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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, October 10, 2008

RPD announces Phase One of investigations completed: The criminal records

The Riverside City Council is holding another meeting next week with this agenda.

Earlier in the afternoon, the city council will be conducting a workshop to receive this report from the Blue Ribbon Task Force which convened a while back to come up with recommendations to present to the governmental bias on the expansion and renovation of the downtown library and museum. Their main suggestion which was backed by both the Museum Metropolitan Board and the Board of Library Trustees as well as community organizations was to expand and renovate both facilities separately which was counter to Hudson's plans to do both together.

But then this not so shocking development happened at the Development Committee meeting earlier this month where the chair of the Metropolitan Museum Board nearly burst into tears after learning that land which she had hoped would be available for the expansion and renovation of the museum would instead be handed off to a private developer. The latest news is, that the Metropolitan Museum Board is absolutely furious at what has happened. After that meeting, Chair Mike Gardner assured her that there were other properties available for the expansion but she didn't appear comforted. Many of the properties suggested as alternatives including the downtown Greyhound terminal might not be available for this projected expansion for quite some time.

The workshop will be held in the city council chambers at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. Yes, it's of course during a time of day when most people who might be passionate or just care about this issue can't come but if you can, it's important to show up, bear witness to the discussion and to be heard.

The Riverside Police Department made some form of public announcement to the Press Enterprise that they were done with phase one in their investigations into the two fatal officer-involved shootings that City Manager Brad Hudson has barred the Community Police Review Commission from investigating in a timely manner. These are the Sept. 1 shooting of Carlos Quinonez, Sr. by Officers Juan Munoz and James Heiting and the Sept. 11 shooting of Fernando Luis Sanchez by an unidentified officer. But it looks like from the article that phase one consists of the police department figuring out what criminal records the people shot had and relating only that information. Nothing else about these public investigations was announced to the Press Enterprise that hadn't already been provided to the Police Review Commission in the last two months at briefings delivered by Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa and Investigations Capt. Mark Boyer.

No offense to the police department and Hudson that there are elements of articles like this one which sound familiar in comparison to past coverage that took place before the PRC even existed. Neither Hudson nor Chief Russ Leach were working for Riverside when the people expressed how upset they were that about 99% of the details of these investigations were kept from them except the people's criminal backgrounds, whether non-existent, minor or "extensive", as in the case of Tyisha Miller in 1998. Of course, no information is given out about the officers involved including Munoz' rather eventful employment record with the city since his hiring in 2001.

If it weren't for the agitating of one of the only unions state legislators behold themselves to, the residents of Riverside would be able to gain more insight into the backgrounds of its officers who are involved in these shootings as they do about the people who are shot. The reality is, background information including criminal records about those who shoot and those who get shot may or may be relevant depending on the particular circumstances of each individual case. But the department and the city aren't allowed to elaborate on the backgrounds of the officers including Munoz' not so typical employment history with the department even if they wanted to do so.

This is the only public information that can be released on the background of one of the officers involved. It has to do with a closed session item involving his arbitration hearing that was done to reverse a finding against him on an administrative investigation and/or discipline given to him as a result of any sustained administrative finding. Cases that are usually appealed to this arbitration process usually involve punitive measures taken against officers which result in a loss of income including separations, demotions and suspensions. Not many details are available on the findings and/or discipline which led to the officers seeking the arbitration process but it's a fair bet that it was probably serious in nature. Hopefully, it didn't involve any of the following behaviors: Excessive force, lying on police reports, planting evidence, perjury, lying to supervisors. any potential criminal conduct, child abuse or rape under the color of authority.

If it did involve any of these serious forms of misconduct, then Riverside might have a problem. Hopefully, it was something more minor in nature because it's hard to know whether a finding or disciplinary action was tossed out due to being a false conclusion or because the punishment given on a sustained finding was excessive.

**If the link doesn't appear, go to this site, go to city clerk-->city council reports---> 2007--->

April----> April 10, 2007 (report) 04 which is titled Re: the personnel grievance arbitration of Emilio Angulo, Juan Munoz v the City of Riverside**

If the city heard the arbitration case then that means the officers won in arbitration and in fact, that's what happens. But it's difficult to trust a process where an arbitrator reinstates an officer who had sex with a rape victim on a case he investigated as a detective in the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Division, even after admitting that he believed the misconduct took place. That was the case of former Det. Al Kennedy and the city appealed that ruling to Riverside County Superior Court, lost there then promised the public it would proceed to the Court of Appeals. Now, the city did file the appeal but before it could be heard, they settled with Kennedy behind closed doors and voted to give Kennedy a retirement. That sent a very unfortunate message to rape victims in this city and how the city values their right to be safe from police investigators who engage in serious misconduct against them.

It's pretty sobering to have a detective violate the trust which is vital to any investigation division that investigates rape and child abuse in the worst possible way, the police chief fires him (despite recommendations by subordinates for much weaker discipline) and then an arbitrator states that while this behavior is very appalling, it's not an offense that merited termination.

After a case like that, it's hard to give a process like that much credit when it does reinstate an officer from a finding and/or disciplinary action.

But like in all city matters, this is how Riverside only just under 10 years after the fatal officer-involved shootings handles its officer-involved shootings after eight years of Riverside's own version of glasnost. If this sounds familiar, it should with the 10th anniversary of the Miller shooting coming up in December. If you remember, this was the last fatal shooting under the old system (now revisited) of not having an independent oversight body doing its own investigations of officer-involved deaths. Now, if you believe that the commission still holds that power, albeit in a delayed form, you're incorrect.

By shutting down the initiation of officer-involved investigations "after the tape was dropped'", the city manager's office and the police department it operates have essentially converted the commission's role from being an investigator and reviewer (as outlined in Charter Section 810(d)) to being only a reviewer of the department's own investigations. And this, all wrapped up in nice paper, is the real charter violation because everyone knows and the city is included here that you can't effectively initiate an investigation six months, a year, or two years after a critical incident.

The commission figured out that it couldn't do this when it waited six months to receive the criminal investigation casebook for the 2001 fatal shooting of Vaseuth Phaisouphanh and changed its protocol to initiate investigations within days of fatal incidents, a practice it adhered to for nearly six years and 11 officer-involved death cases without hearing a peep out of City Hall or the police department. There's a myriad of reasons why this protocol has suddenly been changed and those will be explored more fully in future postings but suffice it to say, the real reasons probably are much different than what the public has been told by the city council.

In the meantime, stay tuned until the city manager's office and the police department (which operates under the direction of Hudson's office) announces completion of phase two of their investigation which will no doubt will be the receiving and filing (through the Press Enterprise) the results of Quinonez and Sanchez' toxicology tests.

Speaking of the police department, if you want to learn more about who's really controlling its operations, this is the court case to follow as it plays out, that is if the city allows it to do so.

Police Department lieutenants Darryl Hurt and Tim Bacon have filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court against the city, the police department and Councilmen Frank Schiavone and Steve Adams for "union busting" and allegedly making retaliatory and threatening comments at them for their political activities associated with the Riverside Police Administrators Association. Gosh, after reading Schiavone's latest round of letters to two PRC commissioners that were written about in the same newspaper just two days ago, the allegations made against him sound somewhat less preposterous! What a shock! But I really hope that they aren't true because I would really like to believe that Schiavone's not capable of such appalling behavior and would not engage in it. Hopefully, that's the truth and not instead that some rather corrupt behavior took place in this situation.

Still, the allegations have to be proven true or false and hopefully that's what the federal court process will be able to facilitate if the city doesn't announce it's taking a defensive posture then rush off behind closed doors to settle this case with a gag order attached to it. But if these allegations were being made against any other two elected officials, they'd be a bit harder to swallow than against elected officials who send out letters threatening people with almost-ethics violations and making antagonistic comments to and about people who criticize them at the podium at city council meetings.

The situation that's been going on with the RPAA has been very interesting if unsettling to follow the past several years including the situation which erupted last year where Hudson tried to convert three upper management positions in the department to being "at will", an action which as it turned out wasn't quite legal according to a much belated opinion by the city attorney. Concerns also developed that the city manager's office was manipulating the promotional process even further down the ladder than that, which would truly be outrageous if that's how the police department was handling those positions. Hopefully, this lawsuit will go before a federal jury and the truth will come out and if it's unpleasant that steps will be taken to remedy that.

In fact, the police unions themselves should be at the forefront demanding that these allegations be investigated by an independent party, outside of the city. One would think that any whiff of suspicion that outside parties are influencing the promotional process (which is the police chief's power and responsibility), they would be on it fairly quickly.

Allegations of city officials making threats to city employees are very seriously and should be investigated and treated as such but unfortunately, that doesn't happen and if you need any example of that, witness the spay and neuter job done to the city's ethics code and complaint process since its installation.

And what will City Attorney Gregory Priamos say in response to this latest lawsuit? That it's frivolous, the allegations have no merit and the city will fight them vigorously. How many times have city residents heard that line before? How many times will we hear it again?

Arguing among council members in feisty Colton has become such a serious problem that one person sitting on the dais had a solution: Reduce the number of seats from seven to five.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

If the council is reduced from seven to five you will see less arguing, less hostility," DeLaRosa said.

He implored residents to contact their council representative and ask how such a change can be achieved.

The change can only come to fruition by a vote of the people, explained City Clerk Carolina Padilla.

They'd either have to petition and obtain signatures from 15 percent of the registered voters in the city, or the council would need a majority vote to have it placed on the ballot, she said.

The current system of an at-large mayor and six council members representing separate districts was adopted by voters in 1992 after residents petitioned to have it placed on the ballot, said City Manager Daryl Parrish.

Previously, a five-member, at-large council that represented the entire city was in place, similar to most cities in the county, Parrish said.

"It was pretty much the voice of the people," said Mayor Kelly Chastain. "I know it was a few years back, but I think we've been able to do well with the system."

Round two in the Temecula City Council candidate debates is about to begin.

Not surprisingly considering all the controversy involving the city council this past year, one of the key campaign issues is redevelopment.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Hernandez used the last debate to promise voters she'll be an independent voice on the council.

She said the council "... never has a dissenting vote."

"It's almost like it's scripted," she said. "And even in a good marriage, there's an occasional disagreement."

Stewart used crime statistics to argue that Temecula is less safe than neighboring cities and a police station on the south side of town is needed.

He also took a swipe at Naggar's and Washington's ties to the development industry.

If elected, "I will enter as Stew the barber and I will leave as Stew the barber," Stewart said.

"I won't be in any limited partnerships with developers. I won't have any developer friends (who are) going to tell me what to do."

Naggar runs a development consulting firm; Washington is an investor in development projects outside of Temecula. Both have insisted their private business relationships have no influence on their duties as councilmen.

An Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy plead not guilty to charges in connection with his tasing of a handcuffed man.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

Hibbs was riding in the passenger seat of the patrol car with a trainee who was driving about 2 a.m. Sept. 13, 2007, when the deputies noticed a man wearing a trench coat and carrying an open beer bottle walking east on Ball Road toward Brookhurst Street, in an unincorporated island surrounded by Anaheim, Emami said.

When Hibbs asked the man, 31-year-old Ignacio Gomez Lares of Santa Ana, if he could search him for weapons, Lares refused and briefly struggled with Hibbs before knocking him to the ground. Lares left his trench coat behind as he ran away, Emami said.

Hibbs and the trainee, joined by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who saw the struggle, chased Lares, who was caught about 250 feet from the patrol car, Emami said.

Hibbs fired the stun gun at Lares, who was resisting, and the suspect was handcuffed with his hands behind his back and walked by all three officers back to the patrol car and placed inside, Emami said.

The LAPD officer left, and while searching the trench coat, Hibbs and the trainee found a loaded firearm inside, Emami said.

When Hibbs asked Lares for his name and date of birth, Lares gave his correct date of birth, but gave his name as "Ignacio Gomez," which resulted in no computer matches.

After several demands for his name, Hibbs is accused of taking the Taser and asking the man one last time, Emami said. When he repeated the same name again, Hibbs zapped him again, Emami said.

Prosecutors said Hibbs was within his legal training when he used the stun gun on Lares the first time, because he was not handcuffed and was resisting arrest.

But it was not legal for Hibbs to use the Taser on Lares after he was handcuffed in the patrol car, Emami said.

This is playing out while Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is taking away hundreds of concealed weapons permits in part because the process has been tainted by her predecessor Mike Carona giving out permits to campaign donors.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

This week, department officials confirmed that 146 letters have been sent out advising current license holders that their permits to carry firearms in public – called CCWs – are being revoked. There are currently 1,024 permit holders.

"The Department has determined that your identified risk does not meet the good cause threshold as required under the new CCW policy based upon the information you provided. As a result of this determination, the Department's present intention is to revoke your CCW license," reads the form letter sent out this month.

The letter, sent out under the signature of Captain Dave Nighswonger, advises current holders that if they feel that additional information should be considered they have roughly one month to provide additional good cause information for the department to consider before the revocation becomes final.

This week, county supervisors grilled Sheriff Sandra Hutchens during her 120-day update on the reorganization of the agency about the status of the concealed weapons review.

Hutchens acknowledged to supervisors that she had indeed tightened requirements for the permits but highlighted the fact that no current license had yet been revoked.

But it seems unlikely that those who are getting the letters won't be revoked.

"Most of them are not coming back with the information we need," said Nighswonger. "A lot of them are arguing the second amendment (to the U.S. Constitution)," he said.

It didn't take Hutchens long to be questioned on her new policy.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

To date, Hutchens has received high marks for restoring morale at the department as well as transparency and better relations with county supervisors.

But on Tuesday, Supervisor Pat Bates – a key supporter of Hutchens – told her she has problems with the new gun policy which Hutchens revised in response to charges Carona handed out the permits as political favors. Supervisors Bill Campbell, Janet Nguyen and Chris Norby all voiced concerns about new revisions which tighten restrictions on who could qualify to carry a concealed gun and which could require applicants to take a psychological exam or polygraph as part of their background check. Anyone with a previous felony or a misdemeanor conviction within the last five years is now ineligible.

"Any Sheriff has broad discretion on that matter," Bates told Hutchens.

Under state law, local Sheriffs and police chiefs are granted wide discretion to hand out licenses to carry a concealed weapon, or CCWs, based on a person's "good cause."

Yet discretion, Hutchens said, doesn't mean you can go around the law.

Hutchens said the state law is clear that concealed weapons are not legal. Exceptions are just that, she told supervisors.

"It's my duty to follow the law,' Hutchens said.

"There was a perception that concealed weapon permits were being issued in exchange for support in the previous administration," said Hutchens.

After nearly getting clocked all week by vehicles driven by people busy chatting on their cell phones while making right turns, I wondered if the new ban on such conversations was being enforced. And in one area of the city, drivers are being cited for these driving violations.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older