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, October 19, 2008

Just another Monday morning...

Ever since news broke out that the Group was told to tone down any dialogue or discussions that contained criticism of elected officials and city employees or employees would be barred from attending, more people have been curious about exactly what is going on in this city. What's up with all these attempts to restrict conversations at public meetings? Of course, the city government has been trying to do just this at its own meetings since the passage of a motion on July 12, 2005 which barred city residents from pulling items off of the consent calendar for discussion. But people have pretty much gotten used to these episodes and pretty much expect them to continue on the city council's own turf because this is one of the legacies that this current city council and its predecessor has apparently chosen for themselves. But outside of it? At meetings outside the doors of City Hall?

It seems that measures have been taken to try and regulate what is discussed and how it's discussed at meetings being held by at least one community organization, the Group (which was formerly called by at least one city councilman, the Grope).

This organization started by Black business women meets early in the morning on the first and third Thursdays of most months to discuss civic issues and hold public forums with political candidates running for office. It's a bit shocking to have heard the announcement by Chair Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely at this past week's meeting about the directive coming from somewhere inside City Hall. But essentially what happened is this, if the Group doesn't tone down its so-called criticism of City Hall in its discussions, then city employees will be forbidden to attend its meetings.


Another community group that commonly invites guest speakers to its meetings apparently found out that city employees could not speak to community organizations anymore and that the elected officials were to be contacted to provide the information at these meetings instead. Does that mean that if you want to invite the head of public works or the fire department to talk, well about their departments that you have to invite an elected official instead? How silly is that?

Who is going to be more informed about the operations of a specific city department? The department head or an elected official? Which would you choose to inform you and answer your questions? The elected official? I don't think so.

That kind of directive hints that there's micromanagement going on with city departments if the department heads are unable to speak at meetings held by community organizations (either in general or targeting specific ones), then the perception is that they aren't really leading their departments. If that's not reality, then perhaps the city should reconsider the message it's sending out when it warns community organizations that hold meetings attended by city employees that they have to modify their conversations to what the city wishes them to be. Do we have department heads who can freely speak at any community organization's public meeting or do we have puppets who need to have city council members not only pull their strings to talk but aren't allowed to present information and field questions at all or only certain community-sponsored meetings, period?

The Group was told that no city employees could attend the meetings just to listen to its discussion and presentations if there was criticism of City Hall. Several people in attendance including Katie Greene, the secretary and Mary Figueroa, the guest speaker sharply criticized this directive. It's almost like some folks at City Hall see the Group as a group of uppity Black women although the membership of the Group is diverse and it welcomes everyone to its meetings.

It's not clear yet who's been ordering these directives to try to control discourse at community organization meetings although there's a lot of speculation that it's members of the city council. Certainly, in the case with the Group many of the city employees who attend enjoy the meetings so it's unlikely complaints came from that sector. That's not a surprise considering all the press coverage just this past week regarding lawsuits being filed against specific elected officials and warning letters being sent to two members of the barely there Police Review Commission. All examples of people being told to "tone it down" or else they might face being dismissed or people alleging that the people around them were told not to associate with them.

So if you're a member of a community organization that conducts its own public meetings and discusses civic issues, this might be a directive that you will be receiving if you have not received it already. Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, City Hall is apparently trying to dictate what discussions take place at other organizations' public meetings.

Speaking of controlling, the barely there PRC meets this week to discuss among other things probably shortening the public comment period from five to three minutes. It's hard to know what will happen at a given meeting. Who will align themselves with who. Which commissioner will attack another one? How many verbal sword duels between a commissioner and the executive manager?

Survivor Island
has nothing on this crew. In the meantime, many complaints are being spoken about at meetings but not filed with the PRC or the police department for that matter. But several organizations outside of Riverside will be collecting citizen complaints.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein discusses all the fallout coming down as a result of the racist mailer circulated by the Chaffey Community Republican Women.

A look at how the state's budget crisis is impacting the Riverside County Superior Court's operations from its executive officer, Sherri Carter.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"I don't anticipate any layoffs," Carter said. "We feel we can tighten our belts to absorb the reduction in areas that will not impact the level of service we provide to the public and the bar."

The state allocation is not the final budget for Riverside County courts. There are other fund sources, which will become part of the overall spending plan, still under review.

Carter said administrators will trim spending by carefully reviewing replacement hires and reducing other costs such as recruiting, training and travel, and scheduled maintenance such as painting and carpeting.

"The court has already been prudent in budgeting and spending because of past reductions, so we are in a good position now," said Carter, who started her job in early September.

This article on the arrest of Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman for sexual assault under the color of authority has attracted a discussion on the comments thread. The reactions vary from withholding judgment on the officer to judging the victims. Not much has been released about them because a judge has sealed the arrest warrant but at least one individual blamed the women.


"I never said he was innocent I am saying that there are numerous cases of victims lying as well as the accused we will have to wait and see.... Remember we are in America innocent until proven guilty. By the way one of the womens info has somewhat leaked out and you will see you are right she looks like a duck and sounds like a duck........ It will be proved she's a duck.."

Somewhat leaked out? Really? How? This person raised the very important point of innocent until proven guilty, then tried to imply that one of the victims was a "duck"?

"wow. this just i guess if ur getting pulled over, its best to continue driving til u reach a public place with lots of people around."

"I belive things happen for many reasons but we have to stop and think that there are ppl out there that are sue happy and will anything to get money...but im not saying that hes gulty or inocent...we r not all perfect and we are no one to judge...this offecer could of been lacking attentin at home and he figured he would not get busted for what he did...Before they get hired they go though a long proces of mental and physical evailuations...ppl chainge with time..."

"Secondly, if it's your hard-earned tax dollars you concerned with then hold the PD accountable for hiring these goofs ... as i recall, this is the second officer from this same dept charged with sexual-related crimes."

When are they going to learn that actions like these only pique the public's interest? It looks like there's something to hide...even if there isn't.

There's more comments like this one on that thread, which is a reversal on the usual situation when people blame the person arrested and often make the assumption of guilty until proven innocent simply because that person's been arrested. But as is the case with police officers, Forman's almost viewed as the victim of zealous and in some cases false prosecution on this discussion thread and the victims are already being tried by some Press Enterprise readers even before they get into a courtroom where they will surely be vilified by defense attorneys beginning at the preliminary hearing. They are in for a very rough road ahead as it is for everyone involved.

The reversal is often painful for those who are victims and unfortunate when it happens that people are victimized by officers who cross the line. No matter what happened to them, it's always their fault. Never the officer's if he indeed committed the offenses. There's always some excuse if the victims can't be branded as liars.

Then there are the arguments that if there's a spouse involved, that it's something that the spouse did which drove the individual charged to commit crimes. The assumption that he's guilty without being tried yet it's not his fault. If it's not exactly the fault of the alleged victims, it's some other woman's fault. As if sexual assault under the color of authority is about sex at all. The key words in the penal code are "under the color of authority" meaning that it's a crime involving domination and power.

Then there's fear among women that they might be vulnerable if they are stopped by male police officers from the same department. It's unfortunate that the alleged acts by an individual can create that climate of fear towards other officers in the department. Any officer who commits a crime while wearing his or her badge condemns their colleagues who don't do such to that.

Actually, it's the third officer who was arrested on sex offenses. The other two were former officers Adam Brown and Vince Thomas.

Life from atop a forest fire lookout tower.

The Orange County Register blog mused over whether Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is like her predecessor. The commentary is to this article by the Orange County Weekly.

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