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

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Election 2009: Coming up on the horizon

A former Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputy entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment on assault under the color of authority charges. About a half dozen deputies both in the field and in corrections are facing criminal charges, most of which are rape under the color of authority.

Some residents of Canyon Lake want to save the hillsides from high-density development, a campaign that resembles those that have taken place in Riverside during the past few years. Friends of Riverside's Hills have been actively involved in the same fight for years. Their focus is the enforcement of two growth control measures passed by the city's voters in the 1970s. Several members of the city council for the past couple of years have made it clear exactly what they think about those measures and it's not nice! They've even tried to go to court and challenge the interpretation of those measures and were slapped by a Riverside County Superior Court judge in 2006 for violating them. Not the best expenditures using tax dollars for the litigating expenses since on cases like this one the city attorney's office always retains outside counsel usually from Best, Best and Krieger.

Using the city attorney's office to get around Measure C and R puts the message on blast that when it comes to this mantra that's been invoked by certain parties across the city of "letting the voters' decide", you have to take those words with a grain of salt. So any expression of the wishes to do so by city council members should be viewed with some degree of skepticism.

Just look at the latest round of dilution attempts involving the Community Police Review Commission. The city council opted to "let the voters decide" on whether or not to pass Measure II and put the commission in the city's charter. The voters did decide and voted to do just that, perhaps in part because they were aware of how members of the city council had turned the commission into their political football. Resoundingly, the voters said no to that, loudly.

But has the city council really listened to the will of the voters? Has its members acted in its best interests or are they instead serving other interests that they are answering to? It's hard to believe that there's not an active contingent acting like the latter considering all the events which have shook the panel in the last several years, the latest being its noninvestigation of the death of Martin Gaspar Pablo. People have asked me if it really was true that City Attorney Gregory Priamos told the commissioners that they could face fines and/or jail time if they investigate the Pablo death and yes, it's true that Priamos told commissioners that if they initiated an investigation (or sought independent counsel for that matter), they would be in violation of the city's charter and then he explained the penalties while apparently wearing his "legal counsel" hat and not his "city prosecutor" one.

One major problem with the CPRC is that even though it likely is supported by a slender majority of the city council, the views of these council members aren't dictating its operations because most of these elected officials are loathed to even be construed as interfering with City Manager Brad Hudson and his assistants' handling of the panel and their vision for its future. That's probably a wise course to take because the direct employees of the city council need some autonomy but the city council should send a loud message to both Hudson and Priamos that they support the will of the voters and ensure that he's also allowing the CPRC some autonomy. It's not clear that this message is being sent by the CPRC's supporters.

The problem with their lack of involvement, is that it could be that the shrinking minority of those on the dais who oppose it (and always have) might not be nearly as reluctant to tell Hudson and Priamos what to do with the CPRC. If that's the case, then it explains a lot of what's been going on and how even shifting the views on the dais from majority against the CPRC to majority in support of it hasn't changed anything on what's been going on with it. It also explains the 180 degree turn that Priamos in particular has taken with his involvement with the CPRC in the past several years.

Still, even the commissioners for the most part were quiet on this issue, save a couple of them. Chair Brian Pearcy seems to be trying to figure out which way to go instead of leading the commission but it's difficult to forget the "counseling" sessions he allegedly held with former commissioner Steve Simpson whose grave sin was to promote discussion by the commissioners of the same issue that was raised by Commissioner John Brandriff at the July 23 meeting involving independent counsel. It doesn't appear that he was advocating for Simpson's rights as a commissioner to free expression without treats of removal from the commission, but simply carrying out the will of the "Seventh Floor" which was to tell Simpson to "tone it down" or face expulsion. Simpson resigned not long after that.

More campaign war chests being built in preparation for various Inland Empire elective offices across the counties.

In Riverside, the campaign fundraising has already begun and this site will provide more information on when and where these key events will take place. Some other elected officials are also actively fundraising at this time to absolve previous campaign debts.

Here are a couple of upcoming fundraisers. If you haven't received your invite in the mail, there's still time to sign up and pony up the major bucks so that you can nosh with the crowd who hang out at events like these.

Steve Adams (Ward Seven): Aug. 6 at 6-8:30 p.m. at the Mission Tobacco Lounge. Different rates depending on whether or not you’re attending alone and whether or not you want VIP treatment.

Ron Loveridge (mayor): Aug. 21 at 6-8:30 p.m. at the Cailo Bello restaurant. Same rules apply. The more money you spend, the better the accommodations.

Councilwoman Nancy Hart has begun her fundraising as well and has been sending material out in the mail the past month. She could be facing at least one rival who’s closely connected to at least one current city councilman but who hasn’t decided whether or not he will run in the sixth ward.

Ward Two Councilman Andrew Melendrez most likely will run for a second term and he's probably got the best chances of reelection of any incumbent up next year. But being an election year, this ward seat will probably attract some interesting candidates as well.

Councilman Frank Schiavone of the fourth ward hasn’t formally thrown in his hat for reelection but already residents of that ward are thinking about throwing their hats in. The Ward Four election might be quite crowded given that some individuals itching to run and get a chance to sit on the dais believe that Schiavone's loss to District One Supervisor Bob Buster in the June contest might make him politically vulnerable given that he failed to carry precincts inside his own ward. That reality might draw a crowd into this ward contest, coming the filing deadline for candidacy early next year.

Perhaps that's why the hosting of plurality elections was so enticing to the two-time incumbent. After all, it was just weeks ago that the Governmental Affairs Committee led by Schiavone tried to put yet another "election reform" platform on this November's ballot. That effort failed as it became clear that it didn't have much support on the dais and thus was sent to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee for further discussion. Don't be surprised if you never hear one more word about it again and if it ends up on the city government's version of the Island of Lost (political) Toys. After all, its time (and timing) has clearly passed.

Mayor Loveridge could also face a good-sized field in the mayoral contest, hotly anticipated to be possibly one for the books. Loveridge is going for a fifth (albeit abbreviated) term and many people believe it's so he has a shot at winning the presidency title for the National League of Cities. Loveridge is currently the second vice-president of the League but wants to move up.

The candidate on most people's lips to run against him is former Third Ward Councilman Art Gage who hasn't denied the rumors putting him smack into the race. He'll have a tough road ahead if he does run as it's difficult for many city officials to come off of a loss in an reelection and then win another political seat.

Gage has been writing letters to the Press Enterprise like this one decrying the attempts he said his colleagues in the city council made to limit public comments at meetings.


As a councilman for the previous four years, I was a target of other members of the council and people in city administration over this very issue. There was a conscious effort to limit public input on issues large and small by rushing things through without adequate hearings, limiting public comment during open sessions, not allowing consent-calendar items to be pulled by the public and expanding the consent calendar to include significant items rather the usual routine business that doesn't require comment.

The attitude was one of "we know more than our constituents, so let's just do what we want." It has not gone unnoticed that council meetings are ending much earlier now, and people who previously were in attendance to keep the council accountable have just about stopped attending after being bullied by some members of the council during meetings.

These abuses should not be allowed. We cannot allow public business to be conducted in the back room or local pub. Let's open up the process to allow the public to have the input it deserves and that our laws mandate.

What's really interesting about the mayoral race is that since Riverside utilizes a City Council-City Manager system, the mayor really doesn't do all that much but one thing he or she would do is preside over city council meetings. Thus, the attitudes of the candidates including the incumbent on public participation in the process at meetings takes on a very large role among the various criteria used to decide who's the best person for the job.

That would be very interesting particularly in a contest pitting Loveridge against Gage and possibly even former Councilman, Dom Betro as well. The two were interviewed some time back by Inland Empire Magazine about their respective mayoral ambitions but at the time both of them were riding waves of success in politics. Their tides came crashing in during Election 2007 and reentering the political arena will require some rebuilding and perhaps some reinventing as well.

Betro and Gage had squared off on the controversial decision by the city council in July 2005 to bar city residents from pulling items from the consent calendar. Betro had proposed the motion to do so during that meeting and Gage was the sole vote against it.

Other candidates mentioned by people included former mayor, Terry Frizzel and current Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees Mary Figueroa, though the latter might have put end to them as it seems that she may be planning to seek reelection as a trustee next year.

Rumors also still abound about whether or not Betro will indeed throw his hat in the ring. He's facing a similar situation as Gage would but his election results were much closer than those of Gage and he puts himself out there enough in the public eye through opinion pieces in the Press Enterprise to remain in people's minds.

Betro in a letter to the editor criticized the "special interests" he feels are dominating the discussion of the downtown library and museum expansion.

Here, he talks about "special interests" dominating the discussion of Riverside Renaissance and how the "controversial" inclusion of Tesquesquite Park in the plan (as essentially a credit card) led to its discussion in the public forum.

Stagnation downtown is causing problems, he wrote in another opinion piece for the newspaper.

Betro's also been busy with his organization in Rubidoux building a daycare center with the Riverside County Economic Development Agency. So he's still a very visible entity and his days of foraying into Riverside's politics are probably not over.

Elections are great years for constituents, because during these seasons when elected officials are going all out trying to please the public and win its votes, it's like having Christmas every day. Pesky electricity hikes keeping people in an uproar? Bring them back down. Getting caught trying to sell a popular park off for cash to developers? Invite the public in, listen to them and then actually take their views seriously. Airplanes keeping you from sleeping for two years? During an election season, the city will pick up its saber and drop all those derogatory "gadfly" and "crazy malcontent" references and will become your champion.

Election, the season for giving. The season for pleasing. The season to get your issue out there and up front. So start putting your wish lists together for next year. Tis the season.

Election 2009 is coming upon us and it promises to be thrilling. Let the games begin.

Nine cases of West Nile disease have struck the Inland Empire this year, possibly setting a record for the highest number of cases since it was discovered in the region.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

We had years of a relative lull, and now it's our turn," said Robert Cummings, director of technical scientific services for Orange County Vector Control District, at a news conference Tuesday.

Human cases are occurring at five times the average rate this year, and 70 percent of the cases reported so far have involved the more serious and sometimes fatal neurological form of the disease.

Riverside County reported seven cases of West Nile infections in humans this week, according to the California Department of Public Health Web site. San Bernardino County public health officials said Tuesday that two Rialto men recently tested positive for the virus. The nine cases are the first confirmed in humans this season, which begins in May.

Health department and vector control officials gathered Tuesday in Garden Grove to spread the dire warning that Southern California is experiencing a West Nile virus epidemic.

"This is a very severe threat in 2008," said Gerard Geodhart, district manager for the Orange County Vector Control District.

Sergeants, lieutenants and captains at Fontana's police department will get raises. Their salary hikes will place them ahead of the curve in terms of other law enforcement agencies in the region including the Riverside Police Department. About two percent ahead.

A second lawsuit has been filed in connection with the fatal officer-involved shooting of a postal employee by Inglewood Police Department officers. This shooting and other recent ones in Inglewood have led to calls for an independent investigation of the police department there by outside agencies.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

In the federal lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District court in Los Angeles, Donna Wicks alleges Inglewood Officer Brian Ragan violated her son's civil rights when he entered Kevin Wicks' apartment in the 100 block of North Hillcrest Boulevard shortly after midnight July 21 and shot him. His death, the suit argues, deprived his mother of her civil rights because she can no longer associate with her son.

In addition to Ragan, a five-year veteran of Inglewood's Police Department, the lawsuit also names as defendants the city, police and Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks.The suit asks for a federal court order forcing the city of Inglewood to provide internal investigation records of police misconduct complaints, officer-involved shootings and public corruption to the Citizen Police Oversight Commission and Office of Independent Review.

"They're hiding the ball," said Wicks' attorney, Gregory Yates. "This has got to come to a stop."

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is hiring an attorney to oversee its internal investigations. This action is similar to that taken by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department some years ago. The board of supervisors approved this through a vote.

Earlier, the supervisors had created the Office of Independent Review to monitor problems in the county's jails which came to light through several controversial incidents.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

The proposal was spearheaded by Supervisor John Moorlach, who began work on a civilian review panel after an Orange County Register investigation found that deputies failed to prevent the beating death of inmate John Chamberlain in October 2007. The torture and killing of Chamberlain, who jail inmates erroneously thought was a child molester, is currently the subject of a county grand jury.

Directly modeled after the Los Angeles Sheriff Departments office, the Orange County version will be made up of civil rights attorneys who monitor and advise the sheriff's Internal Affairs Unit. It will help the county reduce the potential for inmate lawsuits and create more transparency within the sheriff's department, Moorlach said.

"It provides a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for taxpayers," he said.

Former Sheriff Mike Carona opposed the plan, but his successor, Assistant Sheriff Jack Anderson, endorsed it, even while saying the department already has procedures in place to record deputies' interactions with the public and inmates.

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputy was charged with a misdemeanor for violating a restraining order filed by his ex-girlfriend.

An excellent blog that documents incidents of domestic violence by law enforcement officers is here.

Five upper level Black officers in the Minneapolis Police Department received a settlement of $2 million on a lawsuit they had filed alleging an entrenched pattern of racial discrimination in the department.

(excerpt, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

The suit claims that black officers received fewer training, detail and overtime opportunities, as well as fewer appointments to key units, than white officers. It also claims the department fails in several diversity areas required by a mediation agreement brokered with the help of the Justice Department.

The suit details patterns of alleged discrimination involving each of the five officers. Arradondo, head of the Fourth Precinct's community response team, was refused overtime pay for the key role he played with critical incidents, the suit alleges. Harris, a Fourth Precinct investigator, was passed over for appointments in favor of white officers, the suit said.

While several white homicide officers received more than 150 hours of overtime after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, Adams was never informed of the overtime opportunities until the last days of the detail, the suit said. Hamilton was fired for misconduct that for some white officers resulted in less discipline, the suit said.

Before their reassignment by Dolan, Harris had been one of the department's three deputy chiefs and Edwards was in charge of the city's Fourth Precinct, which encompasses north Minneapolis. The only black officer with a rank higher than lieutenant is Deputy Chief Valerie Wurster, who was appointed by Bill McManus, Dolan's predecessor.

About 18 percent of the department's employees are people of color, the highest in the department's history.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the New York City Police Department over its racial statistics on officer-initiated stops.

The New York Civil Liberties Union released this troubling analysis of fatal shootings by the NYPD. It also addressed the lack of racial diversity in the leadership of that department.


During the last two years the NYPD reported the race of those shot by police, nearly 90 percent of the people shot at by officers were black or Latino. In 1998 the Department stopped reporting the race of civilian targets and started reporting the breed of dogs being shot.

The NYPD command structure remains almost entirely white. At the end of 2002, 85.3 percent of the 735 members of the NYPD at or above the rank of captain were white males, with blacks holding only 3.9 percent of those positions. At the end of 2007, after five years of a large number of retirements and promotions, 84.3 percent of leadership positions were held by white males, with the numbers of blacks actually shrinking to 3.7 percent.

In 77 percent of the incidents where officers fired their weapons at civilians between 1999 and 2006, the officers were the only ones shooting, with officers often shooting at unarmed civilians (like Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo).

In 2006 (the most recent year for which there is information), police officers fired an average of five shots per incident when they were the only ones shooting, which is the highest number for the entire eight years for which these figures have been reported.

The Million Father Walk comes to the Inland Empire.

After a controversial raid done on the house of the mayor of Berwyn Heights which led to the deaths of two of his dogs, people still doubt the mayor was tied to drugs, according to the Washington Post.

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