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 23, 2008

Election 2009: Labor contractions and pains

Contempt of court charges were dropped against two Marines who were jailed for refusing to testify against former Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department officer Jose Nazario during a grand jury proceeding and Nazario's trial last month.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

"While the actions of the witnesses were unlawful and in direct violation of the court's orders in this case, the government submits that proceeding with a trial regarding contempt would not be in the interest of justice," Behnke said in documents. "The punitive affects of further contempt proceedings against these witnesses would serve little, if any, purpose in light of the severity of the charges the witnesses face in military court."

Weemer and Nelson, who were members of Nazario's squad, still face criminal trials in military court for their alleged roles in the killings in Fallouja.

Nazario was acquitted at trial in federal court and is now trying to get his job back in the police department. The police department's keeping it under wraps about whether it will or will not return Nazario back into its ranks now that it's opened up eight positions vacated by terminations, resignations and retirements. It also never responded to his comments said to another Marine sergeant that were written up in the Wall Street Journal about beating the shit out of people and finding a reason to take them to jail while employed at the police department.

More information about the dismissal of the contempt charges is here.

The discussion of the fatal shooting of Fernando Luis Sanchez and the protest that took place last weekend continues here. Some of it is very interesting; some of it like "bruin1" calling a person who questioned the Sanchez shooting an "Eastside activist" is more predictable.

There's also people asking on a couple different discussions about the fate of the 50 originally budgeted patrol officer positions that were passed by the city council during two separate votes several years ago. They even said that they had passed along the concerns on these positions to their elected representatives who had little or nothing to say in response. Why should they respond? Three of them are wrapped up in an issue that they didn't appear to care about last month and their collective pen probably ran dry before it could respond with as much concern and enthusiasm to this issue which could have future repercussions on the city.

However, the overall silence on the staffing issue and the expansive prose on City Hall's latest prohibition on the Community Police Review Commission's incustody death investigations by the city council's members really come down to the same thing and that is backing the decisions made by the city council's direct employees, being the city attorney and the city manager, whatever they may be. If that means backing prohibitions on the CPRC, they will clearly do so in writing. If that means being silent or saying very little while the city manager's office is making budget decisions that directly or indirectly cut or freeze staffing in the police department, then silence for them is the better part of valor.

It's really all the same because it has to do with a reluctance to even question the actions let alone criticize them of their direct employees which they evaluate periodically through each year, in part because perhaps they believe that if they engage in criticism of these employees then they have to ask themselves why they hired them in the first place. Perhaps they view their direct employees as extensions of themselves and particularly in the case of the elected officials who authored the recent opinion piece because two out of three of them are up for reelection next year. What will happen when decisions made by the city manger and city attorney's offices become campaign issues?

That remains to be seen in what is expected to be an exciting election year, possibly even more so than Election 2007.

Some said that the political dynamics between the police labor unions and the city council have also made things more complicated. Apparently, the police chief and city manager's office will not only not budge on labor concerns involving staffing but they won't even meet with at least one involved labor union. Not a good position for all the involved parties to be in with months before the next round of contract negotiations begins, where it is expected that the status of both officer and supervisory level positions will be on the table or at least that's what is hoped including possibly a protective provision in a future MOU for sergeants similar to that enjoyed by detectives. Considering the reduction in positions at that level, such a provision should be a given as a goal to achieve.

But what ultimately takes place could tell the tale for not just one election but others as well.

And 2009 is indeed an election year in more ways than one. For city officials, it's one of those really long cycles like what took place in 2007. Attempts to make it at large in the final rounds of the process of course failed miserably once that proposal stepped outside of the Governmental Affairs Committee, which only several years ago was a vital committee that met often and discussed serious issues while today its members get together in public every so often trying to push items which suspiciously come off as being part of a personal or political (and in some cases, the personal becomes political) agenda. It took dozens of people going to a July city council meeting and over a dozen speaking against an election "reform" proposal to squelch that proposal.

Whether there's a sunny sky or clouds on the horizon in the police department about its staffing abilities depends on where you're standing.

At the top, the department has said it's staffed with more officers than ever, as if they could be grown from seed or even wishful thinking. At the city manager's office, Asst. Chief Tom DeSantis said last June that the department was "fully staffed" even as the supervisory vacancies began and have continued to climb as they've increased since his speech in response to an audit of the department which urged an immediate addressing of these problems. But as the ranks become lower, there seems to be more pessimism about whether or not the police officer staffing at those levels will keep up with the city's growth or fall behind it. The famous lyric from the opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, which sings "everything will be all right" doesn't seem to be trickling down well from top to bottom on this issue. At least not so far.

It's not clear whether the current blood letting at the Still-Belo Enterprises owned, Press Enterprise has anything to do with the fact that the coverage of Riverside's city council meetings has been reduced to tiny news briefs including the expenditure of over $1 million for rehabbing two downtown parking garages on Orange Street.

About $942,000 of the money will be borrowed from the city's general fund and paid back in about 10 years. Hopefully, these garages don't include the ones which immediately come to mind which are the ones that were constructed just a few years ago but garages that are at least 10 or 15 years old.

But it appears that the blink-and-you'll-miss-them city council meetings have led to the blink-and-you'll-miss-them news briefs in a newspaper that is losing reporters certainly experienced reporters from the city beats in Riverside.

But don't fret because banners are coming to downtown Riverside!

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Local companies, nonprofit organizations and individuals can sponsor the banners, choosing the artwork they want on their banner, which will also display the sponsor's name.

Sponsorships range from $650 for one banner, $1,100 for two and $1,500 for three banners.

Foster said the project reinforces the city's efforts to make Riverside "the City of Arts and Culture."

In October, the Riverside City Council unanimously voted in favor of Mayor Ron Loveridge's proposal to brand Riverside as the "City of the Arts."

"I can't think of a better way to promote the vision of being 'The City of Arts and Culture' than hundreds of banners on our streets," Foster said. "It reinforces that this is a city that values art in the community."

Artist Leslie Brown, a part-time art instructor at Riverside Community College, already has visions of her colorful banner with orange groves, monarch butterflies and clouds.

"I like the idea of butterflies fertilizing arts and culture in our community," she said. "If we are the city of the arts we should display it. We have to walk the walk, we can't just talk it."

If you want to learn more about banners, there's this like orientation that's being held on Thursday, Sept. 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Art Museum downtown.

Lake Elsinore will be laying off more of its employees. Not good news for that city.

Despite pessimism about the proposed medical school at the University of California, Riverside, educational officials hope to move forward.

In the wake of the upcoming departure of San Bernardino Police Department Chief Michael Billdt and a couple of local professors will be conducting talks to kind of figure out what to do next.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

Fontana City Councilman Frank Scialdone, a former police chief in Fontana and Rialto, and Cal State San Bernardino criminologist Larry Gaines met Monday with Mayor Pat Morris, Police Chief Michael Billdt and acting City Manager Lori Sassoon.

Morris said the two experts will be called back as soon as the scope of their inquiry has been established.
Gaines said, "We have talked with the city about the possibility of looking at some of the processes within the Police Department."

"We don't know what, with any precision, we'll be looking at."

Throughout the city, police substations are shutting down. Community residents have expressed concern about the situation but rest assured, the city and department will be hosting a public open house so they can weigh in on the closures after they've already taken place.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

Department leaders have pointed out that the actual substations are set to be replaced with Virtual District Offices that will allow residents to email police commanders and sergeants and view crime data for the each of the city's patrol districts.

But Sylvester Sylvester, a director of the Highland Palms Neighborhood Association, opined that the decision to save money by closing the substations was a mistake.

He said his neighbors appreciated being able to bring their problems to police personnel who were stationed nearby. Sylvester doubts that e-mail will be enough to keep those relationships between cops and residents alive.

"People like to be able to speak to someone one-on-one," he said.

Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff who usually covers San Bernardino County's antics stepped over to Riverside's and analyzed the Barbie vs Bratz wars.

A whistle blower in Oakland's police department has blown the doors off what's happening there and is suing the city including his police chief.

(excerpt, San Francisco Chronicle)

Officer Chris Yanke, a 16-year veteran, said in the suit that he broke the police "code of silence" several years ago when he "truthfully reported criminal misconduct and police brutality by a fellow OPD officer who was well-liked, which resulted in that officer's termination." The officer in question was not identified.

After Yanke came forward with the allegations, he was removed from the department's technology unit and placed on unpaid leave in 2006 on the grounds of insubordination, said the civil rights suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The city had rejected a claim previously filed by Yanke but has not responded to the suit in court. Attorneys representing the city did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Yanke was briefly stripped of his badge and gun, the suit said. Although he currently retains his status as a peace officer, Yanke was placed on unpaid leave last year without due process, the suit said. The city "completely cut off his vested and protected property interest in his salary and benefits," the suit said.

After an inexperienced officer in Millville, New Jersey crashed his squad car into a house, the internal affairs division of that department decided to investigate the matter.

A captain in the department was quick to defend the young officer who had crashed another squad car earlier this year.

(excerpt, The Daily Journal)

Romanishin said Friday the results of an investigation by the department's Traffic Safety Unit were forwarded to Lt. Wayne Smith, the department's internal affairs officer.

"That doesn't necessarily mean the officer did anything wrong," Romanishin said.

The officer had been responding to a call for backup and while driving, flipped his car over and slammed into a nearby house. He survived but is on home rest for the forseeable future.

The New York City Police Department is trying to determine whether the practice of some of its officers of falsifying summons is growing into an epidemic. Earlier this year, two officers had been investigated on these allegations and now the department is spreading its net wider.

What caused suspicion to be aroused against the earlier two officers was after they had filled out 40 traffic and seat belt tickets during one work shift. Now the investigators of this incident are looking elsewhere.

(excerpt, Newsday)

A source close to Campisi says that shortly after the rookies' tickets were scrutinized Internal Affairs learned of other officers who may have written suspicious tickets.

The source wouldn't identify where those other cops are assigned, but two other sources familiar with the matter said the growing probe involves the 102nd, 103rd and 105th precincts. The sources also said at least several officers are under suspicion.

Steve Worth, a lawyer for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, declined to comment.

A trip being taken by San Jose's independent police auditor to Nigeria has raised some controversy.

(excerpt, San Jose Mercury)

"I think the trip is OK," Mayor Chuck Reed said, "but I just don't think taxpayers ought to pay for the time the independent police auditor will be gone."

The non-profit CLEEN Foundation invited Independent Police Auditor Barbara Attard to join an international police oversight training panel in Nigeria, and has offered to pay the transportation and lodging costs of the five-day trip in November.

Even so, Reed and others questioned how it would benefit San Jose and the city taxpayers who pay the auditor's $160,000 salary — but she ultimately got the go-ahead.

"We don't have department heads travel to the other side of the world very often," Councilman Pete Constant said. "I have a hard time seeing the public purpose or benefit to the residents of San Jose."

Added Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio: "I think it's tough to compare Nigeria with their violence against women and torture to San Jose as far as what we're going to learn."

Attard said San Jose should be honored to be chosen to represent the small field of civilian police overseers abroad and that the trip would raise the city's international stature and profile.

"San Jose is a world-class city," Attard said. "We derive recognition from involvement in such international panels."

An interesting blogging on good police officers in Salt Lake City.

If you are into weather futures for Southern California, there's a variety of opinions on whether or not there will be rains, Santa Ana winds or a combination of both forces of nature ahead. This site claims that there will be both wind and lots of rain next winter. This site claims it will be warmer and drier this winter.

This site doesn't know but asks for people's opinions on the situation. But state officials predict that California will have to dip into its drought bank.

Former Bolingbrook Police Department sergeant, Drew Peterson who has one murdered former wife and one missing current wife has now divulged his timeline in yet another book on the investigations into the fate of two women who married him.

(excerpt, Wall Street Journal)

Mr. Peterson gave me many hours of exclusive interviews," author Armstrong reported, "including a timeline of the day Stacy Peterson disappeared - something he's refused to give in full to any other journalist."

In an excerpt from Armstrong's foreword to the book, he wrote:

In this first meeting I told Drew Peterson, "Understand that I'm going to report everything. The good and the bad. I won't hype or bash you, but I'm not going to hide the ugly. Can you live with that?"

Drew Peterson, always composed, nodded his head. "I have nothing to hide. I just want people to hear my side for a change."

Another article on Peterson's latest revelation here.

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