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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The CPRC and City Hall: By invitation only

Fire ants running loose in Rialto. No one knows where they came from and how they got to setting up homesteads in the Inland Empire. No telling where they might pop up next.

Lots of people interested in what was happening at the latest meeting of the Community Police Review Commission which attracted a reporter, a photographer and Columnist Dan Bernstein from the Press Enterprise. The city council chambers were packed during much of the five-hour meeting and many stayed to watch what took place. What a difference a few weeks and several poorly planned unilateral decisions make.

But the only voices that matter are those which don't include the city residents and they belong to the city council members, City Manager Brad Hudson, City Attorney Gregory Priamos and to a lessor extent, the leadership of the Riverside Police Officers' Association. The only thing, is that even though these individuals either were elected to represent the people who voted the CPRC into the city's charter in 2004 and/or they're being paid by the city residents including those who voted for Measure II, very few of these individuals have actually appeared at a public meeting and expressed their opinions on the issue. Why? Because it's so much easier to pull the strings behind the scenes than face up to the public about endorsing major changes that affect the operation of a voter-sanctioned panel that was placed in the city's charter to protect it from pretty much from the same people who are tampering with it now. And that's how politicians and employees in this city at the top and apparently at its bottom do their business as is becoming more and more apparent. Plus, it prevents the same city officials and direct employees from having to address the city's increasingly precarious financial situation, the budget crisis and the departure of two high-ranking employees from the city manager's office including its chief financial officer.

Witness the handling of the city's ethics code and complaint process, where the city stated that all complaints involving elected officials were to be heard and resolved by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee. Instead, they were handed off to the City Attorney's office essentially to dispose of on technicalities. At least two complaints filed against city council members including one who served on the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee were treated in this fashion by a city employee whose designated role in the ordinance was as a "resource", not as an arbiter.

Was the decision to do so made in a public forum? Actually no, the decision to make the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee was sold in a public forum. What went behind closed doors was obviously much different and the Governmental Affairs Committee during both take one and take two of its annual review of the process was taken to task in public on this situation and several of its members capitulated, leaving Priamos holding the bag. And the reason why there was even a "take two" of the annual review of the ethics process? Because the Governmental Affairs Committee neglected to follow another edict in the ordinance which required that it invites Mayor Ron Loveridge and the chairs of the city's boards and commissions to this review and it apparently neglected to do so. Loveridge said in open company after the first round of these meetings had ended that he never even received an invitation by the committee's chair to attend the meeting.

But where does much of this take place?

Behind closed doors, with even those doors having been billed to the city's residents.

Even though they hadn't told their constituents about their views let alone their actions (at least not the voting ones as you can't be sure the same treatment was given to the paying ones), in this article it's pretty clear that their disdain for the commission at least on the part of one councilman goes way beyond its handling of incustody deaths. Of course, he might have been more credible if he understood the difference between the charter-mandated commission and the non-charter-mandated Law Enforcement Policy Advisory Committee which was the body under attack during the era which preceded the $22 million consent decree against the city to reform its floundering police department which was at the time, violating the state constitution and state law just by operating.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Some City Council members have publicly expressed their views supporting the change. The police union has also proclaimed its support of the directive.

Councilman Frank Schiavone said Thursday that the city's intention is clear and does not need to be reviewed. The discord erupted, he said, when the commission went against the advice of the city attorney in beginning the Pablo investigation.

"The recent behavior has dictated a little more intervention," he said.

Councilman Chris MacArthur said he expects to vote in the next few weeks on guidelines for the commission and that the public will have an opportunity to speak. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7.

"I like going through and hearing arguments," he said.

Councilman Mike Gardner previously served on the commission and said there are different interpretations of the ordinance and that a council vote would clarify that.

"It makes sense to me for council to say publicly whether the city manager's directive is council policy or if council would like them to do something different," he said.

You have to be impressed at the views expressed directly or indirectly by all these individuals and the passion that they have over this particular issue, considering the other equally or more pressing issues which have been pretty much ignored. Why? Because these no-brainer issues are for some reason much more difficult to achieve in this city at the moment so it's certainly easier to pick up an issue that hasn't been an issue and try to use it to make yourself look like you're on top of things. Of course, it's really difficult to achieve any progress on some of the critical issues facing this city including the police department when you don't really give a damn about them enough to hold public discussions or even comment publicly on them.

And this latest escapade at City Hall concerning what it seems to think is an immediate crisis has a rather interesting cast of characters.

You have to be impressed by a police union which has said apparently in semi-public that it has endorsed an action by Hudson to restrict the CPRC's investigations of officer-involved deaths. This is of course a lot more than it has said publicly about the restrictions on hiring new officers and promoting new sergeants to fill vacant positions, to the consternation of quite a few of its members including those totally frustrated with the lack of progress in this area given that it impacts many more officers than does the new directive. Yes, apparently it will talk about how it agrees with Hudson on restricting the commission, but it won't say anything about up to 19 frozen officer positions and 5-6 supervisory vacancies that Hudson and the police chief won't even discuss with it apparently not lately. This announcement about supporting Hudson's directive on the CPRC may make the unhappy members forget about the staffing issues for a few days but probably not much longer than that before it goes back to wondering why the leadership is aligning itself with Hudson's office.

You have to be impressed by a city manager who instead of speaking with the commission he's about to censor, instead notifies them through a written directive which is his only way of communicating with them and a city council which condones that. Not to mention an executive manager who appears mostly to be an extension of the city manager's office but you can't blame an employee for wanting to remain an employee whose hours are restricted by his pension even as the city claimed it was hiring someone full-time to fill that position.

You have to be impressed by a city council whose members rather than discuss these issues in public sessions so that their constituents can weigh in on the discussions and the decision making, write opinion pieces and then say, there's no discussion to be had with the public including the voters in their own wards. The only one who even mentioned allowing the public to weigh in was Councilman Chris MacArthur who did so in passing as if it were something he might consider. But considering the body language shown by his legislative aide at the recent CPRC meeting, probably not very seriously.

It's interesting the conversations that have taken place, not at City Hall, not at the police department, not in the city council chambers but out in the neighborhoods and communities, restaurants, stores, movie theaters and other places about what's going on with the CPRC and by extension the department that it oversees. And as Councilman Frank Schiavone, the "intervention" taking place after the city changed the rules without informing its commission and then penalized it for doing what it had been doing the past eight years without a vocal complaint from any of the above parties. It's interesting getting emails from people on mailing lists who read about what's going on in Riverside and wonder what kind of city it is, that it makes such critical decisions and leaves its constituents completely out of them. But what's really inspiring is hearing how many people who don't usually vote and aren't even registered plan to do so in time for next year's municipal election in the second, fourth and sixth city wards as well as the mayor's position.

Schiavone has made it pretty clear at this point exactly who he represents and it's not the public or even his ward's residents the majority who voted for Measure II in 2004 and the majority which voted for his rival in the recent county supervisor election. Mention Schiavone's name in Orangecrest and Mission Grove and any neighborhood located under the fluctuating path of DHL airplanes during the past several years and it's clear that they don't want him to stay in office.

But it's clear that these and other constituents don't matter through his dismissive comments against even hosting a public discussion of actions instituted by the city manager's office. Obviously for him, "the will of the people" is simply a sound byte to use when trying to promote one of his own issues even in cases where it's abundantly clear that this "will" disagrees with his proposal. And when he says "intervention" to the media, he's probably not going to be talking about rumors that he's been rebuking commissioners through letters when he's not pleased with what they say to the media or at public meetings just as one former commissioner alleged that he had been treated through phone calls and a letter from the city attorney's office.

From a blogging perspective, on one hand this is pretty exciting to write about especially before the next election cycle and it's kind of interesting if a bit dismaying to watch the same entities make the same mistakes after spending tens of millions of city residents' dollars and not just walk but run to head down the same beaten path the city traveled through only about a decade ago.

But screwing up and having to spend tens of millions to fix its mistakes before starting the cycle all over again is just Riverside's version of Groundhog Day. And the only role the public has to play in situations like this under the current administration is to serve as the audience to this repetitive dynamic that reminds people more of a residual haunting repeating itself than responsible and transparent governmental leadership.

Still, given the endless information that is coming in much faster than it can be written here, it's been very fascinating watching all this play out, first in the shadows then more and more in the light of day. It's about time it reached the public spotlight now just as it did a decade ago.

Not to mention that the latest chain of events has fostered some interesting talk about the election process next year as well, given that four spots on the dais are up for grabs. More discussions of grass-roots candidates especially in light of the failure of three city council members to place an initiative to "reform" the election process on the November ballot. And then there's the other election next autumn with candidates already being fielded to take on another incumbent who went in his term last year as a lion then turned into a lamb who as one individual said recently, "we're not all that impressed with because he hasn't even done anything". And the anti-incumbent sentiment expressed by this body of voters is much stronger historically than even that shown in recent city elections.

More surely to come in this situation and of course, you'll be reading about it here including Elections 2009.

In addition, in a few weeks, there will be a new blog which will more specifically address complaints filed involving police misconduct and will provide information from and on other organizations who have agreed to receive them in lieu of the CPRC. The guidelines, the categories of misconduct which they are focusing on and their contact information will be presented at this new site coming up.

What's a "political emergency hire" and are they required to undergo background checks?

To be continued...

If this is what happened, what it might show is that while the well-known Maywood Police Department is an equal opportunity provider of "second chances", Riverside's direction in that regard is more towards nepotism and "second chances".

This report card has been given out on the Riverside County Superior Court system and spanking is done all around. Meaning that the author had harsh words for both the Riverside County District Attorney's office and the judges themselves.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Huffman's report says District Attorney Rod Pacheco's "vigorous charging policy" -- the standards his office uses to decide whether to file a criminal case -- results in more cases filed than judges are available to handle.

Some criminal cases linger through constitutional deadlines and have to be dismissed after the last possible day for trial has passed, a so-called "last day" dismissal.

There have been at least 116 such dismissals since January 2007, with 105 this year. Virtually all dismissed felony cases are re-filed.

Pacheco "takes the view that it is the court's responsibility to provide judges and courtrooms to try every charge in every case," and refuses to consider congestion in his filing decisions, the report says.

"We don't control how many crimes are committed," Assistant District Attorney Chuck Hughes said in a telephone interview. "It is not for us to say, 'Well, we have reached our quota, so we are not going to file any more charges because the courts feel crowded.' "

Judges used to do everything possible to avoid last-day dismissals, to the expense of the rest of the criminal justice system, the report says, but now don't hesitate to dismiss last-day cases when the system is overwhelmed.

The change in policy "shifts the responsibility for the exercise of discretion in criminal charging to the district attorney -- where it belongs. It is not yet clear how he will respond," the report says.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board stated move that new University of California, Riverside medical school forward and not let the state's budget crisis get in its way.


A new medical school at UCR would turn out more physicians for California, and increase the likelihood those doctors would practice locally. A new medical school would also lead research on local health issues, and help attract high-tech industry and high-wage jobs to the region.

And UCR could accomplish this for a modest public investment. The university wants $100 million in state funding over the next 12 years to cover startup costs. While that may seem difficult with a $15.2 billion state budget deficit, UCR would not need all that money at once. And even $100 million is not onerous for a state with a general fund budget of $104 billion.

California needs to be careful about how it spends public money, given the many demands on state coffers. But the state's economic slump will eventually go away, while the need for more doctors will not. And delay is not a reasonable strategy for meeting that long-term challenge.

Even as Riverside hosts Deaf Awareness Week, the teachers at the California School for the Death are protesting their salaries and contract negotiations.

Inland Empire Weekly reporter David Silva
writes about his neighborhood drug dealer in Riverside and how in a neighborhood of foreclosures, the dealer's fixing up and improving his home.

Silva details one exchange between him and officers, the mayor and even Chief Russ Leach about trying to find the house on the city's map.


Early last month, I finally learned the answer to this nagging question: It wasn’t that the police didn’t want to bust up the drug house next door. They just couldn’t find it.

“According to my computer,” said the officer who took my sixth (and, I swear to God, last) complaint, “the street address you gave me doesn’t exist in Riverside.”

“Well, that’s odd,” I said. “I’m looking right out my front window and there it is.”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh yeah, it’s right there. Maybe you should check again.”

He did, and again declared the address didn’t exist. Back and forth we went, with me insisting the street address of the drug house next door to me existed, and the officer insisting that it didn’t. Finally:

“Found it!” he said, sounding well pleased. “OK, we’re on it. The Police Department takes these calls very seriously.”

After three years, six complaints, a meeting with the mayor’s aide and a conference call with a councilman and the city’s top cop, the Riverside Police Department’s crack narcotics unit finally located my neighbor’s house on a map.

More problems out of the Orange County Sheriff's Department with one of its civilian employees being charged with soliciting someone to commit a violent crime.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Lissa Marie Domanic, 42, was working as an office specialist and 911 call taker when she allegedly asked someone to assault an Orange County jail inmate, said Jim Amormino, a sheriff's spokesman. She also used department computers to access confidential records that she forwarded to unauthorized people, Amormino said.

A grand jury indicted Domanic on the felony charges earlier this week, and she is awaiting arraignment in Orange County Superior Court. Domanic, who worked for the sheriff's department for about 19 months, has been placed on administrative leave pending a disciplinary review, Amormino said.

"We do a thorough background investigation, and nothing came up in her background," Amormino said. "Sometimes people are able to conceal things they are involved in."

Under investigation, are two New York City Police Department officers who tased a mentally disturbed man who then fell to his death. One representative of the department said that the incident appeared to violate departmental policy. That being a prohibition against tasing people who are high enough above the ground that if they fall, it causes death or great bodily injury to them. The man was about 10 feet off the ground but when he lost his muscular control while being tased, he fell off of a roof onto his head.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Browne said police regulations "specifically state that 'when possible, the CED should not be used … in situations where the subject may fall from an elevated surface.'" Morales, 35, fell 10 feet and landed headfirst on the pavement. He was declared dead at Kings County Hospital. "It just wasn't a smart move. When you Taser someone, they drop like a stone. No muscle control. Under regular circumstances, the (suspect) could have jumped himself and been OK," a police source said.

More information here.

This official statement was released by the NYPD.

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