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 22, 2008

Human Resources and resources for humans

At its July 22 meeting, the city council in Riverside will be receiving this annual report from the Human Resources Board. This will take place at 6:15 p.m. before the evening session of business and some time before the latest installment of Operation: Reelection plays out on the discussion calendar.

This board is one which is mandated in the city's charter (to the chagrin of former Councilman Ed Adkison who wondered out loud on several occasions about whether the city really needed it) and it has very little power. Essentially what it does is listen to presentations from different department heads at its monthly meetings which take place the first Monday of the month at about 4 p.m. with meeting locations that might vary and has discussions about those presentations. If you have allegations of racism, sexism or other workplace misconduct being directed at you, you also have the option of attending a public meeting and telling them about it but that would kind of be probably like, the end of your career if you did and unless you have a spotless work record with nary an absence (including on those mornings that you're not ready to face the sexual harassment of the day and take a "sick" day), you probably shouldn't attend.

What's odd or maybe not so odd is that with all the employment upheaval that's gone on at City Hall and beyond in the past year or so the Human Resources Board either doesn't involve itself in providing a community-oriented examination of these issues nor do they ever take any stance which doesn't validate the city's position. Is it allowed to do so?

As far as who controls the mechanisms of the Human Resources Board, the city's charter states that it is supposed to report to the city council. However, there's a story that's been floating around that a representative from the city manager's office not so long ago tried to provide an agenda for the board before being reminded by one bold individual on it that the board reported to the city council and not the city manager.

At any rate, there's statistics and pie charts on the city's employment ranks included in the report. For example, the city's workforce is 53.5% Caucasian and 46.5% "minority" (which was up from 41% in 2005). At the management level, 63% of the city's managers are Caucasian and 37% of them are "minority". There are no statistics provided for gender, and for the breakdown of different "minorities" or whether or not there are differential statistics for full-time vs part-time positions (and indeed there is) let alone what's going on in each individual department.

The Human Resources Board mentions in its report that it had held a public forum for people and city employees to attend in response to issues that arose during the March 27, 2007 city council meeting which involved attempts by the city manager's office to convert three management positions in the police department to being "at will". The report claimed that it invited representatives from the police department, the city manager's office and the public and that no one attended, but this is the first mention I've ever heard of such a "public forum" being conducted on what was a very contentious issue at the time.

The board also outlined its goals for the future which was to maintain a diversified recruitment pool, continue to monitor employee morale and how departments were staffed. At the very least, it should be an interesting report. At least, the beginning of a report.

Redland's market night is celebrating its 2oth anniversary. Riverside too once had a weekly market night from April to October, but no longer sponsors one. Maybe some day that will change.

The Community Police Review Commission in Riverside has different responsibilities under the city charter. Sometimes it remembers what they are. One of the most important of its powers and responsibilities is to advise the Mayor and the City Council on all police/community relations issues.

This is also the most underutilized power and unfulfilled responsibility by the CPRC. When I have asked individuals with the city in past years and others about how the commission was meeting its obligation in this area, I was told that it was doing so through its annual report and through its outreach. However, both of these exercises while useful, are stated separately in the city’s charter as responsibilities that are on an equal plane as the above responsibility. This suggests that there is an additional purpose to this particular responsibility that stands apart from it simply being carried out through outreach and the annual report.

In addition, the language in the city’s charter which pertains to outreach is fairly narrow by definition in that it states that the purpose of outreach by the CPRC is to “educate the community on the purpose of the commission”. However, in order to be able to advise the city government on community/police relations, it is necessary for there to be a two-way communication between the community and the CPRC that goes beyond the education of the former by the latter. The CPRC is also required to have knowledge of community and the police and most importantly, their interactions and relations in order to be qualified to serve in an advisory role to the city government. How is it able to do so without receiving input from both parties in these relationships? The answer to this question is for the CPRC to create mechanisms and strategies to receive this information in order for it to understand the often complex relationships between the police department in Riverside and the communities it polices and serves.

That’s a challenge that needs to be met and really hasn’t been by the commission on its own footing. What might benefit it is to learn from the example set by its “parent” commission, the Human Relations Commission. The two are separate entities with separate expectations, goals and responsibilities, but they are family too in a sense because of their shared histories. Both arose as intended solutions during turbulent times in relations between communities and the police. The HRC in the 1960s and its police advisory committee, LEPAC in the early 1980s after a controversial canine incident in Casa Blanca. The CPRC, after a series of police incidents culminating with the Tyisha Miller shooting in 1998.

There’s ways that the commission has tried to solicit input from community members through providing complainants with an opportunity to complete a survey evaluating their experience utilizing the complaint system and the CPRC’s effectiveness at providing this service. This was instituted not long ago through work done by the Outreach Committee. It should be continued because it provides a valuable tool to measure the quality of the complaint process over time and it provides complainants with an opportunity to express their opinions on the process and that’s a meaningful thing. It would be helpful if there were any way to include statistical information from these surveys if the sample returned is large enough and perhaps include some of the parameters measured and the statistics of the responses in an annual report so that the commissioners and public could access it.

Maybe occasionally do “exit interviews” on the complaint process from the perspective of the complainant as well.

Another means of obtaining information about community/police relations is through the analysis of complaints received and investigations done for any noteworthy trends which may be positive or negative. These trends and patterns are then included in annual reports. But that by itself isn’t sufficient.

The majority of the history of a commission advising the city government on community/police relations belongs to the HRC and LEPAC.

For a short period of time, there were joint meetings between HRC and the CPRC addressing issues like mediation of complaints and community policing issues. They took place during the period of time when Payne served as directors to both commissions.

The HRC has taken the initiative to play the role of advising on community/police issues even after the creation of the CPRC. It paired off commissioners with the police department’s area commanders through a liaison program.

In 2003, it held police/community study circles in various community centers in the city. Community members and police officers participated in this month-long series of dialogues.

In 2005, it held a public forum after the police department released its traffic stop study report. In early 2006, it held a town hall meeting on the upcoming dissolution of the stipulated judgment. Feedback from the community at this meeting was presented by the HRC to the city government during its March 28, 2006 workshop on the implementation of the department’s Strategic Plan. In 2007, it created an ad hoc committee addressing community/police relations which included several commissioners and Sgt. Keenan Lambert from the department’s community services division who serves as the liaison to the HRC.

Last year, the HRC offered to hold another public forum when the latest traffic stop study (currently being done by Cal Baptist University) is released by the department and have even offered to make it a regular event. And it would be an interesting and worthwhile event if the police department ever does release its long-awaited pretext stop study that it originally funded in the summer of 2005.

I think there’s much to be learned and many opportunities for the CPRC to fulfill its responsibilities of advising city government by learning and perhaps even working with the HRC or at least talking more with current members and past members (including those currently on the CPRC). The roles assigned to commissioners on these bodies as well as the bodies themselves are very different but in ways that might complement each other.

The commission could also conduct workshops like it did in 2004 involving the different stake holders in its operations to receive input. They could also attend more community meetings on police issues and how they impact community as well as community issues and how they impact police. Forums for example have been held on the gang injunction now being enforced in the Eastside but few commissioners from the CPRC have attended them, just to listen to what people were saying on these issues.

They could attend or even include on their meeting agendas issues which impact community and receive input. They could attend forums held by the HRC to listen to input by community members on issues like racial profiling and the relationship between immigration enforcement and local law enforcement.

One example might be the issues that arose among Latinos in the Eastside after the police department conducted what was called a DUI checkpoint at several areas within this neighborhood including last summer. Since there were only a handful of DUI arrests and the majority of motorists stopped were disproportionately Latino (in part because the neighborhood is predominantly Latino) and many had their cars towed due to lack of drivers’ license, there were perceptions that the DUI checkpoints were related to immigration enforcement. In a situation like this where there is community concern about a police-related issue, how would a body assigned the task of advising the city government on community/police issues be involved in an information gathering way so it can do that advising from an informed position?

There are different ways to fulfill this particular responsibility and some may be more appropriate than others but there should be more discussion on what to do to truly be able to serve as an advisory mechanism to the city government. But it is important because this is one of their most important responsibilities and that’s coming from a historic perspective. However, to those who want to relegate the commission to a system that merely intakes and reviews complaints (as one elected official referred to it at a recent meeting as part of a question to a prospective commissioner), the response to that would be to read the charter and to read the text of the first power and responsibility assigned to it. There’s a reason why it’s at the top of that list.

Should you fight your traffic ticket? This Press Enterprise article says no.

The Orange County Register brings you the tale of the two Bustamantes.

In this article, the author analyzes the fallout after Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante was overheard saying to a conservative blogger that he had told Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters that it might help him get the sheriff's job in Orange County if he had implants or a water bra.


On the other hand, for an innocuous joke, with no ethnic connotations and containing no insult, Carlos Bustamante gets booted from a state post for which he still needed to be confirmed. Party affiliation doubtless has a lot to do with it, though one notes that Republican Schwarzenegger did not bring up Cruz Bustamante's party affiliation.

The remarks of Alex Padilla to the Los Angeles Times indicate that hypersensitivity also seems to be in play. "Not only were the remarks [by Carlos Bustamante]extremely insensitive, in my opinion, but in a year when we came within a hair of nominating the first woman presidential candidate of a political party, to hear that not only this kind of thinking still exists but that someone would say it publicly is unconscionable."

Even if a joke about implants is "doubleplusungood" in the politically correct lexicon, it can hardly be construed as "extremely insensitive." It is this kind of political correctness which makes for a hostile environment. Those who have lost their sense of humor might try to have one implanted. That will make for a more civil society in California.

In other words, they should lighten up on men in positions of power who make sexist comments because after all, boys will be boys. Most likely, the next comment would be, what are women doing in law enforcement anyway.

Speaking of which, there will be further installments in the ongoing series: Hiding in Plain Sight:
Women in the Riverside Police Department and Other Law Enforcement Agencies coming this autumn.

If former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona isn't busy enough defending himself on federal corruption charges, he's got a claim of sexual harassment that's just been filed against him.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

Erica Hill, Jaramillo's sister-in-law, sent a letter to the county Board of Supervisors on Sept. 13 stating that Carona assaulted and sexually harassed her.

Carona has denied any sexual improprieties involving Hill.

The state Attorney General's Office is investigating those allegations.

Joseph Cavallo, a high-profile attorney who is defending Jaramillo against bribery and conspiracy charges, filed a claim against the county Sept. 19 stating that Carona conspired to intimidate him into dropping Jaramillo as a client.

In the most recent claim, Holloway states that Carona harassed his wife, Susan Holloway, in a phone call in April 2002. Susan Holloway, 31, is Jaramillo's half-cousin.

Dean Holloway also stated that the Sheriff's Department violated his civil rights when they investigated a domestic-violence incident in August 2002, when he was reportedly struck by his wife.

And he says Carona bullied Cavallo, who is also representing Susan Holloway, into coercing his wife into denying that phone calls from Carona happened.

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