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

Monday, August 25, 2008

Martin Gaspar Pablo: The tug of war continues?

"We couldn't even get an address. That's insane. That's absolutely ridiculous."

---Riverside Community Police Review Commission member John Brandriff about the police department's apparent refusal to provide the address where the Martin Gaspar Pablo incident took place to the CPRC's investigator.

"If they were interested in doing things half-way right, they would have no problem with us investigating the Pablo case."

---CPRC commissioner, Jim Ward in response to problems with getting information from the department on the Pablo incident

"But I was thinking of a way To multiply by ten, And always, in the answer, get The question back again."

---Lewis Carroll

It's been over a month since the July 11 death of Martin Gaspar Pablo, 38 which took place at Riverside Community Hospital within two hours after police officers handcuffed and detained him on a burglary call. It's been almost two weeks since the commission voted 5 to 3 in favor of initiating an investigation into Pablo's death even after City Attorney Gregory Priamos had warned them that if they investigated without the city's approval, they would be in violation of the city's charter provision governing the commission's investigation of incustody deaths.

Investigator Ray Martinelli was dispatched to do his investigation and according to Commissioner John Brandriff, wasn't even able to get the address where the incident allegedly took place from the Riverside Police Department. The obvious solution to that obstacle placed in the commission's path is for the investigator to perform a canvass of the neighborhood which apparently he did and finally received the proper address.

But then the police department has yet to do a briefing in front of the commission on the Pablo incident even though the commission voted 5 to 3 nearly two weeks ago to extend it its second invitation. Despite its "good communications"(as Riverside's police chief called it during a meeting in 2002), the police department and the commission have had some sort of breakdown in talks surrounding the Pablo incident.

This information about the stumbling blocks encountered by the CPRC investigator was relayed at the CPRC's ad hoc committee meeting which was held on Aug. 25 at City Hall. The purpose of this meeting was to come up with guidelines in which the commission will implement Charter section 810(d) which states the provision involving the commission's investigation and review of incustody deaths. And that's what commissioners Chani Beeman, Jim Ward, Ken Rotker and Brandriff set out to do.

There were differences of opinion almost right away.

Ward was concerned that if the commission started amending policies and procedures in this area, it would be spending more time doing so than investigating incidents. He said that the commission hadn't done what it should have done in this case from the beginning but it was on them because they didn't understand what their role was in the process.

"How can we decide to send out an investigator 30 days after if we didn't one day after," Ward asked.

Ward told Rotker that he had made good points, before letting the city attorney talk him out of them.

Beeman said that the unwritten practice of giving the executive director or manager the order to roll out the investigator when it heard of an incustody death didn't survive the tremendous turnover of the commission during the past several years. It needed to be reexamined.

Brandriff agreed with Ward "100%" that the commission should roll out its investigator when it first heard of the incustody death incident but that it needed to put that procedure into writing.

CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan, an ex-Pomona Police Department captain, said that it was easier to make the decision with incidents involving shootings than in other death cases.

"It's a tougher call when it's not that," Rogan said.

So some individuals suggested using the police department's use of force policy to serve as parameters to determine when the commission should investigate officer-involved deaths. Whether that meant investigating any incident where an officer came into physical contact with an individual who later died or deciding whether or not even the level of force could be ascertained without investigating a death first, these were both topics of intense debate. And using the force continuum doesn't allow for the situations where an officer using force don't constitute the only actions taken in which the death of a person could arise from or in connection with. Other potential violations of policy outside the use of force continuum could contribute to an individuals death, for example as could poor service.

There was also a bit of a trip down memory lane during the discussion to figure out what was used in the past to determine what could be done in the present.

At the CPRC meeting that took place on Aug. 26, 2002, Chief Russ Leach explained the department's role in investigating officer involved deaths. He said at one point that it was very important for all witnesses to an incident to be interviewed as soon as possible and that all involved agencies initiate their investigations. Words which obviously make a lot of sense when trying to do a good and thorough investigation. At the time, people cheered when Leach provided that response. But a few years later, a few city managers later and apparently things have changed a lot.

Still, when asked about his perception of the CPRC's role in incustody death investigations back then, Leach had said that it was up to the CPRC to determine when it would initiate a "companion" investigation whenever it felt it was necessary to do so.

His response was to a question made by one commissioner who asked Leach if he believed that the CPRC should wait to do its investigation until after the police department had completed its own. Leach said he believed it was the commission's call when it came to deciding when it would investigate. But apparently that has changed, especially considering where City Attorney Gregory Priamos is concerned as evidenced by July's CPRC general meeting the first after the Pablo death.

Then Executive Director Don Williams had said that it might be useful if the commission, city manager's office, city attorney's office and Leach met at some time to further discuss implementing guidelines but there's no tangible evidence, no discernible paper trail according to several commissioners that this meeting ever take place. Actually, that it took place before the commission's critical vote on the Summer Marie Lane shooting in 2005. But then that's a whole different discussion.

The committee is set to meet again on Thursday, Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss this issue some more and decide whether or not written language needs to be included in the bylaws and/or the policies and procedures of the commission.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez confirmed that the topic for his Eastside Forum being held at the Caesar Chavez Community Center on Thursday Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. will be on the topic of the recent changes in the police department involving community policing. The presenter will be Lt. Larry Gonzalez who is the East Neighborhood Policing Center commander.

Testimony is set to continue on Tuesday in the federal trial of former U.S. Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department officer, Jose Luis Nazario, jr.

What's complicated the trial proceedings is confusion by jurors about the background of the U.S. Marines and its culture.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Two fellow Marines who remain on active duty face military charges in the case. When Sgts. Ryan Weemer and Jermaine Nelson go to court-martial, their jurors will be Marines and sailors, most of whom will have had combat experience in Iraq, Afghanistan or both.

No one will have to tell those jurors what a rifle squad is, the difference between an M-16 rifle and a .50-caliber machine gun, that RPG stands for rocket-propelled grenade and IED stands for improvised explosive device, or that a "daisy chain" is a series of IEDs buried by insurgents to kill a large number of Americans.

These were among the details the three men and nine women on Nazario's jury learned last week.

At one point, a juror complained that she was having trouble keeping up with all the acronyms. The court reporters also have had trouble with the speed and volume of jargon.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson ordered the lawyers and witnesses to slow down.

Meanwhile, before calling witnesses specifically about the events of Nov. 9, 2004, prosecutors have brought in retired and active-duty Marines to discuss Marine training, Marine history and culture, and the meaning of the motto of the 1st Marine Division: "No better friend, no worse enemy."

Jurors will be faced with a shifting of testimony towards eyewitnesses recounting what happened in Fallujah that led to the deaths of four Iraqi detainees.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Cross-examination of Chief Warrant Officer Paul Pritchard by the defense will begin today. He was responsible for processing detainees brought in by Nazario's company.

Squad mates James Prentice and Cory Carlisle are also scheduled to testify.

Carlisle was the first Marine into a house in Fallujah where the squad found four men sitting against a wall with their arms raised, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats said in opening statements.

The prosecution contends Nazario killed two of the men and ordered squad mates Ryan Weemer and Jermaine Nelson to kill the other two.

According to court documents, Prentice heard part of a radio call in which Nazario said that they had found four military-age males and weapons in a house and that they had been shot at from that house.

After the incident, Prentice and Carlisle took a Humvee back to headquarters with Weemer to have the tires replaced. While waiting for the new tires, Weemer told Prentice and Carlisle that he instructed them to leave the house because he didn't want them to have to kill the detainees, according to court records.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board opposes the labor agreement going before the Riverside city council in connection with the construction of a utility power plant, calling the plan "thinly disguised blackmail".

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The city's goal should be the most cost-effective construction contract possible, regardless of unions' role. Giving organized labor a monopoly inevitably increases the financial burden on city residents and businesses.

Rejecting the labor pact carries risks, however. Riverside's growing demand for power will soon -- perhaps by 2010 -- exceed the city's capacity to provide it. Without the 14 percent increase in city power supplies the new generators would provide, Riverside faces possible rolling blackouts during periods of high energy use.

But that outcome is not a certainty. The current economic slump has also slowed growth in Riverside's electricity demand, which may give the city some leeway on deadlines. And those who oppose the labor agreement should realize that stance also brings a responsibility to curb energy use, to help buy the city time.

Riverside has no guarantee of power sufficiency, especially during a summer heat wave. But forgoing efficient use of public money is never an acceptable course, even in the cause of energy expediency.

Developer and campaign contributor Mark Rubin plans to build a six-story office building in downtown Riverside.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

The late Mayor Ab Brown's automotive garage used to occupy the site, which is next to Highway 91.

The city Redevelopment Agency bought the property -- about six-tenths of an acre -- from the Garner family this March for slightly more than $2 million as part of the settlement of an eminent domain lawsuit. The agency demolished the rundown garage.

Graham said the agency would sell the now-vacant property to Rubin. He envisions lawyers as his main tenants in the 120,000-square-foot building, he said.

There would be underground parking and an aboveground parking garage, Rubin said.

He doesn't worry about finding tenants, he said.

Unlike with his housing projects which may have gone from high-priced condos to high-priced rentals in one housing crisis.

Riverside County's trying to buy an even taller building under construction in the downtown to use for its new district attorney's office. The Regency Tower is not quite the digs that District Attorney Rod Pacheco had in mind but in these fiscally trying times, it will have to do.

The city council's development committee will meet to discuss and vote on this proposal at City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 18. at 3 p.m. Members of this committee include its chair, Councilman Mike Gardner as well as Councilmen Steve Adams and Frank Schiavone.

Did you ever wonder what ever happened to that red sculpture that used to sit in front of City Hall? It found a new home. Did the former president of a sheriff's department get appointed to head the staff of a San Bernardino County supervisor? Not quite yet but he's on his way there.

The California Judicial Council just named its selections for Jurists of the Year and guess what? The winners are two judges who headed up that emergency strike force team of judges who swooped down to Riverside County's backlogged courts to try to speed them up.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The honors went to Los Angeles Superior Court Supervising Judge David S. Wesley and retired Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens.

The judicial strike force was a pool of 28 judges hand-picked by Chief Justice Ronald George for their expertise in criminal cases.

Riverside County has the state's worst criminal case congestion. New judgeships were not created to keep up with the county's population growth over the past decade.

Originally, 12 strike force judges at a time were assigned to Riverside County and heard cases from August through November of last year.

The program was extended though the end of June, but with six judges instead of 12.

It was Wesley and Couzens who reviewed the status of 1,040 of the county's oldest pending criminal cases and narrowed them down to 127 to be heard by the task force.

An off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer accidentally wounded another officer inside a hotel room.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

In a statement Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department says Officer Christopher Campagna was in a hotel Sunday with two friends -- both Los Angeles police officers -- when the accident occurred.

Police say Campagna was holding a .38-caliber revolver that he thought was unloaded, but it went off and a bullet struck one of his companions in the abdomen.

His friend is expected to recover, but it goes to show that guns must always be assumed to be loaded when they're being handled.

Nationwide, most police departments said they don't arrest people based on immigrant status.

(excerpt, Washington Post)

Despite a nationwide clamor against illegal immigration, only 55 of
more than 18,000 police and law enforcement agencies across the
country have signed agreements to coordinate with U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement.

Although they face public and political pressure to crack down on
illegal immigrants, officials say such efforts can backfire by
making immigrants reluctant to report crimes, exposing departments
to lawsuits, and putting local police officers in confusing and
dangerous situations that can lead to mistakes and abuse.

El Paso's mayor, John Cook, described his mostly Hispanic city on
the Mexican border as "the second-safest city in America," in part
because it stresses community police involvement. While recognizing
that illegal immigration is a crime, he said he is also worried
about a growing public perception that immigrants are criminals.

"There is a danger," he said. "Once people don't trust a police
officer in immigrant communities, they become communities that
foster crime, where people won't report domestic violence or the
theft of a TV. If people feel they are under threat of being
deported, they become silent. There has to be a delicate balance."

Police officers in Tennessee said they use the taser sparingly.

(excerpt, The Tennessean)

Only those officers who completed a daylong Taser training were certified to carry the stun guns, and a specialized Taser report was required each time the Taser was turned on, regardless of whether it was fired.

And last week, Metro police added cameras and audio recording devices to its Tasers.

"Any tool we can use to draw compliance in the one of 100 people who resist arrest, there is a value to protect the people," said Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas. "In this case, we continue to see a trend toward compliance that gives us continued reason to use this tool."

In April and May, when Tasers were available only to supervisors, the devices were fired twice. In June and July, after they were redeployed to officers, they were fired eight times, and showed to suspects resisting arrest an additional 14 times, according to police statistics.

Serpas said the number of times officers pulled out Tasers but didn't need to use them demonstrates that even showing the tool increases compliance.

Only 1 percent of arrests require officers to use force in the first place, Serpas said.

Overall, Tasers were used 17 percent of the time in arrests where some kind of force was used.

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