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

Monday, August 04, 2008

A month of silence

"Let's get rid of all the dirty Jews."

---a comment allegedly made by a Haddonfield Police Department officer

It's been almost a month since the still unexplained death of Martin Gaspar Pablo, 38, who died not long after being detained and handcuffed by Riverside Police Department officers on Bluffwood Street in Canyon Crest. It will have been a month by the time of the CPRC's next meeting next week whether it's placed on the agenda or not. Or rather if it's allowed to be placed on the agenda or not because the so-called independent body needs permission from several city departments before it can talk about anything.

Pablo had been the subject of a 911 public disturbance call on July 11 at about 2:17 p.m. that he was banging on the back door of a house on the street. When police got there nine minutes later, he was sitting at a nearby residence. The police officers handcuffed him then realized that he was in medical distress. Leaving him handcuffed, they called for medical assistance and the American Medical Response ambulance and Riverside Fire Department paramedics came out. He was then released from his handcuffs and medical assistance was given.

Just before 3 p.m., he was transported to the Riverside Community Hospital where he died just under an hour later. That's a summary of events but not many details were released then and none since.

The Community Police Review Commission in a similar case that took place in October 2005 was to have launched its own investigation into Pablo's death. But in the case of Pablo that never happened as the city soon clamped down on the CPRC through conversations and meetings that allegedly took place within two days of his death. No investigator was contacted and sent out by the CPRC. The police department didn't even respond to an invitation by Chair Brian Pearcy to brief the commission on the Pablo incident.

The CPRC's executive manager, Kevin Rogan, a former police captain in Pomona, first heard about the incident through an emailed link sent by his administrative assistant, Phoebe Sherron. But in his email list, he noted, the police department had sent him its press release, almost in a defensive manner.

At the July 23 commission meeting, instead of answers to questions, there were more questions and confusion about the incident, mostly due to the silence of all parties from the police department to the CPRC. The police department has remained silent even though it's likely that the agency has been forwarded at least the preliminary autopsy results from the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's office. Which means that it's more than likely that nothing in those results definitively established a cause of death for Pablo and that further studies are necessary.

Then City Attorney Gregory Priamos then warned the commissioners they'd better not investigate or else, something he hadn't done in the 2005 incustody death of Terry Rabb which he greeted with silence including the CPRC's initiation of its own investigation. Else, being that they could be charged by presumably his own office for violating the city's charter. That could with a conviction carry a maximum of $1,000 fine and/or six months in county jail. It was very enlightening to watch the commissioners get legal counsel from someone who could potentially prosecute them if they didn't abide by it. In most places, to wear both hats might be called a conflict of interest. In Riverside, it's just business as usual.

When commissioners such as John Brandriff raised the issue of the commission possibly retaining its own attorney to take a look at the city charter provision, Priamos said that to do so was a violation of the charter as well. But then every time the commissioners have tried to raise the issue of independent counsel, Priamos has forbade them from discussing it or even placing it on the agenda as he did in July 2007. At the moment, all agendas for the CPRC are currently vetted by both Priamos and the city manager's office and if they don't like an item, it's probably not going to be on the agenda. By doing all of this no matter what Priamos says (or actually perhaps because of what he says), he's showing that having the city attorney act as legal counsel for the CPRC, the police department and the city is a nothing more than a huge conflict of interest and the more Priamos protests that through his words, the more he amply shows it through his actions.

It was interesting as this story circulated through the NACOLE mailing list about how it was another example of civilian oversight being diluted or essentially shut down in terms of fulfilling one or more of its responsibilities by City Hall (which is always mindful of any body that puts it at risk of being sued by outside parties) and the police department which no matter what it states publicly, probably like most law enforcement agencies views civilian oversight as a four-letter word. What happened to the CPRC isn't uncommon but has happened to most forms of civilian oversight in this country at one time or another. Micromanagement by various factions of City Hall is just one of many challenges that they face since the day of their inception. Riverside's no different in that regard.

After all, former Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dallas Holmes said during a pivotal hearing in the case of Ryan Wilson v the City of Riverside that he hadn't met a police chief yet who supported civilian oversight. But then most people haven't.

Priamos bristled as he was grilled at the July 23 meeting by the one or two commissioners who actually remembered they were representative of communities, most likely because he's not used to it. Certainly not from members of the mostly passive-these-days, CPRC. It was actually surprising to see several members take the risk of taking him to task. It's not clear who was more surprised, Priamos or the audience.

Rogan spent most of his time trying to explain the Riverside Police Department's point of view on the matter and getting upset with city residents who spoke during public comment to challenge the CPRC on its latest round of inaction on a police issue. Even those individuals who felt that Rogan and the commissioners should have received more information from the police department than they did. But can you blame Rogan? Like the other CPRC executive directors or managers (which is simply another word for being "at will" of the city manager's office) before him, he simply knows which side of the bread the butter's on. The executive manager serves the commission as is required in the job description but never forgetting who signs the pay check and who has the power to hire, to fire or to pull back on the reins whenever the executive director or manager is perceived by that office to have stepped out of line.

After all, it's not like that's never happened before.

The city attorney's fervant interest in the CPRC which contrasts sharply with his relative apathy of a few years back, may be confusing to some until you count on your fingers how many lawsuits the city has been served in regards to incustody deaths involving the police department in the past several years and how many it's paid out on or will pay out on. The more lawsuits the city has to pay out (and so far about halfway through, about $1.3 million or so's been spent), the more nervous the city attorney's going to act because his role is to not put the city in or allow the city to be put in a situation of undue risk. The more concerned or nervous the city attorney is on the issue of civic liability, the more aggressive his or her actions will be involving the CPRC. And as has been seen in recent months, his actions have been much more aggressive than they were just four years ago when he was a no-show at a workshop the CPRC held in order to have a conversation with him. But then again, there weren't as many lawsuits filed against the city involving allegations of wrongful death.

The city's strategy including that of the city attorney's office (according to its own mission statement) is simply to produce the scenario in any future such case that puts it at the least risk of civil litigation and one way to do so is to keep the CPRC in the position where it can't investigate. If this had been a fatal officer-involved shooting, it's likely that other attempts would have been made to at least delay the CPRC's ability to investigate that incident as well for the same reason. After all, in early 2007 the city manager's office announced that it was suspending investigations into two officer-involved shootings temporarily and rethinking how it would direct the CPRC to investigate officer-involved deaths. Is it any surprise to see such resistance involving the very next fatal incident to come down the pike?

The shielding of the city from potential civic liability may be far more important now than it was in the past, because eventually if the city pays out too much money on too many claims, it's going to eventually have to find another financial resource besides its liability insurance carrier to foot the bills. Insurance companies are notorious for dropping clients or canceling policies in cases where it's anticipated that they are going to pay out loads of cash on claims or lawsuits involving their municipal clients.

And so far the city's been successful at doing this. Rogan's on their page and the commissioners who are looking at the CPRC as a stepping stone to bigger and better things don't want to make waves and jeopardize those futures. And the remaining few minus one are afraid to do anything which will make the police department unhappy with them. So it's most likely that City Hall is counting on not receiving much resistance from the CPRC and that's something they can take to the bank (bad pun).

Evergreen Cemetary in Riverside might finally be green.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"Grass'll be up in about three weeks" in the section between Redwood Drive and Pine Street, said retired Riverside County Superior Court Judge Victor Miceli. He heads the committee working to restore the old cemetery, which had long been dried-up and ramshackle.

The grass is a new drought-tolerant Bermuda grass hybrid recommended by the University of California Cooperative Extension in Riverside, and summer heat helps the seeds germinate.

It'll take a full year for the grass to establish itself, said John Piscatella, owner of JP Landscape Maintenance Inc., which is taking care of the cemetery's oldest section for the committee.

Controversy has arisen over how much access local law enforcement has on Indian reservations.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Many of the problems stem from different interpretations of Public Law 280.

Even the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs' Inland representative, Jim Fletcher, said recently that the law has been "so litigated (and) written so poorly" that his office is asking its attorneys to research it for him.

Fletcher's request came in response to the ongoing dispute between the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and the Sheriff's Department. The department said no other tribe in the county interprets the law the way Soboba does.

Fletcher said last week he was requesting the formal legal opinion and hopes to have it by next week.

Soboba requires deputies to check in with tribal security guards when visiting the reservation on nonemergency business and often has guards escort the deputies.
Most deputies arriving at other Riverside County reservations simply are waved through when they arrive at the entrance, said Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff.

Salgado said he believes deputies don't have the right to come onto his reservation for nonemergency calls without having the tribe's guards verify the deputies' identities and reasons for coming to the reservation.

"I think it's probably going to take some time for them to realize ... that there's more to it -- Public Law 280 -- than they really realize," he said.

A former Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputy was arraigned on criminal charges including assault under the color of authority.

In Moreno Valley, political intrigue is growing as some real estate development interests are creating a campaign war chest to oust two incumbents on the city council.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise )

Jerry Stephens, owner of Diversified Real Estate, has contributed $104,500 to the Moreno Valley Taxpayers Association campaign committee during the first half of 2008, according to the committee's semiannual report filed last week.
In addition, Highland Fairview Properties donated $60,000 to the committee. Highland Fairview is developing the Aquabella residential community near Riverside County Regional Medical Center and the Skechers distribution center project along Highway 60

In total, the Moreno Valley Taxpayers Association reported raising $175,854 during the first half of 2008. The committee has spent more than $45,500 on print ads, including $10,374 for ads on behalf of a related committee, Moreno Valley Citizens for Rancho Belago.

The taxpayers association has sent out a series of mailers to local voters accusing White and West of failing to protect Moreno Valley from crime and increasing traffic congestion.

The mailers included pictures of a man with his head buried in the sand, referring to the incumbent councilmen, and a man, ostensibly a criminal, wearing a ski mask.
Stephens said he donated so much money because he believes it's time for new blood on the council, especially in light of the crime and traffic and the city's need for jobs.

"The reputation of the city is getting so bad it's hard to sell real estate," Stephens said by phone. "It's hard to get people to invest in this town."

Will Eastvale become a city?

Los Angeles Times columnist, Dana Parsons barely survived his first city council meeting.

It's official. Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is collecting those badges.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Concern about the badge revocation has prompted Hutchens to schedule a meeting this month with the volunteers. She said she wanted to let them know that she appreciated their service and intended to continue the program, but with a new name and no badges.

"This undeserved stigma is rooted in the program's past and is no longer accurate. However, the badges, which have become a lightning rod for criticism and mistrust, are its most visible legacy and serve to undermine your service and tarnish the reputation of the program," she said in her letter to the volunteers.

The volunteers also work at the Orange County Fair and offer such professional expertise as Web and graphic design. Many of the volunteers are pilots who provide air travel to deputies during investigations. Last month, volunteer Tim Reynolds piloted his own plane to carry two investigators to Juarez, Mexico, to rescue a 9-year-old Orange County boy who had been kidnapped by his father.

"The program had such a bad reputation under Carona, but the truth is it's extremely positive," said Sheriff's Capt. Brian Wilkerson. "The overwhelming majority of the people aren't upset that they're losing the badge."

In the wake of all those videos surfacing which show New York City Police Department officers engaging in misconduct, the department's commissioner Raymond Kelly has asked the public to send them his way.

(excerpt, Yahoo)

"It's a fact of life," Kelly said. "Everybody has a camera in their telephones. When people can record an event taking place that helps us during an investigation, it's helpful."

Soon citizen sleuths can transmit evidence of criminal activity directly to the police and 911, including evidence of police misconduct, such as the recent video of a police officer shoving a bicyclist to the ground in Times Square.

That's not enough for the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care which is an organization of Black police officers who've been outspoken on police issues. Now, they are calling for federal oversight of the NYPD

Speaking of the NYPD, a detective facing narcotics charges in federal court was caught by one of his own in an operation conducted by the FBI.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Sgt. Robert Kelly, the former head of the 90th Precinct detective squad in Williamsburg, became an undercover in his own office at the direction of the FBI agents who were investigating Detective Luis Batista for alleged illicit ties to a violent drug gang.

"Sgt. Kelly wore a hidden audio recorder and engaged Detective Batista in conversation in an attempt to get him to make incriminating statements," said papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

"The implications of having an undercover officer not just inside the detective squad, but as Batista's commanding officer, are enormous," the papers state.

A blogger at The South Chicagoan discusses lawsuits filed by Latinos about racial profiling by law enforcement officers all across the country. Among those filing lawsuits are Latino officers who work for police departments in Denver and New Jersey.

(excerpt, South Chicagoan)

The lawsuit supported by the National Latino Peace Officers Association includes as its evidence a training tape used back in the late 1970s – about the time when the current police leadership were mere rookies at the Police Academy.

THAT TAPE DEPICTS an officer shouting various ethnic and sexist slurs at police trainees. Supporters of the police say such training is meant to get prospective police officers used to the idea of hostile people calling them names in public, and to develop the discipline to focus on their jobs.

But critics contend it gave the white trainees of that era the impression that such slurs were appropriate when thinking of their Latino colleagues.

Now some might think the key is to get more Latinos into law enforcement. More Hispanic patrolmen means Latinos working their way up the ranks into police management. In theory, it sounds nice. In fact, officials in Salem, Mass., announced this week they would try to double the number of Hispanic officers on their police department.

But then, there is the lawsuit filed earlier this week in New Jersey, contending that the state police has practices in place that make it extremely difficult for anyone of Hispanic ethnic background to be promoted beyond the rank of sergeant.

THE LAWSUIT CONTENDS that procedures are meant to protect the interests of a white hierarchy that runs the state police department.

Promotions are, “an arbitrary, antiquated and subjective process that is skewed in favor of male Caucasians,” reads the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of two dozen former state troopers.

Members of St. Louis' police board are left on the defensive.

Is there hope for reform in the Connecticut State Police Agency? Yes, because of one man some people have said.

In Haddonfield, New Jersey, the state court ruled that a police officer in that city experienced harassment because he is Jewish.

(excerpt, Philadelphia Inquirer)

In its opinion, the court asserted for the first time that the standard for demonstrating religious-based harassment was the same as for sexual and racial discrimination in the workplace.

The officer, Jason Cutler, sued after a fellow officer made a comment in 1999 about "those dirty Jews."

His lawsuit went on to describe a number of other incidents, such as a superior officer telling him "Jews make all the money," and the former police chief asking him why he didn't have a "big Jew . . . nose."

"One would not have to be thin-skinned to perceive these comments as hostile to persons of Jewish faith," the court wrote in its opinion.

A federal lawsuit filed in Arkansas alleges that one of its law enforcement agencies has been conducting illegal searches.

Is El Nino returning?

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older