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

Monday, October 27, 2008

PE Editorial Board: Stop turning the CPRC into a puppet show!

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board took to its collective keyboard again and hammered out this strong editorial that states that the Riverside Community Police Review Commission must be an independent panel and not City Hall's lap dog. It's merely putting in writing what many people out in the city have been saying during the past several months. When given the option of choosing between a watch dog and a lap dog, many people believe it's the job of the CPRC to serve as the former not the latter. But does City Hall disagree?


City officials said that requiring the commission to wait would ensure that the panel did not impede police investigations. Yet the city could point to no evidence of any past interference, making this rationale less than convincing.

And the city's refusal to fund any commission investigation not approved by the city attorney looks like one more way to rein in the panel's independence. The charter language leaves room for varying interpretations of the commission's powers, and a majority of commissioners disagree with the city attorney's view.

The Community Police Review Commission can provide a safe outlet for residents' concerns, improve civic communication and build public confidence in the city's police. But those benefits require a commission is an independent, credible voice, and not a mouthpiece for City Hall.

The Board hits some really important points here including several overlooked by the city and that is that other legal opinions on the charter language surrounding the CPRC exist besides that of the city's personal attorney, Gregory Priamos. In fact, one alternative opinion was provided by ACLU attorney Pete Bibring at a CPRC meeting several months ago.

But the editorial hits a very crucial point about half-way through which bears further discussion because it's a point that finds its way into an awful lot of discussions about the CPRC and recent actions against it by City Hall.


The city's Police Department has greatly increased its professionalism in the past 10 years -- which makes the current City Hall attitude toward the commission all the more baffling. A more professional police force has less reason than ever to fear a panel that has sided with police nearly all the time.

This is the single most critical point that's been raised about the public when it comes to why City Hall's seen fit to turn the CPRC from its executive manager on down into its personal puppet show. How does the active decision making that's clearly going on to dilute the CPRC's power and render it ineffective relate to the current status of the police department?

Because the message that the city government and its direct employees are sending through their actions, is that it doesn't trust it and they don't trust their own police department. It couldn't spread this message through its actions and even its words about the CPRC better if it tried. In a situation which may or may not wind up being very unfair to the police department, the city is transmitting its concern and downright distrust of how it's conducting its operations. Because the Editorial Board is correct, the healthier the police department is in term of its own operations, the less intimidated City Hall and the police department's management would be about the CPRC specifically and civilian oversight in general. In fact, City Hall and the department should be more welcoming of an independent form of civilian review than they were in the past. But that's clearly not happening right now. That much seems fairly obvious given how actions are speaking louder than words.

Why is it that the more the police department has traveled down its arduous path towards reforming itself, the more nervous the city seems to get with civilian oversight and the more that elected officials and their direct employees interfere with its operations? A rational person would think that the city would get less freaked out (enough so to engage in micromanagement in the first place) with the CPRC now than it was earlier in this decade, say during the early days of the city's stipulated judgment with former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer. But what's happening is in reverse and that just should not be.

So what's really going on here? What's behind this micromanagement?

Is it the increased payouts or in one case, offer of payouts in connection with both lethal force incidents and alleged examples of excessive force? Is it just the need to control independent panels to fit one's political agenda? Is the city council and/or its direct employees covering up for some really poor and short-sighted decision making going on about the department's staffing of civilian and sworn employees by weakening a form of civilian oversight that through several of its charter powers could challenge the city to the mat on those same decisions? Are there serious conflict of interest situations known and unknown that are influencing this decision making? Is it a combination of any of the above?

Only one person currently serving on the dais comes even close to supporting an independent form of civilian oversight and also supports the CPRC's efforts to continue doing independent and timely investigations of officer-involved deaths just as it always has. The other individuals have either signed onto letters or opinion pieces supporting the restricting of the CPRC's ability to carry out its charter-mandated responsibilities stated clearly in Section 810(d) or through their silence have allowed the opinions of the former to dictate their own stances.

The elected official who supports the right of the CPRC to do investigations the way it's been doing them represents a ward where Measure II passed the muster of the majority of ward voters in the November 2004 election. But then again, every elected official including Mayor Ron Loveridge also represent city residents including the majority of city voters who passed Measure II in their respective voting districts. The voters who placed the commission in the city's charter clearly recognized the importance of doing so to spare the commission further interference by the city council, interference which peaked when one of them, former Councilman Art Gage tried to push a motion in June of 2004 to defend the CPRC by up to 95% of its annual budget. Yet four years after the city voters sent that message to the city government, the city government is showing that it frankly doesn't give a damn and essentially making Gage look like a rank amateur.

The Board goes further and criticizes the actions taken by one of those elected officials last month.


Commissioners and City Hall have been locked in a dispute over the panel's authority for months. But the city has handled the controversy in ways that provoke public suspicion, and appear more aimed at political control than practical policy needs.

The latest twist came last month when a councilman wrote two commissioners, accusing them of acting disrespectfully. But in essence, the letters criticized the panelists for expressing disagreement with the city manager and city attorney, and looked like an attempt to stifle dissent.

At least somebody gets it. But that doesn't begin or end with the editorial board's words because many other people in this city got it too, that it was about chilling the opinions of commissioners that this elected official disagreed with. Many people in this city including those who weren't staunch supporters of the CPRC are very concerned about what they see as City Hall essentially turning one of its volunteer-staffed boards and commissions into a puppet show. The elected officials seem to believe that the populace of Riverside just isn't that smart. But what this controversy has done is essentially increase the probability that the micromanagement of this commission might become a pressing campaign issue in next year's round of city elections. Which might not be such a bad thing after all.

With the mayor's position and three city council seats up for grabs, issues like the city council's lack of proper enforcement of another charter-mandated procedure, the ethics code and complaint process along with the manhandling of the CPRC take greater precedence than they might otherwise. Not to mention the instructions given by individuals at City Hall to community organizations to tone down their discussions or else city employees wouldn't be allowed to attend future meetings. Not to mention that city employees are making allegations that they were retaliated against by elected officials and other city employees for their involvement in political activities. It's likely that these situations and others like them including surely more to come may cause people in this city to take a careful look at what exactly is representing them at City Hall.

Something to think about with Election 2009 not too far on the horizon.

Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman's criminal complaint is available online at the Riverside County Superior Court site. He's been charged with two counts of Penal Code 228A(K) which is the use of rape oral copulation under threat to incarcerate, arrest or deport. The alleged incidents took place on or around April 2, 2008 against Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2. The third charge, 243.4(A), is sexual battery involving the touching of an intimate part of a person against the will of said person and why they are unlawfully restrained by the defendant or an accomplice. This alleged incident was against Jane Doe #3 and took place on or around Feb. 20, 2008.

Forman was arrested earlier this month at the Orange Street Station on $50,000 bail after an investigation was conducted.

Despite the bleak economic picture, the developers behind the office buildings in Riverside plan to move ahead to complete them.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Mark Rubin, who is planning the 150,000-square-foot Lime/University building, said he has faith the economy will be better in a couple of years and he has already spoken to two major law firms about leasing space.

"This meltdown is not going to last forever," Rubin said.

"I am absolutely bullish" on Riverside, he said.

The developer of the 10-story Regecy Tower, currently under construction in downtown Riverside, is selling it to Riverside County as the new headquarters for the district attorney's office.

Clayton Corwin, whose Stonecreek Partners is proposing the Olivewood project, made his view clear to the City Council on Oct. 7, when it approved a deal paving the way for the 75,000-square-foot Olivewood building.

"We view Riverside as a market that's underserved for some of what we would bring here," he told the council. "We're highly confident in what we're proposing to do."

Edward Fitzpatrick, executive vice president of the Shopoff Group, which has proposed the 80,000-square-foot Mission Inn Avenue project, appeared at an Oct. 2 meeting of a council committee, which recommended the Redevelopment Agency negotiate a deal with Shopoff. All but 10,000 square feet would be office space.

City Manager Brad Hudson said he's not worried there will be a glut of office space, although he has said the ailing economy likely would make it difficult to fill the 10-story 260,000-square-foot Regency Tower office building under construction on Orange Street between Ninth and 10th streets if it stayed in the private sector.

"They're all going to hit the market at different times," Hudson said.

Not surprisingly, the two top customers for office space for their law offices are two law forms including Best, Best and Krieger who have worked for the city.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors are set to appoint a new treasurer.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Supervisors John Tavaglione and Jeff Stone have recommended Don Kent, McDonnell's second-in-command, for the post. Kent, the assistant treasurer-tax collector, has worked for the county for 11 years, and McDonnell supports his appointment.

McDonnell resigned his post effective Nov. 6 to become the county's finance director. He replaces Bill Luna, who was named county executive officer in July.

The treasurer-tax collector is responsible for billing, collecting and depositing more than $3 billion annually in county property taxes. The job also includes managing the county's multibillion-dollar pool of funds and overseeing a department of 120 people.

On Oct. 7, soon after McDonnell submitted his resignation, Tavaglione pushed for Kent's prompt appointment.

"I don't think we should skip a beat based on where the financial market is," he said. "We need individuals with firsthand knowledge of what is taking place in our treasurer's office."

In Colton, there's a new political firestorm erupting just in time for its election. Negative campaigning even mudslinging is the norm not the exception in a city which has constantly hit the news with its political intrigue including at City Hall.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

One mailer, paid for by California Citizens for Good Government, which only referred to Yzaguirre, went too far and made personal attacks against him and questioned his family values, Yzaguirre said.

"I didn't want to get into this, I wanted to stick to the issues, but I can't let this happen," Yzaguirre said. "When they put stuff like this out there it shows they can't talk about the issues. They're trying to steal an election through lies and innuendos."

Yzaguirre suspects his opponent Jeremy Baca is behind the California Citizens for Good Government mailers and has the help of his father, Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino.

"I have a good sense that he's (Joe Baca) behind the PAC in Sacramento," Yzaguirre said. "It's not hard to figure it out ... no one in Sacramento would have an interest in Colton politics or trying to defeat a councilman.

"As Democrats we need to question whether he has our interests in mind or his interests in building a dynasty."

Colton's police department is investigating several of its officers who were the focus of allegations of excessive force.

Former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona tried to get the prosecutor removed from his trial on federal corruption charges.

That failed but will the governor be called to the witness stand?

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

In a hearing this afternoon, Carona's defense attorney, Brian Sun, said he might want the governor take the stand to answer questions about how he had once offered Carona the position of chief of his staff.

But it is possible Schwarzenegger might not have to come down – if prosecutors agree to stipulate that the governor offered Carona the job.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford left open the possibility of the governor's appearance.

“We have subpoena power that extends to Sacramento,'' Guilford said.

In the Los Angeles Times, a veteran police officer looks back at a confession he elicited from a suspected killer which turned out to be false in what's an excellent commentary which includes strategies to address this problem which has been noted by different law enforcement agencies around the state.


Confident in our evidence and the confession, we charged her with first-degree murder.

Then we discovered that the suspect had an ironclad alibi. We subpoenaed sign-in/sign-out logs from the homeless shelter where she lived, and the records proved that she could not have committed the crime. The case was dismissed, but all of us still believed she was involved in the murder. After all, she had confessed.

Even though it wasn't our standard operating procedure in the mid-1990s, when the crime occurred, we had videotaped the interrogation in its entirety. Reviewing the tapes years later, I saw that we had fallen into a classic trap. We ignored evidence that our suspect might not have been guilty, and during the interrogation we inadvertently fed her details of the crime that she repeated back to us in her confession.

If we hadn't discovered and verified the suspect's alibi -- or if we hadn't recorded the interrogation -- she probably would have been convicted of first-degree murder and would be in prison today. The true perpetrator of the crime was never identified, partly because the investigation was derailed when we focused on an innocent person.

Now, the author is a major champion for videotaping interrogations of people suspected of crimes and teaches courses on interrogations and recognizing and preventing false confessions.

California's legislature passed measures in both 2006 and 2007 that would have mandated video taping interrogations, but both were vetoed by the governor. Last year, individuals tried to circulate a petition for signatures to put a similar measure on the election ballot.

Former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates debates Amendment 40. Which he co-wrote while serving as the police chief.

Another installment in the Los Angeles Times series of the Los Angeles Police Department vs organized crime in the mid-20th Century.

A federal judge criticized the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners for ignoring excessive force complaints.

(excerpt, St. Louis Today)

In the five years before a Marine Corps veteran alleges he was beaten by officers during an arrest in 2002, the department received 322 complaints of "physical abuse" but sustained only one, U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber wrote in a court order.

That order came after Webber considered arguments and evidence the board presented seeking to have the man's lawsuit dismissed.

In it, Webber said: "This evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that the (board is) deliberately indifferent to the risk that officers are using excessive force."

The San Francisco Police Department needs to make some serious changes.

(excerpt, San Francisco Chronicle)

The report recommended "reorganizing staff" in the chief's office, the field operations bureau and the district stations, according to a statement released by the city.

Among the other key recommendations are:

-- Make the chief's position a five-year contract position "to allow the department to take on significant reform and provide consistent leadership." Currently, the chief is appointed by the mayor.

-- Staff district stations based on the percentage of their officers' time consumed by calls for service, which would allow staffing based on service need.

-- Realign the investigations bureau "to increase expertise and improve clearance rates," or the solving of crimes and closing of cases.

-- "Civilianize" the forensic services division, using civilians as crime-scene investigators, a job that today is done by sworn officers.

-- Allow officers to use stun guns when "hands-on" control of a suspect is needed and "an officer might otherwise need to use a lethal weapon."

-- Create an office of officer-involved shootings to address officers' use of firearms.

The SFPD report done by the Police Executive Research Forum is here.

The Oakland Police Department's internal affairs division is launching a probe of the sergeant who led the investigation into the fatal shooting of the editor of a local newspaper. Is it connected to that shooting? Police representatives won't say.

Six commanders in the New York City Police Department may be forced to retire because they have exceeded the mandatory retiring age of 62.

Also in New York City, the allegations by a man that he was sodomized by NYPD officers goes to the grand jury.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

"On the basis of preliminary conclusions of the early stages of my investigation - and a review of the medical evidence concerning the allegations that Michael Mineo was brutally assaulted by four police officers - I have ordered a special investigative grand jury to be empaneled," said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

Mineo told investigators the officers sodomized him with an NYPD radio Oct. 15 when he was stopped for smoking pot. He was hospitalized at Brookdale University Hospital for four days, and readmitted to Brooklyn Hospital last Thursday.

Sources said a Brookdale doctor concluded he had suffered an "anal assault" and rectal tears.
NYPD top brass have denied the assault took place, and the accused officers who arrested the 24-year-old tatoo parlor employee remain on duty.

Originally, five cops were thought to be involved - but officials now say it was four. The fifth officer, an NYPD transit cop, arrived after the alleged assault and is considered a witness.

The officers were placed on administrative duties and Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he welcomed the probe.

(excerpt, New York Times)

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement, “With differing accounts provided by witnesses and the complainant, we welcome efforts by District Attorney Hynes to establish the facts through an investigative grand jury.”

Meeting of the Tequesquite Park Committee will take place on Oct. 30 during 6:00p.m.-7:30p.m. at the Stewart's boathouse at Fairmount Park.

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