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

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A drop in the bucket

"Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."

---Lewis Carroll

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!"

---Sir Walter Scott

"We don't want to go back."

---Riverside Police Department officer

An unexplained ball of fire was seen falling out of the sky in some parts of Riverside and San Bernardino County. No explanation so far on exactly what it was. An investigation is ongoing and it's the talk of the scientific blogging world.

Science Dude stated that it most likely was a meteor or falling debris which is the most common source. A list of the most prominent fire balls of 2008 is here. If the one you saw wasn't listed, there's a process for doing so.

Just as interesting and noteworthy was the Riverside Police Department's filling of a lieutenant position yesterday amid a hiring and promotion freeze that's hit the city's employment ranks. As this latest episode under the heading, "What was past is prologue" series continues, oh how it twists and turns and twists again. While it might make for interesting drama in the political arena, it's not good for the department.

Thank you, Ward Four Councilman Frank Schiavone for passing along that information about the promotion and responding to an email I sent you and other city council members on the chain of events that took place in recent weeks. I appreciate the note and the filling of the position is a good start but that's all it really is, a drop in the bucket really. It's important but it's not a response to the issues brought up at last week's city council meeting and even earlier than that.

What will be done to build on that start? What can be done to fill that bucket? And who on the dais will step to the plate?

When Lt. Ken Carpenter who headed the department's traffic division retires, his position will be filled with the new lieutenant although it's not clear whether this lieutenant will remain in the traffic division or will be assigned elsewhere. It's also not clear whether the thawing of the alleged promotional freeze will lead to similar announcements in the near future about the filling of two sergeant positions including the one just vacated by the new lieutenant. The other position was vacated by another sergeant who just retired. That's not including anticipated autumn retirements at the supervisory level that may take place.

Last week, there was much concern expressed about the vacancy rate in the police department including at the supervisory level and the impact that these unfilled vacancies including those which are temporary would have on the department's continued implementation of the strategic plan as well as its staffing ratios in the field operations division. There was different information provided during the audit than what was provided by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis in his response to inquiries that were raised. It would have been helpful if DeSantis or his boss, City Manager Brad Hudson could have provided more information about the figures that DeSantis cited including several values for the officer to supervisor ratio in the patrol division. But that hasn't been done and it doesn't seem like at least so far that the city council or mayor are inclined to seek out this information themselves. That's a development that is disappointing.

There was concern with the staffing of lieutenant watch commanders even before there were vacancies at this level so while filling a position might help, it's not a panacea. Earlier this year, it was revealed in an audit before the city council that about 17% of all shifts were partially or completely supervised by a sergeant watch commander. This wasn't alarming news but was interpreted as a trend to watch to see how it would develop in future months. By the most recent audit, the percentage had declined slightly heading into the difficult summer months where vacation schedules of supervisors might negatively impact the staffing of the daily shifts. It's not clear what if any strategy the city has for dealing with increasing the percentage of shifts with lieutenant watch commanders. If it has one, it's left the city residents out of the loop.

There was also concern about the high vacancy rate in the civilian side of the department especially in support positions. There were no reassuring statistics that were pulled out by DeSantis in response to that issue at least not yet. Hopefully, they are forthcoming.

As good news as it is to fill this lieutenant's position, it's not clear why the announcement of it being fill by itself constitutes an adequate response by the city government to the issues that were raised last week in an audit and even earlier by representatives from the police department. One promotion can't adequately address this situation because for one thing, like all promotions, it fills a vacancy by creating one some place else. The city council needs to show better leadership and not engage in actions that aren't much different than the mistakes made by their predecessors on the dais. Why, is this well-worn path being traveled once again? Is it just because it's the easiest and most familiar?

The crux of the issue and I think others will agree is that those of us who fought and worked hard to improve the police department, both inside of it and outside of it understand how difficult a process that turned out to be. The officers who say they don't want to go back to those days certainly do. But those who make the decisions now on the seventh floor of City Hall were not engaged in that same process themselves so they don't carry that appreciation of what was learned with them when they make the decisions which will guide the department's future for better or worse. The few on the dais who do don't seem to have learned very much from their the history that they inherited along with the department, any more so than those who were criticized (and rightly so) for making the original mistakes. Perhaps the past city councils learned from the errors they made through the efforts that followed but by then, most of them were on their way out and couldn't really apply it.

These are all words I've heard from several different places this past week or so, they've appeared in this blog before and most unfortunate, they define where we are currently at. There seems to be this sentiment woven strongly that the only ones who learned anything at all from the past were those who went through it. But we aren't the ones who make the decisions except at the voting polls.

The turnover on the city council in some ways is a blessing and in some ways, a curse when it comes to these issues with the police department past and present. Because the people making the decisions have the potential to bring a fresh perspective and start fresh when they deliberate what will be, while moving away from what once was. These individuals played no role in the mistakes that were made during past decades, tremendous errors in judgment and made from neglect which sent the department down the path towards being sued by a state agency as one century drew to a close and a new one began. They had to learn enough from mistakes that others made to not repeat them. At first, it seemed that they would fulfill that goal. Now? That seems less the case. There was too much about last week's city council meeting that was all too familiar and few people left it with any confidence that things had changed despite the city's difficult nearly decade-long journey.

That's because the flip side of this paradigm is that these same individuals (except for Mayor Ron Loveridge) do not have a singular or collective memory of that struggle, to do basic improvements like ensure an officer to sergeant ratio that promoted both better performances from its officers and a measure of accountability as well and why that's so important. Because they started from scratch and the newer ones see the department as it is today, not the arduous and expensive path it took to get there, they take a lot for granted. That might yet prove to be an error that the future generations of civic leaders look back at while shaking their heads.

Not at the city council of the 1990s who made decisions which led to the day when Riverside attracted international attention not for its vision but for failing to exercise it. But at the city council in this decade. The ball is in its court.

Do you think the downtown library building should be bulldozed to put in a new one? You can answer that question here.

Not surprisingly, the planned construction of the grade separation crossing Magnolia near the Riverside Plaza has upset some nearby business owners. It's become a nightmare for quite a few of them.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

A majority of the affected 26 businesses have relocated and others are preparing to move. At least one business hasn't found a new location.

Some of the business owners said it has not been easy dealing with the city and many expressed concerns they would not be fairly compensated for the forced relocations.

Assistant City Manager Michael Beck said the city's goal is to minimize the inconvenience of the relocation and its effect on each firm's or store's business. But the city also has a responsibility to taxpayers to be prudent, he said.

The city hired Epic Land Solutions to work with the targeted businesses. However, all the business owners who have moved or will move shortly found their new locations on their own, said Epic project manager Walt Evans.

"We've tried like heck" to help them but there's limited commercial property available in Riverside, Evans said.

Some business owners impacted by relocations have hired attorneys. Others have been forced to pay most of the costs for relocation. One, Elliots for Pets has yet to find a new place, a major concern given that pet stores are a dying breed in the Riverside Renaissance.


Elliotts' For Pets hasn't found a new location, said Donna Elliott, who owns the store with her husband, Patrick. They've been in business since 1973 and have leased their location, which she called "excellent," for 12 years.

They want to stay in Magnolia Center so they don't lose their customers, Donna Elliott said.

The potential new sites Epic has suggested haven't worked out, Elliott said.

"The properties are either too large, too small, bad area or too far away," she said.

The lack of progress is discouraging, Elliott said.

"I am anxious," she said. "We don't want to go out of business."

New penalties are being imposed in Riverside for false burglar alarms.

Because of rising gas prices, Metrolink's business is booming while citations are being given to drivers using cell phones.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase houses so it could expand a jail facility but the body finally passed its budget.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The county estimates it will cost about $1.5 million to purchase the single-family residences.

The owners are willing to sell.

The Allan family has lived on Wesley since 1946 and hopes the county in turn will sell them the three houses on that street. They want to keep them in the family, said Vikki Timms.

She and four relatives occupy other Wesley houses. She said her grandfather built most of the houses on the street, including the three the county is buying.

County officials have expressed interest in selling the houses to the family in exchange for land between Wesley and the jail that they own, Timms said. The county could use that land for the buffer zone, she said.

A Orange County Sheriff's Department reserve deputy was convicted of making threats while out on the golf course but acquitted of other charges.

(excerpt, KNBC)

Raymond K. Yi, who operates two tae kwon do studios in Orange County and was the martial arts instructor for ex-Sheriff Michael Carona for six years, remains free on $50,000 bond pending sentencing on July 16.

The 48-year-old Anaheim resident faces up to three years in prison, but defense attorney John Barnett said he would seek probation for his client, who was tried in San Bernardino County.

A Superior Court jury in Chino deliberated a little more than five hours before acquitting Yi of three counts of assault with a firearm and two other counts of making a criminal threat, but it convicted him of one threat against 61-year-old Gustavo Resendiz, said San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Nimisha Gohil.

The threat, Gohil said, was "Get the [expletive] out of my way, old man. I could kill you."

Barnett argued that Yi had been threatened with a golf club, and that the gun, which was his own and not the weapon issued to reserve deputies, was unloaded.

Atlanta's Citizen Review Board has been besieged by both budget woes and politics, according to Atlanta Magazine. Sounds familiar? This happens all across the country with many civilian oversight mechanisms.


You wouldn't have imagined this scene a year ago, given the fanfare
surrounding the board's revival. At the time, the city was still
absorbing the revelations that renegade cops had mistaken a
ninety-two-year- old woman's Vine City home for a drug house, stormed
the place, and then fired thirty-nine bullets at her. News of Kathryn
Johnston's death set off a chain reaction—massive protests, nationwide
media coverage, mea culpas from the mayor and police chief, a
housecleaning of the unit responsible, and a proposal by City
Councilman H. Lamar Willis that a group of citizens be empowered to
probe allegations of police brutality. Only investigations conducted
from outside the department, the thinking went, would have sufficient
credibility to restore trust in our police. At a public hearing not
long before City Council voted unanimously to form the board, Willis
made his feelings plainly known to a police union representative
opposed to the idea: "You are a paramilitary group," Willis said, "and
as a paramilitary group you need to have oversight."

But at City Hall, unanimity of vote does not mean unanimity of
purpose. A year after its formation, Atlanta's Citizen Review Board is
politically hobbled—staffed by well-meaning volunteers who, as of this
night in April, have yet to investigate their first complaint and have
yet to make their first hire. At their disposal is a laughably small
budget that some advocates worry leaves the board set up to fail. So
tonight's meeting is typical of most of the ones that have preceded
it. On the table for discussion are not complaints of rogue cops or
beaten inmates, but talk of copiers, computers, and what software is
best to use for virtual meetings.

"For the Citizen Review Board to be in place a year [and] at this
stage ought to be an embarrassment, " State Senator Vincent Fort says
later. Fort, an Atlanta Democrat and early advocate of the idea that
the Atlanta Police Department needs an outside monitor, is worried the
board won't live up to its promise.

A police officer in Indiana pleads guilty to selling a gun to a felon.

Say goodbye to about 600 Starbucks. They are closing down putting at least 12,000 employees out of work.

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