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

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fire works here and there

"They could start coming in and not knowing who the players are, the members of the gangs, they could start pulling over kids who dress like gang members but (who) have no relation at all to gangs."

---Former Riverside Police Department Area Commander and Eastside Think Tank member, Alex Tortes to the Press Enterprise.

Ward Six Councilwoman Nancy Hart in Riverside is preparing to throw her hat in the ring for city council, hosting a fundraiser in upcoming months. She's got listed as her past endorsements most of the city council including Steve Adams, Andrew Melendrez and former Councilman Ed Adkison along with developers, Mark Rubin and Doug Jacobs and American Medical Response. No definitive word on any competition yet as there's still a ways to go but a couple individuals are thinking about running for this ward's seat next winter.

It took them long enough but downtown business owners are finally asking questions about how the Riverside Downtown Partnership is spending their money.

The Partnership was essentially established some time ago to look out for the economic interests of the downtown Mission Inn Hotel. But it takes dues from businesses in downtown while spending much of what's collected on the pedestrian mall. Yes, the same one that's been ripped up to be put back together again to the tune of about $12 million.

Some businesses on Market Street who paid into the coffers of the RDP were told at the time they would see some of the benefits in their areas but what they saw instead was the RDP leadership speak in favor of the seizure of their businesses through eminent domain. but even some of the surviving businesses are having their doubts. Taxation without representation?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Other merchants, including Joel Udayke, of the Flowerloft near the Mission Inn, take issue with the group's representation within the Downtown Partnership. Penner pointed to Burton from Citrus Punch, Jon Tucker from Farmer Boys (which has its corporate headquarters in Riverside) and Tom Donohue from the Marriott, all members of the board.

"Wilma (Burton) is truly the only person who represents people on Main Street," he said.

Businesses pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand as part of the organization's fees, based on the annual business tax they pay the city. Penner estimates that half of the funding comes from downtown's larger law firms and the Mission Inn.

"They have a dollar investment in the bid," she said. "They need to make sure they're getting something for it."

Retail contributions are likely small by comparison, she said.

"The partnership doesn't do much of anything for us," said Nadia Lee, owner of the Downtowne Bookstore. "I never see these so-called ambassadors ... the idea is good, but it's not effective."

The brouhaha that's been going on between Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco and Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach over his department's enforcement of the permanent gang injunction against Eastside Riva continues amidst news that crime is actually decreasing in the Eastside.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The Press-Enterprise requested the crime statistics, however, which the Police Department released Thursday through the Freedom of Information Act.

They show crime in the injunction zone had been going down for years before the measure was filed and continued to go down after it was finalized. The injunction forbids gang members from staying out past 10 p.m., loitering in the neighborhood or wearing gang clothes, among other rules.

Crime decreased between January and May 2008 compared to the same five months in 2007 within the injunction area. There were 530 "part-one" crimes reported -- such as homicides, rapes and aggravated assaults -- during the first five months of 2008, compared to 570 during the same period in 2007. Part-one crimes dropped 7 percent.

There is an even greater drop -- 19 percent -- in "part-two" crimes such as vandalism, fraud, simple assaults and drug abuse violations during the same five-month period. In 2007, there were 1,123 part-two crimes reported, while 909 such offenses were reported during the same period this year.

These statistics are similar to those that were presented citywide during the oral report given about the police department at a city council meeting nearly two weeks ago.

Maybe Pacheco would know that if he actually visited the Eastside rather than refusing on all but several occasions to step inside its boundaries. That was the day that he, Leach and other police department representatives gave a press conference announcing the filing of the temporary injunction last summer. Since then, he's met only once with African-American leaders last spring to talk about the injunction and unlike with the Eastside Think Tank, he didn't ask for a list of attendees to do background checks on beforehand. He has yet to meet with Latino leadership in that community without making that requirement which makes it sound like he's indicting the entire Latino population of a neighborhood because of a relatively small number of gang members. He talks about how he plans to unilaterally enforce the injunction to prevent the "terrorizing" of neighborhood residents yet he won't go into the neighborhood to talk to them, certainly not if they're Latino.

This all started when the newspaper published an article on June 24 about how there had been no arrests made under the injunction and no charges filed. Arrests began soon after beginning on that same date and on June 27, according to a later article.

So who's being political here?

Pacheco's making decisions about neighborhoods he spends no time in. He's making all his comments via press releases and then refusing to elaborate on what he's said. He talks about not "fueling the fire" yet his comments about the police department were made apparently without having first gone to its chief to express his concerns about the department's enforcement. Wouldn't that have been the prudent and professional action to take if you have a problem with something that the department is doing? As one leader of a law enforcement agency to another? And you think that before unilaterally sending his own enforcement into a community that he never visits, that he would visit with community leaders and residents first. Because that wasn't done, this just smacks of grandstanding for political reasons at the neighborhood's expense and the expense of those who've been working hard with them on crime issues within their boundaries.

It's clear that Pacheco is posssibly eying a return to Sacramento politics because during the last election cycle, he created a campaign committee for state attorney general, a position now held by Jerry Brown. And to appease the Republican Party leadership as a Latino politician he has to prove that he's as tough or toughest on his own racial group. Two gang injunctions so far, both involving Latino gangs. Then after a newspaper article about there being no charges filed in connection with injunction violations, the enforcement from his office begins. Was this planned anyway or is this a political action in response to what his office might perceive as criticism?

If he was really concerned about whether or not the Eastside is being "terrorized", he would spend more time with community residents and meet with them to address their questions and concerns about the actions of his office. He and his office would open lines of communication rather than shutting them down in favor of grandstanding.

The crime rate was dropping before the injunction was filed and it's been dropping since, because people have been working hard in the neighborhood as the former area commander of the Eastside Alex Tortes has said in one article. That hard work over a period of several years went unacknowledged by Pacheco's office but then again, it's not like he's been in the neighborhood except to get into the newspaper himself.

The next meeting of the Eastside Neighborhood Plan will be held on July 17 from 6-8 p.m. at the Longfellow Elementary School. Maybe Pacheco could attend it and learn more about the neighborhood.

A former Riverside County Human Resources Department employee has been sentenced to four years in prison for embezzlement.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Marlene Lisa Garcia, of Rubidoux, pleaded guilty in Riverside County Superior Court to 65 counts including embezzlement and related charges for producing false checks from the county from April 2006 to August 2006, and passing four bad checks at businesses in Moreno Valley and Riverside in October 2007.

The county reimbursed all employees for their losses. The county and two check-cashing businesses were not reimbursed about $1,700 for their losses and the businesses where Garcia passed bad checks were not reimbursed about $2,300, Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral said.

Garcia also had a 1997 theft conviction in Arkansas, Cabral said.

What to do next? Menifee, the newest city in Riverside County has a list of things it has to do as part of its entry into city hood and it's been getting started.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board had some harsh words about the San Bernardino County Assessor.

The auditor division in Eugene needs two things that it doesn't have in order to work and they are transparency and trust according to members of the NAACP.

(excerpt, Eugene Register-Guard)

Chief Lehner wrote a public statement (guest viewpoint, June 10) that seems to give general support to the auditor and the review board. We appreciate his detailed review of the work that went into the creation of the auditor position and review board.

We understand that the police auditor and review board are in their fledgling stages. It is our hope that in Eugene, unlike some other communities, the auditor and review board will be a program that will be transparent and not co-opted by any special interests.

We all have much to gain in the arenas of mutual trust and community well-being if the police auditor and the external civilian review board are allowed to do their careful, professional work investigating allegations of police misconduct.

Sometimes the complaints will prove groundless, and sometimes the officers involved will have erred.

Either way, the community will have been served. Trust among all, including the community and the police, is essential for the rule of law to work.

The two U.S. Marines who refused to testify in a federal grand jury proceeding involving former Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department Officer Jose Nazario were released from being jailed for contempt.

More beats, fewer offices during the reorganization of the San Bernardino Police Department.

A call for more transparency in civilian review was the order of the day for the Seattle City Council.

In New York City, Nichole Pautre Bell, whose fiance Sean was killed by police officers in 2006 wants her lawsuit to be stayed by a federal judge until the Department of Justice completes its own investigation of the shooting.

A Los Angeles Police Department officer is under investigation for a hit and run accident that occurred when he was drunk while off-duty and had hit two pedestrians.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

They traced the vehicle to Skett, who had left his LAPD badge in it, authorities said.

Los Angeles Sheriff's Det. Jeff Maag said that when Skett was confronted by deputies at his house shortly after the incident, "he refused to acknowledge he was the driver at the scene."

"Deputies observed he had objective symptoms that he was under the influence of alcohol and he was arrested for drunk driving and felony hit-and-run," Maag said. He added that deputies believe another person picked Skett up at the parking lot after he left the scene.

Sims' son, an Antelope Valley prosecutor, said he was outraged at the officer's alleged conduct. "If what has been told to me is true, this police officer is a coward and he is also a disgrace to the Police Department," Deputy Dist. Atty. Jon Hatemi said.

California Newspapers Publishers Association published the following in its Legislative Bulletin.

Solorio might support sunshine on police misconduct

While the Assembly Public Safety Committee again defeated Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero's (D-Los Angeles) police transparency bill earlier this week, Chairman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) made statements at the hearing indicating he would help find common ground between Romero, newspaper publishers and the ACLU, and the peace officer unions arrayed against public access to instances of serious police misconduct. As a result of the committee's 1-3 vote, however, absent rule waivers, SB 1019 cannot be considered further by the legislature this year.

Solorio said at the hearing he would work with Romero to achieve a balance between the public's right to know and peace officer privacy and safety. He said he directed his committee consultants to draft language that could be used as a "starting point" for discussions among the stakeholders and that he might even become a coauthor with Romero on a bill to try to enact a law this legislative session.

Unlike last year's effort where the committee refused to even move SB 1019 for a vote, Chairman Solorio gave Romero a "courtesy motion" and Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), appointed to fill a longstanding vacancy on the committee the day of the hearing, cast the sole aye vote. Leno's own similar bill was defeated by the committee last year. Assembly members Greg Aghazarian (R-Stockton), Joel Anderson (R-La Mesa) and Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) voted no. Solorio and Assemblymen Hector De la Torre (D-South Gate) and Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) abstained, although Portantino told CNPA staff after the hearing that "the chairman's heart is in the right place on this issue" and that he "supported the chairman."

Romero presented to the committee a version of her bill that would have allowed only the City of Los Angeles to use its local political process to decide whether to re-establish public access to records and hearings associated with police misconduct. Here is the Los Angeles Times' account of the hearing.

After the hearing, CNPA, through his staff, asked Solorio how he saw this issue going forward during the remaining few months of the legislative session. Here is his encouraging message: "A police officer's reputation has to be protected. If SB 1019 had been restricted to cases in which the allegations against the officers had been sustained, then I agree the public has a right to know. But we do not want to ruin the reputation of law enforcement officers if the accusations against them are not upheld. Going forward, I do believe Sen. Romero and I can find a solution. I look forward to working with her on this matter."

To the person in the car who threw a lit firework, what's called a piccolo pete, at me while I was walking down the street, not very nice! Fortunately, it appeared to be a dud.

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