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

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The sabbatical called August

All appears to be right in the universe with IE 6 and 7 which clashed this weekend with a commercial site log provider after the latter changed its source code during an upgrade without taking into account a bug that IE has been experiencing. Tens of thousands of blogs and other sites including some major ones were unable to be accessed by IE browser users for up to 13 hours which brought parts of the internet to a grinding halt. Apologies to anyone who tried to access this site since Friday afternoon and were unable to do so. But apparently, the bug's been fixed.

Still some visitors took the news hard.

Another earthquake hit but this one was just a rattle compared to the 5.4 tremor that hit last week.

Riverside City Hall is in a break period before the fall season begins in September, though there's some critical meetings taking place this month including the presentation to the city council by the blue ribbon panel regarding its recommendations on the expansion and renovation of the library and the museum downtown. That's scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 12 at the city council's evening session which begins at 6:30 p.m. in the chambers at City Hall. The attendance and dialogue at this meeting is expected to be robust.

But expect a lot to happen in September.

On Sept. 23 at 3 p.m. there will be a public hearing on the proposed sewer rate hikes at City Hall. Rates for single and multiple family housing are expected to more than double over the next four years, with the first hike starting on Nov. 1. It's too bad that the city can't conduct this important meeting which is set up solely for the purpose of informing city residents and receiving public input from them, during a time when more people could attend it and provide their opinions about the process.

There hasn't been any rate hikes in years regarding sewer charges as the system has aged and the sewer fund which was intended to be earmarked for sewers has been used as a credit card for other unrelated expenditures by the city. At one time recently the sewer fund was in the red amidst claims that the money wasn't needed by the city's sewers because they were in good shape and then after a request for information about the status of the sewer fund was made, it was replenished to the tune of about $22 million. If this was indeed the case, why put money in the depleted account at a time when there's more scrutiny about that fund and how it's being spent?

For quite awhile, city officials were all happy with the sewers and the sewer fund until the city decided that the whole infrastructure needed to be replaced and raising sewer costs was the only way to do it.

This process of borrowing from one fund to pay off another was greatly facilitated by the city council's decision to not make the decisions regarding loans between different city accounts and funds. This decision by the city council was made at about the time when concerns and questions were being raised about the status of some of the city's funds including the gone-tomorrow-here-today sewer fund.

Some times there's no getting around raising rates for various city services, but it's odd to hear all this concern about the infrastructure as it pertains to the city's sewer services when much of the money allotted for the sewer fund has been spent elsewhere. So much so that it's almost become a joke about what's going on this week with the sewer fund's monies. Part of the lexicon of this city when you talk about its spending habits as of late.

But then again, next year is an election year for local politicians so it's unpredictable to determine what could happen. What if the citizenry revolts at the sewer rate hikes? What if they start contacting elected officials especially those who are running for reelection next year? Will the situation that played out involving an increase in electricity rates play out all over again? Will the rates go up, then down, then up again?

But things are clearly going swimmingly with the budget otherwise. After all, the city manager's office (through its spokesperson, the city attorney's office) didn't produce much of a response to back the assertions by one of its representatives that the police department was fully staffed and had a officer to supervisor ratio much lower than that cited in a recent audit. These statements were made in response to warnings delivered in that quarterly audit at a city council meeting in June by the consultant hired to do the audit by the city manager's office. The audit report stated that the current staffing issues constituted a concern that should be immediately addressed by the city council. Of course, the definition of the word, "immediate" depends on who you talk to and what the circumstance is. And has this issue been addressed by City Hall?

It doesn't look like much if anything has changed and there's certainly been no reassurance that these issues are being addressed. Are they getting better, are they the same or are they getting worse?

The police department's response (again, apparently through the city attorney's office) to questions about the officer to supervisor ratio was to reference a document where these actual ratio statistics weren't included in it. On the brighter side, the police department also stated that there were no documents responsive to any frozen positions in the department, even though there are sergeant positions which have been or will be vacated through retirements and they aren't being filled any time soon. There were over 20 employment vacancies in the department not long ago. Are they being filled or are they being frozen? And if so, who keeps track of what's going on through documentation? It doesn't sound like it's the police department. So who does?

Tighter restrictions on street vendors will be going into effect which will impact how they can do business throughout Riverside County's cities.

Is there a silver lining to the tanking of the real estate market? Some cities seem to think so attributing the downturn of that market for lower cost associated with development projects.

The federal agency which regulates gambling is going to inspect Soboba casino after Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff contacted them as part of the ongoing feud between his department and the tribal leadership. But the leadership of the Soboba Band of LuiseƱo Indians said the casino is safe.

A series of shootings done by off-duty law enforcement officers has catalyzed a review of guidelines in California.

(excerpt, San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego County Police Chiefs and Sheriff's Association developed the guidelines with help from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Coalition for Justice.

The guidelines say off-duty officers should first try contacting the appropriate law enforcement agency so on-duty officers or deputies may respond. If an off-duty officer intervenes, he must -- if reasonably possible -- identify himself, his agency and his intent to stop criminal conduct.

The push to come up with a countywide policy came in the aftermath of the controversial shooting of Chargers linebacker Steve Foley.

Officer Aaron Mankser was in plain clothes and driving his personal car when he tried to stop Foley on suspicion of drunken driving. The encounter escalated in a Poway cul-de-sac, and Foley suffered injuries that ended his football career.

The city of Coronado recently agreed to pay Foley $5.5 million to settle a lawsuit.

When the policy was introduced in 2007, Chula Vista Police Chief Rick Emerson, president of the chiefs and sheriff's association, said the goal was to let the public know what to expect when someone is stopped by an off-duty officer who is not driving a squad car or is not in uniform.

Chula Vista Police Department officers are trained on the countywide guidelines, spokesman Bernard Gonzales said.

"These are things we have been doing for a long time," Gonzales said. "I don't think you can have a policy for every scenario."

The Carlsbad Police Department plans to adopt the policy and incorporate it into training.

"We are onboard with it as an agency," Carlsbad police Lt. Kelly Cain said.

In Florida, protesters asked presidential candidate Barack Obama why he's been so quiet on the Sean Bell shooting case. He responded by saying that he was the first presidential candidate to speak out on that controversial incident.

When officers contradict each other offers useful information on some tips for law enforcement officers who have to testify in court proceedings.

The city of Houston is spending over $100,000 fighting a lawsuit filed by officers fighting a ban against beards.

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