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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Martin Gaspar Pablo and the CPRC: How will the seventh floor respond?

The Community Police Review Commission voted 5-3 to investigate the death of Martin Gaspar Pablo at its most recent meeting.

It was pretty shocking to see the Riverside Community Police Review Commission actually step up to the plate and vote to do its job under Charter Section 810 (d) in the wake of previous assertions by the city's attorney that it was violating the city's charter and could face a fine and/or jail time if it did launch its own investigation. It will be interesting to see what will happen next in this ongoing situation and who will make the next move after the second round in what may prove to be a prolonged process.

It's not likely that City Attorney Gregory Priamos (who sent one of his staff attorneys to the meeting in his stead) will take this one sitting down and he will most likely have a response when he returns from his vacation. But what can you say when the author of the charter code didn't state that the CPRC could only investigate deaths caused by officers' actions. The text, "arising out of" and "in connection with" allows investigations to be done of deaths that impact "individuals" who interact with police officers even in the absence of a causal relationship which wouldn't be known until after an investigation was done. It's likely that Priamos will come up with something by his next appearance and it will be interesting to see exactly what will be his next action.

But this latest meeting was really the first sign of life with the CPRC since it began wilting in the vine in the face of micromanagement from City Hall after it came down with its sustained finding against a Riverside Police Department officer in the 2004 fatal shooting of Summer Marie Lane.

Oh the conversations that must be taking place on the seventh floor right now especially since it must have been surprising that these chain of events which unfolded at the meeting would actually take place! Who would have thought that the commission would decide on its own to initiate an investigation against the recommendation of its own executive manager, Kevin Rogan and against the stern admonition of Priamos. Both he and Deputy City Attorney Susan Wilson keep calling themselves the CPRC's "legal counsel" but their primary loyalty as attorneys is to the city and the police department even if doing so isn't in the best interests of the CPRC. What was shown Wednesday night is what a difference in the dialogue and decision making can be made by just having another legal perspective brought into the conversation.

The ACLU represented by its staff attorney Peter Bibring (who's commented in the media on cases ranging from the tasing of the UCLA student to the use of video cameras by police) became intensely interested in the situation after reading about it in the Press Enterprise and sent one of its attorneys in police practices to Riverside to speak at the meeting. Bibring made enough of an impression on commissioners in attendance that they voted to waive his five-minute speaking limit and asked him questions about the information he provided.

As stated, Priamos didn't attend the meeting but sent Wilson in his stead. All she could do was comment on how the complexity of the information provided by Bibring prevented her from making a value judgment without consulting first with her boss.

Also not in attendance at the meeting were any representatives from the city manager's office even as it came to light at long last that this office was vetting the commission's meeting agendas. It wasn't something that was really a secret but it was finally publicly aired at a meeting where several commissioners became emboldened to have these discussions. But it's not likely that City Manager Brad Hudson and his assistant in management, Tom DeSantis are happy about this chain of events.

As for the police department, it remains to be seen whether or not Chief Russ Leach will honor his pledge to brief the commission and community on the department's investigations into all future incustody deaths after that of Joseph Darnell Hill in 2006. Hopefully, he will do so and he will appear at a future meeting to deliver the briefing.

The police department is having its own share of problems having struggled with its staffing levels especially at the supervisory level since earlier this year when it was clear that the budget picture would be less than rosy. Its latest move to essentially disband its community services division (which caught the attention and concern of at least one elected official) simply shows that it's engaged itself on traveling down memory lane which is very unfortunate considering its history and will likely penalize the agency in both the short term and the long run especially if there's no concrete plan for reversing these losses as soon as the economic picture improves.

Earlier this year, it had transferred Lt. Tim Bacon who headed this division to work as a watch commander and consolidated it with other divisions umbrellaed under Special Operations. Now, key personnel in this division have been moved into patrol presumably to fill in the gaps in staffing due to the hiring and promotional freezes affecting the department. This doesn't exactly bode well for community policing because history has shown that when personnel working on that assignment are sent in to address deficiencies in the staffing levels of the patrol division, that community policing has lost ground. And given that community policing is one of the foundations of the Strategic Plan which is in its fourth year, it's not clear how that bodes for the future of that blueprint at this point. It just shows that community policing's value has taken a bit of a dive since the budget picture changed and that's definitely history revisited.

What's baffling is how many cuts the police department is taking considering all the commentary from Hudson's office and the city council about how affluent the city was in terms of money, how healthy its reserve was and yet the budget decisions involving the police department have jeopardized its abilities to remain on the path towards reforming its patterns and practices. Who makes these decisions? Why are comments being made by the city manager's office that the department is fully staffed when it can't even maintain its community services division? What will be cut next? Training?

Clearly, these decisions are not being made by anyone who actually was involved in the struggles to reform the department and to improve its operations. The faces might be different but the actions are pretty similar to past mistakes made by former elected officials and city employees. Their right to finger point and blame past leaders for the past state of the police department don't exist if they're erring in the same way about the police department's progress today and in the future. If Riverside winds up traveling down the same road to reform again, the current city leaders can point the fingers not at others but at themselves.

The city manager's office hasn't named its interim assistant city manager yet to replace departing Michael Beck, but a good guess might be Belinda Graham due to her ties to the development department, that is if the penthouse suite at City Hall is ready for a woman. If she were a guy, she would be the easy pick but given the lack of high heels at the highest ranks of that department, it remains to be seen if that glass ceiling will be broken. Actually rebroken, because former City Manager George Carvalho's assistant city manager was Penny Culbreath-Graft who moved on to be the head administrator of Huntington Beach.

Not too long ago, there was a discussion about next year's mayoral contest. Some folks said that long-time incumbent Ron Loveridge was unbeatable for the abbreviated term and that every potential politician would just stay home. Perhaps, except for one. Former Ward Three Councilman Art Gage will have opportunities to ponder the idea and perhaps do some informal field surveys while he's running his new sandwich shop on Magnolia near Arlington.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"It would either be mayor or nothing," he said.

His decision on whether to challenge Mayor Ron Loveridge, who is seeking re-election in 2009, will depend on what supporters tell him and probably won't come until January, Gage said.

He hears from people, he said, that no one on the City Council is asking tough questions at its meetings. As an example, he cited the council's recent decision to refer to a committee the question of when to hold council elections.

"I personally feel we've fallen back to where it's a love fest among the council again," he said, referring to councils that preceded the one on which he served.

Councilman Frank Schiavone said "love fest" is not the right term to use for the council but "there are certainly different personalities that have a mutual respect."

The elections for the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees are beginning to shape up with seven candidates competing for two seats held by Mary Figueroa and Mark Takano. Both are running for reelection against some challengers.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board had high praise for departing Asst. City Manager Michael Beck who will take the helm of Pasadena beginning on Oct. 1.


An effective City Hall, of course, requires the efforts of many people, and singling one person out for praise should not slight the contributions of others. But Beck's record with the city merits commendation -- mixed with good wishes for his future in Pasadena.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein critiqued the relationship between the tribal leaders of Soboba reservation and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Lake Elsinore's city council race is sizing up to be quite the crowded horse race.

Norco is getting into the historical preservation business.

No members of the public attended the final public hearing being conducted by the Riverside Transit Agency regarding proposed changes to its bus routes including the possible elimination of one route.

The Inland Empire needs about one million people to help it out during a massive earthquake drill during November. If you were under the doorway or beneath a table during that 5.4 shaker that hit Chino Hills, you might want to think about checking this out.

One elected official in San Bernardino County wants mandatory drug testing for all county politicians, according to the Press Enterprise.


In a letter to Paul Biane, chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, Larsen said he hopes a drug-testing policy will help to bolster the public's trust in its leaders.

Larsen said any policy would have to be approved by the board of supervisors.

"The recent accusations regarding Assessor Bill Postmus are troubling to me and I hope untrue," Larsen wrote. "However, as an elected official employing exempt personnel, I believe I have a duty to set an example for the workforce and public."

Ted Lehrer, a spokesman for the assessor, said Postmus was not immediately available for comment and "has not yet reviewed the policy proposal by Treasurer Dick Larsen." A call to Biane's office for comment was not returned.

As the search and seizure of reserve badges continues in the Orange County Sheriff's Department, to the astonishment of no one some of the badges have turned up missing!

Inglewood's police chief speaks out on the spate of shootings there.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older