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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Monday, November 24, 2008

Links and places for a rainy day

The Riverside City Council will be conducting its weekly meeting. It's the last one to be held in November. There are both afternoon and evening sessions to attend and per usual, more items that won't be discussed (unless they are pulled by an elected official) than will. It looks like it's very possible that the evening session could last at least an hour.

For now, attendance is still free to the public. Refreshments are not currently on sale during the evening session. Meeting programs are available just inside the door into the council chambers.

It's supposed to rain this week but the weather should be clear on Friday, Nov. 28 for the 16th annual Festival of the Lights in downtown Riverside. It starts at 6:15 p.m. but get there in time to find a good spot because this event gets packed with tens of thousands of visitors fairly quickly. There will be some speeches by politicians and business leaders, Santa Claus and then fireworks.

And the ice skating rink is back.

Conducting business was the Board of Library Trustees which discussed the proposed expansion of the downtown library. The Metropolitan Museum Board had its dreams about relocating the downtown museum to a particular site dashed at least for now when that land was apparently recommended at the subcommittee level to be handed off to a developer for office space construction. Would this other board face a similar fate or would there instead be rainbows of optimism for the future of the downtown library?

It's too early to tell but in the middle of next month, City Manager Brad Hudson will be presenting his research on the proposed expansion of both cultural institutions and the cost of the projects at a workshop sponsored by the city government. It's anyone's guess what will happen next.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The library is about 61,000 gross square feet. The board previously had favored an expansion of 63,000 square feet, to make the library about 124,000, based on an approved document called a plan of service that lays out how the Main Library can best meet the community's needs through 2025.

Rather than vote on which expansion is preferred, the board decided to help the City Council figure out how big of an expansion to build.

Monday's unanimous vote included sending the council the plan of service along with a chart showing square footage options for sections of the library, including the lobby, adult book section and children's room.

Board members said the key is that everyone -- the board as well as the public -- wants a larger Main Library.

"I think we're all kind of in the same place," board member Gary Christmas said.

An interesting article in the Press Enterprise about taking another look at law enforcement officers who are armed and drinking. This attention is arising from a controversial decision made by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to examine that agency's off-duty conduct policies involving guns after about five dozen deputies got in trouble for combining guns and alcohol including a fatal off-duty shooting of one of its employees. Currently, that agency has no policy governing guns and alcohol consumption. It didn't when Deputy Chris Sullivan, who as a Marine reservist returned from Iraq and went out to celebrate with his friend, Cesar Valdez.

They did a lot of drinking and as both of them walked up the driveway of Sullivan's house, Sullivan allegedly stuck his gun in Valdez' mouth and pulled the trigger, killing him. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office filed a manslaughter charge against Sullivan for the death of his friend. Sullivan called the shooting, accidental.

Only the two county law enforcement agencies in the Inland Empire responded in the article. One of them, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department has had 10 deputies involved in alcohol-related incidents since 2006 and it's not the only department to have this problem as shown by the statistics offered up by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.


Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff said in an interview that he plans to wait and see how Baca's policy is implemented before deciding whether to revisit his own department's policy.

The department's current policy states that when deputies are armed, "the Department demands the exercise of good judgment."

"Department members shall not drink intoxicating liquor to such an extent that may result in the commission of an obnoxious or offensive act that may bring discredit or disgrace upon themselves or the Department."

In the past five years, 16 Riverside County deputies have been disciplined for alcohol-related offenses, said Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez, a department spokesman. One case involved the discharge of a firearm.

Allowing deputies to remain armed while off duty is important for public safety, said Jim Cunningham, executive director of the Riverside Sheriff's Association.

"When they're off duty, they're never really off duty," he said. "They can be pressed back into duty at a moment's notice."

It is also important to allow deputies to remain armed while off duty for personal protection, Cunningham added.

"They're amongst the citizens they've arrested. That's a great safety issue."

A few years ago, there was a well-known off-duty shooting spree by some drunk Los Angeles Police Department officers who drove a car and at every intersection they shot their guns out the window, maybe at something nobody else could see. Compared to most people who get prosecuted for this type of behavior, they were wrist slapped.

One officer who was fired from the department received a fine and probation. At least one person in the courtroom was unhappy about that.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Craig E. Veals left the prosecutor angry at what he considered a lenient sentence for an unrepentant former officer who engaged in dangerous and serious misconduct.

He still believes he did nothing wrong,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas R. Krag said in arguing that Steven Michael O’Neal be sent to jail for at least six months.

But O’Neal’s attorney, Ricardo A. Torres II, said the offense was too minor to warrant jail time. By treating it as a felony, overzealous prosecutors had given in to political pressure to appear tough on misbehaving officers because of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart corruption scandal, Torres said.

O’Neal, 31, is the last of four former LAPD officers charged with participating in the intoxicated drive through Montebello after a late-night party July 29, 1999. As O’Neal drove, his three colleagues fired pistols out the window. O’Neal did not shoot, but he let one of the officers get O’Neal’s gun out of the glove compartment. No one was hurt.

But maybe law enforcement agencies and judges don't really think it's a big deal when officers get drunk and start brandishing or firing their guns even in situations where other people's lives might be at risk because of it. Although in this case, the LAPD seemed to take it more seriously than did the sentencing judge.

Maybe they just think that law enforcement officers should get the benefit of the doubt because of their profession even when they're out there drunk as a skunk firing their guns, including sometimes at people including each other. But along with being a law enforcement officer, should come an awareness of just how deadly it can get when intoxicated people handle firearms. You would think they would adjust their own behavior accordingly and many of them do that and act responsibly.

But what of the others?

"Minor"? Really, does O'Neal's attorney believe that if anyone else did this who wasn't a police officer, they would get anything but a stiff prison sentence or at least jail time even if their weapon was in the hands of someone else in the immediate vicinity when it was fired?

This isn't so much about whether or not law enforcement officers are allowed to carry guns off-duty like some of the unions including those in Los Angeles County are trying to paint it. It's about being responsible when you are carrying your guns while off-duty. It's about not combining alcohol with guns, as officers should know better than anyone what a volatile mixture that can be. It's about not getting yourself in a rage and reaching for your gun first. It's about not getting so plastered by alcohol that you pull your weapon and aren't really sure what you're doing with it in your hand or even if it's in your hand. All these things were related in stories in the media about officers who shot their weapons while intoxicated. Some of them weren't even aware of what they did until someone was injured or killed.

Police agencies warn people not to fire guns their guns in the air when they are celebrating and drinking during New Year's Eve celebrations but do they educate their own employees on the hazards of combining alcohol and guns? And when they have incidents like this happen, do they take them seriously? Do they even bother to investigate them, or is it some twist on the "boys will be boys" mantra only putting officers in that category of justification? Are there investigations in name only being done instead?

The Riverside Police Department is not included in this article on how it handles this issue, what policies it has in place and how many alcohol-related incidents it has recorded in the past five years.

The corruption trial of a Murrieta councilman has been postponed a week because the defense attorney is ill and court is not in session on Thursday or Friday due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

A planned study of the management practices of the San Bernardino Police Department has been put on hold.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

"Chief Billdt's successor, together with the interested parties, are expected to re-evaluate the need, purpose and intent of this study once the new Police Administration is in place next spring," interim City Manager Mark Weinberg wrote in an e-mail today.

Billdt affirmed Weinberg's message.

"That's exactly correct," he said.

Gaines said the city's interest in hiring him and Scialdone had "sort of waned." Scialdone simply said it was the city's call whether he would work the project or not.

Gaines and Scialdone would have been called upon to study three issues that the police union had cited as ongoing problems. The contract to hire the pair was said to be worth $24,500, which is $500 short of the amount that would have required a City Council vote.

The department had been the epicenter for conflict between now outgoing Chief Mike Billdt and the police union for some months now. This strife culminated in a "no confidence" vote against Billdt.

In the federal corruption trial involving former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona, two government witnesses who've already plead guilty to charges were cross-examined by Carona's attorney.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

Deputy Public Defender Sylvia Torres-Guillen, also played an excerpt of Haidl’s recording of a talk with Carona from last summer, in which the men discuss Jaramillo’s conversation.

“He couldn’t even meet me, he was so rattled,” Haidl says on the tape.

” When someone is sitting in front of government, it’s a very scary proposition correct?” Torres-Guillen asked in court.

“I guess it depends on the circumstances and who they are,” Haidl repled.

“What I mean is that it could make a grown man cry, right?” Torres-Guillen asked.

“Maybe some grown men,” Haidl replied.

Both men have pleaded guilty to their part in this alleged conspiracy, and hope for lighter sentences by being government witnesses against Carona.

“You know people who cooperate (with the government) are often called a snitch correct?” the lawyer asked.

” I’ve heard that, yes ma’am,” Haidl replied.

“Or a rat?” Torres-Guillen asked.

The defense attorney believed it had the upper hand with one of the witnesses.

The Denver Police Department is doing a study to check and see if it's done everything possible to remove racism and sexism from its ranks.

(excerpt, Rocky Mountain News)

"This will get to the bottom of burning issues we've been looking at for decades," said Tracie Keesee, police division chief of Research, Training and Technology Division. Whitman asked Keesee to spearhead the Denver review.

Denver police have been scrutinized in the past after allegations of excessive force against minorities. The city agreed last month to pay $885,000 to a 16-year-old Latino who says a white officer in the department's gang-unit repeatedly jumped on his back.

The officer, Charles Porter, was suspended without pay after the incident and faces a felony charge of first-degree assault causing serious bodily injury. Porter has denied the allegations through his attorney.

Goff said Denver's police department has been willing to be proactive to find solutions as he has shown them his work.

"When I bring them the findings, they talk about it immediately and say, 'OK, this is real. How do we go about fixing it?"' Goff said he plans to begin publishing his findings next year in academic journals.

The police department says it's already implemented several recommendations by Goff including creating mentoring programs for women which has reduced the department's attrition rate for female police officers.

Riverside's own police department has a high attrition rate for its female officers as well and it's taking a closer look at its operations through one of its units to find out why. An important step that is very much needed and it's heartening if the department is taking a serious interest in this issue. What will it find and will it like it? Can any such inquiry be conducted inhouse? That all remains to be seen.

In Avon Park, Florida, complaints about the police department are stemming from the Latino communities.

(excerpt, New Sun)

According to court documents generated in the case of the State of Florida v. Adam Willis, an investigation started in June 2008 in reference to complaints that officers within the Avon Park Police Department were stealing from citizens, "namely those of a Hispanic background."

During the investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Willis was determined to be one of the officers involved, said Yolanda Carbia, resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Sebring field office.

The FDLE investigation eventually focused on two officers, Willis and Alberto Perez, court documents said.

Perez has yet to be charged, but has since been put on paid administrative leave by the APPD.

Patricia Austin, president of Council Three of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said she fielded many complaints from the Hispanic community.

"(Avon Park Police Chief Matthew Doughney) said (the complaints) would definitely be looked into and taken care of," she said Friday. "He got right on it ... I was really impressed with the chief on that."

Some of the complaints included extorting money.

"Hispanics talked about how they had been pulled over and told if they would pay a certain amount, (officers) wouldn't write them a ticket," she said, citing examples of individuals being pulled over for infractions such as having a headlight out or window tint too dark.

"I was furious. I couldn't believe it ... everyone knows you don't pay officers for a ticket," she said. "Some of them, from what they had told me, had given the officers cash."

Two separate individuals told her they paid between $200 and $300 to officers.

More lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department listing allegations that police officers assaulted people who were celebrating the presidential election of Barrack Obama.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

Meanwhile, the Independent Police Review Authority is investigating "multiple'' complaints about alleged police misconduct on election night, according to Ilana Rosenzweig, who heads up the office.

Rosenzweig said the office has interviewed several complainants and witnesses already, but information is still being gathered. She would not comment on how many total complaints have been filed.

"We have been actively investigating since complaints were first received,'' Rosenzweig said. "We are actively seeking additional information from the public.''

The latest lawsuit, filed Friday, accuses officers of attacking and using pepper spray and a Taser on 22 residents of a West Side neighborhood who were on the street and in their backyards celebrating on election night.

They "were engaged in a peaceful recognition and celebration of the new president-elect, Barack Obama,'' the suit reads.

A law enforcement officer who was to be awarded for bravery in stopping the shooting of people at a shopping mall in Ogden, Utah while off-duty has now been placed on administrative leave
pending investigation into alleged misconduct.

(excerpt, Standard-Examiner)

"I'm not going to elaborate on anything, only to confirm an investigation is under way. It's just too early in the process to say anything," said Weber County Attorney Mark DeCaria.

A report released on the New York City Police Department showed that the number of corruption allegations reported was higher but the rate of officers criminal charged was lower.

(excerpt, Newsday)

The year-end tally pales in comparison to the report issued last year, which, comparing 2006 to 2005, detailed a 25 percent surge in arrests of officers, to 114 from 91, and a 138 percent rise in drug use among officers, with 19 officers failing drug tests compared with eight in 2005. The NYPD didn't respond yesterday to a request for comment, but some police sources said the 2007 numbers suggest problems from 2006 are more an aberration than an indication NYPD has serious corruption issues. "I don't really see any big problems here," said a source close to Chief of Internal Affairs Charles Campisi. "There are some problems, some bad apples, but there's not anything off the chart."

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older