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 03, 2008

Courts and Commissions

The Community Police Review Commission has revised its agenda for the meeting to be conducted on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m. During this meeting held at City Hall, it will be receiving a briefing by Riverside Police Department Capt. Mark Boyer who heads its investigations division on the department's officer-involved death investigation into the Oct. 31 death of Marlon Oliver Acevedo, 35.

The briefings are customarily delivered by the police department within days of an officer-involved death case with the only exception involving the July 11 death of Martin Gaspar Pablo.

Not much information has been provided about this incident which began with several 911 phone calls about a man acting erratically in the middle of a street and ended with him going into medical distress after his arrest and necessitating the call for medical assistance from the Riverside Fire Department and American Medical Response ambulance services. The only information provided so far has been that which was included in a press release issued by the police department on Nov. 1.

What happened in between according to the department was not detailed except to say that an unspecified number of unidentified officers arrived and issued verbal commands which Acevedo didn't comply with. He then allegedly assaulted an officer. He was arrested and then died briefly after being transported to the hospital.

The brief briefing will have to remain fresh in the commissioners' minds for months or a year or longer given that City Hall has barred the CPRC from independently investigating any officer-involved deaths until it gives it permission to do so. This latest directive happens even as this is the third officer-involved death involving the department since Sept. 1. Still, given that there's been quite a bit of civil litigation filed in four of the six pre-2008 officer-involved deaths, City Hall may not have the luxury of being able to allow the CPRC the right to do timely investigations rather than long belated reviews. It might perceive that it's getting too expensive to allow it given that it's settling these lawsuits for six-figures.

How much money's been paid out in wrongful death lawsuits in the past year or so? Around $1.5 million which provides powerful incentive to limit the commission's ability to engage in performing its charter-mandated function. Which is why the city manager's office and the city attorney's office, two divisions well versed and involved in risk management and civil liability issues, are at the forefront of essentially placing the CPRC under their joint receivership even withholding funding from it if it doesn't obey their whims.

This news brief in the Press Enterprise remains as the only information provided to the public. It's already elicited quite a bit of conversation on the site.

(excerpts, Belo Blog)

"I knew Mike. He was a great guy. Very funny at times. I am not too sure what made him want to take on the police but I know a couple of cops could have taken him in easily w/o the use of a Tazer. Maybe they would have had to tussle him to the ground (like every episode of cops) but its not like he was armed. Make sure if you are in the Arlanza area and can contribute look out for the carwashes in his honor and look out for the people taking donations. This is the third killing in my neigborhood in the last three months two of them were by the hands of police."

To monique:
You are right, he was problably high on drugs or some kind of ilegal substance, does that give the right police officers to taze him til he was unconsious? or to administer police brutality?

He is dead and thats a shame, he did make a mistake, did he had to pay the price with his life?

We all live in a dangerous world when police take the initiave and begin to be judge jury and excutioner.

Believe it or not, this can happen to any citizen walking the streets of Riverside guilty or not.

Monique, there is two sides of every story, you just heard the Police side, then there is the truth.

More information is available on the motion filed in response to the decision made by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard to seal the records submitted to the court involving the prosecution of Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman. Forman was arrested on Oct. 14 and is current facing three felony charges in relation to sexual assaults against three different women while onduty.

According to court records, Leonard received a request to seal the content of the declaration in support of the arrest warrant for Forman and she granted it. On Oct. 31, the Press Enterprise through its Los Angeles-based law firm filed a motion in the courts for Leonard to intervene and unseal the warrant declaration and any related documents that are "maintained under seal in this record".

The Press Enterprise's brief argued that Leonard's sealing of the warrant hadn't met the criteria established by the following five standards.


1) Overriding interest overcomes the right of public access to record

2) Overriding interest supports sealing

3) A substantial probability exists that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if record is not sealed

4) The proposed sealing is narrowly tailored.

5) No less restrictive means exist to achieve the overriding interest.

The Press Enterprise stated in its motion that it recognized the right to privacy for victims and that limited redacting of the public record was merited but not a "blanket sealing" of the records.

Included in the motion submitted by the publication was a judicial order released by Leonard regarding the sealing of the records in the Forman prosecution case. It was dated Oct. 14, 2008 and was faxed to the lawyer's office later.

It stated that the request for sealing the records were made for the following reasons.


"Because this is an ongoing investigation and disclosure of the information on the affidavit could hinder the investigation and [illegible] outstanding suspects to the investigation, your affidavit is requesting that this affidavit be sealed pending further order of this court."

Leonard's response to this request was that such records shall be sealed "until further order of this court".

The two sides will battle it out with one of them being able to make the decision in Leonard's court next week, two days before Forman is to appear to be arraigned on his two felony charges of oral copulation under the color of authority and one felony count of sexual battery. The odds favor the judge making the same decision already made which would leave the Press Enterprise the option of appealing it to a higher court.

The investigation is apparently ongoing and people around the city are still in shock over Forman's arrest including employees of one city department that had worked with Forman when he was patrolling . Then there are those of us who aren't.

The Riverside Human Resources Board held its monthly meeting at City Hall today and if there's a board or commission which seems to have less jurisdiction over anything than this one does, it'd be hard to find. There's much more that the mission statement of this commission states that could be done but no one on that board appears to be willing to do them. The Human Resources Board is included in the city's charter and serves in primarily an advisory role to the city government but it has the power to call public hearings which it hasn't done lately. It was created years ago but was merged with what used to be the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Committee and the current board contains members of both panels before their merger.

Former Councilman Ed Adkison achieved some notoriety for idly suggesting during one meeting of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting or two that they should eliminate the Human Resources Board because he had no idea what it did. You could see Mayor Ron Loveridge slowly count to 10 before telling Adkison that this board couldn't be dismantled because it's protected by the city's charter (even though that quality of charter inclusions is as we've seen in recent weeks, vastly overrated). Although Adkison's not the only one confused by the function of the Human Resources Board, it's not really easy when you attend meetings to figure out what it is exactly that this board does. It seems fairly passive in its dynamics and operations even as it grapples with difficult labor issues that often are not addressed within this city in a passive way.

When asked if it received any reports on the progress of any lawsuits filed by city employees including two filed recently by five different current and former code enforcement officers and that lawsuit filed by two lieutenants in the police department, the board representatives said they were not allowed to know. One of them even said the fact that a lawsuit was filed wouldn't necessarily provide more credence to the value of any resultant policy and procedure formation and implementation.

At this meeting, they received EEO reports from the city clerk's office, the city manager's office and the mayor's office yet when the reports were presented, they bore little resemblance to anything that really has to do with the EEOC. Colleen Nichol, the city clerk did include in her presentation the gender breakdown of her office, adding that about 95% of city clerks are female even though more men are entering the profession attracted by higher salaries.

Nichols said that her department had several vacancies that like many such positions in the city, will remain open due to fiscal budget cuts. Soon another position, one of the two deputy clerks, could be frozen also if that current clerk takes a position in another city. Most of the promotions within her office come from inside the office and several employees who are taking training courses to be certified as municipal city clerks are continuing to do so as the city's applying for scholarships to finance that process.

One of her office's responsibilities is to store documents and there's thousands of boxes of them. About 95-99% of the documents in the city clerk's office are considered to be permanent records.

Speaking next is soon-to-be outgoing Asst. City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Paul Sundeen who said that all was well in his department and morale was high even with the budget crisis. The city manager's office had 15 employees and the Finance Department, 67. There were several vacant positions which would remain frozen including a "principal accountant" and the "work mans compensation" person. They wouldn't be filled any time soon, Sundeen said. '

"We believe we have it under control," Sundeen said.

The decision to keep these positions frozen caused board member, Arthur Butler to be very concerned. He told them that they should fill the positions before the city council took them away from that office.

Sundeen did say that the city did replace an outgoing payroll supervisor.

It seems like the Human Resources Board listens to a lot of similar reports each month but what output does it create for the city residents in the public record? According to its Web site, it's last written public report was released in 2006.

The Riverside City Council will be holding another blink-and-you'll-miss-it city council meeting, holding only its afternoon session so that people can vote and attend all those election night parties around town.

One of the agenda's highlights is this proposal to cancel next week's meeting in its entirety due to it falling on a federal holiday. But the city council will also be discussing its plan to buy up foreclosed homes and sell them to qualified home buyers.

Is there any connection between campaign donations by the San Manuel band to San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos and plea bargains given to members of that band? Questions about that are being asked.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

On Friday, Assistant District Attorney Dennis Christy denied the connection.

"I can't emphasize that enough," Christy said.

Christy said Ramos did not provide any input into the decision by prosecutors to support an April 17 plea agreement in the murder-for-hire case against tribal members Stacy Cheyenne Barajas-Nunez, 26, and her brother, Erik Barajas, 36.

Under state law, they could have faced up to life in prison if convicted by a jury on their original charges, which included murder conspiracy.

The pair are expected to be sentenced to home monitoring as part of their plea agreement when they go to San Bernardino County Superior Court on Thursday. Barajas-Nunez could be sentenced to one year of electronic monitoring, while her brother could receive six months, according to court records.

Judge Michael Dest could then reject the plea agreement he signed in April or go through with the sentencing as expected.

Still in San Bernardino County, the Board of Supervisors there is ready to vote on the censure of Assessor Bill Postmus who's refused to voluntarily appear before the body to answer its questions including about his medical leave.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The supervisors will vote today on presenting the letter of censure to Postmus and possibly, Biane said, begin formulating plans to unseat the assessor.

The two-page letter was written in Biane's office. In one passage the letter condemns Postmus, saying he is evading "the clear duty you have to the public and the Board of Supervisors to candidly and publicly address the very disturbing questions surrounding you, from the Grand Jury findings of unprofessional and unethical activities in your office to the allegations of prescription drug abuse and methamphetamine use contained in various mainstream news media accounts."

It continues: "These issues cut to the heart of your fitness and ability to serve as an elected official and manage a County department."

The censure alone is little more than a gesture. But in questioning Postmus' fitness for office, the letter articulates in the clearest terms yet the case under state law that would have to be made -- of a public official in dereliction of duty -- before Postmus can be removed from office.

The proposed letter of censure is here.

Former Bolingbrook Police Department sergeant, Drew Peterson's stepbrother has resurfaced.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

Thomas Morphey had gone into seclusion last November after sources reported he allegedly helped Drew Peterson load a large, blue barrel into Peterson's SUV on the day 23-year-old Stacy vanished from the couple's Bolingbrook home.

Peterson has been named a suspect in the still-unsolved Oct. 28, 2007, disappearance of his wife but has not been charged in that case.

The day after Stacy Peterson vanished, Morphey was hospitalized for a suspected overdose of sleeping pills, then disappeared from public view. Sources said the 40-year-old Morphey had been placed in protective police custody, but authorities never confirmed those reports.

There's an internal investigation into whether or not several Virgina Beach Police Department officers used racial slurs.

An exchange took place between the presiding judge and the plaintiff.

(excerpt, The Virginian-Pilot)

A federal judge has already said Hammerheads has difficult obstacles to cross, even with evidence of racial biases.

"You've got a tough road," Judge Robert G. Doumar told Hammerheads' attorney, Kevin Martingayle, during an Oct. 14 hearing.

The judge said Martingayle must show that the city has policies in place that discriminate against minorities. Martingayle said he's confident he can.

"I think you will be astonished at what you hear," Martingayle told the judge.

And indeed so far several depositions given by police officers in relation to the lawsuit don't look promising at all for the city.


"Have you ever heard any officer use any racially derogatory language?" Martingayle asked city police Officer Steven J. Kennedy during an Aug. 21 deposition.

"Sure I have," Kennedy responded. "Racial slurs. I mean, we've, we've heard it. I mean, we'd be lying to say otherwise. We've all - we all - we've all done it unfortunately, from time to time."

When pressed further about specific words used, Kennedy said, "the most obvious one would be reference to niggers."

He added, however, that use of the derogatory term was not widespread.

He went on to say that two sergeants he's worked with at the Oceanfront have also used such derogatory language, but he added that he doesn't believe this makes them "racially biased in any way, shape or form."

"We all say things sometimes in the heat of the moment, but I don't see any of my fellow officers that I work with or that I'm familiar with that I would label as a racist," he said in his deposition.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg accomplished something that former Philadelphia Mayor, Frank Rizzo could not. He signed a law allowing him to run for a third term of office. Is this a good or bad thing? It remains to be seen what happens next.

Julian Alexander is laid to rest. Alexander was shot and killed by an Anaheim Police Department officer who with other officers was pursuing four burglary suspects. The police chief in that city took the rare step of saying that Alexander was an innocent man who hadn't done anything wrong.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Nearly 1,400 people attended Alexander's funeral service at Cross Word Christian Church near March Air Reserve Base in Moreno Valley, including a group from the Riverside area high school wearing their green football jerseys and lettermen's jackets in tribute to Alexander, who had played football for the school.

"This is a celebration, because we know Julian was saved," Pastor Lacy Sykes told the congregation. "We know ... Julian is with his Lord and savior."

He was buried at Olivewood Memorial Cemetery in Riverside. Many of his relatives and friends attended local churches in Riverside and Moreno Valley.

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