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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How did the city council reach a consensus on the CPRC?

"It's all a complete lie."

---NYPD Officer Richard Kern, about the allegations that he sodomized a man with a piece of his officer equipment in a subway station.

"Why would you certify anybody to be assistant chief who's about to retire? That doesn't make sense."

---Wendy McCammick, San Bernardino Councilwoman, seventh ward about Billdt's temporary promotion of Mitch Kimball

"I'm a people pleaser by nature. I've discovered it's hard to disappoint people."

----Riverside Councilman Rusty Bailey, third ward to the Press Enterprise.

"People are suckers for the truth. And the truth is on your side, Bubba"


There's a discussion going on here about the latest conflict between the Community Police Review Commission and the city council which still hasn't explained how Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Bailey was able to issue a letter on its behalf that either he had discussed with other city council members ahead of time without benefit of a public forum or had submitted without calling for a public meeting of the city council that as mayor pro tem he was representing when he made a phone call to CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy on its behalf. According to statements they made to the Press Enterprise, at least two councilmen Mike Gardner and Andrew Melendrez said they had no idea that Bailey had taken such a step and both of those elected representatives have urged a public discussion at the subcommittee level.

These two men are actually both members of the city's Public Safety Committee but apparently Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Frank Schiavone has allegedly broken his silence going back several years and alleged that only his committee has jurisdiction over any discussion involving boards and commissions. Which of course is interesting given that the Public Safety Committee chaired by Melendrez has received reports from the CPRC on a fairly regular basis in 2006, 2007 and 2008 without a peep of complaint out of Schiavone or anyone else on the dais. In fact, consultant Joe Brann made two appearances to present the results of his analysis of the CPRC and his recommendations before that committee without eliciting a major protest from Schiavone and other council members on the basis of any jurisdictional challenge.

In fact, one would guess that the CPRC wound up in Public Safety Committee for regular reports because it was chaired by perhaps the only sitting council member to be concerned about the well-being of the CPRC at that time. There were certainly no cries from the chairs of any other committees to bring it up for discussion at their meetings, let alone set a mandate that only their committee could receive reports from the panel.

If you're interested in knowing when these Public Safety Committee meetings took place, here they are:

Aug. 21, 2006 agenda

Nov. 20, 2006 agenda

Jan. 22, 2007 agenda

April 17, 2007 agenda

Feb. 19,2008 agenda

There were written reports for most of these meetings which were brief but clearly stated the purpose of having these regular reports on the CPRC to keep the city council current on the issues impacting it.

Aug. 21, 2006 report

Nov. 20, 2006 report

Jan. 22, 2007 report

Feb. 19, 2008 report

This drama's been playing out for the past several months after both Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos (who has been seeing red ever since his legal prowess was challenged by an out-of-town ACLU attorney) decided to essentially shut down the CPRC's ability to effectively and timely investigate officer-involved deaths after six years of there being no reported problems with the CPRC's investigations of 11 such incidents. Whether or not they were acting alone, in tandem or after being ordered by members of the city council's not clear yet.

Pearcy had drafted a six-page letter on behalf of the commission presenting its case to the CPRC and asking for more clarification of how to carry out its charter-mandated power to investigate officer-involved deaths in the face of a directive from City Manager Brad Hudson barring them from doing such investigations until the police department has completed its own investigation. The commission hadn't had much success at eliciting any response from the city council which seems thoroughly confused in terms of who's in charge of the city, itself or Hudson. But Pearcy who's done his share of flip-flopping on CPRC issues lately (including voting for the dissolution of a committee he himself had created as chair), put out several days worth of work and put out a fairly good and strongly worded letter on behalf of the commission. It's the finest piece of prose put out so far, blowing the op-ed piece written by a trio of council members out of the water and rendering that article an even bigger embarrassment than it had been already.

It's a common joke in political watchdog circles that while the city's hierarchy might dictate that the city manager serves at the will of the city council, that in actuality, Hudson is the one calling the shots for the city council. After seeing the reduction in quantity of most standing committee meetings during the past two years not to mention the often very brief city council meetings, that's an image that is hard for many people to shake. If business isn't being done at the standing committee level very often, when and where is it being done? That's a popularly asked question these days.

Another thing City Hall loves doing is taking historical events and rewriting them. Such has been the case with the CPRC since its inception but never more so than in the past year or so. The best example is this horrific vision that's been spouted of the CPRC's hired investigators wandering into and trampling "crime scenes" right after an officer-involved deaths. This fabrication was first blathered by Councilman Steve Adams at a Public Safety Committee meeting in early 2007 when he said he had received information that was false about investigators doing any such thing. That was back when several commissioners became very suspicious of the sudden resignation of one of their own, Frank Arreola who soon enough was hired as Adams' legislative aide.

Now, the quick and surefire way to clear up that myth would be to ask the Riverside Police Department investigators to provide copies of their login sheets that all individuals who are authorized to be present at one of these crime scenes are required to sign their names on along with the times they arrive and leave the scene. Then perhaps the elected officials can count the examples of CPRC investigators either signing in and out on these log sheets for the 12 officer-involved deaths that took place before July 2008 and check to see if any police investigators or their supervisors made notations of seeing any strange investigators running around trampling the crime scene or interviewing witnesses for the CPRC investigation on the day an onduty death incident takes place.

That would go a long way in setting that tale to rest but that won't be done because the city officials who in the past or present through intimating that this has been done or could be done in the future don't want to provide any evidence to prove their points.

They don't believe they have to, because they are apparently operating under another misconception and that is that the city's residents including the voters work for them rather than the other way around. Election 2007 and its ouster of two incumbents and nearly a third went some way towards dispelling that belief system but Election 2009 could clear the confusion around elected representatives' responsibilities even further.

In fact, the average elected official doesn't know very much that's true about the CPRC and even less about how it conducts independent investigations of officer-involved deaths in accordance with the city charter's section 810(d). The only elected official who has a lot of knowledge on the issue is Gardner who served on the commission including as its chair.

You can't blame people for being confused because for years, the CPRC had been conducting its independent investigations of officer-involved deaths without eliciting any complaints from any of the following individuals in a public forum. Of course, there could have been discussions taking place behind closed doors (where it seems more and more city business is being conducted these days) but only public declarations will be discussed at this time.

The time frame is from June 2000-July 2008.

Police Chief Russ Leach
City Attorney Gregory Priamos
City Manager Brad Hudson
Interim City Manager Tom Evans
Former City Manager George Carvalho
Former City Manager Larry Paulson
Former Interim Asst. City Manager Jim Smith
Former Asst. City Manager Penny Culbreath-Graft
Mayor Ron Loveridge

The Riverside City Council including the following:

Dom Betro
Chuck Beaty
Mike Gardner (who also chaired the CPRC for three years)
Ameal Moore
Andrew Melendrez
Joy Defanbaugh
Art Gage
Rusty Bailey
Frank Schiavone
Maureen Kane
Ed Adkison
Nancy Hart
Terri Thompson
Laura Pearson
Steve Adams (with one exception when he made some comments at a 2007 Public Safety Committee meeting threatening CPRC investigators or anyone else with arrest for "interfering" with an investigation)

As far as executive directors or managers of the CPRC, neither Don Williams or Pedro Payne objected or complained about investigations being done within days of the officer-involved death. In fact according to the CPRC minute records, both appeared to be strong advocates of initiating the investigations early on.

The first to object to conducting them is current executive manager, Kevin Rogan likely upon order by Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis if precedent is any indication. After all, as he said in an earlier CPRC meeting last week, he wouldn't even need to go confer with Hudson or DeSantis on the issue of initiating independent investigations because he was sure the directive applied to all cases. But it's just as likely he's probably already been given his acting instructions by Hudson and/or DeSantis if history set any precedents.

It became clear with what happened when Payne was the manager that the tether on these employees is only so long in terms of what they are allowed to do. If Hudson and DeSantis decide they don't think community outreach is cool, they just pull back on the leash and ban their direct and "at will" employee from doing public outreach as they did with Payne in 2006. If they decide overnight that they don't want investigations done of officer-involved deaths until months or even years later, again they issue the order for their direct and "at will" employee. Unfortunately, if you're a direct employee of the Hudson and DeSantis team, you're probably going to be on a tight leash.

Political angst and intrigue aside, one anonymous commenter saw fit to take a pot shot at one of the commission's founding members and original chair, retired police chief, Bill Howe.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

People who snivel about the police being corrupt make me laugh. The vast majority of them speak without thinking and with no personal knowledge of the facts.

The police review commission is a group of folks who have no idea what they're doing. The biggest loser of all who was on that commission was Bill Howe. He ran around trumpeting himself as an expert on police issues when his experience consisted solely of campus police work. Full time sworn officers on the street working for a municipal police department or a sheriff's department view campus police as a joke. The hiring standards for campus police are nowhere near as stringent as for municipal police. But Bill Howe bs'd a lot of people who simply didn't know any better.

First of all, this anonymous commenter has misrepresented Howe's qualifications as a former law enforcement officer stating that his experience consists "solely of campus police work". After serving a stint in the United States military, Howe worked years with both the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the Corona Police Department before being hired to lead UCR's police department. He broke racial barriers in both law enforcement agencies when he worked there. Relatives including his own children and grandchildren have also worked as law enforcement officers as well.

If you want to learn more about Howe's experience in law enforcement from a slightly more informed source, you can read this article.

Howe's passionate about law enforcement having worked as a police officer and about community issues having been a very active community and church leader for many years. In 2000, he applied for a position on the newly created CPRC and after being selected for interview by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee, he was interviewed by the full city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge.

Not long after the commission began hearing cases, he was elected to serve as its first chair which he did. He served a full term on the commission before stepping down in 2004. The city placed him on contract after that to train then executive manager, Pedro Payne.

How will all the new bushy tailed and bright eyed political leaders fare now that they've been elected to positions in government throughout the Inland Empire? Some seasoned politicians say they will do just fine learning on the job.

Even politicians in Riverside who've been sitting on the dais almost an entire year still are learning the ropes.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Since he took office Dec. 11, Mike Gardner, a Riverside councilman for Ward 1, said he's still on a learning curve. Because of scheduling conflicts, he couldn't attend training sessions sponsored by the League of California Cities.

His greatest surprise as an elected official?

That ward members presume their council member can wield so much power, Gardner, 60, said.

For instance, when someone pushing a project asks his opinion of the architecture, Gardner said he reroutes the person to the city's Cultural Heritage Board or the Planning Commission.

"I'd never say, 'Make it look like this or that,' " Gardner said. "Just because I like or dislike something doesn't matter. I might say, 'It's not a good match for this reason.' "

San Bernardino Police Department Chief Michael Billdt assigned two members of his management team higher ranks. At least temporarily.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

Billdt certified a captain and a lieutenant to higher positions. Officials stressed that these are not promotions, but rather a filling in of positions for 60 days.

Capt. Mitch Kimball is now the acting assistant police chief since Assistant Chief Walt Goggin is on medical leave.

Lt. Scott Paterson, who also serves as the Police Department's spokesman, has slipped into Kimball's role as captain and will now be the investigations commander.

Paterson's lieutenant position has not been filled.

"We run a public safety agency and these are critical positions," Billdt said. "I need to have people assigned to each of the positions for continuity in the department."

Billdt as you know will be leaving the embattled police department in March and it's not clear who will step into his shoes but most likely, the city will be conducting a search to hire a replacement from outside the department.

At the Mt. San Jacinto College's police department, former employees alleged that there was serious misconduct by the police chief and his staff.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

College officials were asked to convey a message to police employees seeking comment on the allegations Wednesday, but no one responded.

Among the allegations:

Navarreta alleges that police Cpl. Mark Medina bragged about an extramarital affair with another college employee and had sexual encounters in police offices and elsewhere at the Menifee Valley campus.

The claims allege Medina told probationary officers he could get them fired if they reported it.

Kuhl said he was told by college Police Chief Kevin Segawa that if he impounded 100 vehicles he would be able to use a Honda motorcycle as a patrol vehicle, and he was instructed to use one San Jacinto tow business for all tows, even for vehicles impounded at the Menifee Valley campus, according to the claim.

The claim of Gonzalez alleges Segawa notified immigration officials about an off-campus ice cream vendor he suspected was an undocumented immigrant and confiscated the vendor's ice cream-filled push cart "as evidence."

The claim states that the chief, within view of Gonzalez, Kuhl and another officer, loaded the ice cream into trash bags. The chief asked Gonzalez to help him unload the ice cream into freezers at Segawa's residence.

The claim stated that Navarreta was terminated after another officer filed a hostile work environment complaint against him, alleging he used offensive racial and sexual language.

Navarreta called the allegations baseless.

In New York City, the police officer accused of sodomizing a man in a subway station spoke out for the first time and said the allegations were fabricated.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

"I did absolutely nothing wrong," Officer Richard Kern said in his first public statement about the Oct. 15 attack.

"I am innocent of any charges that may or may not come down. It's all a complete lie," he said.

A county grand jury is investigating the Oct. 15 encounter between Michael Mineo and several NYPD officers including Kern but has made no decision yet.

The Press Enterprise isn't the only publication facing layoffs. No indeed.

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