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 09, 2008

It's only midweek but plenty of intrigue

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!"

---Sir Walter Scott

Welcome to the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting on the ethics process, take two! It appears that this committee will revisit its earlier discussion of the city's ethics code and complaint process again on Friday, Sept. 12 at 9 a.m. at City Hall.

Why? Because even with City Attorney Gregory Priamos present at this meeting, it turned out that it was conducted in an improper manner. According to the established procedure, the annual review was to be conducted at a meeting where Mayor Ron Loveridge and the chairs of all the city's boards and commissions were supposed to be invited to attend. However, that's not what took place as Loveridge told individuals after the meeting held last week on Sept. 3 that he knew nothing about it and had not been notified by the Governmental Affairs Committee let alone invited. Originally, he thought it was a situation that could wait until next year to be remedied. Did he change his mind?

The discussion of the ethics review lasted about three minutes before another agenda item was discussed and the meeting was about to be adjourned 10 minutes after it started, however people arrived who had come specifically for the ethics item and relayed their concerns and observations about it during public comment.

The smirking shown by Ward Seven Councilman Steve Adams while The Group Chair Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely was providing suggestions for the process including the creation of an independent panel possibly of retired judges to hear complaints was itself the subject of complaints by those in attendance who witnessed it. Friday morning will probably provide another opportunity to see it.

If there are any recommendations from this committee, they will go to the city council possibly at its Sept. 16 meeting for further discussion.

This report doesn't mention the faux pas that happened last week but provides limited information on this latest review. It will be interesting to see how this return engagement by the Governmental Affairs Committee plays out.

The fate of the Community Police Review Commission came up for discussion during public comments at the city council meeting (which lasted over two hours!), and doing most of the commenting from the dais was Ward Four Councilman Frank Schiavone who defended City Manager Brad Hudson's edict to restrict the commission's ability to fulfill its charter-dictated responsibility to investigate officer-involved deaths. Schiavone's speech included a reference done to a comparison study done of 17 other civilian oversight mechanisms in the state. Which is most amazing because there aren't that many bodies overall and not that many that have this power written into city or county law. Did they toss some other types of processes that aren't really all that similar to the CPRC's model on the list?

Big surprise there. Not so much his views on the subject but that he actually said anything because the city council members have been relatively silent on this issue. But did the elected official who pushed the buttons of City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis which one elected official once compared to windup toys waiting to be sent in one direction, just come forward?

Stay tuned.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez made some comments to me about the meeting that he held in the Eastside last week which was attended by a department representative to discuss what it's calling the decentralization of the police department's community policing. This comes in the wake of news that the Community Services Division was dissolved and most of its officers reassigned to patrol. There was no announcement by the department before or after these actions were taken. The idea is to take the components of the Community Service Division out and place parts of them under the banners of the four neighborhood policing centers and the area commanders.

What might impact that is that despite warnings that the staffing levels including those at the supervisory levels needed to be addressed, more retirements at the sergeant and lieutenant level have or will continue to increase the number of vacancies at both levels. The lack of publicity surrounding the implementation of the decentralization of community policing in the police department has led people to wonder if the department was simply taking short-term staffing changes to resolve some of its deficits in the patrol division and community services was simply a casualty. It would be a real shame if this were true, because the city tried this strategy before and all it got out of it was a $22 million bill but if the department is truly improving the level of community policing in the department, then it needs to get the word out.

One task which will have to be accomplished in order to truly decentralize community policing in the police department would be to revise its field training program for new officers. Currently, there's not much mention of community policing in the training's overview and most of the references to it in the training are to the Community Oriented Problem Solving (COPS) phase of the training schedule which lasts about two weeks. Decentralization after all starts at the very beginning.

During the city council meeting, Melendrez asked when more of these forums would be held and what dates. Capt. Meredith Meredyth who presides over the Central and West NPCs of the city couldn't list a date but said one would be held in the north-eastern part of Riverside by the end of the year.

Before then, the police department including Chief Russ Leach will be holding its third community forum at Arlington High School on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

It's been suggested that the city council itself host a public forum or meeting to discuss the "decentralization of community policing" as well as the following issues. They can invite Leach, his command staff, the area commanders, members of what once was the Community Services Division, POPs officers, the head of the field training division (to explain the decentralization of that program pertaining to community policing), the director of the Crime-Free Multi-Housing program (if there is one) civilian personnel and representatives of the three labor unions, the Riverside Police Officers' Association, the Riverside Police Administrators' Association and the SEIU General Unit.

1) The status of new hires and officer positions

2) The status of the officer to sergeant ratios in patrol amid new retirements and unfilled spots

3) The status of lieutenant watch commanders amid new retirements and at least one unfilled spot

4) The status of over-time involving the department's investigation divisions

Possible forums to hold this discussion include the following.

1) City Council, discussion or workshop

2) Public Safety Committee

3) Human Resources Board

4) Human Relations Commission

5) Community Police Review Commission (under the provision of its advisory role to the government on all community/police issues)

6) Other public forums

The reaction from the elected government of Riverside so far outside of Melendrez seems to be frankly, we don't give a damn, at least not enough to hold one public discussion about it. Of course, their predecessors in the last century felt the same way at the time and most likely believed they were operating under the best of intentions. But seriously, the reaction from community leaders and others seems to be likewise even as those in communities ask questions about what's going on. If there are any serious problems in the future because of this inaction, it will be those entrusted with behaving as leaders who will be viewed by history in perhaps an unfavorable light.

A lot of disparaging comments have been made by some current city officials about past ones whose actions along with their predecessors led to huge expenditures by the city in paying to reform the police department but if they essentially repeat the same mistakes, then their comments should be aimed more inward and there should be less finger pointing outward. After all, when push came to shove their predecessors did what needed to be done in a difficult climate. Would the same be said about the current city council, when some of them are so thin-skinned that they not only make derogatory comments about city residents who appear before them but they had to legislate restrictions into public comment to greatly limit hearing anything outside of praise.

For one thing, while the city council has banned booing, they've not extended the same standard to cheering and clapping. This, at least violates the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

Rumors are circulating that Schiavone's not running for reelection. Now before you believe that, consider that circulating rumors like this is long-standing and a rather excellent strategy for flushing out any potentially powerful election rivals. Is anyone in Ward Four going to take the bait?

Stay tuned.

Discussion on the involvement of local arts groups in the Fox Theater continues here.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board believes that Riverside District Attorney Rod Pacheco went too far when he scolded another judge.


Prosecutors' fusillade at Cahraman creates tension where the county needs harmony. Riverside County faces a crushing load of criminal cases that have pushed civil trials aside. The county needs more judges, but is unlikely to get them anytime soon.

Yet other California counties also lack sufficient judges and manage to dispense criminal and civil justice efficiently. Riverside County could surely do the same. But that goal requires cooperation, not sharp-edged exchanges between the district attorney's office and county judges.

And blasting the new presiding judge implicitly attacks the decision of Cahraman's fellow judges, who chose him for the position. Just how does that do anything to help resolve the court bottlenecks?

Lawyers no doubt often disagree with judges' rulings. But venting those differences should not take precedence over collaboration on easing the county's caseload crunch.

A former Riverside County Public Defender's office investigator is currently on trial for rape.

Corona's police chief is departing after quite a long stint.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Madory will take over at a time when municipal agencies statewide are being asked to get by with less money because of the economic slowdown. Gonzales said his department's budget was reduced by $2 million this fiscal year from the previous year.

The Police Department budget this fiscal year is about $42 million, Madory said.

"Some years there are the funds," Gonzales said. "Other years, I tell the work force we've got to get a little skinny. If there are future cuts, we'll face those."

Madory and others are confident he can keep the department strong despite the financial challenges. Madory has been involved in the department's budget matters for 11 years.

"We always strive to use the resources we have in the best way possible," Madory said. "I look at this as an opportunity."

Temecula will be paying out big bucks to some company to build its City Hall but which one?

But two city council candidates for the upcoming election are asking if it's the right time to spend those major bucks.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Council candidates Al Abbott and James "Stew" Stewart questioned whether the building was a good use of taxpayer money.

Abbott quoted a June 2006 Press-Enterprise article which stated the first phase of the complex would cost $24.6 million with the entire complex more than $37 million.

"As a taxpayer, I find that to be a much more than acceptable margin of error or miscalculation," he said.

While praising city staff and saying he had "no bone to pick" with the council, Stewart took issue with the new City Hall's size.

"It could be a big drain on city funds years from now if we don't have the surplus we have now," he said.

Abbott, Stewart and Rita Hernandez are challenging Mayor Mike Naggar and Councilman Chuck Washington for two council seats in November.

Moving into a deputy chief's position in the Riverside County Sheriff's Department is the Moreno Valley Police Department chief.

Residents in Inglewood are protesting the recent series of fatal officer-involved shootings in that city.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The council, which discussed the shootings in closed session, convened a day after the vice-chairman of the Inglewood Citizen Police Oversight Commission, who has been one of the department's harshest critics, announced that he was taking a leave of absence from the watchdog panel.

"It is time for those who say they support this commission to do more than be silent," Donald Nicholson wrote in an e-mail to The Times.

"It is now time for others to speak up and support the ideals of openness, honesty and transparency," Nicholson wrote. "As long as I am in the forefront, others will be comfortable with letting me do the talking. Everyone must participate."

Belo Enterprise's blood letting of the Press Enterprise continues as its best and most experienced reporters are being pushed into quitting with more to leave by the end of this week through what is being called "voluntary buyouts".

Voluntary? Not really. Out with the old and in with the new and inexperienced.

Remember Kimberly Trone, the county reporter who exposed DHL-gate? Remember Joe Vargo who wrote about military issues? Remember the great environmental issues writer Jennifer Bowles?

All gone. Chances are if there's an experienced journalist that you remember reading at the PE, they are no longer there.

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