Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Canary in the Mine: Brown and the CPRC


City Attorney Gregory Priamos has issued a decree against Ward One candidate Letitia Pepper posting her signs on city-owned property through a letter written to her campaign in what some have criticized as selective enforcement of code compliance against one candidate among a group engaged in similar behavior. More information available as soon as it is reported.

For those who are surprised by this, perhaps you need to be reminded which candidate in Ward One votes at least once annually whether or not to keep Priamos employed as the city's attorney. For people who believe otherwise, why don't you go check out some prime beach front property in Kansas?

As for Pepper, she should remember she's an attorney not a politician in a town filled with more of the former or more aspiring to be the former than attorneys able or willing to take on Goliath. The former is where her power lies.

Also, at last night's Mayor's Night Out in the University neighborhood, Mayor Ron Loveridge apparently expressed shock at the knowledge that community activist Kevin Dawson has not received a letter from Priamos' office informing him of the handling of the ethics complaint he filed against Councilman Dom Betro almost a month ago.

The City Police Review Commission held its regular meeting on the fifth Wednesday in May to continue among other things its discussion on the issuance of a public report in connection with the fatal officer involved shooting of Lee Deante Brown.

In attendance were 15 community members, City Attorney Gregory Priamos, Supervising District Attorney Michael Rushton and the two new commissioners, Linda Soubirous and Arthur Santore who have yet to be sworn in.

Rushton took over Sara Danville's position in the unit that oversees officer-involved shooting reviews conducted by the Riverside County District Attorney's office. The veteran prosecutor came into prominence after a murder trial he was prosecuting experienced two mistrials after presiding judge, W. Charles Morgan determined that Rushton was dismissing Black jurors on the basis of their race. Each time Rushton kicked off Black jurors, Morgan asked him to provide an explanation then declared a mistrial. Then the parties all started from scratch until the next mistrial was called.

Soon after, Rushton had several cases remanded back from the State Court of Appeals for similar reasons. One of those cases involving a bank robbery and a conspiracy to commit another bank robbery, had its convictions vacated after presiding judge, Ronald Taylor and the defense attorneys couldn't remember enough of that trial to determine whether race-based discrimination had been committed by Rushton during jury selection in that case.

In one of his cases, Rushton made comments about postal workers that angered members of that profession all the way to the national office in Washington, D.C. In his comments, Rushton had stated that postal service employees worked in a "highly stressful" profession and could go "postal" which apparently meant they couldn't handle jury duty. However, when it came to excluding them, Rushton appeared to only exclude Black postal employees and some said his comments were only an excuse that he used because African-Americans were represented in higher percentages at this agency than they are in the general population so it provided an indirect means of being able to keep African-Americans off the jury.

Since those turbulent days as a trial prosecutor, Rushton has advanced through the ranks of his office and now is a supervising prosecutor which was what led to his attendance at the CPRC meetings of late.

At the CPRC meeting, community leaders including Woodie Rucker-Hughes who is president of the local chapter of the NAACP spoke on the Brown shooting including comments that had been made by several commissioners at an earlier meeting.

At that special meeting held on May 9, several commissioners said that the reason why the civilian witnesses may not have seen a taser in Brown's hand was because the taser was Black and so was Brown. That and the fact that he didn't wear any light-colored clothing to provide a contrast with the taser or his skin color.

Hughes warned the commissioners that making references like that meant dealing with a "slippery slope that perhaps you don't want to go down". Several law enforcement agencies had slid down that slope when defending other shootings of unarmed Black men, including that of Dante Meniefield by a Riverside County Sheriff Department deputy in 2001.

Hughes talked about how she and other members of the Eastside Think Tank had gone to the Welcome Inn of America to talk to its residents after the shooting and how upset they had been. She cautioned commissioners not to "whitewash" the shooting.

Jennifer Vaughn-Blakeley of the Group said that she was also offended by the comments made regarding the taser and Brown's skin color and emphasized that the commission had to respect the opinions of all of its members.

"It would be unethical and nontransparent to not give equal consideration to the minority report," Vaughn-Blakely said.

The commission especially Chair Brian Pearcy looked nonplussed at Vaughn-Blakely's comments especially after she called the reference to the taser and Brown's skin, "racist".

Retired University of California, Riverside Police Chief Bill Howe called those comments by commissioners "ridiculous" and said that he still supported the commissioners and their work even though he was no longer serving on it.

"I'll support you when you're right," Howe said, "And be unhappy when you're wrong."

Based on his comments on the Brown case, it sounds like Howe is not very happy. He criticized the handling of the DNA evidence and leading statements in this and other shooting cases that were said by Officer-Involved Death Team investigators in interviews with officers involved in onduty fatal shootings.

"We've been down this road many times," Howe said.

And given the changes forced on the commission the last six months, they'll go down that road in the future again. Compared to their more spirited colleagues in cities from San Francisco, Berkeley to Boston, they have not given up, they've given in.

One by one community members stood up and spoke in criticism of the handling of the Brown case. Michael Dunn, a professor of biochemistry at the University of California, Riverside criticized the DNA evidence saying that the way the sample was collected negated its credibility as evidence.

The evidence technician who collected the sample from Officer Terry Ellefson's taser had used a single swab to both the handle and the stock as if the concern of the department had been whether or not Brown's DNA was on the taser not where it would be found if it was on it. A taser that his body had come into contact with before and after the shooting. If Officer Michael Paul Stucker's voluntary statement that he provided to investigators is taken as fact(which it was up to the moment of the shooting), Brown's bleeding body lay on top of it for at least several minutes.

Of course, Stucker had told investigators he never actually saw the taser after the shooting but had assumed it was in Brown's hands which were hidden beneath his body which had four bullet wounds in it at the time. The same taser that his partner Ellefson had told the same investigators that Stucker had kicked away from Brown's body. Neither officer mentioned a conversation they both had about the taser where Stucker had asked where it was, and Ellefson had said, "over there" at the point when the medical personnel had arrived. That exchange between the two officers was picked up by Ellefson's belt recorder.

Other speakers criticized the commission's decision to disregard the civilian witnesses while taking as fact the officers' statements including those by Ellefson whose statement that Brown had been on his feet and lunging at him when he was shot had contradicted other evidence.

If you don't believe Ellefson's statement about Brown lunging towards him, how can you believe anything that he said, they asked.

The commissioners were fairly silent during and after the public comment, including Peter Hubbard who for some reason always looks like a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching vehicle despite having served on the CPRC for several months now.

Pearcy said that they were still drafting the majority report and that both that and the minority report would be released together. That brought some objection from Commissioner Steve Simpson who wanted to see the minority report first before it was released.

Pearcy added that the commission still had much work to do in terms of its recommendations to the department saying, "I have a laundry list of those" including issues with the tactics used by both officers leading up to the shooting. However, if the commission had so many issues with the tactics used by the officers, then why isn't it raising them while it is deliberating the shooting itself?

That and other questions like problems with the 41 second time line provided by Ellefson's X26 taser and the officers' statements will hopefully be addressed and perhaps resolved in future special meetings as this shooting case enters into its second year.

The Press Enterprise's reporters Adam C. Hartmann and Gregor McGavin has been covering the trial of former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputy, Ivory J. Webb and providing frequent updates on the proceedings. You can find a more detailed account of Palacious's testimony here.

But the biggest news in that publication was the testimony of Luis Fernando Escobedo who drove the car that crashed with Elio Carrion as its passenger.


Escobedo, who led deputies on a high-speed chase in a Chevrolet Corvette with Carrion riding along on Jan. 29, 2006, said he could clearly see and hear Webb because of light coming from inside the car. He said Carrion was complying with orders to "get up" when Webb opened fire.

"(Webb) never said, 'No, don't get up,' " Escobedo testified.

Escobedo said that he had nagged Carrion to come with him and that he had consumed a dozen beers before getting in the car which he drove at high-speed before the collision.

The police commission in San Francisco recommended that Officer Jesse Serna be taken off the streets while numerous complaints of excessive force against him were investigated according to the San Francisco Chronicle.


Police Commissioner Joe Veronese's comments about Officer Jesse Serna, 41, came one week after The Chronicle wrote about four incidents in the past nine months in which citizens alleged that Serna, who works out of Central Station, used excessive force on them without any reason.

"It is incumbent upon the leadership of this department to act responsibly by removing any officer from public contact who has demonstrated or is suspected of posing a danger to the public,'' Veronese wrote to The Chronicle in an e-mail. "Officer Serna is suspected of posing such a threat and should be removed from public contact until such time that this concern is resolved.''

At a Police Commission meeting later in the day, Veronese reiterated his call that Serna be moved off street duty while the four incidents are investigated.

The commission's chair and San Francisco Police Department Chief Heather Fong declined to comment on the matter. San Francisco's police oversight mechanism has been hit hard by the impact of the Copley Press decision last August but is still determined to do the job entrusted to it by the city's residents, regardless.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Election 2007: The Editorial Board speaks

In case anyone's forgotten or didn't write down the city council candidate endorsements announced by the Press Enterprise's editorial board a while back, it has graciously provided a second opportunity to do so less than one week before the election deadline for mail in ballots.


Riverside voters should look for candidates who will keep pressing for large-scale civic improvements while fostering a more open temperament on the council. On those grounds, Betro, Bailey, Michalka and Garcia stand out in this election.

I'll leave the endorsements up to the professional election watchers and just say, pick your candidate and cast your vote by the deadline if you live in an odd-numbered ward in Riverside. It's a very important action to take and if you didn't register in time to vote in this election or aren't registered to vote, please take this step. Voting is your right, but it's dependent on whether or not you choose to exercise it. And whoever gets in is the ward representative for the next four years.

The United States Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal filed to overturn a lower court's decision to give a man convicted of killing two Riverside Police Department officers a new trial, according to an article published in the Press Enterprise.

Officers Dennis Doty and Phil Trust were shot to death about 25 years ago by a paraplegic man they came to arrest on a warrant. The 9th Circuit in the Federal Court of Appeals tossed out that verdict and a death sentence because it decided that he had inadequate counsel during his trial and when the presiding judge realized it, he failed to act.

It's not surprising the case was remanded given that the Supreme Court receives hundreds of petitions to hear cases a year and grants a minuscule number of those that pertain to constitutional questions it wishes to address.


"The case will be back in a courtroom in Riverside County in due course," said John T. Philipsborn, who represented Daniels on appeal.

"It was a huge wound for the community, and it will reopen that wound," Donna Doty Michalka said Tuesday by phone. She was divorced but said she was on good terms with ex-husband Dennis Doty when he died.

She attended the six-month trial. "It's been on my mind," she said. "I don't relish sitting through it again, along with the former officers and friends."

District Attorney Rod Pacheco said his office will take the case to trial "as soon as possible."

Jackson Chambers Daniels, Jr.'s attorney of choice had been a local one.


Andrew Roth was Daniels' counsel of choice for his murder trial, but Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gerald F. Schulte ordered Roth off the case after prosecutors said Roth might be called as a witness.

Roth said Tuesday he has not had such a tactic used against him since.

"I think the court made a mistake, granting the district attorney's motion to recuse me, and all the appellate courts agree now," Roth said. "That was a significant factor in the need to reverse the case because of the inadequacy of counsel," he said by phone.

The opening arguments began yesterday in the case of a San Bernardino County Sheriff Department deputy who is facing criminal charges in connection with an officer-involved shooting in January 2006.

Prosecutor Lewis Cope asserted that former Deputy Ivory J. Webb told several different accounts of his actions leading up to and including the shooting of U.S. airman Elio Carrion after a pursuit.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

"It will be up to you to decide whether Mr. Webb should have shot him," Cope said. "He was not under threat, he knew he was not under threat, and he shouldn't have fired."

Defense attorney Michael Schwartz disagreed, saying that Webb feared for his life when he fired the three shots at Carrion.


"He felt this was it. He wasn't going to make it home tonight, and he had less than two or three seconds to make a decision, by himself," Schwartz said. "The nightmare that has been this case for my client began this night, on Jan. 29th, 2006."

The San Bernardino Sun article this morning provides more details of the beginning of the trial include events depicted on a video recording of the incident which was viewed around the world soon after the shooting happened.

The Los Angeles Times also is covering the shooting trial.

An update is available here, where Schwartz outlines his defense that Carrion was shot because he failed to obey Webb's commands even though the video tape shows him complying with Webb's order to rise before he's shot.


"(Webb) did not want to shoot," Schwartz said. "He actually showed a lot of restraint that night."

During nearly two hours of opening statements, Schwartz said Webb had described Luis Fernando Escobedo's driving of the Corvette as a "menace."

Escobedo, 22, pleaded guilty in November to drunken driving and evading police. He was sentenced in January to six months in jail.

"They were a menace and a threat to everybody on the road," Schwartz said. "They had to be stopped."

And in a sense, they were, which was why everyone involved is hashing it out inside a courtroom this week in front of a jury.

"It was quite all broke down."

---LAPD Chief William Bratton, to the Police Commission

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Police Chief William Bratton gave a presentation of the status of investigations being done by his department of the May Day incident to the city council according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

In his report, Bratton blamed what happened on a "breakdown" involving the department's commanders, in what he called an "aberration".

Apparently, the police commission including its president, John Mack was disturbed at what Bratton's report detailed and said that they had serious concerns about the police department's actions during that incident that led to dozens of individuals assembled at MacArthur Park being hit with batons and shot with less lethal ammunition.


"Our entire commission is deeply, deeply concerned about this incident and [we] want to make sure that we not only have a very thorough, objective, and fair series of investigations, but indeed that we find some solutions to many of the problems and issues that have been raised," Mack said. "And in instances where individuals have been found to have crossed the line and operated outside policy, that they will be held accountable."

Bratton said he too was concerned that proper procedures were not followed in giving the dispersal order, but he said the problems began with poor planning and communications.

"Based on the preliminary findings, I believe that the main reason for the department's controversial actions and large use of force in response to an environment of rock and bottle assaults on our officers by a small group of agitators … was quite simply a command and control breakdown," Bratton said.

"It began at the planning stages and dominoed throughout the event itself."

Still unanswered was which officer actually made the decision to "disperse" the entire park rather than a smaller section of it because there was a captain and a commander onscene, but the order to shoot less lethal munitions was actually given by a commander standing over a block away from the park. Another department representative present during the briefing also said that the actual order to disperse given by a hovering helicopter only in English to a crowd that was predominantly Spanish speaking was in itself, illegal.

Bratton said that Commander Louis Gray, who had been involved in another controversial handling of a demonstration in 2000, issued the order of his superior, Deputy Chief Cayler "Lee" Carter. Carter himself never issued a single order even after his officers were hitting people including media representatives with their batons and shooting them with less lethal munitions.

Bratton admitted that he was at a loss to explain why Carter, who was soon demoted from his rank, failed to take any action whatsoever.

The incident triggered dozens of citizen complaints and at least four investigations by federal and local agencies. Several civil law suits have also been filed in relation to the injuries suffered by several media representatives including one reporter who suffered a broken wrist.

Community activists responded to the report in an updated article by the Los Angeles Times and criticized it as being inadequate.


Council members, including Ed Reyes, who represents the MacArthur Park area, said Bratton's report spent too much time discussing "agitators" throwing bottles but not enough on who was responsible for force by officers "that crossed the line."

"I'm disconcerted," Reyes said. "The issue of accountability needs to be addressed more. If we can't show accountability, how can we regain the public's confidence?"

Peter Bibring, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said he was disturbed at how far short the report fell.

"We were promised an open and thorough investigation, but what was shown had critical facts omitted," he said. "It made no mention why thousands of peaceful participants were ordered to leave the park and were made the subject of police use of force."

A retired police officer in San Luis Obispo who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder had engaged in a shootout with deputies from the local sheriff's department and was later found not guilty by reason of insanity. This week, he was released from a mental hospital.


"This is a guy who was a police officer and a lawyer and lived his whole life without getting in trouble until his medications were modified by this doctor. Anybody with this condition, bipolar, has to be on medication," defense attorney Robert Sanger said.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Canary in the Mine: Politics and process

While perusing the political notebook briefs section in the Press Enterprise, I saw a notice regarding candidates lining up to run for two available seats in the California State Assembly next year.

What was so interesting wasn't the news about the candidates who were planning to toss their hats in the ring for positions currently held by Bonnie Garcia and John J. Benoit who will term out at the end of 2008, it was the news that one prospective candidate was already dropping out of the contest before it really had even begun.

That candidate, Linda Soubirous had already ran for a political office when she took on Riverside County Board of Supervisor Bob Buster in 2004. It was surprising to hear that she was taking her political ambitions and her 0-1 record to the state level rather than trying again at the county level first. It was not nearly so surprising to hear that she wasn't going to run for that office after all.

Why is that the case?

Because several weeks ago, Soubirous was appointed by the Riverside City Council to represent Ward Four on the Community Police Review Commission when four members of the city government voted to approve her selection. Those four included Ward Four Councilman Frank Schiavone who announced several weeks ago that he intends to run against Buster for the county supervisor position that Soubirous had tried and failed to net for herself four last time out. Before her selection for the CPRC, rumors had been floating around that Soubirous was considering another run at Buster's seat.

Schiavone was joined by council members Ed Adkison, Nancy Hart and Steve Adams. Why Adkison's vote is so important in this case might be more apparent next year. For now, Soubirous had enough votes to get a seat on the commission. So now she's got the commission to keep her occupied, hopefully too occupied to keep her from seeking political office especially one where she might step on someone else's toes.

Two city council members, Dom Betro and Art Gage, cast no votes at all for any Ward Four candidate to serve, for reasons that apparently differed greatly from each other. And as to whose reasons for removing themselves from the selection process arose from higher moral principles, the answer might surprise you.

Gage said that he didn't support having anyone on the CPRC who arose from a law enforcement background and cited her past financial support by several law enforcement labor unions including the Riverside Police Officers' Association as one of his concerns. The words of any governmental official up for election has to be taken with a grain of salt but this was the answer that Gage provided when asked.

Betro didn't provide a reason for not casting a vote, but defended the city council's flip-flop vote on the Ward Six representative by saying that when there's a tie, the council compromises. And he's absolutely right. The city council has thoroughly compromised the CPRC during the past six months and it hasn't even needed a tie vote to do that. Not with its current city management team in place.

That statement, with the key word being compromise, might explain and has explained a lot of things both in terms of how the current city council operates in general and its behavior towards and against the CPRC. Last year, the city council changed its mid-term selection process for three of the city's boards and commissions including the CPRC. So far under that current process, it has made it clear that its selections will become increasingly politicized as positions on the CPRC become items that different elected officials can bid on and barter for, as has become the case beginning last year. Maybe that's what the word, compromise means.

As for Soubirous, it was not clear when she had put her application in for the position except that it had not been received before the annual appointment period for the city's board and commissions which took place in March. Copies of it were not available at the city council meeting where the selection process took place. But then that's the case with political appointments. Members of the public are not provided with copies of their applications to read, as most often they are said to have gotten lost or delayed some place.

What's more clear is that her departure from the state assembly race followed her selection onto the CPRC. In one sense, if she's dropping her political ambitions to show her commitment and dedication to her new role as a CPRC commissioner then that's one way to show those qualities.

On the other hand, if she's dropping out of the race because she's been selected to the CPRC and elected officials knew that going in, then that's a problem. One sure way to sort through all the intrigue is just to watch and see if there are any city officials looking for new jobs in the political arena who may plan to jump into that assembly race by next year.

Any medium with a crystal ball can tell you that one place to look first for prospective state assembly candidates is for the last name, first initial to be at the very beginning of the alphabet rather than its end.

But now that Soubirous is on, why weren't the issues raised about her prior endorsements and campaign contributions by any of the city council members? Why did several of them apparently know that she had the votes before they even cast them if had abided by the Brown Act and not discussed the appointments prior to the vote?

Again, that word, compromise. Wait long enough and it will become clear what was promised to the city council members who didn't contest Soubirous' appointment as a conflict of interest. Hopefully whatever it was and whoever it does benefit is worth it to the city's residents who trusted a selection process used by the city council that was to be fair, equitable and transparent. Trust that it's growing more clear, has been very much misplaced.

Another question to ask would be have you ever heard of the term, quid pro quo? Welcome to the board and commission selection process in the city of Riverside.

Most people who apply to the city's boards and commissions really believe that they have a chance to be appointed to serve on one of them, but more and more the people who are getting picked to fill those spots especially on really "important" commissions like the CPRC are those who either have served on other boards and commissions or who are currently serving on a board or commission and want to bail off that one to seek the "greener pastures" of the CPRC.

Most of those who apply, even those with impressive resumes filled with years of community service don't make it through the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee's selection process. To get out of that committee, it all depends on who you know, especially if that elected official sits on that committee. Are you on a first-name basis with the city's elected officials like the past four individuals selected to the CPRC have been or would you refer to them by their governmental titles because you don't know them?

You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours and so forth. Expect to see more of that philosophy in future appointments to the CPRC because when it comes to treating the CPRC like a toy, the city manager's office isn't the only game in town. For all the talk about the city manager's office intending to "improve" on the CPRC, Brad Hudson and Tom De Santis appear more intent on micromanaging it much as they've been doing with the police department.

The results so far? A reduction in complaints filed including from several of the city's neighborhoods where they stopped filing them completely last year. What is also being seen is a slow, but steady increase in civil litigation being filed against the police department especially during the latter six months of last year.

What is past is prologue. Riverside is coming full circle again.

In Sacramento, there's been more appointments of Black and Latino judges according to this article in the Press Enterprise.


Schwarzenegger agreed last summer to work for greater diversity on the bench as part of a political compromise to get a funding bill passed for 50 new judgeships.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, had cut the number to 25 until the governor agreed to supply annual reports on the makeup of the state judiciary and applicants for its openings and make other efforts to improve diversity on the bench.

Riverside County will get seven new positions, combined with seven planned or announced retirements for 2007, said Riverside County Presiding Judge Richard Fields, who is the county's first black jurist. Four of the retirement positions already have been filled.

Among the appointments made since mid-April were the county's first black woman jurist, Irma Poole Asberry. The county, which has a 41 percent Hispanic population, now has two Latino judges with Wednesday's appointment of Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Angel Bermudez to the bench.

[Richard]Fields called the number of openings this year "unprecedented. ... The entire face of the Riverside County bench is going to change."

Still, it's mostly White men who sit on the judicial benches with over 70% of judges being White and 75% of them are male. About 6.3% o.f all judges in California are Latino with 4.4% apiece being Black and Asian-American.

Both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties will be receiving about seven new judges to address the growing shortage of judicial officers. As a result of that shortage, Riverside County is about 1,000 felony cases behind schedule and its civil courts have been virtually shut down since last summer.

In Los Angeles, the Police Protective League is calling on the department to further train its offices in crowd control, according to the Los Angeles Times. The department's labor union is proposing its own list of recommendations stemming from the May Day incident along with those that likely will be generated by other investigations taking place.


The union said changes can avoid a repeat of the "kind of missteps" seen May 1. League officials on Monday called for all new officers in the Metropolitan Division, the unit involved in the melee, to attend "new person school" to ensure they are trained immediately in crowd-control tactics. The union also called for all command officers to be required annually to attend crowd-control management classes.

"Constant, updated training ensures that officers know not only what to do, but can implement the department's policies, procedures and expectations for any given incident," said league President Bob Baker. "The May 1 incident revealed the downside of the department's cost-based decision over the past several years to abandon introductory training for new Metropolitan Division officers, and to not train all officers for large tactical situations."

These recommendations and others including mandatory training for all credentialed media in terms of how to act in these situations where they're attacked by police officers come as the city council prepares to receive a briefing from LAPD Chief William Bratton on the status of the department's own investigations into the incident where over 60 Metro officers stormed into MacArthur Park, hitting dozens of people assembled there with their batons and shooting them with less lethal bullets.

Capt. Colleen Walker will be in charge of the Coachilla and La Quinta cities' police services. She's the Riverside County Sheriff's Department's only female captain.


"She'll fine-tune it," he said of Walker, adding that she was his second-in-command during his first year at the Indio station and is familiar with procedures and programs.

Walker has raised three children while she and her husband worked full-time. She's faced bullets and survived being hit on the head by a drunk, she said.

The new role will offer challenges, but she's ready to confront them with an open mind, she said.

"I like to think differently about how to solve the problem," Walker said.

Walker said that she's intent on keeping the current programs including Neighborhood Watch in place.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Staffing cuts here, there and everywhere

The Press Enterprise in an editorial praised Riverside County Public Defender Gary Windom for his candor about the ongoing investigations being conducted into the department that he heads.

If you've been following the saga of Windom's office, then you know that the three inquiries that are being conducted stemmed from complaints made by former and current employees both to the County Board of Supervisors and through opinion pieces written to the Press Enterprise's Readers' Forum.

The newspaper's editorial board gave the following advice and stated that transparency facilitated action taken to fix problems.


Giving the public access to the report allows taxpayers greater insight into the agency's performance. And that choice also hands the public the tools to hold Windom accountable for correcting deficiencies the review uncovered.

The report suggested that Windom spend more time at branch offices in the desert and Southwest county, handle job interviews more promptly and improve morale, among other recommendations.

The county initially deemed the review confidential, but Windom asked officials to make the document public. That decision took courage -- and set a good policy course.

Hiding bad news behind a veil of confidentiality makes inaction easier. But openness about flaws and plans for improvement bolsters public confidence in the department.

That's a lesson that the city of Riverside could learn. It appears loathe at times to even admit that everything's not perfect in any one of its departments and there may be a problem or problems. When any of the department heads give their presentations on the performance of their department, they'll tell you about what's going right, and what's going well, but not so much about challenges or problems that they face in the meantime.

A strategy that often proves useful is to listen carefully to the presentation being given. But what's more important at times is to look for the areas of a department's operations that aren't mentioned at all during the presentation. Those areas are the ones which most often need to be examined more closely to determine if all is truly going well.

Another example of where transparency will prove to be important is during the report that is scheduled to be given Tuesday by Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton on his officers' actions during the May Day incident at MacArthur Park. The Los Angeles Times wrote an article providing some details about the much anticipated presentation before the city council.


"There are significant concerns about the events of that day, and a lot of things we will be focusing on," Bratton told The Times on Friday.

"The update will bring into much clearer perspective what we believe happened that day: what worked for us, what didn't work for us and what changes that we're making as a result."

After the incident, Bratton promised to release the required "after-action" report in 30 days, but he and his command staff said that report would not be done by Tuesday, so an oral presentation with Power Point backup will have to do.

Part of the reason for the delay is that not all the police and civilians have been interviewed.

There is some question about whether the oral report will satisfy the demands of political leaders to get to the bottom of what happened.

Bratton is said to be focusing among other things problems with training, communication and what he called a "lax command". The top two commanders at the scene that day have been replaced. One of them Deputy Chief Cayler "Lee" Carter was demoted and is in the process of retiring from the department. The other, Commander Louis Gray was reassigned and at least one civil rights attorney recalled that it was Gray who had ordered less lethal munitions to be fired at protesters during another botched response by the LAPD to a demonstration in October 2000 which resulted in the city paying out over $700,000 to resolve civil litigation filed as a result.

In addition, one sergeant and two Metro officers are being investigated further for their conduct during the incident.

Bratton talked a lot about problems with the orders to disperse being given only in English and problems with media liaisons who may or may not have informed the Metro officers where the journalists were located. But there were issues raised by others that pertained to exactly how well trained and how experienced the members of the Metro Division's Platoon B were the day of the incident.

Bratton and others had discussed how these officers were the most highly trained, and experienced officers working in a division where they were supposed to deal with crises and other situations. But that may not have been the truth.

It was already known that an hour before the May Day incident, the department had pulled away some of its more experienced Metro officers to reassign them to other locations in the city but apparently problems began with the division months earlier according to the news article. Problems that some of its members felt led to the incident that now once again has the LAPD under a microscope. But it's been there many times before and it better get used to it.


Traditionally, the division's officers have been highly trained for crises, including crowd control, but that training has been cut at least in half for many officers as the department seeks to have them spend more time on the streets.

In addition, a decision was made to bring in supervisors from outside Metropolitan Division.

Many of the B Platoon officers in MacArthur Park that day have been with the unit for less than a year and without the weeks-long Metro Academy training that officers went through when they joined the unit.

The officers were led into the park by a lieutenant who had been transferred to Metropolitan Division on Feb. 4.

"You cannot slap a patch on the shoulder of a person and suddenly they are a Metro guy," said one command staff officer. "Many of these guys never went to the Metro school…. You have a guy in charge who spent months on the desk, and it was his first big crowd incident."

This news shouldn't surprise anyone but it's anyone's guess whether it will be included in the report given by Bratton this week. That will take some of the transparency that the Press Enterprise was talking about given that the Metro Division was supposed to be renovated after its response to several demonstrations in 2000 led to the city forking out quite a bit of money in legal settlements including one to a female activist who lost one of her eyes after being struck in the face with a rubber bullet that was supposed to have been shot at the ground, not point-blank at head level.

The days still remain tough and uncertain for Bratton who before the firing of the rubber bullets that were heard around the world, appeared a shoe in for a second term as police chief. Now, that process has essentially been put on hold until the investigations into the incident are completed. The Police Commission said it wants a better sense of what the LAPD did that day as well as what the problems were and apparently so does the federal monitor who was assigned to oversee the department's consent decree which next month enters into its seventh year.

A woman is suing the Riverside County Sheriff's Department over the death of her autistic son who died in the custody of sheriff deputies last year, according to an article in the Press Enterprise.

The Sheriff's Department said that Raymond Lee Miller's autism led to him suffering from what is often called "excited delirium". His mother's attorney, Carl Douglas, believed that Mitchell died from positional asphyxia after several deputies piled on top of him to restrain him.

The coroner's office, which is also headed by Sheriff Bob Doyle, is not releasing the results of the autopsy including the toxicology for unspecified reasons.

Different experts argued in the article about whether or not "excited delirium" even existed at all. It is defined as what was once a very rare condition caused when too much adrenalin was produced, causing a heart attack. It's been linked by some medical professionals to methamphetamine use and/or mental illness. But as much as some professionals argue that it is an actual medical conditions, others say that in every recent case, contact with police officers has been added to the equation.


Although "excited delirium" sudden deaths are not a new phenomenon, the term is.

Studies of cases resembling excited delirium exist back to the 19th century, Cohen said, but doctors really began to take note of it in the 1980s when cocaine use skyrocketed. Cohen said the phrase "excited delirium syndrome" evolved in recent years to describe deaths during or after struggles with police in which there is no evidence of significant physical injury. Before, he said, these deaths had been inaccurately attributed to positional or restraint asphyxia.

Dr. Gary Vilke, a professor of clinical medicine at UC San Diego, said both excited delirium and so-called positional or restraint asphyxia are real, but no definitive test exists for either.

"It's not very satisfying," Vilke said, but medical examiners have to judge each case based on limited information about the overall circumstances.

"Some people like to say, 'They're all this.' Others like to say, 'It's excited delirium,' " Vilke said. "The truth is somewhere in the middle."

'Caused by Police'

Dr. Werner Spitz, a well-known forensic pathologist and former chief medical examiner in Michigan, said it makes no sense that police are a necessary part of the excited delirium equation.

Spitz said the kind of adrenaline-induced cardiac arrest described by proponents of excited delirium exists, but is exceedingly rare. Most of the so-called excited delirium cases with which he is familiar involve someone high on drugs whose breathing was compromised by a police restraint.

"Some people have made a condition out of this," he said, adding that it seems far more likely they were asphyxiated.

"Strep throat is caused by streptococcus," Spitz said. "Excited delirium is caused by police."

Most of the deaths from taser use have been attributed to "excited delirium" by coroners, even as the controversy over this condition continues.

In Houston, city officials, community activists and mental health professionals are examining the use of tasers by officers on mentally ill individuals, according to a series of articles in that newspaper including this one.

Over 130 mentally ill people have been tased by Houston Police Department officers and most of those were tased for failing to understand and follow commands issued by these officers. And less than 25% of them were ever convicted of criminal behavior.

The mental health experts believe this is too often especially in a city where a crisis intervention training program exists to assist police officers with mentally ill people.


Often, police knew they were responding to calls involving people with mental health issues but rarely called officers who are specially trained to deal with the mentally ill, according to police records.

"Using a Taser is easy," said Arlene Kelly, who became an outspoken advocate for the mentally ill after her daughter was shot and killed by a Houston police officer in 1999. "There's no waiting. There's no need to be patient with someone who may not understand orders. The Taser has represented a step backward in how police deal with the mentally ill."

The police chief disagrees, saying that his officers are using the minimum use of force in these situations.


Police Chief Harold Hurtt said the use of Tasers has prevented dangerous situations from becoming deadly.

"Crisis-intervention training is a critical part of our approach to the mentally ill, and our officers are well aware of the necessity to use the minimum force necessary," Hurtt said.

Actually, this specialized form of training is so critical to the department that in recent years, it watched as the number of officers who had received this training drop from 600 to 400.

The review by the Houston Chronicle here is what led to many of the concerns expressed by mental health advocates. That study showed that while officers deployed tasers at a growing rate against mentally ill individuals, the department dispatched fewer of its crisis intervention team trained officers to calls involving mentally ill individuals.


Among the 127 Taser incidents examined by the Chronicle are five cases in which officers noted in their reports that they called on crisis-intervention officers or other mental health experts.

Lt. Michael Lee, a 17-year HPD veteran who was among the first officers trained to deal with the mentally ill and who last year took charge of the crisis-intervention team, said some circumstances do not allow officers to wait for support.

"Most officers are using Tasers to prevent a situation from escalating, and that can happen very quickly," Lee said. "Sometimes de-escalation techniques just don't work."

Lee also cites shortcomings in the emergency-call process that result in dispatchers failing to identify people experiencing mental problems and sending untrained officers to those calls.

But even when officers responded to calls that clearly presented mental health issues, specialized officers were not summoned before people were stunned with a Taser.

Officers shocked one man, 33-year-old, Rafael Adame, twice in the span of 35 days. In one instance in September 2005, he ignored officers' orders to get out of a car parked in front of his house and "waved an ink pen" before he was shocked, according to police reports.

The next month, he was shocked after he was "found to be in the bathroom breaking things and refusing to come out."

In neither case do records indicate the crisis-intervention team was called.

Anthony Bailey, a gangly schizophrenic man of 45, whose conversation weaves between recent events and those from decades ago in a single thought, twice encountered officers in 2006 after being accused of trespassing at different stores. In each case, he was shocked with a Taser.

Bailey says he was simply trying to find his family.

"I tried to explain why I was there, but no one would listen," Bailey said recently from the Harris County Jail, where he landed after another scuffle with officers. "It all happened so fast. I had no idea what was going on."

The Riverside Police Department was set to begin training its first class of patrol officers for 40 hours in order to prepare them to be able to better handle situations involving mentally ill or medically incapacitated individuals, according to presentations given by both Asst. City Manager Tom De Santis and Capt. Michael Blakely, who heads the department's personnel and training division.

Within the next 18 months, all of the department's patrol officers, detectives, supervisors and key civilian employees including dispatchers were to receive similar training. The money allocated both for the training as well as the staffing assignments to replace officers while they are in the week-long case comes out of the department's training fund.

Like in Houston and other cities nationwide, the department implemented this training after several fatal shootings including that of Lee Deante Brown in April 2006.

Brown had been tased up to 10 times including seven discharges from one taser over a 41 second period, according to records provided from both officers' tasers that were included in a report provided to the Community Police Review Commission by its investigator, Butch Warnberg.

John Wister Haines, born in 1912 and died on Oct. 24, 1944 during the bombing and sinking of the Arisan Maru.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Election 2007: The money train comes to Riverside

The Press Enterprise began the holiday weekend by providing an update on the financial status of the candidates running for what has been called Election 2007 in Riverside.

And it's not pretty.

At least three candidates running have spent nearly $100,000 to be elected to a public office that pays a salary less than half of that each year. Quite a few of these contributors aren't even based in the city of Riverside but are trying to place a wager on an individual that they clearly hope will bring out the welcoming wagon when they do decide to do or continue doing business here.

And who are these three? Drum roll, please.

Councilmen Dom Betro and Art Gage, along with political neophyte William "Rusty" Bailey.

Betro added $26,7o0 to the coffer including three sizable donations from two development firms and Mission Inn owner Duane Roberts who donated $5,000. That shouldn't be surprising given the fact that as even Betro would admit and has, it's the developers who come knocking down his door at City Hall. And Roberts usually plops down the money in different candidate races during a typical election cycle.

But the "Show me the money" awards go to two candidates in the Ward Three race, Gage and Bailey who both added significantly to their campaign chests in recent weeks as that race gets down and gritty. And after all, political consultants cost money as well.

Gage has raised money from the fire fighters, the Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee and several development firms while Bailey has raised a monster fund of $118,000 and received funding also from development firms, one labor union and outgoing Councilman Ed Adkison who threw down $2,500 to a man he clearly hopes to see on the dais. For someone new to the process, Bailey's brought in the bucks, not to mention the fact that he wrapped up endorsements from most of the elected officials on the dais and that was before he filed his papers. Someone's clearly trying to build and maintain a regime and prove that the conservatives' elite division in the city of Riverside which successfully engineered the short-lived GASS quartet isn't the only game in town.

But unlike the other wards, the developers aren't taking any chances in Ward Three, throwing their money on the two candidates likely to take in the most votes. Their consolation being that at least this council race will probably end in June.

In Ward Five, the money raised by the big three candidates was much more modest. The Riverside Police Officers' Association contributed $2,500 to Donna Doty Michalka while the SEIU Local 721 backed Harry Kurani.

In the seventh ward, incumbent Steve Adams received thousands from developers including the firm working on the controversial Rancho La Sierra housing project as well as funding from Roberts to the tune of $2,500.

The city's labor unions donated funds to both Art Garcia and Roy Saldanha. Garcia received nearly $10,000 from unions including $7,500 from the SEIU Local 721. Saldanha received another $2,500 from the RPOA.

This money update comes less than one week before the deadline for mail in ballots in this election. There's more letters in the Readers' Forum supporting various candidates as people get their last-minute pitches in before the votes are collected and counted.

Mercifully, it's not an election year in Los Angeles, just a selection year for the man or woman who will head the Los Angeles Police Department for the next five years. And the current chief and candidate for the job has been on the hot seat the past month for the incident on May Day when over 60 of his officers stormed a park and hit people assembled there with batons and shot them with 168 less lethal bullets.

The Los Angeles Times in an article today is not evaluating Bratton's fitness to continue as chief, what it's examining instead are the physical fitness and fluctuating waistlines of the department's officers. And it appears that nurses who have examined some recent hires are very displeased with the lack of fitness of these men and women.

The blame has been cast on the city relaxing its standards to meet the demands of hiring at least 1,000 more officers in the LAPD. So they lowered some of the ranges mandated for the percentage that male and female candidates are allowed to have that is comprised of body fat. Which apparently is how the department measures fitness.


After addressing one recent academy class, the mayor was overheard commenting on the expanded girth of some graduates. Through a spokesman, the mayor declined to elaborate Friday.

"My concern is we are getting police officers through the system who are grossly overweight," said City Councilman Dennis Zine, a former LAPD sergeant who himself carries a few extra pounds nowadays. "I believe it is part of this mad rush for new police officers, but they were replacing quality with quantity."

On Friday, Deanna Stover, the medical administrator for the Personnel Department, resigned after nurses signed a letter protesting the clearing of recruits who were out of shape.

"When the medical services administration decided internally to make this change, it was purely to 'boost' the number of candidates that would pass the exam and address a short-term problem of low pass rates," says the letter signed by six nurses who conduct the tests.

"Such an increase would make our department and therefore our 'administrator' appear more effective. This decision was purely self-serving and without consideration of our medical expertise or regard to the long-term fallout to the Police Department in the way of candidates' failures, injuries or potential lawsuits."

The nurses said Stover told them that it was up to the Police Academy to get the recruits into good physical shape during the grueling eight months of training. Department administrators said Friday that they would return to the old, tougher body-fat standards.

"At the request of the Police Academy, we've made the change back," said Gloria Sosa, assistant general manager for the Personnel Department, which conducts the health screenings for police recruits.

Those standards are 22% for men and 30% for women. Apparently, the police academy will do its part to get future LAPD officers in top physical condition and that entails cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance, stamina, body strength and flexibility among other parameters that need to be included along with body fat measurement. Unfortunately, the most fit officer is a recent graduate from an academy. Often as they spend more time in police work, officers lose their fitness levels and their waistlines expand. Age, eating habits, stress, sedentary desk jobs, varying body types and working graveyard shifts(which wreak havoc on the body's cortisol production) contribute to this development.

And even police officers who appear fit can still experience serious medical problems. University of California Police Department Officer Steve Smith probably fell within the ranges of excellent physical fitness in the different areas including body fat levels but that didn't prevent him from experiencing a fatal heart attack several years ago while working on a bike patrol in Irvine.

Different police departments have adopted different strategies including mandating that officers use part of their work shifts to participate in an exercise program and a state legislator tried to make a law promoting that.

The opening statements in the trial of former San Bernardino County Department deputy, Ivory J. Webb are expected to begin on Tuesday after being delayed for a week. Webb is on trial for attempted manslaughter and use of a firearm in the 2006 shooting of Elio Carrion after a pursuit ended in a crash. According to a video taken of the incident which was aired around the world, Webb shot Carrion three times while Carrion was complying with Webb's order to get up.

Another case involving a New York City Police Department officer who shot and killed a Black unarmed teenager resulted in a State Court of Appeals overturned his conviction on criminal negligence charges, according to an article in the New York Daily News.

The 3-1 vote to exonerate Officer Mark Conway did lead to a minority report by one judge who wrote that the decision to overturn the conviction proved that police officers were above the law when it came to being held accountable.


Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson also objected to the 3-1 ruling, saying there are no grounds for appeal.

"I find it extremely disheartening that three appellate judges cannot perceive the risk in this situation," Johnson said in a statement.

Conway shot Dantae Johnson seven years ago today. He retired from the NYPD in 2005, paid a $1,000 fine and performed 150 hours of community service after his 2001 sentencing.

But he also appealed his conviction, and the Appellate Division sided with him in 2005.

The panel ruled that Conway was not criminally negligent when his weapon discharged as he tried to grab Johnson while driving after him in an unmarked police car.

The state's highest court disagreed but kicked the matter back to the Appellate Division for a factual review of the case.

In its latest ruling, the panel found there wasn't enough evidence to support the conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Election 2007: Coming out of the far turn

For those who have Charter cable, internet or telephone and you could not use any of the three this afternoon, the reason was that one of the company's cable boxes that was attached to an electric pole in the downtown near the 91 freeway was fried after an accident this afternoon. Both Charter Communications and the city's public utilities division sent personnel out to handle the problems and restore the services hopefully by 6:30 p.m., they said. Nice guys to boot, indeed.

It tempered the news of Paul Newman's retirement from acting somewhat. Everyone should have a Newman story and I have got one.

The voting period for the current city council election in Riverside is mercifully winding down. The season's been like the month of March in reverse, it came in as a lamb and is going out a lion.

However, in several of the wards up for grabs, this might have just been the preliminary rounds and if that's the case, then it's likely that the top two vote-getting candidates in one or more of the wards will be heading towards the final showdown scheduled in November. And unlike the first round, the polls will be open for voters in the involved wards which will help bring a sense of ambiance and spirit back to the process that's missing during a mail in election and it also brings back the stickers commemorating your accomplishment until they fall off. More immediate results lead to more exciting post-election parties. What could be better than eating finger foods or at the more posh soirees, striding up to the buffet and noshing while awaiting early returns? And you can wear a hat indoors without breaking any etiquette rules.

Expected to produce a runoff election in the minds of many are the contests in Ward Five and Ward Seven.

It's a three-horse race in Ward Five between Chris McArthur, Donna Doty Michalka and Harry Kurani. Consequently, it appears unlikely especially since the race is for an open seat that it will produce a winner when the ballots are counted in June. So who will make it into the final round?

Michalka is probably a given. MacArthur knows that which was probably one reason why his latest flier targeted her campaign but if his latest campaign effort backfires, expect that to help Michalka and perhaps even toss some votes Kurani's way, maybe enough to get him in the runoff. If anyone wins outright which doesn't seem likely, it would probably be Team Michalka.

In Ward Seven, Councilman Steve Adams has lost most of the cushion that an incumbent would enjoy, especially when he ran for a state political office and lost. The message that he sent back to his constituents was that it's not that he didn't want to be a councilman, he just wanted to be an assemblyman more. It's unlikely that his voters have forgotten or forgiven this.

In part because of this, this is the toughest race by far to call. The primary beneficiary of the Adams backlash including that by his main supporters in 2003, the Riverside Police Officers' Association, is Roy Saldanha who picked up the RPOA endorsement this time around. There's been speculation that he could wind up in a runoff with either Adams or union organizer Art Garcia, who was endorsed by the Press Enterprise editorial board. But then you can never leave out Terry Frizzel who's served as mayor and as a councilwoman. She could grab a spot on any runoff election instead if the race came down to the top two or three candidates. If she clears the preliminary round, she'll be tough to beat in the final.

Ward Three is a contest between incumbent Art Gage and William "Rusty" Bailey who is supported by at least three BASS members and Mayor Ron Loveridge. Some say, it will be Gage in a landslide. Others say it will be a much tighter contest. The campaigns launched by both candidates have been controversial in terms of the fact that it appeared to be a battle of the professional consultants which left grass-roots candidate, Peter Olmos a bit out in the cold. And that's a shame because Olmos is a nice and interesting guy, but judging from his campaign, appears to be running mainly to get his ideas out on the issues pertaining to his ward and the city in general and there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all.

It's hard to separate out Gage and Bailey based on issues of development and redevelopment because between the two, Gage has more campaign contributions from developers both inside and outside of Riverside's city limits. However, Bailey did a stint working for Riverside County's, economic development agency where City Manager Brad Hudson hailed from before being hired by the city.

Ward One is the race that's been covered most often in the Press Enterprise which apparently thinks that a small portion of it, the downtown, rocks its world. The Betro camp appears to fear the "Pepper factor", meaning the votes that candidate and lightning rod for controversy Letitia Pepper will attract away from the Betro side, which might give an edge to Michael Gardner. This appears clear, given the latest campaign postcard that's been mailed off from Betro's campaign people.

The Betro team has tread much more cautiously on Michael Gardner because they probably think they can defeat him if the election doesn't go into a runoff and the strategic moves against the Pepper campaign appear to be geared towards that goal. More than a few political futures are riding on Betro's reelection and it's likely that most of his supporters don't want to spend their summer months worrying about what would come next. That would be a final round most likely against Gardner who by then could give Betro a run for the money(both literally and figuratively) just like Paul Fick did four years ago.

If anyone wins straight out in June, it will be Betro. But hopefully, his campaign will have helped him realize that there's a whole lot of Ward One that's outside of downtown.

It's tough to win this ward with a grass-roots campaign, tougher when Betro did it four years ago when he still was grass-roots, but in a flock of grass-roots candidates which is good to see, Gardner and Frizzel probably have the best chances in their respective wards if either can get to a runoff. But look for the Pepper camp which has been stumping for her to see their candidate draw a large number of votes for her as well.

But what it boils down to in all four council races is who receives the most votes from people voting inside their wards. Because after all, they should represent their wards first, then the city even though in recent years, the priorities appear to have reversed as various focus groups from outside the ward try to influence council races in the hopes of constructing a new majority voting bloc on the city council. That's an unfortunate development in the process no matter who is participating in it.

Whether it's one round or two, whoever wins, is the selection and the choice of at least half of the ward's voters. That's how it should be. Everyone in the odd-numbered wards should fill out and turn in their ballots and the city will wait and see who will serve on the dais for four years.

The Rocky Mountain News stated in an article that morale in the Denver Police Department was up and that was attributed to what the officers perceive to be improvements in the complaint process.

The Office of the Independent Monitor conducted the survey. Monitor Richard Rosenthal is currently conducting a similar survey of city residents, but so far hasn't received a very high response rate.


A survey conducted for the city's Office of the Independent Monitor found that the percentage of officers who said they were either generally satisfied or neutral with the complaint process had increased from 36 percent to 70 percent, compared with a similar survey conducted in 2005.

The report states that most officers also believed that the complaint process had improved during that time.

Officer morale also improved during that same period, the report said. The percentage of officers who reported their morale level as either average or high increased to 57 percent from 40 percent.

The survey report was prepared by professors from Ohio University and Delaware University. Anonymous mailed surveys first were sent to the department in fall 2005. A follow- up survey was mailed in September 2006.

A total of 439 officers responded to the most recent survey, a response rate of 29 percent. That's a lower response than the 43 percent the original survey drew.

While officers indicated overall improved satisfaction with the process, other areas did not change substantially.

Nearly 49 percent of the respondents said they believe that Internal Affairs is biased against certain officers, compared with 52 percent in the earlier survey.

Nearly 37 percent believed that Internal Affairs is biased toward the resident filing a complaint, compared with nearly 39 percent in 2005.

It's not surprising to read that the morale of officers is increasing in Denver, given that the department entered into a voluntary reform process involving its patterns and practices after a series of shootings involving men of color several years ago. The department also scrapped its civilian review board and chose to implement a monitor instead, a model that may appear more amiable to police officers who historically have despised civilian review boards comprised of members of the communities rather than people from a law enforcement and/or prosecutory background. It remains to be seen if the community in Denver agrees.

It sounds like something out of Hollywood and it is, only it's Hollywood, Florida as that city's department was discovered to be so corrupt, the FBI launched an operation called "Operation Tarnished Badge" to round them all up.

The Miami Herald wrote several articles on this agency, the latest being the arrest of a veteran lieutenant for allegedly tipping other officers off that they faced arrests as a result of the probe.

Lt. Chuck Roberts joined the list of officers facing charges for among other things being involved in the smuggling of drugs with the local mob groups. The FBI accused Roberts of leaking information out that pretty much ruined their ability to keep on investigating, allegations that Roberts denied.

Apparently, Chief James Scarberry was appraised by the FBI then told his management staff, a move that potentially led him to be facing charges but he was granted immunity. He had also told the city manager and the mayor what was happening. Apparently, Roberts started a chain of events that led to many more officers knowing what was going on, including some that were under investigation.


The sources said that no one besides Scarberry was to know about the FBI investigation because of the covert nature of the operation and to protect undercover agents.

McGarry told Roberts on Feb. 17, and then Roberts told patrol Officer Tammy Clyde, according to the affidavit and sources close to the case. Clyde then told one of the officers under investigation, Sgt. Jeffry Courtney.

That same day, Courtney told fellow officer and cohort, Kevin Companion.

Two days later, Courtney and Companion called in sick and filed retirement papers.

The FBI learned of the resignations and knew that their probe, dubbed Operation Tarnished Badge, had been blown and so were all hopes of snaring other corrupt officers. They arrested Companion, 41, Courtney, 52, and Stephen Harrison, 46. Another officer, Thomas Simcox, surrendered the following week.

A criminal complaint filed against the four officers detailed the illegal activities, which included extortion, bribe-taking, dealing in stolen property, protecting a crooked high-stakes card game, cargo theft and transporting a multi-kilo load of heroin from Miami Beach to Oakwood Plaza in Hollywood.

All four officers have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy count of providing protection to transport more than one kilo of heroin for what the cops believed were mob-connected drug dealers.

They also agreed, as part of a plea deal, to cooperate with federal authorities, which included giving up the name of the person who told them about the investigation.

The Miami Herald's editorial board stated that the chief should step aside while the investigation is being done because something stinks and it appears to becoming from inside his office. But then most chiefs probably need to borrow that slogan from former President Harry S. Truman, which is the buck stops here.

The fatal shooting of Fermin Arzu by an off duty New York City Police Department officer continues to generate controversy in that city, according to Newsday.

Officer Raphael Lora shot and killed after he ran to confront Arzu after a car accident and Arzu's van "lurched forward with its door open", according to a statement issued by the police department which officially at least, hasn't completed its investigations. Eyewitnesses gave statements which offered a different version of the shooting including that none of them had seen the open door strike Lora as the department had contended earlier.


At the same time, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson commented for the first time since the Friday night argument between Officer Raphael Lora and Fermin Arzu. In a statement, he said his office is "interviewing witnesses and examining physical evidence. ... Once that process is completed, we will assess the information ... and act in accordance with our responsibility to do justice."

Arzu's family, however, appeared to be out of patience.

"We want [Lora] arrested today, tonight," said Arzu's niece, Wendy Castillo, 32. "We don't want to wait until next year. We want it today."

As they did after the November 2006 fatal shooting of Sean Bell, members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an organization comprised of Black officers from the NYPD and other agencies, issued a "no-confidence" vote against Commissioner Raymond Kelly and called for an investigation of the department's shootings.

Also in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is going to the Senate to ask them to provide over $150 million to compensate first responders who worked at the World Train Center after 9-11, according to the Los Angeles Times. He also asked that they reopen a victims' compensation fund that had been established.


Ken George listened at the hearing with his wife and daughter.

In 2001, he was a highway repairer for the city Department of Transportation. He said he was in perfect health, lifting weights regularly.

George said he was ordered to report to ground zero the night of Sept. 11 and worked on search and rescue, often digging through rubble on his hands and knees, until late November.

He said that he had a bad feeling about the air at the site but that his main concern was to try to find victims.

George didn't complain that the filter mask he was given was good for only one hour and that no replacement filters were available.

"No, I didn't raise any objections, it was my job to go down there," he said. "There's a lot of people I knew down there."

George, 43, said he now takes 19 pills a day to treat lung and chest illnesses and post-traumatic stress disorder.

He has been hospitalized for seizures and a heart attack doctors told him was brought on by a combination of the fumes at the site and the prescription steroids he takes.

He quit his job in July because he could not continue working.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

City election 2007: Campaign wars

"How big is it Harry?"

Harry: "I'll give it a four"

----L.A. Story

"Yes, sure was. Quite a shock. Nevertheless, there's no scientific evidence...
that a earthquake can loosen dental fillings. No. Right. Thank you."


From the U.S. Geological Survey Web site.

2 miles SE of Devore, CA
(ID 10249569) MAY 23 2007 23:15:15 PDT 3.9

2 miles SSE of Devore, CA
(ID 10249565) MAY 23 2007 23:11:40 PDT 3.8

If you're new to the golden state, here's some tips on what to do in slightly bigger earthquakes. Before, during and after the quake or quakes hits. The American Red Cross also offers disaster preparedness training.

Dan Bernstein's latest column in the Press Enterprise relates about how Councilman Steve Adams apparently threw a bit of a fit over a peace sign that was on display in the second floor of a building that the city council was about to declare a historical landmark.

Another addition to the growing collection, titled if you think silence is golden then you've never met Adams. The building actually belonged to Councilman Andrew Melendrez so for once, it wasn't only Councilman Ed Adkison who had to disqualify himself from voting on an agenda item due to conflict of interest.

Adams said that if the building was to be deemed historically significant, then it should have some artifacts from its past or some sort of past displayed in its windows.

Greg Adamson, who designed the peace sign in question was puzzled because although it was depicted in a photograph included in the city council's report, it had actually been removed a while ago.

And in a sense, the peace sign did have some history, albeit it had made its debut recently.


Why did Adamson make the peace sign in the first place? It was a decoration for last year's Mayor's Ball for the Arts -- a fundraiser for arts groups.

It was a "Sixties" theme, and Adamson and other artists spent months crafting hundreds of renderings of rock stars (Dylan, Joplin, Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, etc.), a yellow submarine, even a "Summer of Love" banner that flew over the entrance to White Park.

And when the party was over, "We had to haul this stuff away." Adamson didn't know what to do with his peace sign so he stuck it in the window of The People's Gallery, an art gallery on the second floor of the Jackson Building.

"I thought it would get some attention, but I didn't know it would get attention seven months after it was gone."

Yes, Councilman Adams, ex-cop and candidate for re-election, had become all a-twitter about a mayoral party decoration that is now safely out of public view.

Artist Adamson, who's also a VP of Union Bank: "The Haradas fought for their own human civil rights, and now a councilman says we don't have a right to put a peace sign in a window. How far have we come?"

Don't ask.

Got you, Dan.

Yesterday, the members of Save-Riverside held another rally at the corner of Jurupa and Magnolia, with about a dozen people appearing with signs including one gorilla in a bikini and golden hula skirt wrapped with a feather boa that appears to have been dropping feathers all over the city. But at least the poor simian with attitude can travel elsewhere in Ward One if not the downtown and not have to worry about business owners calling the police to pick him or her up.

More cars honked in support and more pamphlets were handed out to motorists and pedestrians. In addition, there were "save Kawa Market" balloons and some former shoppers at the store which is owned by an Asian-American couple expressed their disappointment at the city's success at putting the Guans out of business.

Councilman Dom Betro's supporters apparently were telling people at a recent coffee gathering that the Kawa Market was crime-ridden which is apparently why the city targeted it and may allow a "similar commercial use" to be considered for future development including a rumored convenience store like 7-11. But if the city were interested in closing down businesses that attracted crime, one would think there would be several liquor stores which historically have created many problems higher on its list than Kawa Market.

The customers said they went to the market because there was no closer place to shop for food where they lived. They said that they would have to probably walk to 7-11 instead which is about three blocks away from the market or Ralphs supermarket.

As stated, there is still some last rounds of campaign events taking place as the voting period for the first round closes in less than two weeks.

A war of words is taking place in the Ward Five election over campaign fliers circulated by candidate Chris MacArthur according to the Press Enterprise.

In his literature, MacArthur criticizes Donna Doty-Michalka by claiming that she supports the policy used by her bank of allowing undocumented immigrants to use identification cards issued in Mexico to open bank accounts at Altura Credit where she is employed. Michalka denied she supported the policy and then wondered what it had to do with Ward Five issues.

MacArthur went further by claiming that Michalka would force the police department to accept identification cards issued by the Mexican consulate. What exactly MacArthur bases his claims on is not clear because he doesn't include that information but if you can't discuss the issues in the ward that you're running in, xenophobia is the next tool in his arsenal because that is clearly his intent here. It smacks a bit of desperation.

Michalka's supporters, including the Riverside Police Officers' Association which endorsed took issue with MacArthur's assertion made about Michalka as did the Riverside Police Department.


The Riverside Police Officers Association, whose political action committee has endorsed Michalka, is angry about MacArthur's fliers, said Don Miskulin, a police helicopter pilot and the action committee's chairman.

Illegal immigration is a matter for the national government to handle, not city government, Miskulin said.

"It really has nothing to do with the issues" in Ward 5, he said.

The union's political action committee has put out a flier warning voters: "Don't be fooled by vicious lies!" and highlighting its support of Michalka.

Well, you could gather from MacArthur's comments on his own campaign brochure that if he were elected to Ward Five, he would make it an issue to force undocumented immigrants further into the position in this city that if they were crime victims that they should not bother to report it to the police department. And unfortunately, there's enough people in this city trying to do that already.

And there's concerns to raise about Michalka's employment ties to a business used by the city but this definitely isn't one of them. It's just very disappointing behavior by MacArthur right up there with some of his campaign supporters telling prospective Ward Five voters that candidate Harry Kurani was born in Iran as if that were true and as if it were a bad thing and reason not to vote for him. So MacArthur's reliance on racism and xenophobia may be an ongoing pattern in his campaign.

Then there are what the Press Enterprise labeled the "carpetbagger allegations" against Kurani in that he moved into Ward Five before the election, specifically to run for that seat. That's a legitimate issue to raise about a candidate is how long he or she has lived in the ward.


Kurani doesn't deny moving to run for the seat, but he said he has had a business in Arlington for 16 years, is very active in the business community and has served on the city Planning Commission since 2003.

"How can you slam that?" Kurani asked.

MacArthur said he believes Kurani's move into Ward 5 is a valid issue.

And he's right, though it's mitigated somewhat by Kurani's years spent working at his business there. But it's also apparently true that the backers of Kurani apparently encouraged him to make the move in hopes that he would get a council seat.

Similar concerns were raised about Adams when he moved into Ward Seven to run successfully for that seat four years ago. Initially, he had filed campaign papers to run in Ward Three but legend is that he couldn't gather enough signatures so he moved on to the La Sierra area. It's interesting to see some of those who criticized his tactics supporting Kurani's decision to move into Ward Five to run. But it all depends on who the politician is when it comes to tactics that they use to try and get elected. This is one lesson among others that should come out of Election 2007.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton defended his comments on the May Day incident in an article published in the Los Angeles Times. Bratton's harsh words of criticism ruffled some feathers in the police department leading to criticism by President Bob Baker of the Protective Police League which is the department's major labor union.


As you should know by now, my style is to be straightforward and speak candidly as I tell your story," Bratton said, according to a transcript obtained by The Times. "Give me a good story to tell, and I will tell it. Give me something else, and, unfortunately, I will have to tell it like it is."

He said he wanted to be "very clear" that the taped images of officers using force against the crowd were "very disturbing" and "there is no doubt that this incident has set our department back."

"It will serve no purpose to not recognize and acknowledge that there were some problems with some prior planning, leadership, command and control, tactics and force used that day," Bratton said.

After the incident, Bratton demoted one top police official in charge that day and reassigned another. He also ordered officers from the elite Metropolitan Division involved in the crowd control at MacArthur Park to temporarily "stand down" from field duties. All but three have returned to full duties.

In Tuesday's taped message, Bratton acknowledged that videos don't always tell the whole story and said he would not make a final assessment about the officers' conduct until the investigations were finished.

"My commitment to you is that there will not be a rush to judgment," he said. "We will not condone the use of unreasonable force under any circumstances, but I will defend all of you who use force when it is reasonable. Policing is not easy, and it is not always pretty."

Baker wasn't moved.


"I don't think it's going to satisfy the officers," he said.

The inevitable conflict is heating up between Bratton and the leadership of the police union, even as Bratton already faces the process of being reappointed to a second five-year term as the LAPD's police chief.

Bratton also announced that all but three of the officers who were assigned to work the Metro Division's B Platoon that day have been returned to their field duty assignments. Over 60 officers were temporarily removed from the field after the May Day incident became public. In addition, Deputy Chief Cayler "Lee" Carter who held the highest rank at the scene of the incident was demoted and has opted for an early retirement. His immediate subordinate was reassigned.

Numerous investigations continue into the incident which involved LAPD officers charging away from a clash with a group of demonstrators and into MacArthur Park where thousands of people were peacefully assembled at a rally. While in the park, officers struck dozens of people including media representatives with their batons and fired 168 less lethal bullets at them.

Last week, the federal monitor overseeing the department's reforms under its ongoing and recently extended consent decree released a report stating that he was concerned that the incident showed continuing problems with the supervision and training of the LAPD's officers.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, there's an article about a police officer employed by that city's department who has accumulated a list of excessive force complaints. At least four incidents involving people of all races in nine months are attributed to San Francisco Police Department Officer Jesse Serna, a member of both the department's early warning list nine times running and that created by the publication. His rate of force used against members of the public is 50% higher than that used by any other officer in the department.

His incidents of late are as followed and it's clear that these incidents that were reported also detail other cases where Serna also allegedly used excessive force. Apparently, it's news to Chief Heather Fong what Serna's been up to lately, but she said the department's looking into it.


In one incident, a young man who told Officer Jesse Serna he would be making a complaint against him said that moments later he was thrown to the ground by officers in North Beach and was zapped 12 times with a stun gun as he lay handcuffed on the street.

taser burns

In another North Beach incident, a man said Serna hit him twice with his baton after he told police they were using force on someone who had been the victim of an assault.

In a third case, on the Embarcadero, witnesses said Serna and a partner wrestled to the ground a man who had called out that he would be a witness for another man whom Serna had hit while he was arresting him. Serna said in his police report that he went on to pepper-spray the would-be witness' wife and another woman.

In these cases, citizens said Serna had exhibited racial prejudice.

In a fourth case, a woman alleged that Serna used a sexual slur against her after she had joked with him and other officers about fearing what they would do to her if she tried to cross the street.

Two of these cases have resulted in lawsuits, and a third has raised the possibility of one. Since he joined the department, Serna has been involved in three lawsuits alleging excessive force that cost taxpayers a total of $195,000.

In many departments, officers are divided into two categories, the so-called tough guys and the wusses and the sorting out process begins in the police academy and continues as newer officers begin their training in the departments which employ them.

In San Francisco, two things are clear. Serna is a member of the first group and despite a series of articles down by the San Francisco Chronicle on the issue of use of force especially when it's excessive, Chief Heather Fong like many chiefs appears to if not happy with that, then content to bury her head in the sand, because if an officer can appear on a "warning" list nine times and still be out on the street accumulating numerous excessive complaints then something is seriously wrong with what's going on under her watch.

Sometimes, like any other list, an early warning system is just a piece of paper or a computer screen with writing on it.

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