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, July 12, 2008

Exploding toilets come to Riverside, oh my!

A man died at a local hospital after falling ill while being detained by Riverside Police Department officers. More information here but so far there's not very much of it.

It remains to be seen whether the Community Police Review Commission will actually remember its City Charter responsibility as a commission to launch an investigation into this incustody death. Read it here under Sec. 810. I guess we'll all find out soon enough.

The language in the charter pertaining to the investigation of officer-involved deaths reads like this.


"Review and investigate the death of any individual arising out of or in connection with actions of a police officer, regardless of whether a complaint regarding such death has been filed."

But it's not clear whether or not the commission will exercise its responsibility especially in light of all the watering down that has happened to it in the past two years. And it's not lost on anyone that the quality of investigations done by the CPRC's investigator has fallen in the wake of the city reminding the current firm that it's using how it expects them to be conducted.

It wouldn't be surprising at all if the police department and/or representatives from City Hall tried to claim that this death didn't fall under the purview of the CPRC, but it's not the police department nor City Hall which determines whether a death is investigated by the CPRC, it's the charter. It's not even the commission and given that collectively, this is the weakest batch of commissioners so far in the panel's history, they might not even be up for another investigation. But the charter states that they'll need to do one whether they want to do so or not. Hopefully, a leader or two will step forward and ensure that this is done. But who will this person or persons be?

The CPRC should be sending its investigator out pronto whether it's from the Baker Street Group or the new firm the city retained that's headed by Ray Martinelli who if you recall, was one of the top candidates for the executive manager position last year. And since Police Chief Russ Leach promised at a public forum or two that he would personally brief the CPRC on death cases to avoid any errors in the narrative, his office should be scheduling his appearance before the body.

The police department should brief the CPRC on this incident because in its own press release, there are already enough questions which need answers including how long the man in medical distress remained handcuffed until they were removed, which according to the press release was after American Medical Response and Riverside Fire Department employees arrived.

Rumors of sewer fees hikes have been floating around as of late and given that Riverside has not renovated its sewer system in many years, these fees may be charged to pay for it.

Not to forget that the city actually has a sewer fund to pay for these renovations but guess what? The sewer system apparently wasn't seen as enough of a problem by City Hall so the city manager's office has been using the money in that account to fund Riverside Renaissance projects including the purchase of business properties that the city seized through threat of eminent domain in downtown. It was in the red at the end of one fiscal year and had to be bailed out of the $22 million owed it another year, and it's not likely that any of this spent money was actually used on the city's sewer system.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In the 18 months after Brad Hudson became city manager in June 2005, the sewer system appeared in solid enough shape that he asked the City Council to allow other departments to borrow $22 million from the sewer reserve fund. The money went for nonsewer projects, including a parking garage and parking meters. The council approved the loans.

But Public Works Director Siobhan Foster, appointed to her position in February 2006, recently told Chambers of Commerce officials that the sewer system has been "neglected" for years.

Assistant City Manager Michael Beck said Friday that there is no contradiction. The $22 million was set aside for emergencies, and loaning it out had no impact on the availability of the money for use in a sewer system emergency.

In 2006, at Foster's recommendation, the council approved hiring a consultant to devise a plan to improve the system through 2025.

I had a bit of a clue about the sewer system problems when several months ago, I had to contact the city because one ruptured on 13th Street and sent noxious sewage flowing down the street towards the area where parents had parked their vehicles to pick up their children from Grant Elementary School. After several phone calls to the city including to Councilman Mike Gardner's office, the city sent out code compliance and public works employees to mop it up and fix the breach. Then there were the exploding toilets, including one case mentioned below that act just like geysers spewing sewage all over bathrooms.

Everywhere in town, there's a toilet just waiting to explode raw sewage in someone's house because of the antiquated sewer system which was viewed as being so insignificant by the powers-that-be that the money allocated in the "emergency fund" (and shouldn't exploding toilets be included as "emergencies"?) was being spent on that other "emergency", Riverside Renaissance.

One city resident living in the downtown area had her own experience with the aging sewer system.


Downtown resident Alli Coleman learned firsthand about the troubled sewer system one morning in January.

She walked into her bathroom and found it soaked.

"There was water everywhere" and wads of toilet paper, she said. "It hit the ceiling. It was just a mess."

Both her ground-floor bathrooms simultaneously suffered the same ugly mishap -- what sewer officials call "blowover." Crews had been using high-pressure water to clean the sewer line when a clog caused sewage to back up and shoot like a geyser out of Coleman's toilets.

She is all for a rate increase, she said.

"They need to fix the system," Coleman said.

Hopefully, the city paid for the damage to her house. But it's interesting while city officials are claiming that Riverside Renaissance is a massive rehaul of the city's infrastructure first, that the sewer system somehow managed to be overlooked. It's interesting that they're ripping up malls and trying to put in more high-priced housing downtown that people may or may not want to buy but that they seem to be oblivious to the reality that more toilets in the future might create enough geyers in Riverside to rival Yellowstone Park.

It's not clear if exploding plumbing was part of the original renaissance or not. Hopefully, Riverside in its rush to turn the sewer fund into a credit card, has not led itself down the path of becoming, Riverside: City of the Geysers.

A Riverside city resident stands up for the current design of the downtown library.

The backlog of Riverside County Superior Court continued as judges dismissed five cases on Friday for lack of available courtrooms. Four felonies which were refiled and one misdemeanor domestic violence case (which can't be refiled).

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside County Assistant Presiding Judge Thomas Cahraman, acting as supervising judge for the criminal department in western Riverside County, heard the dismissal motions and prosecution arguments against them on Friday and said he had to grant them, under law.

"It grieves me to do so," Cahraman said.

The dismissals stemmed from a Thursday afternoon scramble to find available judges for 15 last-day cases Cahraman had to deal with at the start of the day.

Cahraman said two cases were kept from dismissal by judges Roger A. Luebs and Elisabeth Sichel, who each contacted him late Thursday afternoon to take one.

Calls for more judicial assignments were being made to the state Administrative Office of the Courts "every day ... but the vacation demand statewide is great, and we have not been getting much response lately," Cahraman said Thursday.

Still holding civil trials will be a former elementary school in Riverside. This drastic action was initiated some months ago when the civil courts had virtually been shut down in the wake of the processing of a backlog of over 1,000 criminal trials.

For whatever reason or reasons, people in Temecula seem more reluctant to put in their names to run for city council.

Ethics reform in San Bernardino County? Two words that you normally don't see together in a positive sense.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"This is the first time I've ever seen it like this," said Old Town businessman Ed Dool, who ran for a council seat in 2001. By June of that year, six candidates were openly running for three seats.

The council's five members serve staggered four-year terms. This year, the seats held by Naggar and Washington will be up for a vote Nov. 4. Both are seeking re-election.

"I will be running for a final term on the Temecula City Council and look forward to discussing my ideas and plans for the future of Temecula in a series of forums/debates this fall," Naggar said via e-mail.

In order to run, candidates must be Temecula residents and registered voters.

Candidates also have to disclose their campaign spending and fundraising. In the most recent campaign finance statements, which cover the period from July 1 through Dec. 31 of last year, Naggar had $19,787 in his campaign fund, and Washington had $12,197.75.

The filing period runs through Aug. 8. City Clerk Susan Jones said she does not think Temecula, incorporated in 1989, has ever had an uncontested election.

The chief of Redlands' fire department protests against the budget cuts for his department.

Providence's form of civilian oversight has just survived its last court challenge.

(excerpt, Providence Journal)

The Rhode Island Supreme Court yesterday issued a decision upholding the legality of the watchdog agency, which is called the Providence External Review Authority. The court rejected a challenge to the legitimacy of PERA, which is the agency’s acronym, by the police labor union.

PERA is a civilian review board empowered by the mayor and City Council to investigate complaints of misconduct by police officers and recommend disciplinary action against them by the police chief. It was stymied in conducting its first adversarial probe in 2006 when the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 3, sued in an effort to have its power curtailed.

The FOP had contended that, among other technical legal flaws, PERA trampled on a statute called the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.

The so-called bill of rights spells out a disciplinary procedure for police officers that empowers only a police chief to initiate action against an officer and provides that an ad hoc tribunal decide each contested case. The tribunals consist of three members, one of whom is appointed by the accused officer.

Since PERA only makes recommendations, the high court declared, it does not interfere with the bill of rights. The justices said PERA may exist as a preliminary process to screen misconduct complaints by interviewing complainants, holding hearings and summoning police officers to testify — as long as it is the chief who initiates any punishment of an officer.

After the New York City Police Department begun cracking down on illegally parked cars, it discovered that at least 1,000 of those cars were used by law enforcement officersaccording to the New York Post.


Topping the list of offenders were New York's Finest, hit with 1,053 summonses for leaving their cars in crosswalks, near hydrants or bus stops or in "no standing" zones, mostly around courthouses and station houses.

Federal agents and other US government personnel were the second-worst abusers, with 282 tickets - most carrying a $115 fine.

Courthouse officers and employees received 275 summonses.

FDNY members were hit with 122 tickets for abusing their department or union placards, and New York's Strongest were caught 14 times misusing Sanitation Department permits. Education Department staffers racked up 53 tickets, and Correction Department employees got 120 summonses.

"The [placards] were never designed to permit the type of illegal parking that these summonses and tows reflect," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older