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 08, 2008

Meetings and methods

"Well. If empty bombast could protect the public, Riverside residents would have no worries. The district attorney managed to insult Riverside police, civic leaders and residents while proposing potentially disruptive outside interference in local law enforcement. Riverside police bear responsibility for patrolling the city's streets. The district attorney's role is prosecution."

---Press Enterprise Editorial Board, on the latest furor surrounding the enforcement of a gang injunction in Riverside's Eastside.

A heat wave hits the state. As a result, there's a push for consumers of electricity to reduce their wattage used during the peak daily hours between 3-6 p.m.

That's not the only place that there's heat right now.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board has taken on Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco and comments that he made criticizing the Riverside Police Department's enforcement of the injunction against Eastside Riva that was filed in court earlier this year. Chief Russ Leach had responded to those comments to the Editorial Board, according to an article published yesterday.

The board hit some points hard and it hit them well.


Riverside would accomplish little by clogging the already overburdened county justice system with misdemeanor arrests unlikely to result in serious punishment. Pursuing more severe crimes can actually take criminals off the streets. And the injunction eases prosecutors' task of proving gang ties to such crimes, which can add years to prison sentences.

But Pacheco's failure to understand the nuances of Riverside policing is far less dangerous than his threat to start enforcing the injunction on his own. The district attorney could easily upset the careful balance of police-community relations. The Riverside Police Department has worked hard to build public trust in the aftermath of the 1998 shooting of Tyisha Miller. The 19-year-old's death at the hands of police inflamed tensions with the city's minority communities -- including those in the Eastside -- and brought years of oversight from the state attorney general.

Interference from an outside agency, unfamiliar with neighborhood circumstances, could undercut the community support police need to be effective. Setting back years of progress in building better relations would be a poor trade-off for a few misdemeanor citations to make the DA's record look better.

The Riverside police have a firsthand grasp of the city's law enforcement needs and know best how to meet those challenges. Riverside does not need a shadow police chief -- especially one who fails to see the difference between political grandstanding and practical policing.

No response to the editorial via press release from Pacheco's office as of yet. But the use of an injunction not as a prosecutory tool, but as a political and public relations tool is worrisome indeed. If Pacheco's interested in returning to political office in Sacramento, it shouldn't be on the backs of Riverside.

Ward Two Councilman Andrew Melendrez responded to the situation at the city council meeting's evening session last night by saying that he supported the community and the police department's work in the neighborhood and that Leach had been consistent in community meetings about how the injunction was going to be used as a tool. He should remember his own words.

Speaking of elections, the meeting held by the Governmental Affairs Committee this afternoon will address changing the process of conducting elections in Riverside. Namely what to do about those pesky runoff elections, in the wake of the defeat of a certain incumbent city councilman during last year's runoff elections. This city council member had won the preliminary mailin round but fell a handful of votes short at the final tally. You could sense the hand wringing beginning after the final recount had been completed. No, actually you could see or hear it at a Governmental Affairs committee meeting held last year. It was this meeting held on Nov. 27 with this report and these minutes.

Why is this really happening? Because someone is afraid that history will repeat itself. That we could conceivably see another Dom Betro type finish in next year's elections. There are certain city officials running who know that for them, it will be much easier to win the preliminary round on plurality than the runoff against only one other candidate where they actually have to attract more than 50% of the popular vote and I doubt that they believe that they can achieve this especially those candidates who just went through an unsatisfactory election process. It's very difficult to do this and you have to be very popular among your constituents and let's just say that the Q ratings of certain elected officials have fallen a bit in the past four years.

It's too bad that political manipulating is superseding just running a laborious, intensive campaign. But that's where we all are in 2008 and the only thing transparent about the city government is its motives. You can't blame people for seeing the obvious when it's right in front of them. If you want to be even more obvious about it, there's probably a sky writer out there who'd like the job.

Ward Three Councilman Rusty Bailey will be making his debut as the new mayor pro tem of Riverside as he was anointed into the position at yesterday's city council meeting and has received the crown and scepter. The position lasts for about six months before the next changing of the guards. At the end of which, he'll be bequeathed a plaque honoring his stint of service. It was a blink and you'll miss it meeting, the kind which are more frequent lately. One city employee came out of the restroom and actually asked if the city council was taking a break. No, the meeting was over and the building was clearing. But it was still not even 8 p.m.

There was one agenda item pulled from the consent calendar by Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner on the proposed aquatic center at Riverside Community College, but everyone seemed to be on the same page.

Speaking of city council, beginning at its next meeting, any speakers who wish to address the city council on any issue will have to fill out speaker cards to do so. The measure to do so was passed last November and the city council's decision to implement it during the summer months shouldn't be too surprising. The obvious problem with speaker cards is that whoever is chairing the meeting and thus in control of the speaker cards could look through them, see the name of a speaker he doesn't like (he, because Councilwoman Nancy Hart, the only woman on the dais is probably above such behavior) and say, oops I never got that card, too bad. It'd be nice to say that all the city council members would behave professionally with speaker cards but there's a couple who've taken it upon themselves to personally attack speakers and if they are engaging in that behavior, then it's possible that putting speaker cards in their hand is akin to putting boats in the Bermuda Triangle.

Also, several city council members have said outside of the meeting that they have brought their concerns about the staffing issues in the police department which were raised in an audit before the city government several weeks ago to City Manager Brad Hudson's door. These concern the issues of 24/7 lieutenant watch commanders and that 7 to 1 officer to sergeant ratio. Retirements and employees taking various types of leaves have led to a deficit of at least two lieutenants (with a third position being filled by a promotion on July 1) and sergeant vacancies including the most recent one created through said promotion.

All over-time detective positions have been frozen except for the homicide unit. It will be interesting to see where the nearly $250,000 in funds are being spent. Why is this a concern? In part because of little gems on the city council's consent calendars like this one addressing loans within the city and how the Redevelopment Agency might borrow funds from the city's own funding sources. Even though some think the Redevelopment Agencies are supposed to generate money for the city's fund in a roundabout way through proper usage, often they wind up borrowing money from city coffers.

In Riverside, the Metropolitan Museum Board has endorsed the recommendations of a blue ribbon panel on how to tackle the expansion and renovation of both the downtown museum and library. The Board of Library Trustees has already endorsed the recommendations at an earlier meeting. AS more and more people have endorsed these recommendations, it remains to be seen what will happen because they and the will of people who have spoken out on this important issue have a vision which clashes with one provided earlier by Hudson. Will everyone be on the same page or does a clash of the titans await? Everyone will have to stay tuned for further developments.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In their discussion, museum board members said the existing museum, across Mission Inn Avenue from the library, could continue to house some museum displays.

Board member Geri Woods said the expansion building would need high ceilings, good parking for school buses, its own restaurant and a gift shop for the nonprofit Riverside Museum Associates, a group that raises money for the museum.

"I want to have something I can look at with pride," she said.

Board members stressed the need for adequate parking for the library and museum expansions, which is called for in the task force recommendations.

This issue goes to the city council on Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers. Be there or be square.

Ever since the notorious May Day incident at MacArthur Park last year, the Los Angeles Police Department has been investigating the conduct of dozens of riot police officers that day. At the end of its investigation, 17 officers and two sergeants were to be disciplined. However, they still have to go before a board of rights hearing to learn exactly what type of discipline will be imposed. Then after that, it's likely some or all of them might appeal that process in arbitration.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

"The fact that officers have been served recommended discipline by the department does not mean that the administrative process is over for the officers," Tim Sands, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said in a statement. "Through the administrative process, we trust that each of the officers involved will be given a fair review that will evaluate their actions in the context of what they had been ordered to do, the tools and training they were given to accomplish those tasks, and the conditions under which they were operating."

Sands added: "As Chief Bratton once said, 'Policing isn't pretty.' Skirmish lines are not pretty, and, as we all know, the events of that day were exacerbated by command and control problems that have already been brought to light."

For decades, attorneys for officers accused of misconduct have successfully used the wording of various department bulletins to suggest that their clients' missteps were the result of poor training or inconsistent policies.

Also in Los Angeles, a federal judge dealt the police union of the LAPD a blow with his tentative decision regarding the disclosure of financial records of officers serving in the department's special units for further scrutiny.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Opponents won a temporary court injunction to stop the rule a month ago, arguing it threatened officers' privacy rights. But on Tuesday, Feess said he did not view a further injunction favorably. He said the rule did not unfairly intrude on privacy when weighed against the public interest in rooting out corruption.

Feess told the lawyers that if he denied the union's request for a preliminary injunction against implementing the policy, he would grant a temporary stay to let the parties appeal his decision to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Feess said Rampart corruption scandal cases he presided over had demonstrated to him a relationship between money and corruption. The judge called the request for financial disclosure "not something one can describe as a serious invasion."

The disclosure policy is required by a federal consent decree -- a slate of mandated reforms that the Police Department has been rolling out over many years. Feess oversees that decree.

The rule would apply to at least 600 officers, most of whom work in anti-gang and narcotics units. These officers would be required every two years to give department officials documents on outside income, real estate holdings, stocks and other assets and debts. They also would have to reveal the size of their bank accounts.

Officers already assigned to the units would get a two-year grace period before having to fulfill the requirements.

Adam Aleman, the assistant assessor in San Bernardino County is going to resign. In San Bernardino, an elected official wants put a library issue to a vote.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The library system is facing budget cuts of $425,000 for the fiscal year that started July 1. A bond measure could provide money to build new libraries and avoid cutting services.

The budget cuts mean that hours at the three library branches are being reduced from 54 to 30 per week, Clark said. Plans to buy a bookmobile have been put on hold.

A sign on the second floor of the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library reads, "Sorry for the inconvenience. Library lighting is reduced to meet severe budget cuts in lieu of reducing service hours."

Regular patron Virginia Owen, 69, understands that the library is facing tough times and doesn't want to see any of them to close.

"I feel it's important for people to have a library," said Owen, a retired school secretary. "It's a resource where they don't have to spend money."

Lines can be long for patrons wanting to use computers on the central library's first and second floors.

While he was Orange County sheriff, Michael Carona was handing out honorary badges like they were candy to campaign donors.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Carona's defense team did not explain why the report was included in the exhibit, which was filed with a motion seeking to prevent another witness from testifying at Carona's trial. But Jeffrey Rawitz, one of Carona's attorneys, denied that his client doled out any favors.

"To the extent that any contributors wanted to serve as reserves, that shouldn't come as a shock. They were already his supporters, and it was a natural extension for them to want to work for the department on a voluntary basis," Rawitz said.

The lawyer cited the arrest and conviction of Haidl's son in a high-profile sexual assault case as evidence that Haidl received no special treatment.

"How did that work out with his son? When the rubber met the road, did he get a get-out-of-jail-free card?" Rawitz said.

While being interviewed by federal investigators last September, a month before Carona was indicted, Haidl leveled a variety of assertions:

* Carona and another former assistant sheriff, George Jaramillo, thought money was going to be "falling from the trees" once they assumed office.

* Carona wanted Haidl to handle all the business deals that were to benefit Haidl, Carona and Jaramillo, as well as deal with the "rich" people who came in contact with the Sheriff's Department.

* The three men talked about putting money they made in a trust or lobbying company until they could legally take it out after leaving public office.

* When Carona was involved in discussions about illegal topics, he would say, "That's a conversation for the boat" or "a conversation we should have at 40,000 feet," referring to his concern about the government monitoring his conversations.

This blog's been put on the blogroll of Injustice Seattle, a Web site that addresses police misconduct in Washington's law enforcement agencies. There's many postings on the Seattle Police Department and other law enforcement agencies and many links.

Here's an interesting article on what it's like being a blogger reporting on problems in Seattle's police department as well as the King County Sheriff's Department along with resources to help address these problems.

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