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

Friday, August 29, 2008

City Council: The season premiere airs this week!

I've been receiving complaints about the deterioration of the internet service provided by Metro WiFi particularly the "free" service during the past month. People say they try to hook up to it and just get many error messages saying there's a failure to connect through Windows. I talked to several providers of wireless antennas and other relevant computer equipment who just shook their heads and said, Metro Wi Fi is a new development, totally unreliable, it's a scam (!) and hooking up to it is always going to be a dodgy situation. There are other very low-cost internet plans out there that provide reliable service and that can provide the user with a more secured connection so that your computer doesn't get hacked into by someone to get personal information which is always possible on any public network.

What's probably happening is that either the equipment erected all over the city (through the power provided to street lamps) isn't holding up very long without problems or the more likely explanation is that AT&T has set a finite number of people who can hook up at one time to maintain a certain standard so one way to think about it is that you're probably in a very long line along with other city residents until a slot opens up through its server. That was one expert opinion provided as a possible explanation that makes some sense and one way to test that hypothesis is to try to access the service at different times of the day. Is it impossible to access in the evenings but accessible at 2 a.m. in the morning. If this is the case, then you have your answer.

I used to actually have Metro Fi visitors come to my site but not anymore. It's not because there's no demand for it, it's because in order to visit any Web site including mine, you have to be able to hook up to the internet service. But if you have a wireless icon on the bottom of your computer, keep an eye on the Wi Fi signals for the paid and free service and what you'll notice within one half-hour is how much the signal fluctuates between "excellent" and "poor" and back again and how many times the signal falls off the list which is a sign of interference or instability of the broadcast. Part of the problem is also that it seems that you have to be practically right next to one of those light poles with the funny looking antennae on them to get a good signal is what people have been saying about the service.

It's not worth it folks because even with the free internet access, you get what you pay for and this is the cyberspace equivalent of having about 1,000 people share one bathroom. You have to wait in line to get access because there's a finite number of those who can hook up at one time to ensure that service for those lucky few doesn't deteriorate over time. Plus, if you have businesses signing up and hooking up 24/7, that's going to impact the quality of service as well. Frankly, it's scary to think that any businesses would actually pay to hook up with what sounds like such a flaky wireless setup.

And remember, offering this service to city residents is simply the providers, AT&T's way of getting paid subscribers to its service to outdo Charter Communication's performance in this area and if you remember, the Charter peeps were out in force to speak out against this MetroFi deal when it was going down.

The greatest show in town is back!

Yes, it's a brand new season of the Riverside City Council so you can say goodbye to the tiring reruns and look forward to exciting, action and dialogue-packed episodes of civic affairs in this city brought to you four weeks each month.

The agenda this week is fairly sanitized for a season opener. A push for eminent domain in one place and the receivership of someone's property (for over $100,000 in those pesky code enforcement fines) in another. In other words, a pretty normal weekly program to watch.

What would be incredibly awesome is if the city government opened up its flashy and pricey new restaurant during the meeting to serve snacks so we could really proper intermissions between the main events. How about a coffee bar or a hot dog stand?

Also included in the agenda is the announcement of this critical committee meeting. Yes, it's that elusive of time of year when the renowned king of committees, the Governmental Affairs Committee actually meets and this time it's going to be Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 3 p.m. at City Hall in the only facility that can properly house it, the Mayor's Ceremonial Room. Just check out the agenda and you'll see the double billing of exciting agenda items.

Up first, is this annual review of what passes for an ethical code and complaint process in this city. If there's any further way to dilute its effectiveness and water the process, there are at least two minds on the panel that have more than the ability to do this and a third one who so far on this committee seems to go with the crowd on other pressing agenda items at other meetings including the infamous and failed attempt to "reform" the city's election structure.

There will be further analysis of this agenda item before the meeting but there's an 11 page report on what the process this year will be. What's so appropriate is that the report was actually prepared by City Attorney Gregory Priamos who is the one who ultimately decides whether your complaint gets accepted (which happened once) or tossed out (which is the majority of the time) which is contrast to his role in the city council as its swing vote between the two current loosely formed alliances on the dais.

Just when you think that's too much excitement for one committee meeting, along comes the bottom half of the bill, this one which involves the annual review of who will receive funds from Charter Communication to provide public access programing. Now, the caveat here is that you have to actually have the money in your pockets that you're applying for because it's not exactly the grant it was intended to be but it simply reimburses money you already have spent. As far as gate keeping tactics go for public money by government officials, this actually is a shrewd one.

Which is why there are far fewer applicants for the monies this year than the last two years. Not that it matters because with one exception, all the truly community petitioners were denied by the city's recommendation process. Big surprise there given how discouraging the process was last year and given that in previous years the campaign managers of city council members had first and some say only dibs on the bulk of the available funding.

The really good news in all this drama is that the city's new snack bar will be open while this meeting is taking place so get your snacks and come on up.

The acquittal of former U.S. Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department officer is sparking discussion over the interpretation of a federal law that allowed him to be charged as a civilian for alleged crimes committed in the military.

There's no word yet if the Riverside Police Department has rehired the former probational officer who did walk to the Orange Street Station from the federal court after a jury acquitted him to ask for his job back. I've received input from quite a few people asking me if this has happened, when it will happen and if so, will he be assigned to their neighborhoods including after a meeting held yesterday in the Eastside by the regional chapter of the National Association of Equal Justice for America. This civil rights organization is setting up a chapter in Riverside and is really interested in learning more about what's happening here including with the police department. The San Bernardino regional office is currently investigating the Rialto Police Department for among other things, discriminatory hiring and promotional practices.

They plan to be busy in Riverside.

At the end of the day, the Riverside Police Department is under no obligation to hire back a probational officer that it fired but it has the option to do so and if it does, it will because it believes Nazario is the kind of officer who fits right in with its mission statement, objectives and patterns and practices and that's the bottom line. If they do rehire him, they may or may not tell anyone about it. If he gets into trouble involving excessive force or lying or falsifying any reports, warrants or testimony, then the city's in trouble financially because of his statements about how doing this defined his experience at the police department that were reported on by one of the nation's largest and most circulated publications, the Wall Street Journal.

The whole process will definitely serve as a useful litmus test to know where the department's at in its continuing reform process through actions rather than just words.

Speaking of words, meetings will be taking place this week on the fate of community policing in Riverside as well as the future of officer-involved death investigations by the Community Police Review Commission. Alas, some of these meetings are being held at the same time.

The LAPD blog has a discussion going on about the incident involving one of its off-duty officers who shot and killed a motorist in Corona.

In response to a county grand jury report, the scandal-plagued San Bernardino County Assessor's office cutting its executive staff.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The results of the grand jury investigation were released June 30 and required a response from the assessor's office within 60 days. The report listed six recommendations that addressed several criticisms the probe had of the department.

Postmus, who created the executive support staff branch of the department when he took office as assessor in 2007, has been on 10-week medical leave since July.

Assessor's office spokesman Ted Lehrer said department officials "agree with the six recommendations and we look forward to implementing them."

Among other findings, the grand jury concluded assessor's executive staff used e-mail on the county computer for political activities during normal working hours. The panel also criticized the office for what it called a misuse of tuition reimbursements, said a severance package for a former assistant assessor was excessive and questioned the relevancy of a consultant's duties to the department's mission.

Besides cutting the executive support staff from nine to four positions, officials at the assessor's office pledged to act on a second recommendation and restore several "civil service protected" jobs that had been reclassified as "at will" political appointments.

According to the grand jury report, the shift to "at will" had possibly made the positions "vulnerable to political cronyism or undue influence from administrative political appointees."

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board is giving its thumbs up to Riverside County's decision it made involving the construction of the new District Attorney's building in downtown.

Still will this action hurt the downtown which is in the midst of the office space wars? If so oh well, states the Board.


The big drawback is that Riverside would lose the commercial benefit of a new downtown development. The Regency Tower project originally envisioned high-end office space and retail shops. Putting the DA in the building would exchange potentially tax-producing businesses with tax-consuming public operations -- not really the kind of economic boost the downtown needs.

Still, saving taxpayers millions of dollars makes the tradeoff acceptable, and the correct choice for Riverside County.

Press Enterprise columnist, Cassie MacDuff muses about Redlands' loss of its treasurer who plead guilty to criminal charges. Now the city has to find a replacement.


Anyone who is registered to vote in Redlands can run for treasurer. No accounting or investment background is required. There's no guarantee qualified candidates will run.

Making it an appointed position, as Mayor Pro Tem Pat Gilbreath suggested after Reynolds' arrest last October, would enable the city to set job requirements, recruit qualified applicants and select the best.

Reynolds retired Aug. 20 after 28 years as city treasurer. On Wednesday, he pled guilty to one of the three felonies with which he was charged after a $38,000 discrepancy was discovered in the petty cash fund.

Until the missing money came to light, everyone thought Reynolds was doing a bang-up job. But bookkeepers could never make the fund balance, and the discrepancies were swept under the rug for 13 years.

In Rialto, more police officers are on the streets

A potluck dinner was held between the tribal leaders of Soboba reservation and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to try and mend fences between the two factions.

A baseball fan in San Francisco was killed by a police horse at the stadium. He was standing in the parking lot when the runaway horse collided with him.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Eugene Caldwell was struck by the horse about 6 p.m. Friday after stepping out of a chartered bus to attend the 49ers game. Caldwell flew through the air and struck his head on the pavement. He died at 1 a.m. Saturday at San Francisco General Hospital.

The horse had become agitated when a plastic trash bag flew into its face and lodged in its bridle, said San Francisco Police Sgt. Neville Gittens. The horse flung its head back just as a police officer reached for the bag, striking the officer's head and knocking them both to the ground.

The horse stood and raced through the parking lot, without its officer. It first struck and injured a 47-year-old man before hitting Caldwell. A fan captured the horse and held it for officers. Gittens said the department is investigating the incident and has not decided whether the horse, named Seattle, will remain a member of its 10-horse mounted unit, which has a history dating to 1874.

First day they used the horses. First fatality from a horse that its charges couldn't even control. A member of the public finally caught the loose horse but the city had better have deep pockets on this one but a life has been lost.

More fallout involving the state's SEIU.

Friend of the so called "bling bandit" who turned out to be a former New York City Police Department detective said his liver cancer is impacting his behavior.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Four bank tellers identified the 33-year NYPD veteran and Vietnam War vet as the bejeweled "bling bandit" who wore an expensive watch and flashy rings when he demanded cash.

"I have a gun. I do not want to hurt anyone. No dye. No bait money. You have 10 seconds," Kelson's note warned teller Samantha Cherry in a July 10 heist of a Chase branch on Linden Blvd. in Queens.

The note - wise in the ways of bank heists - reflected Kelson's career with the NYPD, which included hunting bank robbers, time on the joint FBI-NYPD Terror task force and undercover work infiltrating the Black Panthers.

Kelson walked out of the bank with $600 - chump change for betraying his badge.

Friends said his battle with terminal liver cancer prompted this shocking twist in an otherwise impressive career.

"It is truly shocking," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

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