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, August 12, 2008

Highs and lows on the city front

The Riverside City Council meeting turned out not to be as long and arduous as anticipated as the city government, its employees and members of the public discussed, debated and passed a motion involving the futures of both the downtown library and museum in about an hour. It voted 6-0 to approve the blue ribbon panel's recommendations "in concept" and to conduct the two workshops in October and November.

About a dozen people among the 200+ in the chambers filled out the pesky speaker cards and walked up to the podium to provide their input including members of both the Metropolitan Museum Board and the Board of Library Trustees. Everyone spoke enthusiastically about the recommendations produced by the blue ribbon panel which was in attendance.

Ruth Jackson said that the libraries here and in the world serve as the gateways for information and that William Poole had called libraries "the university of the people".

Nancy Melendez who is the vice-chair of the Board of Library Trustees said that Riverside is a world-class city and that libraries are important to equate the playing field for people from all different backgrounds.

A representative of the community group, Renew the Library, thanked the panel, the city government and city staff for initiating a dialogue with the city residents about the process and encouraged those on the dais to keep the dialogue ongoing.

The city council was effusive in its praise for the process, though Councilman Frank Schiavone of the fourth ward said the issue had started out like a stinkpot. And in a sense, he's correct because of the clash of vision between the city residents who jammed the chambers expressing their desire that each institution get its own project plan and that of City Manager Brad Hudson who wanted to combine the two into one development project. Of course, that's only one way to look at it.

That's why even with the celebration in mind, it's important for proponents of these two projects keep their eye on the prize at the end of a long road. That's the only way to ensure that their vision will be Riverside's reality and that it will truly be the will of the people who are represented in the finished product.

After all, the best case study in just how important doing it is to keep pushing through the finish line and beyond is the Riverside Police Department. How has it fared since the dissolution of its stipulated judgment with then State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office? It's been a very mixed bag.

Has it gone forward? In some major ways, it has continued to go forward or has at least tried to do so. And when it goes forward, it does so in a major way as happened with the development and implementation of the mental health crisis intervention training last year.

Still, the better question to ask is just how many steps has it taken backwards since March 6, 2006 because the city apparently hasn't changed the way it handles difficult budget years? A process that actually began not too long after the judgment was dissolved after Hudson failed to quickly accomplish the mandate sent to him by the city council during a March 2006 workshop to hire a consultant to perform quarterly audits. It took him about seven months to accomplish that task. By then, the department was already experiencing problems including at its management level which were noted in the first audit that it did have in early 2007.

The latest staffing cuts are especially sobering, enough to send one city council member to the city manager's office out of concern. In large part because what's been done shows such a flat disregard or perhaps ignorance of what has gone before during the time period that led up to the stipulated judgment. In large part because what's been done is like so 1990s. Been there, done that.

Back then, the department cut and froze positions, used inexperienced supervisors to oversee the actions of too many officers on workshifts, community policing suffered from staffing changes to compensate deficiencies in the patrol division and so on. It had seemed that with the hard work and millions of dollars spent during the consent decree that the city had learned from its mistakes and left these days behind. It certainly seemed so after the post-consent decree party where a lot of people congratulated themselves that it was over and they had a new and improved police department. But what's becoming more and more clear is that this is clearly not the case.

Because what the city has done in response to a fiscally difficult budget year this time around isn't much different than what it did over a decade ago. Like that era, there doesn't seem to be any game plan let alone a time line for the department to reverse these actions in the future if things get better.

And what's the city manager's office's response? That the department is fully staffed. The latest cuts put paid to that not being the case.

The faces might be different, the rationales might bear greater resemblance but the road is too similar. Too similar for comfort at this point.

Riverside's Hunter Park has a plan now and the train will stay where it is in the park, according to the Press Enterprise.


"This is the latest and greatest plan," said Parks and Recreation Director Ralph Nuñez before the group's monthly meeting. "It modernizes it, but it also preserves the park's history."

Both the Riverside Live Steamers, a group of 130 steam-engine enthusiasts who operate trains at the park, and the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce back the plan.

The design was modified to better accommodate the Live Steamers, leaving their track intact. The previous master plan, approved by the commission in September, would have forced the trains to stop running during construction because of extensive grading, Nuñez said. Also, a portion of the tracks would have been rerouted.

"The time has come," said Bill Gardner, a member of the Live Steamers, after the meeting. "It's matured and improved over the years and this is it."

A controversy has shook the Riverside Unified School District after a popular administrator was put on administrative leave.

And one of his strongest advocates, Judy Bailey, is the wife of a current Riverside city councilman.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

A letter to the school board July 18, signed by Bailey and 20 others, questioned why Martin was placed on leave and why he could return in another position but not as principal. Bailey said most of those who signed live in the district, and some knew Martin from his church or Washington Elementary.

On Monday, the school board appointed a new principal to Alcott. Bailey told board members during the meeting that she is not concerned about that position but that Martin deserves a principal slot somewhere.

"Those of us here who know him personally know he's a man of integrity, he's passionate about kids and dedicated to helping students reach their highest potential," Bailey said.

Lake Elsinore's city council will will vote on a major development plan. It involves the construction of a new housing project during a time period when the housing market has almost hit rock bottom particularly for new homes.

Is the upheaval over the whole Rancho Belago affair in Moreno Valley worth it? The Press Enterprise Editorial Board answered, no.

Filing for bankruptcy is the former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputy who shot a United States airman after a high-speed chase, an incident caught on video camera.

San Bernardino County has long been viewed as a den of political intrigue and some say even corruption. But the latest round of allegations have still surprised people.

More elected officials in San Bernardino County are asking Assessor Bill Postmus about allegations of illegal drug use raised in an earlier news article. Now the inquisitive politicians constitute a majority on the county's board of supervisors who want answers to whether or not Postmus abused methamphetamine and whether any such problems are related to his ten-week medical leave from his position.

The San Bernardino Police Department put one of its sergeants on paid administrative leave stemming from an ongoing controversy involving the illegal detention of suspects by the narcotics unit.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"Anything beyond that point is a personnel issue, and state law precludes them from releasing anything on that," police spokesman Lt. Scott Paterson said.

San Bernardino City Attorney Jim Penman confirmed by phone Monday that Lawrence is on administrative leave, but he said the leave is not related to the allegations about detaining drug suspects.

Penman said he did not know what specific issue the leave is related to.

Lawrence declined to comment when reached by phone.

Patrol Sgt. Mike Desrochers accused Lawrence on July 2 of illegally arresting two men without citing a crime. The detentions were made in connection with a drug raid on an eastside apartment complex.

In a recorded conversation before the raid, Lawrence asked Desrochers to jail two men whom Lawrence had detained after a traffic stop and to keep them from making phone calls so they couldn't warn other suspects.

After the raid, Desrochers e-mailed Assistant Chief Walt Goggin, claiming Lawrence's action "constitutes an illegal arrest." Desrochers also accused Lawrence of similar past violations.

One of Los Angeles' councilman was fined by the ethics committee for $15,000 in connection with alleged misuse of his political fund committee.

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is making it tougher to obtain a concealed weapons permit by beefing up the requirements to require medical and psychological testing as well as mandating a polygraph session for applicants. And all the people who have permits are subject to review to determine whether or not they would qualify under the new standards.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Capt. Dave Nighswonger, who is overseeing the review, said sheriff's investigators would send letters to those in jeopardy of losing their permits and give them an opportunity to explain why they need to carry a concealed weapon. The first letters could go out in about two weeks, he said.

In California, sheriffs and police chiefs have broad discretion to issue gun permits to the public; the number issued varies widely from county to county. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has issued fewer than 400 concealed-weapon permits.

The permits allow the holder to carry concealed weapons in public places.

Gun owners don't need the permits to keep weapons at their homes.

Hutchens' new policy states that anyone with a previous felony conviction or a misdemeanor conviction involving violence will be ineligible for a weapons permit. In addition, anyone with a misdemeanor conviction of any kind within the previous five years will be denied a permit.

"The good-cause threshold you have to meet has gone up," Nighswonger said. "The prior sheriff had more of a right-to-carry philosophy. Some of the things that were considered good cause won't be now."

A doctor in New Jersey said he was assaulted by off-duty New York City Police Department officers while going to synagogue and that they used anti-Jewish slurs.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

A New Jersey eye doctor is accusing an off-duty NYPD detective and his two buddies of pummeling him after they mistook him for a flasher as he walked to a Fire Island synagogue.

David Campeas, a New Jersey ophthalmologist, says the cop and his pals spewed anti-gay epithets, slammed him to the ground and threatened to drown him Saturday.

The doctor was freed only after two young girls who said someone flashed them told cops he wasn't the culprit.

"You couldn't reason with them," said Campeas, 52, a father of three. "They were yelling and screaming and whacking me in the head."

Detective Arthur Molnar denied beating Campeas and insisted he was only trying to investigate the original flashing incident.

"Nobody touched anybody that night," Molnar, who works on the warrants squad, said outside his Long Island home. "You should be interviewing the guy who [exposed himself] in front of two 9-year-olds."

Are tasers too deadly? This question is being asked by the Christian Science Monitor. In one case, a New Orleans Police Department officer who tased a man nine times is facing potential charges by a grand jury. The man died and the coroner could not find any other underlying causes of his death.


Two-thirds of all police departments in the US own at least one electroshock weapon. The guns have played a role in nearly 300 deaths in the US and Canada since their introduction in 1998, Amnesty International reported in June. Yet most wrongful-death lawsuits have gone the Taser's way, with juries finding that factors ranging from hard drugs in a person's system to existing medical conditions were responsible for or contributed to their deaths.

The weapons, also called electronic control devices, are part of a transformation in policing, away from bullets and guns and toward "Star Trek"-like devices that can, from a law-enforcement standpoint, safely and quickly defuse volatile situations.

"We didn't get this [negative] reaction when nightsticks were used to split heads open, but because of the technology and what it does, the media have really exacerbated the issue of the Taser," says Mr. Scott. "The upside of the Taser far outweighs the unfortunate abuse or downside."

But with some 260,000 units in the hands of law enforcement officials, and with no major federal regulation governing their use, stun-gun use in cases like the one in Louisiana is revealing unintended drawbacks of this particular tool of policing, says Thomas Luka, a defense attorney in Orlando, Fla. Used most often before officers are physically threatened, the devices are changing the relationship between police and the populace, especially on the streets.

"We're seeing injuries that wouldn't normally happen on a routine traffic stop, and all of a sudden they're happening," says Mr. Luka.

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