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

Thursday, November 06, 2008

RPD Staffing: Show us some numbers!

The Group, an organization of African-American business women held its weekly meeting in the wee hours of the morning at the Coffee Depot just off the railroad tracks in downtown Riverside. The subject was the Riverside Police Department, its staffing levels and its budget. Presenting for the police department was Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa. With him, was Lt. Bob Williams who is the commander of the West Neighborhood Policing Center and the president of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association.

Sitting across the room was City Manager Brad Hudson, watching the proceedings. Also watching the presentation were Council Members Mike Gardner, Nancy Hart and Chris MacArthur.

DeLaRosa, though soft-spoken brings nearly 30 years in experience to meetings including stints in police departments in Corona and Rialto before coming to Riverside. His wife was the first female officer in Rialto's police department but works now as a photographer and is quite a talented one. DeLaRosa gave a fairly good presentation on the staffing levels and the budget picture and took some questions from those in attendance. But partly because of the relatively brief presentation time involving a rather broad and complex issue, there are still many questions that were raised.

One issue that was raised was whether or not the stipulated judgment placed on the city of Riverside by then State Attorney General Bill Lockyer required the department to increase its number of police officers. There's more language in that judgment to increase the number of supervisors particularly in the field operations division but throughout the document and its descendant, the Strategic Plan there's language addressing the need to have a sworn force that grows to meet the challenges and needs of the populations it serves.

The stipulated judgment is actually still present in the public records of Riverside County Superior Court where it was first filed in early 2001. The case number is RIC355410 and it's titled, The People of the State of California v The City of Riverside.

On March 5, 2001 the complaint or what's called the writ of mandate was filed and it asked the court for injunctive relief. Within it, are a series of allegations against the department for violating specific state laws and/or the state's constitution. It alleges many inadequacies in the department which place it in danger of current and future violations of these laws and the state constitution. The city settled with Lockyer's office not long after it was filed, with one of the conditions allegedly being put forth by Mayor Ron Loveridge that it be called anything but a "consent decree".

So it was called the stipulated judgment.

Among the allegations that refers directly to the staffing levels of police officers is the following located on page 3 under "Allegations and labeled 6 (b). It states the following.

(excerpt, writ of mandate)

The RPD has an insufficient number of sworn officers to effectively implement its community policing programs.

Now, the definition of sworn officers is fairly broad. The department has nearly 400 sworn officers covering a wide variety of ranks, divisions and assignments. However, it's generally understood that the creation and especially the implementation of community policing programs can't be done without the field patrol officers who formulate the base to build upon for all community policing efforts. The police department recognized this through selecting officers to fill its Community Policing Services (later, Community Services) division while under the stipulated judgment as well as even earlier than that through its Problem Oriented Policing officer program known as POPs which was created in the early 1990s. Some of those original POPs team officers still work inside the police department.

One of the areas focused on by the stipulated judgment is on supervisory level officers and that's where much of the growth has also taken place, with the creation of many more sergeant positions as well as lieutenant positions to fulfill various components of the judgment. These include staffing ratios of officers to supervisors and the use of 24 hour lieutenant watch commanders in the field operations division as well as the expansion of other divisions, most notably the Internal Affairs Division which was also a primary focus of the allegations listed in the complaint.

Does the writ of mandate or the stipulated judgment mandate a quota of officers to be hired? No they don't, but they make it clear that community policing is to be the focus of the department's expansion and improvement. In a sense, it's the heart of the stipulated judgment and the body of the five-year Strategic Plan, a road map produced through a collaborative effort which was mandated by Lockyer. The Strategic Plan very much stresses the importance and necessity of addressing the challenges of expansion in a city that's growing by both surface area (through over a dozen proposed annexations) and population.

So in that sense, the stipulated judgment might not seem to be very clear in mandating creating more police positions especially since it's never required a specific quota of officers, but under the stipulated judgment, the number of entry level rank police officers did grow quite a bit. Partly because of the massive departures of a number of officers which commonly happens in the turmoil preceding and during the time period of court-mandated reforms (as the Los Angeles Police Department showed a similar trend before and during its still-ongoing federal consent decree). But there were positions added as well particularly towards the end of the stipulated judgment when the city council approved (but ultimately only partially filled) about 45 positions.

"Let's talk about staffing," DeLaRosa said.

And that's how he started to talk about it. He passed out copies of the department's current 2007-08 (which has already seen adjustments due to recent staffing changes) as well as charts and statistics from the city's preliminary budget for 2008-09 which was passed earlier this year.

He challenged assertions that the department's patrol division was understaffed and that there were only 18 officers per shift.

"That's not true," DeLaRosa said.

He said that on many shifts that overlap including portions of the swing shift, there could be as many as 50 officers out there. The average staffing shits DeLaRosa provided for the different shifts were as followed.

"A" (graveyard): 23.1 officers

"B" (day"): 26.6

"C" (swing shift): 28.0

DeLaRosa said there were two day shifts on Sundays where there was about 19 officers working from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and that Sundays were usually slower work days. He also added that there were other officers including 10 POPs officers who could supplement patrol officers not to mention both civilian and sworn traffic investigators. The fact that these units are being mentioned for contingency purposes suggests that they might already be a resource in use to supplement the staffing on patrol shifts.

"I don't want anyone to get the idea we have a small group of officers," DeLaRosa said.

DeLaRosa also provided statistics for the current officer to supervisor ratios on all three work shifts.

The overall average for the whole work day was 5.59 officers to 1 supervisor. The figures for each work shift were as follows.

"A": 5.32

"B": 5.54

"C": 5.90

There's something interesting to notice off the bat about the figures when compared to the earlier ones for sworn patrol officers per shift which will be covered more in depth in a future posting.

But then the discussion went to the situation involving the department's commitment to using 24 hour lieutenant watch commanders on its shifts. The percentage of sergeant watch commanders working either partial or full shifts stands at about 5.7%. That's quite a decrease from the roughly 17% and 15% figures cited by consultant Joe Brann in two audits earlier this year. This decrease for the most part is the result of decision making to reduce the number of sergeant watch commanders because using them is fiscally more expensive than utilizing lieutenants because sergeants allegedly receive more pay for serving as a substitute watch commander (on par with a top-level lieutenant which many watch commanders aren't) because of an MOU agreement, not to mention that they are eligible for over-time pay while lieutenants are not. As a result, lieutenants are moved temporarily from other assignments from investigations to area commands, to fill in for absent or vacationing watch commanders.

It was very helpful to receive some statistics focusing on the level of experienced supervision over the patrol officers and the staffing of patrol shifts by entry level officers assigned to the patrol division. However, what's become more difficult in the past year is receiving any work product from the police department involving these critical issues with a lot of significance when it comes to public safety for the city's residents whose taxes help fund the city departments including that which polices.

While the department was undergoing the reforms mandated by the stipulated judgment, it provided much more documentation in public records requests pertaining to supervisory levels. In 2005, a request for work product on the officer to supervisor staffing ratios as well as the percentage of patrol shifts headed by sergeant watch commanders, documents were provided that were generated through the then Attorney General Task Force showing the work shifts, their supervisory ratios and whether or not there was a sergeant functioning as a watch commander for the entire shift or part of it. These documents were rather impressive in how they recorded the raw data and calculated averages for both types of information. It would leave anyone with a strong and reassuring sense that the department was keeping very good records of activities it was engaged in and looking at the larger picture.

Contrast that with a similar request last year which was vetted by City Attorney Gregory Priamos and resulted in the issuance of a power point presentation of Brann's June audit which included a statistic for the percentage of sergeant watch commanders (but given that it was a power point, there was no accompanying work product) and had nothing cited as a statistic for the officer to supervisor ratio. When the power point had been presented, Brann had mentioned the ratio and addressed it in his oral presentation to the city council but it wasn't included in writing in the power point, which customarily is an organized outline used as guidance for an oral presentation. So the department through providing these documents and failing to provide any documentation of the officer to supervisor ratio failed to adequately respond to the request.

The difference in information provided by the department in its own way was very revealing. At the same time that Brann was warning the city that it needed to address its staffing issues, the police department was having Priamos vet their information requests and consequently, not really providing information that was related let alone responsive to the request. That's disturbing, because Brann had provided one figure for the officer to supervisor ratio and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis had provided another one. Of course it goes without saying that a request for documentation of DeSantis' calculated statistics also was vetted by Priamos and provided information (in this case a suggestion to go to the city's Web site and check out the online budget) which was even more useless than that provided by the department.

So how did information which was freely provided in 2005 become taboo in 2008? Was it simply because the news in more recent months hasn't been as good as it was three years ago? Is it because Priamos and not the infinitely better public information officer, Steve Frasher is handling the request? Why is it that department heads can present critical information as a means to dispute or correct "incorrect" or "wrong" information but the documentation remains for their eyes only?

It's always a dilemma when there's conflicting information to figure out which statistics paint the most accurate not necessarily the best or worst picture of the police department. And that's one reason why it's important to have a public forum of discussion on the issue of departmental staffing where different stake holders in the process can present their numbers and discuss them. But so far, the city council has been very quiet since last June's audit of the department and in fact, DeLaRosa mentioned that Brann's contract quietly expired this month. It would have been interesting to see what audit Brann could have followed up with to show whether there signs that the city and the department had begin addressing some of the issues he cautioned them about just six months ago. But it's well known that the city doesn't like to be reminded that there are even issues to address so it pretends they don't exist.

So what's the truth? It looks like time will tell. What matters too is the commitment of community members, the police department and alas, public officials.

What might be useful is to consider placing some of this calculated data over time on visual displays at a future community forum sponsored by the police department as part of its Strategic Plan. Before listening to designated speakers and asking them their questions, the people in attendance could examine information featured in displays provided about the department including its staffing levels and ratios that is displayed along with other attributes of the police department. Then take that data and apply it to many of the questions that people ask about how many officers are on the street, what are their response times to calls for service and how these issues apply with the Strategic Plan.

When asked about the status of the audit and compliance panel, DeLaRosa said that it still existed and was currently staffed by one lieutenant, two sergeants and administrative support. It did audits of various department divisions including communications as well as the critical incident reviews. One of the sergeant positions was vacated in July after the promotion of Leon Phillips to lieutenant and the subsequent freezing of that sergeant position.

One of the watch commanders listed on the 2008-09 command structure sheet was transferred to the Internal Affairs Division to help address the case back load there that has some complaints waiting over one year for resolution. Sergeants were transferred out of some divisions to supervise patrol shifts.

Hudson talked about the budget situation and the state taking about $3-4 million from Riverside, not to mention flagging sales revenue as the region continues onward into its recession.

"He's going to steal some of our money," Hudson said.

The city's budget which was $226 million will slide further to where in a year or two it will be trimmed to around $200 million.

"There's no way to dance around it...You won't get every service you want, when you want it, where you want it," Hudson said.

He said he would focus on the four basic services of the city which includes public safety as well as the status of full-time city employees.

What was almost funny in retrospect even in grim times was how Hudson said that the city will build all these facilities when the money is good to cash in on but the problem will be staffing these new buildings, only because the people who expressed concerns about this very same issue several years ago were referred to and treated as crack pots and party poopers. But it's common sense, that if you are building buildings and potentially cutting people who might staff them or at least freezing positions, then that's going to be a problem.

Then Hudson attacked the issue of race and racism in city employment to address the questions of a Black former fire fighter in Riverside's department. Hudson said there's huge accomplishments made in gross numbers, particularly at the management levels. The police department's not as bad in his opinion but Hudson believed that the fire department, the public works department and public utilities departments all had issues in this area. He said further that he wasn't sure if it was historic racism but Black individuals just weren't applying for jobs in some departments including public utilities (particularly the electrical side). What he didn't mention is that in some of these problematic city departments, racial discrimination lawsuits and investigations have or are taking place. If there's problems in the city that necessitate these actions, then these things themselves can certainly dampen the enthusiasm of any person of color who's looking to apply for a job with this city.

In the wake of Rialto's mayoral election, people are wondering the role that a controversial flier released by the Rialto Police Officers Association played in the defeat of the candidate it targeted.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The flier, sent out by the Rialto Police Benefit Association and the Rialto Professional Firefighters, depicts a shirtless, tattooed gang member pointing a pistol straight at the reader.

"You can expect to see a whole lot more of us if Deborah Robertson gets elected to mayor," a caption reads.
Story continues below

"We had heard quite a few citizens were upset with the fliers," said Michael J. Peel, president of the Rialto Fire Management Association. "Clearly, it didn't have enough of an impact (against Vargas) to matter."

Vargas took 54.40 percent of the vote, with Robertson collecting 45.60 percent, the county registrar of voters reported Wednesday.

Vargas did not respond to three telephone messages seeking comment left on her cell phone Wednesday afternoon.

Robert Smith, president of the Rialto Police Benefit Association, says Robertson led efforts three years ago to replace the Rialto Police Department with a contract with the county Sheriff's Department.

He said the union stands behind the ad, but it's still too early to assess its impact.

The jury in the federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona got to hear him use racial slurs and profanity.

The director of New York City's body of civilian oversight is accusing its members of racism.

(excerpt, New York Times)

The director, Joan M. Thompson, said, according to documents her lawyer sent to the board, that she was “subjected to discriminatory remarks”; that she was referred to as a “black bitch”; and that two deputy directors said she was hired because of her race and would “turn the agency black.”

Ms. Thompson, 62, who started working for the board about a year ago, said that when she told the head of the agency’s board, Franklin Stone, on Dec. 12, 2007, about the disparaging remarks, Ms. Stone replied “in a screaming manner that she didn’t believe me,” the documents said.

Ms. Stone formed a committee in June to review Ms. Thompson’s job performance, Ms. Thompson wrote, adding, “Not only has there never been a black executive director in the history of the C.C.R.B., but no prior executive director had ever been evaluated.”

Also in New York City, as the grand jury probe continues into the allegations made by Michael Mineo that NYPD officers sodomized him in a subway station, more information comes out about Officer Richard Kern, the main officer accused.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Kern, one of four cops suspected of sodomizing Michael Mineo at the Prospect Park station on Oct. 15, was a defendant in separate federal suits involving the arrests in 2007 of two men in a Flatbush apartment building who say cops brutally beat them.

In a suit settled for $27,500, Jonathan Cadet contended he was doing laundry in his building with a friend, Jean Michel, when Kern, Officer John Walsh and two other cops confronted them at gunpoint.

Cadet said in papers filed in Manhattan Federal Court that Kern and Walsh "unnecessarily struck" him "several times in his face and head."

The complaint alleges Walsh and Kern lied to prosecutors in order to have Cadet charged with trespassing - even though he lived in the building.

Michel, who was also arrested, accused Kern of failing to protect him "from the illegal conduct of his fellow officers." Michel, who sued in Brooklyn Federal Court, received a $22,500 settlement from the city.

A spokeswoman for the city Law Department said, "The settlements were in the best interest of all parties."

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older