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 04, 2008

The Empire Strikes Back: Lessons in tantrum throwing by City Hall

Citizens are wrong if they think this problem will self correct. They are even more wrong if they think the problem is sparse and of little consequence. Be wary of police administrators who tell you they can fix it - some are part of the problem. If self-policing worked, then society would not need the police would we? Law enforcement agencies (as miniature societies) are no different - they cannot police themselves."

----Former law enforcement officer, Karl Monsoor from Blue Must be True

"Retribution has no place in this process."

---Community Police Review Commissioner John Brandriff in reaction to the city manager's office's directive.

"From my standpoint, I am still conflicted."

---CPRC commissioner, Kenneth Rotker

This is certainly in retaliation for the Pablo incident."

---Retired police chief and founding commissioner, Bill Howe

"First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

---Mahatma Gandhi

Where's composer John Williams when you need him? One of his powerful scores is sorely needed as news come out of City Hall about the sequel with no equal, the Empire Strikes Back. No, in this version there's no revelations similar to when Darth Vadar told Luke Skywalker he was his father but there's some dramatics, saber rattling and special effects involved in this chapter of the saga of City Hall's arduous battle against the citizen-inspired police commission.

And it's not exactly the Empire, but the next best thing, the city manager's office with its pistol packing (alas, no light sabers in this rendition) duo, Brad Hudson and his sidekick, Tom DeSantis throwing a whopper of a temper tantrum that's been two years in the making and finally broke amidst news that the Community Police Review Commission had gone off and voted 5 to 3 to carry out its charter-mandated duties and actually initiate an independent investigation into an officer-involved death, that being the Martin Gaspar Pablo incident. Yes, you thought the temper tantrum that Hudson's office threw when he had received that pesky letter from the Human Relations Commission asking him about racial breakdowns in the employees who left City Hall positions was colorful. The Human Relations Commission never really ever received a response to that letter, at least not in writing but as former HRC member and current CPRC member John Brandriff recalled, they were kicked out of his division and lost their staffing soon after. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Not even all the hand ringing by the city manager's office in early 2007 when it tried to obstruct investigations from being initiated by the CPRC back then, equaled the tantrum they pulled by word processor.

As for HRC, the politics surrounding it did attract some attention.

Fortunately, the mayor's office swooped in and saved them from terminal micromanagement and piques of petulance.

There would be no similar save for the CPRC.

For Brandriff who gave a fiery speech about what he called the bad boy/ bad girl spankings they had received from dual corporate punishers Hudson and DeSantis, at least he said what needed to be said for a while now. In addition to being slapped, the commissioners were getting their allowance cut off due to their insubordination they showed by having the purse strings of their budget not in the hands of their executive manager or themselves but City Attorney Greogory Priamos. And if he gets called in by Chair Brian Pearcy upon the wishes of the Seventh Floor for "counseling sessions" to shape up, he won't have been the first commissioner in that situation.

Brandriff pulled no punches as he detailed the sordid history of the CPRC's handling by the city manager and his partner, the city attorney when both engaged in maneuvers to "obstruct and impede" the commission's ability to investigate. Clearly under the direction of other parties who sign their pay checks because it's difficult to believe they are acting alone.

Brandriff raised some obvious points especially to those of us who actually were within the city limits like, when the commission first formed and like, during the commission's first seven officer-involved death investigations. Not like those more recent hires from the county.

"No criminal investigation had ever been jeopardized by a CPRC investigation," Brandriff said.

And he's right. If that had ever happened, there would have been howls from the police department, the city attorney's office only there hasn't been. Instead, they heard Chief Russ Leach say at a 2002 meeting that it was the commission's decision when it should initiate an investigation of a death and since then, lamenting the lack of communication between his office and the commission. So now even though there's been no problems, the howls are coming in full chorus no doubt rattling through back room meetings at City Hall. But then over $1 million in money has been paid out in lawsuits since then. The litigative rate went from 16% for the first six deaths investigated but then leaped up to 80% for the last six.

If Hudson and DeSantis were really so concerned about the police department, they wouldn't be forcing the cutting and freezing of police positions including supervisors and then telling everyone the department is "fully staffed" when it no longer has a Community Services Division and apparently doesn't have POPs officers anymore either. That's the kind of love if I were an officer I could do with a little less of, still the weakening of the CPRC does make a nice consolation prize. But if it's true that an $800,000 settlement came out of a tax payer fund, that money could have been spent on five to six officers or a whole lot of training.

Brandriff called the actions of City Hall, a violation of the commission's policy and procedures, bylaws and the city's charter. He added that the city attorney can only get involved if directed to do so by the city council and that's one of the critical elements of this tale to keep in mind as it continues onward like the train wrecks which have preceded it.

The city attorney? According to the ordinance, he has no more right to legally advise the city's commissions than he does to decide whether or not the complaints will be heard by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee. Still, he does both anyway and it's clear that he's getting his marching orders from someone or someones because he knows who signs his paychecks as well. For all this mentioning about how the executive manager and CRPC independent investigators knowing who signs their checks or in one case being told (see below), there wasn't much discussion about how that applied to the city council's more direct employees.

Priamos' response and then later that of the twin city managers to the ACLU's challenge of his legal position against the Community Police Review Commission was not surprising in the least if you've been following this saga since its beginning. That' s when the commission committed the cardinal sin of actually voting that one of Riverside's officers had violated departmental policy involving use of lethal force when he walked up Summer Marie Lane sitting in a car and fired three times killing her. At the time, Hudson claimed he was too new and didn't know what to do, so he did what one councilman called, "punked" the decision and left it to the police department which of course backed its own investigation. Doing what other people called the equivalent of a pocket veto and then when that was done, City Hall set its sights on that troublesome body.

Then the plot began to curtail the investigations of officer-involved deaths by the CPRC after the Lane finding which began with going after the commission's investigation firm, the Baker Street Group. Commissioner Jim Ward said he knew for a fact that the investigative firm based in San Diego had received a phone call from "city staff" who said that although the firm worked for the commission, the city signed the checks and if the firm wanted any more checks signed by the city, it would have to change its form of investigating. This change in style and focus became a bit hard to miss after the Baker Street Group suddenly redid its rather comprehensive investigation of that troublesome (and potentially expensive) fatal shooting of Lee Deante Brown and returned after an unplanned sabbatical with a work product somewhat watered down.

Baker Street Group clearly did know which side of the bread was buttered. Its summary report on its investigation into the death of Douglas Steven Cloud was slighter than Brown I and II and that thin wisp of a document that was presented to the commission several months ago was the summary report for the fatal shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill.

Former commission chair and retired police chief, Bill Howe laid out the history of the problems the commission faced from City Hall. He reminisced about the meetings he had attended with Hudson and DeSantis along with several other religious leaders after the forced resignation of former executive manager, Pedro Payne. He said that after the fuss, the city manager's office had placed its plans on ice for a little while. But not anymore.

"Now the old head is rearing again," Howe said.

Aint that the truth. Howe should know, he's got more experience on the commission than just about anyone else except for the council member who's quoted as trying to broker a conciliation when he should be redirecting his direct employees back to their respective corners for a timeout and allow the commission to do its job under the charter. But then there's been endless debates over freshly baked pies as to whether the city staff directs the city council rather than the other way around.

Howe added that there was a bottom line and that was civic liability faced by the city because of a police department whose wrongful deaths have led to nearly $1.5 million in settlements so far with more cases to go. Nothing would change that mattered until the "officers got better training and correct mind frames in shootings." One litigant, Theresa Cloud pushed hard on that training but the city attorney's office apparently pulled a bait and switch there which just showed that it's too busy paying out settlements than to listen to the families of those who file and improve police practices.

Commissioner Kenneth Rotker said that he had been waiting for the city attorney to respond to the "persuasive argument" on Charter Section 810(d) by ACLU attorney Peter Bibring. If that's what he's doing, he's in for a long wait if he's waiting for something in writing.

"I hope the reponse wasn't the memo," Rotker said, "I'm asking that in good faith."

He also said, again I have not seen that response.

"Here it is", said Howe waving his copy of the directive.

And why were commissioners speaking out? Why have some who had no problem with how the commission conducted over 10 independent investigations suddenly believe it's important to shut down that process now? Where did that 180 degree turn come from and did it begin before or after police officers started attending both open and closed sessions of the CPRC. Why the divide?

This following email was sent by Executive Manager Kevin Rogan to CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy and Vice-Chair Sheri Corral. Rogan clearly knows what side of the bread is buttered and after seeing Payne forced to resign because he refused to cave in on this same issue, it's clear that if you're interested in career longevity that this is the way to do it. It makes me admire Payne all the more to see how the ACLU's involvement in this situation forced City Hall to put its agenda out in public...finally. Now the only thing to do is sit back and watch the hole being dug get bigger. See how much farther City Hall is willing to go to shut the CPRC down and in which ways. Next week, next month it will be something else and they won't explain which weakness in the police department is sparking their next challenge or maneuver against the canary in the mine.

The only applicant who outperformed Rogan in his oral interviews with two panels was Ray Martinelli who knew the score even before he went to that interview. Now, he's one of the investigative firms given what accounts to a restraining order by City Hall unless he wants to work pro bono. So he can't investigate the latest fatality though apparently he has permission to investigate the Pablo incident probably because there's no criminal (or public) investigation connected with that death being done by the department.

So what's this directive? It's not quite as lengthy as some earlier prose that came out of the Hudson and DeSantis offices several years but it's pretty close.

Subject: Protocol Directive

Title: Investigative Protocols

Brian & Sheri,

I just came from a meeting with CM Brad Hudson and ACM Tom DeSantis, and was advised of the following protocol change.

To preclude any possibility that the CPRC review process could in any way jeopardize the criminal investigations undertaken by the police department and District Attorney's office, CPRC investigations will commence only after law enforcement investigations have concluded and the CPRC receives the criminal casebook. This will apply to any future cases involving or possibly involving officer actions (including the just-occurred Yarborough case). The (sic) will not apply to the Pablo case, since CPRC's review has already begun.

In addition, expenditure of city funds will not be authorized to undertake any activities which are deemed by the city attorney to be outside the CPRC's scope of authority.

Brad asked my opinion of the protocol and I believe it's a prudent cause of action. The research I recently conducted about use of investigations indicates this approach is consistent with practices followed by the majority of California community review panels. This also addresses the difficult issue of deciding when, and under what circumstances, an investigation is commenced. I realize this will likely not be your preference and will be a topic of considerable discussion, but I am obliged to give you prompt notice and to comply with the protocol.

Please know that Brad also advised that RPD will be expected to provide prompt public briefings to the CPRC after officer-involved events occur.

I wanted to give notification to you both first, and will advise the full CPRC later today. This bears directly on the Ad Hoc Committee but I will presume they will still convene unless I hear otherwise from you or Chani.

Brad further advised that he is available to discuss the matter with you, if you wish to contact him.


It's interesting to watch this all play out because in the end, it's not going to change anything because what it definitely shows is that for whatever reason, the two words "accountability" and "transparency" strike fear in the hearts of employees at City Hall when placed in the same sentence as the Riverside Police Department. One would think that after spending over $22 million on reforms that were mandated by the state attorney general's office that City Hall would be more than willing to allow the CPRC to do its job that the citizenry entrusted it with, not once but twice. In 1999, when they fought to get it in the books and 2004 when they voted it in the city charter.

But City Hall can't do so, because something is stopping them. Is it the settlements being paid out perhaps out of taxpayer funds? Is it that they hold their collective breath whenever the Riverside Police Department is deliberating whether or not to hire an officer who boasted about using excessive force and lying over the fact to a Marine buddy who was setting him up? Does City Hall hold its collective breath whenever someone dies after having contact with the police? What is it so scared of about the police department? There's no problem that department could possibly have that the three partners of co-safety could not together address and remedy. But the city's too busy protecting its civil liability standing to do so just as it's always been, even before the $22 million promissary note that was issued to address decades worth of problems and neglect in about five years.

That's the message City Hall is sending out loud and clear. An officer-involved shooting involving a man allegedly brandishing a shot gun at officers has City Hall so petrified it had to cancel all future investigations of officer-involved deaths. One can only imagine how much the three fatal shootings of three unarmed or initially unarmed individuals must be making them feel. Actually, no all anyone has to do is just watch how they've been acting lately and take notes.

The situation with wrongful deaths in the police department has City Hall's players so terrified of civic liability and more settlements that they have to sit behind closed doors and come up with ways to shut down a voter-sanctioned body trying to fulfill its charter-sanctioned responsibility.

It really doesn't get more pitiful than that, but wait five minutes and City Hall will take the level it has sunk to on this issue and lower it another notch.

In other exciting news, a copy of the CPRC's operational budget has finally been released, before Administrative Analyst Mario Lara's had said it would be scheduled to make its online debut!

Is it the beginning of the end of DHL Express's ill-fated foray into Riverside's airspace. The air freight company announced the cancellation of its long-haul flight from Riverside to Hong Kong.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The German shipping company told the March Joint Powers Authority this week that DHL's flight between Riverside and Anchorage, a route flown by contractor ABX Air and soon to be flown by contractor Polar Air, will fly into and out of Los Angeles International Airport instead, the group's executive director, Lori Stone, said.

The route was considered an international flight, DHL's only foreign-bound flight from March, because it concluded in Hong Kong after connecting in Alaska.

"It was a business decision that we made and in the best long-term interests of the company," said DHL spokesman Jonathan Baker.

The office wars are still ongoing in downtown Riverside as the city laments the loss of prime office space to the Riverside County District Attorney's office.

The current and former elected official representing the downtown area both agree this isn't a good thing for this part of their district.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The Riverside Redevelopment Agency made the construction of Regency Tower possible and wanted it to fill a need for high-quality office space downtown to bring jobs to the area, which in turn would boost downtown restaurants and shops and generate sales-tax revenue, and to yield more property-tax revenue, said former Councilman Dom Betro. Downtown Riverside is in the ward he represented, and he had pushed for the project.

Betro said if the county buys the building to house the district attorney's office, which is already downtown, some of the project's key goals won't be met.

"This doesn't add a net gain of creating the new jobs and adding new people downtown," he said.

Betro's successor on the City Council, Mike Gardner, agrees that a sale to the county would not be as advantageous to the city as keeping the building in the private sector.

"The downtown is going to lose some benefit," he said.

Also a burgeoning nightmare for business owners in Riverside are those inflating sewer rates. Could this be the season for another flip flop on increases which will show up on public utilities bills as happened the last several years with the infamous multi-tier electric rate increase?

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board has decidedthat civilian juries should not hear cases involving the military. The next case down the pike involves a former Marine who along with others raped a 15 year-old Iraqi girl in front of her family then killed all of them before setting them on fire. If a civilian jury can't understand that such an action has no more to do with enforcing public safety than it would in civilian society than civilians shouldn't be deciding civilian crime cases either.

The latest rumble between the San Bernardino Police Officers' Association and the police chief continues into another day as Chief Michael Billdt confronts rumors that he is picky about which officers he favors.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

n a written statement co-authored by Mayor Pat Morris and City Manager Fred Wilson, the chief said that he has based his leadership on values such as integrity, respect for the law, and accountability.

"Unfortunately, adherence to these values can occasionally cause an officer or employee to disagree or become angry for personal reasons," the statement reads. "While this reaction is understandable, it is unfortunate to see it spill over into baseless allegations and inflammatory statements that are destructive to the department's morale."
Story continues below

The statement follows a call by the city police union at a City Council meeting Tuesday for a change at the top of its department, with union representatives accusing the chief of "autocratic and self-serving" leadership.

Union President Rich Lawhead said union members will meet this evening to weigh the evidence behind the accusations.

Union members also may consider a vote of no confidence in the chief, Lawhead said.

A San Diego Police Department officer nicknamed "" has been charged with tipping off drug dealers.

(excerpt, NBC)

uan Hurtado Tapia was arrested Tuesday by FBI and DEA agents. According to federal prosecutors, Tapia was a patrol officer working with the San Diego Police Department when he was allegedly in contact with drug traffickers who were already under investigation. Through court-authorized wire taps, agents said they obtained evidence of him using police computers to run criminal history checks and then passing on that information to drug traffickers.

On Wednesday, he appeared on a criminal complaint alleging "misuse of his status as a law enforcement officer to obtain and pass sensitive information to associates who were involved in drug-trafficking crimes."

Agents said they learned in May 2008 that people they were targeting in their investigations were in some sort of contact with Tapia.

"We're very disappointed that one of our officers is accused of this kind of behavior" assistant police chief David Ramirez told NBC 7/39.

This isn't the first case of its kind but it could be worse. He could be sleeping with them and protecting them.

Three police officers have been fired in Waterbury.

(excerpt, Republican-American)

McCarty was fired for mishandling a domestic violence complaint
involving a fellow officer, Capt. Michael Edwards — who also was
fired. A third policeman, Sgt. James Cagno, was given a written
warning for his role in the incident.

The behavior of the three officers has triggered some soul-searching
among the leaders of the police department, leading to department-wide
retraining, revisions to policy and a closer look at how the city's
police handle calls that involve their own members.

"If you're not learning from the incidents, you're not doing anyone
any favors," said Police Superintendent Neil O'Leary.

Police officers in Columbus, Georgia are resisting civilian review by signing a petition to get rid of it.

(excerpt, Ledger-Enquirer)

"I feel like we are being singled out," said Police Lt. Charles Kennedy, a 23-year veteran of the department with 388 sworn officers. "That is my personal opinion."

Columbus Councilor Julius Hunter sponsored the ordinance that would change the Public Safety Advisory Commission's name to the Public Safety Review Commission. It would also give the group power to investigate public safety matters only after internal investigations are complete. In an advisory role, the commission may recommend that the mayor or council initiate additional investigations.

Councilor Wayne Anthony supports the changes and pushed for the formation of the advisory group after the shooting death of Kenneth Walker. The unarmed man was shot after the sport utility vehicle he was riding in was stopped Dec. 10, 2003, as part of a drug investigation.

Anthony said Friday that he was not aware of the petition.

"I think there are voices from both sides of the issue -- some opposing it, some supporting it and some looking for common ground," Anthony said.

The ACLU and the first graduate of the Department of Justice's consent decree program, Pittsburgh Police Department, are are in harsh disagreement over how many disorderly conduct citations the police have issued this past year.

(excerpt, Miami Herald)

"Nobody likes to get sworn at, but you can't make it a crime," said Witold
Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Foundation of

The ACLU's request came in connection with a federal lawsuit involving David
Hackbart, who was cited after allegedly making an obscene gesture at another
driver, and then at a police sergeant. In a recent court filing, the city
said the citation was not for Hackbart's gestures, but because he was
blocking traffic.

Walczak told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the city had initially claimed
it had only one disorderly conduct citation involving rude remarks to police
or other people over that period. He called the additional citations
evidence that the department had failed to adequately train its officers.

Walczak said officers were wrong to cite a woman who said, "I'm a
(expletive) passenger," during a traffic stop; a woman who was "swearing
profanities to a companion in front of the Girl Scouts"; and a man who
"engaged in loud noise, racial slurs and pig remarks."

In Philadelphia, a committee is being formed to study the physical effects of being tased.

This entry discussed a survey conducted involving the police culture's code of silence and how and when it's adhered to by officers. The answer is, a lot of the time.

More police training, said the city council in Inglewood.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

"The recent officer-involved shootings have raised important questions and community concerns about the Inglewood Police Department and how officers go about their jobs, especially in cases involving use of force," the council said in a statement. "We will continue to aggressively seek updates ... to ensure that officers are receiving the latest training possible."

The council also directed Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks to consider bringing in personnel from outside agencies while the department evaluates how much training its officers need.

Police spokesman Mike McBride said Seabrooks will respond publicly Friday.

"She'll follow through with the mandates of the City Council," McBride said. "We're all onboard."

More information on the city council's mandate here.

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