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

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sunday's links and places

Riverside's Development Director Belinda Graham wrote this op-ed piece arguing that the city's redevelopment agency didn't shortchange a business owner.

Graham refers to what the redevelopment agency does as being about assisting businesses that must be relocated because of revitalization. Other people including the small business owners who were targeted for repossession through threats of eminent domain probably view it another way. But they're probably too busy fighting to get some crumbs from the Redevelopment Agency for their businesses which sit on properties downtown and in other spots which have gone up in value in recent years, to write Op-Ed pieces offering their perspectives.

How would you feel if your business that you put all your time, money and incredible sacrifice into was seen as a "blight" by the city (in part because the city and the Riverside Downtown Partnership spent the vast majority of the funding for external improvements to renovate the pedestrian mall at least twice) and you were threatened by eminent domain so the members of the Agency could hand off your property to the private development interests including those who donate into their election campaigns.

About 80% of all small businesses fail after being relocated, because with real estate the mantra usually is location, location and location. That might have many of the local businesses nervous when the city comes looking for space to develop in a city running out of empty lots.

Still on Oct. 1, Graham might become an assistant city manager. In her op-ed piece, she certainly looks the part.

An American Indian teenager said that Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputies made racist remarks while pointing a taser at him. Even though he's a member of the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, he said that the deputies thought he was from Soboba reservation.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Michael Malone, 19, accused deputies of pointing a Taser at him and making racist remarks during a recent encounter in the Temecula area.

Malone, who identified himself as a member of the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, said he believes the deputies detained him because he's American Indian.

It's unclear why deputies stopped Malone.

The deputies said, "Yee-haw, boys, we caught us an Injun," Malone recounted during a meeting of tribal leaders this week in San Jacinto.

The Sheriff's Department assured everyone that the complaint will be investigated but the department doesn't have the best complaint system. And it likes to tell complainants that it's handling complaints "internally" to avoid having to deal with a paper trail so often the complainants don't know whether or not their complaint is being investigated.

And one element of the response by the Sheriff's Department that is worrisome is its response that it will be taking it seriously because "it's in the public". So does this mean that if these deputies who allegedly made these comments were making them instead in the locker room, at a local coffee shop while on duty or perhaps even in roll call that it doesn't matter as much? Because if you have deputies making these comments in public, then they are already doing so in other places but is it perfectly fine for them to do so as long as they can keep their racism under wraps?

But the first time I heard a sheriff's deputy make a racist joke in the 1990s, I was shocked. By the time I heard several deputies joke and make fun of a diversity training seminar during the seminar years later, all I could do was shrug because if the department was serious about addressing this problem or even hearing about it, there wouldn't be deputies expressing themselves like that in public at of all places, a diversity training seminar. For all I knew, they could have been making jokes like that during the drive from their substation while their sergeant was in the car. He had been sitting two rows in front of them during the seminar and hadn't heard a thing, he said five months later.

Employees including those working with the Riverside County Office of Education which sponsored the forum. It was clear from watching all the sheriff deputies in that seminar that none of them had ever been to cultural diversity training before, an observation which was reality after one of the department's lieutenants admitted that the Sheriff's Department was spotty in this area, which is another indication that frankly, they don't give a damn.

Sometimes it seems like the Sheriff's Department like many law enforcement agencies holds onto its racist comments like its life depends on them. Maybe it does because those who report racist and/or sexist comments in their colleagues are almost universally punished for opening their big mouths than those who made them in almost every law enforcement agencies. Maybe because officers who "snitch" or "tattle" on other officers are often told not to expect police backup if and when they need it in the field. Maybe it's because too often the Internal Affairs investigations quickly turn the officers who make these complaints into the targets of new or reopened internal investigations.

Look at the Riverside Police Department for example. Three officers since 1996 filed legal actions alleging racism and/or sexism in the department. Of those three, only one was left by the time the lawsuit was paid off either through settlement or trial verdict. Even further, one of the new hires of the Riverside Police Department tried to file a sexual harassment complaint against another male officer while at the Ben Clark Training Center (which is administrated by the Sheriff's Department although it draws instructors from different law enforcement agencies).

Her evaluations apparently began to take a more negative slant after the complaint was filed and she didn't last two weeks in the police department before being fired on her first day reporting to the field training program. According to her lawsuit filed later, it wasn't like she hadn't been warned because she alleged that two Riverside Police Department officers approached her and warned her that the department was unhappy with her and her sexual harassment complaint. Strange indeed, you think that the department's energy would have been better spent and more justly spent telling the academy's management that it didn't condone the glossing over of the sexual harassment of one of the officers it had already invested a lot of time and money preparing to eventually become a permanent full-time employee sworn to protect and serve the public.

She sued the city and the lawsuit was settled within two months after the city was first served by her.

Very quietly.

Two questions naturally came out of that as they would in any similar circumstance. Was there something wrong with her? Was there something wrong with the police department in terms of how it handles its women? If it's the latter, was the department worried about a future lawsuit from her? Was the city which protects the police department worried about civic liability from such a lawsuit? And if so, it was correct because she did eventually file a lawsuit which promptly disappeared.

At least unlike the Sheriff's Department, Riverside's own police department gives its officers cultural diversity and sensitivity training (although hopefully the city's not too broke to still provide it) and after it entered into the stipulated judgment with the state attorney general's office in 2001, it equipped its roll call rooms with closed circuit television cameras. This was done because several former sergeants had made derogatory racist and sexist comments (and one female officer's lawsuit alleged that a porn film was once shown) during roll call sessions. These allegations came to light in two racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuits filed by officers filed around the time of the 1998 fatal officer-involved shooting of Tyisha Miller. But then again, about 99.999999% of an officer's day takes place outside of the roll call room.

It remains to be seen what will happen in this latest case with the Sheriff's Department. Just don't be shocked if it gets swept beneath the rug with the rest of the dust.

Citizen groups want the governor to examine whether the Soboba Casino is violating state compact laws.

One commenter argued that Soboba Casino is safer than the nearby city of San Jacinto and that concerns about crime should be focused there.

There's a campaign drive in Moreno Valley to have the mayor directly elected rather than selected each year by the city council members amongst themselves.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In Moreno Valley, the mayor presides over the council meetings, signs official documents and represents the city at official functions, but otherwise has no more power than any other council member.

Having a directly-elected mayor and five council members would make it difficult to reach a majority vote, and state law requires an odd number of elected officials sit on governing boards. The city would have to either add or eliminate one of the council members, which would require redrawing the council district boundaries.

Cross said her committee has drawn up a plan to create six council districts. The major change would come in eastern Moreno Valley, where another council district would be created, she said.

The city will have to go through a redistricting process in any case after the 2010 census, Cross said.

Temecula's planning to do some major annexing but first, it needs to spend over $200,000 on a study.

The hotly anticipated mayoral election in Rialto this fall has attracted a host of interesting candidates.

The drug testing proposal that's been floated around by some elected officials in San Bernardino County might be unconstitutional.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

After seeking the legal guidance of county counsel, however, Biane was instructed that such a policy would be illegal, and he wrote to Larsen that "agencies could not order the testing of existing employees without a reasonable suspicion of substance abuse."

According to county spokesman David Wert, the California Supreme Court ruling that addresses the issue sought to prevent unlawful searches and seizures.

That protection extends to all county employees and elected officials, Wert said.

The county's drug-testing policy allows for the screening of new hires and of existing employees when a reasonable suspicion of substance abuse exists, county authorities said.

Elected officials are not, however, drug-tested when they first take their post, Wert said. The county cannot bar the public's choice from taking office, he said.

The supervisors want Postmus to appear before them to answer questions about the drug use allegations but he's demurring due to being on medical leave.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board took the stance of just say no to drug testing and address the serious ethics problems in San Bernardino County government.

Hundreds of people in San Bernardino County attended a workshop on foreclosures.

In Orange County, the case of the missing and misassigned reserve badges is heating up as the sheriff there, Sandra Hutchens has said she will arrest anyone lying about the missing badges.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said volunteers who have reported or plan to report their badges missing or stolen should "tear up their homes" looking for the credentials, stressing that the department would not hesitate to file criminal charges against anyone who is later found to be lying.

To that end, Amormino said, the names of individuals who file lost or stolen property reports will be entered into a database along with their badge numbers. If those badges are later used by anyone, it can be flagged for investigation.

"We don't want badges ending up in the wrong hands," he said. "We're serious about this."

The list of Carona allies whose credentials have disappeared includes his chief political and legal advisor, Michael Schroeder, a well-known Republican operative who reported losing two badges.

Schroeder reported his first badge missing in January 2002, saying it might have been taken from his coat while he was at a barbershop, sheriff's officials said. He was issued a second badge, but after reporting in June 2007 that he had lost that one too, he was not issued a third.

Hutchens explains her position further.

A former New Orleans Police Department officer has been indicted in connection with a death of a man he had tased repeatedly.

The Custer County sheriff has been charged with groping one of his deputies as well as sexually assaulting other women.

A police officer in Boston is being investigated for sexually assaulting a woman on duty. Another former police officer, this one in Pennsylvania, was sentenced to jail for pulling over a woman while off-duty to ask personal information and for having a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit.

Fair hearings for police misconduct are necessary, stated the Editorial Board of the New York Times.

A San Diego police officer who left his canine officer to die inside a sweltering car has been charged with a misdemeanor.

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