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

Thursday, October 23, 2008

TGIF: Bits and pieces, here, there and everywhere

Here's an interesting article about how city residents in Pittsburgh have gone to the city council to address the issue of continued oversight over the police department several years after its consent decree with the Department of Justice was dissolved.

(excerpt, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

The speakers suggested that council codify portions of a 1997 consent decree, an agreement between the police department and the federal government. For eight years it required the department to release information such as the races or ages of people officers come in contact with and which officers receive the most complaints.

"Nobody is watching over the police department now, and nobody is monitoring their performance," said Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizens Police Review Board, an independent agency that investigates misconduct complaints. "This may lead to problems down the road."

Police Chief Nathan Harper said most regulations and procedures begun under the decree remain in effect. A requirement to rotate officers' locations after five years was eliminated, though, when manpower decreased and Act 111 arbitration adopted a few years ago eliminated an "integrity squad" that tested officers, he said.

"We continuously look at our policies and procedures, our guidelines, and we try to improve the inner workings of the department," Harper said. He said he plans to meet with council members privately in November, to explain the department's operating procedures.

If you remember, the Vera Institute did this position paper on the views of both city residents and police officers after the consent decree was dissolved. The reaction from city residents was concern that the loss of outside oversight over the police department meant that the lasting impact of the mandated reforms would lessen over time and at worst, it would be business as usual for the city and department. Police officers interviewed were just so relieved the consent decree was over and the yoke as it was called by some was off of their necks at last. It took Pittsburgh seven years to successfully complete its decree.

At the beginning of the consent decree, the view of it by city residents was positive, while the department's officers' reactions were mixed. It was actually the first of its kind to be issued utilizing legislation passed by Congress authorizing such investigations to be conducted of a police department's pattern and practices by the Justice Department.

At the five year mark, it was bifurcated by a federal judge who released the department save the office which handled citizen complaints which was under the city. Because there was still a serious backlog of citizen complaints lasting up to two years, more work needed to be done in improving its operations and services before it could be fully released from the consent decree.

Riverside's been out of its own version of a consent decree (referred to as a stipulated judgment allegedly to appease Mayor Ron Loveridge who allegedly believed the words, "consent decree" carried a social stigma on the city) for 2 1/2 years. Initially it stumbled especially at the management level according to an audit given in early 2007 not to mention that it took City Manager Brad Hudson over six months to actually hire the consultant who was supposed to perform the audits. But that situation apparently improved within the next several months in terms of the uniformity of its management level moving forward with the continuation of the reforms and the implementation of the Strategic Plan.

The department made some important infrastructure changes and created much-needed new training for its officers.

Later on, concerns began to arise that proposed freezing of police positions might impact the forward movement of the police department although Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis sitting in the big chair at the last audit of the police department last June assured everyone that the police department was "fully staffed". Even as the staffing levels in the department's patrol shifts shrunk even as the city's population is moving the other way.

This was before the department disbanded its Community Services Division, allegedly reduced its patrol shift staffing to the minimum level of just below 20 officers a shift and froze sergeant and lieutenant positions. The police department including Chief Russ Leach has held several community forums (as required by the Strategic Plan) reassuring those who attend that community policing philosophy is growing and not regressing or stagnating. The next proposed forum to take place will be that involving the East Neighborhood Policing Center and that will be held on some date in November at some location in Orangecrest.

But there's also been litigation filed by officers in the department against the city and more is likely in the future, addressing a variety of issues including allegations of political retaliation by city employees and several elected officials. Not to mention lawsuits settled by the city pertaining to the department's use of lethal force in several officer-involved shootings.

In the midst of all this, it's been two years since the dissolution of the stipulated judgment and nearly 10 since the fatal shooting of Tyisha Miller that started it all in terms of the progression towards implementing recommendations submitted by the Mayor's Use of Force Panel and later mandated by former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

What would be interesting is that if the city and department hired an organization like the Vera Institute or another one to conduct a report on the Riverside Police Department five years after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment and about 18 months or so after the completion of the five-year Strategic Plan. Of course, that's not going to happen and given that the department's handed off all its access to public information off to City Attorney Gregory Priamos to vet, it's not going to be easy for the public to do so either. Which is how it was when we all got into this situation to start with more than a decade ago.

At any rate, there will be future postings on the Riverside Police Department, 10 years later.

This posting talks about the departure of Greyhound from Riverside on Nov. 1 and how it might impact a program that offers military personnel bus tickets to go home and be reunited with or visit their families. Of course, since the Riverside City Council believes that only felons, criminals and parolees constitute the 85,000 people that take Greyhound each year, it probably hasn't occurred to it that military personnel and their families may be impacted along with seniors, families and/or the disabled who rely on this bus service.

Meanwhile, city officials believe that more parking is needed downtown in the wake of the debacle involving the sale of the new office tower being constructed to Riverside County. City residents were aware of this but Towergate seems to have brought a heightened sense of awareness on the shortage of downtown parking to elected officials.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Councilman Mike Gardner, whose ward includes downtown, said the city doesn't have a replacement plan yet because the deal between Silagi and the county just won approval this week.

The county plans to use Regency Tower to house the district attorney's office.

Gardner and Councilman Frank Schiavone both said they expect the county to buy all of Garage 6 so that it can put in security measures to protect prosecutors and investigators who will park there.

If that happens, "I think we need to replace it," Gardner said.

He isn't sure where to build a replacement garage, he said.

One of the locations being evaluated for the "replacement" parking garage is a corner on 10th and Market and eminent domain may be used as a "last resort". And given that another election year is just around the corner is it possible that the parking situation downtown in general and Towergate in particular might be tossed in the midst as a major issue to be discussed along with others during Election 2009?

San Bernardino County Assessor William Postmus has vowed to finish out his term even as the turmoil surrounding him grows.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Postmus maintained that allegations raised against him and his office are part of a political witchhunt and appearing before the Board of Supervisors would amount to a political circus.

He said he is committed to his job as assessor and to reducing property taxes during tough economic times.

"I am back!" he emphatically said at the conclusion of a nearly hourlong interview at his downtown San Bernardino office.

He may be back but he declined an invitation by the county board of supervisors to appear before it and answer some questions.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

Postmus issued a three-page letter to board Chairman Paul Biane late Thursday afternoon. The letter served as a response to Biane's request earlier this week for Postmus to appear before the supervisors as soon as possible.

"I am declining your request due to several factors that have developed over the past several weeks since you first made your request," Postmus wrote in the letter faxed to The Sun on Thursday. "You personally launched a politically-motivated criminal investigation into my elected office. Furthermore, you attempted to inaugurate said investigation under a cloak of secrecy."

Postmus' office was raided in April by district attorney's investigators.

The assessor's top aide and longtime friend, Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman, was later arrested on felony charges of doctoring or destroying evidence. Several sources have also said Postmus is addicted to pain killers and methamphetamine.

"Assessor Postmus still doesn't get it," Biane said in a news release. "Despite his best efforts to frame and characterize this issue as something between the two of us, he totally fails to realize this is about the public's trust and confidence in him as the elected Assessor."

Another candidate for city council enters the debate in San Bernardino.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

The second candidate to consider joining the race is Dena Peters, an administrative secretary at San Bernardino Valley College. She follows Fred Shorett, a self-employed salesman who has also filed the paperwork at City Hall in order to begin a campaign.

Whoever wins - Peters, Shorett, or an as-yet unknown candidate - will represent the city's northeastern neighborhoods until Derry's term expires in March 2010. Derry is set to leave the council in December to take a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

In an interview at her home in San Bernardino's Northpark area, Peters said that if elected, one of her top priorities would be improving city aesthetics.

"It's an old town. It could use some redecoration, if that's what you want to call it. A little paint never hurts," she said.

Controversy has hit Murrieta in its election after letters written by the police and fire fighters union to endorse a candidate were written on the city's letterhead.

The police chief of Murrieta's department took action.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Chief of Police Mark Wright already had written to the police union Monday pointing out the error and ordering union officials to correct it.

"Use of city letterhead for political purposes is strictly forbidden," he wrote. "The City of Murrieta and its police department neither endorses nor opposes anyone running for any elected office."

John Therien, police union vice president, said he mistakenly printed six letters to the candidates on the wrong letterhead. When the error was brought to his attention this week, Therien said, he quickly corrected it and wrote letters of apology to all of the candidates.

"It was an honest mistake," Therien said. "I feel bad that all this happened."

The comments here included expressions of skepticism that include expressions of skeptism that the unions didn't know that they'd used the wrong letterhead.


How could you not notice that it was on city letterhead? PLEASE! Spare me the lies! It could have been printed by mistake, but there is no way it was not noticed until AFTER they were sent out.

Don't be fooled people...this was no mistake. The unions have been promised something by these two....contract negotiations are coming up.

But more problems quickly emerged when one political candidate said he was endorsed by the police and fire departments and didn't clarify that it was actually their respective labor unions which endorsed him.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will be probing its own impound process.

More allegations of racist fliers being put out by a police union in Richmond, California. In fact, the ACLU called it the most racist flyer it's seen in at least 10 years.

(excerpt, Berkeley Daily Planet)

Coalition spokesperson Andres Soto said the flyer “is blatantly racist against the Latino community,” and “designed to distract people from the issues” in the upcoming election.

Phillip Mehas, a member of the board of the regional ACLU chapter, said that in his 10 years in the area he had seen derogatory mailings before, “but nothing as racist as this.”

“Public safety held hostage,” declared the flyer. “Stop crime before it happens” and “Arrogant disrespect for public safety.”

The stark headlines were placed over photos of activist Juan Reardon, who served as campaign manager to Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, holding up a sign in Spanish warning of a police driver’s license checkpoint ahead.

Inside, headlines declared “Mexican drug dealers,” “Honduran drug dealers,” “El Salvadoran drug dealers” and “Drugs come to Richmond from across the Mexican border,” with “Richmond” and “Mexican border” underlined, and the accompanying text referring to “Mexican drug wars,” “headless bodies” and “ongoing orgies of violence!”

Latinos were the only drug dealers mentioned in the flyer.

National trends show cuts in police budgets. Personnel positions and training budgets are taking the largest cuts.

In Columbia, Missouri the majority of the city council voted in support of civilian review.

(excerpt, Columbia Tribune)

Jeffrey Williams and Rex Campbell, co-chairmen of the Citizen Oversight Committee that was formed in June 2007 to evaluate complaint procedures and the need for a citizen review board, last night at a council work session presented the group’s final report and its recommendation to form a civilian board. They fielded questions from council members, including many who support the concept of a board but have questions: What would trigger a citizen review? What staff support would be needed? How will a citizen review process co-exist with the police internal review process?

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said the review board could improve the department’s public relations.

There is a perception that "complaints were never resolved or addressed," he said. "That doesn’t serve the public or the police well, a reputation of nonresponse. This is an attempt to be much more responsive and transparent."

Williams echoed that thought in his presentation.

"We found out that many complaints did not see light of day," he told the council. "There was a fear of reprisal or feeling of ‘What would be the point? What will come of it?’ "

Five New York City Police Department officers are being investigated for chasing after a man in a subway station and then sodomizing him.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Michael Mineo says he was standing outside the Prospect Park subway station in Flatbush at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 when a group of uniformed cops approached him and accused him of smoking marijuana.

The confrontation somehow escalated and Mineo says he fled into the station.

There, he says, he was jumped by the five cops. While one cop held down his legs and another held down his shoulders, he says one of the cops pulled down his pants.

At that point, one of the cops inserted some type of police equipment - either a baton or the antennae of a police radio - into his rectum, Mineo says.

When the assault ended, he was given a desk appearance ticket charging him with disorderly conduct.

Statements from police department representatives differed.


Police downplayed the incident, saying Internal Affairs found "no evidence of criminality." None of the cops was put on desk duty.

"Police officers grappled with an individual who they observed smoking marijuana after he had fled and resisted being handcuffed," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said. "His assertion that he was sodomized is not supported by independent civilian witnesses on the scene."

"This is a bad one," a police source said. "It looks like one of the cops inserted his radio antenna in the victim's rectum."

In other articles, the NYPD denied the allegations even as it stated it was investigating them. The hospital where Mineo went after the incident said that he was there for four days.

Local artist, Charles Bibbs had his work featured in a current film in theaters near you.

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