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

Sunday, September 07, 2008

So many independent investigations except the one

The beleaguered Community Police Review Commission meets again this week on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Riverside's City Hall.

Its agenda is packed with items including further discussions and updates involving four officer-involved deaths, the most recent being last week and the most distant, taking place back in October 2006.

A representative of the Riverside Police Department will provide a briefing on its investigations into the Sept. 1 fatal shooting of Carlos David Quinonez, Sr. It hasn't been announced whether or not Chief Russ Leach will do as he promised he would at several public meetings and deliver the briefing himself and take questions. The department finally broke its silence on these briefings through orders delivered by the city manager's office as a consolation prize from its decision to shut down all future officer-involved shootings until months or even up to a year after the original incident.

So far, the department has not released the names of the officers involved in this shooting, despite a recent opinion by State Attorney Jerry Brown requiring law enforcement agencies to do so in the majority of the cases.

Here is some of the information available so far on the Quinonez shooting.

RPD press release

PE: Man shot by RPD dies

What the police department won't be doing at this special meeting is providing any information on its investigations into the July 11 death of Martin Gaspar Pablo, 38, after ignoring two invitations by the commission to do so. As happened in the Quinonez case, the police department has not released the names of the officers involved in that incident. It's interesting how well the Riverside County Sheriff's Department follows the legal opinion of the state's highest prosecutor while the Riverside Police Department's record of doing so hasn't been nearly as good.

What will be done instead is that a staff report on the progress of the investigation being conducted by Ray Martinelli's firm will be provided probably by Executive Manager Kevin Rogan. That is if there's been any progress since the police department allegedly initially refused to give the address of where the incident took place, according to members of the commission. Ultimately, the investigator was able to obtain the correct information but that will be only be the first obstacle predicted to be encountered by the CPRC due to the nature not of its investigation necessarily but that done by the department. Think "cone of silence" and its expansion in this particular case compared to all the officer-involved deaths which have preceded it.

The commission initiated its investigation into the Pablo death, after voting 5 to 3 to do so on Aug. 10 despite stern warnings from City Attorney Gregory Priamos at an earlier meeting that doing so would be a violation of the city charter. After being briefed on an alternate legal opinion of Charter Section 810 (d) governing the commission's investigation into officer-involved deaths by an ACLU attorney, the commission finally took action. Given that City Manager Brad Hudson's edict which banned the commission from initiating any further officer-involved shootings unless it had permission from City Hall and/or the police department didn't apply to the Pablo incident, then that office has essentially acknowledged that this investigation had a legal right to take place under the charter which contradicts Priamos' stance.

If you recall, all officer-involved deaths investigations by the CPRC including that of Quinonez will be barred by Hudson's office, the argument being that the CPRC's investigations might interfere with the police department's criminal investigations. However, Hudson's office nor the police department for that matter can't name a single instance when that actually happened and given that neither Hudson or his assistant, Tom DeSantis were in Riverside during most of the commission's tenure, they clearly haven't done their research on this aspect of its history. If they had, they wouldn't have issued that edict which some commissioners said they did as tit for tat in response to the commission's vote to investigate the Pablo incident. Brandriff called it a "spanking". Hopefully, Brandriff won't be meeting with Chair Brian Pearcy in a local restaurant for a "counseling session" in the near future.

Not to mention that it's kind of ironic to hear the city manager's office voice any concern about the interference of an outside process of any type on a criminal investigation.

And why the edict was issued after an officer-involved death involving a man allegedly brandishing a shot gun at officers is an interesting question to consider indeed. People were genuinely puzzled that City Hall would take such a stance after a shooting some might think wasn't controversial on its face.

The city manager's edict will be discussed by the full commission at the meeting with some defending what they wouldn't have only several years ago, others defending what they would have any day of the week and others contesting it including Commissioner John Brandriff who said he wanted to put the initiating of an independent investigation into Quinonez's death to the floor. Any such action would only be symbolic given that Hudson has handed off the commission's budget decisions to Priamos.

The further dilution of the CPRC after two years of mismanagement and micromanagement by City Hall continues but it provides an interesting opportunity to examine through a microsm some of the current dysfunctions in the city government and its administration. The timing between the similar micromanagement of the police department which hasn't exactly enhanced its development either and the sudden "problems" and "strife" in the police commission is not probably accidental, nor is it likely that the timing to both of these things with murmurs coming out about the status of the city's payment of numerous settlements in connection with wrongful cases are accidental or coincidental either.

It's also interesting to see the question arise as to whether or not the city's currently even insured for these type of lawsuits, what carrier insures it and if it isn't, where is the money to settle these cases coming from? But is it very likely that a responsible city government would even put itself in that position? If Riverside falls in that category then it would be able to handle these settlements without taking money from tax money contributed by its residents. If not, then there's indeed a serious problem.

At any rate, it's still mystifying that Hudson, DeSantis and Priamos seem so worried about any public body that promotes accountability and transparency involving the police department even though it's been post-consent decree for over two years now and is touted as being on the right track. In some ways, it clearly is. Others? That's a matter of opinion.

It's as odd as it is to figure out why there was or has been no prior outcry by a city manager or Priamos about any of the preceding 10 or so officer-involved death investigations interfering with a criminal investigation of a death. The Riverside County District Attorney's office has never filed criminal charges against an officer in relation to an onduty death and it's never going to so all this sudden concern seems to be somewhat of a red herring. Because even if a case merited it, an agency like the D.A.'s office isn't going to bite the hand which feeds it through investigatory assistance for the cases it does prosecute. After all, the only criminal charges in relation to any law enforcement officer involved in any onduty shooting in the office's history were issued by a criminal grand jury of county residents not prosecutors working inside a special unit which supposedly addresses officer-involved death cases.

It's also not clear who's issuing the directives involving the police department. The police chief? Hudson? DeSantis? One of Leach's subordinates? The police unions? Priamos or is it a committee effort? It's just interesting to see decisions being made which are similar to those made in the 1990s one of which is disbanding community policing units, the other being endangering officer to supervisor ratios and then out comes this sudden decision to bar the commission from carrying out its duties under the charter and do its investigations in a timely manner. Is it possible that City Hall doesn't want any oversight not just of the police department but its own influence of direction of that department and the end results?

It makes one wonder what the future holds for both the commission and the police department. The forecast looks cloudy with dense fog right now.

Ward Four Councilman Frank Schiavone in Riverside put pen to paper about handling the utility crisis but was it an op-ed or a campaign speech? We won't know until next year but it's not a bad piece of prose.

What happens in San Bernardino County's latest round of political intrigue when requests for drug testing become the side show?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

as anyone actually asked Postmus to take a drug test? Apparently not.

Board Chairman Paul Biane called on him to publicly refute the allegations of illegal drug use or resign immediately (he did neither). But test for drugs? No.

Too bad, because that's the only thing that will bring down the curtain on this theater of the absurd. Oh well, at least the drug tests didn't cost much, less than $100 for all five supes.

But the drug testing was a sideshow. The more serious questions about whether Postmus orchestrated his staff's political activity on county time remain unanswered.

The grand jury alleged that Postmus created an executive staff of eight whose sole function was to make him look good, and that he took 10 civil-service positions and politicized them by making them at-will.

What's seems to be overlooked is that Postmus' fellow supervisors were his enablers. They gave him the budget to add those eight "executive support staff" positions, and allowed him to revoke the other workers' civil service protection.

Another officer-involved shooting by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

What does Riverside County's Mental Health Court do?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Operators say the system allows those with mental health issues to take responsibility for their crimes while receiving hands-on guidance that will make them less likely to reoffend and enable them to better control the mental problems that helped get them into trouble in the first place. Rather than being sent to state prison, they are sentenced to probation.

"If it was not for Mental Health Court, a lot of these defendants would get lost in a system not designed to handle them," said Deputy Public Defender Maura Rogers, who has been assigned to the court since it was started.

As with others of its type, the court places mentally ill criminal offenders in an intensive mental-health treatment program instead of jail. Riverside County, which started its program in 2001, also has it at its Indio courthouse.

San Bernardino County's program was one of the first in California. It was launched in 1999, shortly after the first U.S. program was started in Florida.

Deputy District Attorney Kelly Sedochenkoff handles the cases within the court. She said the program has benefits on two sides.

"It is a balancing act between protecting the community and meeting the needs of the mentally ill," she said.

Expanding this program county-wide is impossible at the moment because of the backlog of criminal cases.

In Palm Springs, a new courthouse is helping to reduce the civil case load, which developed from the civil court process being shut down for periods of time to try to reduce the backlog of criminal trials.

Although he's facing two charges of murder including that of his wife, former DeKalb County Sheriff's Department deputy, Derrick Yancey asked to be bonded out before trial. And guess what? he was.

(excerpt, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The ruling drew a response from a representative for two siblings of Yancey’s wife, whom Yancey is accused of killing. An attorney who said she spoke on behalf of the siblings of Linda Yancey said the DeKalb district attorney’s office failed to do enough to prevent Yancey’s release.

“It appears Mr. Yancey is receiving preferential treatment as a result of his previous employment with the DeKalb County court system,” said a statement issued by lawyer Loletha Denise Hale, who said she spoke for Eugene Thomas and Gloria Thomas Sanders.

Asked about the statement, chief assistant district attorney Don Geary said Yancey “will be treated as any other criminal defendant charged in DeKalb County. We will vigorously prosecute within the limits of the law, and we will do everything we can to be mindful and considerate of the wishes of the victims’ family.”

Not long after Detroit's mayor got charged with felonies, the police chief resigned.

Coincidence? Almost nobody thinks so.

One of Denver County's deputies who got caught in a sting is appealing his termination. The prostitute he picked up turned out to be an undercover officer.

(excerpt, Rocky Mountain News)

Eric Griffith, 38, cited some of the recent cases of alleged deputy misconduct as outlined in the Independent Monitor's annual report, including the 45-day suspension of a deputy who slapped another deputy on the buttocks.

"According to what I was told from the day I got hired, the city says zero tolerance on violence in the workplace. This officer got a 45-day suspension for assaulting another officer," Griffith said Wednesday.

Griffith gave other examples of deputies getting into trouble but not losing their jobs. However, those allegations could not be independently verified.

"I didn't think that what I did was as bad as what other people have done, and they've kept their jobs," he said.

But Griffith holds no grudges, saying he's accepted responsibility for a "stupid mistake" and moved on with his life.

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