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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CPRC to City Council: We're going to investigate OIDs

"The people who appointed me are the ones who call the shots."

----Community Police Review Commission member, Kenneth Rotker in terms of who he answers to.

"I say we move forward with the three OIDs."

CPRC Commissioner Art Santore

"The reason we're in the charter is precisely so this kind of thing doesn't happen. The city manager, city attorney even the city council don't mess with what we're supposed to do."

---CPRC Commissioner John Brandriff

"The city manager might have stepped one or two steps too far. It might be necessary to take one or two steps back."

----CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy

"In court."

---Former CPRC Commissioner Steve Simpson responding to where the thrust of the directive might ultimately be decided.

*crickets chirping*

----Riverside City Council and mayor

The Community Police Review Commission in Riverside voted 5 to 1 to initiate independent investigations into three officer-involved deaths that have taken place in recent months. After an impassioned discussion, Commissioners Brian Pearcy, John Brandriff, Linda Soubirous, Art Santore and Chani Beeman voted to order staff to initiate investigations into the officer-involved deaths of Carlos Quinonez, Fernando Luis Sanchez and Marlon Oliver Acevedo.

Voting against the motion was Commissioner Kenneth Rotker.

However, when one commissioner asked Executive Manager Kevin Rogan if he would call up investigators to carry out the commissioners' mandate, he said, no I will not. Rogan said that he wouldn't need to go as far as to consult with his bosses as he believes that the directive pertains to all officer-involved death cases. But everyone pretty knows that the city manager keeps a tight hold on its management employees particularly those who serve at "their will". Hudson once said that when he's offered the option of being "at will" management positions to department heads and their subordinates, they gratefully and immediately accept them. Which is odd indeed because the two most feared words in the employment ranks (besides "lay off") appear to be "at will".

Still, the commission which was very unhappy by the city council's nonresponse on this issue decided to press the issue further through initiating the investigations. But it's not clear if the city council will respond and if so, who will speak for the body because the fact is, there's probably not one unified voice on the dais regarding this issue. There are obviously elected officials who are more actively involved in manipulating the eight-year-old panel but it's less clear whether others are quiet because they are part of a silent majority, are not educated on the issue (in at least one case) or feel they are part of a minority of one.

Some theorize that several elected officials might not want to make any public statements let alone bring this issue to the full city council because they are up for election next year and are loathe to turn the CPRC and its position in the city's charter into a front and center campaign issue. If the city council and mayor keeps acting the way it's been acting on this issue, there are four politicians who shouldn't be all that surprised if this turns out to be the case when they run to keep their political seats beginning next winter.

It all started when Pearcy wrote a six-page letter outlining the reasons why the CPRC was asking the city council for clarification on the directive issued by City Manager Brad Hudson to cease investigations on officer-involved deaths until the police department and his office essentially gave them permission to do so. If they tried to disobey him, then City Attorney Gregory Priamos would essentially cut their purse strings. Pearcy's letter with its documentation and research certainly put any prior written statements by elected officials to shame. Not that this was difficult to accomplish but it was still a very solid effort.

The only response the commission received was a nonresponse through a phone call the afternoon on Nov. 19 by Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Bailey that the city council had received the letter, reviewed it and filed it away. So essentially, the governmental body of this city resorted to passive-aggressive tactics to deal with the CPRC which has been unable to perform its charter-mandated duties under Section 810 (d) to review and investigate officer-involved deaths since Sept. 1.

The city council has refused to discuss the issue in a public forum even as some of them have used public forums to engage in one-way communicados with the city residents including the 60% of all voters who passed Measure II to prevent exactly the type of behavior that city officials have been engaging in since 2006. Back then, the officer-involved deaths of Lee Deante Brown, Douglas Steven Cloud and Joseph Darnell Hill had the city up in arms in large part because all three men were at least initially unarmed when they encountered police officers and because lawsuits were filed in two out of the three cases.

Still, despite behind-the-scenes antics by Hudson, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis among others which led to the "resignation" of then Executive Manager Pedro Payne and nearly half the commission, the panel was able to investigate the three deaths that took place in 2006.

However, in the face of four officer-involved deaths in the latter half of 2008, the city has stymied the commission from carrying out its responsibilities that it had been doing unchallenged and certainly unmolested by elected officials, city employees and others for nearly seven years. But that was then and this is now and in 2008, Riverside's got to face the fact that it's paid out nearly $1.5 million in wrongful death lawsuits and it's not even through with them yet. Yet despite this or maybe because of it, city officials who are johnny-come-lately to the CPRC saga are trying to rewrite its script including its history.

Hudson issued a directive after the CPRC decided to initiate an investigation into the officer-involved death of Carlos Quinonez, sr. However, the tussle really began after the death of Martin Pablo. Not long after the CPRC received Hudson's directive, it voted to disband its own ad-hoc committee.

But this latest letter by the city council representative providing its non-response (yet failing to explain how the city council came to this group consensus) ticked some people on the commission off. Enough to take the issue to the next level.

Art Santore said that the commission needed to put the ball back in the city's court by initiating the investigations into the three officer-involved deaths and thus force the city's hand on the issue.

Commissioner John Brandriff (who if you remember is on one councilman's "naughty" list) said that he had questions about how the city council could vote to "receive and file" without doing so in a public forum.

"If they are discussed it outside of a public forum, that's another situation," Brandriff said.

Brandriff also said that the latest round of actions is why the city's voters passed a measure to put the commission in the city's charter.

"I have a difficult time with where your loyalties lie," Rotker said in response to Brandriff.

But even Rotker admitted he was very disappointed in the city council's lack of response and said it went against what he'd expected. Still, he said the commissioners were appointed by the city council and could be removed "at will". Someone on the commission took some time to set him straight on that. While the city could require that some of its employees serve "at will", commissioners could only be removed through cause and the list of reasons to remove commissioners was intentionally quite narrow. But who can blame the guy for being confused given the thinly veiled threats by at least one elected official through written letters to essentially remove commissioners including through ethics complaints sent to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee (which isn't the proper original jurisdiction for complaints against commissioners but that's another dysfunction).

Commissioner Chani Beeman said if they stopped now, they would not be fulfilling their responsibility under the charter.

Pearcy said that historically, no vote had to be taken to initiate an investigation but that they were initiated through the understanding of a prior vote.

Rotker kept saying that he disagreed with the motion because it was disrespectful to the city government.

"It's an act of futility or defiance," Rotker said.

During that discussion, Rotker uttered the line of the evening about answering to the people who appointed him. Pearcy merely said, that was an interesting statement but members of the audience gasped. The fallout from the passage of Measure GG raised its head once again.

Earlier in the evening before this drama really got started, a mystery was solved and that was which commissioner had placed an item on the agenda to discuss the "modification" of public speaking limits. This item had been on the agenda once, then pulled and it was back on the agenda again, placed there by the oft-absent Peter Hubbard. It was tabled even though Hubbard is 0-2 for attending meetings where his agenda items had been scheduled for discussion.

Last month, former commissioner Gloria Huerta had spoken passionately against limiting public comment as she did along with other former commissioners about seven years ago, the last time the issue came up. But it's clear that there are commissioners that wish the public wouldn't even show up and Hubbard happens to be one of them. But then Rogan's not the only individual in the meeting room who has to answer to Hudson in a matter of speaking.

The city council voted on Nov. 18 to give three business owners 30 days to agree to sell their properties or face Eminent Domain in connection with the Fox Theater project.

(excerpt, Press Enterprises)

The matter will come back to the council in 30 days for an update on the negotiations. The council will decide whether staff should continue negotiating or file the eminent domain case.

The motion made by Councilman Mike Gardner and approved by the council called for trying to reach a deal with Dhalla that would allow him to continue owning the historic storefronts on Market Street between the Fox and Sixth Street.

Three antiques stores occupy the storefronts, but the city is hoping for businesses more compatible with a performing arts center, such as restaurants or coffeehouses.

Gardner's motion also called for saving a Spanish Revival-style building on Fairmount Boulevard now occupied by an antiques store and a botanica, which sells religious items and alternative medicines.

Before the council meeting, Gardner said that last building could be used as storage for the Fox.

In September, the city bought 20,000 square feet of space for the proposed garage at the corner of Sixth Street and Fairmount Boulevard. The price was $2 million.

The structures on that land house the Riverside City Mission and an automotive repair business, both of which would have to be relocated.

The Old Riverside Foundation asked the city council to preserve the city's historic buildings.

Bye, bye DHL, as the planes which serve as the work horses for the domestic freight services will be departing March Air Reserve Base for good.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"At the time March made their play on DHL, the number of integrators was already down to DHL, FedEx and UPS. UPS already has its regional hub at Ontario, FedEx has its western regional hub at Oakland and a smaller hub ... at LAX," said Webber, who is based in Prairie Village, Kan.

Redevelopment teams at the three former Inland air bases -- March, Norton and George -- believed air cargo held the key to restoring thousands of jobs lost when the military moved out. DHL may have been March's last chance.

"Maybe this is a plus," said Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, a member of the March Joint Powers Authority. "We get to really start from scratch now."

The city of Moreno Valley's coffers will be $5 million short. It took them a while to figure it out.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"A significant new shortfall for the year is to be expected," Elam said Tuesday.

At the beginning of the 2008-09 fiscal year, the City Council balanced the budget using $3 million in reserves and savings carried over from last fiscal year, he said.

However, revenues are now expected to fall far short of the budget estimates, Elam said.

Sales-tax revenues are down because consumer spending has dropped and retailers such as Mervyns, Ralphs and Circuit City have closed or will close stores, he said. The closures also will lead to a decline in utility tax revenues.

Property-tax revenues are expected to decline next year as property values are reassessed downward, Elam said.

The city should plan on a deficit of at least $5 million in the 2008-09 year, he said.

Elam did not recommend using more reserve funds, saying the city might need the money for the 2009-10 year, which is expected to be even tougher.

"We're going to need aggressive cost-cutting measures to offset the shortfall," he said.

What will be the final payout in terms of settlements in connection with the infamous May Day incident where a team of Los Angeles Police Department officers stormed McArthur Park, injuring people there including media representatives.

Right now, it looks like at least $10 million. That's just for claims and doesn't include actual lawsuits filed by news reporters in the courts.

The effect of Copley Press on the inability of public hearings to be conducted regarding the May Day incident is written about here.

But the LAPD wasn't done that day. The city also paid out $2.5 million on a sexual discrimination, harassment and retaliation case filed by a female officer in the canine unit.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Officer Patricia Fuller said she was repeatedly cautioned that the LAPD's canine bomb unit at Los Angeles International Airport, where she was the only female canine handler for six years, was an "ol' boys club" and not "female friendly," according to court documents filed in 2006. When hired in 1999, she was the squad's second female canine handler in Los Angeles Police Department history.

Fuller alleged in her lawsuit that men in the unit took items from her desk and the women's locker room, used her shower and hygiene products, exposed their genitalia, made offensive and sexually explicit remarks, and excluded her from training exercises and other opportunities.

Some offenses Fuller described in court documents included an office bulletin board on which colleagues posted sexually explicit cartoons and images, racial epithets and derogatory images that her supervisor said "built camaraderie." Male colleagues also barred her from "cigar meetings" they held to discuss training issues and practices, and would then blow cigar smoke in her face.

Additionally, Fuller said a colleague once told her that another officer had rubbed his penis on her phone. Although she did not report the incident, Fuller said that when she made other complaints, she was told she was too "anal" and to "stay out of the guys' business."

Fuller said complaining to colleagues and supervisors only intensified their harassment of her. She was falsely accused of misconduct, denied a promotion and paired with a "substandard" partner, according to court documents.

Some law enforcement officers in Wilmington, North Carolina will be disciplined for tasing a pall bearer at a funeral.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

Relatives said two deputies dressed in coats and ties grabbed Russ and kneed him in his back before using a Taser on him. One deputy's gun fell out of its holster.

"Everybody was so scared. We thought it was a drug deal gone bad," said Ronnie Simmons, another pallbearer and Russ' brother-in-law. "We almost dropped the casket."

New Hanover County Sheriff Sid Causey told The Star-News of Wilmington that five of the officers involved would be disciplined, although he wouldn't say what punishment they would face.

"I apologize to anyone that was there," Causey said. "Family, friends, relatives. ... That was a bad decision."

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