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.