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

Those noises you hear behind the curtain are budget cuts

If they worked for IBM or Sears, do you think they would keep their
jobs? Why is it so hard to fire a policeman? There does
not seem to be any rhyme or reason to their decisions."

---Former Chicago Police Department Commander Brad Woods

The main street renovation project in Riverside is getting some high marks. The $14 million project is about to complete its first phase. It's cost a fortune which Riverside may or may have not had to spend during these fiscally difficult times but this portion of the project is nearing its completion by the Thanksgiving deadline so it will be ready for the annual Lighting of the Lights in the City of the Lights (outside of Paris of course).

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Cary Knight, owner of the Upper Crust sandwich shop on Main between Sixth and Fifth, said the renovation is making Main Street much nicer.

"I think it's phenomenal," he said.

Nadia Lee, co-owner of the Downtowne Bookstore on the opposite side of the same block, said she had all but opposed the renovation as unnecessary but "I really like the outcome so far."

Both Knight and Lee said that with the renovation, the city should bring back a midweek evening street fair like Riverside Wednesday Night, which the city ended in summer 2006. The fair ran from the spring through the fall and drew thousands to the pedestrian mall to buy food and crafts from vendors and to listen to live music.

The city pulled the plug on the street fair at the same time it ended the Orange Blossom Festival. Both were run by the same organization.

Councilman Mike Gardner, whose ward includes downtown, said he would like the city to bring the weekly street fair back, too, though with fewer vendors of mass-manufactured goods, more locally crafted wares and less heavily amplified music.

He can see it returning next spring between Sixth and Fifth then moving to the pedestrian mall once the renovation is finished, he said, but the city has not put together a plan yet.

While examining the various budgets assigned to Riverside's barely there Community Police Review Commission over the past several years, I was somewhat surprised to see the cuts that were made presumably by the city manager's office after the passage of the preliminary budgets in June of each year. Most noted, were the comparisons between the projected and actual budgets during the last two fiscal years.

This comparison was made possible by finally being able to get a copy of the CPRC' preliminary budget which was passed along with the rest of the city's in June. Initially, it wasn't going to be available to the public until mid-September, according to the CPRC office which received its information from Administrative Analyst Mario Lara who works for City Manager Brad Hudson. This budget was alleged to have been on the online edition of the preliminary budget for 2008(09) by City Attorney Gregory Priamos but that turned out not to be true. I think all three of them need to familiarize themselves with the California Public Records Act.

At any rate, the post-preliminary budget cuts to the CPRC might be one reason not to publicize this public information to city residents including the 60% who voted to put it in the city charter.


Projected: $332,515

Amended: $319,017

Actual: $284,333


Approved: $334,392

Actual: $230,975

It would be interesting indeed to see why these cuts were made and where this funding was spent. Were there cuts because the money was never spent? Were they done to undermine the CPRC? Where they done because the money was needed and the city robbed Peter to pay Paul? Some people have said that these days to pay for all the projects, the city has been picking up its department operations like a piggy bank and shaking them upside down to see what money falls out. In 2007, the police department itself faced the freezing of civilian positions and while it's not known where the "saved" money was spent, some people worried that it went to Riverside Renaissance.

How healthy is the city's finances? How much is borrowed? How many bonds are prematurely cashed on? How many futures have been borrowed against and who will pay the debts? What's the city's credit rating?

That all will remain to be seen how these questions will be answered, but with a growing, expanding city how well will the city's coffers be able to provide for it? In the midst of all this, another assistant city manager, this time Paul Sundeen who's in charge of finance, will be leaving the building. What implications will this and the other resignation from Hudson's office have on the city?

While Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco was pushing for more arrests on the gang injunction in the Eastside, four homicides happened elsewhere in one month. At the time, the over-time detective authorized to work is a homicide detective and they handle other crimes if they are able to because there's no homicides.

No doubt, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis will repeat his mantra about the police department being "fully staff" as he did when responding to some disturbing news which was part of a quarterly audit of the department at a city council meeting in June. With each day that passes, his statement seems more and more ridiculous. And that was back when Community Services was apparently cut by this office and/or the police department without a peep to the city residents who began asking what's with the citizen academy, what's with Crime-Free Multi-Housing (which may not even a director right now) and now, are my POPS officers still available?

If these were all indeed cut amidst a few murmurs about town that community policing programs are still alive and well (yet no presentation in front of the city council or at a public city-wide forum), then what do these areas cut have in common?

There was some talk that what was actually happening in the department was the "decentralization of community policing" which would be great but is that true? If so, why is such an integral change in how the department polices and staffs its divisions being kept under wraps and from being discussed in public? Any attempts so far are simply creating more questions than answers. But the powers that be at City Hall and the police department don't seem to mind.

At any rate, there will be a poll taken in terms of what division in the police department will face cuts next in the interest of being "fully staffed".

A $100 million capital project to turn waste water to usable water is the latest Riverside Renaissance project to come before the city council.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The program is among the priciest of those touted under the Riverside Renaissance, a $1.8 billion, five-year program that includes building new electric infrastructure, parks, underpasses and overpasses at railroad crossings, and the renovation of the Fox Theatre as a performing arts center.

But City Councilman Rusty Bailey believes the cost of the water project will be offset in the future if the city can sell additional water to neighboring areas hit harder by drought.

"There's not too many arguments against doing this," Bailey said. "Despite the economic times we're in right now, this is going to pay for itself and more, and as well as lead the area in being water-wise."

Both Bailey and Kevin Milligan, the city utility's assistant general manager for water, likened approving the project to Riverside's pioneers building the Gage Canal 130 years ago to bring water from the Santa Ana River near San Bernardino and acquiring other rights to groundwater north of the city to foster its then-burgeoning citrus industry.

"So we're in the same position," Milligan said. "If we want to thrive as a city for the next 100 years, we're going to need water."

It is one of the Inland region's more ambitious projects in recent years to use so-called recycled water as imported supplies are increasingly limited by drought, climate change and protections for endangered species. By 2030, the water that can be recycled will account for one-third of what the city uses, Milligan said.

"It's local, it's controllable and it's fairly drought-proof," he said. "People flush their toilets year-round whether it rains or not."
Story continues below

Milligan said an endorsement by the City Council will help the city get grants from state and federal agencies to fund the project.

"It's a lot of money; we don't want to embark on this ambitious program without them buying into it," Milligan said.

The city has postponed another expensive capital project involving water for several years. Hopefully, not because it could come back stamped "inadequate funds".

A homeless shelter in Hemet Valley is requesting funding from the city government.

The San Bernardino Sun has been doing a lot of articles in the latest brouhaha between the San Bernardino Police Officers' Association and Chief Michael Billdt, including the recent "no confidence" vote against him. Has all this jilted Billdt?


"I'm committed to this town. I'm committed to this department," Billdt said in a telephone interview Friday.

"My plan is to stay the course," he added later.

Billdt spoke the morning after 135 of 178 sworn officers at a police union meeting cast votes of "no confidence" in his leadership.

Police union President Rich Lawhead called the vote "overwhelming."

Lawhead all but called for the chief's ouster in a news release, citing allegations of favoritism, inconsistent disciplinary measures, retaliation and ruling through "fear and intimidation."

"It is time for the mayor to decide if he will continue to protect his political appointment, Chief Billdt, or put the community first and restore effective leadership ... ," Lawhead wrote in a statement.

Mayor Pat Morris still supports the chief. Morris said the union's vote captures officers' views during a "snapshot in time" but does not signal an unbridgeable gap between Billdt and the city's cops.

"Tensions between management and labor rise and fall," Morris said. "These are moments of great tension."

Before all this, Billdt had denied the friction among the parties.


The chief asserted that current friction arose from his sticking to what he listed as core values - "commitment to public service and safety, integrity, loyalty, respect for the law and accountability."

"I am fully committed to these values in my management and leadership of the department," Billdt said. "Unfortunately, adherence to these values can occasionally cause an officer or employee to disagree or become angry for personal reasons.

"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," Billdt continued.

Mayor Pat Morris, City Manager Fred Wilson and the Police Management Association also issued statements in support of Billdt.

Morris credited Billdt with overseeing a drop in crime.

"Officer and employee morale is critical to continuing our success in public safety, but accountability and transparency in police functions must be maintained, and I believe Chief Billdt is doing a good job in managing those interests," the mayor said.

More to come on this latest adventure in San Bernardino to be sure.

A threatening letter against a member of the Jurupa Unified School District's Board of Trustees is being investigated by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

The National Fraternal Organization of Police has not surprisingly endorsed John McCain as its presidential candidate.

(excerpt, The Conservative Voice)

"Senator McCain will provide greater leadership for our country and for our nation's law enforcement officers," Canterbury said. "We will be proud to stand behind him this
November, and to stand with him for the next four years."

For a candidate to receive the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of
Police, he must receive a two-third majority of the National Board,
which is made up of one Trustee from each of the organization' s State

"Our National Board, and the more than 327,000 members of the FOP,
acquainted themselves with Senator McCain's record, and, after meeting
with him face to face in July, he made it very clear that he is with
us on the issues most important to our members," Canterbury said.

"Like our members, he sees issues through the eyes of someone that has
been on the front lines. That is exactly the kind of perspective, and
the kind of leadership, that we need in the White House."

Why is it so hard to fire a police man?

Who is asking that question? The chief of the Chicago Police Department who doesn't have that power but really, really wants it.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Chicago Police Board has the final say on firings, and it turned
down the superintendent about 70 percent of the time between 2003 and
2007. It operates with little publicity, even though its decisions
play a big role in ensuring quality policing in the city.

Of 80 officers the superintendent sought to fire over that five-year
period, just 21 were dismissed. Thirty-nine were suspended -- some for
as long as three years -- even though the Police Board found them
guilty of violating department rules. Twenty officers were restored to
duty after being found not guilty by the board.

The 59 officers spared from dismissal included:

• • An officer who received a three-year suspension for
accidentally shooting a homeless man in what the officer said was a

• • Two officers who were later charged criminally in federal
court, one for unrelated weapons violations and another for the
on-duty beating of a man in a wheelchair.

• • An officer who allegedly printed 13 photos of a woman from
the Police Department's arrest database and gave them to a friend who
was later convicted of attempted murder for shooting her and another man.

The Philadelphia Police Department's officer-involved shootings are currently mired in the system according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Would you pay $35 for a movie ticket?

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