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, November 21, 2008

City Hall Blues: The layoffs begin...

Unfortunately this morning, there was a bad two-car collision near the Parkview Nursery on the intersection of Chicago and Enterprise. In fact, a pickup truck had plowed into the section of the gate of the nursery on the street corner. The collision was between the truck and a smaller vehicle driven by a young man who fortunately had an air bag installed in his car which was totaled in the accident. Without the air bag, he would suffered more severe injuries by his impact with the truck.

When you get in a car, don't forget your seat belt.

The gentleman had few obvious injuries but was shocked by his first accident. He was able to recall what happened, what day it was and what country he lived in.

The two people in the truck, both elderly, were both injured and trapped in the vehicle by brush surrounding the doors. They were extracted and transported by Riverside County ambulance services to a nearby hospital.

UCR's police officers responded to the accident scene and took witness statements until the Riverside Police Department officers arrived including one from UNET.

The Parkview Nursery employees were understandably shocked by the accident but were much more concerned about the welfare of those in the accident than the damage to their property.

The city of Riverside has apparently began laying off employees, beginning with between four and six employees, in three different departments. Some employees who were independent contractors with the city have also been let go. I spoke with individuals whose family members were independent contracting employees with the city and they were already laid off.

But these are believed to be the first direct, full-time employees.

Two information technology employees, one museum employee and at least two others are allegedly gone so far. At least one was a management level position. They're probably not the last positions to produce layoffs and likely freezes of the involved positions. Several of these employees were probational and officially the firings were attributed to failures to make probation. If an employee fails to make probation, then the position can be frozen. If they are "laid off", the city has to keep the position open for a period of time. Another option that might be used by City Hall to explain layoffs is that they are merely contracting employees out. In order to do so, the city has to provide a 60 day notice beforehand in writing according to the latest MOU from the SEIU.

It's hoped that the city is abiding by the terms of all the MOUs negotiated and voted on by the city government, with the different labor units during this difficult time. It's hoped that actual layoffs aren't being disguised or explained away as less than what they really are.

But as stated earlier, they had already begun. A better picture of this situation as well as the budget picture overall might be apparent in January when the city hits the midpoint of its current fiscal year so stay tuned to what's going on during that time period.

Earlier this fiscal year, about 30 part-time library pages had already been laid off. They were replaced by volunteers.

There's been a lot of boasting about Riverside not resorting to layoffs but this city apparently will not make it through its fiscal year without laying people off. It's very true that other cities like Moreno Valley, Hemet, Corona and others will probably have a worse time of it during these difficult economic times where sales and property tax revenues will take a nose dive as consumer confidence drops as do property values. However, it probably was too early to count chickens before they hatched when it came to claiming that Riverside wasn't going to do layoffs and that people's lives aren't going to be impacted by that.

Not being laid off but leaving the city employment anyway is Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman who's apparently been fired. Earlier this month, he was arraigned on three felony charges in relation to sexual assaults of three women while onduty between February and April in 2008.

The Press Enterprise won its motion to unseal his arrest warrant which provided some details (with names and identifying information redacted) about the three alleged contacts that Forman had with three different women where he either provided them with drugs he carried with him or coerced them into performing sexual favors. An investigation into any other possible misconduct committed by him is still ongoing.

In Lake Elsinore, the mayor vows he'll keep his stipend.

This is how it allegedly all went down. Lake Elsinore has been hit hard by the economic crisis and in fact, one of its zip codes has among the highest foreclosure rates in the nation with 71% of homes in the negative equity situation. Employees are being laid off, services and salaries cut and initially, it appeared that the city council was going to cut their own pay to zilch for nine months to support their employees.

Now at least one of them, Mayor Darryl Hickman is changing his mind.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Hickman said he spends about as much performing city business each month as the stipend pays. This includes volunteering for nonprofits and contributions he makes to charitable organizations.

"I spend more than $400 doing things for the community," Hickman said. "It is just a drop in the bucket compared to the budget."

Lake Elsinore elected officials get paid about $24,000 combined annually. Union representatives said the pledge to forgo the stipend was never about the money but the spirit of the gesture.

"I am sure that everyone appreciates everything he does, but the issue here was not really about how much money was going to be saved," said Kathy Delgado, a labor negotiations representative with the Laborers International Union of North America Local 777, which represents the city's union employees.

"It was the gesture of the council that said to the employees 'We feel your pain, too,' and for him to say he is not going to do it really contradicts that sentiment."

That's because he probably didn't mean it.

The Inland Empire's unemployment rate is one of the highest around, higher than any other metro center in the country.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

If the Inland Empire is one of the birthplaces of the current recession, it is also at the forefront of the nation's growing pain over joblessness -- with the highest unemployment rate of any large metropolitan area in the country.

State numbers released Friday show the Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario area is now suffering from its highest unemployment rate in 13 years at 9.5% in October -- 3 percentage points higher than the national rate and 1.3 points higher than the state's rate of 8.2%.

Ignited by the collapse of the local housing market, which decimated the construction and lending industries, the wave of unemployment has trickled into almost every area, including retail, manufacturing and local government.

The region's troubles are set against a backdrop of growing unemployment throughout the nation. The U.S. Department of Labor reported last week that a growing number of jobless Americans are turning to government assistance. The number of workers collecting unemployment insurance payments has now reached a 25-year high at 3.95 million.

Meanwhile, the percentage of people unemployed in the Inland Empire has more than doubled from a year ago and some experts predict the situation will worsen before it improves.

"It's a perfect storm," said Brad Kemp, director of regional research for Beacon Economics, which recently conducted the second annual Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference.

"It was one of the fastest growing places in America," he said "And when you have that kind of growth, you have the potential for loss."

Riverside's not immune from being located in the recession capitol of the country.


"You see less people at the restaurants and car washes," said Riverside Mayor Ronald Loveridge. "There is real pain almost everywhere you turn. My daughter is a counselor at Riverside Community College and she told me she met a [student] whose house was up for foreclosure. Her last resort would have been to move in with her parents, but their home is up for foreclosure. All over there are statements of personal tragedy."

Loveridge said he was girding his city for a $14-million cut out of its $214-million budget. And Riverside is but one of many local governments reeling from the state deficit and decreasing tax revenues brought on by the real estate crisis.

After Torrance Police Department officers falsified information, a suspected drug dealer was released.

More information on that case here.

The prosecutor's star witness in the federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona wasn't fazed much while being cross-examined by Carona's attorneys.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Defense attorneys can never be sure how witnesses will react to cross-examination, and Rawitz couldn't know at the outset that Haidl, a 10th-grade dropout who made millions in business, had a tough hide that belies his unassuming physical appearance.

But as Haidl's stoic unflappability on the witness stand became more obvious, Rawitz -- no shrinking violet himself -- drew back from the edgy aggression that marked his opening thrusts. He became more judicious in picking spots to try to rattle Haidl, but never made him squirm.

I'd venture to say that the two -- each with a streak of street tough in him -- enjoyed the skirmishing that ended Thursday afternoon. For example, during one otherwise nondescript interlude between questions this week, Rawitz referred to Haidl as "the defendant." No one caught it, except Haidl, who interjected, "the witness." As the judge acknowledged the error, Rawitz said, with a grin, "I'll pass on my thoughts on that."

During another exchange, an impatient Haidl said to Rawitz, "Please, I don't mean to be rude. I think I've answered the question five times already," to which Rawitz retorted: "We may have to do it a sixth time, because I don't understand your answer."

Another time, Rawitz informed Haidl in advance about his line of questioning. "I just wanted to tell you where I'm going," Rawitz said.

"It doesn't matter to me where you're going," Haidl replied stonily. "I'm just here to answer the question."

Over 180 Atlanta Police Department officers are going back to school through a special program.

(excerpt, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Since it began, the Scholarship Reimbursement Program has handed out $254,433 in scholarships, said Dave Wilkinson, president of the Police Foundation.

Though many do, officers don't have to get a degree in criminal justice. To be eligible, they must attend an accredited university, maintain a 3.0 grade point average, have been with the Police Department for two years and agree to stay for three more, Wilkinson said.

Police and college is a marriage that began in the 1980s, and the union gets stronger with each passing year, said Peter Fenton, a criminal justice professor at Kennesaw State University.

When Fenton became a Cobb County police officer in 1980, officers who had college degrees were rare.

But an increasing number of rookies have them, and more veteran officers are returning to school to get degrees, too.

"People are realizing that law enforcement today is different than before," Fenton said. "It really is more about being smart than it is about being tough."

Receiving its first cases will be that new civilian review board in Atlanta.

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