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

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Douglas Steven Cloud: Anatomy of an interview

Torrential rain and flooding hit Palm Springs, Indio and other desert towns. Not a drop in the western county of Riverside, which has seen sunny skies and slightly cooler temperatures.

In Riverside, the city council is preparing to hear "Operation: Reelection" at its evening session on Tuesday, July 22 at 6:30 p.m. Here's the meeting agenda including the discussion item on the Governmental Affairs Committee's recommendation to put an initiative on the ballot this autumn to ban runoff elections and replace them with plurality races.

Here's the report on the agenda item.

Here's the report from the July 9 Governmental Affairs Committee meeting.

Here's the minutes from the July 9 Governmental Affairs meeting.

If you wish to have an audio recording of the July 9 Governmental Affairs Committee meeting, you can go to the city council's office on the seventh floor of City Hall and receive a copy on CD for a nominal fee.

Here you can read an argument against the plurality system being imposed on Riverside and also read the posting below it about Councilman Frank Schiavone's performance among voters in his own ward during the recent District One Riverside County supervisor contest. It seemed that his average percentage of favorable votes in Ward Four was actually less than 40%. Which is great for a one-shot plurality election but not so good under the current runoff system for city council.

Here are arguments more favorable to the ballot initiative which could be coming to polling site near you in November.

It's very unfortunate that the election process that was decided upon by the "will of the people" and "by democracy" wasn't respected enough by the current members of the Governmental Affairs Committee to last more than one election cycle. It's very unfortunate that it's so crystal clear that the push for plurality in the city's elections began by this committee only after the District One supervisor's race had ended. Last November, the push wasn't to ban runoff elections but possibly to have ward runoff elections decided by voters citywide. But then did Schiavone pull in higher yay votes in other areas of Riverside which reside within the boundaries of District One than he did in his own ward?

It's also unfortunate that incumbent politicians can't look at losing election results in elections and lower percentages of votes achieved in their own districts as a sign that maybe they just have to work harder and campaign more diligently to win their support back. Most of the best elected officials who hold the greatest leadership skills embrace this challenge and some even welcome it as a challenge they feel they can live up to and master. And sometime's it's working through the failures which are inevitable in any endeavor which end up bringing the best out of people including politicians. But that's not what is being seen here and it's not what is being put on display here.

Most of the best and noteworthy governmental officials don't try to manipulate the election process and sell that as promoting democracy. Because the cold, hard fact is that if the current members of the Governmental Affairs Committee really respected democracy and the will of the people, letting the voters decide and all that in-most-circumstances commendable rhetoric, they wouldn't be working so hard at tax payer expense to dismantle the last "will" of the voting residents of Riverside. If the "will of the people" this time around isn't up to what elected officials want, will we be undergoing this same process again before the 2011 election cycle?


And many people, including many Ward Four residents understand what this is really all about. After all, they know who they voted for in the recent supervisor race and who they did not. And this could be an excellent opportunity for the incumbent councilman to back to his roots and perhaps win those votes back. But that's probably the more difficult route to victory at this point in the game.

The beleaguered Community Police Review Commission in Riverside which has been so watered down by City Hall that it's barely recognizable (and is probably going to be even less so after this week's meeting) is never the less, investigating and reviewing two fatal officer-involved shootings from the autumn of 2006. As stated here, most of the information on the shooting case of Douglas Steven Cloud is available online at the CPRC's Web site.

The link to the casebook for Cloud is a bit temperamental now but you can still access the depositions taken for the lawsuit and other information including the transcripts for the interviews given by police officer and civilian witnesses to the Officer-Involved Death investigation team.

Interviewed by the Riverside Police Department investigators were the three main police officers who were standing by Cloud's car before and when the shots were fired including the two that fired their weapons. Usually, the officers that are involved or are witnesses are interviewed the same day of or early the next morning after the shooting incident. The witnesses, civilian and police, are usually interviewed before the officers who used their guns. Interviewing these officers may be police detectives, representatives from the Riverside County District Attorney's office and attending on the officer's behalf is usually an attorney from the firm under contract with the labor union which represents the involved officer.

Officer David Johansen

Oct. 9, 2006 at 12:10 a.m.

in the presence of Det. Greg Rowe, Det. Dave Smith, Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise, District Attorney Investigator Fuentes, Riverside Police Officers' and Association attorney, Michael Lackie.

On Oct. 8, Johansen was working on the northside during the swing shift. He was eating at a restaurant with Officer Eric Meier when they received the "211" call. They ran to their cars and took off. Johansen drove down the street and saw other squad cars going in the opposite direction and then heard over the radio that the vehicle had been spotted. The vehicle had crashed into a palm tree recently enough so that dust was still floating in the air. He saw Officer Nick Vazquez and Officer Brett Stennett running towards the vehicle. Johansen also runs to back them up. The other officers reach the vehicle and Stennett grabs Cloud's left shoulder. The wheels are spinning and kicking debris all around. Cloud is trying to get loose and Stennett is trying to grab him.

Vazquez is standing to the left of Stennett and Johansen is standing to the left of Vazquez, all three of them facing the driver's side door. Johansen sees Cloud reaching down towards the central console area between the bucket seats. Johansen thought he was reaching for a gun.

"This guy just did a 211. The chances that he has a weapon are pretty darn high. Um I pulled my gun and it was a--he reached real deliberate and started to come up. And ah, I fired one time. Ah ah, I believe I hit him in the upper torso."

Johansen thought that Vazquez fired before and after he did. He held his gun on the vehicle for about a minute until he was told by K-9 Officer Mike Mears to take cover. After supervisors arrived, Johansen and other officers went up to the vehicle to "clear" it.

Johansen said he wasn't in the position to grab hold of Cloud and that he was serving as a cover officer. He also said the vehicle was running the entire time he was there.

Officer Nick Vazquez

Oct. 8, 2006 at 10:45 p.m. in the presence of Det. Greg Rowe, Det. Dave Smith, Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise, District Attorney Investigator Fuentes and RPOA attorney Michael Lackie.

Vazquez worked swing shift on Oct. 8, 2006 with Officer Brett Stennett and received the "211" call asking for an "11-10" backup. As they were heading to the Home Depot, Vazquez saw a crowd of people gesturing to a crashed vehicle. That vehicle matched the description given out over the radio so Vazquez parked his squad car and got out. He saw Cloud inside the vehicle looking over his right shoulder and then his left. Vazquez said he then saw Cloud look outside the window and thought he might try to leave. The vehicle at that point didn't have its engine running.

Vazquez went to the left rear bumper area of the vehicle with his gun drawn and started giving commands to Cloud. Cloud raised his hands. Stennett came to where Vazquez was and stood by his left shoulder. Cloud then put his hand down like he was reaching for something.

Stennett tried to remove Cloud from the car and Officer Dave Johansen who had arrived tried to help him. Cloud resisted and with his right hand turned the keys in the ignition, shifted the car in reverse and pushed the accelerator. Vazquez holstered his gun and tried to help the other two officers but it hadn't worked. Then he pulled out his gun again around the time the accelerator is pressed and fired first, before Johansen.

"He was in the left side of me. He was in the corner of my-you know my, ah, outer periphreal. I ah-I know he did fire kind of-kind of- I don't remember how many times that he fired but I know that he fired. "

Johansen yelled out afterward, shots fired before the officers backed away. Later, Officer Mike Mears led them to check to see if Cloud was still alive but he was not. Then they began to cordon off the crime scene.

Officer Brett Stennett

Oct. 8, 2006 at 9:01 p.m.

Stennett was riding with Officer Nick Vazquez during the swing shift when they heard the radio call for assistance on a "211" call at Home Depot. They saw an animated group of people by a crashed vehicle. Both officers drew their guns and while Vazquez went to the driver's side of the car, Stennett went to the passenger's side. At this point, the engine is running. Stennett didn't remember the engine turning over.

They started giving commands to Cloud who was inside the car. Cloud doesn't comply and begins pressing on the accelerator. Stennett runs to the driver's side of the car and is next to Vazquez. Cloud presses on the accelerator, the back wheels spin kicking up mud and debris.

Stennett tries to grab Cloud's hands through the window after holstering his gun, leaving Vazquez to serve as lethal cover. Cloud resists and they struggle. Stennett said that Cloud was staring at him with a blank, glassy look as if he were under the influence. Cloud reaches down for something. Vazquez then yells, "hey, back off" so he does.

"I step back, um I go to draw my gun and ah, Nick fires and Johansen fires."

Stennett had been standing in between the two other officers and Johansen had been slightly forward.

The video is taken from a surveillance camera at the Acura of Riverside Dealership. It's the second link on the page. It's poor quality and it shows the crashed vehicle to the upper left hand of the screen. It's the Acura surveillance camera #2.

Should a medical building be built on the site where Chinatown once stood? Give your answer here.

A coroner in Akron Ohio was ordered by a judge to delete any references to tasers as contributing to the death of a young man. The judge also ordered the cause of death to be changed from "homicide" to "undetermined" not long before a group of law enforcement officers are set to face criminal trial on charges including murder in relation to this incident.

Police rescued a man from drowning then shot and killed him.

A survey done of New York City Police Department community officers found them difficult to reach.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

So says Manhattan City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who had some of her eagerbeaver staffers telephone each of the 76 police precincts around the city during regular business hours and ask to speak to the community affairs officer.

The results of her survey aren't very encouraging, Brewer said as she released a report of her findings. Basically, she found that community officers can't hear us now.

Phones were answered by desk officers at 67 of the precincts called - 88.2%. The other calls were picked up by answering machines.

But only 39% of the community officers were available to accept calls made by Brewer's surveyors. The rest were picked up by community officers' answering machines.

That's not too surprising, given that community affairs officers are supposed to spend many of their working hours out in their communities, interacting with merchants, civic groups, and schools, and generally serving as the eyes and ears of their precinct commanders.

"They are the backbone of a precinct's knowledge of its community," said Brewer.

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