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 17, 2008

Riverside makes another top 10 list!

Forbes Magazine just ranked the best and worst cities to ride out a recession in and guess which city came in first in the latter category?

This one. Hint, recently it adopted a brand new slogan, that being "City of the Arts".

Yes, it's Riverside and the Inland Empire where the average homeowner is about $33,000 in the hole. This is higher than the median annual salary for residents in this region.

(excerpt, from slide show)

No. 1 Riverside, Calif. (Worst)

(Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., area)
Underwater homes: 62%
Median home equity: -$33,039
Unemployment: 9.2% (+2.8% from a year ago)
Median income: $28,740

There's no doubt that Riverside's housing market is under considerable stress. The median homeowner owes more to get their home above water than the median worker makes in a year. That's why the housing market is flooded with foreclosures. Zillow estimates that 40% of the homes sold in the past year were foreclosed homes.

Even the city's own development projects have been not attracting the home buyers that were hoped for as at least one major mixed used housing project downtown will probably not be selling those condos for between $450,000-$700,000 but will be renting them out, most likely to college students at UCR. The city is selling property to developers in some cases for less than it purchased it (as one parcel the Redevelopment Agency bought for $4.4 million was sold to a developer for $2.2 million) and some of these projects involve office buildings even as much of the city's office space stands empty.

When it comes to infrastructure concerns, the city government's suddenly noticed that there's a financial crisis which in actuality goes back much longer than the past several weeks. Even when the city passed its then $1.1 billion Riverside Renaissance initiative to much fanfare at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium several years ago, it was going on and the writing was on the wall that the rosy economic picture wasn't going to last much longer. Even as those who urged the city council to be cautious were treated like skunks who had invaded a garden party. The city spent at least $1 billion people and you ask people including former city officials where the money came from, they'll scratch their heads. And what of the city council? After a news article about the controversial use of the much-borrowed from sewer fund, it voted to give away its right and responsibility to approve interfund transfers and loans within the city, an action criticized by experts on municipal ethical and sound practices.

Now several years later, many of the housing development projects either aren't being built or are going to be leased out which was counter to what was sold as happening to downtown. Past and current elected officials said it was about bringing home owners to downtown and what has happened instead (and what should have been anticipated) is that there's more rental units. Not that there's anything wrong with renters unless you're sitting on the dais because some of the people that do and have done so appear to think there's a problem. It's just odd after watching some elected officials talk about the need to increase home ownership downtown on the eve of the collapse of the housing market and watching as the number of rentals have increased instead.

And what about public transportation, which will be more in use with the recession and fluctuating gas prices? Well, Riverside's kicked Greyhound out of its borders (and no matter what officials say, it's not likely it's coming back) which serves 85,000 customers many of which are not violent parolees and thugs but seniors, the disabled and families and even though ridership on the RTA buses has increased a lot, the company is still talking about cutting bus lines and buses. And if there is criminal conduct at the downtown station, it's simply going to reappear at wherever the RTA places its buses, which is expected to be at the Metrolink station in the Eastside because most of it has taken place in the outer area of the parcel where the RTA buses are located.

Riverside County's board of supervisors have added to the RTA's operational budget but the lines being expanded or added are being done to link the RTA to Metrolink and nothing is added to link RTA to Greyhound in San Bernardino or Colton. The only "solutions" for addressing the issue of Greyhound customers getting from Riverside to the station in San Bernardino from the dais are jokes made about elected officials driving people there personally. There seemed to be this attitude of "I'll take them there myself", problem solved, a bit of laughter and then, let's vote.

Also speaking out powerfully against the city's threatened restrictions on city employees attending the Group's meetings if it doesn't "tone down" its criticism of city officials and their direct employees was Riverside Community College District Trustee Mary Figueroa. It's not clear when the Group was placed on the city's own version of a "watch" list but it's the only group that's been mentioned so far and it's an organizations in this town which was founded and led by Black women even though its actual membership is diverse.

The discussion of why the city's extending its no-criticism policy to community organizations and who's exactly responsible for issuing these orders has been lively as people are saying that this directive goes too far in trying to control discourse in this city. A more proactive and visionary approach to take would be to listen to what the criticisms are and to think what could be done to make a situation or service better. Here are some hypothetical examples.

If people were concerned about the city raising the sewer rates and its impact on seniors, a proactive approach would be if there were elected officials or employees including any in public works who could go back and say, look there's concern here and maybe it should be addressed.

If people were concerned that police officers took too long to respond to 911 calls, maybe the police chief, his management staff, other police officers or city officials could go back and say, maybe staffing only 18 officers per work shift in a city of 300,000 people isn't the best thing. What can we do differently? And seriously, what's been done to the police department post-consent decree is a damn shame considering how short-sighted and perhaps even self-serving some of the decisions from City Hall have been about the department's operations and staffing.

Yet to this day, the city government refuses to have a public discussion of exactly what its plans are for addressing the staffing shortages in the police department. Police Chief Russ Leach has held public forums as required under the department's five-year Strategic Plan and they've been well-attended with the fourth one being scheduled for November in Orangecrest but the city council should be holding a discussion in public as well. And since consultant Joe Brann issued a warning to address the staffing issues during his last audit in June, there's been no announcement of another audit being presented before the city council even though Brann was on contract until November 2008 and was to have presented another audit in the autumn. It would have been useful to receive a follow up on whether those issues raised had been addressed from an outside perspective.

And a more difficult issue, what if people complain that city officials were rude at meetings? Again, the proactive approach would be to have discussions on how to alleviate those concerns.

But Riverside's approach on these issues and criticisms hasn't been proactive at least not in a positive way and it's not been visionary. It's been rather short-sighted and it's not been cognizant of one fact and that's the reality that city officials work for their constituents, the city residents of their wards and citywide. The city residents do not work for the city government. However, if any elected official or City Attorney Gregory Priamos can point out where in the city's charter it states otherwise, they should feel free to do so and present that argument at the next Governmental Affairs meeting in November since the biggest proponents of that argument will facilitate that discussion being members of that same committee.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will be purchasing a $126.5 million present for Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco. Not quite what he wanted but what the board thinks he needs. Some of the money spent will be paid off to the Riverside Redevelopment Agency which originally set out to bring more office space downtown.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The county would potentially pay the fee as part of its purchase agreement with Silagi, county documents say.

Field, Silagi and redevelopment agency Director Belinda Graham declined to estimate the amount of the payment, saying that the three parties were negotiating the details.

Mike Gardner, the Riverside city councilman whose ward includes downtown, said he expected the payment would be at least $4 million.

Graham said the original intent was for her agency to receive tax increment revenue over the years from private tenants of the building, but the city, like the nation, probably faces years of economic uncertainty.

"This does stray from the original intent," she said. "But as this country is entering hard economic times, it may be a good thing."

Gardner said he is not opposed to having the DA's office in Regency Tower but he would have preferred private firms bringing new people into the city's center.

Developers are poking their heads and their money in the Moreno Valley City Council race donating hefty funds to a committee effort to kick out two current incumbents on the dais. Political experts have stated that the money that development firms might be tossing into political campaigns of local city and county elections may have been reduced by the current economic and housing crises but you'd never know it by reading the newspapers these days.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Highland Fairview Properties has donated a total of $163,000 this year to the Moreno Valley Taxpayers Association, which is campaigning against incumbent Councilmen Charles R. White and Frank West.

White is seeking re-election in the 1st Council District in central Moreno Valley, while West is running for another term in the 3rd Council District in Rancho Belago, or eastern Moreno Valley.

The taxpayers association has said that the two councilmen have failed to deal with rising crime and traffic in Moreno Valley. But White says he is being targeted because he opposed the naming of the Rancho Belago area, and West says he is targeted for opposing proposed construction of distribution centers there.

White is being challenged by Roy "Pete" Bleckert Jr. and Jesse L. Molina; West is running against challengers Robert Burks, Raymundo Carbajal Jr., Robin Hastings and Mike Luis Rios.

The Moreno Valley Taxpayers Association has paid slate mailer organizations $3,200 to send out literature on behalf of Molina and Hastings, according to the committee's disclosure reports.

"I think it's wrong for any candidate to accept money from that organization or any organization that is behind the (warehouse) project," Rios said.

Trying to get out the message to vote, are residents in San Bernardino.

Rialto's police department will be conducting community forums to address policing issues.

Two days after a Riverside Police Department officer was arrested on charges of sexual misconduct, a Los Angeles Police Department officer was under investigation for soliciting sex.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Two law enforcement sources familiar with the case said the alleged victims were young women Mecano had met while on duty last summer. The sources said Mecano allegedly attempted to coerce women to engage in sex acts with him in exchange for not pursuing some sort of law enforcement action against them.

In one incident, detectives were investigating allegations that Mecano sexually assaulted a woman behind a building, sources said. In another incident, Mecano allegedly tried to force a woman to go to a motel with him, the sources said.

District attorney officials said they could not comment on the Mecano investigation because the case remains under seal.

Also remaining under seal, is the case involving Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman who was arrested at the Orange Street Station in downtown Riverside. Forman was an officer at the time of his arrest but he might have been a detective in a special investigations unit several years ago. I was at a fast food restaurant about three or so years ago and saw a man looking like his mug shot waiting for his order who was wearing jeans, shirt, gun and vest with "Forman" stitched on it like many of the gang detectives do.

Comments written at the site include the following.


Do you belive in being innocent until proven guilty? Why do we place an expectation that most of us as American citizens can not uphold- on police officers? Most people are not honest, trustworthy, noble and above reproach. What about the women that approach these men in uniform? I would imagine a gentleman that looks like you would entertain a solicitation from a beautiful younger woman. Why not an officer? We have to put some of the responsibility on these women who engage in sexual acts because of the authority and uniform. Let's give this officer the benefit of the doubt and not try and convict him before all the information and facts are heard. Someone who believes in America and the justice system would comply.
10/16/2008 8:03:03 PM

But what often is alleged in cases like these are that the officers approach the women (or men) and basically tell them this, you do [insert sexual act] or I'll do this [insert punitive action which is an abuse of power]. The women who are victims are often those with criminal records because 1) they are the women who most cross paths with officers including bad ones 2) they're more likely to be in a situation where the officer can coerce them and 3) if they come forward, they'll be branded as liars, criminals, felons and crazy. It 's very rare that prosecutions actually take place. And while officers like anyone else are innocent until proven guilty of criminal offenses, they are also much less likely to be charged with any onduty criminal conduct because of the difficulty of prosecuting cases successfully against them which gives many prosecuting agencies, federal, state and county, pause to file on them unless their evidence is fairly tight.

Often in cases where officers assault women who don't have records, they get apprehended somewhat quicker. If an officer comes out on a 911 call and then rapes a woman, often he's caught and prosecuted. In one case, a woman who alleged that she was raped didn't call the police but talked about it when another law enforcement agency called her to do a customer service survey. The caller quickly realized what agency was involved and contacted that agency which contacted the woman. Ultimately, the officer was arrested and charged.

But in cases where women may have records, the road is much longer and tougher and it can take a decade or longer like in the case of former San Bernardino Police Department officer Ronald Van Rossum who is now in prison for raping at least a dozen women over longer than a decade. Not to mention Riverside Police Department officer Eric Hamby in the early 1990s though he was acquitted in a trial where police officers were on both sides' witness lists.

And in these cases, it will be assumed like the commenter did above that they asked for it.

Maywood Police Department's first officer to be convicted for criminal conduct was sentenced to 18 months in state prison. Former Officer Michael Singleton was tried twice. At first the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office wasn't going to refile the case after the first trial jury deadlocked on acquitting Singleton but some hard work went into the case on Maywood's end and the case was refiled.

The second jury voted to convict Singleton.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Earlier this year, a jury deadlocked in favor of acquitting Singleton. His conviction at the retrial was a significant victory for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which has struggled in the past to win convictions in cases involving police brutality.

Judge Marcelita V. Haynes said she felt jail time was necessary to send a message to officers in positions of power that there will be consequences for abusive actions.

"What bothers me the most is that Mr. Singleton, like myself, we're not entitled to let our anger take over," she said as she sentenced Singleton to the jail term requested by prosecutors "He lost it, and there is a higher standard for him and people in the position of power."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Margo Baxter told reporters outside court that Singleton's conduct was particularly egregious because of his position as a police officer.

The blood letting continues at the Press Enterprise. Photographer Carrie Rosema and Features reporter Mark Benoit were among the latest list of layoffs from the Texas-owned newspaper.

Racism in the Inland Empire, this time dealing with that lovely Barack Obama mailer circulated by a local Women Republicans' club once again makes international news.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Political and news Web sites around the world Thursday linked to The Press-Enterprise's online story about the newsletter, sparking heated blog comments, phone calls and e-mails.

The Jerusalem Post and politics Web sites such as, and featured it. TV and radio stations pursued the story.

The cable TV network MSNBC derided Fedele on its program "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" designating her as Thursday's "worst person in the world."

Fedele said in her interview Wednesday that she did not associate those food items with stereotypes about African Americans and simply intended to criticize Obama for saying over the summer that he doesn't look like the presidents whose images are on dollar bills. She said she didn't think it was appropriate for him to draw attention to his race.

"I thought his statement was outrageous and uncalled for and inappropriate and everything else I can think to call it," she said.

So far only one other member of this club has supported Sheila Raines's complaint about the mailer, even though there's been international outrage. She's not sure whether or not she'll remain a member and has said this is one reason why there are fewer Black Republicans. If you know here or run into her, please pass along a message of support.

There's been new wrinkle in the case involving the elusive Zodiac Killer who killed men and women in the 1960s and 1970s. A new suspect has emerged and DNA testing will be conducted to see if this person committed any of the killings including the 1966 murder of Cheri Jo Bates in Riverside.

And in a twist, the latest suspect was said by his relatives to have been in Riverside at the time Bates was killed.

A fundraiser for the Evergreen Cemetery with a Halloween style theme will take place there on Nov. 1 at 6:30-8:30 p.m. at $10 per person and $25 per family.

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