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 02, 2008

Will City Hall's CPRC even notice that a man has died?


A motion to intervene and unseal the court records in the prosecution case of Riverside Police Department Officer Robert A. Forman has been filed by an unknown party. In most cases, these motions are filed to the court by media outlets. In fact, the Press Enterprise has filed similar ones in the past in other sexual assault cases. More information to come.


There's not been any more recent information involved on the officer-involved death of Marlon Oliver Acevedo, 35 and very little press coverage except what's here.

But as is usual for articles on officer-involved deaths involving the Riverside Police Department, there are quite a few comments on the incident already. What's interesting is that if you look at the comments for the Fernando Luis Sanchez shooting which preceded this incident, there's at least 94 comments written on that article since it was published.

Here are some left about the Oct. 31 death of Acevedo.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

"this story is bull they didnt say the rest of the story they beat and tazed my brother until he died they killed him in front of my mom and his wife they said he died at 10:47 p.m. but they told my sister-in-law 3-4 hours later than when they said he had died.they had no reason to keep beating, he was unconscious since the first time they tazed him and he was still hog-tied. He wasn't a danger to anybody, and now they left my four year old nephew and two year old nephew without a dad."

"I'm sorry but i have to say that this is a funny story to me. For the reason that instead of the paper saying "from the police report" it said "from the police news release". I don't know about the rest of you all but I smell a cover up and that really sucks to say that our judicial system and it's properties are not functioning like intended. Corrupt police and high paid judiciaries control the system and not the people, like they say-it's not how it happened but how they write it that counts. What a shame."

"He was probably high on drugs!"


It's not been announced yet whether or not the police department's representatives will provide a briefing on the department's investigation to the Community Police Review Commission at a future meeting as is customary in these cases. The next scheduled meeting of the CPRC is a special meeting being held on Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the fatal officer-involved shootings of Douglas Steven Cloud and Joseph Darnell Hill.

Since the upcoming meeting agenda was drafted before the death of Acevedo, there's no agenda item referring to it for either a report or a discussion. Considering how quickly most of its members have fallen in line with the city's latest agenda to reinvent the city charter, it will be interesting if they've even noticed it's happened at all. If they have, it's doubtful they will want to talk about it at any meeting, considering the lack of concern and enthusiasm that was shown by most of them regarding the three deaths before this one which were included on the meeting agendas for discussion and/or reports either by the police department or by Executive Manager Kevin Rogan.

It's not likely that given the short time until the meeting that the agenda will be changed but hopefully, there will at least be a report on it by the commission and if not, that at least one commissioner will ask about it. Only a year or so ago, it would be a given that this would happen from any of a number of commissioners (including Sheri Corral whose 180 degree turn in a year has a lot of people scratching their heads) but given the commission's current composition, a byproduct of Measure GG which strengthened the power of individual city council members' selections within their wards, it's not likely to happen at all.

Unless it's one of several commissioners either John Brandriff, Chani Beeman or Jim Ward who raise the issue, there probably won't be much mention. But then wait a minute, two of these three individuals were the commissioners who as this recent editorial by the Press Enterprise stated were the subject of attempts by one elected official to "stifle dissent". If they misbehave again and raise this issue on the Acevedo case, will there be more letters in the mail from elected officials threatening to take them to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee (not the appropriate venue but that's another issue) and reminding them that their "removal" is always a possibility?

Brandriff's been much quieter since he got his letter, though Beeman not as much.

It goes without saying that this incustody death won't be investigated by the CPRC for a long while given that the commission has been barred from doing independent investigations of officer-involved deaths by City Manager Brad Hudson. It has to sit on its hands and wait until the police department is finished with its own investigation and it has been given permission to do so despite a history of never having interfered or jeopardized the department's own investigations. This is an action which clearly has much more to do with concern about civil liability in cases like this one than it has to do with damaging other investigations outside the CPRC.

Unfortunately, given that six months, a year or longer might pass before the department has signed off on its officer-involved death investigation, this directive issued by Hudson has essentially has stricken the word "investigation" out of the process, leaving the CPRC in the position where it can simply review these cases especially given that they are beginning to pile up. This pileup will of course undermine the CPRC's ability to honor its charter-mandated responsibilities to do investigations of officer-involved deaths. The more incidents that create a backlog, the more difficult it will be to fulfill its charter responsibilities because it has to delay them and start its own investigations from scratch months or years after an incident.

This action to redefine the charter after four years was backed by the mayor and city council either through documents contributed to the public record or through tacit silence on the issue. All of these elected officials represent populations of voters who passed Measure II in every precinct in every ward in every city.

Another interesting aspect is that once again, this is an officer-involved death that involves American Medical Response, the city's ambulance service of choice as having responded to the scene to provide medical assistance. If you're familiar with the CPRC and its membership, then you'll know that one of its commissioners, Peter Hubbard is a manager with AMR and has served as a spokesperson with that company. In this case, AMR employees were called out at some point during the incident for a medical distress situation involving Acevedo. He was alive while they rendered medical aid and transported him to the hospital where he died a short while later. If this case is similar at all to the incidents involving the deaths of Terry Rabb and Lee Deante Brown, then the emergency medical technicians in this case will provide written reports or perhaps even be interviewed by investigators as potential witnesses.

It will be interesting if the commission believes it's business as usual to have any statements on the incidents provided to either the CPRC or police department's investigation evaluated by someone who might be a supervisor or manager of these individuals which isn't really appropriate. It's most likely as stated earlier, that it will be business as usual (at least as much as it can be when it hasn't been business as usual) and that except for a mention by one or two individuals about the death at this week's meeting (which will have to be during commissioners' comments as the agenda's been posted), there probably won't be that much discussion about it.

However, it's still possible someone might bring it up. Executive Manager Kevin Rogan will likely offer something to counter it from the police department's perspective or the city's perspective (or both but necessarily in this order) and maybe someone like Jim Ward will try to place it on the next meeting agenda. City Attorney Gregory Priamos (or his designee) might then say the Brown Act prohibits that. Then someone will file a counter motion so they don't have to ever see or hear about this individual's death again unless the police department says it's okay to do so and Priamos (or his designee) will tell them that's just fine.

Maybe several arguments will break out given the recent dynamics of the commission which has seen the political become increasingly the personal. At any rate, the community will be once again without a mechanism of civilian oversight almost as surely as it was in the days of the CPRC's predecessor, LEPAC.

You might argue, but the CPRC reviews complaints and LEPAC didn't have that power. Neither does the CPRC as long as the average length of time for it to receive complaint investigations from the police department takes more than six to eight months or longer because if a complaint is sustained, the officer has to be disciplined within one year of its initiation unless it satisfies one of the exceptions under G.C. 3304(d). If this trend is not arrested, the CPRC's ability to process and review complaints in a timely manner will be jeopardized.

Officer-involved deaths:

Douglas Steven Cloud, Oct. 8, 2006 757 days (drafting public report)

Joseph Darnell Hill, Oct. 19, 2006 746 days (fact certification phase)

Carlos David Quinonez, Sr., Sept. 1, 2008, 62 days (barred from investigating)

Fernando Luis Chavez: Sept. 11, 2008 23 days (barred from investigating)

Marlon Oliver Acevedo, Oct. 31, 2008: 2 days (barred from investigating)

Just when you thought the controversy over Towergate had mercifully ended, here comes its next chapter. If you recall, Riverside's Redevelopment Agency subsidized a number of parking spaces for a developer's 10-story office building being erected in the heart of downtown, only to watch the developer sell the building to Riverside County. The plan is for it to house District Attorney Rod Pacheco and his employees' offices. But now, others think that he should share the wealth of space.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Worsening economic conditions and looming county budget cuts have Supervisor Bob Buster pushing Pacheco to share his 260,000-square-foot building with the public defender's office, an option Pacheco has opposed as a security risk.

Supervisor Jeff Stone suggests Pacheco share with other county departments that need space.

"There is additional space in there even beyond their growth needs," Buster said of the district attorney's headquarters, adding: "Now, especially exacerbated by the recession, we can't have floors of this building sitting empty."

Neither Pacheco nor his assistants could be reached despite three calls for comment to a spokesman made over two days.

Pacheco, in a letter, and an assistant district attorney, in a phone interview, both declined two months ago to say how many employees would occupy the downtown building, saying they did not have the information.

But Rob Field, the county's facilities management director, said the county is preparing for about 600 district attorney's employees to move in in about 20 months.

Supervisor Bob Buster suggested that Pacheco share his new building (which he won't be able to fully grow into for another 15 years due to anticipated budget cuts) with the Public Defender's office hasn't been met with any response because Pacheco was unavailable for comment but similar suggestions in the past have been rebuffed.

The opening of the Evergreen Cemetery after its renovations was a success. The Halloween-themed event was held to raise money for the upkeep and further renovations of the portion of the historic cemetery which is not covered under a private financial endowment.

The city clerk in Lake Elsinore who admitted embezzling from the city got slapped with probation.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

Munson pleaded guilty to a felony embezzlement charge. As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, a Superior Court judge placed her on probation for three years and ordered her to serve 250 hours of community service, a spokeswoman with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said.

From 2003 to 2007, Munson, the deputy city clerk, purchased $8,000 of personal items - including a big-screen television, a personal computer and airline tickets - with a city credit card. Signal Hill officials discovered the theft shortly after the Lake Elsinore City Council hired Munson.

Munson, 51, of San Bernardino, resigned her post in Lake Elsinore on Oct. 14, a little more than a year after she was hired.

Concerns about the economy don't just dominate the national elections, they play the same role in these local races as well as these ones too.

But possible changes to make it easier to track campaign contributions in elections might be in the works.

Will the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors censure Assessor Bill Postmus? The body tried to get him to voluntarily appear before it and answer questions but he didn't bite.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Board Chairman Paul Biane on Friday added a letter of censure proposal to the agenda of the supervisor's Nov. 4 meeting.

Biane wrote that the board would be expressing its "concern related to the alleged unlawful political activity in the Assessor's office and the allegations of the Assessor's illegal methamphetamine use."

The chairman did not return several phone messages seeking comment Friday.

In a statement, Postmus said Biane has an "Ahab-like obsession" and dismissed the chairman's proposal.

"Once again, Supervisor Paul Biane is demonstrating that he will stop at nothing to destroy me and this office," Postmus said in the statement. "His latest stunt -- a strongly worded letter in the form of 'censure' -- is nothing more than political theatre and a perfect illustration of why I was right in declining Biane's invitation to appear publicly before him in the first place."

Was former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona trying to hide his illegal contributions? One witness in his federal corruption trial said yes. It turns out this person was one of his former campaign fundraisers. It must have been chilling to listen to testimony of how promotions were exchanged for campaign favors.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

On Friday, Lisa Jaramillo testified that Carona rewarded businessman Don Haidl for raising the illegal contributions by making him an assistant sheriff. He also promised her husband, George Jaramillo, that he would one day resign early and appoint Jaramillo to the sheriff's post, she testified.

Her testimony – which spanned areas such as Carona's knowledge of gifts he received and favors he doled out in return – seemed to bolster the government's main accusation: Carona used public office to enrich himself, his wife Deborah and his former mistress, co-defendant Debra Hoffman.

Jaramillo's husband, a former assistant sheriff, helped the government investigate Carona. He is awaiting sentencing on two felonies regarding his own involvement in the alleged conspiracy.

Lisa Jaramillo testified for about three hours, watched by Carona and his wife, Deborah, who sat nearby in the courtroom's gallery. They all once were close friends who traveled and spent holidays together, she testified.

She told jurors she worked as a campaign fundraiser for Carona and often did work at the now-defunct law firm of Jaramillo, Hoffman & Associates – which she referred to as "campaign headquarters."

The department which Carona used to oversee is considering replacing its deputies with correctional officers in its trouble-plagued jail system which has been the focus of investigation including into several incidents of serious misconduct that took place in the facilities.

This blog on the coverage by local newspapers including the Press Enterprise celebrates Halloween. No word yet on this site on when the next round of buyouts and blood letting will take place at this publication.

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