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 26, 2008

Holiday links and places

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."

---William Shakespeare

"The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick."

---L. Frank Baum

Last week, this blog posting detailed news that the city has laid off between four to six of its permanent employees amid the ongoing insistence by city management and elected officials that Riverside wouldn't be resorting to such drastic actions being utilized by surrounding cities to offset their budget deficits being created by shortfalls in city revenue from property and sales taxes.

Now, the Press Enterprise has announced that information about the layoffs is "just in". Belo Blog states that the city has laid off two contract employees and given 30 day notices to four more full-time employees. Two information technology employees, one museum employee, a library employee and two Park and Recreation employees who worked on Project Bridge. It's ironic that at a time when gang intervention and prevention programs are very important with the city's increasing violent crimes rate that two outreach workers have been laid off.


In the city of Riverside, the only previous layoffs had been of 30 part-time library pages on July 1.

The two contract employees let go last week worked with Project Bridge, the city's gang intervention program. They were not permanent employees covered by union contracts, DeSantis said.

Permanent city employees have taken over their duties, he said.
The four employees notified last week that they will be let go on Dec. 19 include the library's fund development manager, a museum curator and two computer system operators.

But actually, this might not be technically correct. It appears that two of the laid off employees might have been contracted out which means that according to their most recent MOU, they would have required a 60 day notice, not a 30 day notice if this is indeed the case. Fortunately, there are labor mechanisms in place to put this situation right if it's done incorrectly by those hired to be put in charge of making labor decisions.

If these individuals were not given adequate notice according to a binding labor agreement, then this city might need to have its employees who make the decisions to lay off individuals take a crash course in Labor Contracts 101.

It's part of any management degree program from an accredited institution which I'm sure anyone placed in an upper management position in this city has satisfactorily completed.

The really bad news is that these layoffs may just be the beginning especially since next year is expected to be much more difficult than this year has been so far. And this fiscal budgetary year is still quite young.

The tussle over Riverside's civilian review board's future is expected to continue into the new year, possibly impacting the next round of civic elections. One person has declared his candidacy so far in the Ward Four race and appears to be supportive of the CPRC. Still, it remains to be seen through further discussion and action if that's indeed true. After all, some of the city council members who appear to be the most interested in diluting the commission albeit behind the scenes had claimed in the past to support it as well if only to respect the wishes of the voters.

One might wonder if a pro-CPRC candidate could emerge and succeed in a Ward Four election and it's possible that if he or she is well-rounded, he or she could do very well. After all, Measure II performed much better in that ward during the November 2004 election than the current council representative did in his most recent foray for elected office earlier this year.

The latest editorial by the Press Enterprise chastises City Hall for its role in spinning the current melodrama involving the eight-year-old commission which has seen barely a moment of peace since its birth into a campaign of behind-the-scenes discussion leaving the city residents which are the voting constituents if not the paying ones out in the cold once again.

Only two elected leaders, Councilmen Mike Gardner and Andrew Melendrez, seem to favor moving it into a discussion at the subcommittee level which could be very beneficial but could actually place it at even further risk of inhouse machinations especially if it's sent to the Governmental Affairs Committee (which consists of at least two of its firmest opponents and one who seems similarly inclined). Still, putting a public spotlight on what some elected officials clearly wish to remain private could allow any further discussion and resultant actions to hopefully become more public as they should be and have not been. And most importantly, the people who make decisions at the polls to elect their representatives can watch as well and make more informed decisions. It's very difficult to know what exactly it is that your elected representative is doing or not doing if too much of what government does is taking place behind closed doors. And some issues, perhaps some of them are counting just on that.

Still, the attacks against it became somewhat more pointed after the majority of the city's voters passed Measure II which placed the commission in the city's charter purportedly to prevent or minimize its use as a political football by City Hall. The passage of this important measure stalled the forces at the 'Hall who wished to dilute its power for a little while but they came back in early 2006 and have been fairly active ever since. Several elected officials even criticized then Councilman Art Gage for threatening to push a motion in June 2004 to defund the CPRC's annual budget by up to 95%. At the time, that motion received only a tepid second by Councilman Steve Adams but looking back at history, many people believe that these councilmen were upset with Gage for a different reason besides the most principled one and held him responsible for the resultant action of the commission being placed in the charter beyond easy political reach. Meaning that perhaps they don't believe the CPRC would be in the charter if it hadn't been for Gage's attempted actions against it only months before the vote took place.

Combine that with the aversion that the past several city governments including most recently the BASS quartet have had to having to listen to any public comments they don't like and what's left is a cauldron of angst, intrigue and petulance that if Shakespeare were still hanging around, he would most definitely recognize as kin to his own observations of civilized society's political food chain.

The CPRC's struggles to remain true to its charter-mandated powers and responsibilities is one that's becoming more well-known across the nation and its current situation is being compared to those impacting civilian review mechanisms in other cities. One thread that is apparent in responses I've received from other cities is how similar the situations have become from one city to the next. What's happening in Riverside to its form of civilian review is happening in other cities and counties across the land.

"I want a recount!" That's what one Colton councilman said,according to the Press Enterprise who saw his planned recoronation bid fall short by about a dozen votes.

One of the outgoing councilmen in Moreno Valley issued a few words of warning to his successor.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Charles White, who was defeated in his re-election bid Nov. 4, noted that developer Iddo Benzeevi and real estate broker Jerry Stephens donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Moreno Valley Taxpayers Association. The group, which is headed by city Planning Commissioner Michael Geller, campaigned strongly against White and Councilman Frank West.

"Because of developer and real estate broker relationships with the planning commissioner and council, I am concerned that money has taken control of our city," White said at the end of Tuesday's council meeting. "I believe conflicts of interest do exist."

Tuesday was the last regular council meeting for White and West, who represented the 1st and 3rd council districts, respectively, for the past 12 years. New council members Jesse Molina and Robin Hastings will be sworn in Dec. 9 at the next regular council meeting.

None of the council members responded publicly to White's concerns.

Riverside County has begun offering early retirements to its employees in the wake of huge cuts in its operational budget midway through the current fiscal year.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The Board of Supervisors approved a plan last week that would boost retirement benefits to retirees 50 and older who have worked five or more years for the county. They must retire between Jan. 1 and March 31 to qualify, according to county documents.

The county will save money by reducing the number of longtime employees, who generally earn more than less experienced employees with the same job title. Department heads would not be permitted to hire new people to replace them.

"The goal is to reduce the cost of county government substantially over the next couple of years," said county Human Resources Director Ron Komers. "This will accomplish that by elimination of positions, by allowing restructuring, by paying the people less who perform the work."

More than 3,400 county employees would be eligible for early retirement. The county is offering to subsidize their medical plan rates until 2011 and increase pensions by giving early retirees credit for two additional years of service.

One retirement that will take place by the end of the year is that of the county's legal counsel.

Received this one from San Jose Police Auditor Barbara Attard, who was not appointed to a new term by that city's city council. That decision struck a blow for independent oversight everywhere. Riverside's hardly the only city experiencing a crisis involving its form of civilian oversight.

But kudos to this woman for taking the more courageous if difficult path rather than the easier one. Hopefully, she'll reemerge at a civilian oversight mechanism near you. Oh, the fits she would give the micromanaging element at City Hall here! But then she wouldn't be here. the price tag for what she brings to the job is much too low.

(excerpt, IndyBay)

So this is the awkward moment in history San Jose finds itself in. As the rest of the country is making historic strides forward in racial equality, San Jose, a minority-majority city, is retreating backwards, literally finding ourselves burdening with same problems we had in the previous millennium. And what is even more surprising is that our city, which prides itself its innovative and cutting edge technology, relies upon an outdated and proven lacking technology in terms of law enforcement oversight. Since its inception in 1993, cities across the country have adopted newer oversight models to address the needs of their changing landscapes. Along with independent civilian review boards, there are independent police auditors that are equipped with investigators and subpoena powers, hybrids of IPA's with civilian review, even special counsel to county Board of Supervisors to ensure independent investigation. In comparison to what's out there, San Jose's Independent Police Auditor model likens us to using a pager in an age of cell phones. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time when there was no other option available, but now seems tired and out-of-step.

But we are also in a moment of tremendous opportunity for change. With the council decision not to re-instate Barbara Attard as the Independent Police Auditor, the new task force on the drunk in public arrests issue, as well as the possibility of sunshine laws to be supported by the council, San Jose is in arguably the best position it has ever been in to enact improvements that will have a real impact on police and community issues.

And while efforts will be made to get sunshine laws to pry open a police department that has been reluctant to disclose information, perhaps even more significantly, San Jose can take a breath of reflection and planning, before rushing into simply filling the new Independent Police Auditor position, locking us into more of the same -- an office that is ill-equipped to be what it is asked to be.

Instead of hiring a new IPA to propagate our current shortcomings, let's look into other options. If San Jose's history has taught us anything, it is that if we really want to get to a better place in terms of police oversight. It is not a question of who is driving the vehicle, rather it is the vehicle itself that needs changing. Couple the end of the current IPA's contract with all of the public scrutiny on police issues on full display at the November 18th public hearing, we have been given the rare opportunity to re-imagine police oversight in San Jose.

But this window, in all likelihood, will not stay open for long. Energies dissipate over time and new emergencies eclipse our priorities. Let's hope that we take full advantage of this moment to assess what our real current needs are for police oversight in San Jose, and that we have the political vision and leadership to bring on a new model that speaks to those concerns.

Trouble lurks in San Antonio where several police officers are being investigated for having racy photographs posted on Web sites. A television news network received information about the page and contacted the police chief. On the new site, is a slide show of the photographs of some of these officers cavorting with women!

(exerpt, WOAI)

SAPD Chief Bill McManus says the pictures are "very disturbing. Absolutely disturbing.”

The officers are in uniform and seemingly posing for the photos. In one the photos, several women are gathered around an officer. One of the girls looks like she is grabbing and biting a bike patrolman while he looks on. There are others as well. Police say the officers involved have been identified.

Chief McManus promises "We've already forwarded it to Internal Affairs for an investigation. The investigation will be very thorough and we're not going to waste a whole lot of time doing it."

A police officer in Ponce Inlet is being disciplined over his decision to give preferential treatment to an intoxicated sergeant from another law enforcement agency. In fact, his administrative discipline that he received is harsher than that given to the drunken sergeant. In a strange twist, the officer was criticized by a labor grievance representative.

(excerpt, News-Journal)

Officer Chris Selander will be suspended from his patrol duties in Ponce Inlet for two weeks without pay, said Investigator Max Binz.

According to the report, Selander violated two departmental policies the night of Nov. 2 when he refused to arrest Volusia County sheriff's Sgt. Ken Vickery. The policies include one for impartiality and one for DUI procedures.

Selander's punishment is harsher than Vickery's, who was told Tuesday that he would be suspended for one week without pay, said sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson. Although Vickery was informed of his penalty, the internal affairs investigation regarding his actions in Ponce Inlet are not yet complete, Davidson said.

The seven-page Ponce Inlet report released Tuesday afternoon reveals a tense encounter between Selander and Vickery that night, but despite Vickery's sour attitude and sarcasm, Selander repeatedly told the sergeant that he wanted to help him because of his profession.

"This guy has to have the lowest police IQ ever," said police union representative Jeff Candage, referring to Selander. Candage is representing Vickery in his case with the Sheriff's Office. "If you're not going to arrest someone, you don't detail his actions in a report."

If you're in Los Angeles proper and chomping at the bit to begin your holiday shopping, here are the "early bird" shopping times.

Although the recession might hit internet shopping venues hard. This is in sharp contrast to last year's "Black Friday" which was a record setting year.

As went residential properties, so goes commercial properties as a new phase of the mortgage crisis appears.

Other scheduled events include the following:

Riverside's African-American Historical Society will be celebrating its 10th year anniversary on Sunday, Nov. 30 at Bordwell Park in the Eastside, from 3-5 p.m.

Riverside Community College Trustees Mary Figueroa and Mark Takano will be sworn in to office on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at RCC.

There's a Web site started by the owners of Karley, the dog that was severely beaten by a high-ranking Los Angeles County Fire Department employee to the point of having to be euthanized.

The latest developments in the case had Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco sending it back to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department for further investigation. The Sheriff's Department had recommended that animal cruelty charges be filed against the assistant fire chief, Glynn Johnson.

Two days later, it was sent back to Pacheco.

This petition has received over 1,800 signatures so far.

There will also be a demonstration sponsored by Justice4Karley in front of the Riverside County Hall of Justice on Wednesday, Dec. 3 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

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