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 08, 2008

TGIF: The lull before the storm

Riverside County is in no hurry to surrender its crown as one of the fastest growing counties around, still outpacing San Bernardino County.

It's Friday, but it's also the lull before the storm because for the past couple weeks, there's been little activity in the city in terms of meetings and the debate and decision making on civic issues as people have been summering. But next week, that's all going to change as several key issues take center stage at several meetings. Both the city government and city residents will be showing up in force during a prime summer vacation month and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Up first, is the highly anticipated presentation by the blue-ribbon task force on its recommendations to the city government on the proposed expansion and renovation of the library and museum downtown. Expect a packed house as the city council and mayor debate the futures of both cultural institutions. The people have been regularly attending relevant meetings addressing this issue since they packed a joint session of the Board of Library Trustees and the Metropolitan Museum Board earlier this year with over 300 people. That might have surprised City Manager Brad Hudson who had other plans for the library and museum under Riverside Renaissance but it should have been no surprise to anyone who actually has spent more time in Riverside.

This will take place Tuesday, Aug. 12 at the evening session which begins at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers at City Hall. It will be interesting to see how the city government plays to a crowd, especially considering that next year's an election year. Will the recommendations of the blue ribbon panel be embraced by the city council? Who on the dais will set the tone? Will the recommendations actually be implemented, will they be sent to a city council committee for "review" or will they be stacked up on some shelf somewhere left to gather dust?

Renew the Library will probably be there as well as it's been since this situation began.

The agenda for the next meeting of the Riverside Community Police Review Commission has been posted. On it, includes a discussion of the investigative protocol, a topic which has come to attention in the wake of the commission’s apparent decision not to investigate the Martin Gaspar Pablo death. This is an amazing development considering that only several weeks ago, City Attorney Gregory Priamos laid down what he said was the law by saying that if the commissioners investigated the Pablo case, they could be charged with violating the city charter and face up to $1,000 in fines and/or six months in county jail.

So the mantra has moved from don't investigate or else to let's discuss the investigation protocol in a public forum in a short period of time. But will the city manager's office and the city attorney's offices give the CPRC permission to investigate this case or will they still tell it no that it can't do so without facing prosecution. Why mention that it's the wills of these two city departments that are most important? Because neither one of them will even allow the CPRC to have a meeting without an agenda that's been thoroughly vetted. Just ask former commissioner Steve Simpson and current commissioner, Jim Ward who tried to add agenda items which were vetoed by Priamos' office.

The police department itself has been completely silent since it circulated its press release on the July 11 incident which isn't surprising because it's always a lively discussion when the topic is who is holding the reins at the police department these days.

After all, the CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy extended an invitation to the police department to appear before the CPRC to brief the commission on the Pablo incident and the department failed to send a representative. This came after Chief Russ Leach himself had promised that the next time there was a death, he personally would brief the commission which were welcoming comments from the head of the police department. However, it's puzzling and disturbing that the department didn't even respond to the commission it claims to be working with, if just to say thanks but no thanks. Frankly, a lack of any response to a request at all shows a lack of direction unless that direction is coming from some place else.

There's not much leadership on the commission either. Pearcy was reticent at the July 23 meeting when the Pablo incident came up for discussion and he has yet to give a statement to the press on behalf of the CPRC. It's not even clear what his sentiments are in terms of whether or not he views the Pablo death as falling under the purview of Sec. 810 (d) of the city's charter.

This really isn't anything new and probably has very little to do with this particular incident, at least less than what's being said. The city manager's office was trying to push the same thing in early 2007 after the departure of former executive manager, Pedro Payne, even ordering the suspension of the CPRC's investigation and discussion of two officer-involved death cases, Lee Deante Brown and Douglas Steven Cloud. There's been a lot of discussion about how the Pablo incident is much different than any other death that's happened on the CPRC's watch but that's not really true and given the precedent already set by the Terry Rabb officer-involved death case, it's clear from past cases that there was no ambiguity over whether or not to investigate regardless of the circumstances of the incident. Any such ambiguity has actually been manufactured by City Hall in the wake of this particular incident. In a sense it's the test case for how the CPRC will be allowed to handle all future incustody death cases including fatal shootings. Why else would there be all this discussion about setting precedent when precedent had already been set?

What's really changed is the CPRC and the probability is that if Pablo had been shot instead by police officers, there would probably still be this "controversy" about whether or not his death should be investigated. What's unique about Pablo's death is that it's the first one to have happened since the city manager's office began micromanaging the CPRC in earnest and thus it's the first one that it can apply its new philosophy to which appears to be to delay the investigation as long as possible. It's not the circumstances of the case that have determined its course but merely that it was first.

Someone actually left a comment in the Press Enterprise article on this issue.


Commissioner Hubbard should resign and Priamos should be fired. The point of the Police Review Commission is to "trust but verify" the claims of police.

It is was the will of the people of Riverside that this commission be created following the Tyisha Miller tragedy.

The only way this commission will be rendered obsolete is by the consistent demonstration of openness, professionalism and regard for the safety of everyone RPD encounters- suspects included.

Priamos' aggressive stonewalling demonstrates not only the need for the PRC, but reasons why we should amend the City Charter to give the Commission real teeth -including the ability to sanction the City Attorney.

Lots of interesting developments are no doubt taking place as they always do which is behind closed doors so it should be an interesting discussion ahead as is usually the case involving the CPRC. As mentioned in the above comments, there's been discussions about taking the CPRC back to the voters to "give it more teeth". The city's voters passed Measure II to put the commission in the city's charter because of all the politics at City which had turned the CPRC into a football. But while the ballot initiative gave the commission some sense of permanence, it sparked a political campaign that further politicized it especially in the wake of lawsuits filed against the city in connection with officer-involved deaths.

At any rate, it should be an interesting chain of events and it will be clear what will be allowed to come to light during this public discussion and what will not.

Riverside’s newest power plant has remained on schedule.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"We will have adequate power to avoid rolling blackouts," city utilities director David Wright said Thursday.
The city's plans for a 96-megawatt power plant were jeopardized last week when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge found that the region's air quality agency had not adequately studied the health effects of emissions from new power plants.

In her ruling, Judge Ann I. Jones said environmental studies should have been done before the South Coast Air Quality Management District decided last year to sell "pollution credits" to power-plant developers, including Riverside.

Pollution credits, created when industries or utilities cut emissions or go out of business, can be sold to new or expanding industries. They can be traded privately, and the air district had intended to sell some for projects, such as power plants, that serve the public.

Facing increased power demands and a limited ability to import power, Riverside's electrical utility could not afford to wait for environmental studies that can take a year or more, Wright said.

Utility officials struck a deal with brokerage firm Evolution Markets on Aug. 1 -- three days after the court ruling. The deal was finalized Tuesday, Wright said.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein is on the case about Section 8 housing and the shortage of it in Riverside.

The Riverside County Auditor-Controller’s office was deeply scolded by the Press Enterprise Editorial Board. This is in response to the latest revelation about how one of the employees in that division falsely stated he was a certified public accountant.


The public relies on the CPA designation as proof that its bearer is up to date on current accounting rules, standards and ethics in California. Certification requires continuing education. And accountants are widely aware of these rules and requirements.
Riverside County has a $4.7 billion budget for this fiscal year. Oversight of that level of spending by a "CPA" who really isn't damages the county's reputation. Byrd should act now to restore public confidence in his office, and the Board of Supervisors should reinforce the message.

A man who was tased by Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputies in Hemet has died.

The National Indian Gaming Commission has sent its inspectors to Soboba Casino as the feud between the tribal council and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department continued.

Yucaipa is on its way to hiring a new city manager.

Kevin Wicks’ father is suing the city of Inglewood after police officers killed his son while investigating a domestic violence call at the apartment complex where he lived. Because of a recent spate of officer involved shootings, outside agencies are looking at the police department there much more closely.

The ailing DHL's decision to possibly close down its major delivery hubs in the United States might impact the presidential race in at least one state. If so, it could be the second election that DHL has impacted this year.

The devil's in the details but the details for Columbia, Missouri's civilian oversight commission are being ironed out.

(excerpt, Columbia Missourian)

The decision was made to leave all of the controversial items in the draft and bring it to the full 13-member committee for discussion and amendments.

Among Thursday night's hot-button issues were whether the review board should be granted subpoena power in its investigation process and how much money the committee should recommend City Council allocate to fund the board.

Nine of the 12 members present voted to strike the subpoena power clause.

An amendment was passed to add a section to the draft titled "Implementation." The committee massaged the wording to read, "The Council shall provide funding for adequate staff and funding for this program."

Committee member Diane Booth voiced the urgency of prompt decision-making, so the City Council can factor the review board into its 2009 budget,

"Some kind of allowance or recommendation has to go into the budgeting process now if (the review board) is going to have a chance," Booth said.

A fundraiser for Rev. Jerry Louder in Orangecrest.

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