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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Farewell to an independent voice in civilian oversight


(from beloblog)

A man standing in a roadway screaming at motorists became combative, assaulted a Riverside police officer and subsequently died at a hospital after police took him into custody Friday night, according to a Riverside police news release.

Marlon Oliver Acevedo, 35, of Riverside, died in the emergency room at Parkview Community Hospital Medical Center in Riverside after being involved in an altercation with police, according to a Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's news release.

Acevedo had been standing in the 78000 block of Cypress Avenue creating a traffic hazard for motorists about 9:45 p.m., the release stated. He died at 10:37 p.m., according to the coroner's release.

Anyone with information about the incident is ased to call Detective Ron Sanfilippo at 951-353-7105.

More information included in the department's press release:

Officers arrived on scene and contacted the subject standing in the roadway. The subject became agitated with the officers and refused to comply with their orders. The subject became physically combative and assaulted one of the officers. The adult subject was taken into custody. Riverside Fire Department and American Medical Response personnel responded to the scene to provide medical aid for the adult subject. The adult subject was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced deceased a short time later.

And so the backlog of another sort continues on the list of deaths the CPRC has been prohibited from investigating in any meaningfully timely manner. That current list stands at three in about two months.

"Any activities which could create a misperception that a management employee is engaging in independent community relations efforts would be entirely inconsistent with expectations regarding our reporting hierarchy to the city council and our clear deference to policy makers in matters of interaction with community."

Are these words to live by? That's a struggle taking place up north in San Jose and in other cities as well. The words above are very commonly used in arguments to weaken civilian oversight through hitting the chief positions whether they be auditors, directors or managers of those oversight bodies.

San Jose's city council voted to get rid of police auditor Barbara Attard behind closed doors. Just like that, one of the most prominent individuals in civilian oversight is out of a job.

Attard responded to the city council's vote at the NACOLE conference in Cincinnati.

(excerpt, San Jose Mercury)

"The council action to terminate my appointment undermines the independence of the IPA," said Attard, who held similar positions in San Francisco and Berkeley before coming to San Jose. "It sends a message to future IPA directors, to the community and the police department. That message is that if the IPA director makes serious or controversial recommendations, she does so at risk of losing her job."

And it doesn't take a crystal ball to figure out that the individual who will replace her as auditor will most likely be a rubber stamp of either the city council, the police department or both. That's what has happened in similar circumstances in other cities and counties which utilize civilian review mechanisms. It will no doubt continue to happen, now that civilian review has been around about 40 years and city governments are figuring out how to reshape it into something that makes them happy. Mostly this is done in attempts to expose the respective cities and counties (and their governments) to reduced civic liability in relation to allegations of police misconduct including the use of excessive force.

People who supported her and those who didn't both commented on her upcoming departure.


Bobby Lopez, the president of the Police Officers' Association, said that Attard had not given the department "a fair shake."

"She became an advocate for all the cop hate groups," Lopez said. "Her job was to go to the community and find the problems and help quell the problems. She actively incited people."

But she also had her fans. Attard was this year's recipient of the Don Edwards Civil Liberties Award, given to her by the ACLU and named after the retired San Jose congressman.

"I think the decision was a retaliatory act for her trying to be an advocate for police accountability and expanding the powers of the IPA office into a mechanism that could be useful for the community," said Raj Jayadev, director of De-Bug — a local cop watch organization. "The message to the next IPA director is 'Don't advocate for more police oversight or you will have a very short stint.' "

Short stint is right but that's true in many jurisdictions besides San Jose.

It's pretty sad when attending community meetings can actually be interpreted as "inciting" the city's residents as if city residents are unable to formulate opinions including ones based on emotion by themselves. After all, that would be like saying police officers were completely unable to formulate their own opinions on issues and were being incited by their police union leadership, or a higher ranking officer or someone in City Hall. It just shows how poorly Lopez views the communities that he and his fellow officers serve and protect even as many things that Attard did and advocated for during her stint as auditor were good for police officers.

Attard was a strong and necessary force for police accountability in San Jose, a city that's watched as its police department has weathered wave after wave of controversial incidents from racially profiling Latinos to problems with how its officers deploy tasers. But her outspokenness and drive to be independent while working with both the community and the police department without being a rubber stamp for either one of them ended up costing her any future she hoped to have as an auditor in San Jose.

It's a story that many people can relate to here in Riverside because after all, the city council here fired a former city manager in part because he spent too much time talking with community leaders and organizations rather than locking himself up in his office at City Hall. The 4-3 vote catalyzed the thankfully brief reign of what politics watchers called the GASS quartet. But the ending of George Carvalho's stint in Riverside was but one action taken in what would increasingly become what political watchdogs and others would call a City Hall that had built a wall around itself between it and the city's residents which it serves.

An interesting aspect of Attard's history that most people might not know is that there's a Riverside connection.

Before Attard was the monitor in San Jose, she actually served as the executive director of Berkeley's civilian review board. And that's how she was introduced to Riverside back when she attended a meeting of the Police Policy Review Committee on Oct. 21, 1999 according to this report. While attending that meeting, she provided information on both the Berkley model of civilian review as well as information about the Office of Citizen Complaints in San Francisco where she worked for about 10 years. At the time, the Berkeley model was one of the finalists in the decision making to determine which form of civilian oversight would be used by the city.

Of course, the Berkeley model didn't wind up being chosen as the template for Riverside's Community Police Review Commission. It was supposed to have been, because in a narrow vote it was picked as the model of choice by the PPRC to present to the city council. It alone would be included in the report of recommendations forwarded to the city council from the research ad hoc committee. But this being Riverside, of course that's not what happened.

What did happen is that during the city council meeting, then Councilwoman Joy Defanbaugh asked to see other models that had been part of the discussion if not the report and seemed to know a lot about one model in particular which wasn't included in the report and that was the one based on what's in place in the city of Long Beach. This request caused many in the audience of that city council meeting (and it was packed to the outer doors with people) to scratch their heads and wonder how Defanbaugh gained knowledge of this model given that she had never attended any of the PPRC meetings.

In addition, the PPRC included three city council members in its composition including Maureen Kane who chaired it. Only three city council members were allowed to be assigned to the committee in order for it to be in accordance with the Brown Act to prevent any possibility of any serial meetings being conducted where a majority of the city council would be involved in discussions involving an issue without conducting a public meeting.

People added the number of people involved in that process including the three on the committee and wondered if three plus one equaled four. Whether or not the serial meeting provision of the Brown Act was violated is something the public will never know but suspicions were high even among civic leaders and representatives who are held in high regard by City Hall that something sneaky had taken place. That feeling permeated the dialogue on civilian review for quite some time.

Members of the PPRC look back five years later and provide an interesting read about what some of them said during a workshop held with the CPRC in February 2004.

The city's hired three executive directors or managers for the CPRC so far but none of them outlasted the city manager who appointed them except for the first one, Former Houston Police Department sergeant, Don Williams. He was appointed after a hiring process by the remnants of the John Holmes/Larry Paulson administration but was ousted after the firing of Carvalho and the installation of interim city manager, Tom Evans.

Evans cut the position from full-time to half-time and except for a brief period in 2006, that's the status of where the position has remained since. Evans and interim Asst. City Manager Jim Smith appointed then Community Relations Director Pedro Payne to take the helm of both positions, that directing the Human Relations Commission and the CPRC. Many people in the community were skeptical that Payne could handle both positions but after being trained by retired police chief and former CPRC Chair Bill Howe, Payne proved his skeptics wrong (including this one) and led the CPRC through its golden period in which it would foster its strongest relationship with the community even as Payne met at least once with representatives of the Riverside Police Officers' Association and began creating measures to brief officers on the commission during roll call and newly hired officers in meetings with them as well. Commissioners were working together in disagreement rather than playing the political games including behind the scenes that they clearly are now.

What wasn't emphasized by the powers at City Hall was actually how strong an advocate of the police department Payne really was, in fact probably more so than anyone else currently at City Hall. Which admittedly these days doesn't necessarily mean as much given how low that bar is currently set given City Hall's recent actions in terms of its current staffing levels from bottom to the supervisory levels. I would put my money on someone like Payne or Attard for that matter wanting the best police department that could be had including one that's appropriately staffed and equipped long before I would ever put my money on City Hall which has left police positions both civilian and sworn frozen leaving work shifts staffed to levels not seen in decades and apparently even advocating the painting of non-squad cars to look like squad cars to provide the illusion that there are more officers driving around or parking cars than there actually are. All while saying publicly how much they support the police department.

This decision making as short-sighted as it is will result in consequences, just as it did a decade or so ago. And when that happens, the actions taken this decade will be just as scrutinized after the fact as happened with the 1990s during the period of the city's stipulated judgment with former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

And they should be.

Payne was concerned about officer safety, one thing that might be adversely impacted by lower staffing levels. Judging by City Hall's most recent attempts to undermine the operation of the CPRC, it's clearly more concerned about civil liability through lawsuits filed against it alleging either wrongful death or other allegations of police misconduct including but not limited to excessive force. Adequate police staffing and the continuation of many of the mandates that were included in the city's former stipulated judgment are much further down the list of concerns and if you don't know that, then take a good look around you. Of course, if you challenge a city employee's assertion that the police department is "fully staffed" through a CPRA request, what you'll receive is a written letter by City Attorney Gregory Priamos telling you to check a document on the Web site which doesn't include that information. His record at providing any useful responses to CPRA requests for public documents is currently at 0 for 2.

But while the city staffs police officers at less than 20 officers a shift (which artificially deflates the officer to supervisor ratios) to serve a large, growing city divided into four large (if unequally so) portions called neighborhood policing centers, individuals like DeSantis are still saying in public meetings with a straight face that the department is fully staffed. Even as lieutenants are working many more hours in some cases than they're accustomed to doing (which begins to mind hired consultant Joe Brann's cautionary message about the "fatigue" factor last June) because they don't get paid over time, the same sentiments are coming out of City Hall.

It's ironic indeed that Payne would be accused of favoring the community over the police department when he was the manager who made the most inroads and certainly the most efforts to do outreach with the police department from its chief and management level to its union's leadership and officers themselves. Still, it was clear from almost day one that City Manager Brad Hudson and his assistant, Tom DeSantis didn't care for the executive manager that they had inherited from the brief Evans/Smith administration and soon enough, they began acting accordingly and at least in one case, one of them stated clearly that he was acting on behalf of the city council.

When community members advocated and agitated for a full-time executive manager to perform what is certainly in most jurisdictions a full-time job, Hudson and DeSantis appeared to acquiesce and they worked out a contract which made Payne a full-time executive manager. They provided an "at will" contract to Payne, ended up pushing him out in about six months and then credited the community by telling them at meetings, that they were the ones who agitated for a full-time employee in that position. Judging by comments made afterward by individuals who attended those meetings, no one really bought into that argument.

What's so funny about the city's latest insistence in adhering and researching practices utilized by the more than dozen civilian review mechanisms (even including examples which aren't actually civilian review to the mix) is that they didn't extend the same philosophy to the issue of having a full-time executive manager. Most civilian review mechanisms employ an auditor, director or manager full-time. Riverside does not because as CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy put it, one of the first conditions provided by current Executive Manager Kevin Rogan is that he not receive too many employment hours to jeopardize his PERS pension from the Pomona Police Department. In fact at the annual report of the CPRC to the city council, Pearcy referred to Rogan as being "half-time".

But anyway, Payne began to be restricted by Hudson and DeSantis whenever he tried to carry out the duties which were included in his job description. The first target, was public outreach after the city manager's office forbade him from attending community meetings lest he appeared biased to the community. It didn't forbid him from doing any outreach with the police department even as the police department withdrew itself during this time period from some of its interactions with the CPRC. At no time does it appear that Hudson or DeSantis sent any notification to the police department's management that it should not do so. If the police department were to send liaisons to the meetings of the CPRC (as it did for years with the HRC), that happened a bit later on.

Tensions worsened after the sustained finding the CPRC reached in an 8-0 vote on the shooting of Summer Marie Lane and after it was revealed that Hudson had essentially issued a pocket veto of that finding (blaming it at community meetings on his relative inexperience on the job) or as one elected official put it at the time, "punked" the decision. Still, Payne continued to manage the commission as three more fatal shootings by Riverside Police Department officers occurred in 2006, including the controversial incident involving Lee Deante Brown who was shot and killed at the Welcome Inn of America less than two minutes after the first officer arrived at the scene. After that, was the incident involving Douglas Steven Cloud who was shot about 20 seconds after officers arrived at the scene.

The two investigations being done on those two shootings by the CPRC were suspended for a period of time in early 2007 by the city manager's office but by then Payne had resigned after being ordered to leave a heated meeting by DeSantis. But as you know, investigations into incustody deaths are pretty much indefinitely suspended now at least for months even years.

Payne was beleaguered by city management and the city council appeared to do nothing or say anything in terms of taking any position on this issue. Looking back to some of the actions in the past several months by some city council members who have clearly broke their silence, maybe they just didn't give Hudson and DeSantis any marching orders in a public setting. But Payne had a choice although not much more freedom to make that choice than was afforded to Attard. He could simply collect a paycheck and serve as the city manager and/or police department's rubber stamp (and interestingly enough, in cases like this one of the first actions taken is to discourage or outright ban directors and managers from performing community outreach) or he could do his job and remain independent but most likely get fired or be pressured to resign. By now, everyone knows what happened and that he resigned not by choice or to seek other career opportunities as the city manager's office announced in its press release, rather than to be a lap dog for City Hall. And last summer, Payne gave a presentation at the city's annual neighborhood conference, looking much happier away from the turmoil at City Hall.

It's indeed ironic that the Press Enterprise's editorial board used that term to describe how it saw the CPRC nearly two years after Payne's departure. It actually was borrowing the term used by former commissioner, Steve Simpson (who was also essentially ousted allegedly through efforts by forces at City Hall) in response to something that I said at a CPRC meeting. Simpson definitely proved during his short tenure that he was nobody's lap dog but then again, that's kind of related to why he had such a short stint. It appears that the city council gambled that his prior involvement with a city board and commission and his relationships with several elected officials would make him pliable and lost that bet.

It's not surprising that the editorial board (which is about as far from "liberal media" as you can get) saw it that way, just as they might see similarities in the treatment of Attard by the San Jose City Council. But after watching what's been going on with the CPRC during the years of Hudson and DeSantis, it's hardly surprising, as it's far from surprising to see what's been going on with the police department since the dissolution of the stipulated judgment as it's progressing in some areas and repeating mistakes in others and it's the former that makes the latter more unfortunate.

But it remains to be seen if that's a road that's firmly set. And whether or not the upcoming elections could impact the direction that road is traveling.

The State Supreme Court decided against hearing the speedy trial appeal case which means that the appellate court's ruling that Riverside County Superior Court judges don't have to send their trials to family courts still stands.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Prosecutors said a state law giving criminal cases facing speedy trial dismissal precedence over civil matters includes not only civil trial courts, where business disputes and malpractice cases are heard.

They believe the law means such criminal cases should also be sent to family law and probate court, as well as traffic court.

The upheld Orange County decision means criminal cases that have run out of constitutionally guaranteed time limits can be dismissed, if criminal and civil trial courts are not available. Judges do not have to send them to the specialized courts.

Records also show the ruling remains "published" -- binding on Riverside County courts. The two challenged dismissals were misdemeanors, one for vandalism and the other for illegal dumping.

"Even though it is a superior court appellate panel decision on misdemeanor cases, it is an opinion that has far-reaching impact in the practices of the court," said Assistant Public Defender Robert Willey.

A witness in the federal corruption trial of Former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona broke down on the witness stand.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Lisa Jaramillo was about 45 minutes into her testimony when the subject came up. She is the wife of former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo and served as a chief fundraiser for Carona's first two campaigns.

She lost her composure while answering questions about what she knew about the relationship between Carona and Debra V. Hoffman.

"The reason I'm having a difficult time answering this is, I wasn't a good friend to Debbie Carona and I know she's sitting out there," Jaramillo said, looking at Carona's wife in the gallery. "I don't know if it is appropriate or not, but I'm very sorry . . . for some of the stuff I have to say today, but I can't lie."

The chief of Palo Alto Police Department has come under sharp criticism for comments made about conducting traffic stops on African-Americans. Chief Lynne Johnson told her officers to stop African-Americans and find out who they are. Later, she denied that she was advocating racial profiling.

This is what she said in the earlier interview.

(excerpt, San Jose Mercury)

"When our officers are out there and they see an African-American, in a congenial way, we want them to find out who they are,'' Johnson told KGO-TV in an interview after Thursday's meeting.

"The one suspect around the California Avenue train station is wearing a do-rag,'' she said in the interview. "If my officers see an African-American who has a doo rag on his head, absolutely the officers will be stopping and trying to find out who that person is.''

This is what she said later.


"We do not want to create an environment of fear for people of color in this community, absolutely not,'' Johnson said at a community meeting Thursday night at Palo Alto City Hall. ''But on the other hand, we have to do due diligence in trying to apprehend the suspects who are doing this.'

In an interview with the Mercury News Friday, Johnson said her remarks were misinterpreted. She apologized in particular for her comments about stopping anyone "wearing a do-rag.''

She denied instructing her officers to make stops based on race.

A former Fallowfield Township Police Department officer was charged with stealing drugs.

(excerpt, WPXI)

Allen Pettit, 46, was a captain in the Police Department when he seized the drugs in February 2006.

"We do know that Mr. Pettit was the last custodian of record for the drugs," said Washington County District Attorney Steve Toprani. "It was cocaine and marijuana."

Toprani dismissed drug charges against a suspect when the drugs were found missing earlier this year.

"The defense requested the evidence, and we weren't able to produce it."

A special grand jury is examining evidence and hearing testimony of allegations that several New York City Police Department officers sodomized a man in a subway station. The police department denied the incident happened but a transit officer who was at the scene during the incident agreed to speak with prosecutors and a source in the department believed his account might be similar to that given by Michael Mineo.

The transit officer's attorney insisted his client didn't engage in any misconduct.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

The transit cop arrived to see three officers from Brooklyn's 71st Precinct struggling with Mineo, who had allegedly been smoking pot near the station. His lawyer, Paul Martin, said he's spoken with the district attorney's office, and was "confident that the officer will do the right thing."

While the transit officer has not told his story to the district attorney, he has spoken about it with union leaders and a few colleagues, sources said.

"It is not good for the other cops," a source said. Another said the transit cop saw one of the other cops hit Mineo in the buttock with something.

Martin declined to identify his client or say what he might testify to, but insisted that if anything improper occurred, his client was not part of it.

"I categorically deny that he had any involvement in anything criminal at all," Martin said. "When you see allegations such as these and there's an inference in the press that he's involved - he's concerned for his family. He's concerned for his career," the lawyer said.

Another guilty plea by an Atlanta Police Department narcotics officer in connection with the murder of Kathryn Johnston, 92.

A former Pomona Police Department sergeant was arrested in connection with robberies

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