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 29, 2008

Shake, bake, rattle and roll

"The most interesting thing to us is that this is the first one we've had in a populated area for a long time. People have forgotten what an earthquake feels like. We should look at this as an earthquake drill for the big one that will come one day."

----Dr. Kate Hutton, Caltech seismologist

"I feel the earth move under my feet."

----Carole King

It happened again, because the shake and bake state of California never disappoints. And sure enough, Southern California was hit by a 5.4 earthquake centered near Chino Hills at about 11:42 a.m. I was standing in a grassy meridian, waiting to cross the street and the earth started rolling. I looked around to make sure nothing big would fall and hit the ground. Having been knocked off of my feet during the 1992 Big Bear quake, I've learned it's just not best to let the earthquake do that work for you! The shaking stops and then you get back up because if you live in the golden state, earthquakes are just a part of life. And for the most part, the strong ones don't come around often unless you live near Cape Mendocino where three Teutonic plates meet and occasionally bump into each other. But when they do come, they definitely leave their mark which is all the more reason to try and be prepared.

CNN was updating information on the earthquake on a television at a nearby restaurant and everyone was eating and talking about their experiences. The people who were driving in cars at the time looked befuddled because most of the time, the movement of your vehicle and the shock absorbence of four tires prevent people inside them from feeling moderate shaking. Other people were walking, standing or inside stores when it happened. This is what often happens when one of the many faults which spider beneath the ground unseen wakes up and makes its presence known. The quake arose from a system which produced the Whitter-Narrows earthquake and its aftershock about 20 years ago. Its faults branch into Los Angeles in one direction and Lake Elsinore in another.

Since then, there's been the 1992 quakes in Landers (7.4) and Big Bear (6.4) which caused damage throughout the Inland Empire including the desert communities and the 1994 earthquake in Northridge (at 6.7). The last strong earthquake was the Hector Mine quake of 1999 which was 7.1.

Northern California's not been spared either with the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake(7.1) and a sequence of three earthquakes ranging from 6.6 to 7.1 in Humboldt County in 1992. The largest one hit when the majority of the population of a town called Ferndale were attending or participating in an annual parade.

The talking heads on the news chased around every brick that fell off of a building, broken sprinkler systems and every broken plate, while warning everyone that there was a 5% chance until noon today that the earthquake was a harbinger of things to come, namely a larger earthquake and we're all so doomed. Still, if it's from the Whittier-Narrows area, it wouldn't be surprising to see an earthquake in the 4 to 5 range within seven days but 5.4 preshocks aren't very common unless they trigger a similar sized earthquake on a neighboring fault line in what's called a regional earthquake sequence.

Improved home construction and to a lesser extent building construction has greatly cut down the loss of life, injuries and building damage compared to what happens in many other countries. Most of the buildings which collapsed in the Northridge earthquake including portions of an apartment complex were found to have been built in a substandard fashion or not to code. Many newer buildings survive even fairly strong earthquakes although if you have a masonry chimney, it's best not to get too attached to it. And the same overpass on the I-5 keeps crashing down about every 25 years, having been lost to the Northridge quake as well as the 1971 Sylmar quake.

Belo blog reported from different cities in Riverside County about damage and perceptions of the quake.

Residents from the Inland Empire commenting here and here.

Earthquake preparedness and survival tips including an earthquake kit list which is important because after a major quake, you're pretty much on your own in term of supplies for at least three days. Some folks forgot to save water during a couple of these larger quakes and lived on wine for the meantime and it's during these times that people really think about how important water is and how much of it they really use for different things. If you have a water heater, bolt it to the wall because it will prevent damage and injury during an earthquake and they can be a good source of water if you follow some precautions first.

Other surprising sources of water

What to do about utilities, such as gas, water and electric power. Know where all your shut off valves are located ahead of time. Learn how to properly turn off your gas valve and keep a proper size wrench nearby where it can be located. Only turn off the gas if you smell it and/or hear it leaking in the building. Do not use anything flammable such as candles, lighters or matches for illumination and don't use light switches to turn on electric lights, appliances or use the telephone or start your car if the gas is nearby or you think it might be leaking. If you turn off your gas line, do not under any circumstances turn it back on yourself or you risk fire or being blown up especially if there's damage to the gas lines. A trained gas company employee must do it for you and clear your gas system to make sure it's cleared out and not damaged. Expect to wait days or weeks for a return to service as the gas company's personnel is spending its time getting the system back up again. Do not turn off the main gas valve if it's the source of the gas smell or sound but evacuate the area.

There's been some discussion about the powers of the city attorney's office according to the city's charter and they're listed here under one of the provisions of the charter. There's mention of the city attorney appearing for and representing the city, employees and elected officials in various proceedings. He or she can do the same for "boards" upon request. And there doesn't appear to be any charter provision forbidding the commission from discussing independent legal counsel on its agenda. Priamos through his actions is simply demonstrating why independent counsel for the CPRC is so very important, perhaps without realizing it.

The Community Police Review Commission hasn't announced whether it's going to place the Martin Gaspar Pablo incident on the agenda of its next meeting or whether it's been suitably intimidated by what City Attorney Gregory Priamos to take a code of silence itself on this matter. The relationship between Priamos, his staff and the commission has been one with many twists and turns given that the interaction of the City Attorney's office with the CPRC hasn't been consistent in how it's been done or played out through the years. So one conclusion that can be reached is that given that Priamos is a direct employee of the city council dependent on its approval to keep his job that this is where is direction is coming from. Another can be reached if you read the mission statement of the City Attorney's office here which includes the provision about not putting the city at undue risk. And that might be more important now than ever if the city's multiple settlements in connection with lawsuits filed in relation to officer-involved deaths puts its standing with the entity that pays the bulk of the money out in jeopardy. That would make it even more imperative to avoid any future such lawsuits.

There's no mention of the city attorney's role when it comes to the boards and commissions on this page either. There's mention that the city's legal counsel doesn't prosecute crimes outside the scope of city laws including the municipal code.

History of the City Attorney's office in Riverside

Habitat for Humanity has built its first "green" house in Riverside. It has many innovative features which could lead to huge savings in utilities bills.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein gives a play by play of his helicopter ride over Riverside with Chief Russ Leach and pilot, Jim Vanderhoof while Cassie MacDuff thinks that San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus should just answer questions instead of going on medical leave.

Menifee, the newest city suffers growing pains.

Not long after the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the tribal council of Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians broke bread in public, the sheriff recommended shutting the casino down.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Tribal Chairman Robert Salgado said the deputies needed tribal permission to enter the reservation for anything other than 911 calls and hot pursuits; Sheriff Stanley Sniff said his deputies needed no such permission.

That difference of opinion has reached a breaking point, with Sniff announcing this morning that he is requesting the federal government shut down the casino. Sniff said he sent a letter Monday to the National Indian Gaming Commission, formally requesting the federal regulatory agency close Soboba Casino near San Jacinto.

Sniff announced the letter this morning at the Riverside County Board of Supervisors' meeting.

Sniff also has asked the FBI to review two officer-involved shootings that left three tribal members dead on the reservation in May.

Tuesday afternoon, the Tribal Council issued an email statement through spokesman Mike Hile:

"We are very disappointed with the comments made by Sheriff Sniff. After efforts were made by both parties in the mediation agreement through the Justice Department, we emphasized 'communication.'

Hemet's faced with the decision to go to the voters to approve a utility tax to balance the city's budget. Wonder what the voters will think about that one.

The death of a man tasered nine times by law enforcement officers in Louisiana is heading to the grand jury.

(excerpt, CNN)

Baron "Scooter" Pikes, a 21-year-old sawmill worker, had tried to run from police in Winnfield, Louisiana, when they tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for cocaine possession.

But a coroner's report found Pikes had been handcuffed and on the ground when first hit with the Taser and might have been dead before the last two shocks from the 50,000-volt device were delivered.

"I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter," Winn Parish District Attorney Christopher Nevils said in a written statement. "But my obligation and that of the grand jury is to objectively sort through the facts and make a decision that is in the best interests of justice."

Nevils' announcement follows a Louisiana State Police investigation into Pikes' death.

Investigators delivered the results of that probe to the district attorney's office last week, and the grand jury will convene August 12, he said. The results of the state police investigation remain sealed.

A quadriplegic man who was beaten by Chicago Police Department officers in 2006 has filed a civil rights law suit. The lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that officers beat, shoved and kicked Daniel Casares until he was unconscious.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

"Once they pulled me out of the car, I fell straight to the floor -- I was handicapped," Casares said.

Casares, a quadriplegic since 2002, was sitting in the passenger seat of a car that had been pulled over by police officers, according to a release from attorney Blake Horwitz. The officers approached the vehicle with guns drawn, yelling at Casares to get out of car.

"They pretty much pulled me out and started kicking me and punching me," he said. "I was scared for my life."

Despite Casares' pleas that he was severely disabled, the officers forcibly dragged him out of the car and beat him unconscious, the suit claims.

"It is very difficult to understand why a paralyzed man would be beaten by a Chicago officer -- except to explain it as wanton brutality," Horwitz said in the release.

More reviews are being done of an officer-involved shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina but they will all be conducted inhouse.

Misconduct investigations in New Orleans have led to two officers being fired.

(excerpt, Times-Picayune)

Officer Ashley Terry -- accused by witnesses at the Treme Community Center last week of brandishing her gun while yelling profanities at a woman in the carpool line -- was dismissed after supervisors concluded she'd violated multiple New Orleans Police Department standards, including moral conduct, courtesy, following instructions and exhibiting a firearm only with proper justification, Riley said.

Also dismissed was officer Donyell Sanchell, who allegedly led Crescent City Connection police on a chase this month, ending with Sanchell slapping a bridge officer near the 1st District police station.

The department concluded that Sanchell drove recklessly, committed a hit-and-run when he bumped the bridge officer with his truck, committed a simple battery and hadn't met the NOPD's professionalism standards, Riley said.

The Washington Post Editorial Board wrote about the perils of driving while brown particularly in Maricopa County in Arizona.


Sheriff Joe likes to refer to his blatantly unconstitutional campaign of harassment as "crime suppression sweeps." These "sweeps" have been denounced not only by Latino groups, which consider them overtly racist, but also by the mayor of Phoenix, who has asked the Justice Department to investigate, and by Gov. Janet Napolitano, who has withdrawn state funding from the sheriff's office.

The sheriff loves describing himself as a tough guy and delights in humiliating prisoners by, among other things, making them wear pink underwear and swelter in open-air camps. He has gotten away with it -- even won reelection -- thanks to his colorful public persona and an electorate rattled by the demographic changes caused by immigration, legal and illegal. He denies allegations of racial profiling even as his deputies practice something that looks awfully like it. It's high time for federal authorities, or courts, to step in to halt what has become a travesty of justice in Arizona.

A tape of a 911 phone call which brought Inglewood Police Department officers to the wrong residence cast doubts on the department's version of the tragic incident which left a man dead.

Did a law enforcement agency in New York lose some guns? An audit seems to state so.

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