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

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Riverside's own ongoing serial in more ways than one

The Riverside City Council in a matter of speaking responded to the questions raised by the Community Police Review Commission by saying that it must remain barred from independently investigating officer-involved deaths until the police department is finished with its own investigations. How the city council managed to come to some sort of consensus on this so that one of its members could speak for it in the absence of a public meeting remains a mystery.

It's not a mystery it really chooses to answer. Because as some people have been saying, the city council serves at the pleasure of the city manager and city attorney? Perhaps because it's forgotten that it serves the people of this city, not the other way around? Perhaps it's because we have elected officials who when they speak at all on this issue to the city's residents, it's through the media and not to the people they are accountable to and who pay their salaries (and those of their legislative aides as well).

The whole sorry ordeal continued onward this week.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

That ended with Mayor Ron Loveridge and Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Bailey writing a letter requesting the commission follow the 2001 written policy that investigations will commence after the law enforcement investigation concludes.

The item was never requested for the City Council agenda.

That led commissioners to write a letter to the mayor and council outlining their concerns and the conundrum of being instructed by the charter to investigate and review such deaths and then having an order from the city saying to wait on the investigations.

"No reasonable justification has or can be provided to cause the Commission to wait more than six months (long after memories have started to fade and contract trails have time to go stale) before it can act, as it is duty-bound to do under the Charter," Chairman Brian Pearcy wrote in the letter filed with the council Friday.

Before Wednesday's commission meeting, Pearcy was called by Bailey and told the letter had been reviewed by the mayor and City Council and that it is being treated as "received and filed."

On Thursday, Bailey said most council members he spoke to read it and agreed.

He said he did not remember which council members he spoke with. "We understand we've given them enough direction," Bailey said Thursday.

Councilmen Andy Melendrez and Mike Gardner, a former commissioner, said they were not aware of Bailey's response and would like to see the issue discussed at the council committee level for clarification.

What's interesting here is that Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Bailey admits to having some sort of discussion with other elected officials on the issue of the directive issued by City Manager Brad Hudson which barred the CPRC's investigations of officer-involved deaths for six months or longer. He doesn't say who he discussed the directive with or how many city council members he had spoken with (which makes a rather big difference in how appropriate these discussions were). Is it because he's gotten amnesia suddenly or is he being elusive? After all, his previous case of amnesia took place when he forgot every statement he made about supporting the CPRC and reinvented himself on the issue after he won his position on the dais.

What's interesting here too is that Bailey called up CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy and said that the CPRC's letter asking for clarification had been read by the mayor and the city council. He had said that they had received, reviewed and filed it yet with no explanation how the city council received a consensus on this issue and whether or not any discussion took place. The only thing the public does know is that not at any time since this fiasco begun, was there or has there been any public dialogue by elected officials at any public meeting. That's the only thing at this point the public can be sure of. The rest of what happened is much more nebulous and this situation has raised some issues including those involving the Brown Act that need to be answered.

Two city council members, Mike Gardner and Andrew Melendrez when interviewed said that they had no idea what Bailey was doing at the time Bailey was saying to Pearcy and the Press Enterprise that the city council had received it, reviewed it and filed it away which is another way of telling the commission and the community it serves to essentially take a flying leap off a moving train or something equally descriptive. Who knows? Perhaps the city residents can respond in a matter of speaking during next year's elections at the polls.

Because of the lack of leadership and insight of our city government as a whole and the accompanying utter lack of accountability and transparency (both necessary for good government), the public now needs the answers to two areas of concern. The first being the original area of concern surrounding Hudson's directive obstructing the CPRC from carrying out its charter-mandated responsibility in an effective, meaningful and timely manner. The second being, just what kind of city government comes to a consensus to "receive, review and file" a letter by a commission without holding a public vote or a public discussion? What kind of city government has a representative running off and behaving as its representative leaving at least two city council members in the dark?

What kind of city government has elected representatives who are more profuse with their verbiage through the media than they are with the commission? Than they are with the city's residents including the 60% of the voters who passed Measure II precisely to avoid these kind of embarrassing situations where political manipulation is about as subtle as an 800 pound gorilla?

So we have Bailey and his convenient amnesia over how many council members he spoke with and who they were, we have council members who were apparently clueless about what another one of them was doing while purportedly speaking on their behalf. And who can forget that Council Members Frank Schiavone, Steve Adams and Nancy Hart had some sort of earlier discussion on the issue when they collaborated on an op-ed article published in the Press Enterprise. If they hadn't, how would they have all signed on to the article?

Not to mention an earlier letter signed by Mayor Ron Loveridge and Bailey (as Mayor Pro Tem, a title usually not used in the company of the real mayor) which spoke for the city government that again somehow reached some sort of consensus, again without public discussion in a public forum.

Gardner and Melendrez talk about taking the issue to one of the city council subcommittees. Gardner belongs to and Melendrez chairs the Public Safety Committee which had in the past received reports from the CPRC, including when consultant Joe Brann was hired by the city to do a study of the CPRC and issue policy recommendations. Not one peep ever arose the dais challenging this committee's right to do so any more than any peep rose anywhere in the city challenging the status quo situation of the CPRC's investigation protocol, however in recent weeks, the Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Frank Schiavone has claimed jurisdiction.

There's not much in writing about what subcommittees do, what they oversee and where any jurisdiction lines lie. Nothing in the city's charter, nothing readily visible in the city's ordinances either. But then the manipulation of the city's charter in terms of Section 810(d) which governs the CPRC's officer-involved death investigations documents exactly how much value the city's constitution has with its current sitting government.

Will there be a tussle over jurisdiction of the CPRC among two different committees? Not likely, you have one or two city officials determined on one side (just as they have been the past couple of months on this issue) and others who will cave to their wishes (just as they've been publicly silent on this same issue mistaking having a minority opinion with keeping their mouths shut). They may have blown the doors off of the state's "sunshine" laws. Perhaps not, considering how opportunistically diversified the legal opinion of City Attorney Gregory Priamos is on these issues. The only city attorney in the state of California who actually hides behind the Brown Act to restrict the public's rights to expression as well as open meeting laws whereas most interpretations err on the side of protecting public access to city government and the transparency of that government.

If the CPRC goes to Governmental Affairs Committee which could happen as early as December if that committee is inclined, it will be facing the conveniently amnesiac Bailey and its two strongest opponents most likely beginning the day they both took the oaths into office. It will also be facing the only three people on the dais perhaps willing to discuss it if only to further dismantle it from within.

In the meantime before that drama plays out if it does, the CPRC has gone against the consensus of the city council which never met to reach one. Who will spank the eight-year-old upstart panel next? Nominations will be forthcoming.

With one election tight in Colton, the incumbent councilman considers a recount.

The presiding federal judge of the corruption trial involving former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona scolded his attorneys.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

"This will be the fourth time the jury has heard this,'' said U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford, before the playing of one exchange -- this time requested by the prosecution --between Carona and his former assistant sheriff Don Haidl.

"Please play the tape,'' he added in a resigned tone.

Jurors seemed to share in the judge's frustration. Several of them fidgeted, yawned, rubbed their eyes or rocked in their chairs as Carona's attorney, Jeff Rawitz, replayed excerpts of three secretly-recorded conversations between Haidl and Carona.

One male juror seemed to nod off at times. At one point, an alternate juror covered her eyes with her hands as she bowed her head.

When the jury was out of the courtroom on a break, the judge said he thought the defense could be losing the jury.

"I'm worried about retaining the attention of the jury ... so keep moving it along,'' the judge urged Rawitz.

The city of Los Angeles might pay up to $13 million to settle claims filed in connection with the police department's actions at MacArthur Park during a May Day event.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

A settlement in the case would go a long way toward closing an embarrassing and damaging chapter in the LAPD's recent history, department observers said. The proposed agreement still must be approved by the City Council, the mayor and the judge overseeing the claims against the city.

Longtime LAPD observer Merrick Bobb, executive director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, said a settlement, following the punishment of officers and changes in LAPD procedures, is a necessary last step for the department.

"It allows the LAPD . . . to move forward having learned its lessons and tied up the loose ends it opened," Bobb said.

Sources familiar with the deal declined to provide details and spoke on condition that their names not be used because the terms of the agreement were confidential pending the council's approval. Several of the sources, however, confirmed the size of the proposed deal at $12.85 million.

The council was scheduled to discuss the settlement in private Wednesday, but emerged without voting on whether to approve it. The council is expected to take up the matter again in the near future.

City Council members, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William J. Bratton all declined to comment. Representatives from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a major Latino advocacy group that has been involved in the settlement talks, also declined to comment.

The Memphis Police Department officer charged with civil rights violations in connection beating a transgendered woman, Duanne Johnson, an act which caught on video tape, was arraigned in federal court and plead not guilty.

Johnson was shot to death not long after the beating and after filing litigation in relation to it, an incident which led to calls for investigations into the Memphis Police Department.

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