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, October 14, 2008

An ounce for prevention; a pound for cure

Riverside's city council conducted its workshop on the proposed expansion and renovation of the downtown library and museum. There wasn't a huge turnout but then again, it was originally scheduled at 2 p.m. and then rescheduled to 3 p.m. Representatives from both the Metropolitan Museum Board and the Board of Library Trustees showed up to give their presentations of what they envisioned for their respective institutions.

And in both cases, they presented rather grand visions.

"I told you ahead of time we have big ideas," said Bonnita M. Farmer who chairs the Metropolitan Museum Board.

And so they did, but as it turns out the city government's vision is much smaller, more in line with City Manager Brad Hudson's original proposal. One library supporter said after the workshop that at one meeting that Hudson had attended, he announced that the project as outlined by others who had bigger ideas than he did wouldn't receive one dime of Riverside Renaissance money. Which is ironic, given how it's being touted now as a project under the umbrella of the Renaissance.

Wendel Tucker, who chairs the Board of Library Trustees outlined a library that would be 100,000 square feet, including areas for technology, children and teenagers along with plenty of room for books and periodicals.

Judith Auth, a former library director and who heads the Committee to Renew the Library spoke in favor of supporting the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force presented to the city council in August which supported both projects being kept separate. This workshop was a continuation of a year-long journey where over 1,000 city residents had provided their input on the process.

"Today the torch is passed to you," she said, "Today it's your turn."

There was also a presentation done on the future of the museum.

Farmer proposed that the museum be increased from 17,000 square feet to about 70,000 and offer a wide variety of exhibits on different disciplines from anthropology to natural science. The difference between the needs of the library and those of the museum is that the museum needed a new location in order to be able to be expanded and renovated. Supporters including members of the Metropolitan Museum Board had hoped that this would be on a piece of property downtown that the development committee instead recommended to be sold to a developer of office buildings. Farmer's eyes rimmed with tears when this news was announced by the committee chair, Councilman Mike Gardner at a recent meeting. Gardner told her there were alternative locations that were being looked at for possible sites for the new museum and a Press Enterprise article stated that one of them is where the Greyhound terminal currently stands but Farmer's board was apparently livid after the news that the spot they were thinking of as the prime spot had instead been recommended for a sale to a developer.

About 10 people spoke during the public comment portion of the workshop.

Doug Shackleton, who represented the Raincross Group said that his organization had released their own recommendations including many that were accepted by the Blue Ribbon Panel. His proposal which involved no land acquisition but was on a smaller scale than either project presented by the respective boards could be started immediately.

Geraldine Woods, a former anthropology professor at Riverside Community College said she disagreed with Shackleton's plan, saying it had been based on a study done years ago.

"We want the fire station," she said at the end of her speech.

Meaning the land that was originally proposed for the museum before the Development Committee recommended its sale to a private developer instead. Jean Wong, a library volunteer agreed with Woods, that the museum should go on the land given up for office space.

"The museum deserves that spot," she said.

The city council members asked pointed questions but it's pretty clear that their visions of both these institutions appear to be a bit smaller in scope, just like that of their city manager. It's ironic because the city adopted and passed the title, "City of the Arts and Culture" with such fanfare but seem a little less than sure of how to actually implement that vision beyond its vision of the Fox Plaza when it comes to downtown institutions.

Mayor Ron Loveridge had announced at the beginning of the workshop that no action would be taken by the government beyond the acceptance and filing of the reports and a directive of the city manager to come back in 60 days to report on some issues including the fiscal picture for approving a project. It's truly amazing that for the first time in the whole Riverside Renaissance episode that there's actually any concern raised about the "financial meltdown" (as one councilman called it) and it came first, when Councilman Steve Adams expressed the need to be financially realistic when discussing access to public transportation for the elderly and disabled populations in this city. It cost too much to have buses for only a few of them so the city might be relying on the cab companies to provide public transportation.

All I can say is that none of them have probably tried to call a cab lately. You can't reserve one ahead of time and when you ask them how long it will take to pick you up, the response is maybe five minutes, maybe two hours from now. It's not what it used to be. Cabs are also much more expensive than bus service would be so who pays the differential costs? For example, if you took Rte 1 on the RTA bus service from downtown to Tyler Mall, you pay $1.25. Taking a cab that same distance would probably be around $1.25-1.50 for the eight mile trip which is equal to $9.75-$12.00 and that's assuming there's no traffic because cabs often apply the per mile increment to a segment of time that passes, i.e. $1.25 a minute.

The elderly or disabled individuals who are often on fixed income? The cab drivers who have to earn their fares working in a profession with a high crime rate for drivers? The city government?

This sounded like the "suggestion" that several city council members joked about where they would shuttle individuals to the Greyhound station in San Bernardino, as an excuse to vote to remove its service in Riverside without actually meaning what they offered. The city could be working on improving the quality of dial-a-ride and coordinating it better with the current bus system and with the seniors and disabled individuals who rely on this service. Perhaps other boards and commissions like the Commission on Disabilities and other committees like the transportation committee could jointly work on this issue.

They quoted some rather impressive monthly figures for RTA ridership and the numbers are increasing, no doubt because of the current economic picture and high gas prices. But at the same time, they are holding hearings to reduce bus services on several lines or to eliminate bus lines altogether in Riverside County.

The next mention of having to be concerned about fiscal costs of the expansions and renovations of the library and museum came from Councilman Frank Schiavone who was the one who made the reference to financial meltdown. It's interesting looking back when people first expressed concerns about the scope of Riverside Renaissance being impacted by an economy which was already sliding downhill, they were viewed as being party poopers. The city spent or will spend nearly $2 billion on Riverside Renaissance projects, which were originally budgeted for about $700 million. About $1.1 billion of that money was accounted for through bonds but it's not nearly as clear where the remainder of the funding is coming from.

It's not even clear that the city council cares enough to know all this information after it voted some weeks ago to stop authorizing interdepartmental loans and leaving them up to the city's chief finance officer, Paul Sundeen (who incidentally is retiring in December ) to handle instead. Experts in municipal ethics and practices warned the city in a Press Enterprise article that this was a risky practice.


Two municipal finance experts expressed qualms about Riverside's situation.

Bob Bland, professor and chairman of the department of public administration at the University of North Texas, said it's better for the council to review the reassignments.

Without such oversight, "you're losing an element of accountability there," he said. "I think it's better for the finance officer because it protects him. And it's transparent to the public."

He also said four interfund loan reassignments in seven years is more than usual, and that the practice could end up hurting the city's utility bond ratings.

Louis Schimmel, director of finance for the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said it might be a nuisance to seek council approval for each reassignment, but "in government today, the more transparent you are, the better."

It's interesting that the city government is invoking language that they have to be fiscally mindful after spending around $2 billion on capital projects including threatening eminent domain to buy property (utilizing inter fund loans)and then hand it off to private developers probably for a reduction in price. One of the funds being used to fund these and other projects was the sewer fund even though now the city's saying the sewer needs an immediate upgrade.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In the 18 months after Brad Hudson became city manager in June 2005, the sewer system appeared in solid enough shape that he asked the City Council to allow other departments to borrow $22 million from the sewer reserve fund. The money went for nonsewer projects, including a parking garage and parking meters. The council approved the loans.

But Public Works Director Siobhan Foster, appointed to her position in February 2006, recently told Chambers of Commerce officials that the sewer system has been "neglected" for years.

Assistant City Manager Michael Beck said Friday that there is no contradiction. The $22 million was set aside for emergencies, and loaning it out had no impact on the availability of the money for use in a sewer system emergency.

But now for all that, the city has condos which were part of mixed use projects that were listed at least for $450,000 per unit and some say as high as $700,000 (though that seems like wishful thinking even in a healthy housing market) are now proposed to serve as residential units which probably will be geared towards University of California, Riverside students though it remains to be seen whether doing so would put a ceiling on rental rates.

In the meantime, the city's departments which formulate its basic services were all taking extreme hits. The police department, fire department, library, parks and museum were having to cut staffing positions, freeze positions, reduce programs and in the case of the library get cut to the nub. One supporter of the library said there's no money left to spend, the pages who did the "grunt work" in the facilities were the first to go. Not one page was left after the city cut the staffing in the library. This is coming even as the city's either built new libraries (in Orangecrest) or renovated old ones (in Arlington).

The police department has been minimizing its staffing levels on its shifts to numbers not seen since the 1980s. Some shifts number at just under 20, which is lower than they were several years ago. This is happening even as the city's population

The police department won't provide much information to document the current officer to supervisor staff ratios, it will only direct you to a power point presentation done to the city council last June which doesn't even include any statistics detailing this ratio at all. But as little information as you'll receive from the police department, you'll get nothing from Hudson's office except for a letter from City Attorney Gregory Priamos telling you to go look it up using the link to the city's preliminary 2008-09 budget but guess what? It's not included in this source either. So where is it? And why are any requests for this information responded to in such a roundabout way?

So what is the current officer to supervisor ratio? According to Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, the city's budgeted for a ratio of about 4.3 to 1 which is a figure he cited last June. However, a public records request for the work product which DeSantis drew upon for his figure didn't yield any supportive information. The ratio is probably around 7 to 1, given that last June it was about 6. 2 to 1 with fewer supervisor retirements. It's difficult to believe that a 4.3 to 1 average could be approached unless the number of line entry police officers assigned to specific patrol shifts was somewhat reduced.

Of all the issues that the city and police department have been tussling over including the latest rounds of challenges to the police commission, the issue of staffing has gotten next to no attention from these same individuals and while whether or not a commission investigates an incustody death, the second day or a year later has never endangered the standing of a police department but staffing deficiencies including those at the supervisory level certainly have done just this. It seems to be obvious that this is an area that needs more attention or at least it should be one.

For one thing, improper staffing levels of both officers and supervisors now to save funding can end up costing much money later on. If you don't believe this to be true, then you need to look back at the city's history in the 1980s and 1990s.

One of the primary allegations in the lawsuit filed by former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer was that there weren't enough officers and not enough higher ranking personnel to properly supervise them at all hours of the day and night. So, the stipulated judgment (or lawsuit settlement) mandated that there be the 7 to 1 officer to supervisor ratio and that there be lieutenants available to be watch commanders 24 hours a day. These reforms were part of over $22 million spent on reforming a police department that Lockyer determined was in violation of both the state's constitution and state law.

In March 2006, the city council voted to maintain many of the stipulated judgment reforms including the 24 hour lieutenant watch commander and the officer to supervisor ratio. But is that what they've done, especially in the past year?

Current supervisory and management positions to watch:

Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez, retirement, vacant

Lt. Ken Carpenter, retirement, filled by Leon Phillips

Lt. Paul Villaneuva, medical retirement, vacant

Sgt. Leon Phillips, promotion, vacant

Sgt. Randy Eggleston, retirement, vacant

Sgt. Kevin Stanton, retirement, filled by Dan Warren

Sgt. Terry Meyer, medical retirement, vacant

Sgt. Lisa Williams, transfer to newly created position, may have been filled by another sergeant transferred from an unknown division

Sgt. Don Tauli, retirement December 2009

No known detective vacancies as promotions filled in accordance to an old MOU. But no overtime except for one homicide detective and limited hours for Sexual Assault Child Abuse detective

Officers: eight vacancies due to attrition through terminations, failure to make probation, resignations and retirements. Possibly 10 more positions opening up in the next few months from the 19 that were part of 45 approved by the city council and then frozen earlier this year. The status of up to two traffic officer positions that were frozen is unclear.

Corona's city government is struggling with life after employee layoffs. But there's also an election taking place for seats on the city council.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In the final weeks of the campaign, candidates Louis Davis, Tia M. Magee, Baxter Miller, Steve Nolan and Jason Scott each hope to make the case that they are ready to take on the city's challenges.

"We've got our work cut out for us," said incumbent Steve Nolan, a restaurateur and former police officer. "People are our No. 1 resource, and we'll do anything we can to save a job, particularly in public safety."

When interviewed in September, candidates disagreed on whether layoffs should be considered as a way to balance the budget. Now, after 112 positions have been cut, the candidates offer mixed opinions on how the city might return to economic health. Several said planning is a key element.

Magee attributed the budget situation to poor planning. City leaders should try to build up reserve funds and find out what cities with similar populations, such as Fontana and Rialto, are doing to avoid major cuts, she said.

Davis said he believes the city should look to Riverside as a model of future planning, citing that city's goals of establishing a medical center and law school and drawing high-tech business and cultural assets.

"They have a plan and they're executing their plan," he said. "Corona doesn't have a plan."

Also discussing city issues are political candidates in Perris while in Lake Elsinore city clerk resigns.

The federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona has started and both attorneys have already said bye bye to 75 prospective jurors.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

For those who thought Maywood Police Department's hiring of officers with criminal records was a fluke, guess again.

So does the Atlanta Police Department.

According to a study done by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of the applications filed by recruits, about one-third of all academy graduates had criminal records.


More than one-third of recent Atlanta Police Academy graduates have been arrested or cited for a crime, according to a review of their job applications. The arrests ranged from minor offenses such as shoplifting to violent charges including assault. More than one-third of the officers had been rejected by other law enforcement agencies, and more than half of the recruits admitted using marijuana.

"On its face, it's troubling and disturbing," said Vincent Fort, a state senator from Atlanta. "It would be very troubling that people might be hitting the streets to serve and protect and they have histories that have made them unqualified to serve on other departments."

But Atlanta police say it's not so simple. Officials have been trying without success for more than a decade to grow the department to 2,000 officers, an effort hurt by this year's budget crisis. With competition for recruits intense among law enforcement agencies, Atlanta has had to make concessions.

"We would like, in an ideal world, to see every applicant with a clean record, but obviously that's not reality," said Atlanta police Lt. Elder Dancy, who runs the department's recruitment unit. "I don't think you'll find any departments who hire only applicants with squeaky-clean records."

Given that some of these officers had applied to other agencies and been rejected, does this mean that Atlanta's police department is like Maywood's a "second chance police department"? Some said that the fact that the officers had been rejected by other departments concerned them more than their individual police records. Some of them had flunked psychological exams, others polygraphs. Still, they found a home with the Atlanta Police Department which clearly didn't bother its management.


Dancy said those issues raise red flags, but what matters most is whether recruits can pass the Atlanta Police Department's tests and interviews.

When asked whether the department was getting top-shelf candidates, Dancy said, "as long as those applicants meet the guidelines, then we feel like we are hiring the type of officers who are [fit to be] Atlanta police officers."

What's disturbing about Atlanta's hiring practices is that just last year federal prosecutors announced that corruption within the department was "widespread". These shocking statements were the outcome of a probe into the police department after some of its narcotics officers falsified a warrant to break into the home of Kathryn Johnston, 92, then shot the woman to death before trying to plant drugs and weapons in her house to cover up their actions. It makes you wonder what kind of backgrounds these officers had before being hired in Atlanta.

It's be a huge shock if there weren't some federal invention in Atlanta as a result of the serious problems there.

Your service is needed.

That's the message being sent by the Albany Times Union Editorial Board when it comes to applying for the city's citizen review board. The residents of this city should heed it and submit their applications.


A city with more than 90,000 people must have thousands of passionate, informed views about how to monitor, and improve, that very delicate relationship. The city must have thousands of citizens concerned about public safety and committed to the effective and professional enforcement of the law. It needs two of them willing to go through the Citizens Police Academy and able to give about two to five hours a month of service to the board and the city. More than anything, Albany needs a police review board with a membership diverse enough in income, race and life experience to reflect the population of the city itself.

Come forth, then � the deadline is Tuesday. There are two ways to apply, Albany being the intensely political city that it is. You can apply to be one of Mayor Jerry Jennings' four appointees, or one of the Common Council's five appointees. You can submit your application to Robert Van Amburgh, executive assistant to the mayor, at City Hall, Albany NY 12207. Or you can submit it to Cashawna Parker, legislative aide to the Common Council, at the same address.

Albany needs you. Furthering its eight years of progress in oversight of the police depends on you.

The Issue:

The police review board has vacancies.

The Stakes:

Oversight of law enforcement will only be as strong as the people make it.

Eugene's voters get to do what Riverside's did in 2004 and that's halt the political attacks against their civilian oversight by putting it in the charter.

Of course, doing so doesn't stop the political actions taken against civilian review boards by their opponents. It just might slow them down a bit.

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