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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shaking and baking and that's just the CPRC

Yes, that was an earthquake in the early morning hours of Nov. 17 and you can discuss it here. It's noted here at the United States Geological Survey's earthquake site. It was 4.1 and felt over a wide region of Riverside County.

The earth kept quaking later into the morning with this 3.8 quake at 9:41.

The Riverside City Council will be meeting again after a bit of a sabbatical this month. This meeting looks like if you blink your eyes too long, it will be over.

But not before the city council or redevelopment agency (given that the faces are the same, it's understandably difficult to tell the two entities apart), decides whether or not to use more Eminent Domain to get the Fox Theater project off the ground after already spending about $30 million so far.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

V. Prabhu Dhalla, who owns or co-owns the three targeted parcels, said his negotiations with the city haven't made any progress.

The city hasn't even proved the land behind the storefronts is the only suitable space for the parking structure, Dhalla said.

He sent a letter to the council calling a vote on eminent domain premature.

City staff doesn't want to postpone the vote even though officials will continue to negotiate with Dhalla, Graham said.

"We're asking that the council move forward," she said.

Graham said the city is hoping to make the garage no more than three stories tall to avoid blocking the Fox.

The goal is at least 400 parking spaces but "if more can be accommodated, we would like that," she said.

The garage probably wouldn't be ready for use before late 2009, interim Development Director Conrad Guzkowski said.

The casualties this time might be three more downtown businesses.

This discussion will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. This report covers the issue from the city council's perspective.

On Wednesday, Nov. 19, the Community Police Review Commission will be meeting again in Riverside and discussing a rather full agenda which means that it's another meeting that will go late into the evening. If you've been attending its meetings the past several months, they are often four to five hours in duration mostly because of the higher number of officer-involved deaths being discussed on the meeting agendas. The deaths include the following.

Douglas Steven Cloud: Oct. 8, 2006

Joseph Darnell Hill: Oct. 19, 2006

Martin Luis Pablo: July 11, 2008

Carlos Quinonez, Sr.: Sept. 1, 2008

Fernando Luis Sanchez, Sept. 11, 2008

Marlon Oliver Acevedo: Oct. 31, 2008

Investigations into the first two deaths were initiated before City Manager Brad Hudson issued his directive barring the CPRC from initiating investigations into officer-involved deaths until it was cleared to do so by his office and/or the police department. If the CPRC tried to initiate any investigations into any incustody deaths, City Attorney Greg Priamos would cut off its allowance.

Commissioners fought with commissioners. Commissioners verbally tussled with Executive Manager Kevin Rogan on the dais. Commissioners initiated motions to carry out the charter-mandated responsibilities to launch independent investigations and couldn't receive seconds to their motions. Commissioners barely discussing then voting that shootings were in policy as in the case of the Cloud shooting.

Earlier this year, the city essentially issued its own separate finding on how it viewed this shooting by paying off the second highest settlement for a police-related incident in recent history. Only the $3 million settlement in the case of the fatal 1998 shooting of Tyisha Miller is higher than that of Cloud. That settlement sent a much louder message about the unofficial finding released by the city than any that could possibly be made by the police commission. The city justifies each shooting, then runs off behind closed doors to settle it for six-figured amounts or vice versa. To say that the city government has been sending mixed messages on this issue would be very generous.

Some say, it's to avoid the hassles and further expense of prolonged litigation which works until you contemplate that these are fairly hefty amounts. And in the case of Cloud, apparently there was an agreement made in the settlement to work on improving training and using the Cloud case as a training scenario on what not to do.

Interestingly enough, the city once had an opportunity to pay Officer Roger Sutton $200,000 which was an award issued by an arbitrator to settle his lawsuit. Doing so could have served to reduce further litigation costs of a prolonged process yet the city refused to do so even opting out of waiving the five-year statutory limit for trying the case and wound up losing big at trial to the tune of $1.64 million.

Usually the city fights the cases it believes it can win fairly tenaciously. Just ask the plaintiffs in another lawsuit which was litigated over 10 years to the tune of over $700,000 before it was finally settled.

The drama that took place continued as time went on including by elected officials who when push came to shove showed that their voiced support of the CPRC in the face of the passage of Measure II in 2004 was just that, voiced support.

Commissioners fired off letters to city council members who filed off letters to commissioners warning them that they could be removed albeit through an incorrectly defined process. It was like watching a strange municipal version of Survivor Island during the past six months.

Commissioners who were outvoted at ad hoc committee meetings turned the tables at full commission meetings to vote to eliminate or put in limbo the ad hoc committee. They eliminated standing committees and are now trying to resurrect them, the latest one being the formerly late Policies and Procedures Committee most likely in an attempt to rewrite the bylaws, policies and procedures. It will be interesting to see if this committee gets stacked by individuals who voted to eliminate or put on hiatus at least, the ill-fated ad hoc committee. Some commissioners tried to do the right thing but they were the ones targeted by a city council member for possible removal.

But the commissioners were left with some questions to answer in the midst of all this.

To be in line with the city's charter or to follow the dictate of City Hall? Watch dog or lap dog?

These questions remain to be answered by the commissioners even as they are being discussed out in the communities of Riverside. There also seems to be the deep divide among commissioners, which has asked the city government for clarification on how to precede in the face of being barred from investigating by Hudson.

But that's not where all this drama stopped as one elected official after another fired off correspondences, most of which were jointly signed to the point where people asked whether the city government was infringing upon or had even violated the serial meeting provision of the Brown Act.

Mayors, both permanent and pro tem fired off letters to commissioners. Council members fired off opinion articles to the Press Enterprise in response to an article written by the publication's editorial board. Here are the elected officials who signed on to written statements, published or otherwise, which addressed the same issue, the interpretation and implementation of Sect. 810(d) of the city's charter that governs the CPRC's investigation into officer-involved deaths.

Councilman Frank Schiavone, Councilman Steve Adams and Councilwoman Nancy Hart all signed onto an op-ed piece published in response to an editorial published by the Press Enterprise several months ago.

Mayor Ron Loveridge and Councilman (and Mayor Pro-Tem) Rusty Bailey signed on to a similar letter written to the commissioners written more recently. Allegedly this was done in response to the CPRC's request for more guidance (or any guidance) from the city council in terms of how to treat Hudson's directive.

Only one city council member so far supports the CPRC maintaining its status quo of investigating officer-involved deaths in the beginning (though not the day of the incident) and that's former CPRC chair, Mike Gardner. The sentiments of the others who didn't sign off on written statements is less clear and they haven't issued any public statements. It's also possible that one or more elected officials may have even directed Hudson to issue the directive in the first place. After all, he had been defined by some as a toy you wind out and point in one direction or another. A toy that can easily change direction depending on who's winding it up.

When it comes to analogies about the halls of power at City Hall, that's one of the more interesting ones that's told.

There's also a tussle between two city council committees on which one will review issues involving the CPRC. For several years now, Public Safety Committee Chair Andrew Melendrez has brought the CPRC for discussion including the deliverance of quarterly reports on its progress. The Public Safety Committee even hosted a meeting to hear a report issued by consultant Joe Brann who was working on a series of recommendations for the CPRC. There was never a peep by any chair of any other city committee expressing any interest let alone mandate that the CPRC would be only under the jurisdiction of their particular committee.

Until now, apparently.

Schiavone who chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee wants in on the issue too.
The apparent rationale being that only his committee has jurisdiction over the city's boards and commissions which is news, given that the Public Safety Committee has received reports from both the CPRC and the Human Relations Commission without any complaints from any elected official including Schiavone. It's news given that there appears to be no written language in the city's charter or municipal code that addresses the standing committees' jurisdictions when it comes to issues.

It's interested that the latest power play involving the city government's current favorite toy (especially now that Riverside Renaissance is being trimmed back) may just play out in a subcommittee or two.

There's likely much more to come on this ongoing saga.

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein provides an update on the progress of the library expansions.


Another Riverside library has come into the world -- in the Orange Terrace Community Park out in Orangecrest. It's a winner. Lots of natural light, computers and actual people, including father-son chess duelers. On a Sunday! A reading "grove" (built to scale) for kiddies. And a hint of a book collection. (Librarians say shipments have been slow.)

No progress to report on Marcy branch library's move to a secure, previously disclosed Mag Center location: the ex-Auto Club digs. Councilman Rusty Bailey: "There are no plans on paper yet." No "physical improvements" till July.

Main Library expansion now on recessionary hold, but Judith Auth says the renew-the-library folks want the "design process to begin immediately." Says there's voter-approved money for it, and fears voters won't approve more money a few years hence unless there's a tangible (and tantalizing) plan.

He also seconded an item that was included in yesterday's posting about the proposed departure of Greyhound Bus Lines when it comes to the rumors flying around about the Riverside Police Department moving some of its operations to where the bus terminal stands now. That particular rumor's picked up steam in recent weeks. If true, it's actually another installment in the story which was started several years ago when the police department had last contemplated moving its Orange Street operations to a building on that parcel of land.


Rennysance update: RPD police HQs soon will occupy office space right next to the downtown Greyhound station. That "security" rationale the city's using to boot the hound is starting to smell like exhaust.

Actually it smells more like rotten eggs. How can you justify ousting a bus service from downtown by calling it a magnet for crime and then when it's gone (and so by the city council's reasoning will be the crime it allegedly attracted)move in the police station? It does sound more and more like it's true that ousting Greyhound was all about removing undesirables from downtown Riverside. But in this case, the "undesirables" were actually seniors, poor families and/or disabled individuals. To the tune of over 80,000 "undesirables", the majority of which are from one or more of these demographics.

Will Temecula continue its annexation plans?

The city of San Bernardino scratches its head as it tries to solve the Mystery of the Expanding Budget.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"I think 'perplexed' is probably a good way of putting it," Councilman Dennis Baxter said. "There are no good choices. I think it's going to get worse before it gets better."

In August, one month after the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year, City Council members filled the hole left by dwindling tax dollars with an 8 percent cut in their work force. Officials also borrowed $2 million from city reserves.

But revenue continued to fall in the July-September quarter of the current fiscal year, according to a report prepared recently for the council's Ways and Means Committee.

The total shortfall was about $2.2 million. At the same time, city departments have been spending money faster than last year. By the end of September, they had spent about $42 million, or 29 percent of their budget. In the same period last year, the departments had spent $33.7 million, or just over 23 percent of their budgets, the report shows.

Is your county outsourcing its public relations division? What's interesting is that both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties have their own employees on staff to perform these job duties.

Riverside's Community Police Review Commission might be a rather passive body but thankfully that's not the case in Eugene where the commission has asked the city government to slow down a bit in changing the role of the police auditor. One of the major reasons for asking for the delay is so that more time can be spent eliciting public input. Now there's a novel concept!

(excerpt, The Register-Guard)

A narrowly divided City Council has said it wants to vote on changes in three weeks that would clarify and, in some cases, strengthen the police auditor’s role in the classification, investigation and monitoring of complaints against police officers.

The council on Monday night is scheduled to discuss those changes, which were proposed by south-­central Councilor Bonny Bettman, a strong oversight proponent.

In a close vote last Monday, councilors decided to have a Dec. 8 hearing for public comment on the proposals. A final vote is to be taken two days later, on Dec. 10, during the council’s last meeting of the year.

The 12-member police commission advises the council on police matters. At its Thursday meeting, the group agreed to send the council a letter, recommending that councilors provide more chances for public response before making changes.

It took the police commission 18 months to help create the framework that established the auditor and civilian review board, commission chairwoman Tamara Miller said.

“We’re just asking to have the process slowed down to allow stakeholders the opportunity for input and dialogue in the proposed changes so we make sure police oversight is reflective of our community values,” Miller said.

Another Los Angeles Police Department officer has been indicted on sexual assault charges stemming from two incidents that took place while he was onduty.

(excerpt, KCBS)

Prosecutors allege Mecano told an 18-year-old woman in May that he would not arrest her for having a marijuana pipe if she had sex with him. Mecano then allegedly sexually assaulted the woman near a library.

Mecano is also accused in October 2007 of seeking sex from a 20-year-old transient following her arrest for battery. Prosecutors say he gave her $200 and told her to meet him at a motel, but she instead reported Mecano to police.

The controversy about whether off-duty law enforcement officers should bring their guns when they go drinking at bars continues.

(excerpt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"That should be discouraged," said David Klinger, a former Los Angeles police officer and an associate criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

He said most departments allow or even require officers to carry firearms while off duty - and few prohibit it. But officers who carry should be able to demonstrate good judgment, he said.

The St. Louis Police Department lets off-duty officers decide whether to carry their weapons. But their trainers preach that "combining weapons and intoxication is a potentially deadly and potentially career-ending mix," said police spokeswoman Erica Van Ross.

Pour graduated at the top of his Police Academy class in July and started on patrol in the city's 4th District, which includes downtown.

Said Watkins: "You've got a young man who graduated magna cum laude in aeronautical engineering from St. Louis University. He has no prior anythings - nothing but a stellar reputation."

Now Pour is waiting for prosecutors to present facts from the incident to a Madison County grand jury. He was released from jail without bail Monday while investigators with the Illinois State Police sort out what happened. His employer immediately ended his short career.

As a probationary officer, Watkins lamented, Pour has no recourse to get it back.

Bob Douglas, a retired Baltimore police officer who speaks at training seminars about the relationship between drinking and police, said what happened in Pontoon Beach appeared to be another chapter in tragic police history. Drinking is ingrained in the culture, he said.

Douglas, executive director of the National Police Suicide Foundation in Pasadena, Md., has simple advice for officers: "Stay out of the stinking bar."

Another law enforcement officer from DeKalb County Sheriff's Department may be facing criminal charges. This time, it was for sexual assault while onduty. Earlier this year, Deputy Derrick Yancey was indicted by a grand jury for murder charges in relation to two deaths including that of his wife.

Oh dear, that's two cases of sexual crimes involving police officers that I've mentioned in this blog. You know, if there weren't about a half-dozen cases being reported across the United States each day and if these officers could pardon the bluntness, keep it in their pants, then it wouldn't be written about anywhere.

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