Five before Midnight

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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Is there really a class called City Hall 101?

The Riverside Neighborhood Partnership has its annual conference at California Baptist University on Magnolia. It began at 7 a.m and ran until after 5 p.m. There were many different workshops from dealing with code compliance to strengthening neighborhood groups. Its numbers were down, probably due to being scheduled before the Fourth of July, but it wasn't a bad turnout.

And yes, there used to be a class called City Hall 101 that was offered during the conference, but its name has been changed since then.

The Plenary speaker was a community organizer from Portland, Oregon who wrote a position paper back when Tom Potter was still a police captain in the Portland Police Bureau. I heard a rumor that he's current the mayor of that city.

Then there were three separate workshop sessions scheduled. The best strategy was simply to spend a bloc of time at several different ones.

In between them was lunch served by buffet at the university cafeteria. It was crowded in the air conditioned dining room so many people ate outside in the heat. The food wasn't bad, the desserts especially the Reeses Peanut Butter cake were sumptuous.

Unfortunately, some people who opted for the cream of chicken did feel a bit queasy after lunch.

After lunch, was the infamous annual exercise of the neighborhood caucus elections. Having been elected as an alternate to the neighborhood partnership association in 2004 and then receiving a letter from the city voiding my election because the rules had suddenly been changed, I'm a bit cynical about such things.

Neighborhoods should be able to select their own representatives without having to have them vetted by the city who's going to favor those that it supports. The latest requirement is that you have to attend one of their training sessions. Hopefully, at least it's free.

But I was late to the caucus thing because lunch was too delicious and the conversation too interesting so the election was already over by the time I got there so I visited some of the other caucus meetings.

Attendance by the city's officials could have been better, but several did attend, including former GASS member, Art Gage who was shaking hands and talking with a lot of people, having to make up some ground from his defeat in the first round of Election 2007.

Mayor Ron Loveridge opted out of his second conference in a row, but it was attended by city officials including one is up for election this autumn along with those who are running to win spots on the dais representing Ward Three and Ward Five.

Chris MacArthur and Donna Doty-Michalka who will both be running to replace outgoing councilman, Ed Adkison both attended the event. MacArthur is still flip-flopping on whether or not he supports the Community Police Review Commission. Sometimes he says he does. Other times, he says the opposite. You know how it is.

Representing the third ward, was Gage who if you remember, lost the preliminary round of Election 2007 to neophyte William "Rusty" Bailey. Bailey attended also as did another political candidate, Peter Olmos who is currently working on Gage's campaign. That's strange considering originally he supported Bailey but then again, it was a long, eventful election season and unfortunately for the city's residents(if not its bloggers), there's still a long season left until the final vote is tabulated and we all find out who will be representing the residents in all four of the odd-numbered wards for four years.

Oh wait, that's not counting any council members who opt out of serving the entire term and decide to run for higher office instead. After all, not only is there a mayoral race next year, but one for county supervisor in the district which represents a huge chunk of Riverside proper.

Gage and Olmos attended a workshop titled, "City Hall FAQs" led by Asst. City Manager Michael Beck while Bailey attended a workshop that addressed doing outreach with the homeless. Olmos is an interesting guy for a Republican. He left after lunch to go shoot some pool, but did say he's thinking of reentering the political arena in a few years.

Other council members in attendance included Ward Two councilman, Andrew Melendrez and Ward Six councilwoman Nancy Hart. Only Hart survived the entire event to its very end when even the flower bouquets were raffled off.

The BASS quartet opted out of the public function, as did the competition of the two members of this quartet that are heading off to the final rounds of Election 2007 in November. Perhaps there was a separate conference that was more exclusive and more to their tastes elsewhere, or perhaps they took advantage of the upcoming holiday.

After all there were few development firms present at the conference. Gasp,. it would be like a fish out of water.

Actually, four fishes. But it was surprising not to see Ward Seven incumbent, Steve Adams in attendance. Word is that he's either trying to get back in the good graces of his former backers, the Riverside Police Officers' Association or they are with him but that the RPOA as of now is staying out of the fray which is probably a wise choice on its part after Adams had badmouthed it at the same time he was telling prospective voters it was endorsing him through his distribution of old campaign brochures and posting of just as old yard signs. These behaviors are of course, so uncool.

Dan Bernstein of the Press Enterprise is stirring up trouble again talking about the backlog of criminal cases in the Riverside County Superior Court. He's been hanging out at the court building tracking the dilemma that has afflicted the court system to the point where hardly anyone can fit inside any of the courtrooms anymore and the lobbies on each floor are packed. Even with 12 judges coming down to Riverside on emergency duty, it doesn't seem as if the daily crowd will be dispersing any time soon.


Some inmates do not eat the prunes, grapes, apples, etc. they are served in jail. They store them in bags and let them ferment. Jailhouse brew. Or pruno. Our Man Loza had been busted for felony pruno. Judge Luebs asked the lawyers what they wanted to do about it?

Brian King, the defense lawyer, deferred to Abbie Marsh, the prosecutor. Could King have been hoping the DA would prosecute felony pruno, allowing his client to stay in jail?

Prosecutor Marsh: "I believe that we will likely be moving to dismiss." But she had to ask her supervisor, and when court reconvened, Our Man Loza had a new friend! A most curious ally!

Prosecutor Marsh: "I don't want you to dismiss it. I do think it should go to trial." (She had to be thinking, "Two, four, six, eight, bump up Rod's conviction rate!")

Defense attorney King: "I think we are going to have to set for prelim, your Honor." (He had to be thinking, "I can barely keep a straight face. My guy's staying in jail!")

Our Man Loza had to be thinking, "Yesssss!"

Luebs: "Given the fact that I have just sentenced him to 25 to life, the notion that this case (Felony Pruno!) is in the public interest, that it needs to go to trial, strikes me as a bit absurd.

"Given the number of cases that need to be tried, and the number of people that are crying out for justice, the fact that I have murder cases that are many years old, the thought that we would be devoting resources to trying this case (Felony Pruno!) at this time just makes very little sense to me."

A Riverside County Sheriff Department deputy discharged his weapon at a dog inside a residence in Lake Elsinore claiming that the dog was charging at him, according to an article in the Press Enterprise.


Before long, Hughes heard a man yelling at the open door of his mobile home, which sits on a fenced-in lot in a rural area outside Lake Elsinore. Hughes said he couldn't make out what the man said.

Angel ran toward the door and barked as Hughes followed, but it was too late. A Riverside County sheriff's deputy was at the threshold with his gun drawn and shot at the dog, Hughes said.

Angel was unharmed, but the 63-year-old Hughes, a ham radio operator who said he suffers from numerous health problems, including diabetes, said he panicked.

"My pulse went off the scale," he said.

The deputy told him not to worry, Hughes said.

"He calmed me down by saying it was a blank."

Hughes said he later noticed a bullet hole in the floor, which he said led him to believe that the deputy had lied.

Although a San Bernardino County jury acquitted former deputy, Ivory J. Webb of criminal charges in relation to the onduty shooting of Elio Carrion in January 2006, the U.S. Justice Department is taking a look at the case, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times.

The U.S. Attorney's office will decide after reviewing the transcript of the trial whether or not it will file charges against Webb for violating Carrion's civil rights violations. His family hopes that the agency will do so, even as Carrion filed a law suit in U.S. District Court.


"It is rare for federal authorities to bring the same or similar criminal charges after an acquittal in state court," said Rebecca Lonergan, a USC law professor and former federal prosecutor. "You do have well-established policies in place that there is presumption against filing the same charges federally."

But Lonergan, until recently deputy chief of the public corruption and civil rights section of the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, noted that federal officials do make exceptions — as they did when they pursued charges against the four Los Angeles police officers involved in the 1991 beating of Rodney King.

Federal prosecutors take particular care in investigating public corruption cases in which there are potential civil rights violations, she said. They examine potential flaws in the prosecution's strategy, or any ties between prosecutors and law enforcement that could have affected the case.

Webb's boss, excuse me former boss, was very happy at the results of his trial.


San Bernardino County Sheriff Gary Penrod defended his department Friday as one of the best in the country and said the Webb shooting was one of the most difficult incidents the department had ever faced.

"I truly believe our deputies go to work every day with the intentions of doing the best job they possibly can to make our community safer, with no intent of hurting anyone in the course of their duties," Penrod said.

The sheriff has declined to say whether Webb was fired last year or left the department on his own accord. He said Friday that he did not know if Webb was seeking a law enforcement job, but that he would not be reinstated at the San Bernardino County department.

Penrod said he had spoken to Webb several times since his departure and did not think there were "bad feelings" between Webb and the department.

"He's part of our family," Penrod said. "Everybody was pretty thrilled" with the acquittal.

Will he be enough of a member of the "family" to be taken back into its bosom? Because if that's true, then the San Bernardino County's Sheriff's Department should be the ones to take him back rather than say we're very happy and thrilled at his acquittal while silently stating through its actions that as long as he's not in our backyard.

Speaking of which.

Is a Riverside Police Department officer who was fired in the early 1990s after being acquitted at a criminal trial in relation to very serious onduty misconduct working in another law enforcement agency in this state? That should provide hope for other officers in his shoes in terms of being charged with that particular form of illegal conduct, well except for the ex-officer who's doing 17 1/2 years in state prison for the same thing.

Unfortunately, there's no real way for the public to know and the profession would like to keep it that way through pushing against legislation such as that which went through Sacramento last week. After all if the officer above hadn't been tried in court in relation to his misconduct, no one would know about it.

The Los Angeles Police Commission spanked the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Division for being lax on its paperwork in relation to the failure of watch commanders to sign off on arrests and searches conducted by officers under their charge, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to a recent audit, the percentage of searches that were signed off by supervisors had dropped off remarkably since a similar audit conducted last year. This development is kind of embarrassing considering that the LAPD just entered into the seventh year of its five-year consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. That decree was extended by a federal judge last year despite intense pressure because key reforms either had not been completed or they had not finished the two-year compliance period required after being implemented including the department's Early Warning System which was supposed to be installed by 2004.

The good news is, that there's plenty of years left before this consent decree is extended into the next century.


Erin Kenney of the Los Angeles Police Department's Audit Division told the commission that without adequate documentation, the department had nothing to support a probable cause for searching a suspect.

Such documentation of gang-related arrests is a key part of the federal consent decree agreed to by the city in the wake of the 1990s scandal involving misconduct by anti-gang officers at the Rampart Division.

Police Commissioner Anthony Pacheco said he was "personally embarrassed by this audit."

"I think these numbers are horrible, and they've been horrible since 2006 and into 2007," he said. "I think that the department needs to be realistic that it's inappropriate to have decreases in performance."

Commission President John Mack said, "It is totally unacceptable."

Andre Birotte, the commission's inspector general, said that the numbers were a key part of the consent decree's requirements and that the latest decline was "a cause for concern."

"This is Year 6 of the consent decree. This isn't something new," he said. The decree was extended after an initial five years because the LAPD failed to meet all its requirements.

Save our State and the Minutemen will be showing up on July 3 at a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission to support the "persecution" and "firing" of LAPD officers in relation to the May Day incident. An obvious problem is that no one's been fired in relation to the latest LAPD incident to be broadcast the world.

I guess things are slow in Orange County this holiday weekend. Lucky L.A. County.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 28, 2007

From acorns to mighty oaks: Why police unions are civilian oversight's best friend

"The history of the world is the world's court of justice."

---Friedrich Von Schiller

The Los Angeles Times responded to the failure of a state assembly bill that would have cracked the door open a little bit wider when it comes to scrutinizing the police complaint process with a scathing indictment of law enforcement unions in Bullies in Blue.

The Times was especially upset with the Los Angeles Police Department's Police Protective League for first telling the newspaper they supported it then testifying against it behind closed doors in a room where the lack of transparency included a ban on media coverage.


The first sign of that was an extraordinarily ham-fisted e-mail from John R. Stites, one of the unions' leaders. Stites baldly threatened members of the Legislature who supported Romero's bill by vowing to oppose a term-limits measure, adding: "This will only be the beginning." Locally, leaders of the Los Angeles Police Protective League told this newspaper that they would support a bill that would reopen disciplinary hearings, then, once they were out of the building, announced their opposition.

The union thuggery continued this week as representatives testified that Romero's bill would embolden criminals and undermine safety. Nonsense. In a final insult, the Assembly's Public Safety Committee, host to that testimony, turned off the TV camera, preventing the public even from watching a debate over public access.

Police officers wear their names on their badges for a reason. They are public servants, paid by taxpayer dollars. They conduct their business in the most public of forums, and the public has every right to scrutinize their work. Recognizing that, Romero hopes to bring back an amended bill next week; she acknowledges that the odds are against it. As long as members of the Legislature are cowed by police unions, she's right. And we all suffer for their cowardice.

I think bullies is the wrong word to use, although I understand the frustration of the Times to be lied to by the League, who after all are members of a profession where lying is supposed to be against all that it stands for. But police officers aren't dieties either. They are drawn from the human race meaning that they can exhibit the best and worst qualities found in people.

But these aren't bullies. They aren't acting out of malice, but fear.

I think what you're seeing is a bunch of scared law enforcement officers who live in fear of each inch of extra scrutiny their actions receive from public oversight mechanisms like police commissions, auditors and civilian review boards. It's fear that causes them to lash out at those who believe that civilian oversight matters whether they lash out on a city street from inside their cars or decide to vote not through ballots but by razor, adopting a racist symbol when any one of them is fired. Or to circulate a campaign leaflet that states that their hands will be tied and their response times slower if a measure supporting the inclusion of a civilian review board in the city's charter.

All of these actions and more were inspired not by boldness or even resolve and not by malice, but by fear and terror of the future. Fear of anything and anybody that isn't part of them. It's at times like these whether in Riverside, Los Angeles, or the chambers of Sacramento when their attempts to assert themselves through isolating themselves further in their attempts to remain insulated from scrutiny is most acutely seen and felt by those who aren't members of their fraternity. These are also the times when the public most often rejects their message that they are sending and when they lose ground that they fought hard for to gain public trust during an era when they have to work much harder simply to remain in place. For every inch these unions try to gain in keeping the door slammed shut around them, the creation of another civilian oversight mechanism opens it up a bit more.

It's human nature after all among people born into a democracy pocked with a history of episodes where public trust in its governmental agencies including the presidency has been tested, to see a group of people struggle so hard to keep things so secret by shutting those doors and wonder what's behind those closed doors. What must be kept hidden by public scrutiny? The more that the police unions openly do so, the more curious and interested the public will become. And with curiosity comes concern and with concern comes resolve, and what often comes after that is the birth of another form of civilian oversight. And another. And another.

While the actions by the police unions is a setback and the decision by the committee to refuse to advocate for transparency involving the televising of its own sessions, more civilian oversight mechanisms will be created and more and more cities, counties and towns will hold discussions and debates about this growing issue.

That's a lesson they haven't learned as civilian review grows even despite all the efforts made by police departments and city governments to close that door both here in Riverside and elsewhere. In fact, it's these battles fought in public and behind closed doors that will ensure that civilian review does continue to grow and spread far and wide. In fact, the very action taken by several desperate law enforcement unions in this state to act as they did in Sacramento is proof positive that in the end, civilian oversight and transparency over a cloaked process will prevail because if the unions' position were solid and they had the public's support, they wouldn't have needed to go to the state capitol to press their case and it wouldn't have taken place inside a public building owned by the state's residents with even the debate taking place inside of its chambers restricted from public scrutiny and even public view.

Civilian oversight is here because the public has lost confidence in the abilities and intent of police agencies to investigate their own. Just like consent decrees exist because the federal and state law enforcement agencies are acting on behalf of legislation passed by Congress which reflected the growing disillusionment among the public that law enforcement agencies were even able to run themselves without outside intervention.

These twin developments of mechanisms of outside accountability were set up from the 1960s into the 21st century to respond to a crisis of confidence in law enforcement, its infrastructure and its identity more than the employees themselves.

It's hard to have read about what the police unions have done, because underneath the emotions which led them to this desperate act, are simply people who are hardworking individuals who just happen to be terrified of outsiders looking over their shoulders and knowing how they conduct business. It's part and parcel of the police culture to want to insulate you and your own in a security blanket and to fear and trust those not included as outsiders and the police culture was alive and well in Sacramento.

That fear was palpable this week in Sacramento even if the public was not privy to exactly what was being said but in the end, the only cause they are hurting is their own. That's the way these things usually work. And even if you disagree with their position on this issue, that's not an outcome that is acceptable either, for the day to come when law enforcement officers hit their nadir in their profession and realize that what they have lost is much more valuable than they realized. Seeing that day come will be more difficult than watching what is going on now.

I had a long-standing ardent supporter of the Riverside Police Department come up to me the other night and ask me if he was wrong to think that the police department had really changed after an unsettling experience he had with one of its sergeants. I told him that change doesn't come overnight and it doesn't come in five years and it doesn't come with several signatures on a release form. It comes with hard work, and most important, time. What is good and what is progress should be held up and praised. What is problematic and troubling is what needs to be scrutinized and addressed by the department, the city and the public who are all vested in this process. And that it matters, the people involved with it matter even when they do things that you disagree with, and it's important to remain involved in it.

Because no one really wants to revisit yesterday. I think that's one thing most everyone can agree upon even if episodes like what took place this week cast serious doubt on this.

The officers' head shaving campaign in Riverside during the summer of 1999 failed to win them support and gained the department a federal pattern and practices investigation when people were so offended by what they represented that the Congressional Black Caucus made its displeasure in Washington about what was transpiring 3,000 miles away from it, to the Department of Justice. The 200 or so officers who shaved their hair then grew it back almost as quickly as they had lost it. For some, maybe many, it was a hard lesson for them to learn.

Community leaders who were involved in the creation of a diverity training session mandated by former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer as part of the consent decree reported that it was very difficult for the officers involved with that process to even talk about the head shaving episode. That's a sign of progress, but it was a problem as well that had to be addressed.

The police union's campaign against the initiative that saved the Community Police Review Commission probably cost them more votes including from inside their own ranks as many officers allegedly felt offended by the actions of that campaign according to candidates running for city council the following year who had spoken with them. Their latest actions although hidden from the public like they wish everything else would be, behind closed doors will cause a similar reaction, insuring that the pendulum which has begin to shift away from them is pushed even further in that direction.

After all, in California, the pendulum is so far on one side, there's only one direction it can swing and what the police unions did this week has no doubt helped further that process along.

Jack Palm, who ran the Riverside Police Officers' Association in the 1990s and his ill-advised blacklist against Latino complainants in Casa Blanca created a tremendous backlash and a barrage of press coverage that lasted a month. I mentioned Palm and the infamous blacklist to a command staff member not long ago and he told me that Palm was gone. I said, yes indeed he is but history, good and especially bad, remains long after those who make it step aside.

But mistakes still continued to be made anyway proving that the lessons of history don't always make enough of a lasting impression.

It's like the wind in Aesop's fable, the Wind and the Sun, where the wind tries to win a wager that it can force a man's coat off of his body through brute strength and force. If you remember the ancient parable, the wind fails. The sun, on the other hand, does succeed through gentle yielding and the man gladly removes his coat.

The harder the law enforcement unions push, the more money they throw around to will people to vote their way, the more doors they try to shut between them and the public, the more they will ensure that one day, those doors will be open probably much more than makes them comfortable. The more aggressive their actions become, the more they resort to trying to keep accountability at arm's length, the faster those doors will open. The more accountability becomes an important issue because of embarrassing scandals like the "second chance" agency of Maywood Police Department where even the chief is a convicted criminal. Or the LAPD, which generates at least one scandal by camcorder per quarter. Or a half a dozen other agencies or so in this state in any given month.

Who can forget agencies like those in Bakersfield and Oakland, especially Oakland where a Black police officer was killed by two of his own colleagues who racially profiled him to his death. At least as far as that officer was concerned, the officers who were supposed to back him and protect him were the most dangerous thing out there.

The Rialto Police Department, which was nearly shut down and agencies in Perris, Adelanto and Compton which were shut down due to mishandling and worse. Adelanto especially comes to mind as a place where police officers routinely beat people they arrested then forced them to lick their own blood off of the floor. Or Compton, where corruption ended the run of its police department and it entered into a contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department which promptly engaged in a shooting spree in one neighborhood where by its end, deputy was shooting at deputy.

The public feels that accountability comes through scrutiny and transparency, because the public closely watches the actions of police officers who work with those who engage in excessive force, corruption, sexual misconduct, perjury, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and other offenses and what the public sees are these things. And what they see causes the trust they have in their police officers to erode over time. This happens with agencies all across the country and are keenly felt in communities all over the country.

Some of the actions or more accurately, inactions include the following.

Officer protecting officer from accountability.

Supervisors backing their subordinates or choosing not to see misconduct.

The blue wall.

Failure of officers to report against other officers out of loyalty or fear or both.

Ostracising and harassment for those who do.

The circling of the wagon that continues upward to management

The city circling itself off to protect itself from civic law suits and its own police department.

Power struggles between leaders of police department and leaders of City Hall.

Officers defending individuals who bruise and batter people whether it's those who are arrested or their own spouses by talking about how nice and professional these individuals are, as if the same criminal behavior that they see every day in others is an aberration when evidenced or found among their own.

Officers who knowingly turn their backs at officers who engage in criminal conduct and other misconduct and do not say anything or in worse cases, lie for them. Whether it's five minutes or 12 years.

Silence, or "I really didn't know him" when an officer is busted in a child molestation sting who leaves a string of broken lives behind him. A badge doesn't change that, it emphasizes that.

It's calling an officer fired for lying, either the most honest officer on the force or the most honest one you'll ever meet because it's more important to look good than it is to honor and respect the officers who don't get fired for lying by giving them that distinction instead.

Officers including those in management giving "preliminary" briefings of critical incidents and from day one, defend or explain away the actions of the officers even though in actuality the investigations take six or more months to complete.

Officers who put their own lives at risk not to mention the community when they make serious mistakes do not receive what they need to remedy that situation because being "right" or circling the wagons against the public or against civil litigation is much more important.

All these things are transparent at some point even against the efforts made to keep that from happening and most often it's at the worst possible time and place that they spill out in public. And at some point for many agencies whether it's Atlanta, Georgia, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City and of course, Riverside, that's the point when outside agencies come to take an in depth look at what's gone wrong and impose mandates for change when those problems could have been addressed and solved much sooner before departments imploded and communities exploded.

It's become a battle where the unions are fighting on the opposite side and not even aware of it which must be exhausting considering how much energy they are expending on their side. Or tug of war, where the strategy is to let the opposing side wear itself out with its own efforts and then gently tug on the rope and step by grudging step, they draw closer to their opposition.

With opposition like that, advocates for civilian review really don't have to do much but sit back and watch the other side do their work for them. And the police unions of the state of California did just that during their jaunt to the state capitol this week. Their actions done in the desperation that is most often born from deep-seated fear should not elicit anger, or even sadness. It should draw forth empathy, sympathy and even pity that it's come to that type of response.

Proof positive that the pendulum is swinging back.

A jury acquitted former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputy, Ivory J. Webb in his criminal case stemming from his shooting of U.S. airman, Elio Carrion, according to the Press Enterprise.


But jurors accepted the defense's contention that Webb saw Carrion reach toward his jacket -- as if grabbing for a gun -- and sprang to his feet as if lunging to attack the officer, said Day and juror Michael Thompson.

"I think, from Ivory's point of view, that was the straw that broke the camel's back," Day said. "He did everything that a reasonable officer would do in his position.

"You have to look at the totality of what happened, not just that minute-and-a-half video."

Another juror heaped the blame squarely on Carrion and Escobedo.

"If they would have just shut their mouths and did what he said, none of this would have happened," said juror Linda Goldstein. "I couldn't see (Webb) going to prison. If they don't shoot you on the job, they prosecute you? No one would be a deputy."

It's pretty clear between emotion and reason, what won this day. Goldstein's comments make that very clear. But people in the Inland Empire know this is a fairly typical outcome in a region where as one representative of the Department of Justice once put it, every police agency would be under consent decree if that agency had the resources.

Elio Carrion's family was not surprisingly upset by the verdict.


The lawyer blasted Thursday's not-guilty verdict.

"The residents of San Bernardino (County) are so conservative, they put police officers above the law," he said. "There is no justice."

"I don't think it was a good call. I wasn't happy after they read the verdict," said Hector Carrion, brother of Elio Carrion.

Hector Carrion said the judge ordered the family not to show emotion when the verdict was read, regardless of the outcome. He said his sister, 24-year-old Veronica Carrion, began to cry after the verdict was read, and he comforted her. Bailiffs made them leave the courtroom.

"I guess it was OK for him (Webb) because he's a cop and got to show emotion," Hector Carrion said.

What can be said? Welcome to the Inland Empire. Hopefully, Webb doesn't get rehired in Riverside County. There's always Maywood, except that agency might be soon joining Riverside's police department on the list of police departments that were under a state consent decree.

Cassie MacDuff from the Press Enterprise wrote a great column on why juries never convict police officers in cases like this one.


The video clearly shows Webb struggling to get control of the situation, shouting repeatedly for Carrion to shut up.

As Carrion yells back that he's on Webb's side, that he's in the military police and means Webb no harm, Webb's voice drops. He seems to be calming down in response to the assurances.

But as the sirens of backup officers arriving begin to be heard in the background, Webb says, "OK, get up then. Get up." He even motions with his gun for Carrion to rise.

Prosecutor Lewis Cope argued that Carrion posed no threat to Webb, because he had both hands on the ground as he pushed himself up.

While Schwartz argued that Webb feared Carrion was reaching for a gun when he put his hand on his chest moments earlier, Cope pointed out that Webb didn't shoot him then.

Webb never mentioned anything about a gun to the officer who spoke to him at the scene, Cope said. He told that officer Carrion lunged at him.

But the contradiction mattered not at all to the jury. It took them less than three hours to vote unanimously to acquit Webb.

Schwartz argued Webb feared a gun and a lunge. "It can't be both," Cope argued.

Carrion didn't lunge or reach for a gun, Cope said, arguing that a reasonable peace officer would have seen that.

But the jury didn't see it that way. Perhaps Schwartz convinced them when he argued that expecting law enforcement officers not to shoot suspects they believe are coming at them would make their jobs virtually impossible.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I am the camera and other adages


As I called it, two days of deliberation by a jury and an acquittal of former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Ivory J. Webb. And no, I'm not psychic. The next prediction is that this is the first and last case of its kind that will ever be filed by this county.

Riverside business owners in the area near Brockton where it's nestled close to Mt. Rubidoux are nervous about whether the city will try to acquire property that they either own or are leasing. Some people have already received notification from the city that apparently they may need to find new digs.

The city officials have made a sacred vow. There will be no more fires at the recycling facility that filled the city sky with dark, toxic smoke, so thick it closed the neighboring freeway for three hours.

The Press Enterprise really is into this story, because they have video, slide shows and illustrations about every aspect of this industrial fire which is still under investigation as to what caused it. Spontaneous fires kept combusting even yesterday while the city's fire marshal was keeping a close eye on the site. Apparently, this happened because the plastic formed a hard seal over the actual fire. That's reminiscent of what happens when coal seams catch on fire and may burn for hundreds of years rendering entire towns uninhabitable.


Riverside Fire Marshal Perry Halterman said fire officials inspected the plastic recycler in December 2005 and found no major issues.

"It was in compliance when we last checked," he said. He added, though, that the fire "throws up red flags and calls for increased enforcement."

Halterman said the business would be monitored and inspected once a year. Before Tuesday's fire, the recycler was on a three-year inspection plan, a rotation used for 40 percent of the city's businesses.

Unlimited Plastics owner Guillermo Rodriguez, 40, said his business was in compliance with city codes.

"The city checks to make sure things are clear," he said. "When they see stuff they don't like, we take care of it."

Assistant City Manager Tom De Santis said if the city were to find that the recycler violated the city fire code, he might have to pay for the cost of fighting the fire.

Five firefighting agencies were involved in battling the blaze, and the city has not figured out the cost, De Santis said.

Riverside and Jurupa are at conflict over a plan by the former city to run a power line under Jurupa to provide its neighbor with more electricity, according to the Press Enterprise. Residents in Jurupa, a mostly Latino town, are upset because they argue that the line will generate electro-magnetic waves where school children congregate.


"He feels it is better to keep this kind of thing away from people," said John Field, Tavaglione's chief deputy.

Jurupa-area residents have collected more than 150 signatures on a petition submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission.

"They need to reroute (the line) away from homes and schools," said Pedley resident Brian Schafer, who also said he has researched the health issues related to electromagnetic fields produced by high-voltage power lines.

A 2002 study by the California Department of Health Services tied electromagnetic fields to an increased risk of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer and miscarriage.

Schafer said guidelines published by the European Union require that high-voltage transmission lines be kept at least 200 yards from schools and neighborhoods because of concerns about the health effects, particularly on children.

Ray Hicks, Southern California Edison regional manager, said there is no conclusive proof that electromagnetic fields cause health problems.

"There is no proof either way," he said.

I would imagine that the residents of this town are no more happy to pay the price for Riverside's advancement than the residents of Bloomington, Rialto, Colton and other cities in San Bernardino County were to learn that Riverside was planning to alleviate its noise problems caused by the installation of DHL at March Air Force Reserve Base by sending the air traffic in a northern and easterly direction.

DHL and the March Joint Powers Commission have endeared themselves to the residents of Orangecrest, Mission Grove and Canyoncrest by either flying or authorizing the flying of dozens of aircraft including outdated and very noisy DC-9 airplanes over the skies. The noise keeps people awake all night, the pollution hurts children's lungs and believe it or not, air traffic ascending and descending over your house can prematurely age its roof.

A very irate San Berdoo County said no dice to any changes in flight traffic and the FAA backed it up by saying that changing a flight plan simply to export noise issues to another region was not allowable.

The Press Enterprise editorial board wrote this on the latest crisis of confidence at DHL, from those who have suffered for the past year.


The heated rhetoric of the noise debate -- and several commissioners' willingness to use the issue for political gain -- has made rational discussion of solutions nearly impossible. Noise from the airport is a real concern, and commissioners along with DHL have a duty to do what they can to minimize the effects on residents. But playing politics with noise hinders that effort.

Nor should anyone on the commission think that withholding a noise study until it's politically convenient is an acceptable course. Operating as openly as possible is always good government practice, but transparency is essential for a March commission that mishandled the approval process for the DHL project. The public found out about an inaccurate flight-path map, faulty revenue projections and a suppressed noise study only after public hearings were over.

It will be interesting to see what the Joint Powers will pull out of their collective hat next.

Hopefully something besides ear plugs. Oh and ballots, because ladies and gentlemen, given that two of the commissioners are running for the same elected position next year, the DHL crisis or what some call Jet-Gate may very well be the issue of Election 2008!

Gregor McGavin of the Press Enterprise has been blogging daily on his coverage of the Ivory J. Webb trial in San Bernardino County.


The prosecutor is close to wrapping it up now, but I think he's going to use all the time the judge will allow.

He urges the jurors to consider all the evidence in making their decision.

"When you look at what happened, everything that Mr. Webb did, did nothing but incite the situation and create its own emergency."

Now the prosecutor seeks to quickly bolster some of the earlier testimony of witnesses such as Jose Luis Valdes, the man who shot the video of the incident. Under questioning by Schwartz, Valdes contradicted himself several times.

Cope says that, while Valdes "may be the biggest kook around, he does have some good things to show us."

"What Mr. Valdes did have, is he had this," he says, holding the videocamera aloft.

Now Cope finishes up with one last statement about Webb's actions that night.

"He was not acting reasonably, and that is the reason, ladies and gentlemen, that you should find him guilty."

And that is it for closing statements in the Webb trial.

After a month of testimony, the case now goes to the jury for deliberations. What will they decide? Who knows.

But we'll be there when the verdict comes back.

It's interesting with all the criticism that blogging gets by the mainstream media that they themselves are taking a hand at it. But McGavin does a pretty good job at providing gavel to gavel coverage of the Webb trial.

The Press Enterprise did an article about how difficult it is to get convictions in cases where officers are being tried on criminal charges for onduty shootings.


"Rodney King really opened prosecutors' eyes, and the community's eyes, about how difficult these cases are," Levenson said.

Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff prosecuted that county's first homicide case against a peace officer in 35 years. He said Wednesday that prosecutors face an uphill battle in winning a conviction.

"Jurors when faced with a law enforcement officer involved in a shooting in the line of duty find it very difficult to convict," said Liroff, who lost a 2005 case against Mike Walker, an officer with the state's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

"They don't want to second-guess them, and fear that blood of future officers will be on them."

But the fear of a loss in court should not deter prosecutors from pursuing police misconduct cases, Liroff said.

"It is terribly important that DAs don't use that as an excuse to not hold law enforcement officers accountable," he said. "That means some cases just have to be tried. It is a tough thing to do. I know that personally."

The Riverside County District Attorney's office hasn't filed any such cases against law enforcement agencies in its jurisdiction. It did convene a grand jury in a case involving one of its own employees, former investigator Daniel Riter who was indicted on murder charges and ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

District Attorney Rod Pacheco did say that he had changed the procedure for "investigating" such cases but the explanation given by supervising prosecutor, Sara Danville at a public forum in January sounded a lot like the previous practice of reviewing the involved law enforcement agency's own criminal investigation and adding an extra layer of review over it.

So far there has never been a police officer or sheriff deputy facing criminal charges for an onduty shooting and it's most likely there never will be in this county.

In Los Angeles, an investigation has been initiated to determine exactly how a Los Angeles Police Department officer was shot by an experienced firearm instructor, according to the Los Angeles Times.


"Unfortunately what occurred violated protocols," said Capt. Bill Murphy, head of the Los Angeles Police Department's Training Division. "When an officer picks up the [non-firing] weapons they are supposed to secure their live firearms. But one officer here didn't secure his live firearm and confused it. When he went to test the [mock] weapon he instead fired his real Glock and hit his fellow instructor."

"This is a bad thing," Murphy said, "but it could have been a lot worse."

Sources involved in the investigation said there was no animus between the officers and it seems to purely be, as one person said, a "boneheaded" mistake.

The agency said that if the allegations involving the officer are sustained, he will be sent to receive some counseling. What's disturbing is how you have an experienced and one would assume, highly trained firearms instructor who doesn't exercise the basic caution required to handle a deadly weapon at all times. One moment of carelessness and lapsed judgement can harm or kill someone and the police officer who got shot by one of his own is lucky to still be alive. But statistics show, that police officers are more likely to be wounded or killed by their own guns in their own hands than by someone else. The suicide rate and accidental discharge rates among police officers are fairly high.

What's interesting is that the article emphasized that the fake gun was brightly marked to enable an officer to distinguish it from the real thing, only this highly trained and experienced officer did not. One of the recommendations coming out of the Community Police Review Commission in relation to the Lee Deante Brown shooting case is to mark the tasers in a similar fashion so that officers who arrive can distinguish them from handguns.

This is how the two major models carried by Taser International, Inc. appear right now.

X26 Taser

M26 Advanced Taser

As can be seen, these taser models are marked in fluorescent yellow probably for that very reason. Some of the cartridges sold for both models are also brightly marked in yellow and black stripes while others aren't and instead are a solid shade of silver.

The Riverside Police Department is currently trying to equip its field operations division with X26 tasers, which are a considerably lighter-weighted model compared to the M26. Currently, about 58.8% of the field operations division is equipped with tasers and just under half of the patrol division's officers. The distribution is closely matched in terms of which model is used in the field.

A police officer in Little Rock, Arkansas was apparently caught on video choking a young man and then placing two others in a headlock. The incident has led to an investigation being conducted by the department, according to AOL News.


Hot Springs Mayor Mike Bush said Tuesday that investigators have talked with witnesses who saw the officer, Joey Williams, stop the skateboarders on a downtown city sidewalk last Thursday. Skateboarding is banned in the area.

The video shows Williams apparently choking one of the skateboarders after forcing him to the ground, then later chasing and wrestling two others while holding them in a headlock.

"Unfortunately, the video shows it pretty good," Bush said.

Bush said he won't be sure of the city's next step until the investigation is complete. The video, taken by Matthew Jon McCormack and another unidentified skater, was posted Monday on YouTube, a popular Internet site.

Another video has surfaced in the case of a Portage Police Department officer who was shown on it slamming the head of a handcuffed woman several times into a squad car, according to Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Adam Burroughs said he was concerned about what he saw on the tape but that it doesn't warrant criminal charges. Maybe the next time this officer does this, it will or maybe it's the prosecutors themselves that aren't paying attention to it or his own department for that matter.

Photographs later showed the woman with a black eye and a large cut on her head.

Maybe the ACLU should take the program it's using in St. Louis, Missouri involving distributing camcorders to people to record police interactions and spread it nationwide.

Oh wait, it looks like it already is spreading.

During the pre-consent decree period of the Riverside Police Department, there were never a shortage of accounts of people including those visiting the city saying that they would get off the 91 freeway for example and watch as a police officer or two would slam a person's, who most often was Black or Latino, head against the car.

For example, an RCC professor's first impression of Riverside was when he got off the 91 freeway onto 14th street in the mid-1990s on his way to a job interview and witnessed a Latino man getting his head slammed against his car by an officer into a state of being unconscious. The professor thought for a minute about calling 9-11 to seek help for the man but thought it might make the situation worse.

A nurse who once worked at a local hospital said she had seen police officers during that same era bring in people they arrested with similar head injuries.

What happened during the 1980s through 1990s particularly concerning incidents involving excessive force or allegations of excessive force and the resultant civil litigation which attracted the attention of federal and state agencies towards the department. Some said in this area, the department was going into a gradual decline, while some call the 1990s, a free fall from grace. Several former employees who worked in the city's human resources department during that decade talked about its loose hiring policies surrounding the police department at recent rallies held in the past several years involving problems in the city's employment ranks.

David Thatcher, who was a research associate with the Urban Institute wrote the most thorough analysis of the police department's journey through the 1990s which was published about six months before the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998. Thatcher ended his analysis on a somewhat hopeful note, never realizing how close, chronologically speaking, the department was into plunging itself and the city into the deepest crisis in the city's history.

Here, Thatcher explores the relationships the department had with both the city and the communities during the 1990s as well as fallout from a tumultuous episode involving the creation of the 4-10 working schedule.


There was little the City Manager’s office could do at that point. As Paulsen puts it, “After he has done it, you weren’t going to put that horse back in the barn. It was just gone.” Paulsen admits that the city probably would have conceded to the union on the 4-10 plan at some point, but he says that it would have insisted on some negotiation: “At the negotiating table we would have put some sort of value on that, and hopefully received something in return for giving that very huge, or perceived huge benefit.”

The episode reflected an uncomfortable lack of communication between city government and the RPD. To be sure, Paulsen and other government officials maintain that their relationship with the police was not necessarily adversarial: When they did get together, police managers and city officials were able to work together amicably. But the two groups often didn’t get together on many issues in the first place, and city hall apparently became increasingly uncomfortable with the way police were making decisions on their own. The basic problem seems to have been that Riverside police—like many of their counterparts in other cities at the time—simply did not want to talk much about departmental strategies and operations, choosing to keep such decisions within the family, as it were: Paulsen and others report that past administrations were not very forthcoming about departmental problems, even though some of them impacted city government directly (for example, the RPD reportedly generated an average of $600,000 annually in claims and lawsuit payments); and elected officials maintain that they had almost no communication with anyone in the police department except the Chief and a single overburdened “liaison” who had been designated to handle their inquiries. Police did, of course, usually confer with city government on decisions about things like budgeting and labor contracts, but the 4-10 episode—and there were reportedly others like it—suggested that even that link was a little bit weak.

The RPD’s relationship to the community was similar, in the sense that the department had a relatively good public image with most of the community, but little direct dialogue outside of individual calls for service and newspaper reports on specific crimes (the department did operate a neighborhood watch program during this period, but it was reportedly not very active). On the positive side, many department members felt that they had “a pretty good relationship with the community” (in the words of one RPD veteran), and a 1992 community survey seemed to bear that impression out, as it found that 66% of its sample rated the department’s overall job performance as “excellent” or “good.”

On the other hand, some groups of Riverside residents apparently had serious concerns about their police department: Most notably, while only 25% of whites rated the RPD’s performance as “only fair” or “poor” in the 1992 survey, 54% of blacks did. Moreover, although the same statistics suggested that the city’s Latino community was only slightly less supportive of the RPD than whites (with 31% rating the department’s performance as “only fair” or “poor”), there was clearly tension between police at least a significant minority of Latinos. This was particularly true in the vocal Casa Blanca neighborhood, where resident groups maintained that the department ignored crime and even emergency calls and accused police of heavy-handed tactics when they did take action. For their part, many police felt threatened by increasingly violent gangs in Casa Blanca, and they denied the charges of both harassment and under-enforcement. Many of these disagreements crystallized in a series of high-profile confrontations between police and Latino community members.1 This sort of high-profile tension with the community was apparently the exception rather than the rule, but even RPD supporters admit that the department tended to weaken its relationships with the community by closing itself off from outside opinion (though they rightly point out that many of their counterparts in the law enforcement world were doing the same thing): “Like many police departments,” one RPD veteran explains, “our attitude pretty much was like ‘We’re the police, and we go to school for this and train, and we’re the experts in this area.’”

Thatcher interviewed city officials and police officers for his analysis. Some of them used their names. Others did not. Most of the thesis paper centers on the brief and turbulent tenure of former chief, Ken Fortier who was brought in from the outside along with his deputy chief, Michael Blakely to run a department which had just kicked out its previous chief.

Current Chief Russ Leach often called Fortier an excellent administrator with poor people skills. His assessment appears to be fairly on mark in some areas outlined by Thatcher. Meaning that Fortier had a vision in terms of how he wanted to reform the agency and bring it out of the 1950s(and the current location and state of the adminstration headquarters still attests to that) and into the modern era, but he didn't have the specialized social skills and patience to pull it off in terms of implementing it in a way that didn't alienate his entire department, an admittedly difficult task.


Fortier’s community policing reforms centered on the decentralization of the patrol force into the five new policing areas that Smith and his fellow lieutenants had agreed upon, with the goal of creating new units of accountability based on geography that would replace the old ones based on time. Lieutenants would stand at the helm of each of these five miniature police departments, and their role would be transformed completely. As then-Deputy Chief Mike Blakely explains it:

It’s changing from a watch mentality to the area mentality. I’m not responsible just on my eight or ten hour watch when I’m responsible for this part of the town. [I’m responsible for it] seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. And [it’s] giving people personal ownership, so it wasn’t just a matter of holding the fort till my watch gets off: Your watch never got off. So you had a vested interest in looking for long term solutions and not short-term solutions.

Ranks beneath Lieutenant would undergo changes as well: The watch commander duties that Lieutenants previously had—the nuts and bolts of things like staffing, equipment, and notifications—would be devolved to the Sergeant level, adding to that rank’s existing supervisory duties. Finally, at the bottom of the hierarchy, officers would be encouraged to look behind incidents to identify the problems that underlay them, and they would be empowered to use whatever legal and ethical means were necessary to deal with those problems. The end result of all this restructuring would be the creation of coherent teams of officers and managers who felt responsible for Riverside’s neighborhoods.

To put these ideas into practice, Fortier focused his attention on management, an emphasis that he describes as a matter of personal philosophy:

My background was [in] using my management and supervisory personnel. I tried to get them on board and then rely on them to really work. I mean, I made my own appearances in front of troops and roll-calls, and so on. But the reality is they don’t want to question the chief. They want to, but they really won’t. And I thought, “Well, let’s work through all these management people and we’ll get them on board.”

What's noteworthy is that today, the five areas set up by Fortier, who was credited with bringing community policing to the Riverside Police Department including the POPs program no longer exist, having been replaced by the four regional precincts currently in use. And even more significantly, neither do the sergeant watch commanders thanks to the consent decree that existed between the city and then State Attorney General Bill Lockyer which quickly did away with that system.

In that document, it stated that there had to be lieutenant watch commanders on all shifts except in certain circumstances as authorized by the police chief.

One reason why this came to be was how the roll call sessions were being run by particular sergeant including former Sgt. Al Brown who received several sustained findings against him on investigations launched for making inappropriate comments in roll call, according to complaints filed by former officer, Rene Rodriguez and current officer, Roger Sutton. That situation also led to the installation of close circuit television and video in the roll call room.

The use of promotions to change police culture

There was disagreement about whether the following process helped or hindered the situation, and it depended on who Thatcher interviewed.


In any case, many around the department recall a general sense that promotions sped up during this period, particularly from the officer level to Sergeant. One RPD veteran recalls: “Fortier came here and then he made fifty-two promotions in like three years, which is incredible because we were averaging like one promotion every three or four months before.” Another elaborates:

It was Fortier’s goal to change the culture of this agency, and one of the ways that he was going to do that was by literally removing all the top layers of management, all of the people. There is only one person here . . . who was a lieutenant when Fortier came. There were only two [people here] who were captains when Fortier came. All the rest of those positions have been changed. There are only three or four sergeants left out of . . . maybe 35 or 40 who were sergeants when Fortier came. You talk about some sweeping, dramatic changes: Ninety percent of our sergeants have less than two years as a sergeant. So, the idea was to change the culture of this agency by changing, literally completely changing the management of the organization.

More important, as the sheer pace of promotions sped up, the criteria used to decide who got them changed dramatically. Fortier embarked on a complete overhaul of the promotions process, assigning a laterally-hired lieutenant to review “best practices” in the field, help develop new written tests, and assemble three panels that would have input into each promotion decision. Finally, officer evaluations began to incorporate problem-solving as a central component, and these evaluations in turn fed into promotion decisions.

Fortier called it a success. Others said it backfired because officers would distrust the process if outside laterals or others viewed as pandering to Fortier, known as "Ken dolls" were promoted instead of inhouse officers. And most of the people who were promoted, it turned out, weren't loyal to the Fortier regime.

That and changes in the process of promoting sergeants which is the entry level for supervisory positions caused a lot of controversy in the ranks, according to Thatcher.


We’ve got a lot of officers that went straight to Sergeant, and there are the exceptions—there are certain guys that can make that step and adjust to it. But we do have quite a few that have never been a detective, or an officer on a special assignment to the detective bureau, who know the paper flow or know what the DA’s function is, or [the function of] these other allied agencies that we call upon to assist on certain type of things. And they just blindly at times will sign off police reports where a validation for that investigation wasn’t started properly. It’s always detectives who have to come back and try to clean things up.

The birth of the RPAA


As Smith suggests, Sergeants were partly infuriated at the move because they felt the Chief had bypassed the existing collective bargaining arrangement by awarding a raise to one group within a single bargaining unit. Indeed, the pay issue ultimately led the Lieutenants to break off with the Captains into their own bargaining unit, institutionalizing the growing wedge between Sergeants and upper management. To be sure, Smith explains that break had other sources as well:

There are more Sergeants on the department than Lieutenants and Captains combined, and as a management group we would vote to see who our representative was. Well, there was always a voting block of sergeants: If all the Lieutenants voted and all the Captains voted for the person they wanted, if all the Sergeants voted for the Sergeant they wanted, it was always a win for the Sergeants. The Sergeants put in place a couple of people who had some run ins with Fortier, . . . . and it just got to be very difficult to try to support the chief of police and have all of the Sergeants angry at him.

More concretely, as reform brought issues of compliance and discipline more and more to the fore, the Association focused more and more attention on defending members accused of wrongdoing and filing grievances about unwanted changes. As a result, Smith explains, Lieutenants and Captains found themselves in an increasingly awkward position in the old bargaining group:

[It was a problem] when we got involved in either matters of discipline, or less than discipline: Just simply matters of having some Sergeants—not all of them—do the right thing, follow the policies, implement [programs]. . . . If there was discipline involving a supervisor [i.e., a Sergeant], that comes from a Lieutenant or a Captain. And so when you got into issues of discipline, you were all part of the same management group, yet you were involved in discipline of people within that same group, and it was cumbersome and it was inappropriate.

Nevertheless, even if the flare-up over the pay raise was not the only reason behind the bargaining group’s split, it apparently served as the catalyst.

Really interesting reading. Check Thatcher's report out.

Labels: , , ,

River City: From smoke to haze

I attended the Women's Expo at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium which featured lots of vendors addressing issues from breast cancer awareness to selling cosmetics through Avon and other companies. Wall to wall women imparting information to help other women, even information to save lives including the need for monthly breast exams and annual mammograms after the age of 40.

If there's a woman in your life, be it a mother, wife, girlfriend, daughter or sister, it's important for this information to be made available. As for men, they can get breast cancer as well as happened with actor Richard Roundtree.

I did walk in there and thought it would be a good venue for the Riverside Police Department to have a recruitment booth and sure enough, Officer Cheryl Hayes from the department's personnel and training division did have one. Hayes, one of the department's three Black female officers, has been in the division since early 2006 and is set to return to a patrol assignment at the end of July.

She has really worked hard to recruit more officers and has made good efforts with recruiting female candidates. She has originally worked with the department as a dispatcher before attending the police academy several years ago. She used her experience doing both jobs to talk women who were considering jobs as dispatchers to become police officers instead. She said that she really enjoyed her stint in the personnel and training division. Hayes is always willing to answer questions and talk to people about the police department. Hopefully, whoever replaces her will have her same energy because the role of officers like her is very important.

Also making an appearance was a female representative of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department personnel division. It was good to see them and have female officers especially women of color be more visible at these and other events.

The plastics recycling center in the downtown area caught fire this afternoon, sending thick plumes of smoke up into the already polluted air. Apparently, it's not the first time this has happened, according to the Press Enterprise. Stories abounded about the fire, which darkened the downtown area for hours.


Kris Kravig, a worker at Precision Motion, a neighboring business that restores Porsche racing cars, said, "Everything was so close together (in the yard). Once a pile of stuff caught fire, the whole place was gone."

"The building is still there but the yard is toast," Kravig said.

Representatives of the company could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The chair of the Planning Commission speaking as the chair and not an individual representing a dissenting opinion briefly provided a historic perspective of the problems with this plastics recycling center. If you're confused at how this sentence is phrased, then you haven't heard about the controversy involving the Planning Commission and the Cultural Heritage Board which were the focus of efforts to micromanage last year. However, given that there are new targets of those efforts, these two are back to business as usual.

Since the smoke is so toxic, the freeway was shut down in both directions and people were urged to stay indoors. One woman who lived in the University area brought a jar containing a sizable ember which had landed in her yard several miles away from the fire.

Councilman Frank Schiavone checked in yesterday and just wants everyone to know that he's really serious about taking on the railroad companies. Really serious. Really, really serious.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors have approved the purchase of X26 tasers for deputies in the county sheriff's department to take with them into the field, according to a story in the Press Enterprise which was a followup to an earlier article on the rising rate of officer-involved shooting by that law enforcement agency.

A deputy with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department has been arrested for discharging his firearm outside of a business, according to the Press Enterprise.

George Reginald Graves had already been convicted of disturbing the peace in relation to a domestic violence offense and was currently on probation for three years, fined $400 and had to take a 52 week anger management course.


Sunday's incident began around 1:30 a.m. at the Corner Pocket bar in Murrieta when employees announced it was closing time, according to the search-warrant application filed by Murrieta police Detective Phil Gomez.

Graves became upset after a bar employee refused to serve him another drink, the records state.

"Graves displayed his anger by throwing a beer bottle on the floor," according to the court records.

The deputy left the bar with a friend and got into Graves' car, but it was unclear who was driving, the records say.

The security guard reported seeing a flash from the gun but said he could not tell who was firing.

As the car sped off, the security guard lost sight of the vehicle but heard five more gunshots, according to the records.

The department's response to all this was naturally to list all the awards and commendations Graves has won. And they scratch their heads at why people don't take their investigations of their own employees very seriously.

The closing arguments were given in the case of the former San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy who shot a U.S. airman after a pursuit. A Press Enterprise article on the trial of Ivory J. Webb.


Any reasonable officer would have realized that Carrion and his companion, who was the driver, were simply inebriated and posed no threats to Webb's safety after the January 2006 car chase and confrontation in Chino, argued San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope.

"That's really the issue here: What did (Webb) reasonably believe? And you folks are going to decide that," Cope told the jury during closing arguments that began Tuesday.

Webb's attorney told the jury that it must vote not guilty if the facts of the case were not proven.


The defense is challenging virtually every aspect of the prosecution's case.

"It's not what we know now. It's what (Webb) knew then," Schwartz argued. "We don't pay police officers to be targets. Mr. Carrion may not have been armed that night, (but) that's irrelevant."

Webb knew that another deputy had chased the Corvette at 100 mph before the sports car outran the officer, Schwartz said. And after Webb began his pursuit, Schwartz said, the Corvette twice nearly hit Webb's patrol car head-on.

Webb also saw the Corvette's crash, saw Carrion climb out of the car, and was subjected to noncompliance and defiance when he ordered Carrion to shut up and put his hands on the ground, Schwartz said.

Predicted outcome: Acquittal after two days of deliberation.

Los Angeles' city attorney, Rocky Delagillo has taken time from his own professional and personal difficulties including a potential ethics complaint to address the issue of patient dumping by local hospitals on Skid Row, according to the Los Angeles Times.


The complaints by the L.A. city attorney's office against Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Feliz and Methodist Hospital in Arcadia are related to four separate incidents of alleged patient dumping — two by each hospital — over a 14-month period.

Empire Enterprises, whose van driver allegedly left the 54-year-old paraplegic, Gabino Olvera, despite pleas from onlookers, has been named as a co-conspirator

Well, it's official. The assembly bill which would have provided more information to the public about police complaint investigations failed to get a single vote in committee after dozens of officers including those from Riverside showed up to testify against it.


We still consider it an anti-law enforcement bill," Ron Cottingham, president of the Police Officers Research Assn. of California, told the committee. "It will endanger our officers. It will endanger their families."

Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), the committee chairman, raised several issues, including concern that the legislation could hamper police recruitment and that it would allow each city and county to decide what information to release.

Solorio also talked about the potentially lethal danger that police officers face.

"It's a real threat that many folks face," he said. "I'm very concerned about maintaining the privacy of police officers and their families."

Romero introduced the bill after a Supreme Court decision last year — Copley Press vs. Superior Court of San Diego — that police agencies interpreted as prohibiting them from disclosing disciplinary records and from opening disciplinary hearings to the public because they are considered confidential personnel records.

Hearings such as those held by the Los Angeles Police Department disciplinary boards had been open to the public for decades before the decision. The issue took on new controversy after disclosures that an LAPD board cleared an officer of wrongdoing in the 2005 fatal shooting of 13-year-old Devin Brown, but never announced the decision.

The legislation, SB 1019, had sparked a heated clash between police officer groups and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which are demanding more transparency.

The head of the Professional Peace Officers Assn. recently threatened to oppose a relaxation of term limits for legislators if the Romero bill passed.

Romero said she thought the threat over term limits was an undercurrent at the hearing.

"Clearly, when you have this kind of silence, this kind of nonaction, this is a pretty strong signal that the Assembly does not want to see this in their house," Romero said. "It makes it very unlikely it will happen this year."

The inaction means the bill is stalled in committee, along with similar legislation by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that was held up earlier this year.

Romero said she would not give up, even if it meant revisiting the bill next year.

"This issue is not going to go away because this is about democracy, this is about sunshine on government, this is about the public's right to know," she told the committee during a 90-minute public hearing.

Next year, it will be back up for discussion and maybe the powers that be will hear from the other side that can't heavily donate money into their campaign. coffers.

"Mighty oaks from little acorns grow."

---Geoffrey Chaucer

Labels: ,

Monday, June 25, 2007

Louder than words: Actions and reactions

The promised battle with the railroads didn't quite take place at the Governmental Affairs meeting although representatives from both BNSF and Union Pacific railroad companies did make appearances to just listen in on the discussion taking place at City Hall.

Lupe Valdez, from Union Pacific said, "We don't like our trains stopped" and told the audience of 20 people crowded in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room that the railroad blockages which have plagued Riverside's streets for years was bad for business.

The BNSF railroad representative reiterated Valdez's comments and said she was just there to listen, though people attending the meeting know that the railroads will not take this development sitting down and will probably launch a preemptive strike before any initiative makes it on the ballot.

Perhaps, they will file a law suit challenging the legality of an initiative and then say they are doing it to "assist" the city. Maybe, they'll attach a request at its end that they will be suing to have the city pay their attorneys' fees.

It was interesting seeing Schiavone decide to fight the railroads which have turned this city's intersections into their personal parking lots. But if his response to challenges to his planned initiative is to say, let a judge decide after it's passed, why can't that same strategy be implemented for a proposed ballot initiative addressing eminent domain that has been stonewalled by the city and its attorneys?

The city filed a SLAPP suit against a community organization to "assist" it in terms of determining whether or not its proposed ballot initiative to regulate the use of eminent domain in cases involving private development was legal. So why shouldn't the train companies adopt a similar strategy to determine whether or not the city's proposed initiative is legal?

Although speakers are usually given three minutes time to address the committee with their concerns, that time has been abbreviated until the committee's chair, Frank Schiavone has heard enough and then he cuts that person off and moves onto the next person. Several different theories were bounced around as to why that was at this particular meeting.

The Press Enterprise covered the meeting, in some detail and included the opposition to the measure by the state's utilities commission which said it would have no teeth.


Public Utilities Commission spokesman Tom Hall said a city law like the one Schiavone is proposing is not allowed.

Federal and state laws and regulations take precedence over local laws on this issue, he said in an e-mail.

The Federal Railroad Administration says on its Web site, however, that it does not regulate the length of time a railroad may block a crossing and it's also not clear if the states can do so.

Uh oh, it looks like the city may need to go to Ken Stansbury, formerly of Riversiders for Property Rights for legal strategy in terms of how to file a law suit challenging the legality of an initiative it wishes to place on the ballot.

Because in all likelihood, the representatives from the train companies did not attend the meeting just to observe but to report back to their bosses who could very well initiate legal action blocking the proposed initiative way before the election.

Schiavone's new public speaking policy became more apparent during the next agenda item which discussed relaxing the policy on reporting excused absences from the city's boards and commissions. That item was introduced by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who said that the charter allowed for those rules to be relaxed to allow for emergencies inside the 24 hour notification period.

However, what could have been a mundane housekeeping chore became more interesting when Councilman Ed Adkison started talking about it.

"Why do we need the H.R. Board," Adkison asked, not for the first time.

*pin dropping*

Well, because it's included in the city charter and thus can only be disbanded by the city's voters, answered someone not for the first time. However, the city's charter only technically gives boards and commissions an extra layer of security from the whims of the city government. In reality, their roads seem to become more difficult when they receive charter protection from the city's voters. As the recent events surrounding the CPRC under the current city management can attest to.

Then City Manager Brad Hudson said kind of out of left field that the Human Relations Commission was not in the city's charter. Better batten down the hatches on that commission, some observers warned.

Adkison kind of did an interesting soliloquy on why the turnover rate is so high on the HRC, because in his view, the commission is the toughest to serve on because it doesn't bring immediate gratification. Given that the most recent rumors have Adkison throwing his hat in the mayoral race, his comments attracted some attention given who currently oversees that commission.

No one's surprised at the latest round of rumors about Adkison's political ambitions. On June 30, Adkison will have to surrender his gavel as the mayor pro tem and some have said that won't come easy, but thoughts of perhaps a more permanent stance may cheer him up.

But what does that mean for the HRC?

This "most important" commission is currently under the protection of Mayor Ron Loveridge after its transfer to his office that took place not long after Hudson cut its staffing. Some commissioners said that they believed it was in response to a letter written to Hudson addressing the situation involving the demotion, firings and resignations of Black and Latino employees at City Hall.

However, one commission that delivers more in that area in terms of assigning more tasks for it to carry out has a higher turnover rate than the HRC and that is of course, the Community Police Review Commission which has seen four resignations in six months.

Schiavone didn't get too far into that area, for reasons that remain unknown but he clearly didn't want to hear or participate in much discussion on this item or he was in a hurry to adjourn the meeting. Why, may be come more clear when Councilman Dom Betro returns to town after his post-election vacation.

Columnist Dan Bernstein from the Press Enterprise took on both the railroad and the CPRC issues in one swipe. On trains, he provided a few alternative endings to Schiavone's campaign to take on Union Pacific. The following was my favorite.


Version 3. Minutes slogged by as the stranded Schiavone thought things through. My Riverside Renaissance homies have been squeezed into runoffs. I'm running for county supe against a guy who has demonized DHL. Those night flights are killing me. I might lose my own ward.

"That's it!" Schiavone exclaimed. "I'll switch to trains! I'll be the Bob Buster of box cars! They'll call me "The Man Railroads Fear Most." They'll make a movie: "Young Frankenfine!"

On the CPRC, Bernstein related the incident at the last(chronologically speaking, not literally)special meeting of the CPRC involving the Lee Deante Brown shooting.


Riverside's Community Police Review Commission doesn't seem to do much (which suits the RPD and City Hall nano-managers just fine), but it can be darned entertaining.

During a recent jaw-jaw about whether minority reports should be part of final reports, Commissioner Steve Simpson, unimpressed by what he took to be questionable advice, asked City Attorney Greg Priamos, "What kind of cigarettes do you smoke, young man?"

First thing you hear on the tape is a SLAM. Then someone says, "Are you trying to be funny, Mr. Simpson?"

Simpson, a recent appointee, apologizes a few times as he is urged by someone to "please use some decorum."

City Attorney Priamos: "If you have a legitimate question I'll be happy to answer it, but... we (as staff) expect the respect that we show you."

I'm with Priamos. Except maybe on a slow day.

That meeting was on a slow day and most of the people in the audience have lost count on how many legal interpretations have been provided regarding minority reports, what they are, who can issue them and whether the majority of a body has to improve their content before agreeing to release them. Simpson was simply saying what most of the audience and most likely other commissioners are thinking. It's nice to know that at least one commissioner hasn't been virtually silenced by the repressive environment that pervades that commission.

One thing that Bernstein is always excellent at doing is hitting the nail on the head and he did just that when he created a new term for what the city manager's office has been doing with the CPRC and that's nano-management.

He's right in that the police department is perfectly happy with its current status as is the city manager's office which has nano-managed it into a shell of its former self while trying to tell everyone how much better it's doing under its watch. It's fascinating how the police department and the city manager's office can be in agreement in one area and at odds when it comes to another one. Like how the police department will be run and who will run it.

That dynamic burst onto the public scene several months ago when employees from the police department came down to City Hall to protest the creation of several "at will" positions in the police department. The city manager's office blinked after even the city council awoke from its ennui regarding its employee and began asking pointed questions. And then a crowd appeared before the dais and so forth.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, seems to be the common adage regarding the CPRC on several different fronts these days.

Still, it will be interesting to see what the future brings.

Speaking of the CPRC, four candidates remain in the running for the executive manager position of the CPRC. The final interviews will be held by the city manager in upcoming weeks.

Still, it's not clear where the new executive manager will be based with some individuals saying that there might be room on the seventh floor which is still quite crowded from all the renovation. Others say, that they might kick out someone in the fifth floor and give the executive manager some nicer digs.

Just kidding.

Unable to comment on this issue was DeSantis, who is being a lot more choosy about who he gives public information to these days. Some say he's chafing over the increasingly elevated role that Asst. City Manager Michael Beck, who after all came to City Hall to fill a tailor-made position titled, deputy city manager, is playing in Hudson's office.

Even on an item which Beck had no role in, Hudson asked Schiavone to wait for him to return into the ceremonial room.

At any rate, by the end of July there will be a new executive manager in place for the CPRC and that this individual will be assigned appropriate office space in which to perform his job responsibilities.

Whether that fortunate employee will be functioning as an independent director of the CPRC or as DeSantis' marionette, remains to be seen though some individuals are praying for the former and bracing for the latter. There's an ongoing poll in the community which is currently accepting and tabulating input on this pressing issue.

The Press Enterprise has done an excellent article on the Riverside County Sheriff's Department which has one of the highest officer-involved shooting rates in the state. With fatal nine shootings in 2005 and 12 in 2006 plus many more shootings both years, the department has attracted some attention from use of force experts.

This comes as Sheriff Bob Doyle is going to the County Board of Supervisors to ask them for funding to buy tasers, a less-lethal option.

Doyle denied there were any problems with this trend.


Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle said his agency does not have an excessive number of officer-involved shootings when considering the growth in population, which has increased the number of calls for service.

"We don't have a bunch of trigger-happy deputy sheriffs," he said. "They're using their weapons appropriately when they're in those shootings. We're not seeing any kind of trend that would lead us to believe that we've had a breakdown in training."

The newspaper's analysis shows that the county's fatal shootings have increased at a greater rate than service calls have. From 2002 to 2006, calls for service rose 36 percent, but fatal officer-involved shootings increased more than 100 percent.

"If they shoot more people than LA (Sheriff's Department), that raises a red flag with me," said Samuel Walker, a national expert on officer-involved shootings

The list of fatal officer-involved shootings can be found here. A bit of historical information. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department may have a higher shooting rate than its counterpart in Los Angeles, but traditionally has placed third in the Inland Empire behind two other law enforcement agencies, one in each county.

The article also discusses the pros and cons of the use of Taser International, Inc.'s stun guns, citing studies by the ACLU and Amnesty International which question the safety of the device and whether or not its use played a role in officer-involved deaths.

Closing arguments are set to be heard in the trial of Former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputy Ivory J. Webb today. In January 2006, Webb shot Elio Carrion three times while ordering him to get up.

After the arguments are presented by both sides, the case finally makes it to the jury for deliberation.

Labels: , , ,

Newer›  ‹Older