably about five years away, based on the time lines of cities facing similar situations.

Across the country in the sunny state of Florida, Key West The Newspaper published a column by its editor and publisher Dennis Reeves Cooper about that city's civilian review board's decision to rescind a policy keeping complaints filed against police officers private.

Apparently Cooper himself was a main proponent of this policy change after a public records request that he had submitted regarding a complaint to that board was denied. He took his case to court by filing a law suit and was backed by the local chapter of the ACLU, which its attorney expressed in a letter written to the board's attorney last November.


“The CRB’s current confidentiality policy not only is unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of the Sunshine Law, In a Free Society, the Public’s Trust In an Official’s Reputation Is Won By Greater Transparency, Not the Silencing Of Criticism but it affects the CRB’s ability to conduct business.”

One of the major problems is that the board had asked a question, was an entity that was not a law enforcement agency bound by the state's peace officers' bill of rights, and it was unable to get a legal opinion from its own attorney, Robert Citron. But then even the State Attorney General office in Florida didn't want to touch the question either first sending what Citron called a "nonopinion" then declining to get involved in the matter.

The Cooper v Dillion law suit did reach a decision in court.


Last Monday night, CRB member Dr. Susan White distributed to the other board members some of the excepts from the Cooper vs. Dillon ruling— something Attorney Cintron had never bothered to do. Here are some of those excerpts:

• “In a free society, the public’s trust in an official’s reputation is won by greater transparency, not the silencing of criticism.”

• “The interest in protecting wrongfully accused officers from defamation is insufficient to sustain the statute.”

• “Our prior cases have firmly established that injury to official reputation is insufficient reason for repressing speech.”

• “The proper remedy for wrongfully accused officers is found in Florida’s libel laws . . . rather than a restriction which operates to suppress members of the press from reporting information of public concern.

The city's civilian review board was passed by the voters and doesn't report to any entity in city government, but the people, Cooper stated in his column.

ACLU Florida's brief on the Cooper law suit

Federal appeal court reverses decision that upheld statute

Commissioners are being picked for Eugene, Oregon's new civilian review board, according to the Register-Guard. Deadlocks on prospective appointments are expected given the contentious nature of the city government in that city.

All of the 15 applicants for the board were required to fill out written statements on why they wanted to serve.


"Police conduct and oversight is a hot-button issue, especially in this community," said Richard Brissenden, a municipal court judge in Cottage Grove and Florence, who lives in Eugene. "It is of paramount importance that (oversight) be addressed with a cool head."

Only one finalist has law enforcement experience. N. Michael Hurley worked for the Oregon State Police for 28 years, before retiring as director of the state crime lab in Springfield.

The city of Oakland is facing a $5 million law suit filed by seven Black men who alleged that they were subjected to strip searches in public. It's only the latest law suit to be filed making allegations that Black men were stripped in public, to be searched by police officers.


The suit was filed by Oakland civil rights attorneys John Burris and Michael Haddad, who have filed five other similar suits on behalf of eight other men.

"Oakland is the only police department of which we, and the OPD, are aware that has a written policy allowing officers to conduct strip searches on the street," Haddad said Thursday. "We contend that such searches are clearly unconstitutional."

"These humiliating searches are made worse" by the apparent singling out by police of African Americans that are searched, Haddad said. All but one of the plaintiffs in this suit are African American.

Oh, and thank you so much Alex Pham for your article in the Los Angeles Times. You put what so much of us who blog have experienced out there.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

A tattoo by any other name

In the Press Enterprise, there's a column by Dan Bernstein about the decision of the members of the Riverside Police Department's Metro Team to wear tattoos on their upper arms. These tattoos allegedly depict a skull with a bandanna and reddish eyes. The first time I saw this emblem was on a tee-shirt worn by several Metro Team officers several years ago.

Say it with tats

While these tattoos may be in compliance with the police department's policy regulating body art, this certainly wasn't the wisest decision made by police officers in this department. The fact that this image is so wide-spread that Steve Frasher, the public information officer for the police department is displaying one on a mug to Bernstein, is even more interesting, as other law enforcement agencies dealing with this issue have put these tattoo emblems on display to varying degrees. It's said that the skull emblem worn by the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart CRASH unit was on display for a while at the department's gift shop on a variety of items.

Needless to say, that's not the case these days. In fact, the city of Los Angeles later went to court to shut down a Web site that was selling products with the same insignia and others associated with LAPD divisions on them. The LAPD firmly stated that these products and the insignia they bore were not endorsed or sanctioned by that agency.

Okay, so one day it's perfectly fine to put them on display and even sell them. The next, they are removed and that police department had distanced itself from them. Like in Riverside, the tattoos themselves worn by the officers were not ever put on public display. News about their existence in the LAPD broke with the Rampart scandal.

Tattoos are commonly worn by both police officers and firefighters in this country as shown here. Most departments have policies in place addressing them and whether or not they can be visible or not.

However, the issue raised in Bernstein's column is a valid one. Suppose the Metro Team gets involved in an onduty shooting. This shooting especially if it was fatal, would then be investigated by multiple entities including the police department, the Riverside County District Attorney's office and the Community Police Review Commission. What would happen if during any one of these investigations or all of them the issue of Metro Team members sharing a common symbol in the form of a tattoo arose? What if there was civil litigation filed which featured these officers decision to share a common tattoo as a major point of contention?

Police officers particularly those working in special units get tattoos like this one as a means of bonding together into a cohesive unit. Articles on several divisions in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department that also said they used tattoos to symbolize their unity stated that officers often would create a template of the tattoo design themselves and take it to the tattoo artist of choice to put it on the officers with other officers there to support them. Sometimes, this was after some drinking had been going on earlier. Each tattoo given to an officer was assigned a number and recorded in a ledger as a matter of record.

Whether it's the pain of the actual process itself or simply sharing something that is unique only to them, tattoos have enjoyed a great deal of popularity in police departments just as they have in various branches of this country's military, even as individual divisions like the U.S. Marines have recently passed restrictions on certain types of tattoos in certain body locations.

But they haven't been without controversy.

One problem with them that is often raised is that gang members get tattoos for similar reasons. Tattoos do not make people gang members, but in the case of police officers, misconduct or criminal activity committed by those with tattoos adds to that image of them being in that category. If you had a group of police officers who shared a common tattoo and they were engaging in the commission of crimes to promote their existence, what would they be called?

That's what creates concerns in the communities where these officers police. When you talk to members of communities that are predominantly Black or Latino on this issue, their responses to tattoos worn by police officers as a group are much different from those given by officers who engage in this behavior and the departments that employ them. Most often, it creates additional fear and concern in communities which often have strained relationships with police officers. And in other cities and counties numerous law suits were filed against law enforcement agencies when these tattooed officers were involved in shootings or alleged police conduct including excessive force and acted in ways no different than street gangs, which has added to the fear already experienced in those communities.

And there's been reasons for those fears as history has shown, even in two of Southern California's largest law enforcement agencies. There, you have had a squad or squads of police officers which were either unsupervised or poorly supervised and pretty much isolated and insulated. Add to that allegations of a shared tattoo usually involving a skull of some sort and then allegations of misconduct or even criminal activity among that squad and when all that becomes public, you have a scandal.

LAPD's Rampart Division, 1999

The Los Angeles Police Department became immersed in a scandal in the summer of 1999 which led to a pattern and practice investigation being conducted by the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division. That scandal involved allegations raised by a disgraced LAPD officer, Rafael Perez that he, Officer David Mack and others in the Rampart Division's CRASH unit had been engaged in the commission of numerous acts of misconduct, excessive force, corruption and illegal conduct. Perez had been caught stealing drugs out of an evidence locker and agreed to provide information on the activities of other officers he worked with as part of a plea bargain.

The LAPD investigated the Rampart Division but then Chief Bernard Parks discouraged any probes of other nearby divisions including the 77th and Newton divisions where allegations of similar problems with CRASH units and shared tattoos were claimed.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley rode into his position promising to change the protocol his office would use for investigating similar allegations of misconduct by special police units. When the federal government came in to impose a federal consent decree in 2001, they imposed restrictions on the operations of the CRASH Teams and other special investigation units in the LAPD. One of those restrictions which the LAPD had trouble implementing involved monitoring the financial status of the officers in these units and keeping them properly supervised and accountable in terms of reporting acts of force below the lethal level. One of many reasons why the LAPD's five-year consent decree will soon be entering into its seventh year.

Rampart officers wore tattoos like the one below.

Rampart Scandal's Cast of Characters

Rampart Scandal's Chronology

Rampart Scandal: the transcripts from PBS Dateline

(excerpt, Dateline)

PETER BOYER: The LAPD was coming to believe it had a group of gangsta cops inside its ranks. The chief formed a task force to find out.

Det. MIKE HOHAN: We thought that inside the police department were a criminal gang in uniform.

(excerpt, Dateline)

PETER BOYER: Perez said CRASH cops had their own code and their own logo, a skull with what is known as the "dead man's hand," aces and eights, even special plaques for shooting suspects.

RAFAEL PEREZ: We give plaques out when you get involved in shootings. If the guy dies, the card is a black number two, and if he stays alive, its a red number two.

UNIDENTIFIED PROSECUTOR: Is it more prestigious to get one that's black than red?

RAFAEL PEREZ: I'm assuming so. I mean, yeah. I mean, you know, the black one signifies that the guy died. The red one means that it was a hit, but not fatal.

RICHARD ROSENTHAL: And his allegation was that there was a culture within CRASH which involved basically using excessive force against gang members, perjuring themselves against gang members, and covering up their own misconduct.

RAFAEL PEREZ: There's a thing called "being in the loop," "being involved." I would say that 90 percent of the officers that work CRASH, and not just Rampart CRASH, falsify a lot of information. They put cases on people. And I know that's not a good thing to hear, but there's a lot of crooked stuff going in with LAPD, especially LAPD specialized units.

Lynwood Vikings, 1990s

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is also no stranger to controversy involving decisions by its deputies to belong to different "groups" including the Lynwood Vikings and the Lennox Grim Reapers, among others. All of these "groups" of officers as they were called wore emblems symbolizing their membership to them tattooed most often to their inner calves or ankles, where they too could not be easily seen by the public.

These allegations and others led to several law suits filed against the county of Los Angeles as well as the investigation conducted by the Koltz Commission. One explanation given by that law enforcement agency for the origin of the Lynwood Vikings, who were deputies who wore the same tattoo on their ankle or inner calves, was that they were an intramural softball team.

Lake Town Bad Boys, mid-1990s

Closer to the Inland Empire, the L.A. Weekly wrote this article about former Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputy, Tracy Watson who was fired for beating two Latinos outside El Monte in 1996. It was rumored that Watson and several other deputies had lateraled from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.


While the tape is compelling, there’s more to the story — the troubled history of one of the deputies. In a 1997 deposition, Watson admits that while stationed at Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s station three years earlier, he was part of a small clique of deputies who called themselves the Lake Town Bad Boys.

Known for being rough on the streets, at least two of the group’s members, including Watson, bore tattoos of a cloaked figure with a skull for a head, brandishing a gun. Watson was transferred to another department shortly after a supervisor questioned Watson and several others about the group, according to the deposition.

Watson faced use-of-force questions in at least four incidents before the taped beatings, including two shootings and one case where he was disciplined for hitting a suspect who was already under arrest. Watson’s attorney, Robert Padia, did not return the Weekly’s telephone calls. Watson was fired by the Riverside sheriff in August 1996. He now runs his own private-investigation firm.

This tattoo was apparently worn on the arm. One year, while at the Orange Blossom Festival, I saw a man in a tank top with this type of tattoo on his arm.

Accounts like these above are merely the more notorious ones of police officers who committed misconduct on the job, even breaking the law. And none of this activity was caused solely by the acts of officers going out and getting tattoos of a symbol adopted by them for bonding purposes. More important factors involved in these and other situations were poor training and supervision and also isolating these units from other divisions in the respective police departments, including the location of the headquarters of these units apart from those of other divisions.

Other problems included staffing special units not on set criteria but on political connections with those officers holding higher rank in the department as happened in the case of a special investigations unit in the Chicago Police Department, as depicted in the book, Brotherhood of Corruption, written by former officer, Juan Antonio Juarez which should serve as a cautionary notice to police departments and communities. Staffing special units with officers who have prior disciplinary records including some that are rather extensive and chronic, has also been cited as causes in scandals which have arisen with special units in departments across the country. In several cases around the country, officers were put in special units because they had a high number of complaints filed against them when they were patrol officers and it was a way to make them less visible.

So the tattoos themselves aren't the only issue in cases like the above and others like them, and if the officers are properly trained and supervised and the accountability mechanisms are put in place and working, they might never be a problem in term of incidents that impact the public.

But tattoos in this context are not necessarily harmless either, especially in terms of the perceptions they elicit from the communities that may be separate or in line with the actions of the officers. They're definitely a sign that something's going on, whether innocuous or not, that remains to be seen. In this case, they may also serve as an unfortunate litmus test that at least with some elements of the police department, there's still much that needs to change in its underpinnings if the image of a grinning skull is seen as a unifying image among officers, as it apparently has been in other places.

What's done can't be undone, the officers had the right to get the tattoos, the tattoos are in compliance with departmental policy. They have made their choice and it is their choice. Whether those who haven't gotten them will go out and get them remains to be seen. It's hoped that they give it a great degree of thought first before taking any action.

But is this situation a good thing? Probably not, even if the intention of these officers was simply to form a more cohesive unit. And while Bernstein took some comfort from the fact that the tattoos apparently aren't visible to the public, in the cases listed above they weren't either until these scandals broke. And why aren't they visible? Some hints to that were included in Bernstein's column. The officers apparently preferred it that way.


"It (tattoo inspection) touches on some personnel matters," explained Capt. Pete Esquivel. "If it were visible, it would be fair game."

About all the RPD has to say about the tats is that they are hidden and, of course, not sanctioned by the department.

What exactly is meant here, by "fair game"? That they could be subjected to being banned by the department? By the same department that apparently has coffee mugs with a similar design?

That seems a bit odd. You can have a little skulls and bandanna representing the Metro Team to go with your latte but officers in that division can't wear it on their bodies unless it's out of sight. Was their objection to the tattoos, and the earlier tee-shirts, but not the coffee mug?

Both displays of the same insignia in different places do serve a useful purpose. They may provide a useful barometric check for where this department is at from top to bottom, as time will tell and if the city attorney's office is happy with them, then there's no reason for the city government to complain about it and City Manager Brad Hudson probably won't be pulling Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis from his assignment of supervising the shelving of books in the city's libraries to inspect biceps, triceps and calves belonging to the department's officers. What the community thinks of things has never mattered to the city anyway and if the mindset is there, it might as well be put on display.

It's disturbing and the communities may not complain about it in public, but they'll certainly be talking about it because they've talked about this topic in the past. Stories have long circulated about rogue officers running around, often wearing the same tattoos in this city as they probably have in every other city. It's disturbing to see that at least so far, the tattoos do exist. Hopefully, the department has the tools in place and the right attitude to assure that it goes no further than that and if it ever does, then it will respond quickly.

It's unfortunate that this has happened, but it's another reminder that the process that began seven years ago is and must be an ongoing one. It also serves as a reminder that not all the movement will be forward, that there will be steps backward as well. Unfortunately, this reality check probably won't be the last one.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The road to micromanagement is paved with intentions

Columnist Dan Bernstein of the Press Enterprise wrote a piece on the city council meeting the other night when police officers and community members filled the chambers in protest of City Manager Brad Hudson's decision to create two "at will" management positions in the police department.

Riverside city government has a management style all its own

Bernstein's 2000 column about the last time the city government and its employees tried to influence the promotional process under then-chief, Jerry Carroll still ranks among his best to date. In this one seven long years later, he tackles a similar subject, an all-too-familiar theme and the latest misstep at City Hall.


But that's the small picture. Shall we pan wide? This entire promotion maneuver was killed because the City Council never created the positions to which these cops were promoted.

Oops, they did it again!

If you think about how City Hall works (if you have a life, you don't), this latest episode fits a pattern. I call it top-down -- or topless -- management.

Here's how Topless Management works: The council and city manager spring into action, reasoning that Riverside Van Winkle has been sleeping for 40 years. If no one complains, full steam ahead. If people do complain, they reverse course and call it "democracy in action."

Once again, Bernstein hit this one out of the park.

"If you expect me to be a lap dog, you're nuts. If anyone expects me to be one, there will be a train wreck."

--- CPRC Commissioner Steve Simpson

Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis had recovered enough from the events at the city council meeting to go back to playing with one of his favorite new toys, the Community Police Review Commission. With the police department off-limits at least for the time being, DeSantis and City Attorney Gregory Priamos punched another attendance mark on their dance cards and headed off to the city council chambers to "advise" the commissioners on how to well, conduct commission business.

Priamos especially seemed miffed when his recent attendances to the CPRC meetings which have followed the filing of five separate law suits or claims for damages in connection with four recent officer-involved deaths were commented on, but it's hard not to notice how much things have changed in such a short period of time.

In 2004, the CPRC invited then city manager, George Carvalho, Priamos, Chief Russ Leach and the Riverside Police Officers' Association's leadership to attend workshops. All of the mentioned parties attended their workshops, several of which were lively events, but Priamos stayed away and refused to participate in his designated workshop. In past years whenever commissioners had asked him for answers to legal questions, he had not responded to their requests for several months.

Contrast that with 2006, when Priamos began dispatching one of his attorneys, Susan Wilson to attend meetings when the 2005 officer-involved death of Terry Rabb was being discussed by commissioners in preparation for their public report. Wilson attended the meetings in relation to that case, but when the 2006 shooting of Lee Deante Brown(which was also discussed) came up for discussion, Wilson stopped coming and was replaced by Priamos himself. But with the five law suits, maybe six that are currently under litigation by the city, Priamos has plenty reason to show up and observe, given the current litigation situation involving officer-involved deaths in the police department.

He and DeSantis make an interesting tag team at meetings. A contrast in appearance and stature, they complement each other and spend most of the meetings leaving their seats to go up to the podium to address a point or question raised by a commissioner whether their advice or comments were solicited or not.

Joining both of them was Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa, who sat quietly until he was asked a question about tasers and didn't seem to know much about them. He has plenty of time to get briefed on that equipment while he's in training to move up the career ladder as he should if his officers are using less lethal options that didn't exist when DeLaRosa was even a lieutenant. What's interesting about DeLaRosa besides his newly acquired habit of greeting people he encounters, is that he's risen as quickly in the ranks as any person possibly could.

In 2001, he was a sergeant and had been one for quite a while. Six years later, he's one position away from commanding the police department. It will be interesting to see how much administrative experience he's accumulated when he's moved up so quickly that he's not spent much time in any one of his last four positions.

But it's not like it hadn't been done before. After all, Carroll rose through the ranks even more quickly than DeLaRosa and then became police chief. Only when people discuss Carroll, they talk about his lack of administrative skills and experience, and that's a valid point to make as it's difficult to believe that anyone can soak up enough knowledge and experience in this area if they're moving up the ladder up so quickly that you can't see them until they're right behind you. There's no time to plant firm roots into any one rank and take what you learn with you when you move onto to the next level.

When someone quickly moves up the ladder, people talk about how ambitious and promising they are. When they slide down the chute, then the talk turns to how this person lacked the experience to be a success in that position. How quickly attitudes change about the same management candidate when the carriage turns back into a pumpkin.

Still, it appears that DeLaRosa will be following that same path as Carroll did. The only question appears to be at this point is when he will be running the police department.

Some predict that he'll fit the job like a glove. Others think that he's not strong enough to avoid getting run out of the agency like several of his predecessors. It certainly will be interesting to see what does happen in the next year or so. But ironically, the police unions decision to speak out against the "at will" positions probably has kept DeLaRosa's career trajectory on track. If he had been an "at will" assistant chief, confidence and trust in him may have eroded long before he was to become the next police chief due to that decision.

During a meeting where city employees nearly outnumbered community members in numbers, Commissioner Jim Ward, the former vice-chair sat and watched as Brian Pearcy, the current vice-chair ran the meeting. Why was that? Because while the CPRC has elected a vice-chair with Pearcy winning that election 5-3 with one abstention, the chair election has been postponed at least six months.

Say what? Yes, it's true. There was, DeSantis claimed, only one election for chair and that's not really the truth. Over a month ago, an election was held to appoint the new chair and when the votes were cast, Ward was leading Commissioner Les Davidson, 4-3 but then interim CPRC manager Mario Lara(who looks way over his head in this position), DeSantis and Priamos came and said that even the new members, Steve Simpson and Peter Hubbard, had to cast votes. This was due to language in the city's charter which said that officers had to be elected at the first meeting or the election had to be postponed at that time.

Hubbard cast his vote for Davidson, even though he was brand new and had no real experience with either of them on the CPRC because he had cast his vote before even attending his first meeting earlier this month. Simpson took the opposite approach and refused to cast a vote, telling the commission and city staff members that he couldn't vote either way until he knew how each candidate operated.

Simpson would prove to be an interesting new commissioner in his public meeting debut. Hubbard just sat back quietly and even fell asleep at some point.

So that left the vote for chair of the CPRC at 4-4 with one abstention. Then the move by Pearcy who for some unexplained reason was in tandem with Priamos as both suggested postponing the election until September and then Priamos came up to the podium and whipped out a plan for the CPRC to create an ad-hoc committee using members from the oft-absent policy and procedures committee to staff it. Priamos wore out quite a bit of expensive shoe leather walking to and from the podium to his seat.

Ward's agenda item finally got to be discussed after months of delay by Lara, DeSantis and Priamos who seems to view the state's "sunshine" law, the Brown Act, as a tool to reduce and restrict public participation in government. It's a stance he has taken regarding city council meetings and subcommittee meetings. It's clear he applies it to boards and commissions as well.

Ward's first issue was the placement of items on the agenda and the issue of the city manager's decision to approve the agendas before they could be posted. Priamos explained his reason by calling the agenda item too "vague". The wording of the item was to discuss the recent series of events that took place in the intercession between the commission's meetings in November and January.

Ward then mentioned a series of private meetings that had taken place between him, Davidson, Leach, DeSantis and Priamos late last year, where changes to the CPRC's operations were being discussed. It was something that community members had long suspected, but this was the first meeting where it was put up for discussion. Only it wasn't really a discussion that the commissioners felt able to fully participate in last night, any more than Ward and Davidson did at the private meetings, where they were simply in the audience watching a staged production unfold in front of them. At one point of one private meeting, Davidson apparently said the following.

"They aren't asking us what to do. They are telling us what to do."

That is about as far as Ward's comments got on those private sessions before Pearcy objected to raising that issue as long as Davidson was not present at the meeting. With three city employees including two who had attended the meetings in question sitting in the audience, it was clear that no discussion would take place at this meeting. Especially after DeSantis ran up to the podium insisting that the private meetings were only "small discussions".

Commissioner Jack Brewer said he had no problem with sending copies of the agenda for DeSantis and Priamos to review.

"But they have no right to tell us what to put on an agenda," he said.

Simpson put his positions bluntly as he did most of his comments at the meeting, which elicited some pretty interesting reactions from the three city employees.

"Could this train wreck been avoided by talking to Mr. Ward," Simpson said, "I agree with Mr. Ward."

At that point, Priamos ran up to the podium.

"It's not our intent to censor any commissioners," Priamos said.

However, the discussion that Ward had attempted to initiate about the private meetings that took place last year, while the city residents slept has been tabled until further notice. DeSantis chose this moment to mention that consultant Joe Brann was conducting a research project of best practices for boards and commissions and would be presenting his recommendations at a future meeting. The city had hoped for April, DeSantis said, but Brann had said he wanted to sit in on some meetings to see the commission in action.

DeSantis spoke of Brann's impressive credentials, of course not mentioning the fact that it apparently took his boss, City Manager Brad Hudson, quite a while to do the task the city council had set for him to do which was to negotiate a contract with Brann to help with the implementation of the police department's Strategic Plan. Which should come to no surprise given the tremendous expertise both Hudson and DeSantis exhibited in contract negotiations with the city's six labor unions last summer. Because after all, the city had searched far and wide during its recruitment process for a city manager with an extensive background in this area. Actually it's true that it did, only it didn't take any of the candidates it attracted through open process seriously because the whole time the city council had its eyes on someone else.

The most contentious subject that was allowed to be discussed was the issue of parallel investigations of officer-involved deaths, which for now will be done as they have been done in previous cases. However, the reason why that is so is because there haven't been any fatal shootings or incustody deaths since Oct. 19 last year. If and when there is a fatal incident, it appears that Leach and/or Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco could issue a mandate forbidding their investigator to interview witnesses, according to what DeSantis said on this issue.

It seems that Pacheco has decided that his agency will conduct its own investigation of officer-involved deaths from now on. The only problem is that Pacheco's "new" process was described by then Supervising District Attorney Sara Danville at a public forum in January and it appeared to be more of a review process than an actual investigation and if that's so, then it's no different than their former process.

So the city has essentially put an end to independent and parallel investigations by the CPRC, but then again, with three shootings of unarmed men in about six months, all of which are either being litigated or may be litigated, it really had no choice in the matter. But by doing so, the city has essentially cast a no-confidence vote against its police department in the area of officer-involved deaths, or maybe it's just the risk management division that has done so. Again, if you know your history, this was also done by prior city employees in the past.

If the city was confident in the police department's use of lethal force, it would not be threatened by a commission of its own creation conducting its own independent investigations of these deaths as granted through ordinance by the city government and reaffirmed by the city's voters, and reaching its own findings. But through what the city has done, it has clearly shown the residents of the city that this just isn't the case in technicolor.

I remember reading the book, Breaking Rank by a retired police chief, Norm Stamper and at one point, he wanted to know what was going on with his police department so he assembled a panel of people to review its practices. He didn't put friends of the politicians or as Simpson would call them, "lap dogs" on it, he put the toughest critics he could find. He put representatives of different community organizations who had criticized the police and the director of the local chapter of the ACLU. He did this in part because he had enough confidence in what he was trying to do to subject it to the toughest scrutiny he could find and in the end, he got a fairly good report card from his panel. At the very least, such a process is an important learning tool for everyone involved in it.

But Riverside has taken the opposite route with its officer-involved deaths by instead in the future, closing off the ability of an independent panel to investigate and review them, by restricting their access to witnesses, delaying evidence from the police department and changing its interpretation of Governmental Code 3304(d) at every turn, including at last night's meeting. So in contrast to Stamper's position, there seems to be a lack of confidence all of a sudden by the city towards its own police department and by these actions, the city's leadership has put that on display for everyone to see. You can't blame city residents for noticing the neon lights out there.

Mayor Ron Loveridge made an interesting decision in 1999 to convene his own task force to address the issue of force used by the department's officers. Seven years later, the city government probably would not have allowed that committee to reconvene and reexamine the same issue to see how far the police department has come.

And in the end, it is actually civilians at City Hall who are micromanaging the department's investigations into these incustody deaths and controlling that process, through actions like this against the CPRC, just as surely as they tried to micromanage the management positions in the police department last week. But they are doing so in this case, because the more money that is spent litigating these law suits and paying them off, the less there will be for Riverside Renaissance.

There are probably those who are reading who are no doubt cheering these latest developments, but if they know and understand their history, they really shouldn't. Short term gratification doesn't equate the long-term impact this micromanagement of one of the city's boards and commissions by the city manager and city attorney's office will have on the police department and especially its relationship with the communities it serves. The hard won lessons involving LEPAC clearly have not left their mark as they should have, but this particular path seems to be etched so deeply that the city appears unable to deviate from it as it's been unable to do so in the past. The city attorney's office sees civic liability and the city manager tries to handle it by micromanaging both the messenger and the involved agency while the city council pretends not to notice what is going on until a crisis emerges, whether it's in the community or among the ranks of the police department. Or in the case of this week's city council meeting, both. Business as usual, in the city of Riverside.

The community understands this, but maybe the next round in the classroom will just be for other students who are behind the learning curve. For those who fail to understand that it is through micromanagement of the CPRC that the city has found its path towards micromanagement of the police department.

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

---William Shakesphere

Better news on civilian review is coming in from other places.

Galveston, Texas is the setting for a new police review board, if the city's residents have their way. Galveston County Daily News writer, Heber Taylor makes his case that the creation of a form of civilian oversight would be beneficial for the city because it would allow people to file complaints and feel that there was some outside oversight of that process.

Review board, good for Galveston

He cites a recent incident in Galveston as part of his argument.


Recently, Don Ciaccio, a member of Galveston’s ethics commission, asked for an investigation into the October 2004 arrest of Ryan Sullivan, who was the owner of a health club.

Sullivan and police gave vastly different accounts of that arrest.

Police charged Sullivan with assaulting a peace officer. A jury acquitted him.

Sullivan’s version is that an off-duty officer attacked and choked him in a nightclub. He has filed a civil suit.

The courts are the best place to resolve the conflicting accounts of this case.But there’s a larger issue here — the public’s confidence in the way police handle complaints against officers and how they take steps to prevent problems.

Meanwhile in Columbia, Missouri, the NAACP held a candidate forum addressing the issues of civilian oversight and police-community relations in that city, according to an article in the Columbia Missourian.

The last account of that city's process of examining civilian review was that the governing body had hired a consultant to provide an assessment of different forms of civilian oversight. The different candidates running for election in the third and fourth wards of the city were split on the issue of creating a police review commission though the majority supported some form of civilian review.


Third Ward candidate Gary Kespohl said he supported a review board but wants to make sure they would use their time wisely.

"I am opposed to having a civilian review board on every complaint to the police department," Kespohl said.

His opponent Karl Skala said Columbia was in need of a review board.

"We need to sit down and work this out," Skala said. "We need to do this the right way."

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First we could, now we can't

Over 100 community members and Riverside Police Department officers congregated at the city council meeting in protest of the decision of the city manager's office to convert three management positions in the police department to "at will" and contracting with the city manager's office.

Two of the officers accepted the offer although it wasn't clear what the exact circumstances were in terms of when the "at will" offer was first made. A third one allegedly refused, for obvious reasons.

The positions in question didn't actually exist as separate positions under those titles. If you read the annual or quarterly Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports for the police department, you will find the department's deputy chiefs included under the designation, "captains" because essentially they are captains who are appointed by the police chief to serve in management positions "at will" in terms of that particular assignment but not "at will" in the sense that they can be terminated from their jobs as police officers. The best recent example is Capt. Mike Blakely who came to the police department from San Diego as a captain and was appointed deputy chief under then chief Ken Fortier. When Fortier left, Blakely returned to being a captain under the new chief.

But apparently, the city council was being asked to approve appropriations for supplemental salaries and fringe benefits for two newly created positions that the body hadn't even approved. Not only that, but it turns out that the positions were not able to be created in the first place, according to an apparently belated opinion by the city attorney's office.

The issue involving the police department that was put under a microscope this past week, is actually an issue that has plagued the city for several years as department after department has been subjected to having its management positions and even supervisory positions converted to being "at will" by the city manager's office. The only difference is in this case was that there was a very loud response from the involved department.

The city council and city manager apparently got that message.

City manager accused of meddling in police promotions

People crowded into the city council chambers, even lining the walls on both sides. Mayor Ron Loveridge had been bumping public comment to the end of the meeting agendas, as of late but apparently after seeing how many people had appeared, decided to leave it where it was and hear comments. Initially, he invited City Manager Brad Hudson, Chief Russ Leach, Riverside Police Administrators' Association president Lt. Darryl Hurt and the president and vice-president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association, Det. Ken Tutwiler and Det. Brian Smith.

A flustered Hudson told the city council and the audience that there had been many discussions about this situation in the past couple of days. When I had first arrived, Hudson came up to me and said that what he said he had done, he hadn't done and couldn't do because the city attorney said so. His presentation at the meeting helped clarify his current position further.

Yesterday, was also the first time Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis called my office and told an individual there that he was so proud of me for having emailed his office(as well as the city council and police chief) about this issue last week when I had heard about it. That's really sweet of him I guess, compliments are always nice and often rare but I don't go fishing for them. I make inquiries to hopefully receive answers to questions and more often, the barometric checks come from the opposite end of the spectrum. But what it did say, is that there were some discussions taking place in that office about how to handle this bungled situation and that's always nice to know that if something's broken, it's on its way to being fixed. But was it something that was even broken in the first place?

I guess there's a first time for everything and yesterday, it was the first time Hudson and his office backed down from their attempts to create an "at will" workforce who can only be loyal to those who can fire them without giving a reason.

However, DeSantis had never actually responded to my email even though it was an analyst from his office who initially put the controversial item of the latest "at will" positions on the agenda.

The only two who did, were Councilman Art Gage and City Manager Brad Hudson. Gage said that he would inquire into the matter as he had concerns about the situation and Hudson said that he offered "at will" positions to over 100 positions, they usually accepted and these two latest candidates in the police department had as well.

It was on Tuesday night that he had told me before the meeting that the positions had been rescinded after a conversation with the city attorney's office.

He said in his speech on March 27 that he had been pleased to recommend for the two positions, Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel. No one who spoke argued against the promotions themselves or the individuals involved, just the process that apparently had taken place.

Hudson said that he supported the current police chief.

"Simply because I approve two appointments doesn't mean they work for me," Hudson said.

Given the questions people have asked me the past several days, Hudson needed to voice his support of Leach, but his comments last night when stacked up against his actions during the past week still haven't erased doubts in people's minds.

Last year, Hudson said that he had pushed for the two positions to be open to recruitment and to serve "at will". He said that the positions had been approved by Leach, but opposed by the RPAA. Those were the positions that had been brought up just recently, with slight pay increases. Hudson said that he had began this process involving other city departments last year, but in the past couple of days was informed by City Attorney Gregory Priamos that he could not do this with the police or fire departments so the two positions were cancelled.

"There are tools available to other departments that are not available to the RPD or fire departments," Hudson said.

He said he was not trying to run the department for Leach.

"I handle the money. He handles the police work," Hudson said.

Hurt spoke next about his concerns involving the creations of the new positions and what he called the "balancing act" between the executives and whom they would be serving, when making decisions in their positions. He had first raised the concern at a city council meeting on May 23, 2006 about changes in the language to Section 4 of the Classification Plan. He said that Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis had told him that the language had only been needed to adopt particular budget items. Months later, the situation had raised its head again.


If the city manager's office wasn't attempting to directly influence or make promotions at the police department, then ponder these questions.

Why were we led to believe that the police department's system of promotion would remain status quo and no contract positions for assistant or deputy police chief would be created by the proposed budget resolution's action in May of last year?

Why in fact did Chiefs DeLaRosa and Esquival sign "at will" contracts with the city manager's office as conditions to their promotions?

Why were there not traditional job announcements and a promotional process for these positions?

Can a manager at the RPD, expect merit based promotions without having to sign an "at will" contract?

Why is it necessary to have to two classifications of exempt "at will" positions?

Why was item 20 on the "tentative agenda"-which was the proposed amendment to the salary and fringe benefit resolution to create these "at will" assistant and deputy police chief positions-suddenly pulled from this week's final agenda?

Tutwiler spoke up next, and said that he was glad that the city council had disapproved of the creation of "yes" men, adding that "at will" employees are too often at fear of losing their jobs to act independently. He added that many of the city's departments faced the same situation as the police department nearly did.

He said to allow the police chief to do his job and run the department.

"Chief Leach has done a great job at leading us through the consent decree," Tutwiler said.

RPOA vice-president Brian Smith told the city council that although a decision was made to rescind the "at will" positions, it still had an obligation to support the police chief that they had hired seven years ago.

"We are going to remain watchful of what you do," Smith said.

Leach came on deck next making his first appearance at a public meeting in weeks. He said that the officers in the room were very passionate about what they do and took great pride in what they do. He had met with his command staff, officers and civilian employees for four hours discussing the implementation of the department's Strategic Plan which will be reported to the city council for only the second time since the March 28 workshop last year, regarding its progress and its problems.

He referred to the controversy as a "miscommunication" between him and the city manager's office and left it at that. He said that the officers had congregated at City Hall out of pride in their jobs, not out of anger. Indeed, none of the officers appeared to have any animosity towards Leach or expressed less confidence in him, but like other city employees, their issues of confidence appear to be directed at the city manager's office and that confidence is waning with each passing day in a workforce which in the past 12 months has seen law suits, rallies at City Hall and threatened strike votes.

Leach complimented the same officers who had come to the city council to advocate for him, which is probably what the situation boiled down to in the end.

"I am an advocate for them," Leach said, "I am an advocate for good policing."

Community leaders came up to the podium as well to chide the city government for the decision that it had almost made without even knowing it.

Jack Clarke, Jr. who had headed the Mayor's Use of Force Panel in 1999 made a rare appearance at a city council meeting to express his concern about first, the city manager's banishment of former Community Police Review Commission executive director, Pedro Payne from public meetings.

"I think that concept has poisoned the community," Clarke said.

Clarke also said that one of the major concerns of his panel had been whether or not the city would support the police department's infrastructure. He failed to see how the creation of the "at will" positions would allow the chief to have autonomy over his department and implored people to remain vigilant.

NAACP Chair Woodie Rucker-Hughes said that two strategies came to "at will" employees from the city manager's office.

"Limit your public appearances and keep your mouth shut," she said.

People also spoke of the racial discrimination at City Hall that's taken place in the past two years. At least 13 men and women of color have left or been fired from positions at City Hall, several speakers said.

Hudson came prepared with a power point presentation on the city's management staff in which his numbers showed that the percentages of Black and Latinos employees in management had increased slightly, but the departures of Art Alcaraz, Jim Smith, Tranda Drumwright and Pedro Payne just in the past year still resonate strongly, because they put faces to what community members believe is a serious problem at City Hall and there was sentiment expressed by some that they didn't want to see any of the three Latino men who were asked to serve "at will" on that list. Many people hear the words, Black, Latino, city employee and "at will" and shrug, believing that person is probably on his or her way out. That's what the situation in the city's workforce has come down to when people think about it and it took less than 18 months to get to that point.

Concerned people also spoke of Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez who has been praised by community members and police officers for his ties to the community, his work in community policing and his actions that he took regarding the expulsions of four community members including two elderly women at a Feb. 27 city council meeting. Several speakers feared that if he had taken the "at will" position, he wouldn't be employed much longer. At least one person tied it to his alleged refusal to have these four individuals arrested if they appeared at the night meeting on Feb. 27, which was especially important given that none of these individuals had even been notified by the city council that they would face arrest.

Indeed, Leach patted the shoulders of one of those individuals, Marjorie Von Pohle, 90, on his way out of the chambers.

Vickie Jackson said that she was concerned about the removal of Black and Latino employees from City Hall and said she had been told that they want to bring federal and state investigators in to take a look at Riverside's employment practices.

"This is discrimination. This is racism," she said.

It's also Riverside, on March 27, 2007 where the city government is allowing its direct employees to take actions without consulting the city attorney's office to see first if it's even legal in terms of compliance with policies, procedures, ordinances and the city's charter. If it is known now that the police and fire departments were exempted from Hudson's "plan", why was it not known then?

Why was the city council being asked to vote on appropriations for two management positions that did not exist? Why were they being asked to approve appropriations for two management positions that could never exist?

And when I say, "approve", I mean it as stated, because this item was originally listed as #20 on the consent calendar where items are placed when they're not expected to arouse much discussion or disagreement. That's where most of the city's business is placed these days, especially since July 12, 2005 when the city council voted to bar city residents from pulling items off of the consent calendar.

So as originally written, it was supposed to be approved by the city council as part of a long list of blanket items that would have been enacted in the seconds it takes for seven council members to press their voting buttons. But what happened instead, took longer and became the latest chapter in a book that is still in the process of being written about the antics at City Hall under the current regime.

And if Hudson is racially discriminating employees in the city, he has the blessings of the city council who has had little to nothing to say on that subject despite the rallies, candle light vigils and impassioned speeches at city council meetings on this issue. So if people criticize him for these actions, they shouldn't turn around and praise certain city officials who through voting a hefty pay raise for Hudson earlier this year, are supporting these actions.

The buck starts and stops with the elected government. Yesterday, they received a reminder that they are supposed to be holding their direct employees accountable.

What is past is prologue. If you don't believe that, then you should go check out Rick Thatcher's report again, then look up the Riverside County Superior Court case which was recently closed out, The people of the State of California v The City of Riverside.

The rest is history. It's history that's been repeated more times than most city residents can count. History that hopefully this time around, won't be coming down the pike again.

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."

--Lewis Carroll, who swears he's never been to RiverCity.

Time line:

Friday, March 16: An announcement is made about Asst. Police Chief John DeLaRosa and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel being promoted to those positions, through press releases issued by the police department. Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez's job responsibilities are taken on by Esquivel and he's moved to DeLaRosa's old position.

Last week: Item #20 is included on a tentative city council meeting agenda for the March 27 meeting, by analyst Jeremy Hammond. Some people have said that Hammond plays a large role in decision making for Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis in the Human Resources Department. And the item was included under the heading, "Human Resources"

Amend salary and fringe benefit resolution and create Assistant Police Chief and Deputy Police Chief classification-A Resolution of the City Council of the City of Riverside, California amending Resolution N. 21052 to amend Parts I, II and III describing the Fringe Benefits, Salary and Salary Plan(addendum) to reflect various updates and changes-Waive further reading(All Wards)

Wednesday, March 21: Item #20 is pulled from the agenda according to the city clerk's office and never appeared on any official meeting agendas that were circulated or posted.

Thursday, March 22: Emails and notices are circulated asking people to attend the city council meeting on March 27.

Sunday, March 25: Councilman Frank Schiavone said that he had returned from vacation with calls from among others, Councilman Steve Adams waiting for his response. He immediately calls City Attorney Gregory Priamos that evening about the situation. During that discussion, Schiavone asks Priamos of they are basically funding positions that don't exist, and Priamos said, yes. Schiavone said that he was driven to act because he felt that policy decisions fell within the venue of the city council, not the city manager's office.

Monday, March 26: Representatives from the RPOA and the RPAA address the city with this issue. They credit Schiavone's efforts for aiding them in this process.

Tuesday, March 27: People appear at city council meeting and speak on the issue. Hudson announces that the positions have been rescinded. Leach calls it a "miscommuniction" and many people express concerns on this issue and related issues with micromanagement of other city departments by the city manager's office.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What would Lockyer think?

A year ago tomorrow, the city council met to conduct a workshop on its plans to continue the implementation of the police department's five-year strategic plan.

It's an anniversary of sorts in terms of providing an opportunity to reflect on what has come to pass, what has been done and just as importantly, what hasn't been done in the past 12 months.

The city officials and their direct employees sat on the dais that afternoon. The police department's command staff and community members sat in the audience, while representatives of two of the department's labor unions stood in the back. Everyone who attended came to listen to what would be said by the city government. Each one in attendance with a stake in its future.

These individuals represented the three partners of the police department's reform process, those being the city, the police department and the community. Former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer addressed them in an op-ed piece he wrote that was published in the Press Enterprise at the time his office formally requested that the stipulated judgement be dissolved in Riverside County Superior Court.

Riverside Police Department stipulated judgement information

Lockyer spoke about the problems in the police department that led his office to investigate its patterns and practices at an event in San Diego in 2003.


"I decided there were systemic problems with the Riverside Police Department", Lockyer said.

"There were a lot of instances in which African-Americans were beaten, Hispanics beaten and tossed in the lake, and Gays and Lesbians harassed and beaten. I spent a year and a half negotiating with the Riverside Police Department for such basic demands as psychological evaluations for officers before they are hired, up-to-date training, community relations boards, availability and training in use of non-lethal weapons, TV cameras in the chief's office and the squad room and video and audio recording in police cars."

The intent of these reforms, Lockyer said, was to break the macho culture of the police department and the racism and sexism that went along with it. Lockyer found that the Riverside City Council balked at signing on to the deal.

"They did some things of their own which they'd done three times before, and each time there had been slight improvements and then things had got worse again," he recalled. "Finally I went to one of the Council meetings and said, 'The choice is, you adopt the reforms or I will sue you and we'll see what the federal courts have to say.'

They said, 'Our constituents don't like outsiders coming in,' and I said, 'I've got news for you. All your constituents are my constituents as well.'

They voted 7-2 for the reforms, and two years later the Riverside police chief, a new one they'd brought in from outside, said, 'Had it not been for Lockyer's intervention, nothing would have changed.'"

Chief Russ Leach was right in his assertion. The city council had fought the consent decree that it was facing for months and even when it was dragged kicking and screaming into a settlement, it never admitted to any of the allegations made by Lockyer's office nor did it take any responsibility for the problems in the department which had led to both federal and state intervention. By the time the final vote was cast in February 2001 to accept the decree, Lockyer had journeyed on down from Sacramento to Riverside to tell them to sign on or face a law suit from the state, a law suit he felt fairly confident about winning. That became clear in both his speech before the city council and in a meeting I had with him that same day.

And sure enough, soon after the city council voted 6-1 to accept the consent decree, only it couldn't be called that because apparently Mayor Ron Loveridge implored Lockyer in his office up in Sacramento to give it another name, because the term "consent decree" just sounded so bad for Riverside. Even back then, image not reality seemed most paramount from those on the dais.

The only person who cast a dissenting vote was Councilman Ed Adkison years before becoming the lame duck he is now. However, it didn't take him long to realize that his decision to vote against it was the wrong one as he pointed out during the workshop last March.

But for the most part, the government in power back then didn't want to step up to the plate in terms of saying that they played a role in what had gone wrong with the police department.

That was interesting, if unfortunate on their part because the state's own investigation had found that the city government was at least 50% responsible for the problems in the police department with special notice being given to former city manager John Holmes and former City Attorney Stan Yamamoto. Incidentally, these two employees left the city soon after the city entered into its stipulated judgement. They would be followed by more than a few city council members. In fact, six years later, only Loveridge remains from that era in the city's history.

The Urban Institute provided an interesting analysis of what happened to the police department during the 1990s when many of its problems had reached the crisis point long before the shots fired on a cold December morning in 1998 at Tyisha Miller were heard around the world.

The Riverside Police Department in the 1990s

Chief Ken Fortier was interviewed by researcher David Thatcher, now a professor at a mid-western university, about what he felt was the community's role in the police department and the city and he said something that is as relevant today as it was 10 years ago.


"My feeling is there’s some values that have to underlie a good police department, and one of them is really meaningful community involvement.

People have really got to feel—and that’s regardless of whomever in the community, whatever status they come from—they have got to feel that they have an equal footing with those business people at the Chamber of Commerce. [And they’ve got to feel that we will] be responsive and willing to listen to criticism, and willing to react to it positively, in a constructive manner. And that was not part of the culture of Riverside."

That's a sentiment that's been expressed by city residents in Riverside over 10 years later, especially those who have been to city council meetings in recent weeks and have encountered a city council that is less receptive and in fact, more hostile to public input than even its ancestor, the PALM quartet. It's unfortunate that this is so, when Lockyer in his own words had written that he had hoped to see more communication between the community members and the city council regarding concerns about the police department. He had hoped for that to define the new reality that he had set in motion for the city of Riverside and its police department. Unfortunately, the stakeholders in the process haven't come close.

Still, the city officials did not take responsibility for their role in the situation back then at that critical juncture and the decision not to and the denial of that role are explicitly stated in the stipulated judgement. Today, the city council seems to be following the same pattern by saying that well, none of these problems happened when we were on the dais so we don't bear that responsibility. Several council members have told me that, with one of them adding that the glass should be seen as half-full in that there aren't any problems with the city. Let's move on to talking about development.

Perhaps that's true, but what's past is prologue in situations like this one and what happens now on their watch is their collective responsibility. And those words sound so similar to those of the past, the past that existed before Dec. 28, 1998.

So what is the role of the city government today? How about the opposite of what it is instead currently doing which is nothing, out of either benign neglect or the sense that the police department is no longer the shiny toy of choice to play with, so it's time to put it back on the shelf to gather dust. But that change in attitude wasn't to come until after the city council made promises to their constituents that this time things would be different, because they were different.

So last March 28, discussions were held, concerns were raised and promises were made. The promises were as follows, that the city would retain the services of consultant Joe Brann to assist the department in its implementation of the Strategic Plan and that he and the department would report quarterly on the process and its progress. What came out of that workshop was positive energy from the involved parties to keep the process moving foreword in the right direction. What soon followed around July last year, was that the process to implement those promises regarding the Strategic Plan stalled after the city manager's office failed to deliver and didn't seem that interested to even try to do so, at the same time the city council as a collective body appeared unmotivated to keep his feet to the fire. Leach was entering into his quiet period and disappearing from public view, and the city's employees were experiencing their most contentious contract negotiations in years.

In fact, two labor unions, the Riverside Police Officers' Association and the Riverside Police Administrators' Association filed law suits in Riverside County Superior Court and those two unions plus the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the SEIU's general unit appeared en mass at several city council meetings last summer and autumn.

Although contracts were signed with all six of the city's unions by autumn, it soon emerged that the friction between the city's workforce and the city manager's office had only increased. That also mirrors the history of the city and the police department including its labor unions in the 1990s, if you read Thatcher's study.

What happened last summer is detailed in the following column posted last October.

What would Lockyer think?

As the summer became autumn, things didn't get any better.

Soon after, allegations were raised that the city wasn't spending money on the police department as it had while under the stipulated judgement. When the mid-year budget adjustment report came out in January, there were no personnel positions or major equipment allocations included in that budget sheet. In addition, to 25 police officer positions being taken off the table(although five were restored), there had been no allocations for new training for officers in the department. Community leaders at a public meeting had said that they would hold the city council's feet to the fire on this issue, but have they?

Inadequate number of personnel and staffing.
Inadequate and outdated training.

These were statements which are accentuated in the text of the writ of mandamus filed by Lockyer's office against the city of Riverside.

So if the city council has taken to heart the hard-won lessons of the past, why then is it repeating that behavior? Why is it important not to do this and is this a question any of them can even answer?

Here's one answer they can chew on.

Because in the 1990s, the city council neglected to allocate monies for increasing the number of positions in the police department, for updating equipment needs to fit technological development and for creating and updating training programs particularly those that involve the use of force. It was in large part because of this inaction by the city government, that the police department attracted the attention of the federal and state governmental agencies that led to two separate pattern and practice investigations.

In fact, in Thatcher's report, there's an entire section set aside for the budget cuts made concerning the police department by Holmes and the past city council that employed him. That was the beginning of the end for the "old" police department after years of start-and-stall reforms.

Which is why Lockyer said many times that he had to take the city to court to reform its police department in a way that would stick. No more back sliding into the old ways, but instead, foreword movement.

What has followed that is unfortunately more of the same. The latest controversy involving the conversion of several positions in the police department's upper management to being "at will" and with contracts signed through the city manager's office has elicited a lot of concern in both the community and the police department.

City Manager Brad Hudson said by email that this was a routine procedure that at least 100 other city employees have chosen and that they have embraced it including in the case of the police department. But if you talk to city employees, the two scariest words in their vocabulary are the words, "at will".

Just ask former city employees Art Alcaraz, Jim Smith, Tranda Drumwright and Pedro Payne.

Despite the reassurances from the city manager's office, concerns continue to be raised and questions continue to be asked as to why these decisions are being made now, to what extent will the department be impacted and at whose will are these management employees in the department serving. Not to mention whether the city manager's office is influencing promotions in the department as has been claimed.

Hopefully, there will be an honest and transparent process for concerned community members, city employees and the city government to examine this issue and its impact on the police department.

So far, the city council appears disinterested in addressing these concerns and questions, except for Councilman Art Gage who has said that he will foster discussion himself on the situation. Hopefully, other city officials will join him and create a venue where these issues can be discussed, because a lot of people have voiced their concerns and it's up to the leadership to do its part to address them.

Part of the $22 million, five year process of the stipulated judgement was to teach the city how to communicate more effectively and be more responsive to the community and the police department. Now, it's time for the city council to show how much it's learned to show as evidence that it can hold itself apart from its predecessors.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

From Rialto to Riverside and back again

One year ago, the Rialto Police Department faced being disbanded and its services contracted to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Now, in 2007, current police chief Mark Kling said that it was a different police agency, according to an article in the San Bernardino Sun.

Rialto's police department one year later

First up, is trying to fill 27 vacancies that remain after an exodus of police officers left the department including at least six who went to the Riverside Police Department in December 2005. The vacancies make up over 25% of the officers in the agency.

The department had been through six chiefs in nearly as many years including Michael A. Meyers who departed in the wake of controversy that occurred last year when the department which has a long history of corruption and police misconduct was nearly disbanded by the city council.

The department also had many law suits filed against it regarding wrongful deaths and excessive force incidents including the fatal shooting in December 2003 of Demetrius Swift. Three years later, a federal jury decided that the officer who killed Swift had used excessive force and awarded his family $225,000.

Dale K. Galipo, the attorney for Swift's family, said that jurors had told him they voted in his favor because among other reasons, they found the testimony by police officers was inconsistent and that the ballistics evidence showed that the shooting happened at a greater distance than alleged by the officers.

In the late 1990s, the NAACP sent complaints of police misconduct including excessive force and racism to the U.S. Justice Department.

The situation with Meyers and the department came to a head after the city voted to disband the police department and hand off its operations to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department by signing a contract with that agency.

The Rialto Police Officers' Association complained that it was being done without their knowledge and in violation with their collective bargaining rights. The community showed up enmass to support Meyers and to advocate for Rialto to keep its own police department.

Rialto Police Department in turmoil

The city council ultimately changed its mind and kept the police department, kicked Meyers out and picked an interim chief while it searched for a new one.

What lies ahead for Rialto is anyone's guess.


Frank Scialdone, the former Fontana police chief who was Rialto's interim chief from December 2005 until Kling took over, said it will take Kling a long time to achieve his vision.

"He's got a tough job ahead of him," Scialdone said, noting that "the average officer doesn't like change that much."

The Press Enterprise's article on the recent changes in Rialto's police department also appeared optimistic. Kling said that the department had filled 14 of those 27 vacancies.


"The way things are going, I feel confident that my recruitment goal of being fully staffed will be met by August 2007," he said.

In Riverside, notices are circulating to attend tomorrow's city council meeting in order to address the situation involving the conversion of an assistant chief position and at least one deputy chief position to being both "at will" and contracted through the city manager's office. The notices state that the community is concerned and that it's time to return the police department back to the police chief, rather than hand it off to the city manager's office.

I wasn't aware that the police department needed to be given back to the police chief to run, but I am aware that this agency hasn't been quite the same since last summer, about the time that both the city manager's office and the city council bailed on the promises they had made to the community regarding the continued implementation of the Strategic Plan. It took the department a while to bounce back from that setback if it has indeed done so and yes, the question has come to mind about who exactly is running it. It's a question that I'm asked almost every day in recent months as if I would know the answer to it.

But it's not just the police department that's been the subject of these types of questions. It's common to hear similar concerns and questions about other departments in this city as well.

I also wonder who's running the Human Resources Department these days since its former director, Art Alcaraz abruptly resigned over a year ago in the wake of allegations that hiring practices weren't being properly adhered to by that department. Not that those allegations hadn't plagued the city before and indeed they had, coming from employees in different city departments, but this time there seemed to be a sense of urgency attached. Then Alcaraz was gone, with a confidentiality clause attached to his resignation and people were left shaking their heads.

Last year, the Human Resources Board tried to get some information from the city regarding its practices with its employees and the city stonewalled the board to the extent that its chair, Gloria Lopez resigned in frustration.

I also wonder who is really running the Development, Public Works, Parks and Recreation and other city departments. I've had people ask me these things and haven't known what to say in response. There are those who are put in charge and then are those who put them there who don't appear satisfied to leave it at that.

So now the police department's become the center of concerns and questions by the community, in light of the situation involving the "at will" positions and who is really behind them. Now questions are being asked about this city department in terms of who's making the decisions at different levels of its operations just as they've already been asked in different places.

There can and should only be one answer to these questions and that is that it's the police chief who is in charge of overseeing the police department. He is in charge of hiring, promotions, management appointments and disciplinary actions including terminations. After all, it's in the job description. It should be clear that it is the police chief who runs the police department, but then this is Riverside and suddenly you have community members who are concerned that the police department needs to be given back to the police chief.

Concerns like these don't develop and flourish inside a vacuum. Something provides the seeds and then the fertilizer to bring them to life, which is what is happening in Riverside.

The community leaders didn't really step to the plate when the Strategic Plan's implementation stalled last summer and community members had inquired into that process. It is hoped that they can step up and ask the questions and raise the issues with this latest situation, which is stemming from the same problems that had plagued the implementation of the promises made at the March 28, 2006 workshop regarding the future of the police department after the dissolution of the stipulated judgement.

But the city has not made it a point let alone a priority to listen to the concerns of city residents, as has become clear in recent weeks with individuals including elderly women being expelled from meetings by police officers and receiving letters from the city attorney's office threatening them with arrest for "disruption" of a public meeting. More restrictions are expected to come down from the city council's new quartet of members that appear to oppose public participation in government.

Some questions which have arisen in discussions with others are the following. If a survey was taken, these ones would top the list of concerns among community members.

1) Who are the involved employees contracting with?

2) Are they serving at the pleasure of Chief Russ Leach or City Manager Brad Hudson? Who has the role of terminating their "at will" contracts?

3) How many sworn positions in the police department will be "at will" positions? Why was the process changed and by whom?

4) Of those offered this option so far, how many have accepted? How many have refused?

5) Is the city manager's office influencing the promotional process? And if so, to what extent?

6) What is the police department's response?

Conversations over the weekend have made it clear that there's quite a bit of concern on this issue, but not much in terms of information among the public of what exactly is going on and its impact on the police department. There also appears to be concern in the police department not to mention the city's other labor unions as well. Concern about the status of the police department and the job security of the three involved employees, considering how many people of color serving in "at will" positions have either been fired or have left the city's employment ranks.

What has apparently been happening to the police department has been happening to other city departments, including several which are being micromanaged by the city manager's office like the library where the personnel there apparently need to be told where to shelve the library books.

For those who are concerned about what has happened or have questions about it, you can contact your elected officials at City Hall, by calling (951) 826-5991 or email the following people.

And for Betro, Gage and Adams, it's an election year.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Whose "will" are they serving?

It was women's day for the Riverside County Sheriff's department yesterday, according to an article in the Press Enterprise.

Riverside County Sheriff's Department helps women make the force

The physical agility course at the Ben Clark Training Center was the setting for a training session to assist prospective female deputies with passing the physical agility course.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department was about 9% female in 2002 in terms of the sworn positions. Within its corrections division, women made up about 22% of the deputies.

The Riverside Police Department installed a similar course at Boardwell Park in the Eastside to allow city residents to practice their agility skills. Its percentage of officers in the department that are female stands at just under 10%.

Corona Police Department was about 10.5% female in 2002 and Rialto Police Department, 14%.
That same year, about 7.8% of the officers in the San Bernardino Police Department were women.

In the article, Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle appeared enthusiastic about the training event for women.


"It's tough to find qualified candidates, period. And then to find qualified women candidates is really hard," said Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle, adding that female deputies are important because they communicate with the public differently than males.

"They're more skilled at talking them down, having a calming effect," Doyle said.

The controversy surrounding Colton Police Department Chief Kenneth Rulon continued with scores of community members showing up at a public meeting to give him support not long after about 90% of the officers in his department cast a no-confidence vote against him.

The residents who picketed City Hall said that they wanted Rulon reinstated off of paid administrative leave and Colton's city manager, Daryl Parrish fired from his job.

Rulon was placed on leave pending an investigation by Parrish's office into allegations of misconduct in his department. The decision to do the investigation came only a short time after Rulon had reported allegations of misconduct against another city councilman to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office.

Councilman Richard DeLaRosa called for an inquiry into the matter.


DeLaRosa called for the right to hire and fire public-safety chiefs and department heads to be shared with the City Council.

"I believe that it is an enormous responsibility and liability for the city to have our public-safety chiefs serve at the will of one administrator," DeLaRosa said.

The San Bernardino Sun has published articles about prior law suits against Rulon that were filed against him by officers at Huntington Park Police Department for racial discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation.

(excerpt, Sun article)

"I think this just brings validity to our complaint and where we stand with Chief Rulon," said Wesley Bruhn, president of Colton Police Officers' Association.

"This is not an isolated incident. He has a pattern for creating this type of work environment."

Not every officer in Colton opposed the police chief. One of them was Officer Paul Tapia.


After speaking in favor of Rulon at a special City Council meeting Wednesday, Tapia said he found a bunch of "junior officer" stickers in his mailbox, implying he is not a real officer.

"I'm waiting for somebody to not back me up in the streets," he said Thursday.

Bruhn said the association has not received formal complaints of retaliation against any officers and denied that Tapia is being retaliated against.

Colton's firefighters also joined ranks with its police officers against Rulon despite what they called attempts to drive wedges between themselves and the police officers' union.

Rulon spoke out for the first time in yet another news article by the San Bernardino Sun.

Colton police chief breaks silence

Surrounded by members of the community, Rulon spoke before a city council session in which he wasn't on the agenda, but people still showed up anyway. He also addressed people at the council meeting.


"I know I'm not perfect, believe me," he told council members.

"I know there are things I can improve on. But I have given my heart and soul to this department and this community."

One county away, and not yet in the newspapers, are concerns being raised surrounding the decision by the city of Riverside to convert an assistant chief position and two deputy chief positions in the police department to serving "at will" and contracting out of the city manager's office.

City Manager Brad Hudson assured me in an email that this was a routine practice in the city, that he was not involved in the promotion process in the police department and that many city employees, 100 so far, have embraced the opportunity to serve "at will" in their positions. He added that signing the contracts out of his office was in compliance with current city policy.

He said to refer further requests for information on this matter to Chief Russ Leach, who as the community has noticed is pretty hard to find in public these days. But then Leach wouldn't be the first employee under Hudson to stop appearing as much in public, including at meetings after having spent years attending them and doing outreach into the community. Not a day goes by that a community leader or member doesn't comment on that situation and that it bothers them a great deal.

It's difficult to know the extent of the city manager's influence in the police department given the blue wall of silence that surrounds any law enforcement agency, but it's unlikely that it will stop here, if it mirrors situations faced by other departments in the city. On the other hand, perhaps it is what it is, merely a formality. Although after hearing accounts of how Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis has apparently been spending time at the city's libraries telling them where to shelve books, one wonders if the police department is being told where to shelve its books in a matter of speaking.

The trouble is, that the decision to create "at will" positions in this city's police department doesn't appear to be merely routine in this case. That's not the sentiment that has been expressed regarding this situation. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Concern has been expressed and questions have been asked both in the community and apparently inside the police department as well.

Even though Hudson said that what had happened in the police department was a routine practice, at least one city councilman, Art Gage, has said that he plans to inquire into the matter and that there will be discussion on this situation as there should be in his opinion. It's not clear where this discussion will take place or when, but the public has decided that it is interested in raising this issue as well, beginning with the city council meeting on Tuesday.

Other than Gage, so far there is silence across the dais. You would think that at least the reality that it was an election year would motivate a response from two more of them to look into the matter as well. But as long as Hudson appears to deliver in the development arena, the city council hasn't asked too many questions of him in public on the labor issues affecting this city's employees.

I've run into or have heard from many individuals who are both concerned about the recent developments or at the very least have lots of questions about what is going on. Per usual, the city government has failed to properly inform the city residents about this issue. In addition, its elected representatives, who are also "at will" employees, have failed to provide a forum as of yet for concerns to be raised and questions to be answered.

It's not clear whether like has been done inside the police department either but the news is that individuals working in that agency are not pleased with the chain of events. Actually, I think the word was "livid" at the prospect of serving under management personnel who were serving under Hudson.

If Hudson or the city council that hired him are even surprised that this might be the reaction from employees in the police department then they either don't know much about overseeing police agencies or they don't know much about this city's history in this area. It also puts two or three employees in the position of having their credentials and their intentions questioned when it's not even clear what the exact process is that took place. At least not to the community.

Community members have expressed similar concerns both about at least the appearance that the management personnel will be serving under the city manager's office rather than the police chief. The question of "where's Chief Leach lately," has been replaced by "who's running the department, Leach or Hudson?" and even if these are simply perceptions and inaccurate, they are serious enough to be addressed by the city and the police department and they should be.

If these perceptions are actually the truth and more, then the city council would be derelict in its duties not to inquire into this situation.

Also a concern that has been raised is how much job security these individuals who are being offered these "at will" positions have given up to accept the positions, particularly because all three of them are male Latinos in a city where four Black and Latino management employees also served "at the will" of the current city manager and were soon out of jobs. Will one or more of these three employees soon be added to that list?

These concerns and more have yet to be addressed and they should be.

After all, that is what former Attorney General Bill Lockyer would hope to see happen that if there are situations like this one that create concern that there should be open dialogue among the three partners in the reform process that was initiated with the stipulated judgement in 2001 and continues today.

Hopefully, the city's elected officials will remember that they represent the public who votes in these elections and not the development firms and will foster a dialogue on this important issue.

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