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, September 02, 2008

Decentralizing community policing or a staffing reshuffle?

An officer-involved shooting in La Sierra Hills, Riverside by Riverside Police Department officers has yielded very detailed information.

The man was allegedly shot by police officers after he refused to lower his gun, according to the police department.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"He was hit and then transported to a hospital," Frasher said.

The man's condition was unknown late Monday.

Frasher would not say whether multiple shots were fired, whether the suspect fired at officers or which officers were involved with the shooting. He would not confirm the name of the wounded man.

Several neighbors, speaking under the condition of anonymity because they said they feared retaliation, reported hearing six gunshots. Three were fired in rapid succession, then two and then a final one. Other neighbors said they saw police drag a motionless body from the lawn to the middle of the street.

Police continued to investigate the incident overnight. A police helicopter used a spotlight on the hillside west of the neighborhood in the hours following the shooting. A hoard of detectives could be seen conferencing on the corner of Dole Court shortly after the shooting.

The officers' names haven't been released yet although a recent legal opinion by State Attorney General Jerry Brown mandated this action in most cases.

After laying off its pages in July, Riverside's been filling those positions with volunteers.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Staff also are taking on responsibilities to ensure there is no difference in service, said George Guzman, the library's Administrative Services manager

"It's important the material we have is available to the public," Guzman said. "We are doing that with the help of the volunteers."

The library spread the word about the urgent need for help through banners, fliers, announcements on the city's Web site and e-mail alerts.

The number of volunteers is now at 115, about triple what is was before the pages were let go, Guzman said.

Volunteer David Ruelas, 22, said the library has offered him endless hours of reading and help with school projects, he said.

"They needed help and they've helped me before," he said.

Gretchen Heimlich, 32, said volunteering has brought back childhood memories spent at the library, carrying books piled as high as her chin out the door.

"It's important for the community to have access to the amazing resources we have here," said the UC Riverside student. "I wanted to be able to keep that going."

Those who filled these part-time positions at the library are the latest casualties in the budget cuts. While people joked that it was Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who told librarians where to shelf the books (especially after the temporary removal of the Inland Empire Weekly in 2007 after its unflattering articles about Riverside were published), these people did important work to help keep the library running.

This week during a meeting in the Eastside, the mystery of the missing community services division in the city's "fully staffed" (as said by DeSantis at a public meeting in June) police department will hopefully be solved. The department apparently has explained this shuffling around on plans to decentralizing community policing. What's interesting about this latest development are two things. One being that there's been no major announcement yet that it's even doing this let alone how it plans to do so. Only quiet little meetings here and there with hallmarks in the city that the department disseminates information to so it doesn't have to call any general town meetings or public forums to do so itself to the masses.

If community policing is going to be changed or reorganized, then Police Chief Russ Leach should be out in the different neighborhoods holding public forums like he did at California Baptist University earlier this year. They usually announce such things with much greater fanfare than this decentralizing of community policing as it's been called has received so far which is interesting.

Instead, it's been very quiet except that community members are asking questions about the fate of Community Services and the officers who were staffed there. Including that the director's position for Crime-Free Multi-Housing is apparently vacant. The citizen academy has been packed into mothballs until further notice. Yet the city insisted that all the programs were in good shape.

The second problem is that one would think that if community policing were to be reorganized, it would have left a paper trail in the city's preliminary budget for 2008-09 which was just passed in June. But has it?

If you want to check out this preliminary budget go to this page and click the most recent link on the left which is the 2008-09 preliminary budget.

If you look at page 49, you'll bump into the line item personnel positions list for the Special Operations division and this division is what houses Community Services under Lt. Ken Raya which you'll find out when you click the link below connecting to the department's current organizational structure. Take a look at the foot notes and what do you see? You see personnel moving in to this division from Field Operations. Six officers, a sergeant, a police program coordinator and the reclassification of an officer position to detective.

Outgoing are two program coordinators to the Park, Recreation and Community Services which now handles the crossing guards. This isn't surprising because since Park and Recreation added community services to its banners, programs from the police department began transferring to it, beginning with Project Bridge, the gang intervention program.

What's interesting about this is that in reflection of this decentralization of community policing by the department, the personnel from Community Services in Special Operations were transferred to the patrol division which is in Field Operations. This trend is the opposite of what the budget actually shows in the category of personnel assignment which shows them moving into Special Operations. So consequently, it appears that the decision to reassign personnel out of Community Services and thus Special Operations was made some time after the budget had been approved by the city council.

On page 84 of the budget, you get a very limited look at the budget for the police department which receives more dollars than any other city department. It's too bad we don't know where it's all being spent. The only category really rising is for personnel, the bulk of the budget but it doesn't tell you why. The biggest cuts are in capital projects and equipment outlay, again without explaining why in any detail. Non personnel expenses were cut about 6% and there are no operating grant figures which there won't be until the adjusted budget is approved and published.

What would be very useful is if the department posted its line item and operational budget online at its Web site. But that's not likely, especially if the Community Police Review Commission's reluctance to even talk about distribution of the release of its own budget which is public information is catching.

This is the 2008-09 organizational structure for the police department. This summary helps explain the department's philosophy as to why it's using this particular structure, which is interesting because the recent budget cuts have placed limitations on some of these "goals" to the point that they no longer exist.


While the department and community enjoyed many successes with community policing, and remained committed to this model, it became clear that the move of lieutenants from Watch Commanders to Area Commanders created several unanticipated issues with internal accountability and a clearly defined and effective command structure. In an effort to rectify the consequences of decentralization, the Office of the Chief decided to re-establish a lieutenant Watch Commander that would maintain management of a 24 hour system for operational oversight of line supervisors and personnel thereby improving internal accountability and community safety.

As a result, the department command accountability structure was improved by upgrading the Deputy Chief of Police position to that of Assistant Chief of Police, a captain position to that of Deputy Chief of Police, creating two new lieutenant positions as Watch Commanders, and adding three new sergeant positions to provide an officer to supervisor ratio of 7:1, a ratio more in line with police agencies throughout the country.

While the assistant chief position still exists, the deputy chief position mentioned here was frozen by the city after the departure of Dave Dominguez. New lieutenant and sergeant positions have been added but positions vacated by retirements and promotions to fill vacancies in the lieutenant level haven't been filled.

The department's management nor that of the city have provided any time line or future plans for restoring any positions including supervisory frozen due to the budget cuts faced by the department thus far. Neither has been any more informative about this situation in public than they have been about the decentralization of community policing, which is always a good and important goal but as is, seems more tied to staffing changes made in response to deficits in the patrol division stemming from hiring and promotional freezes and budget cuts. It also came not long after warnings during an audit in June that if the department didn't address its staffing issues immediately, it risked undoing all the reforms that it had achieved during its consent decree with then State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office.

What's interesting about the freezes is that they are in sharp contrast to the situation in law enforcement agencies in the surrounding areas supposedly more broke than Riverside which are hiring more law enforcement officers (in part to fill correctional officer positions) not refusing applications.

So you have vacancies and freezes beginning this spring, not long after Community Services was consolidated with other Special Operations units and its head, Lt. Tim Bacon was shipped off to field operations. Then you have people concerned about it, whether in the community or in the police department going to various venues at City Hall and expressing that concern but they are pretty much ignored.

Then you have consultant, Joe Brann airing the same concerns in his quarterly audit of the department's implementation of the Strategic Plan in June. But does the city council listen to his words or do they instead hang on to the rebuttal protests of DeSantis who tosses off some ratios without any figures (at least none available to the public which is very convenient indeed) to back them up? The answer is pretty obvious. With the exception of perhaps one elected official, the city council and mayor backed the city manager's position as both did for several months when that office failed to even secure a contract with the consultant in a reasonable amount of time. The minute enough of them finally questioned City Manager Brad Hudson in that situation, that situation changed much more quickly.

More cuts continued, threatening the supervisory ratios. Then suddenly, officers are moved out of Community Services including a supervisor and apparently reassigned to patrol. People start asking questions, again apparently from different corners on different fronts and then voila, community policing decentralization is born.

Community policing decentralization is really one of the most important goals there is in this department as with any other. But is that what is really going on here? And if so, where's the beef?

Only time will tell as it usually does what is really going on here.

Internal changes, not outside help is what Riverside County Superior Court needs to get its act together and reduce its swelling case load.

So states the Press Enterprise Editorial Board.


Additional judges would help the county avoid the dispiriting need to toss criminal charges, but the state's $15.2 billion budget shortfall makes new judgeships unlikely any time soon. Nor can the county depend on the state to send another strike team of judges here to help out with the criminal caseload, as state Chief Justice Ronald George did last year.

And last month, a panel of judges once again ruled against Riverside prosecutors' request to open family law, probate and other specialized courts to criminal trials. The crush of criminal hearings has already pushed civil cases to the sideline, resulting in costly delays and long waits for justice in civil disputes. Letting the criminal caseload also sidetrack adjudication of adoptions, child neglect, wills and guardianship is not an acceptable solution.

Those factors leave the responsibility for solutions with local judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. But that task is not hopeless: Other California counties with similarly heavy judicial caseloads manage to dispense civil and criminal justice without the bottlenecks Riverside County faces.

Surely Riverside County courts can do the same.

Colton is trying to get on the development train to prove itself as a growing city. What it should do is find a way to market its ongoing political dramas that have impacted City Hall and surrounding departments during the past year.

Will UC Riverside's School of Education become more racially diverse?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

A coalition of Latino groups had lobbied the school to hire more black, Hispanic and Native American faculty members and to expand the amount of courses and faculty research devoted to difficulties faced by students learning English.

Bossert said each of the new hires performs research related to minority student success.

They are:

Luciana Dar, who studies higher education politics, policy and finance in the United States and abroad.

Michael Orosco, who studies educational equity and cultural diversity with an emphasis on bilingual education and special education.

Sara Castro-Olivo, who studies the academic achievement of culturally and linguistically minority students.

Lindsey Malcom, whose research focuses on higher education access and success for minorities in science, mathematics, engineering and technology.

Malcom said her academic interest stems from her experience as an African-American student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she majored in Earth science with a minor in physics, and CalTech, where she earned a master's in geological sciences.

"I was often the only person of color in my courses and often the only woman as well," Malcom said.

The number of fatal officer-involved shootings by police officers in Inglewood has just increased by one.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

photographer at the scene said the man who was fatally shot was homeless. Local television showed images of an overturned shopping cart filled with soiled clothing said to have belonged to the dead man.

The man was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center at 2:50 p.m., said Jerry McKibben, an investigator with the coroner's office.

"It was an officer-involved shooting involving the Inglewood Police Department," said McKibben, who said he had no other information. The body had yet to be moved from the medical center to the morgue. .

The shooting occurred at the intersection of Market Street and Hillcrest Boulevard.

The Inglewood Police Department had no comment on the incident and refused to confirm that a shooting involving one of its officers had occurred, Lt. Michael Marshall said.

Meanwhile, community activists are pushing for a federal inquiry into the shootings as well as a congressional probe.

As New Orleans battened down its hatches for Hurricane Gustav, its police department will still be operational. Three years ago during Hurricane Katrina, some police officers stayed, many were stranded, many left and others looted.

It's not just in Inglewood where officer-involved shootings have caused alarm. They also have in Prince George County.

(excerpt, Washington Post)

In the most recent fatal police shooting in Prince George's, Manuel de Jesus Espina was killed Aug. 16 in Langley Park by an off-duty county officer moonlighting as a security guard, and the circumstances heightened concerns about officers' use of deadly force.

Espina, who was unarmed, was fatally shot during what police say was an attempt to arrest him after he was spotted with an open container of alcohol. Hundreds turned out last week for a vigil during which civil rights leaders demanded an independent investigation into the shooting.

"We are having too many incidents like this one," said June White Dillard, president of the county's chapter of the NAACP, drawing applause as she locked arms with Latino leaders at the vigil. Residents, she said, "are very familiar, too familiar, with police brutality and excessive force."

Mark Spencer, inspector general for Prince George's police, cautioned against drawing conclusions about the increase in fatal police shootings this year, saying officers are encountering increasingly dangerous situations.

"More people are armed, carrying around firearms, and more willing to shoot at police officers," he said.

It's been recommended that the police officers in Washington, D.C. equip their squad cars with video cameras.

(excerpt, Washington Post)

"In the past decade, several police departments around the country have adopted programs using mobile video recording technology, or video cameras, mounted in their police cruisers," the report said.

"Although the programs initially encountered some resistance as 'big brother' oversight, departments with successful programs report that video cameras have cut down on litigation and liability costs, as well as improved relationships between officers and citizens during encounters."

Maryland and Virginia state police and several big suburban departments in the Washington area have equipped all or many of their patrol cars with cameras. But as the report notes, for a department the size of the District's, with about 750 cruisers, the cost would run into the millions of dollars.

"The cost of the hardware ranges from $3,900 to $6,300 per car for cameras that do not have wireless uploading capability," according to the report. Cameras that are capable of wireless uploading cost $4,500 to $9,000 apiece, depending on other technical features that are included. In addition, there are costs for installation, officer training and data storage.

Over two years after it promised to do so, City Hall has equipped all of the Riverside Police Department squad cars with video cameras to the cost of about $1.5 million.

The San Jose Police Department is being sued for racial profiling, according to the San Jose Mercury.

In Denver, Colorado, a video camera caught an officer pushing a protester.

(excerpt, Rocky Mountain News)

Footage of the incident prompted the city's independent monitor to call for a review and the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau to request a copy of the tape.

Police arrested Alicia Forrest, 24, a Los Angeles resident whom CodePink representatives identified as the woman involved in the altercation, shortly afterward as she was addressing reporters just outside Civic Center.

The arrest - in which Forrest was grabbed and hauled away from reporters - also was caught on camera, and CodePink legal liaison Sally Newman said Forrest was doing "nothing violent at all" to incur the shove or the arrest.

"Horror, shock and total support of Alicia," said CodePink spokeswoman Jean Stevens, describing the reaction when she and other members of the antiwar group first viewed the video. "We wish we could help. We wish we could be with her."

The video shows an officer quickly shoving Forrest with the length of his baton, forcing her to the ground, where she lands with a scream and a loud smack.

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