Five before Midnight

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


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bringing it to the people...until our will is done and other happenings

At Riverside's City Hall, the elevators which are brand new are often broken down. Yesterday, it was two that were broken with everyone working there, attending meetings or doing business sharing only one of them. But yesterday, that elevator kicked the bucket, forcing among other things the relocation of the Community Police Review Commission meeting out of City Hall.

As of this morning, all three elevators are broken down and the woman at the front desk said they were being fixed. When asked about ADA issues, she said that people unable to climb the stairs including the disabled would do their business with department employees who would come down the stairs to the ground floor. Employees unable to use the stairs were temporarily transferred to a different location.

Sorry, but these new elevators bite. It was said that to construct them from the older ones, they had to buy parts on Ebay. All I can say, is you get what you pay for.

This site was linked at Craigslist but perusual, that posting didn't remain online at the site for very long and was removed once again. Someone (and I believe it's only one individual) doesn't want people to read this site. The truth is, most likely the vast majority of people go to Craigslist to read not to determine for everyone what they should be allowed to read.

What' s interesting about blogging isn't just what happens in Riverside. This blog recently was placed on its 25th blog roll and most of these lists of blogs to visit posted on other sites are by people outside of Riverside. But some bloggers and some visitors have read this site and thought, wow, is there really a place like River City?

Yes, there is. Read on if you want another example of that.

The Governmental Affairs Committee meeting lived up to all its hype and then some. It hardly ever meets anymore (as this is only the third meeting so far this year) but there's always a fair amount of drama playing out. It's not always pleasant to watch a committee being used to exercise the will of its members, but it makes for good writing and good watching. Just bring an umbrella to protect yourself once the clouds break and the shower of strawmen start to fall. This meeting offered plenty of those as well as opportunities to examine elected officials manipulating the values of majority and minority.

What was truly interesting was that committee member, Councilman Steve Adams stumped himself as the person pushing for this change. He said that originally Schiavone opposed his position but clearly in the meanwhile, things have changed and that includes the political picture in Riverside and its wards. Some light was shed on exactly how much during the recent board of supervisor's election as pointed out by one resident in attendance. Then the three committee members tried to push it as being about putting it on the ballot, yet they showed little regard for the majority of the voters who passed the suddenly bad system on the ballot and it's likely that this won't be the last year Riverside fiddles with its election process because after all, it's a custom made-to-order by ballot process now.

First of all, they thrust Riverside as the sore thumb on a list of Riverside County cities for purposes of comparison between the one city, Riverside that uses a runoff election against the rest which vote on plurality. People at the meeting asked, why don't you compare Riverside to cities more closer to its current population size (and growing each day) of 300,000 people. Except for Corona's 244,000 people, most of the cities on the list are quite a bit smaller. Cities in Los Angeles County and Orange County for example. But that obvious point was beyond the abilities of the committee members to understand because it couldn't be manipulated into their points. And after all, the city clerk who comprised the comparison list did so exactly as she was instructed to do so.

The second most obvious point was the argument that banning runoff elections spared those candidates who didn't raise large sums of campaign funds. However, as the last election cycle showed, the grass roots candidates, Mike Gardner (who raised less than $50,000) and Terry Frizzel (who raised less than Gardner) actually improved their performances as the election season wore on. Gardner lost the first round to incumbent Dom Betro in Ward One and won the runoff by six votes despite being greatly outspent. Frizzel closed incredible ground in the time span between the preliminary round and the final vote tally, down by only 16 votes despite also being greatly outspent. That wouldn't have happened in a plurality election. And the three council members including two which had just run for office, clearly knew that.

As far as runoff elections not deciding the final winner, in recent years that hasn't been the case at all. Tell that to Dom Betro, Laura Payne, Ed Adkison, Neil Kraft, Paul Fick and a host of other winning and losing candidates. In at least one election cycle in 1999, there were flip flops in every council race. You have to take the list given out by the city clerk that since the 1960s, over two-thirds of all candidates who won the first round also won the second and ask yourself, how many from the pool of one-third came from elections in the past 10 years? That would be an interesting and worthwhile survey to perform but the Governmental Affairs won't do it. Why? Because it doesn't fit what they're trying to sell. The fact is that if even over a span of 4o years or so, one-third of all elections are decided in the runoff, then that's the most compelling reason not to ban a runoff. You see, the minority of the voters matter to the elected officials if they're among hundreds in a group of tens of thousands of voters complaining, yet if the minority of elections are decided in runoff, that's inconsequential.

Then the system needed to be changed to thwart negative campaigning as if the decision to mudsling or not wasn't made in the hearts of those who throw their hats in the rings and their followers. There's no election system in the world which can avoid or completely stop mudslinging except not to have one at all. If the candidates don't have the ethics to not engage in this kind of campaigning then it's the voters who have to engage in the use of a negative reinforcement training technique by simply not voting them into office.

What's interesting is how often city council members use the words, "let the people decide" almost as a shield when they make decisions which show that they're doing anything but trying to take it back to the people until the people pass a plan which benefits them. Which means that there could be new plans coming to the people for the next ten years because you're never going to have a group of elected leaders who support the current system especially if they have to run for office using it.

Adams said that he'd received hundreds of complaints on the process from his constituents and it was the most complained about issue. But he said he had no stake in any changes because he had no plans to run for city council again.

Because after all, if you "let the people decide" in one election and then hold a summer meeting that's poorly advertised to vent your displeasure at the process voted in by the people and push a new one for "the people to decide", that's actually being disrespectful of the will of the voters which is the foundation of a democratic society. We'll put this initiative on the ballot and let the people decide, so they do. Then if we as a governing body don't like it, we'll put it back to the will of the people through a process that's anything but equal. After all, the argument and any accompanying literature in favor of the initiative pushed by the city is bought and paid for by the tax dollars whether those who pay them wish them to be or not. Those who oppose the initiative have to go the much harder route. The three men on the committee also know that as well.

The most interesting thing is that there's been much speculation as to why the sudden rush to put this on the November ballot. Why the rush to push it onto a summer meeting, in this case the very next one on July 22. Why the rush to get it to the voters' registrar on Aug. 8? Who's the rush for, is the question that a lot of people have asked. And actually, it was Save Riverside's Kevin Dawson that brought up the answer through statistics cited for the District One Board of Supervisor's race which Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Frank Schiavone just lost. According to Dawson, Schiavone failed to obtain a majority vote in any precinct in his own ward. If so, that's definitely bad news for an incumbent who probably is planning to run for reelection for city council in that ward next year. If his team is cognizant of these statistics and they must be if they're professionals, then they know that running in a two-candidate race isn't going to suit his strong points.

Schiavone's route to victory in Ward Four, which has large pockets of people who feel disenfranchised due to several hot-button issues that impact the ward is best assured through a plurality election. While it's likely he could win a contest against multiple candidates especially if they're not well-known, he'd have a much harder time in a runoff where it's conceivable that the first or second placed candidate from the preliminary round could win the votes from the other candidates in the initial balloting in June, during the campaign time between then and November. This would mirror closely what happened to eventual Ward One winner, Gardner in that contest in November 2007. That's the outcome the Schiavone camp probably fears for good reason.

It's too bad that you have incumbents who probably feel that they should get reelected to office with probably less than 35% of the vote and it would be a breath of fresh air indeed to see someone run who could go for a truly majority win. But it's not going to be clear until the filing date whether the election will attract that kind of person for Ward Four. But who knows? There's still more than six months for a candidate to step to the plate who's not afraid of a fair contest. There's still a chance for that to happen.

It's up for the voters to decide and if you don't like it, don't worry. Some elected official or two that's coming up for an election will decide he doesn't like it either and we'll all go through this process a third time, which may or may not be the charm in this case. Because despite all the chatter about it being all about democracy, it's really not that at all.

Yesterday, the CPRC also met and discussed its investigations and reviews into two officer-involved shootings. Both of them happened over 18 months ago and are in the earlier stages of their process in front of the CPRC.

Yesterday's meeting was attended by family members of both Douglas Steven Cloud and Joseph Darnell Hill as well as community members.

Leslie Braden, the sister of Hill, spoke about how vague she found the summarized report submitted by CPRC investigator, Butch Warnberg to be. And compared with his investigations of the deaths of Todd Argow, Terry Rabb and Lee Deante Brown, it is pretty sparse. The fact is, the reports of Warnberg became more sparse after the city manager's office began getting more involved in the CPRC including how investigations were done of incustody deaths.

She said she had done some investigating of her own and had run into a former employer of Officer Jeffrey Adcox who had told her about what Adcox had said about his experiencing applying for a position with the California Highway Patrol before being hired by the Riverside Police Department. She also related a conversation that a nurse at the hospital where Hill was taken had overheard between two detectives who were discussing the shooting. The nurse had allegedly heard one detective tell the other, how are we going to make this look.

The use of the audio recorders by both officers involved in the Hill case was the subject of concern by Commissioner Jim Ward. Namely because Adcox had activated his recorder when he initiated the traffic stop on Hill but the recorder had been turned off at least once before being turned back on. Officer Giovanni Ili had turned his recorder on after Hill said that he was being harassed, in order to document the contact. However, a footnote in Warnberg's report stated that the only transcript of Ili's recording made available was that taken after the shooting had happened.

Ward asked this question.

"Why isn't there an audio recorder on during the confrontation when both officers said they had theirs on?"

Teresa Cloud, mother of Douglas called the Hill report done by Warnberg, "appalling" and added that the report on her own son's case was longer but consisted mostly of police department source material. She asked the commissioners if they had read the depositions given by the officers in connection with the lawsuit filed against the city in the Cloud case.

"I hope you read them. If not, shame on you," Cloud said.

Cloud added that in the deposition given by Officer Nick Vazquez, he had said that he had shot Cloud because he was scared that he would have been hit by the vehicle. She said she didn't know how that could be given that he was standing next to the vehicle. Officer Dave Johansen, who also fired his gun, was standing next to Vazquez and was closer to the front of the car but he had fired because he thought he saw Douglas Cloud's hands move toward the central console.

She urged City Attorney Gregory Priamos who was present to release to the public the terms of the settlement including its provisions where the department is to address the hiring and training of its officers and also include in its training, how the handling of her son was an example of how not to do things. Which seemed as if the city was accepting fault for the shooting.

Some good discussion by commissioners including Chani Beeman on accessibility of the public reports to the public. It's not clear what the procedure is for doing that, as the costs of these records are prohibitive for many people, often costing several hundred dollars.

Some of the commission's public reports on officer-involved death investigations are here.

Evidence that a former San Jose Police Department officer was drunk when she crashed her car went ignored by the police department, according to the San Jose Mercury News.


Soon after Sandra Woodall's March 25 multi-car accident, she told paramedics that she was just out of rehab, had consumed "a lot" of alcohol and was so disoriented that she thought it was 2006, according to documents. Both of the paramedics who treated Woodall noted the strong smell of alcohol on her breath.

But guess what? No blood test for alcohol levels was taken. Instead, the theory of onscene officers was that she crashed her car because she was eating Chinese food from a fast food restaurant while she was driving. The EMTs at the scene saw a drunk woman while the officers who worked with Woodall saw nothing. They didn't even cite her for speeding.

What a joke. If you ever wonder why there's such a push for civilian oversight from coast to coast, it's the propensity of officers to cover each other's asses when they get into trouble that is more responsible than anything else for each new form of civilian oversight that pops up on the canvas. And unfortunately in many cities and counties, that includes the people entrusted to investigate them.

Still, the city's mayor and three city council members have faith in the departments' ability to investigate and handle this case.

But the San Jose Mercury Editorial Board stated, wait a minute here. It urged further examination of the cronyism displayed by the department's current failure to properly investigate the conduct of one of its employees (who by the way, currently works as an investigator for the district attorney's office).


Paramedics at Sandra Woodall's auto accident in San Jose smelled alcohol on her breath. San Jose police officers say they smelled nothing.

We detect the foul odor of favoritism.

Court documents released this week indicate that San Jose officers intervened to prevent Woodall, a former city cop, from being tested for drunken driving after the crash she caused. If true, the officers, including a sergeant, should be severely disciplined.

The police department's internal affairs unit is investigating the allegation. We're confident it will be thorough; the drunken-driving charge filed last week against Woodall by the state attorney general was based on San Jose's own investigation.

But because of restrictive state laws protecting safety officers, the public will not learn what, if any, disciplinary actions are taken. This secrecy runs roughshod over accountability.

And the editorial board went even further here.


State law protecting police officers from disclosure of disciplinary action is the greatest problem here, however. The public will be told if charges of misconduct are founded, but they will not be told whether the officers were suspended or given a slap on the wrist. In this state, protecting officers from scrutiny often trumps the public interest.

Unfortunately, that's the truth. It's not until incidents of misconduct enter the public forum of the federal or state courts, either civil or criminal, that the truth is often in a position where it can be uncovered. Too often, the brothers and sisters in blue, green or tan protect their own when their own does wrong. Whether it's camaraderie, culture or survival, their silence speaks volumes. I've seen it myself.

Here's a little blurb and an audio report from KNYC News about the ongoing tussle between the New York City Police Department and the Civilian Complaint Review Board that's not been allowed to do much lately.

The death of a Boston Celtics fan is being probed by the FBI as a possible excessive force case.

(excerpt, Boston Herald)

The FBI announced yesterday that it will look into whether Boston police officers used excessive force while arresting David Woodman, but not until after police and Suffolk County prosecutors finish their investigation into the death of the 22-year-old former Emmanuel College student who was arrested during the Celtics championship celebration and stopped breathing while in custody.

"We will take a look at all of the facts once they are available; then we will decide what further steps, if any, need to be taken," said Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston, adding that the agency is also awaiting Woodman's autopsy results, which are not completed.

This from Seattle, Washington.

July 09, 2008
New OPA Review Board Members

The Council's Public Safety, Human Services, and Education Committee which I chair just announced its nominees to the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board.

These individuals will go through a confirmation process that begins with our committee, then goes to the full Council. These individuals bring a diversity and set of life experiences that allow them to serve every neighborhood of our city with distinction. They will enhance the credibility of the Review Board and build strong public confidence in our system of police accountability and oversight. I'm delighted these individuals have agreed to serve our city in this manner.

Tina Bueche is a small business owner in Pioneer Square who has been active in neighborhood issues and community activism since the late 1980s. She is chair of the Seattle Neighborhood Group's board of directors, a member of the Pioneer Square Community Association board of advisors, and a member of the Metropolitan Improvement District board of directors. Tina is a member and past chair of the police department's West Precinct Advisory Council. She is a former member and past chair of the Pioneer Square Preservation Board. Tina has a master's degree in counseling from Wright State University in Ohio.

George Davenport is a lawyer and Chief Operating Officer at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. He resigned as a Lieutenant Commander in the U. S. Navy Reserve earlier this year. During his Navy career, George served as defense counsel to members of the military in hundreds of criminal cases. He served briefly as a city prosecutor in Tacoma, Washington, handling misdemeanor criminal prosecutions. His private legal practice includes criminal defense, personal injury, and estate planning, primarily for low-income individuals and families.

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