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, September 19, 2008

Double, double, toil and trouble...

"Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves."

----Lewis Carroll

"No lie can live forever."

---Martin Luther King, jr.

Politics make strange bed fellows and the latest example of that is that three members of the Riverside City Council got together and wrote themselves a rebuttal to the recent Press Enterprise editor recommending independent counsel for the Community Police Review Commission.

What can be said about it, after you finish cringing in embarrassment that supposedly intelligent and well-informed city officials have authored such a piece? That it's entertaining, perhaps and it is, because it's one of the truly most ignorant articles to be put out by any elected official (let alone three) in a while. What's even better is that it puts the CPRC and the latest round of assaults against it (including some far worse than what drove voters to put the commission in the charter in the first place) front and center including in the press just in time for another election year. What could be better? And as an extra bonus, this time they did it this time without the assistance of former Councilman Art Gage who kept his criticism verbal.

And it surprised me, because I truly thought at least two of these elected officials in the past had at least offered up some rather articulate, thought-out opinions on the CPRC. At least those who supported the commission tried to educate elected officials on at least the basics of its history, operation and structure. Obviously, these informative seminars on such basic information about this vital and very much wanted commission didn't take root.

The first most interesting thing about the rebuttal supposedly authored by city council members, Frank Schiavone, Nancy Hart and Steve Adams is that it doesn't seem likely that any of them really wrote it. You see a lot of borrowed phrases from City Manager Brad Hudson and some from City Attorney Gregory Priamos, for sure. Schiavone regurgitated some of these words in some comments he made in a response to speakers during public comment at a city council meeting several weeks ago but he appeared to have borrowed those comments as well.

But it doesn't look like it came from any of them. If it did and if the concerns shared in this opinion piece had been an overriding concern of any of these council members during their entire tenures (which are briefer than the tenure of the CPRC), they certainly never shared them with the city residents who are supposed to be their constituents. If they did share them with any constituents, then it seems that these exchanges were restricted to the constituents that they paid for and not offered as freely to those who voted or didn't vote for them at the polls instead of their pocket books.

And I know this, because I've had conversations with different council members throughout the years including Schiavone and Hart about the CPRC and neither one of them whether I agreed with their views or not, ever mentioned a peep about being concerned about the integrity of criminal investigations due to the commission's in place procedure that it has followed for conducting officer-involved death investigations for seven years now. Yet from the way this article was penned, you'd think that they had been raising this issue far longer than they ever had and had in fact, been screaming it from the roof tops.

Not so! In fact, none of them raised it in a public forum except when Adams briefly ranted at a 2006 meeting about arresting outside investigators for obstruction when no CPRC investigator has ever been present at a potential crime scene being processed after an officer-involved death and there were never any plans to ever have one present. Besides, these potential crime scenes are crowded enough with city employees tramping all over the place including representatives of various departments outside the police department's own representatives which often number over 100 people according to login sheets submitted as part of several past officer-involved death investigations submitted by the police department's Officer-Involved Death Team to the CPRC.

What you probably won't find on a login sheet at one of these "crime scenes" is a signature by a CPRC investigator. Why? Because they aren't there among the crowd of people who do congregate at these so-called crime scenes.

Still, there's been silence on all fronts about any such concerns that the CPRC might be interfering with criminal investigations for years and it likely would have stayed that way except for the recent rash of officer-involved deaths in the present and the rash of shootings in the past that were litigated against the city. It's more likely that given the years of silence on this suddenly pressing issue that it's the increased payouts by the city in litigating and then settling officer-involved death cases that is the real problem here, including the $800,000 settlement on one death that allegedly included a promise by the city to the plaintiffs to use the actions of the officers in that particular situation as a future example of what not to do in a similar situation.

But indeed not a peep from any of the stake holders from the city's employment ranks since 2001 on these concerns.

Not by Chief Russ Leach. Not by City Manager Brad Hudson. Not by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis. Not even City Attorney Gregory Priamos who know holds the commission's purse string or even the Riverside County District Attorney's office which has sent representatives from its office to attend CPRC meetings as observers not to complain about the commission's investigative protocol. And not these council members, at least of them in the past showing they are certainly capable of having intelligent conversations about the CPRC. In fact, not by any city official who's currently serving on the dais.

Not until just now.

That's what history states no matter how it's being rewritten now by elected officials who some now suspect are merely bringing discussions and perhaps even actions against the CPRC out of the shadows where they may have hidden for years and finally, into a public forum of sorts for all to see. The response to this opinion piece by many people has been relief that all this intrigue that many suspect has been going on for several years behind a wall of alleged public support for the will of the voters who passed Measure II, has finally come to light where the public and voters can finally see it. Even individuals who aren't particularly strong supporters of civilian oversight of police sat up and took notice at what they saw as city officials' inappropriate micromanagement of a body consisting of city volunteers. Contrary to what the city council members who authored this article stated about the CPRC not being unique in this city, the micromanagement by a host of individuals and outright attacks by others has made it very unique among the other boards and commissions in this city.

Why? Because it might just be the only board or commission actually voted into the city charter because city residents were sick and tired of their elected officials and others turning it into a political football. And the latest hijinks of the city government and their direct employees involving the commission are simply refreshing the memories of city residents as to why it's now a charter amendment.

But away from the clearly obvious and back to this suddenly pressing interest and why it's so important now.

After all, if this concern about investigations botched by the CPRC had been festering all these years, it would have to light long before now by city officials who deal with city residents they represent in a democratic and transparent fashion. But that of course, didn't happen.

It's not surprising to see Schiavone's picked up his pen again to author another opinion piece. After all, his council seat is up for reelection next year and if Orangecrest's and other southern neighborhoods in his ward views on him are any example, he's really got his work cut out for him to remain on the dais for another term.

But what's surprising about a piece that three of the city's elected representatives signed their names to is how little understanding each of them has individually and collectively about the Community Police Review Commission. It's embarrassing to read their inaccurate interpretation of the basic text of the city's charter, as city officials they have been educated enough on this issue by their constituents to at least have a basic understanding that the CPRC is much more than a policy reviewing machine. I was contacted by constituents of these council members who mouths open in shock at the ignorance of the CPRC expressed in this opinion piece. Did they even read the charter, some asked.

The answer can only be, no. What they did do was conflate the commission which is charter-mandated now (as they did correctly note) with one that was not which was the Law Enforcement Policy Advisory Committee that was disbanded with the installation of the CPRC.

Schiavone of course was backed financially in two elections by the Riverside Police Officers' Association not to mention being backed by this union's political action committee during his ill-fated attempt to be Riverside County's newest supervisor. Of course, it didn't go all that well. Despite all the literature put out by his campaign, he not only soundly lost the election, he failed to win a single precinct in his ward averaging less than 40% of the vote. After that kind of loss, something like a plurality election process might sound a bit more appealing than it did several years earlier. That of course, didn't pan out when people showed up at meetings and made their displeasure at this unknown and to Schiavone's credit, he backed down from his proposal as did Adams and Councilman Rusty Bailey who serve on the Governmental Affairs Committee.

Adams was another city council candidate backed heavily by the RPOA who campaigned for him during his first run in office. But not his second, where the PAC instead backed another candidate running against him. Still, Adams misrepresented himself by claiming he had the RPOA's support and then turned around and said he wasn't in their pocket along with making other disparaging statements about the union that years ago as a former police officer he had been included as a member. In fact, in 1999, a photograph was published of him in the Press Enterprise leaving a high school where an RPOA meeting had taken place, the meeting where the majority of the officers decided to shave their heads to protest the firing of the four officers who shot Tyisha Miller the year before. When asked about it, Adams had told a concerned resident in his ward that he had attended that meeting out of curiosity.

And in fairness to Adams, as stated he did rant about investigators during a public safety committee meeting in early 2006 discussing the CPRC but fellow member, Hart did not verbally agree with him in any way at least not back then. But then this discussion which spilled out into an opinion place didn't take place in a public form except for Schiavone's brief comments several weeks. It apparently took place behind closed doors, either literally or metaphorically by these three individuals.

The biggest shock to many people was Hart, though once independent, in recent months she's been more likely to follow along with the boys and she's also up for reelection. She's also potentially facing a formidable candidate who hasn't decided yet if he intends to run who could give her a run for her money. Hart had endorsed Measure II, recognizing that the political manipulations of the CPRC up to that point entitled it to the protection of the city's charter. Hart also told people she believed in what the commission was doing and that included its investigation of officer-involved deaths.

It's not clear how many other elected officials on the dais endorsed this opinion piece and that's pretty easy to understand given how quiet they have been. At any rate, legally according to the Brown Act, only three council members at most can sign on to an opinion piece without violating its serial meeting provision. Even discussing it with other council members who didn't sign onto it is a violation of serial meeting laws. Even different clusters of city council members discussing a similar issue such as who should be the attorney for the commission without public announcement constitutes a serial meeting violation. So, an opinion piece signed by a contingent of the city council that is one less than the quorum has muddled the waters quite a bit given the city council's apparent refusal to conduct any kind of substantive discussion in a publicly announced forum. This opinion piece was clearly an attempt to circumvent that democratic process by avoiding a discussion on these issues.

Hopefully, the silence by the rest of the city council on the issue of the CPRC is about of embarrassment over their colleagues' written piece and not apathy. Only time will tell.

So why the sudden interest? Why the sudden interest when there was no interest back when the commission investigated the previous 12 officer-involved deaths that trace back to June 2001 with the first fatal officer involved shooting investigated by the commission.

Back then, it took the commission six months to initiate its investigation which led to a discussion in protocol. What was interesting is that led to another meeting with stake holders in the process of conducting various investigations and reviews of officer-involved deaths. One of them, Chief Russ Leach, seemed to lead the charge in stating that it was important for the CPRC to decide for itself how and when best to initiate its investigation of these deaths. But the Leach back then is clearly not the Leach in place right now. The Leach that publicly supported a strong commission wasn't the Leach disposed by the RPOA's attorney for a law suit filed by one of his officers who appeared to resent its existence leading then presiding Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dallas Holmes to proclaim during a court hearing that he never met a police chief who supported civilian review.

Yet despite the lack of concern, within several weeks after Hudson's directive, we have this piece of prose by city officials who were silent on this issue for years before suddenly deciding criminal investigations are suddenly being jeopardized by trampling feet (which again, never has happened yet and won't because investigators don't show up at crime scenes) and witnesses suddenly being corrupted by having to give more than one statement (which would actually help clarify the veracity of witness testimony saving the Riverside County District Attorney's office a lot of work having to do so themselves). If for one thing, you have witnesses giving different statements to different people, wouldn't it be more advantageous to learn about that before the grand jury proceeding, the preliminary hearing or before they get on the witness stand at a trial?

And given the D.A.'s office record of never filing charges in a case involving an onduty shooting by any law enforcement officer in the county in its entire history (and no, Former D.A. Investigator Daniel Riter doesn't count because he was indicted by a citizen grand jury), this sudden concern by anyone is very interesting.

But here's a sample of the dramatic prose delivered by three individuals who again never even once offered any opinion on this even when asked before this month. Not while asked when running for office. Not while serving in office. But now, that two of them are likely planning to run for reelection.

(excerpt, rebuttal)

Law enforcement agencies bring criminals to justice. The commission reviews officers' actions to ensure consistency with departmental policy and to suggest policy revisions.

It is utterly inconceivable that anyone would suggest that criminal investigations be jeopardized by allowing civilian policy reviewers to tromp through crime scenes or contaminate witness statements.

Don't get us wrong. Policy review is very important, and until recently the commission has been able to contribute to the accountability and enhancement of Riverside's Police Department. But the government's first responsibility is to bring criminals to justice -- and no civilian can be allowed to impede this process.

We wholeheartedly support the city attorney's representation of the city's best interests, the city manager's direction to staff to ensure the integrity of the criminal investigation process and Riverside's policy review process beginning after the criminal process -- as is done in 16 of the 17 similar agencies across California.

And we urge the commission to refocus on reviewing the policy issues before it and get back to professionally carrying out the public's business.

The last sentence is particularly reflective of the ignorance of these elected officials because all it shows is that the same charter provisions that they have shrouded themselves with, they haven't read or they don't understand. Essentially urging the commission to "refocus on reviewing policy issues" shows that that first of all, they are not cognizant of what the full duties of the CPRC are despite all the attempts of their constituents to educate them and two, they don't know the difference between the commission that the public has called for and its predecessor, LEPAC. And that is an absolute disgrace to the city to have city council members who are encharged to represent the citizenry who are pushing decision making processes by two of their direct employees Hudson and Priamos without even understanding the body and the powers and responsibilities of the body involved. It's their responsibility as elected city officials to know this information.

The CPRC is emboldened in its by laws (which these individuals obviously haven't read) and its policies and procedures (again, which clearly weren't read) to do investigations both of citizen complaints and of officer-involved deaths, yet when they attempt to even define the CPRC's function in their article, all three of them state that it's just about creating policy recommendations. When the charter, ordinance, by-laws and policies and procedures clearly state otherwise. Go back and read all of these things. These elected officials must not want you to do so or else they would have offered you the citations themselves in their opinion piece or told readers where to find this information.

To access them, it's as simple as picking up a copy of any of the CPRC's annual reports which include indexes with this information or visit this site to click on "reports" and then "annual reports". Take your pick.

There's much more to say about this including the curious references of police officers as being "criminals brought to justice" in the opinion piece. But you have to remember some things here. The commission was set up to oversee several functions of the Riverside Police Department through both an investigative and review process. It did just that including its investigations into officer-involved deaths for about seven years without a peep from any of these three council members for the most part until earlier this month. But unlike the case several years ago, more lawsuits have been filed against the city for wrongful death and that's got the city government and several of its direct employees including its litigator, Priamos clearly more apprehensive than they were several years ago when there were even officer-involved shootings but fewer lawsuits.

Do the math and add it up. And what it adds up to so far is about $1.5 million in settlements with several lawsuits left to go and possibly more to be added to them. This wasn't the case back years ago when the city council didn't concern itself about the "integrity" of catching "criminals" (otherwise known in this context as police officers of this city) but it clearly appears to be so now that these officer-involved death cases may be getting expensive. And with three deaths since in less than three months, that concern can only be growing at City Hall.

But what is history anyway except to be repeated by those who don't learn the first time around?

When the incustody deaths spiked in the police department in the 1990s, the city council was faced with requests by LEPAC to broaden its powers of oversight and the city council did nothing in that direction. They didn't address issues in the police department which were serious back then and they aren't doing the same thing now. How many opinion pieces have been written about what's happening in the police department by city council members?


The city council isn't writing opinion pieces addressing the staffing issues in the department which were serious enough to warrant a warning from a hired consultant who conducted an audit last June. They aren't writing about up to 19 police officer positions frozen for months even though the city's growing population-wise and size-wise, even as another annexation is progressing through the process set up to expand Riverside's girth.

Members of the city council aren't writing opinion pieces addressing the staffing issues pertaining to the number of experienced supervisors falling behind the trend of retirements at this level leaving the very young and inexperienced police department potentially under supervised. It's not writing about disparate information provided by different individuals including a representative from the city manager's office on officer to supervisor staffing ratios.

Did any members of the city council write opinion pieces or even discuss the reduction in overtime paid out to detectives leaving only one homicide unit detective available to handle overtime and for a while, no sexual assault and child abuse detective? Did they write opinion pieces when Crime-Free Multi-Housing went through multiple directors in one year or when the citizen academy was shut down?

No they did not. In fact, Schiavone's response to concerns about staffing issues raised by a consultant in June was that hey, they promoted a lieutenant today. But at least he made some comment, something Adams and Hart have yet to do on these issues even though they are elected representatives. Even though city residents have raised concerns about slow response times and less access to fewer resources that tie back to staffing cuts.

So it's clear that when it comes to addressing issues in the police department which could easily turn into a crisis or two if ignored in opinion pieces, the city council isn't willing to do so.

But they are willing to write opinion pieces to essentially prevent the commission from doing what they claim to want it to do, which is not to counter its charter powers, in order to accomplish what? To shield the police department and thus the city from accountability in cases where that may be all that there is to address serious concerns in the police department including some which have emerged this year? If the department was provided with the staffing and resources that it needed and if city council members advocated for these things in public meetings, private meetings and in opinion pieces, some issues that the commission has probably had to grapple with that have made it less popular with these elected officials might not be issues. Lesson learned, from the city's five-year foray into court-mandated reform to the tune of $22 million.

And for some of these individuals, will it really stop at an opinion piece which potentially has brought a long-shielded agenda to light? I do hope the trio's next opinion piece comes from a much more informed position than this one did and will be just as illuminating. Stay tuned because it's just about written in stone that there are more exciting chapters in this ongoing situation ahead.

Let the games begin.

The next CPRC meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 5:30 p.m. in the city council chambers at City Hall. This agenda is packed with agenda items pertaining to four fatal officer-involved shootings and one officer-involved death.

Here are city resources which explain more about the CPRC.

Riverside City Charter provision

Riverside Municipal Code provision

CPRC Bylaws

Policies and procedures of CPRC

If you're interested in learning more about LEPAC, the best source of information is the Mayor's Use of Force Panel Report released in April 1999. It includes a rather comprehensive section on this subcommittee of the Human Relations Commission.

To be continued....

The Riverside Police Department's most recent community forum the other night at Arlington High School was detailed here.

Ward Five City Councilman Chris MacArthur attended the meeting. Schiavone whose ward is also included in the Central Neighborhood Policing Center did not attend nor did Mayor Ron Loveridge. However, both the department's command staff and over 100 city residents did attend the forum.

Temporary parks in downtown Riverside.

An event organized by the Riverside Chinese Culture Preservation Committee


Why Should You Care about Riverside’s Chinatown?

a public forum

Wed., September 24, 2008

Riverside Public Library

3581 Mission Inn Ave.

6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Free and open to the public

The site of Riverside’s Chinatown at the corner of Brockton and Tequesquite Aves is on the verge of being developed. The City Council will soon vote (possibly in October) on the proposed plan to place a medical office building squarely on top of the archaeological remains.

Come hear about a grassroots effort to preserve the site.

Learn why the site is important.

Hear Riversiders attest to the importance of local history and local memory.

Become part of the grassroots movement: sign our petition and receive a “Save Chinatown” button!

For more information, contact Deborah Wong,

Want to know more about Riverside’s Chinatowns?


A man tased by Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputies who later died was not killed by a taser, stated the coroner from that same agency.

Another Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy indicted on felony assault charges.

The Riverside Transit Authority will be holding public hearings on its proposed fare increases in November. Be sure to attend them if you care about the future of public transportation county-wide.

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