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 15, 2008

Investigations and inquiries

Beginning today, the Community Police Review Commission will be providing more information about its officer-involved death investigations on its Web site. This is stemming from a vote taken by the commissioners at their July 9 meeting on releasing this information.

Here you can access the officer-involved death reports by the name of the individual. If you click on this one for Douglas Steven Cloud for example, you will find more links for the criminal case book from the police department, the summary report from the CPRC's investigator Butch Warnberg and the depositions given by the officers in the law suit filed in that case. By releasing the case book, the city has come a long way from making innuendo at City Hall during meetings about how so-and-so was "under investigation" for reading a public record on an officer-involved shooting and so-and-so was "trying to instigate something and almost a criminal" again for reading a public record, the same criminal case book that was always a public record and is now online for anyone to read. The same case book that had already been read by journalists representing two publications and most likely, didn't have city employees telling anyone who cared that they were "under investigation" or "almost criminal".

These statements were made by a department head and also direct employee of the city council in meetings according to concerned city residents who reported these things to me. They were both made at different meetings at City Hall in January 2007. They weren't the public meetings where elected officials have called people "liars" or said they had "little class" or "have no integrity" or "no ethics", but they were still meetings attended by people who listened to these comments and came back to me to either inquire about them or express concern about them. It's unfortunate that city officials and city employees have to make these kind of comments in the first place but we as voters in this city and in this country get the government that we deserve. And if you want better than what you have, it's important to involve yourself as voters and in the political process. Doing things such as registering voters, holding forums on issues impacting the city and backing political candidates for office who actually live within the ward are all things people can do.

Speak about prospective changes in the election process which put up more roadblocks for grass-roots candidates to have a more equitable footing in that process. There will be an opportunity to do so at the city council meeting on July 22 at 6:30 p.

So be warned if word comes back to you that city employees who you pay with your tax dollars go to meetings and make innuendo about your action of reading public documents. Or your site is "under investigation" as an anonymous individual alerted me several months ago by the police department because of what is or may be written here but then as I've discovered that's pretty much the case with most police watch blogs in this democratic country. Riverside really isn't any different.

That revelation, true or not was surprising. But then I've learned through experience in the past three years that blogging in this city can be very difficult, it can make you very unpopular in some circles and often frightening and that those who engage in the scary behavior are pretty much immune from accountability especially if they are governmental employees. In fact, in at least one case it didn't prevent an individual from receiving a civic award from the city council after being nominated by individuals in the police department for being one of the "exciting new blood" of the "new RPD", comments made by a high-ranking officer during his award ceremony. The problem is, he doesn't seem to think that certain people in a certain neighborhood are even human and the even bigger problem is that his own bigotry which spilled onto my blog one day has just been sanctioned by the city through that action. The problem is that those who hired him and those who supervise him clearly see no problem with that. Actions speak much louder than words after all.

That's something to think about the next time anyone in the department especially in management wonders out loud why they have a difficult time hiring Black officers.

It's days like that which are almost enough to make you want to throw in the towel and give up, because how can an agency which struggled through a lot of turmoil and hard effort by many individuals within and without stumble on such a basic principle? How can the first lesson that it should have learned after the fatal shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1999 by four White officers be the one lesson it clearly hasn't learned. That shooting of course was the one that brought the "animals are coming by the busload" which for most of us, meant her grieving family members. The "animal" reference was reported by a former officer to the internal affairs division as being made by a former sergeant at the scene of the shooting.

In part, because so much of its operations remain secret and there's a loss of accountability in the process, these stumbles occur and no one knows about them outside the blue line. The department heads can come to city council and other meetings to talk about progress in the areas which they choose to share to the public (and in these areas, there's been a lot of progress indeed) but they keep their problems in the closet out of public view. But that's where they fester and occasionally like any boil, burst. That's what happened on Dec. 28, 1998 nearly 10 years ago.

It's actions like that which are done behind the veil of secrecy (and sanctioned by state laws) which make blogging all the more important not less during times when it's tough to do so. It's actions like trying to whittle away at the independence of management employees to do their jobs by trying to make them "at will". The public's first realization that there was a problem here was when it burst in a big way in public view at a meeting.

It's also important to document the city's backsliding on the five-year consent decree and strategic plan every step of the way since March 2006 from the city council's failure to properly direct its city manager to implement the monitoring of the strategic plan for many months to the city council's unwillingness to keep the police department properly staffed on the civilian and sworn sides. Someone who was dismayed with the department's most recent audit told me that the only people who will make and break the success of the department's reform are city residents.

Because the city council and city manager's office are too busy repeating the mistakes the predecessors some of them deride made in the last decade. And the police officers who are working hard (certainly at least in the reportable areas) can't do it by themselves. Hence, former State Attorney General Bill Locker and his comments about the co-producers of public safety that we all hear repeated over and over in different venues. But our civic leaders don't engage themselves either, because possibly it's too risky to do so and maintain favor at City Hall? They complain and shake their heads and whisper of "bad" problems in private but in public?

They take the opposite stance and say nothing but empty praise because their eyes read differently. So worried that any critical comments are akin to "bashing" the department but is "bashing" it in private any different? Many were no-shows at its most recent audit, during a time when the department sorely needed people to support its up-hill battle with remaining properly staffed and supervised. Where were all the people who say they support the police at this time no questions asked? I always look at people who do so without thinking with skepticism. Because how quickly do their feelings change when they call the police and there's not enough officers to send out, the streets are hopelessly gridlocked, the highways are under construction and it takes a while to get there?

No, what these individuals do often is they complain about that they're slow and that they're at the donut shop. When instead, they should be contacting the city, or their elected officials and asking what the staffing is for each shift. What it's like in different times of the year including summer when there's more vacations (as cited in the recent audit). What are the conditions of their vehicles? How many miles and dents do the vehicles have on them that are coming to the scene? Are people aware when representatives of the three labor unions who represent employees in the department speak publicly about the issues of staffing and equipment?

What about the budget and its impact on staffing? What about the impact of both on overtime? What happens when you cut back both on staffing and overtime at the same time? If they asked these questions, listened to answers from different individuals and did some research, they would realize that the police officers don't spend their entire shifts at the donut shop.

I know from reading my site log here that these issues are probably the most read issues of those that are posted about here.

The city is not very welcoming and accommodating when it comes to the public asserting the role it takes and that given to it by Lockyer to get involved in these issues which impacts its well being, given the interlinking of the three partners. It would prefer that the city residents don't look at one of the agencies that runs on tax dollars. Are they embarrased or do they not know anything about what's going on themselves? And after talking to several individuals who currently serve on the dais, I have to wonder if they've read a single report from the police department, let alone the budget report.

Comments are closed, as they have been since May 2007 when one of my visitors (who still lurks here twice a day) left the charming comment about the LAPD beating up Mexicans like pinatas on a fiesta day. For those who tried to leave comments, if you don't know why comments are closed, ask your friends.

As for the documents at the CPRC site, here's some advice in terms of accessing them.

It's helpful if you have at least Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0 and a fairly fast internet connection to download the bigger documents like the case books and the links for some of the source material don't work yet and for some of the other cases. But it's an important start for bringing more information on these investigations done by the CPRC to the city's residents. The tax dollars of city residents and tourists pay for these investigations to be done and the paper that they are printed on. If you wanted to exercise your right to purchase them, each case would cost up to several hundred dollars or more which is prohibitive for many individuals. But then so is access to the internet, because even though statistics show that more and more people are getting wired to the internet, large numbers of people still remain without access.

While one window has been opened, another involving the CPRC and the city remains closed.

Still nothing but silence on whether or not the commission will step to the plate and fulfill its charter responsibility by launching its own investigation into the July 11 death of Martin Gaspar Pablo. Instead of dispatching an investigator to interview any witnesses to the incident, the commission's staff have been meeting with city officials apparently to determine whether or not they have permission to investigate independently and if so, when they can initiate that investigation.

Not one commissioner, not one staff member, not one representative has come forward and explained why there's a delay to the public, which is unfortunate given that this is a panel with the word "community" in its title. If any discussion is taking place at all, it's taking place behind closed doors and behind the veils of secrecy which probably rival that little thing called the blue wall of silence. It's very unfortunate that the CPRC can not engage the public or even inform the public that it purportedly serves and represents on the status of this case and its apparent failure to uphold the responsibility that the city's voters assigned to it through placing the commission in the city's charter out of reach of the political attacks being waged against it by city officials.

Hopefully, the commission will receive a memory flash and actually remember that yes, it does serve the community and the community deserves to know what happens when someone dies. A little accountability, honesty and transparency is in order here. Will we see it?

Murrieta is putting liens on foreclosed properties for waste disposal costs.

UCR's new medical school gets support from the Press Enterprise's editorial board.

Artificial turf comes to Bobby Bonds Park but is it safe for kids?

New overtime rules have been enforced on Riverside County employees.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

I don't get to pick and choose when my hours are," Alicia Broderick, an emergency-response social worker for children's services, told county supervisors during Tuesday's public comment. "I feel like we are being punished for our dedication."

Certain workers once eligible for overtime are now being considered salaried professionals in accordance with criteria established by federal labor law, said Ron Komers, the county's human resources director.

Also, the county has stopped measuring overtime on a daily basis. If an eligible full-time employee works more than 80 hours in two weeks, the worker gets overtime, he said. Sick or vacation time is no longer counted as hours worked in overtime calculations, he said.

"We are obviously trying to be cost-conscious as a county, and we became aware of some abuses," Komers said.

"This won't change people who want to game the system, but it takes away the incentive," he added.

Say goodbye to some of the RTA's bus routes.

Redlands is looking for guidance in how to spend its money. This in the midst of downtown business owners going out of business.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is calling Assessor Bill Postmus to the carpet on what's been going on during his watch. They have decided against removing him from his post.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Biane noted that the board cannot compel Postmus to appear, but if he doesn't show up "we can explore other options."

"The sooner the assessor can come and address these concerns the better," he said.

The debate was prompted by the June 30 arrest of Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman and a grand jury report released the same day that accused the assessor's office of possible cronyism and misuse of public resources to support political campaigns.

Aleman, 25, was arrested on six felony charges of falsifying documents and destroying public records.

In a statement released after the board meeting, Postmus said he would work with the board to implement many of the grand jury recommendations and improve his office. But he did not provide a definite answer on whether he would attend the August meeting.

"He is researching right now if and when an appearance will be possible," said Ted Lehrer, a spokesman for Postmus.

An off-duty New York City Police Department officer shot a man and then flunked a sobriety test. He's the first officer to flunk these tests since they've been instituted.

Back in the news is Drew Peterson, whose wife Stacey disappeared on Oct. 28, 2007 and was never seen again. His lawyer wants the weapons case against his client dismissed. A grand jury indicted the former Bolingbrook Police Department sergeant on two counts of unlawful use of a firearm.

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