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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is community policing on the chopping block?

"He failed to do what he was educated to do. I'm going to ask you to have honor, courage and commitment by convicting Nazario"

--- Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats

"There really is only one rule in combat. We need to keep each other alive."

---Defense attorney Kevin McDermott for Jose Luis Nazario


---Community Policing Unit newsletter from the Riverside Police Department

"A slow sort of country! Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

---The Red Queen to Alice (Lewis Carroll)

The Riverside Community Policing Unit as it was once called oversaw the neighborhood watch programs as advertised on the department's Web site. This includes the neighborhood watch academy which apparently still exists unlike its sibling, the citizen academy. However, if you examine this page on the department's site to find out when the next citizen's academy will be held, what you'll find is a link that says that the next academy class is "to be announced". That link will take you to a Nov. 28, 2007 press release which will tell you, the reader to be sure to sign up in time for the citizen academy course that was to begin in January 2008.

What it doesn't tell you is that the citizen academy has actually been suspended until further notice and is not anticipated to return any time this fiscal year and perhaps even not the next one. One of the casualties of budget cuts that hit the city's departments in anticipation of the state's budget deficit as well as flagging sales tax revenues.

The police department released this community policing newsletter this past spring when the Community Services division was headed by Lt. Rick Tedesco. He had taken over that position from Lt. Tim Bacon when the division was consolidated to be umbrellaed with other Special Operations divisions such as PACT and the K9 Unit last January. He was just recently replaced by Lt. Ken Raya who took over that spot while Tadesco went to the Traffic division to replace a retiring Ken Carpenter.

According to the recent newsletter, the officers assigned to it were the following:

Sgt. Keenan Lambert

Officer Chris Carnahan

Officer Hal Webb

Officer Neely Nakamura

Officer Clarence Dodson

Several of them even made appearances at the neighborhood conference that took place in late May. They worked on programs like Crime-Free Multi-Housing and served as liaisons with city boards and commissions including Lambert who among other things worked closely with the Human Relations Commission. But that was then and this is now and what's happened in the meantime? At least several personnel from this division have apparently been transferred to work in patrol, most likely because of staffing shortages in what Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis called a "fully staffed" department. Those impromptu comments made by DeSantis were in response to comments made by consultant Joe Brann who was presenting his quarterly audit on the department's implementation of the Strategic Plan to the city council last June. Back then, Brann had said that of immediate concern to address, were the department's staffing including at its supervisory level and the relationship that would have with staffing ratios that were instituted by the stipulated judgment between the city and the state attorney general's office in 2001.

It does make you wonder that if the department was "fully staffed" then what is happening to this division of it? Why was it essentially dissolved so soon after DeSantis gave his assurances that everything was a-okay in the department at the staffing level?

One city councilman was concerned enough after finding out what had happened to forward his concerns to City Manager Brad Hudson but no one on the city council has apparently been concerned enough to bring those concerns out of the backrooms of the seventh floor of City Hall and into the public forum until one of them finally did. He'll be the one who actually has a department representative address a community meeting on this very issue because he hasn't dropped the ball. You'll find out his identity later on in this posting.

The decision to remove personnel from the Community Services division actually seemed to surprise and even stun many people. But then again historically speaking, that's not exactly news about the city government.

The community policing unit/community services division while directed by Bacon had attracted attention from other law enforcement agencies from within the state which wanted to emulate some of its programs. It appeared to be one of the department's success stories. But what now in the sea of budget cuts? It's allegedly being expanded to include the entire department at the same time the department is freezing the positions of those entrusted in both the civilian and sworn ranks to carry out its mission. It's being expanded when overtime in the department has been cut to the extent that no one knows when the next citizens' academy will be held because police officers who comprise many of the lecturers can't teach it.

But the department never really told the city's residents that it was being expanded. It just dissolved Community Services and then people started finding out about what it had done and wanted an explanation including a sitting council member. Usually if the department is very proud of what it's doing, it rightfully broadcasts this information in a very public way. But that's not happening this time.

Also by the wayside is Cops 'n Clergy, the partnership between the police department and the religious community in Riverside although that might be more a casualty of the closing of the Coalition for Common Ground than the budget crisis. Cops 'n Clergy could have continued to play a key role in expanding community policing even in difficult times yet apparently no one jumped up and took the ball to keep this vital program going after CCG had to pull out. Another potential and powerful asset to community policing left by the wayside.

The councilman who forwarded his concerns was Ward Two Councilman Andrew Melendrez and he'll be hosting a discussion of the staffing changes involving the Community Services division at his monthly meeting on Thursday, Sept. 4 at Caeser Chavez Community Center in the Eastside with the time to be announced. Attending will be a representative from the police department to explain the restructuring of community policing. It will have to be a lieutenant or higher in rank because they don't require overtime pay and the department has stopped sending lower-ranked officers to do public presentations in recent weeks and months.

The immediate problem here is that if there's a major structural change of the community policing structure in the department, then why isn't the police chief himself conducting public forums concentrating on this critical issue? Why weren't these forums held to get community input into the future of the community policing division and community policing in general? Police Chief Russ Leach should be front and center on this issue.

The police chief did hold forums and that provided a venue for many community concerns to be brought to the table for discussion. But were there forums tailored to this specific issue? The original forum at California Baptist University could have been a building block, a stepping stone for future forums on community policing. But will the one community meeting scheduled so far on this issue be used for receiving community input on the changes which have already been implemented or will it merely be a spin on the process? It will take attending the meeting to find out.

I guess this all means that the staffing cuts in many of the programs have little or nothing to do with the current budget cuts except the timing. What's interesting is that because Community Services is umbrellaed under the Special Operations division banner, it's also budgeted underneath that banner as well.

If you check out the city's preliminary budget for 2008-09, you'll find that under the Special Operations line item in on page 49 in the personnel section, five officers, a detective (swapped with a police officer position from inside the division) and one sergeant were to be transferred from outside the division into this one to fill one or more units that are part of this division along with Community Services. However, if that actually happened, what also happened but that isn't mentioned on this page is that officers assigned to Community Services which is under Special Operations were apparently transferred out of Special Operations to Field Operations as well. That action doesn't appear in the preliminary budget anywhere which is interesting considering that this decision apparently was done for other reasons than cutting positions to offset a weaker budget.

If the intent of cutting Community Services was to promote the further growth and spread of community policing, then there would be some good argument that this is beneficial to the department and to the Strategic Plan. But if this was planned ahead of time, then why is there an influx of personnel going out of the Community Services division into field positions at the exact same time there are deficits in the patrol assignments at both the officer and supervisor level?

It would be hoped that those who are being reassigned out of Community Services would take the wealth of experience and knowledge to promote community policing to their new assignments in patrol. But the reality is that the patrol division is unable to fill its ranks with new officers because of a hiring freeze so pervasive that the application process has been impacted and the hiring incentive payments frozen (for the most part) until further notice. The reality is that the department is probably going to be more preoccupied with ensuring that its officer to sergeant ratios don't dip above 7 to 1 and that it assigns enough lieutenants to cover the shifts so that it doesn't pay out overtime through staffing sergeants in those assignments than it will be about community policing expansion.

The freezes have included the supervisory levels as well as several sergeant positions including one vacated by the recent promotion to fill the slot vacated by Carpenter's retirement. That position was actually from the Chief's office as part of the Audit and Compliance Panel and the new lieutenant was assigned to be a watch commander.

What complicates getting a clear picture of how money is spent inside the police department is the fact that its entire budget (which is the city's largest of any department by far) is summarized on one page. Between that and the complete elimination of any hard documentation in the budget report of the Community Police Review Commission's budget makes it clear that the city manager's office isn't particularly in favor of either accountability or transparency when it comes to how it's spending the city residents' money. The city manager's office which is in charge of writing the annual budget presents line items for the budgets in every other department except naturally its own when it comes to divisions.

But when it comes down to decentralizing community police while cutting or freezing officer positions, that road's a familiar one. And that's the problem. Both the cutting while promising to expand and the failure to communicate with the public until pushed to do so. You know the same public that wound up footing a$22 million and climbing bill.

In the 1990s, the department tried to do the same thing. It tried to promote community policing while struggling with higher officer to sergeant ratios and staffing cuts when the annual budgets went south during portions of that volatile decade. As we all know now, one state investigation, law suit and consent decree later, that didn't create anything except more serious problems than either the department or the city could handle on its own.

Decentralizing community policing itself is most definitely not the problem and it would be disingenuous for the department to say that anyone who has concerns is against this process. In fact, it's one of the major goals of the Strategic Plan as it should be. It's the hopes that community policing will move away from being program-based and towards being the foundation of the policing philosophy and the officers who served in Community Services could be instrumental in that endeavor.

In some ways, since the beginning of the consent decree, the department did this including. by revamping its field training program to include a phase on community policing (as was required by the consent decree). It provided opportunities for police officers to work with neighborhood residents on community policing projects to address problems specific to a neighborhood or a street. These steps and others were very necessary and need to continue. The best way to expand community policing is to not cut staffing positions to the point where you're forced to dissolve a unit to fill the ranks and then keep silent about it. As long as you're pulling from Peter to pay Paul, it's going to be hard to achieve that growth.

The best way to expand community policing is to do it from a position of strength meaning that you are working on its continual growth with a department that really is fully staffed and can focus more of its attention on community policing philosophy and less on whether it has enough officers to patrol the streets and enough supervisors to monitor them.

It flourishes when new officers are being brought on board and taught a much different style of policing than earlier generations were given, rather than whether or not the sergeants are supervising too many relatively inexperienced and young officers at one time, whether or not it's not maxing out its homicide detectives who are working overtime might be able to respond to all "after dark" crimes, or whether or not the lieutenants are not spreading themselves too thin by handling more than one assignment at a time such as being both a neighborhood policing center commander and a watch commander. Brann called it in his last presentation, the fatigue factor and how it's important to be mindful of it.

While all this changing was going on, the department was apparently too excited about its plans to inform the public, to make a presentation to the city council at a meeting or workshop, to make a presentation to the public safety committee, to hold a town hall meeting. It needs to do just this. It should have done so already when all this was in the planning stages. That is, if there was even a planning stage.

The department will no doubt say that all its programs are intact and if that's so, that's a very good thing indeed. But let's Crime-Free Multi-Housing for example, a program that was directed for years by former Officer John Start who is now retired. Replacing him was Officer Chris Carnahan and if you check the link on the newsletter above, he's listed there as its "trainer". But ask the department how Carnahan is performing as head of this long-time community program.

There will be much more on this ongoing situation as event unfold. And if a department representative tries to say that all the community policing programs are doing just fine, ask him or her when the next session of the citizen academy is being held. I get this question at least once a week. Usualy the response to learning that it's been suspended indefinitely is something along the lines of, "I never knew the city was so broke".

Opening statements began in the trial of former U.S. Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department Jose Luis Nazario who's been charged with voluntary manslaughter for allegedly shooting and killing Iraqi detainees in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats described Nazario as a man who killed "unarmed, submissive, docile" detainees and encouraged men under his charge to do the same thing.

"He shot and killed, and he had his subordinate Marines shoot and kill," Kovats said.

Defense attorney Kevin McDermott countered that Nazario killed insurgents to save his comrades.

"Almost immediately, the rules of engagement were thrown out," McDermott told jurors. "The insurgents don't play by the rules of engagement."

The jury consists of nine women and three men and only one person with military experience.

Attorneys for both sides talked to the jury and told them to vote their way.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

McDermott said prosecutors did not have names or forensic evidence and they could not find the house where the alleged crimes occurred to confirm the statements of certain Marines when they went back to investigate.

"They're not going to be able to prove anybody was killed in the house," McDermott said. "The defense is here to tell you these acts did not occur as the prosecution says."

Nazario is being tried in federal court because he had left active duty when the Naval Criminal Investigative Service began its investigation. Two other Marine sergeants, still on active duty, are set for courts-martial at Camp Pendleton in the case, in which all the jurors will be Marines.

Before opening statements were made, federal judge, Stephen Larson threw out the interview that started the whole case. That was the job interview that Marine Sgt. Ryan Weemer gave in 2006 when he told the Secret Service about what happened in Fallujah. Larson threw it out because it's not likely that defense attorneys will be able to cross-examine Weemer who's not expected to testify even though both he and Marine Sgt. Jermaine Nelson were due to appear at a hearing on the morning of Aug. 22.

More coverage here.

Riverside's Planning Commission voted unaminously in support of developer Doug Jacobs' medical building which will be constructed on what was once Chinatown.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Members of the Riverside Chinese Cultural Preservation Committee, which has led opposition to the project, said they appreciated the commission's requirement of additional design changes.

However, committee members said after the hearing that their main concern -- moving the building's footprint away from an area where, they say, buried artifacts lie -- remained unaddressed.

Jacobs plans to excavate the site on the northwest corner of Tequesquite and Brockton avenues and display artifacts inside the medical building. He also plans to incorporate Chinese gardens and landscaping features outside the building.

But the cultural preservation committee wants to leave archaeological resources at the corner undisturbed and build green space over them.

"It's not the best way to preserve the memory of Chinese pioneers," M. Rosalind Sagara, a committee member, said after the hearing.

The committee had tried to get the Planning Commission to delay its vote by two weeks so it could try to convince the board of the Riverside County Office of Education, the site's owner, to give up additional space so the building could be moved away from the corner.

The cultural preservation committee is planning to discuss its options in response to the vote which echoed a similar one by the Cultural Heritage Board including possibly hiring an attorney.

The long-time treasurer of Redlands is retiring. Why? Because he's facing felony charges for misappropriating public funds.

The Los Angeles Police Commission has ordered the Los Angeles Police Department to allow for the mediations of complaints involving racial profiling done by its officers.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Daily News)

The commission also demanded that the independent inspector general audit the department's investigations into complaints of profiling - none of which has ever been found true.

"We are not calling people racists," said commissioner John Mack, the former head of the Los Angeles Urban League. "But what we are saying is there are some occasional acts and instances where people are not getting treated fairly based on the color of their skin. So we have to get a handle on it, as objectively as we can."

The new mediation is an attempt to build a better relationship between officers and a historically distrustful community. Previously, citizens could wait months before hearing back from the LAPD's Internal Affairs Division over a complaint and were often met with a thank-you letter that concluded that the claims were unfounded.

The new process would allow people to sit down with the officers and a supervisor and give their side of the story and maybe even get an apology in return.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is still trying to solve the mystery of the missing reserve badges. Not helping the situation is that very few of the 42 people issued these special badges that are still missing can remember where or when they last saw them. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens had said that if anyone lied about the fate of their badges they could be charged with making a false report among other things.

A lot of this came down after State Attorney General Jerry Brown issued a ruling that these badges might be illegal and outlined some parameters for assigning badges. Another reason why Hutchens might be taking such a strong stand is because many of these badges were handed out by her predecessor, Mike Carona who used them to reward campaign contributors and other friends. Carona is awaiting trial on federal corruption charges.

One of Carona's allies who was issued one promptly abused it during a dispute on an airplane. That and other related incidents created an atmosphere of intense concern about potential abuse of authority.

Who's who in the badges fracas from an Orange County watch dog blog.

This blog raised similar concerns about former Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle's use of honorary badges.

Police Chiefs call on next President to do more to protect America's

For Immediate Release
Contact: Wendy Balazik

Thursday, August 21, 2008
(800) 843-4227 ext 264
New IACP Report Urges that Next Commander in Chief Establish National
Commission on Law Enforcement in First 100 Days

Alexandria, VA: Because every 22.2 seconds, an American is a victim of a
violent crime, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
is calling on the next president of the United States to establish
immediately—during his first 100 days in office—a National
Commission on criminal justice and homeland security. The Commission,
the first of its kind since 1965, would be charged with conducting a
comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, and would be
required to provide the nation with a strategic plan to guide public
safety and homeland security efforts in the years ahead. This
Commission, along with other recommendations, is outlined in the
IACP's new report titled To Protect and Defend: The Public Safety
and Homeland Security Challenges Facing the Next President. To read the
recommendations, here .

"There is no more critical issue confronting the next President than
the safety of all Americans," said IACP President Ronald Ruecker,
Director of Public Safety in Sherwood, Oregon. "The harsh reality is
that in the years since 2001, more than 99,000 Americans have been
murdered and more than eight million have been the victims of violent
crime. The United States needs a strategic plan that embraces the
reality that protecting our communities depends on our ability to fight
both crime and terrorism."

"Our nation's homeland security focus must be redirected to
America's hometowns and neighborhoods if our children,
grandchildren, and great grandchildren are to enjoy safe communities and
declining crime rates," said Ronal Serpas, Chief of the Metropolitan
Nashville Police Department and co-chair of the IACP's Research Advisory
Committee. "The preservation of the fabric of America requires that
the next administration meaningfully engage this issue early next

"President Johnson's 1965 Commission on Law Enforcement and
Administration of Justice brought us new ways of measuring crime, an
emphasis on research needed to combat crime in a free society, and
evidence of what crime prevention and control programs worked," said
Charles F. Wellford, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at
the University of Maryland. "A new Commission would do all of this
and, given the research base we now have to work with, establish a
firmer foundation for confronting crime and terrorism in the 21st

To Protect and Defend identifies several key areas that the nation's
law enforcement executives believe are most in need of immediate action.
These include:

* Reducing Violent Crime
* Addressing Gang Violence and Gang Migration
* Reducing Firearms Violence
* Combating Illegal Narcotics
* Securing the Borders/Enhancing Federal Immigration Enforcement
* Focusing on Terrorism Prevention
* Promoting Intelligence and Information Sharing
* Adopting a Broad-Based Homeland Security Strategy
* Protecting Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Founded in 1893, the International Association of Chiefs of Police is
the world's oldest and largest association of law enforcement
executives with more than 22,000 members in nearly 100 countries. For
more information, visit www.theiacp. org.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, the use of tasers is increasing while the deployment of pepper spray has decreased.

(excerpt, Charlotte Observer)

Police have relied on pepper spray since the 1970s to end potentially dangerous conflicts quickly. But area officers are turning to Tasers, departments say, mainly due to the spray's limitations.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department committee, headed by Deputy Chief Ken Miller, met this week to begin investigating the Taser increase. He said the committee would analyze written accounts of each incident to determine why officers chose Tasers instead of other methods, including pepper spray.

“Until we look at each individual case and dig into the narratives to see why Tasers were used, we are not going to be able to tell,” he said.

Tasers are getting another look in Charlotte because in recent months, three people have died after being tased.

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