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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Monday, April 30, 2007

Driving while Black: Coast to coast

Dan Bernstein, a columnist with the Press Enterprise weighed in on the recent uproar over comments made by city council candidate Letitia Pepper at the League of Women's Voters' forum at the downtown library.


Way out of line, council candidate Letitia Pepper comparing Riverside incumbent Dom Betro to Mussolini. But it was a slam-dunk that he'd storm out of a candidates forum over a Mussolini jab after recently accusing moi of an ethnic slur for writing that the city "threw their PAY HERE pasta at the wall and it didn't stick ..."

I wonder if Betro would have stayed if Pepper had argued there's a difference between "Democracy" and "Domocracy."


Jury selection is beginning in the case of a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputy who shot and wounded an airman. A lengthy questionnaire has been distributed to potential jurorss filled with questions to answer that will help determine which ones will make it on to the next round and return to court for jury selection in the trial of former deputy, Ivory Webb who faces criminal charges for shooting Elio Carrion.

About 400 jurors will either be asked to fill out the forms or will be dismissed from the selection process if they can't serve on the jury during the month-long trial.

Questions that prospective jurors will be asked include the following.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Have you, any relative or close friend ever been mistreated by a law enforcement officer?

Could you judge the guilt or innocence of the defendant, irrespective of the color of his skin or his ancestral heritage ... or the fact that he was a sheriff's deputy at the time of the incident?

How do you feel about firearms?

What guns do you have or do you own?

Have you had combat experience?

Did you receive any serious injuries (in combat) or take a human life?

To what extent have you followed this case in the news?

Have you already formed an opinion that this is a case of excessive use of force by a sheriff's deputy?

Do you have any opinions regarding high-speed chases by law enforcement?

If you were charged with a crime, would you want someone with your mind-set on your jury?

A national study has been done involving traffic stops conducted by law enforcement officers and it showed that Black drivers were searched more often, feds say , according to an article in U.S.A. Today. Latino drivers were also more likely to be searched than were White motorists.


Black drivers are three times as likely and Hispanic drivers are twice as likely to be searched as white drivers, the study shows. The data show that a similar percentage of drivers of each ethnicity was stopped, 8%-9% in 2005.

Police stopped 18 million drivers in 2005 and found evidence of a crime in about 12% of the searches, according to the report by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

"It tells us that there are a lot of things that need closer examination," says Dennis Parker, director of the racial justice program for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"People of all races and ethnicities are stopped at the same rate. It is after the stop that disparities appear."

According to the study about 1 in 5 people in this country who were interviewed said they had some contact with police officers, with over half of those contacts as a result of a traffic accident or traffic stop. White men were pulled over most often, but it was after vehicles were stopped by police officers that the treatment of motorists appeared to change. Black and Latino motorists were also more likely to report that they believed the officers behaved improperly.

The Washington Post also did a story on the same study. The article mentioned that to gain perspective on the higher search rates for Black and Latino motorists, it was important to know the percentage of searches that resulted in the discovery of contraband such as drugs and/or weapons.

Between 2002-2005, the Riverside Police Department was required to do similar studies involving, race, gender and traffic stops. The requirement to do this was included in a list of reforms that comprised the stipulated judgment imposed on the department by the state attorney general's office in 2001.

The studies were done with information gathered from police officers who were required to collect data on each traffic stop they conducted. The data was then analyzed by sociologist and former law enforcement officer Larry Gaines, a professor at the California State University, San Bernardino.

His studies were interpreted by the department to mean that there was no evidence of racial profiling by its officers. However, Gaines admitted at a public forum sponsored by the Human Relations Commission in June 2005 that his studies could not prove the existence of racial profiling either way and that's the problem with most of the studies that are conducted.

Riverside's studies did show that the search rates for Black and Latino motorists were also higher than those done involving White motorists, even though the "hit" rate for Black motorists was either at or below the same level as that involving White motorists.

The Post's columnist Eugene Robinson weighs in on the issues arising from the national study. He mentions the high release without citation rate for Black motorists. In the studies done in Riverside, similar rates were seen for Black motorists versus those who were White.


"About 1 in 10 searches during a traffic stop uncovered evidence of a possible crime," the report says. What could be wrong with that? Isn't that what police should be doing -- enforcing the nation's laws, capturing criminals, making law-abiding Americans that much safer?

Of course that's what we pay our police officers to do, but not selectively.

Whites, too, drive around with drugs, illegal weapons, open containers of alcohol or other contraband in their cars. The numbers in the report suggest that if white drivers stopped by police were searched at the same rate as blacks or Hispanics, police would uncover evidence of tens of thousands of additional crimes each year, doubtless putting thousands of dangerous people behind bars.

But, of course, we don't want a society in which everybody is being patted down by police officers all the time. We don't want a society in which people have to stand by the side of the road, fuming, while police arbitrarily rummage through the stuff in their cars -- shopping bags, children's toys, McDonald's wrappers -- on the off chance of finding something illegal.

If you're black or brown, though, may I see your license and registration, please?

The study done by the Department of Justice can be found here.

After the dissolution of its judgment in 2006, the Riverside Police Department did say that it would continue its annual studies and provide analyses of the data from different experts. In August 2006, the department said in a letter that it had allocated $25,000 towards the March 2007 traffic stop study. However, March came and went and no study was released. The department's explanation was that since the studies looked the same year to year and proved there was no racial profiling, that there was no need to continue them annually. They would be conducted on a multi-year basis without much explanation provided whether they would be done every two years, five years or ten years.

When questioned on this issue at a recent public safety committee meeting not by the public, but actually City Manager Brad Hudson, Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa said that the next study would be released in March 2008 and include statistical information collected in 2006 and 2007.

Interestingly enough, the department also claimed that it did conduct an annual study in March 2006 as well, but the Human Relations Commission which usually receives the studies had no record of having received this one on file.

Here's an interesting opinion on the issue of civilian review that's been floating around by a lieutenant who was the president of an organization of internal affairs investigators.

Elected officials, community leaders, activists, and others have come to the conclusion that we, the police, must have oversight from outside our departments. They are asking or demanding an external process be put into action. This process is known as a civilian review board. Some have little power to do anything. Others are given subpoena power, access to active crime scenes, and conduct public hearings.

Are these the wave of the future or a thing of the past?

Whatever we think or believe, they are here and we have to accept them. So, the question begs to be asked, "How should we react?" First, we should look at some of the causation factors.

There are many reasons that communities explore this idea. At the top of the list are police involved shootings and uses of force. The community will call for outside investigation after a questionable shooting. We all know the upheaval when this happens. People come out of the woodwork. These folks are usually not from within the community where the incident took place, but are associated with organizations that make their claim to fame by community activism. Is this wrong? Not always--at times it benefits all concerned to have a mediator between the police and the community available .

Departments should have an agreement with a state, federal or neighboring agency to conduct the criminal investigation. Of course, the department should handle the internal investigation into policy, procedures, and training. At all times the community, press, activists, elected officials, and families should be kept advised of all details that can be made available to them. Departments must be open and truthful. If there is an unjustified shooting, we have to take it on and do the right thing.

A department that has a strong internal affairs unit will always conduct a fair and impartial investigation. Once the investigation is complete, it is handed over to the command staff for review, and sanctions taken where appropriate. Furthermore, the local district attorney will review the case for criminal misconduct. In most cases the punishment dealt out by command staff is harsher than that of a civilian review board. This often surprises the activists and the review board itself.

Oversight of government organizations by civilian review boards is not uncommon. A quick Google search reveals citizen review boards over departments of family and children services, juvenile courts, clerks of the court, and of course police. In the State of Georgia there are designated reviews of child fatalities, child abuse, and domestic violence. The first two are mandated by the Georgia Code. Initially there was great resistance to these boards. However, they are now accepted institutions and have created a sense of security ensuring that these cases are investigated thoroughly. In some cases their oversight has led to new procedures, laws, and revealed evidence not discovered prior to the review.

So, why are we the protectors of society in a state of panic when these review boards are brought into our house? Should we not be in a glass house to begin with? Any police department in this country ought to be proud to have inspected any internal matter that they have investigated. It would display good will and instill a sense of confidence to the public. After all, who are we here to protect? Are we above being held accountable? We are held to a higher standard than the average citizen. We have to be. We are in the public eye. How can we go to court and take another person's freedom if we are not?

What hurts is when we do not thoroughly investigate, or when statements such as the following by former NYPD Officer Michael Dowd surface: "I had been in internal affairs investigations a couple of times, and they were very easy to breeze through. I answered a few questions. I lied through every answer, and I went back to patrol."

When this happens we are in deep trouble. Understand that statements such as these can and do occur in cities throughout the country. No matter the size, area, ethnic make-up, or any other considerations, statements such as this produce outcry from the public.

So, where is Rider heading with this, one might ask? Whether we like it or not, citizen review boards are here. We have to stop our resistance and do all we can to accommodate them. I have resisted CRBs for many years. However, I believe we must be held accountable to the public and to ourselves. The less we resist the easier it will be to transition to the system. I place emphasis on transition-- we are not caving in here, we are transitioning. It is another way to do community oriented policing. Besides, what do we have to hide?

Randy Rider: Lieutenant Rider was elected president of the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association in May of 2005. The association has a members employed in agencies throughout the United States and Canada. Lieutenant Rider is also a national instructor for the Public Agency Training Council, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Interesting, indeed. The author does raise some very interesting points, and even more interesting questions. Community members have long raised both. It's interesting seeing someone in the law enforcement profession do the same.

Given the current and indeed latest onslaught against the beleaguered Community Police Review Commission in Riverside, answers to Rider's questions have essentially been answered one way or another as they will continue to be in months to come.

The fatal officer-involved shooting of Lee Deante Brown provided a forum for some of those "answers". No doubt, the process will continue with the shooting of Douglas Steven Cloud coming up on the horizon. The response to that by all the assorted parties will no doubt reveal where Riverside is in terms of comparison to what Rider wrote about. How will the city and the department answer his questions?

In Los Angeles, William Bratton who heads its police department received overwhelming support for a second term to do the same, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

The police commission took public comment before it meets next week to decide whether or not it will recommend appointing Bratton to a second term. That decision will ultimately be up to the city council.

Labels: , , ,

Racism and retaliation

***This blog is a supporter of April 28--Take Back the Blog to promote blogs by women and to speak out against the harassment and threatening of female bloggers. More information on this event can be found here. ***

The L.A. Watts Times wrote an article earlier this month on claims made by a former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputy that his department was engaging in racist practices.

Garrett Shah who worked for what used to be the Compton Police Department before that city signed a contract with the Sheriff's Department filed a law suit in federal court. In that law suit, Shah said that a sergeant complained to him because he took too few African-Americans to jail and also told him to stop acting Black because he could never be Black.

Shah, who is White was raised by a Black family and grew up in a predominantly Black community in Inglewood. He said he first noticed the racism in the ranks when he was hired by the Sheriff's Department after Compton disbanded its own department several years ago.


Wearing a bulletproof vest and routinely scanning his surroundings at a West Los Angeles eatery, Shah mentioned several times during an exclusive interview with the L.A. Watts Times, "I'm a dead man."

"I wear a vest everywhere I go because I know they are going to kill me," he said.

The suit, which was originally filed in February 2006 and has since been amended twice, describes a department in which deputies not only target African Americans for felony arrests, but also participated in "planting illegal items on African Americans, using neighboring law enforcement agencies to make unwarranted arrests of African Americans and lying in Court proceedings concerning such wrongful conduct."

"I know (there are) hundreds of blacks right now sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit simply because they are black and they are doing 10, 30 years," Shah asserted."It looks good when you have stats, what we call pat stats when you make so many felony arrests, when you make so many misdemeanor arrests. It looks good. It even looks better to the racist supervisors who are in there that you are taking more black people to jail. Blacks are not liked period in law enforcement…, " said Shah.

In his interview with the L.A. Watts Times, Shah explained how the sheriff deputies policed African-Americans in their neighborhoods.


"Let's say there are a certain group of gang bangers or blacks that you don't like in a certain area that's really bad. What you do is you drive around and you see who is hanging outside and…you take your little duty weapon and you put your gun out the car and you shoot in the air. Then you get on the radio and say shots fired in the area. Now you call in the helicopter, you call in the K-9 and you lock down the whole area and anybody in that area automatically gets detained. So those guys you wanted who were hanging out on the corner, you've got probable cause to detain them," Shah explained.

Sheriff Lee Baca didn't have much to say about the allegations raised in the law suit but through a spokesman, he did say he couldn't wait until the full story could be heard, which seems to indicate that he's denying the allegations without really denying them.

Michael Gennaco, who with a group of lawyers oversees the department's internal investigations had this to say about the law suit.


"The allegations are significant but right now they are just a complaint. In a complaint you can put anything you want," said Gennaco, adding that he would be personally looking into the allegations.

Gennaco once worked for the U.S. Attorney's office which was assigned the task to look into pattern and practice problems in law enforcement agencies including the Riverside Police Department in 1999. Gennaco lost his job when President George W. Bush came in and was hired by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to work as a means of oversight over the Sheriff's Department. Hopefully his experience will help him here.

Ironically or not, Gennaco' agency first came to Riverside after a former officer here raised allegations of racism within the police department. Former officer Rene Rodriguez said that training officers taught him and other new officers how to engage in the racial profiling of Black and Latino motorists. According to him, officers had made racist remarks after the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998 and in the roll call room while sessions were being held. On one occasion, he said an officer had driven by him, stuck his fist out the window and yelled, "White power".

Like Shah, Rodriguez also said that he felt his life was in danger when he came forward. He said that he slept on a couch in the living room by the front door at night and received numerous hangup and harassment phone calls. Rodriguez detailed his experiences on 60 Minutes in 1999.

Another officer, Roger Sutton, also filed a racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation law suit that went to trial in 2005. After six weeks of trial testimony, the jury awarded him $1.64 million which the city paid out last year. Like the others, Sutton also alleged that he was retaliated against by other officers including those in management after bringing his allegations forward. In one incident, he said his truck had been keyed while it was parked inside a garage accessible only to city employees. He also faced ostracization by other officers, according to his law suit and was subjected to retaliatory behavior by the Internal Affairs Division, as was Rodriguez according to his complaint.

And it's not only those who file law suits alleging racism who said they faced this type of behavior in the department.

A White female officer who filed a law suit against the police department alleging sexual discrimination and harassment in 1996 stated in her complaint that she had also experienced retaliation in response. Then Sgt. Christine Keers said she received harassing phone calls, was called a "bitch" on the bathroom wall and in the elevator and was prosecuted for a crime alleged by the same officers she had listed in her complaint. Keers took her case to trial and was acquitted by a jury within an hour of deliberations. The city paid an undisclosed large sum of money to her when it settled her law suit and reinstated her back on the force with a retirement in 2000.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton is coming up for a term renewal by the city's police commission, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times. And as is typical in cases like this, he's being graded. In response, Bratton said that he believed there was still much left for him to do.

Bratton said there's more work left to do


"A major reason why I came to Los Angeles was to deal with this issue of the divisiveness in the city in a sense that it never seemed to be able to heal itself," the chief said in an interview last week.

"I really felt that I could be that catalyst to use the police for racial healing rather than racial divisiveness," Bratton said. "So if I were to get reappointed I would hope it would be around that idea, that the healing process is further along than it was five years ago."

According to a survey conducted by the Los Angeles Times, Bratton still has his work cut out for him. Although White Angelenos heavily supported him, his support by African-Americans, Latinos and Korean-Americans was below the 50% level.

Here's a summary of what he's being graded on in a performance review. It includes issues such as implementation of the federal consent decree reforms, department morale and growth of the police force. Bratton's done fairly well in the latter two, with the Police Protective League being supportive of him though the union hasn't officially endorsed him. Also, the police department is growing slowly after having gone through a lot of attrition in relation to the Rampart Scandal in 1999 which led to the consent decree being imposed in 2001.

But he did have some problems in the implementation of the consent decree.


Police misconduct lawsuits and the amount paid in settlements have dropped significantly. But the number of citizen complaints against officers is up. Bratton says that's because the department does a better job of taking complaints and investigating accusations.

The department is still recovering from a corruption scandal that erupted eight years ago — predating Bratton — when officers working an anti-gang unit in the Rampart Division admitted to framing, beating and shooting people without justification. The city subsequently agreed to implement reforms laid out in a federal consent decree.

Under Bratton, the department has achieved a majority of the mandates but missed a deadline last year to complete them all within five years. The delayed projects include the development of a computer system to track officer conduct, which recently became fully operational. Last year a judge extended the decree's term three more years, a costly development because the LAPD must spend up to $10 million a year to monitor reform efforts.

Fatal shootings by officers went from seven in 2001 to 15 the next year, spiked at 16 in 2004 and dropped to 12 last year. Critics say officers still too often use excessive force. To improve relations in troubled neighborhoods, Bratton has moved toward more community-based policing, including having senior lead officers help residents solve problems before crimes occur.

The city of Atlanta, Georgia is still reeling from an announcement by federal authorities that its police department is rife with corruption.


On Thursday, Police Chief Richard Pennington and other department leaders stood stone-faced as federal officials talked at a news conference about misconduct on their watch.

"This has been a very painful five months in the police department," Pennington said. "The mayor and I, we wanted one thing to occur, to get to the bottom of this and let justice be meted [out]."

One United States Attorney said that he fully expected to find other similar cases where officers planted evidence and lied about it during his agency's investigation into the department that was initiated in the wake of Johnston's death.

Here, details of the events that led to the fatal shooting of Kathryn Johnston, 92, were provided through documents released by these federal agencies.

It began with three narcotic officers from the Atlanta Police Department who were strolling through the neighborhood and discovered a large quantity of marijuana in plastic bags. They didn't know where it came from so they put them in the trunk and carried them around for several hours.

They ran into a well-known drug dealer, planted a couple of the bags so a canine officer could sniff them out and then told him he could help them out or face arrest. So he did.

The dealer said that he had seen a kilogram of cocaine at Johnston's house and a sale take place. After attempts to bring in one of their informants to purchase drugs at the house failed, the three officers decided to do a "no knock" raid anyway. They showed up at Johnston's house, with signed warrant in hand, breaking into her house after prying the security bars off of her windows. Perhaps the judge who approved the warrant didn't know it at the time but he had just signed an elderly woman's death warrant.

Johnston fired once at the door with a gun given to her by family members for self-protection. It was the last action she would ever take and it will never be clear how frightened she had been when she heard her door breaking down.

Her bullet missed. The officers' did not, with at least five bullets hitting her body. Other bullets that were fired struck the officers in what's called "friendly fire".

It's not clear whether Johnston was already dead as she lay handcuffed on the floor of her own home while police officers frantically searched for what they wouldn't find. Drugs or weapons.

It didn't matter, because what they couldn't find, they could plant.

Afterwards, the chain of lies began, but the house of cards soon came crashing down after it was an informant who came forward and said it was all lies. Soon after, the first officer confessed to his role in a horrible crime. A crime committed by those who were hired to protect and serve Johnston but instead took her life.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "no lie can live forever". Mercifully, in this case he was right. Not that it brings back the mother, the grandmother and the cherished relative that Johnston was to her family but hopefully it can root out the culture in the department poisoned by corruption and racism which led to her death.

In Denver, Colorado, the Denver Post wrote an editorial praising the improvements made in outside oversight of the city's police department. It holds up the example of how the case involving Kenneth Rodriguez was handled after a videotape was found that showed him being tased in the neck by Officer Randall Krouse, which contradicted with a report written by Reserve Officer Lewis Cullar.


Cullar was dismissed for filing a false report. Krouse was suspended for 60 days for using excessive force. Charges against Rodriguez were dropped. Rosenthal said he favored a suspension for Krouse rather than firing him because the officer had a previously "unblemished service record."

Thanks to the city's new police monitoring process, Krouse must consider himself on notice, and other officers should note the consequence if they use excessive force.

The public can be satisfied that officers will be held accountable when such incidents occur.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 29, 2007

From Acorns to Oaks: Reviews and recommendations

The Press Enterprise's editorial board weighed in on the recent controversy involving statements made at a recent candidate forum involving Ward One candidates. The board titled their editorial, "Vile campaigning".


Name-calling and innuendo distract from discussions of vital city issues. Pepper said she didn't intend to slur Betro's Italian heritage. She merely wanted to comment on Betro's governing style. Comparing a city official to a murderer and a tyrant is no more excusable than smearing the man's ethnicity.

Such rancor reflects poorly on the city. It is wonderful that people are passionate about city affairs. But aspirants to city government should channel their passion into constructive solutions and debate. Slurring opponents is simply low politics.

The board raises a good point about not using references to dictators like Mussolini, period, but what's strange about its stance is that it's based on information included in a second article written on the incident. If you remember, when Press Enterprise writer Sandra Stokley wrote this article on the forum, there was no mention of the controversial incident at all. It was only in her second article written on April 27 where it was raised as a serious issue.

It's not clear why there was a delay in mentioning an incident that involved a sitting councilman storming out of a meeting amidst allegations of cultural slurs. It might have taken place after the reporter left the forum if she had left early. If she was present, she may not have considered it newsworthy at the time. It's not clear what would have then happened to change her mind and decide it was an issue worth reporting on after all though it's most probable that some intensive lobbying took place from some corner.

Stokley is an experienced reporter with the Press Enterprise who usually covers the Jurupa Valley/Rubidoux area and she's very good at her job.

The Press Enterprise has lost more than a few of its veteran reporters who apparently have departed in disagreement with how the current owner, Belo Enterprises, does business. Mike Kataoka who covered courts, Lisa O'neill Hill who covered police issues and most recently, a newer reporter, Joan Osterwalder, who covered the Riverside City Council meetings.

The editorial board has not published a list of the candidates it intends to endorse in the city council election that has a mail in deadline in June, but it's probable that for Ward One, that candidate will be Betro.

Spokane, Washington may be getting an ombudsman to help restore the faith of its residents in their police review commission, according to an article in the Spokeman Review. This proposal was recommended by consultant, Sam Pailca, who stated in a report that the ombudsman should be appointed by the city's mayor and should report to him.


The Spokane Police Department is generally trusted and supported, but citizens clearly want stronger external oversight that's independent from the police department, the report notes. It says the Office of Independent Police Ombudsman should:

•Serve as an alternative forum for citizen complaints.

Under the current system, a citizen can only file a "request for review" of a complaint with the seven-member Citizen's Review Commission if the police chief has not disciplined an accused officer. That restriction prevented the commission from reviewing a controversial neighborhood incident last year involving an off-duty police officer that Chief Kirkpatrick had asked it to review.

"Chief Kirkpatrick's quest for meaningful review and openness was stymied by the commission's narrow jurisdiction," the report notes.

•Have a dedicated budget separate from the Spokane Police Department. The annual budget for a similar ombudsman's office in Boise is currently $269,000 a year, including staff investigators.

•Have the power to actively monitor open investigations _ additional clout the current review commission lacks.

The ombudsman should either conduct simultaneous investigations or direct the police department's internal affairs investigations. It should have unimpeded access to all case information. "Subpoena power is of the utmost importance" for those investigations, the report says.

•Review police department policies and recommend changes. This will allow the oversight officer to look at police "patterns and practices," not merely individual cases.

•Conduct special inquiries.

•Publicly report complaint investigation statistics and its own activities. The closed-door approach in the current oversight system "is not a good match for the engaged citizenry of Spokane," the report notes.

The report also recommends the eventual establishment of a Citizens' Advisory Board to help the ombudsman with community education and outreach.

The article stated that it was clear that the residents of Spokane whose input was received wanted a stronger form of external oversight. Whether that is what they will be getting remains to be seen. For the most part, cities and counties try to implement the weakest and least independent form of oversight that they can to appease their law enforcement agencies and to protect themselves from exposure to civil liability in the form of law suits.

That happened in Riverside, California in 1999 and 2000 when the Mayor's Use of Force Panel first recommended that a civilian review board be installed. An ad hoc committee was created which included city council members, use of force panel members, Human Relations Commission members and one representative each from the Riverside Police Officers' Association and a community organization. This committee review models from Berkeley, Long Beach, San Diego County and San Jose.

What came out of the committee by a narrow margin was the Berkeley model. However, what came out of the city council was the much weaker Long Beach model, after then Councilwoman Joy Defanbaugh(who wasn't on the panel) received a copy of that rejected model from one or more of the city council members on the panel even though that model was not included in the official report back to the city council. Likely it was either former council members Maureen Kane and/or Laura Pearson. The possible reasons why either or both might have done so was that Kane was worried about her reelection prospects in 2001(where she lost to Frank Schiavone) and Pearson had been endorsed for her reelection by the Riverside Police Officers' Association.

So basically, the city council had rejected its own ad hoc committee's recommendation and implemented a weaker form of civilian review. Which was characteristic of that city council, because that body had put together an ad hoc committee originally to head off a possible ballot initiative which had been gathering signatures that would have called for a Berkeley model of civilian oversight. The city council only implemented some form of civilian review because the community called for it. The city council ultimately implemented a weak form of civilian review because the city's interests called for that.

Still, from the first day it opened shop, the Community Police Review Commission was restrained by the city to even fulfill the powers which were dictated first by ordinance and later by the city's charter. The commission wound up being included in the charter because of the political maneuvering being done by members of the city council who were financially backed by the RPOA.

Not too long ago, GASS quartet member Ed Adkison cast the blame at GASS castoff Art Gage for catalyzing the action that put the CPRC in the charter out of the city council's easy reach.

Of course, while city residents were breathing a sigh of relief that the CPRC finally would be protected from political attacks by city council members, all of whom represented wards where the measure to put the CPRC in the charter had received a majority vote, they should have instead been preparing for the city to intensify its efforts, especially when the officer-involved shootings of 2006 took place and civil litigation in connection with four incustody deaths began to be filed in both federal and state court against the city.

It's been 18 months since the city hired City Manager Brad Hudson, who entrusted the care of the CPRC and the other city departments to his assistant city manager, Tom DeSantis. At this point in time, the CPRC has lost its executive director, five commissioners have resigned and the CPRC has had its investigations into officer-involved shootings suspended at least once. It's become the focus of secret meetings and has held secret elections which became a lightning rod for controversy after actions taken by the city manager's office and the city attorney's office.

At last week's meeting, one of the commissioners who was appointed chair of one of the standing subcommittees asked for a ruling by City Attorney Gregory Priamos to determine whether or not that committee has to inform the public whenever it is meeting. Legally speaking, Priamos is obligated under the state's Brown Act to tell him, yes you do.

But then, last week's meeting was interesting in that it was being evaluated by a consultant hired by the city to prepare a list of recommendations on improvements to the CPRC. The commissioners felt like they were being graded in a sense and it showed in their behavior which deviated somewhat from their earlier meetings. That's natural in the sense that when individuals feel like they are the subject of a qualitative process like an analysis or an audit, they tend to wonder how they stack up on a quantitative scale.

That was apparent when the same consultant, Joe Brann, delivered his first quarterly report to the city council about the police department's implementation of its strategic plan. As you know, there were many problems followed by some improvement. Brann was fairly specific when discussing the areas of his concern and listed them. However, it didn't take long before a city council member, in this case Gage, asked for a quantitative evaluation, in the form of a letter grade. He and the council members who didn't ask received one with an explanation but it's interesting that the bottom line appeared to be to them, how they stacked up rather than what was going on with the police department and what to do about it.

Still, the CPRC especially its chair, Brian Pearcy, spent the entire meeting either bumping down public comment to the end(a first for this body) or not taking it when both the established procedures and the laws required it, i.e. during the hearing of discussion items. This happened because since Pearcy has been chair, the process for handling discussion items during the meeting had changed. The only clue of why that may be was some mention of memos about how meetings would be conducted that came from an unspecified office. How many guesses are needed to determine which one?

Previously, it was that the commission discussed the item first, then took public comment, then took a vote on a motion. However, more recently the commission instead has had its discussion and then moved directly to the vote, and if it has allowed public comment, it hasn't been until after the vote was taken. It's likely that Pearcy bypassed public comment at the last meeting because he was in a hurry to attend another meeting and in fact did leave early. It's also probable that public comment was bypassed because Pearcy and other commissioners felt like they were under a microscope and that it was important to control as much of the meeting's discussion as possible to make a good impression which would be difficult to do if public comment was added to the mix. That's what often happens in these situations and is again, part of human nature.

But Priamos is entrusted by his employers, the city council, to provide Brown Act training to the members of all the city's boards and commissions. Given the recent high turnover on the CPRC, he's obviously fallen behind given that many of the problems with the Brown Act in this meeting involved newer commissioners.

Pearcy eventually left this meeting and then Vice-Chair Sheri Corral took over the meeting and she didn't seem to be as nervous as Pearcy had been. She immediately reopened public participation.

Interestingly enough, Priamos and DeSantis chose to not attend this meeting, the first time either has not been in attendance since those private meetings both attended that were held at City Hall in December. Perhaps they didn't want to send a bad impression either?

Right now as things stand, it appears that the city government has the CPRC that it wants. It also appears that the city government now has the CPRC that it needs. Whether that changes in the future remains to be seen. The future remains unwritten.

In Spokane, the Spokeman Review's editorial board supported the hiring of an ombudsman though it did raise some concerns about the implementation.


But merely creating the position isn't enough. The city would have to hire someone with the courage to inquire without fear or favor and the curiosity to pursue the best practices in law enforcement.

One of the keys to the Boise system is that Murphy has become an expert. We suspect that if Spokane already had such a position, the Police Department wouldn't be sideways with the courts on its strip-search policy. Or, in this case, its lack of one.

The cost of the position is a legitimate concern. The annual budget for the Boise office is $269,000. But if the city of Spokane were to take on a learn-from-its mistakes posture, it could save money on all those countersuits it files against residents with legitimate legal cases.

It's too late for the city to reject oversight and say, "Trust us." This position, or something like it, is the only credible answer.

It's interesting that the editorial board reads the community as being skeptical of gifts given to it by its city officials, especially in its stance against the city's filing of SLAPP suits against complainants. Trust isn't something that's just given, it's earned.

This blog is a supporter of April 28--Take Back the Blog. More information on this event can be found here.

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Corruption by any other name

Corruption is widespread in Atlanta's police department according to an article in the New York Times today. The agency making these allegations is the United States Attorney's office. Their probe on the department stemmed from the fatal officer-involved shooting of a 92-year-old Black woman, Kathryn Johnston last year.

Is there anyone out there surprised by this revelation?

Prosecutors say corruption in department is widespread

Johnston was shot and killed by narcotics detectives wearing plain clothes and carrying guns, who broke into her residence. Most likely believing she was going to be a crime victim, Johnston took the gun that relatives had given to her for self-protection in a high-crime neighborhood and fired it once. The bullet penetrated her front door which was in the process of being broken open by the officers.

Then they opened fire on her and apparently each other as well, as several officers were wounded by what turned out to be "friendly fire".

As the investigation began into the incident, there was nothing friendly about what was uncovered about the officers involved. Three were indicted both by the federal and county prosecutor agencies and two entered guilty pleas, admitting that they had committed manslaughter when they killed her and that was only the beginning of their list of crimes. Perjury, false statements, even planting drugs in her home to justify her death were what came after the shots were fired that took her life.

It gets worse. It usually does.

The "no knock" raid on her house that was done was allegedly based on a tip by an informant who purchased drugs there, but the investigation could not even determine if this individual ever existed. There was evidence uncovered that at least one informant was told by these officers to lie for them in order to help them cover up their crimes.

So the killing of an elderly woman who was too afraid to leave her house because she was afraid of being a crime victim was based on a pile of lies, a house of cards that came toppling down when the federal and local agencies came knocking.

She was killed by those who were entrusted to protect and serve her, but instead became what she needed to be protected from.

The department said it took action in the wake of the emerging scandal.

Over 100 cases investigated by the three involved officers, Greg Junnier, Jason R. Smith and Arthur Tesler are currently being reviewed for similar corruption that federal prosecutors now believe has permeated the entire department.


In court documents, prosecutors said Atlanta police officers regularly lied to obtain search warrants and fabricated documentation of drug purchases, as they had when they raided the home of the woman, Kathryn Johnston, in November, killing her in a hail of bullets.

Narcotics officers have admitted to planting marijuana in Ms. Johnston’s home after her death and submitting as evidence cocaine they falsely claimed had been bought at her house, according to the court filings.

Two of the three officers indicted in the shooting, Gregg Junnier and Jason R. Smith, pleaded guilty on Thursday to state charges including involuntary manslaughter and federal charges of conspiracy to violate Ms. Johnston’s civil rights.

“Former officers Junnier and Smith will also help us continue our very active ongoing investigation into just how wide the culture of misconduct that led to this tragedy extends within the Atlanta Police Department,” said David Nahmias, the United States attorney.

It will be interested to see if these two men who lied to cover up their culpability in a killing will tell the truth about what else they or any other officer did in the department. Their own lack of veracity along with what many people call, the blue wall of silence may inhibit that unless the two men are promised something in return. After all if corruption exists, how many police officers working within its midst ever complain about it? How many report their fellow officers when they see them engaging in misconduct? How many report their officers when they hear them engaging in corruption? Do they report it to a supervisor, or do they look the other way?

Those are questions that many members of the public ask and their answers are much closer to embracing cynicism than optimism. Or as some may call it seeing the glass half-empty rather than half-filled. But as story after story and there are many stories erupt in this country from sea to shining sea, there's always signs that many acts of corruption leading up to the explosive one had taken place and were often ignored by the department or brushed aside.

Chief Richard Pennington in Atlanta said that it was he who got the federal agencies involved in the probe into Johnston's death, but he said in the article that his officers were not trained to lie. Given that clearly there were at least three narcotics officers and possibly more who did and have lied, it's fairly clear that someone taught them how to do it.

And it's silly to say that police officers are never taught to lie. Of course they are. Detectives interrogating people suspected of crimes lie, often by omission to try to get that person to confess. A hostage negotiator may lie to a person holding hostages to get them to turn themselves in. Officers going undercover to pretend to be someone else lie to protect their covers and to obtain information to make busts. However, three situations where they are told never to lie, are when writing police reports, writing warrants and testifying on the witness stand.

The danger is however, that when officers are allowed to lie in certain circumstances, how many of them and how many times do they cross the line in terms of lying in any of the three areas listed above?

These three officers who likely were taught how to lie in certain circumstances, did just that and then some. Why and how and to what extent, are questions that may or may not be answered during the federal probe.

How many speeches did Pennington give to the public and civic leaders praising his officers actions in addressing crime in the city or the neighborhood where Johnston lived? Did Pennington even know what some of his officers were doing in that neighborhood and probably others like it?

That's well and good to praise crime-fighting efforts, but at the same time Pennington should have been looking closely at how his officers including those in the narcotics divisions were doing this. He should be looking at the behavior of their supervisors, that is if they were even properly supervised at all. Clearly, accountability within the department broke down at some point.

Nahmias, now encharged in the role of the investigating party, had this to say about what was going on in the Atlanta Police Department.


“The officers charged today were not corrupt in the sense that we have seen before,” he said.

“They are not accused of seeking payoffs or trying to rob drug dealers or trying to protect gang members. Their goal was to arrest drug dealers and seize illegal drugs, and that’s what we want our police officers to do for our community."

“But these officers pursued that goal by corrupting the justice system, because when it was hard to do their job the way the Constitution requires, they let the ends justify their means.”

Corruption of a different stripe or corruption of what some may say the greater good perhaps but does that make it any less corrupt? It's not uncommon for even the outside agencies to make excuses for the conduct of officers in law enforcement agencies that they must maintain close ties with to effectively solve crime, but corruption is corruption. I doubt Johnston and her family care what the reason was as to why these officers broke into her home, took her life and then tried to cover it up. The seething community where this crime took place probably take little consolation in Nahmias' definition of corruption.

But it looks like Atlanta's police department will undergo a similar federal probe as those which took place in such agencies as the Los Angeles Police Department which experienced its own scandal, called Rampart. The end result is that the federal government through its consent decree put checks and balances and safeguards on the department's CRASH units, restraints that those officers still bristle at today on the Los Angeles Police Department's blog.

But don't blame the public. Don't blame the federal agencies that created them. Point the finger of blame at your fellow officers who engaged in corrupt behavior and stained everyone else in that department who works there. Make it clear to others how unacceptable that type of behavior is and that you don't want it in your working environment.

What's left that's good in Atlanta's department and there's probably officers who are, should also send that message to these officers and others like them hiding in plain sight.

District Attorney Paul Howard had this to say about Johnston, a victim who payed the ultimate price because of that corruption.


“She was without question an innocent civilian who was caught in the worst circumstance imaginable,” Mr. Howard, the district attorney, said at a news conference on Thursday.

“When we learned of her death, all of us imagined our own mothers and our own grandmothers in her place, and the thought made us shudder.”

She was also Black in a predominantly Black neighborhood and it's in neighborhoods like this one and in Rampart(which has a large Latino population) where these corruption scandals most often play out. Another department now being probed in a corruption scandal is Maywood Police Department in Los Angeles County. Maywood is what is called a designated "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants. A sanctuary where police officers were engaging in excessive force, impregnating 14-year-old police explorers and engaging in corruption. These scandals most often happen in neighborhoods where people live that most people don't care about.

Meanwhile miles away from that epicenter in Atlanta, the city of Riverside, California had to address a similar situation on a smaller scale that occurred within its own house. Two police officers were apparently fired from the department after the investigation of a citizen complaint determined that they had planted evidence and falsified statements according to a Press Enterprise article on the department's internal complaint process last year. Not much in the way of details was provided on what these two officers had done, but if they engaged in evidence planting and lying then they should be fired and not be working in law enforcement agencies. The first line of people who should be saying this are those who work in the department and those who work in law enforcement.

Of course, given the reality of the arbitration system in the state of California that exists for police officers, the question is how long will those firings last? Arbitrators working within this system have already issued rulings that have overturned the firings of a sexual assault detective who had sexual relations with a rape victim on a case he was investigating and a patrol officer who was charged with child molestation and received two hung juries, it wouldn't be surprising, albeit disappointing to see these two officers reinstated as well. And the public would never be the wiser under the current state laws if an officer has been fired and has returned to work or has gone to work some place else.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Election '07: Forum clashes

One day after the latest League of Women's Voters' candidate forum, a controversy was born.

The Press Enterprise published an article about how Councilman Dom Betro abruptly left the Ward One candidate forum at the downtown library after another candidate, Letitia Pepper made a reference to former Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini in comments she made during her closing statement.


In a statement released Thursday, Betro said he considered Pepper's reference to be a "cultural slur" on his Italian ancestry, calling her comment "despicable and deplorable."

In her own statement, Pepper defended her comments, saying she simply was trying to describe Betro's governing style by using "the well-known analogy of a totalitarian government which preferred fast results to following a democratic process."

Witnesses told me that the comment was made after Betro said that he had a forceful leadership style that got things done, produced results. Then Pepper said something to the effect(as the exact quote differed in the accounts) that Mussolini got the trains running on time but people were still very unhappy.

Betro is Italian in ancestry. At least one other candidate felt that it was not a wise choice of words but said that he felt Betro took the opportunity to make it a bigger issue than it was.

Was it the wisest choice of words? No. It is common to use as a means of comparison the well-known but historically inaccurate phrase about Mussolini getting the trains to run on time. It has been used to show that dictatorships can appear to be very orderly on the surface, mostly because people living under one are too afraid to do or say anything in opposition. It is often made to show how this orderliness and the regional stability which often accompanies it usually come at a high price to the people involved and their civil liberties most often are not included as part of the package.

There are other ways to make the same point and it's not the first time people have made a reference to a local elected official and a brutal dictator. Analogies are either made or people have even labeled several elected officials as akin to Germany's former fascist dictator, Adolf Hitler. It's just better to leave both men and their counterparts around the world to serving as harsh reminders of hard-earned lessons rather than as convenient comparisons to people whose behavior is not even close to what these men did. By engaging in rash comparisons, we do appear to show that we're ignoring the oft-repeated admonition by those who suffered at the hands of a Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin or Stalin, to never forget.

Larry LaPre raised a good point in the article. Why didn't Betro just ask Pepper what she meant by her comment? The confident, even humble Betro of four years ago would have probably done so. But the incumbent did not even though four years of experience sitting in what's often the hot seat should have provided him with the tools to perform with grace under pressure.

Betro's response instead is just mirroring the behavior he has shown lately from the dais and behavior that unfortunately some of us have experienced first hand as I did when I questioned him about several statements he had made at a public meeting regarding the status of the city council's promises involving the implementation of the police department's Strategic Plan. Statements I knew weren't the truth and needed clarification. What I received was a two minute tantrum separated into two parts.

It's difficult to receive the brunt of an elected official's anger especially when it's most often directed towards women young and old and realize that if it were someone like Councilman Steve Adams(who has) or Councilman Art Gage(who has not) that were acting this way, that people would be holding my hand while encouraging me to make an ethics complaint against either one. But when it's Betro, people either say that you misconstrued a situation which is difficult to do when someone is having a temper tantrum in your vicinity or they look the other way.

But that's all part of politics in this city, how they are conducted here and how they are played no doubt in other places as well. And Betro does have a lot to offer the city especially the Chamber of Commerce crowd but not if he lets his mouth continue to get in the way of his common sense, a message his handlers should be communicating to him. That's true for all political candidates by the way.

Dr. Roy Saldanha, D.V.M. has started a Web site listed below on his political campaign including his ideas for ideas and solutions for different issues and problems that the city has been facing.

He writes about how in the face of the $1.1 billion Riverside Renaissance, his ward has only $27 million earmarked for its improvements which means it got seriously shortchanged. Saldanha attributes that to the failure of Adams to lobby for La Sierra's share of the money due to him spending the past year on the campaign trail while taking a run for the state assembly on behalf of several law enforcement labor unions in the region. Addressing this issue, Saldanha had plenty to say.


Ward 7 deserves full time representation, not a part time councilman.

We deserve a councilman whose main concern is Ward 7 and the City of Riverside. We deserve a councilman who wants to be in Ward 7. Our incumbent councilman just got elected to represent us 4 short years ago. Yet in his first term he made an unsuccessful bid for State Assembly. Our incumbent councilman apparently wants to use his position to move on to “bigger and better” instead of doing the job he was elected to do here.

Would he still be here if he was elected to State Assembly? Does he really want to be the Councilman for Ward 7 or will he just “move on up” if elected again?

I think we all know the answers to those questions.

Yes, I think we do.

This is a point which will resonate with many residents of Ward Seven, which demographically is over 50% Latino and is too often seen by elected officials as the "gateway to the city". But in reality, the La Sierra area is often treated like the stepchild in a Grimms' fairytale.

It's one that will be repeated and in fact has been by the other candidates including Terry Frizzel at city council meetings. And Saldanha is right, Adams should not be doing a part-time job especially since thanks to recent salary hikes during the past several years which have been approved much more quickly than were the city employee contracts, it's being treated like a full-time position.

Saldanha's site stated that he was endorsed by both the Riverside Police Officers' Association and the Riverside Police Administrators Association. Apparently, the RPAA is a relatively newcomer to the endorsement process but its participation shouldn't be surprising given the events that have impacted that labor union, which includes officers ranked at the lieutenant position or above, during the past year.

This union's leadership has been actively involved in two gatherings at city council meetings in September and March to protest against actions by the city council and city manager's office impacting its members. It also filed a law suit against the city last summer, one that was just recently settled by both parties.

Talk has also centered on moves made by the city council particularly in connection with the city's budget next year to appease the city's voters in the upcoming election. The one that comes up most often is the money allocated for the creation of new police officer and fire fighter positions, which could after all, be promised in April, before the June election and then withdrawn after several council members are safely seated before the new fiscal year begins in July.

Which is why it's important to pay attention to the budget process which began in a public forum last week. But then you should never ignore what the city does during the summer months because that's when its leadership believes that few people are paying attention.

City Council candidate Web sites:

Mike Gardner (Ward One)

Roy Saldanha (Ward 7)

Michael Williams Company (Dom Betro(1), Rusty Bailey(3), Harry Kurani(5) and Steve Adams(7)---What some people call BASS's campaign headquarters.

The Los Angeles Fire Department is battling allegations of racism, sexism and hazing practices in its stations. Now, antisemitism has been added to that growing list of misconduct according to this article published in the Los Angeles Times.


Barry learned of the new incident only minutes before his news conference at downtown's Fire Station No. 3 and was quickly besieged by the media.

Stephen E. Norris, second vice president of the firefighters union, said the episode happened at a station in the Pico-Fairfax District and involved "some kind of song played loudly that had a reference to Passover."

"It could be rumor at this point," Norris said after the news conference. "I don't know even if the firefighter is Jewish, or what the [nature of the offense] would be considered in that incident."

The previous fire chief who had been appointed specifically to address similar problems and reform the department has departed and his replacement, Douglas L. Barry promised amid a crowd of organizations representing Black, Latino and female fire fighters to do the same.

That promise has been made by him. It had been made by his predecessor. It's been made involving other fire departments including that in New York City which had to address the participation of several of its employees on a racist float during a parade in Queens. It's also been the problem experienced in a lot of law enforcement agencies as well whether it's condemning videos that depict racist, sexist and homophobic stereotypes in San Francisco. Or through emails sent promoting the same up in a police department near Seattle, Washington.

Labels: , ,

Dying while Black: The guilty pleas in Atlanta

A public forum centered on the Ward One city council race was held at the public library in downtown Riverside and although the Press Enterprise published an article about it in today's edition, apparently there was more to it than what appeared in print.

Four candidates showed up and took their respective corners. They were incumbent councilman, Dom Betro and his challengers, Michael Gardner, Letitia Pepper and Derek Thesier.

Though it was not included in the article, apparently one of the candidates, Betro left the forum after another, Pepper, made an analogy comparing him and how he represented his ward to Benito Mussolini and his fascist regime in Italy.

From what has been circulated and related by those who attended the event, it doesn't appear that Pepper intended to make a direct comparison to a dictator of the brutal regime but was referring to a common phrase about Mussolini ensuring the trains were running on time(which is erroneous by the way).

However, it's probably better just to not make comparisons to dictators who were responsible for the deaths of millions of people like was the case with Mussolini and his ally in Germany, Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin in Uganda, for example. Especially when making a reference to someone who is of Italian ancestry in the case of Mussolini. There are better ways to make a similar point as several members of the Italian branch of my family would say.

Still, it's not entirely clear what happened or what the actual text of the statement was though I'm sure it's an issue that will receive more coverage if it's true that the Betro camp is pursuing it. Unclear also is what happened in regards to another rumor that had Betro accusing Councilman Art Gage and Betro's political rival, Gardner of conspiring together to get Gardner elected in the first ward. Well, given that Betro has actually endorsed Gage's rival, William "Rusty" Bailey, one can argue that he and Bailey have already been doing the same thing against Gage.

When in reality, what you have is what's called an election year and candidates representing a cross-section of their respective wards trying to win the brass ring and get elected to city council. There's still probably a long season ahead, as it seems a certainty that at least one election will head off into the runoff round later this year.

Betro has shown at earlier forums that he is feeling the strain of having to face off against three candidates in his reelection campaign. Even though he's got the backing of two of the city's major employment unions and likely is getting financial support from some of the development firms that knock down his door on a regular basis, he still appears a bundle of nerves, especially in comparison to his opposition, several of whom seem to be having the time of their lives.

That's the life of an incumbent who has a fair number of disillusioned constituents in his ward including those who live outside the downtown area like in the Northside, the Wood Streets and the University neighborhood. It's been said that more and more people are calling for those "Anyone but Betro" signs that have been made by the new "Save Riverside" group that's been meeting regularly.

Having been on the receiving end of a Betro tantrum, I'm not surprised that others have been seeing that side of him from the dais at city council meetings or at meetings. And the election process in Ward One is always a contentious one, given that what's at stake is what the city government calls its jewel, the downtown area.

Still, it's his to lose and most likely, he won't.

In the third ward, it appears that Councilman Art Gage will probably be reelected. Even though his rivals are running their campaigns and one has been endorsed by five other sitting city officials, Gage's constituents for the most part like his responsiveness and even if others in the city don't like him, only Ward Three residents get to ultimately decide who represents them through the vote.

And given the current political climate, being endorsed by so many people currently on the dais might actually be detrimental in some respects to Bailey and not helpful given the anti-incumbent feeling out there. While Gage himself is an incumbent, voters in his ward tend to not hold that against him.

The contest for Gage's seat will truly show whether or not city council members are elected based on ward representation or how they engage themselves in terms of city-wide issues.

Ward Five is never an easy one to call and this time four opponents are fighting for an open seat. Donna Doty-Michalka appears to be heading off with Chris MacArthur close behind. Harry Kurani is getting some support but probably enough to force the other two candidates into a runoff election at the polls in November.

Councilman Steve Adams for many reasons is the most vulnerable incumbent up for election in the seventh ward. His ill-advised and ill-fated run for higher office in the middle of his council term left his constituents with a bad taste in their mouths and his abandonment by the Riverside Police Officers Association(though apparently, there were signs spotted in La Sierra stating that he has the support of police officers and fire fighters) mean he's probably going to be out of a job.

Though given the competition between up and coming candidate, Roy Saldanha and former mayor, Terry Frizzel, this election almost certainly will keep Adams employed at City Hall until at least after November.

Ballots will be mailed out to the relevant wards in the first week of May and must be signed and postmarked by June 5 to be counted.

One of the hottest topics was in relation to the restrictions that city council members have voted to place on members of the public at their weekly meetings.


In response to a question about how to make council meetings more meaningful to the community, Thesier, Gardner and Pepper all slammed council members for failing to allow residents more interaction on issues facing the community.

"Let the citizens participate," Gardner said. "They are ignored and treated with disrespect."

Thesier said the council needs to make itself more accessible to the community, particularly when there is an issue of concern to residents.

"If that means more town hall meetings, then so be it," he said.

Pepper said residents are not given enough time to study the City Council agenda before meetings.

"We need to make things available earlier so people can study and interact with their council person," Pepper said.

Betro said he disagreed with the premise of the question.

"I'm not so sure council meetings aren't well attended," Betro said, noting that there had been a full house at the meeting Tuesday during which council members discussed the proposed $25 million expansion of the Main Library and the Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

Two officers who shot and killed a 92 year old Black woman in Atlanta appeared in court to plead guilty to manslaughter charges in connection with her death, before entering guilty pleas in federal court as well. A third officer also faces similar charges.


"I'm sorry," the 35-year-old said, his voice barely audible.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation, making false statements and perjury, which was based on claims in a warrant.

Former Officer Gregg Junnier, 40, who retired from the Atlanta police in January, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation and making false statements. Both men are expected to face more than 10 years in prison.

In a hearing later in federal court, both pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to violate a person's civil rights, resulting in death. Their state and federal sentences would run concurrently.

The charges followed a Nov. 21 "no-knock" drug raid on the home of Kathryn Johnston, 92. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her.

The investigation showed that Johnston had fired her gun only once and the bullet had penetrated the door before the plain-clothed officers had even broken through. Shots that hit other officers were attributed not to Johnston but "friendly fire".

And although there was a small amount of marijuana uncovered in Johnston's house, Smith later admitted to planting the drugs.

The three men originally faced a murder indictment which would have put them in prison for life. But what they did to Johnston an elderly poor woman with a gun given to her by a family member to protect her in a high-crime neighborhood was not only murder, but a violation of her civil rights. And how these officers conducted themselves especially afterwards by making false statements and planting evidence to cover their crime is truly a disgrace to the profession of policing and no doubt, it will stain that profession in Atlanta, Georgia as well as elsewhere.

Searches by the Los Angeles Police Department's officers were found by a federal judge to be unconstitutional according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson ordered the police department to change its search procedures after he evaluated searches done by officers of people in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles.


It's an important decision," said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School. "It sort of resolves an argument percolating out there, that … the LAPD would have permission to stop anybody."

The ruling, she said, reaffirms "the right of the homeless not to be subjected to unwarranted, suspicionless searches. Even if they don't have much to their name, they still have their constitutional rights."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit that Pregerson ruled on, maintained that police officers routinely stopped people and questioned them about their parole or probation status. Officers often handcuffed them and searched them without any reasonable suspicion of a crime, the organization charged in court papers.

The ACLU in 2003 won an injunction that barred the LAPD from stopping or searching skid row residents without reasonable suspicion that they had committed a crime or were violating parole or probation. But after the crackdown began last year — with the LAPD adding 50 officers to patrol downtown — the ACLU and some homeless rights advocates charged that officers again were violating the rights of skid row residents by searching people improperly.

"These aren't just isolated instances where an officer was overzealous and crossed the line and searched in a situation where he or she shouldn't have," ACLU attorney Peter Bibring said.

City officials said that the arrests were part of a crackdown in the area around Skid Row and that the searches were legally conducted. It does plan to appeal the ruling.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Canary in the mine: The resignations

The resignations of two more commissioners from the beleaguered Community Police Review Commission sparked the interest of the Press Enterprise and it published an article about the impact both departures will have on the operations of the CPRC including its investigation into the Lee Deante Brown shooting.

Five commissioners have left the CPRC since mid-November. Soon after the departure of the first commissioner, the city launched its plan to change the operations of the CPRC. Soon after that, it let some of the commission's officers in on what it was doing. This all came several months after it had changed the role played by its then executive director, Pedro Payne.

Payne resigned at the end of the year, amid a flurry of rumors about that and the status of the CPRC.

Former police chief and commissioner Bill Howe doesn't mince words when he's expressing his views of a situation and he didn't in this morning's Press Enterprise article.


Retired police chief and former commissioner Bill Howe said the city's undue influence to make sure the city is not liable for the shootings has caused the turmoil. He wants to see commissioners who are not influenced by the City Council members who appointed them, as well as having a good mix of members with and without a law enforcement background.

City spokesman Austin Carter wrote in an e-mail that he could not provide information about what city officials think of the turnover or how it might affect the board.

The official list of departures from the CPRC and the reasons given by the commissioners for those departures are the following.

Frank Arreola: Resigned in November 2006, because he wanted to do other things. "Other things" included working as a legislative aide for the councilman who had appointed him, Steve Adams. His resignation sparked concerns of conflict of interest by community members and raised some eyebrows.

Bonavita Quinto-MacCallum: January 2007, declined reappointment to a second term for work-related reasons, surprising many people who believed she had wanted to continue with the commission. At a meeting of the public outreach subcommittee meeting not long before she made her decision, Quinto-MacCullum had talked about plans she had to promote outreach in the communities.

Bob Garcia: February 2007, termed out

Les Davidson: March 2007, moved out of the city

Ric Castro: April 2007, work-related reasons.

The racial breakdown of the resignations are four Latinos and one White. Of the remaining seven commissioners, five are White, one is Latino and one is Black. There are six men and one woman serving on the commission. Of the five commissioners who have resigned, only one of them, Davidson, came from a law enforcement background.

Of the remaining seven commissioners, five of them come from either a law enforcement or corrections background and another commissioner manages a company, American Medical Response, that is contracting with the city to work with the police department and is himself working directly with the department.

Of the three newest commissioners, all three of them had prior board and commission experience, including one who was actually serving on the Human Relations Commission when he was asked to resign from that body and be sworn in to serve on the CPRC.

In fact, when interviewing the last round of candidates to serve on the CPRC, councilmen Dom Betro and Ed Adkison stressed that it was absolutely necessary to appoint new commissioners with prior board and commission experience "to hit the ground running" in the wake of the recent turmoil surrounding the CPRC.

That's a ridiculous requirement considering that whatever turmoil exists likely stems from the actions of the city manager's office, the same one whose headed by an employee who was just awarded a large pay hike by the city council while this "turmoil" was going on. The second, is that none of these commissioners have "hit the ground running" any quicker than any other new commissioners have. They are undergoing the same learning process as anyone else, because serving on the Planning Commission, the Human Relations Commission and the Board of Public Utilities helps make you more proficient at serving on those bodies but not really the CPRC, which is after all, a different commission.

As for the commissioners who have departed, they are mostly people of color, all of whom are Latino and mostly community-based rather than law enforcement based. Which according to some comments made by representatives from the city manager's office at recent meetings is just how they would like it.

It's a perfect plan for a city to create a commission that's entirely comprised of people of law enforcement background or individuals with ties to City Hall if its desire is to create a commission in its image to do what it hopes will be its bidding. It's difficult however, to get a community to trust such a mechanism unless its membership includes people that they can relate to, people with deep roots in their neighborhoods who are in professions other than law enforcement.

If there are no civilians on police review commissions, then what you have is not a community oversight mechanism. What you have is akin to an internal affairs division that has opened up its membership to other members of the law enforcement fraternity and makes appearances in public occasionally.

If the public had faith in the internal affairs divisions that already exist in police agencies, then civilian review would have never been created, would have never been implemented and wouldn't be spreading across the country with new auditors, boards and commissions being created each year. Internal affairs divisions were set up for police officers. Civilian oversight was set up for the public because it didn't trust the mechanism of self-investigation and it's spreading for that same reason.

The healthiest step in implementing a form of civilian oversight is to allow both of them to serve on a police oversight mechanism as long as no profession is overrepresented, but the city doesn't exactly have a history of making healthy decisions in a variety of areas.

All the resignations have created concern, speculation and rumors that at least several of them were actually in connection with the decision made by the city manager's office with the assistance of both the police department and the city attorney's office to change the operating procedures of the seven-year-old police oversight mechanism.

Davidson had referred to several meetings between himself and representatives of these agencies that took place behind closed doors at the end of last year, but shed little light on what exactly took place. Questions were raised about Davidson's resignation and the reason given for it, among the lines that if Davidson knew he was moving out of the city and thus could no longer serve on the CPRC, why did he allow himself to nominated for the chair position? And why especially when the tally taken was a tie vote, did he keep himself in the running?

As a result of his resignation, there was never actually a chair of the commission elected, because the vice-chair who had been elected to serve in that capacity moved up to chair the commission and declined to call for another election.

Interestingly, in the article the current chair, Brian Pearcy said that the resignations that have hit the CPRC were one reason why the process of drafting a public report on the fatal officer involved shooting of Lee Deante Brown was being delayed. However, his account contradicted what was happening at a special meeting the commission held on April 23, where there was already a call for a vote among seven commissioners on whether or not Officer Terry Ellefson had violated the department's use of force policy when he shot and killed Brown.

And the new commissioners who have joined the body, John Brandiff, Steve Simpson and Peter Hubbard have not received much guidance from anyone in terms of how to handle the process or procedures of handling officer-involved deaths as commissioners assigned the responsibility to deliberate and decide on these issues. At least not in public, which is a sore spot with many, considering that a fair degree of maneuvering involving the CPRC apparently was done behind closed doors at City Hall, the degree to which will probably never be fully known.

Not that private meetings with the city's staff are not a part of serving as a commissioner but one assessment made by Davidson during a private meeting at City Hall that he apparently attended was not that they were being asked what to do but that they were being told what to do by the city manager's office in conjunction with the city attorney's office and the police department. That assessment made by Davidson by itself framed the discussion of the series of events that had transpired during the holiday season, at several public meetings earlier this year.

A sad reality of what has likely transpired is that the city manager's office and the city attorney's office might as well hire an airplane and fly it around the city, with a banner behind it stating that City Hall has zero confidence in our police department and its officers, particularly when it comes to the use of lethal force in the field. Because Howe is right, that's basically what these city departments are saying through their actions surrounding the department and the CPRC whether it's trying to push "at will" contracts on upper management employees in the department to micromanaging the CPRC. That's how many people are reading the situation in the communities.

It's kind of hard to miss it when it's flashing in neon. The department no doubt has its problems as an audit last week clearly showed, but is it as bad as the city manager's office seems to be saying through the series of actions that have brought crowds to city council meetings lately and also caused a lot of talk throughout the city surrounding the CPRC?

The discussion on the Brown shooting is expected to resume again. And it's a commission that is now mostly White, mostly male and mostly tied with law enforcement that is going to hear the case, which hits the points that Howe made, right on the money.

Applications are being accepted by the city clerk's office until May 1 and interviews will be conducted by the entire city council due to a rules change involving mid-term appointments involving the CPRC, the Planning Commission and the Board of Utilities.

Davidson's replacement will have to come from the fourth ward in order to comply with a charter amendment that states that each ward is required to have at least one of its residents serving on every board and commission. Councilman Frank Schiavone said last week that he's already received a stack of applications from his ward to fill Davidson's position.

Ward three candidates met up at a forum sponsored by the League of Women's Voters and the American Association of University Women yesterday. Candidates included Councilman Art Gage, high school teacher, Rusty Bailey and truck driver Peter Olmos.

Development and traffic and the conflict between the two was a major discussion item.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Olmos said the city has grown far too much and pondered how citrus industry founder Eliza Tibbets would react to it.

"Tibbets would be rolling in her grave if she saw all the orange trees that have been destroyed," he said.

The city needs to stop eradicating its history, Olmos said.

"We have enough restaurants, ladies and gentlemen," he said.

Bailey said growth would have less of an impact if development, especially condominiums and apartments, went in near transportation, like Metrolink stations, and near shopping. That would allow people to walk more and drive less, he said.

Gage said much of the growth affecting the city is outside its limits, so the city needs to do a better job of making Riverside County understand the growth's effects on the city.

To improve the flow of traffic in Riverside, Gage said, the city must continue to build train crossing overpasses and underpasses, which are collectively called grade separations. Because they can cost $45 million to $50 million in some cases, he said, "We need help from the federal government."

The situation involving the Kawa market that was purchased by the city's redevelopment agency attracted a letter in the Press Enterprise's Readers' Forum.


Shame on us for not trying to help this family by exhausting every possible option. They are our neighbors, and their son attends school with our children.

I suppose that while we have preserved the security of the residents of Bandini Avenue, we should be thankful that we have destroyed only one family. Is that truly the greater good?

Given that in this case like in others, it's a business owned by a nonwhite family, it appears that the city really believes that it is improving the neighborhood for residents in the Wood Streets, who are mostly White so that they don't have to be subjected to residents from Olivewood Apartments who are mostly Black walking down their street to the location where the businesses that are not located on Olivewood can be found on Magnolia Avenue.

A ward one candidate forum will be held this evening, somewhere.

Colton's former city council member, Ramon Hernandez who was busted for misappropriation of city funds waived his right to a preliminary hearing in relation to criminal charges related to that incident.

Hernandez's name was raised during an investigation into Colton's former police chief Kenneth Rulon, who alleged that he was being retaliated against by the city manager for reporting Hernandez's alleged misconduct to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office.

The city of Colton denied that allegation.

Labels: , ,

Newer›  ‹Older