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 30, 2008

With all deliberate speed?

Some people have filed complaints with the Riverside Police Department or the city's civilian review board and then waited, and waited and waited as month after month went by and some of them have asked me this question in one form or another. The complaints seem at first to progress fairly quickly in terms of complainants being contacted by the investigating sergeant and getting interviewed if that's required but then the process appears to slow down and there's a lot of waiting by the complainant for resolution including the findings recommended by the Community Police Review Commission and that final letter of disposition mailed out by the city manager's office.

Did they lose my complaint? Did it get thrown away? These are common questions.

The answers most likely are no it's not lost and it's not thrown away. Part of the reason for the slowdown is that there's still a lot of work to do after the complainant and even the witnesses are interviewed and a lot of movement within the department involving the review of the complaint investigation.

Not that the police department wasn't unfairly accused by the former state attorney general of putting complaints in the circular file in the past but one of the actions taken as part of its five-year stipulated judgment was to create and implement a complaint system that was compliant with state law and the state's constitution. Hopefully, two years out of its stipulated judgment that is still taking place.

One of the major issues with the police complaint system in Riverside that's been one for the past several years is the length of time it takes for complaints to be disposed from the time they are filed.

Statistics that are part of the public record clearly outline how the average length of time has grown in the past several years. A lot of blame is allotted at the CPRC but the length of time that it took to investigate complaints really increased greatly about four years after the commission began receiving and reviewing complaints and incidentally after their was a change of the guard in the city manager's office from George Carvalho and Penny Culbreth Graft (the rising star who got away) to interim, Tom Evans, to the current city manager, Brad Hudson. One councilman, Steve Adams, responded to concerns raised about these investigation trends several years ago at a Public Safety Committee meeting by saying that the quality of the investigation is what matters more than the quantity of time that it takes.

There's definitely truth to that statement but after a certain point, that "quantity" might collide with state law. Adams also blamed the problems on the CPRC but the CPRC's mean review period remained much more steady during the past seven years, increasingly markedly during 2005 and 2006 (with the department's average investigation time increasing markedly as well) when the number of complaints and/or the number of total allegations per complaint increased markedly, which delayed the scheduling of dates for the commissioners to deliberate and issue a finding on complaint allegations.

In 2007, a backlog developed as far as complaints brought to the CPRC from the Internal Affairs Division because there was no full-time executive manager during the first half of that year and the commissioners managed to work through that backlog in a fairly short period of time but complaint time lines overall on the police department's end didn't appear to improve. Some linked the CPRC's backlog to the inexperience of its interim executive manager, administrative analyst Mario Lara, who had received little to no training on handling and processing complaints in comparison to his predecessors. When concern about his lack of experience was raised, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis told the Public Safety Committee during one of its reviews of the CPRC that Lara had attended several meetings with Internal Affairs Division representatives which was what he needed.

Whatever. But how does the length of time complaints are taking to be investigated by the police department align itself with the policies and procedures governing these complaint investigation time lines?

In each annual report released by the CPRC including this one, it includes the entire text from the police department's policy #4.12 in the index. This policy governs the implementation of the department's complaint process from filing, to investigation, to administrative review, to outcome.

The language defining these guidelines for complaint investigation completion is the following.

The Department has established a goal of completing Category 2 complaint investigations within thirty (30) calendar days from the date assigned. The Division Commander then has five (5) calendar days to submit the completed investigation with a Memorandum of Finding to Internal Affairs. If additional time is required, the Division Commander will request approval for an extension from the Personnel Services/Internal Affairs Commander.

The Department has established a goal of completing Category 1 complaint investigations within sixty (60) calendar days from the date assigned. The Division Commander then has five (5) calendar days to submit the completed investigation with a Memorandum of Finding to Internal Affairs. If additional time is required, the Division Commander will request approval for an extension from the Personnel Services/Internal Affairs Commander.

(source: RPD policy #4.12 Part D (5,6) )

In contrast to the guidelines presented in that policy, is reality and that is that the average length of time that it takes the police department to investigate a complaint is much longer than what's recommended in this guidelines.

Interestingly enough, although the quarterly averages for each year exceeded the recommended guidelines without exception, the numbers didn't begin to really explode out of control until about 2005 when complaints reached their highest level in several years. Complaints were actually higher the following year but the number of allegations per complaint decreased overall. Still, the numbers crept higher.

It's easy to see that the average time it takes to investigate complaints has greatly increased and there doesn't seem to be any relief in sight. This leaves people who file complaints forced to wait months or longer than a year to receive their outcome and it leaves the officers waiting as well for complaints against them to be disposed. It also pushes any sustained complaints up against deadlines set by Governmental Code 3304 (d) which states that discipline must be given out within a year of when the misconduct was suspected although there is a list of exceptions to that rule. If a complaint is sustained and it's a year since misconduct was suspected (in accordance with one of City Attorney Gregory Priamos' several legal opinions of #3304(d)), then the police chief couldn't discipline the officer if that were his decision unless one of the half dozen or so exceptions was exercised during the investigative period.

In fact, it doesn't appear as if the situation is improving any time soon and if the department's doing anything to address it, it hasn't announced any information about that including at its community public forums that it's been posting at different locations this past year.

The only trend that's changed is that formerly, the statistical averages for category 2 complaints were even longer than those for category 1 complaints even though they are supposed to follow a shorter time line. That trend has reversed itself in recent years but the numbers for both categories are still high and while there's some fluctuation, the trend still remains that the average time spans for investigation are remaining high.

This also doesn't factor in internal investigations which are also conducted by the Internal Affairs Division. Earlier this decade, the department provided regular quarterly statistical reports on internal investigations to the Human Relations Commission but took a giant step backward when under the guise of redeveloping its statistical format, it simply opted out of providing these statistical reports altogether. It's possible that the issue is not citizen complaints at all, but it could be that the department has lost its ability to keep up with conducting its internal investigations in a timely fashion, either because the number of this class of investigations greatly increased or the number of staff delegated to investigate and process them has decreased. It could also be a combination of both factors coming into play if the problem originates or involves internal investigations.

Then news broke at a community meeting that the Riverside Police Officers' Association is planning to sue the city on the issue of the length of time it takes to investigate personnel complaints. It remains to be seen what the impact of such an action if it takes place will have on the department and its investigative process.

It will be interesting if measures are taken to improve this situation although it's very unlikely that the public will have any idea if this happens and if so in what form.

One place to start would be to utilize a two-prong approach to the problem which is similar to that used by the Riverside County Superior Court system when it was dealing with a tremendous backlog of old cases which jeopardized the time lines on many of them. What the courts did was assigned extra personnel, in this case current or retired judges from neighboring counties to handle the responsibility of reducing the caseload as much as possible depending on the idea that if you increased the number of experienced judges to handle cases, then the number of cases would be reduced.

However, the court system also created a task force to address the rooted problems which led to such a backlog in the first place and it devised solutions in the form of strategy to address these problems and reduce the caseload in that manner as well.

Riverside's police department could do something similar to that. They could temporarily assign several more personnel (including any who might be on light duty or unable to work field assignments if possible) who are trained and experienced in handling personnel investigations to process for a set period of time to address the cases which are the most challenging in part because they've already taken much or most of their statutory period of time under state law to investigate. They could create a triage system to handle the cases which are most in jeopardy of being compromised by statutory deadlines. They should also recognize that some cases usually the more challenging and complicated investigations can have their statutory period waived under G.C. 3304(d) including cases involving multiple officers, criminal investigations, investigations by multiple officers and so forth.

Then they could create a task force that's representative of different groups in the department to fully analyze and evaluate any potential problems (which are certain to exist in a situation like this) including evaluations of each stage of the process for administrative investigations to see where the problems are taking place during investigation and/or review.

They should then come up with a strategic plan with goals, both short-term and long-term to return the administrative investigation system including citizen complaints to a state where there's not as much of a backlog building. Any sergeants assigned to these complaints, both administrative and field sergeants, should be fully-trained and should be realistically able to devote a period of their scheduled work time to handling complaints assigned to them. One issue is that the current deficit of field sergeants may negatively impact this situation because one of their responsibilities is to investigate the less serious personnel complaints. In fact, the vast majority of these types of complaints are investigated by field sergeants and they remain a critical part of this process.

Since the CPRC handles personnel complaints, it should ensure that any new commissioners and its current ones are fully trained on the process that they engage in as well as that used by the police department when it conducts its administrative investigations including its own review process. This training should be periodic and ongoing. The high turnover of both executive managers and commissioners has created difficulties in creating a situation where trained and experienced commissioners are involved in the complaint process. The CPRC 's charter-mandated responsibility for handling complaints needs to be respected as well when examining the process of complaint investigation and review.

These suggestions might sound silly and maybe they are, but the fact is that the only way to successfully address this problem is to create a situation where the backlog of complaints particularly those close to statutory limits is addressed and reduced as well as to address the root issues leading to the tremendous backlog in the first place. Hopefully, the department has once again taken steps to do so, especially given that it will be sued. But what has been done in the past several years isn't working.

The statistics placed under each category are quarterly statistics during that year, meaning that each won is equivalent to the mean of the raw statistics for three consecutive months. There are four such quarterly periods each calendar year. They are based on statistics collected by the CPRC which are available through the public record which is after all, what the public has to work with when conducting any analysis.


Category 1 and 2: (date filed to date received by CPRC)

115 (average of quarterly period)

2001: (Day released by Internal Affairs to day reviewed by CPRC)



2002: Category 1 and 2: (date filed to date received by CPRC)


2002: (Day released by Internal Affairs to day reviewed by CPRC)


*case review deferred by RPOA attorney for several months

(source: 2002 annual report)


2003: Category 1 and 2 complaints (date filed to date received by CPRC)


2003: (Day released by Internal Affairs to day reviewed by CPRC)


(source: 2003 Annual Report)


2004: Category 1 and 2 complaints (date filed to date received by CPRC)


2004: (Day released by Internal Affairs to day reviewed by CPRC)


(source: 2004 Annual Report)


2005: Category 1 and 2 complaints (Date filed to date released by Internal Affairs)


2005: (Date released by Internal Affairs to date reviewed by CPRC)


(source: 2005 annual report )


2006: Category 1 and 2 complaints(Date filed to date released by Internal Affairs)

121 ( two months)
105 (two months)
342 (two months)

2006: (Date released by Internal Affairs to date reviewed by CPRC)

49 (two months)
62.5 (two months)
50.5 (two months)

(source: 2006 annual report )


2007: Category 1 and 2 complaints(Date filed to date released by Internal Affairs)

(no complaints)

2007: (Date released by Internal Affairs to date reviewed by CPRC)

(no complaints)


2008: Category 1 and 2 complaints (Date filed to date released by Internal Affairs)

403 (one month)
140.5 (two months)

2008: (Date released by Internal Affairs to date reviewed by CPRC)

71 (one month)
47 (two months)

(source: Monthly reports for 2007-08 )

If you're a Greyhound rider in Riverside, the city's announced that the station will be not close on Halloween but will remain open for three more months. The city government had defended its ouster by saying that its riders were nothing but parolees and other criminals. However, among the 85,000 passengers who ride the bus each year are many families, many people who are disabled and many elderly individuals.

Here is one of them.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside resident Carole Murrell, 29, breathed a sigh of relief over the delayed closure.

She is in a wheelchair and her husband is blind and they have tickets to take the Greyhound to and from Las Vegas over the Christmas holiday.

Murrell feared they would have to cancel the trip, a birthday present for her husband, because of the extreme inconvenience of traveling to another Greyhound station, she said.

Now, Murrell said, "I do feel better."

City councilman Mike Gardner said this would give the city enough time to negotiate with Omnitrans Bus Company to extend its #215 to accommodate the disenfranchised riders who became casualties in the city's attempt to eliminate people from the downtown who aren't wealthy although the city's attempts to attract wealthy individuals from Orange County by attempting to build condos in the $475,000-700,000 range didn't exactly pan out. As for any crime problems at the station? Given that a lot of the criminal activity actually took place on the Riverside Transit Agency portion of the property, it will probably follow the RTA buses to their new transit center.

But trying to explain how an emerging metropolis as Riverside's been called by Mayor Ron Loveridge will actually lack a Greyhound station is fascinating if a bit embarrassing and it reiterated the belief that Riverside is a backwoods town behind Orange County without the modern conveniences in a way nothing could, not even that defunct television show, O.C.

Testimony continues in the federal corruption trial of Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona. Jurors even found out where he got his suits and how much they cost during trial testimony. Even his alleged love nest.

Interesting developments involving civilian oversight in Kansas City. Black city residents make up over 60% of those who file complaints.

(excerpt, Kansas City Star)

The Rev. Wallace Hartsfield, retired pastor at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, said most urban core residents doubt that the police take their complaints seriously.

He also points to the lack of minority patrol officers in Kansas City. Only 11 percent of the sworn officers on the force are black, but African-Americans make up 30 percent of the city’s population.

“The urban core really does not see — and I don’t mean everyone — the Police Department as being their protector,” Hartsfield said. “Whereas, in the majority community, they are seen as the protector.”

Hartsfield said there are suspicions that if four young black men are driving through a white neighborhood they most likely will be stopped by police, an offense known on the street as “DWB” or Driving While Black.

“I still would not want to live in a community where you do not have the police, where you do not have those who give protection,” Hartsfield said. “But at the same time you want it to be just.”

More from Kansas City:

Anatomy of a Complaint

How to file a complaint

The fatal officer-involved shooting of Julian Alexander continues to create questions that need answers,stated the Orange County Register Editorial Board.


Police safety has become paramount in police training. We, of course, believe that police have to take measures to protect themselves, but they need to also take measures to protect innocent members of the public. There's no excuse for some of the overly aggressive techniques we've witnessed in recent years and the excuse-making that accompanies these hard-to-fathom uses of deadly force.

The district attorney will investigate the matter, but no one expects that the officer committed a crime. It's more likely the result of mistaken identity, and an overly aggressive mindset that has snuffed out a promising young life and caused immeasurable pain to the man's family for no apparent good reason. We'll find out the police explanation when the department gets around to sharing that information with us, but given past experience we won't hold our breath waiting for any sort of justice for this inexcusable mistake.

Surely, the Anaheim Police Department and other local departments need to look at deadly force policies before other lives are unnecessarily taken. That would be the best way to honor Mr. Alexander's memory, by making sure such things don't happen again.

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