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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Canary in the Mine: And so it begins...

"If I see your underwear, you're going to jail. Pull your pants up, and leave them up for the rest of the night. I'll get warrants. I got all ya'll's names."

---Former Aiken County Sheriff's Department deputy, Jeffrey Nation who was later fired and then arrested for assaulting a man during an incident caught on videotape.

"I don't know why the deputy decided he wanted to stop him, other than he had baggy pants. That's not against the law. We're not going to treat by the way they look."

---Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt, Nation's former boss

The barely there Community Police Review Commission held another meeting to a packed room in the city council chambers with a very busy agenda, stocked with items on four of the five officer-involved death cases. Many of the commissioners were quiet including several who had previously been rather outspoken. Why they are being quiet now will be discussed further in a future posting but suffice to say, the seventh floor antics have continued onward and unabated, the difference being that they are spilling out into the public arena. Apparently, the recent op-ed piece was only the beginning, a Rosetta stone so to speak for what lies ahead. It's certainly a template to use to analyze any future hijinks from inside City Hall involving the police commission. City Hall takes an action and what helps locate its source is to go back and read what's in writing.

But before and in the middle of all that, there were some briefings by the long-absent police department on several incustody deaths. If you recall, the agency had taken a sabbatical from delivering briefings on officer-involved deaths until it delivered its briefing on the Carlos Quinonez, Sr. shooting case two weeks ago.

Two representatives from the police department briefed the commission on two of its ongoing officer-involved death investigations, that of Martin Gaspar Pablo, 38, and Fernando Luis Sanchez, 30. The Pablo briefing by the department comes over 2 1/2 months after the July 11 incident. Previously, the department had apparently ignored two invitations by CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy to appear before the commission to give a briefing. After City Manager Brad Hudson told the department to appear at these briefings, the department finally broke its silence to provide a briefing on the Sept. 1 fatal officer-involved shooting of Carlos Quinonez, Sr. The department did just that two weeks ago, although instead of Leach conducting the briefing as he had promised at several meetings he had attended, Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa provided the information.

Leach and DeLaRosa were out of town this and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel was with the mayor receiving an award during Deaf Awareness Week, so Capt. Mark Boyer delivered one briefing and Lt. Mike Perea who's assigned with the personnel division did another.

According to the police department's account provided by Perea, there was no version of events for the death of Pablo. The autopsy ruling determined that Pablo died of natural causes and the department had nothing else to say. The CPRC's investigator Ray Martinelli determined that according to the witnesses he interviewed, there was no use of force involved in the detention.

The police department's press release on Pablo's death is here.

In the case of Sanchez, Boyer who heads the Investigations Division delivered a briefing on the events surrounding that shooting. On Sept. 12, an unidentified police officer saw a man next to a car parked in a gas station that he recognized. He pulled his squad car in the gas station and approached the vehicle to talk to the individuals about gang involvement. One individual said that one of the passengers was in the market. Sanchez walked out, went into the car to sit and then left the car. The officer approached to do a pat down search and while the officer was grabbing one arm, Sanchez fled. The officer radioed that he was in a foot pursuit and chased Sanchez, telling him to stop running. He said Sanchez reached into a pocket and he asked him if he had a gun and Sanchez said he threw it out.

They struggled, fell on the ground and while struggling, the officer said he felt a gun in Sanchez' pocket. So he disengaged and shot two rounds with his weapon. A witness 10-15 feet away said he or she heard the officer yell commands after a pursuit. This person said he or she saw the struggle on the ground, then the officer get on top and then turned his or her head, only hearing the shots fired.

The police department's press release on the Sanchez shooting is here.

After the briefing, several questions were asked and answered as Boyer seemed a little less reticent than his predecessors. Then Commissioner Chani Beeman tried to make a motion that the commission initiate an independent investigation into the Sanchez shooting, only to have Pearcy interrupt her and tell her that there was nothing addressing this on the agenda. Deputy City Attorney Susan Wilson (substituting for a missing-in-action City Attorney Gregory Priamos) said that the Brown Act prohibited any such motion and that it would have to be placed on the agenda of the next meeting.

Yet interestingly enough during the discussion of an agenda item which simply stated that the CPRC's ad hoc committee on developing protocol to use in officer-involved death investigations would provide an update of its activities to the full commission, Wilson said that a motion to dissolve the committee could be voted upon during that meeting and wouldn't have to wait until a future meeting to be scheduled. And thus with a 5 to 3 vote led by Commissioner Ken Rotker, that committee was dissolved while an approving legislative aide for one of the city councilmen looked on.

He said that if the committee wasn't dissolved, it would be an act of insubordination for it to continue to meet because the city council clearly agreed in toto with the op-ed opinion piece written by three of them because it had a chance to respond and the remainder of the body chose not to do so. People thought they had Rotker pegged as an intelligent, balanced individual, but during this process, he showed that he too seems to know which side his bread is buttered on.

The only thing you can say about Wilson not including the fact that she wore out a path in the floor during her many trips from her seat to the podium, is that she's obviously aware that her boss, Priamos, needs four votes to keep his job because her dual and conflicting applications of the same state sunshine law under two different agenda items made that fairly clear.

What was even more interesting was seeing the progression of Pearcy on this issue, given that he was the one who proposed the creation of this ad hoc committee in the first place. Even after City Manager Brad Hudson issued his directive preventing the CPRC from initiating investigations essentially without the blessing of his office, Priamos' office and the police department, Pearcy phoned the commission while on vacation and urged the committee to continue its work. However, when the die was cast, Pearcy joined in on the majority's decision to eliminate the committee, proving that once again, he's flip-flopped on an issue in a short period of time. It's not the first time he has done so and it's not the first time, his supposed strong leadership skills have flagged in the face of a little pressure. Not from the community of course, but most likely, City Hall.

In the past, the commission's staff had initiated the investigation rather than having it done through commisson vote, but Executive Manager Kevin Rogan's made it clear that he knows what side of the bread his butter's on when he agreed with Hudson on his directive, a directive backed by at least three city council members. And judging by the body language of Councilman Chris MacArthur's legislative aide, possibly at least four elected officials or more.

Much more to come on the CPRC and the latest actions taken against it by City Hall as it develops because there's a lot going on, in a body which was quietly tucked away in the corner of City Hall business but in the next few months, may develop into a major election issue.

Speaking of elections, the following took place at the latest blink-and-you'll-miss-it city council meetings.

The Riverside City Council voted to approve a modified plan to raise sewer rates. The body voted 5-1 to approve the higher rates with Councilman Frank Schiavone dissenting because he believed the future of the economy was too uncertain to impose rate hikes.

Obviously, Schiavone doesn't want to face a revisit of the fiasco that took place during 2006-07 where the city council voted to raise electricity rates,then changed its mind during the election year and then changed its mind again after election season was over. A repeat of this situation would not bode well for Schiavone who most likely is planning another reelection bid for his seat next year.

Councilman Rusty Bailey was absent when the vote took place.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The vote was 5-1. Councilman Frank Schiavone dissented, saying it was the wrong time to carry out such an aggressive plan given the uncertainty in the economy. Councilman William "Rusty" Bailey was absent.

In response to concerns expressed primarily by the business community, the city changed its original proposal by reducing the rate and fee hikes slightly and pushing back the date when they take effect.

Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce President Cindy Roth said the business group is fine with the altered plan.

The last time the city raised sewer rates was January 1993, and the last time it raised its connection fee was April 1991.

Fasten your seats because this roller coaster ride has already begun! And between this issue, the CPRC and issues including the impact of the city's budget, it's going to be quite an interesting process ahead.

More information on the officers, Dan Warren and Jayson Wood who were recently promoted by Leach is here. They were both promoted in order to fill a sergeant vacancy created when Sgt. Terry Meyer retired unexpectedly with a permanent shoulder injury. Warren was promoted to fill Meyer's spot and since a current MOU involving the detectives requires their vacancies to be filled, Wood was promoted into Warren's old spot. Their assignments haven't been announced but it's probable that Warren will be assigned to the patrol division as a supervisor.

Voting on the installation of a civilian oversight mechanism in their city will be the residents of Fort Myers, Florida.

(excerpt, The News-Press)

The Lee County Supervisor of Elections validated 2,565 signatures of registered Fort Myers voters; 2,508 were needed to place the matter on the ballot.

"They put their lives on the line every day, and they deserve the support of the public," Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida director, said of the police.

If the proposed city charter amendment receives more than the 50 percent of the vote it needs to pass, City Council will be required to form a seven-member police review board.
Six would be elected by individual wards, and the chairman would be elected at large.

The panel would operate on an annual approved budget, appoint an independent attorney and have subpoena powers.

The board would be able to review policies of the Police Department, conduct independent investigations of police misconduct and make recommendations to the city manager and police chief, who must give written responses within 30 days.

The measure will go on the ballot in the next city election, in November 2009, said Sharon Harrington, Lee County supervisor of elections.

A captain in the New Orleans Police Department who had been fired is now back to work.

What is Garrity? The former head of the national organization of internal affairs investigators presents his analysis.

If you have seen the video taken of the behavior of Aiken County Sheriff's Department Deputy Jeffrey Nation who was arrested for assault after his squad car's video camera depicted him lunging for the throat of a man he had detained. In his report, Nation had written that the man had headbutted him but according to the video which in its entirety is over six minutes long, that never happened. The longer video recording is here which includes what happened up to and after Nation went for the man's throat.

This link includes a portion of the controversial video and also newly discovered conversations that Nation had with the man inside the squad car after arresting him for disorderly conduct.

(excerpt, WRDW)

Nation seems to know this incident (hitting in the throat) might need an explanation.

"I'm going to ask you to go ahead and do a one-page," says Nation. "Yes, because it's going to become an issue."

As the ride continues, so does the taunting.

"You sure didn't look like you could handle your own when I took you down on the ground," says Nation.

"Don't be talking about the Presidential Election because you don't know jack about it dude," adds Nation. "You need to get a life dude. You need to get a real job."

"The bottom line is, he's wrong," says Sheriff Hunt.

After viewing the video, you might ask, did Nation have a pattern of bad behavior before this televised incident? The answer appears to be yes because this was Nation's third documented incident of police misconduct as it turns out.

(excerpt, WRDW)

The first problem came back in 2004 when Deputy Nation was suspended for 3 days because of excessive use of force.

The second problem came on Saturday, September 6th when Lawrence Ingram was trying to kill himself and called for help from EMS and the Sheriff's Office. Turns out Deputy Nation went to the call to help EMS and Ingram says he was anything but helpful to him; and he has the wounds to prove it.

If you look at Lawrence Ingram's head, he has stitches in one spot and staples in another. He was distraught and tried to kill himself, so he called for help. Some of the help came from EMS and from fired Deputy Jeffrey Nation.

"When I came out the door with a knife in my hand, he was standing there and I went to go down and said, I'm going to go ahead and get it over with," says Lawrence. "Then, that's when he hit me in the chin with the flashlight, started beating me all in my head."

Four days later, staples in Ingram's head.

"A man like that don't need to be in any kind of police," says Ingram.

In New York City, officers tased a mentally ill naked man who was perched over 10 feet off the ground. He fell and later died from his injuries.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Inman Morales, brandishing a light bulb, plunged 10 feet and landed headfirst on the pavement outside his Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment building. He was declared dead at Kings County Hospital.

"When they Tasered him, he froze and pitched forward. He fell on his head," said witness Ernestine Croom, 40. "They didn't put out a mattress or a net or anything."

Morales hit the ground while an air bag was being brought to the site, police sources said.

More information on the incident here.

Did a man really get charged with battery of a police officer after flatulating while being booked for another criminal offense?

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