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 13, 2008

Have the police chief and the D.A. declared a truce?

Beware of those wicked Santa Ana winds, the first of the year which means there's a red flag warning in effect. Be careful with the big rig trucks on the highways too.

The winds have already caused power outages and knocked down trees not to mention fueling fires across the region.

Quite a few people contacted me about this op-ed piece published in the Press Enterprise and written by Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach. It addressed what he called speculation about a chasm that had apparently developed between him and Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, over the enforcement of the permanent gang injunction Pacheco filed against Eastside Riva last year. After reading Leach's words, I wasn't quite sure what to really make of them especially his attempts to chastise the newspaper for what he called "entertainment in perceived antagonism".


Public safety in the city and county of Riverside is best served when every arm of the justice system works closely together.

Contrary to published reports, the relationship between the Riverside chief of police and the Riverside County district attorney is healthy, and the cooperation of our respective offices and law enforcement teams has never been stronger.

Where some might find entertainment in perceived antagonism, others know that both of us have much more important work to do, namely keeping our community safe.

No, actually I doubt very many people found the war of words between Leach and Pacheco all that entertaining to read. Actually, many people were concerned about what had happened and what would happen as a result of what clearly was a professional conflict of sorts between two individuals entrusted with different components of the criminal justice system. What people perceived were problems between the two men because that's what both individuals were trying to communicate through their separate interactions with the Press Enterprise. Picking up the vibe that something was amiss doesn't exactly make a person especially perceptive.

There's few people who would disagree with the assertion that keeping communities safe should be a paramount concern even if the strategies offered up are often different and that might be the bone of contention between these two individuals. However, people scratched their heads when this conflict took place between the city employee and the county politician earlier this year and now they are scratching their heads again to learn that it apparently didn't exist. It appeared to be the type of professional disagreement that normally would be hammered out or at least discussed in a meeting between the two individuals. However, that's not what happened and rewriting the script of past events now doesn't really change that especially considering the rather generous paper trail. Especially to the same audience who sat and watched and read both sides exchange jabs either through op-ed pieces, interviews with editorial boards or by issuing press releases during June and July. Readers had the sense that they were being asked to pick sides in this dispute when what many readers probably wanted from the two men was to work through their differences without trying to score points off of each other.

This situation apparently began back when Pacheco said not to Leach directly, but through a press release that the police department had not made any arrests under the injunction against the Eastside Riva gang. Not long after that article came out about the alleged lack of enforcement, there were two arrests of individuals who were listed and served under the current injunction.

Then Pacheco stated later in writing also in the Press Enterprise that he would not stand by and allow the Eastside to be terrorized. Pretty strong words and most of them aimed at Leach and his department. And they weren't really addressed to Leach but at him. That's the type of communication that took place between two leaders of two respective public agencies for over a month. They apparently chose the local daily newspaper as their boxing ring. The city and county residents were their audience.

Then there were articles about how the crime statistics including those for violent crimes were decreasing in the Eastside, a trend attributed to different causes by different people just as it had been for a while.

Leach made comments about how he bristled at words like "sweep" and his spokesperson, Steve Frasher said that the injunction was an important "tool" that would be utilized along with other tools. That was definitely a fair enough response to Pacheco's accusations delivered via press release to a newspaper. Other people stepped into the situation including Ward Two Councilman Andrew Melendrez argued that crime prevention measures utilized by the police department with the neighborhood's involvement were already leading to reductions in violent crimes and statistics showed that for the most part, crime including violent crime was going down as of the summer months.

But despite that and while dismissing the hard work done by city residents and city employees, Pacheco talked about Eastside residents being "terrorized" in their neighborhoods. Interestingly enough when many of the Eastside leaders who represent the "terrorized people" wanted to meet with Pacheco, he refused to do so inside the Eastside, which sent a mixed message about how Pacheco really viewed these "terrorized" residents and it's one many of them felt keenly. Community leaders with the Eastside Think Tank tried to get a meeting with Pacheco for months and were finally told to submit a list of names of those in attendance to Pacheco's investigators for background checks. Outraged, the organization refused to accept those terms and the meeting never took place.

Pacheco did meet last March with other leaders and it doesn't appear as if they were asked to submit a list of their attendees for background checks.

Leach and other representatives of the police department did attend several meetings addressing the injunction and its enforcement but they said that most of the questions had to be answered by Pacheco who didn't attend any of these meetings. Representatives in the District Attorney's office including former prosecutor and current judge, Jack Lucky were interested in attending meetings but they couldn't get approval from higher up to authorize their attendance.

It's nice to see that Leach say that he supports Pacheco and vice-versa as should be the case between any police chief and head county prosecutor. Both are experienced professionals in their respective fields with jobs to carry out for the people that they serve. But if people wondered about whether or not there were indeed conflicts between the two men during the summer months, a lot of that speculation had to do with what the two were saying to each other without even talking to each other. The Press Enterprise became the medium of communication between the two men and most of it was criticism of each other's actions. And now that medium is getting essentially chastised for doing so by one of the parties? And why now, three months after the last written jab was made?

As stated, it's a bit strange at this point to hear criticism towards the same medium that both individuals aired their grievances to while they didn't appear to be on speaking terms. Pacheco mostly communicated his concerns on the issue through issuing press releases and an opinion piece from his office while Leach communicated through his public information representative and an editorial. The articles stated that the two men hadn't been directly communicating their concerns to one another while this was going on or they weren't available for direct response in the case of Pacheco.

Here's some chronology of what took place in the press.

In June, this article was published about how there hadn't been any arrests made of Eastside Riva gang members under the injunction since it was approved in Riverside County Superior Court. According to the article, Pacheco wasn't too happy about that.

In late June, Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein wrote this article about the difference of opinion between the two men on how the injunction should be enforced.


Item de News: In the five months since RivCo DA Rod Pacheco obtained his anti-gang injunction, not one of the 114 alleged East Side Riva members has been arrested. How is this injunction being enforced?

Pacheco: Ask Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach.

Leach: Ask Rod Pacheco.

Bernstein then explores the situation between Leach and Pacheco, attributing quotes made by both men though apparently not directly to each other but through the newspaper.


Till now, RivCo DA and RPD have been coy 'n' stonewallish about how the Eastside gang injunction is being enforced. Now, rays o' light.

Police Chief Russ Leach: "I hate the word sweep or raid. It looks like we're aggressively going after something we don't know exists." The injunction is "a tool" to "go after a specific crime." Leach says this is what the community wants. "We have to live in that community and work in that community."

Might not pass muster with the DA, whose office charged two alleged Eastside Riva gang members with injunction violations: vandalism, possession of a controlled substance with gang "enhansements," etc. Press release said RPD sought the injunction (Leach said the DA wanted it) and "it is up to the local law enforcement agency to enforce it."

"Though we have deferred in the past to the local agency," said Pacheco, "we will defer no longer. I will not sit idly by while Eastside Riva gang members terrorize the community."

New gang rivalry! DA vs. RPD.

Bernstein then wrote this column about the situation adding that Mayor Ron Loveridge was standing behind his chief.

Later, Bernstein muses that maybe the chief's not too fond of him but the two men did enjoy a helicopter ride together flying over Riverside.


To be fair, the mayor can point to some pluses. Even as it hemorrhages Starbucks, the Renaissance city has (count 'em) two police chiefs.

One is Russ Leach, whom the mayor has praised for his handling of that outbreak of gang injunctivitis on the city's Eastside.

The second is Police Chief Rod Pacheco, the apparently under-worked RivCo DA, who refuses to "sit idly by" when it's such a snap to swoop in and do that other chief's work for him.

Just about a year ago, Pacheco pretty much led the righteous recall of honorary badges handed out to anyone with campaign money, a lapel or a pulse. But I'll be the first to say Police Chief Pacheco deserves an honorary RPD badge. He has earned it. At a time when Riverside Starbucks appear to be star crossed, it's comforting to know that the city's Police Chief Index stands at a robust two.

It's been a while since the last bit of information about this alleged conflict between Leach and Pacheco. Perhaps they've worked it out between them during that time period and Pacheco will also have his viewpoints on the matter published in an upcoming edition of the Press Enterprise as well so it can finally be put to rest.

What did Bernstein think of Leach's latest written statement? He analyzed it line by line and addressed many of the same concerns that I heard today from people who read Leach's article.

Bernstein quotes from an opinion piece written by Rod Pacheco in July, about Leach. The text from that July 2008 opinion piece is here in its entirety.

(excerpt, Dan Bernstein)

"It is unfortunate that Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach thinks that the public debate about his reluctance to enforce a gang injunction against our county's most violent gang is about him. It has nothing to do with him."

Then Bernstein stated this quote made by Leach to the newspaper's editorial board.


"The notion that Rod is going to bring in an army of law enforcement -- I find that offensive," Leach told the Press-Enterprise editorial board.

Bernstein picked up the same thing as mentioned earlier that the two men were talking at each other through intermediaries rather than with each other. Because to say that you find someone's words "offensive" and then that person accuses the other of thinking it's "about him" (when it clearly has something to do with him) does make it appear that there's a conflict. Those sound if not like fighting words, like words of intense disagreement and it's a bit hard to pretend it didn't happen at all several months after the fact.

There have been several well-known rifts between police chiefs and county prosecutors including this one and that one.

The city council will be conducting its workshop on the proposed expansion and renovation of the downtown library and museum. It will be receiving presentations from both the Metropolitan Museum Board (which isn't in the greatest moods right now and hasn't been since the Development Committee meeting) and the Board of Library Trustees. The workshop which will allow for public participation will take place in the chambers at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.

RCC trustee hopefuls to speak at forum

Candidates running for the Riverside Community College District board of trustees will speak during a forum Wednesday at the First Christian Church, 4055 Jurupa Ave., Riverside.

The League of Women Voters of Northwest Riverside County is conducting the forum together with AAUW and The Group.

In Murrieta, there's going to be a public forum for city council candidates for the upcoming election.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The six candidates on the ballot are mostly familiar faces.

Incumbents Doug McAllister and Warnie Enochs are both trying to hold on to their council seats.

McAllister said he wants to continue the work he started in his five years on the council.

"It's a matter of a track record," he said. "Everything I said I would do when I ran before, I've done."

McAllister said he has successfully addressed traffic problems, promoted public safety and pushed forward development of the "golden triangle" of property between interstates 15 and 215.

His first few years on the council were rough, he said. The rancor at City Hall and the 2005 recall election "put us behind in our ability to achieve our potential," McAllister said.

But since then, the current members have brought civility and "a higher level of professionalism" to the council chambers, he said.

"Murrieta has come a very long way," McAllister said. The issue in this election is simple, he said.

"I can give it to you in three words: quality of life."

Rialto City Council candidates share their views on what they plan to bring to the job if elected.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Council members in the city of 105,000 people serve four-year terms and are paid $1,200 a month.

Hanson, a 73-year-old great-grandmother, said this will be her last campaign. She wants to travel with her husband in a motor home.

She plans to spend only about $20,000 on her campaign, relying on personal relationships built through 26 years as a member of a local theater group to overcome twice as much spending by Palmer and more than three times as much planned by Scott.

Scott, 56, an environmental consultant who also owns an Irish pub, said crime is the No. 1 issue in Rialto.

"It's the No. 1 issue as far as the residents of the community go. It's the No. 1 issue as far as the businesses go," he said. "Businesses don't want to come into a community that has a lot of crime problems."

He said the council needs to provide the Police Department with "the tools they need to do a good job," including a new police station. He said he believes the Police Department is doing everything that can be done to combat crime in Rialto.

Hanson said crime is a problem across the country, not just in Rialto, and that she, too, believes police are doing a good job.

"I think we have to address it through recreational programs, through rehabilitation programs and to somehow reach the children and give them alternatives to becoming involved in gangs."

Also in Rialto, a pre-trial hearing for the man who is being tried for the murder of Rialto SWAT officer, Serio Carrera, jr. took place on the eve of the second anniversary of the shooting.

Inland Empire elected officials and representatives
want more control of local assets than they currently have and especially want more attention paid to the severe impact on the region through foreclosures.

Two New York City Police Department officers are under suspicion of having robbing, kidnapping and sexually torturing drug dealers and other individuals.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

The two unnamed officers wore uniforms when they acted as "cops" in a crew that shook down dealers for more than 100 kilos of cocaine in at least 100 robberies along the East Coast, sources said.

The real cops changed their collar brass so they would not be wearing the number of their actual NYPD precinct when they betrayed their badges, sources said.

The crew would kidnap their victims either in a police-style car stop or in a home invasion.

The car-stop victims were taken at gunpoint to a remote area, where the robbers demanded to know the location of their cash and drugs, which they resold in New York.

The cops worked with defendants Jose Castro and Asnel Torres, who "applied a pair of pliers to the victim's testicles, threatening to squeeze the pliers if the victim did not talk," prosecutors said.

Big Brown retires. While training, he grabbed his quarter and tore three inches off of his hoof, necessitating his retirement.

Pass the Boot for Muscular Dystrophy is being sponsored by the Riverside Fire Department. So if you see a fire fighter holding a boot on a street corner, consider dropping some money into it.

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