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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

City Council: Bring discussion of the CPRC from behind closed doors


Belo Blog confirms six layoffs of Riverside city employees that were the subject of a blog posting last week.

"You ladies may have won this battle, but I'll get you."

---an alleged comment by a Boston Police Department motor officer after two female officers told him to move his bike. The two women filed a lawsuit against the department and city.

"At this time, we have not laid off anybody."

---Capt. Robb Webb, Hemet Police Department to Press Enterprise about the fiscal budget's impact on his agency.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board has struck again back at the city council on the issue of civilian review in Riverside!

It has ordered Riverside's city council to host a public dialogue on the future of the Community Police Review Commission, something the elected body has declined to do so far. With the exception of two city council members, none of the others nor Mayor Ron Loveridge seem all that interested in what the public thinks about the recent actions taken against civilian oversight in Riverside. But then the interest level from the dais in public input from residents of this city seems to be about as enthusiastic as it usually is on issues these days. And that applies to commissioners as well under certain circumstances.

In fact, two commissioners received letters from one elected official telling them they could be removed not for any of the narrowly defined reasons that members of boards and commissions could actually be removed for by a city council vote, but because the elected official was upset that they criticized the city manager's and city attorney's offices. Then the councilman tried to tell one of the commissioners in her letter that she was biased against the same police department that employs her son as an officer.

The fact that commissioners are supposed to be independent thinkers and not wind up toys or hand held puppets seemed to be lost here. After all, that position requirement's not exactly included on the city's brochure.

This is the third editorial put out by the newspaper in the last several months addressing the ongoing crisis involving the beleaguered and barely there, CPRC that's being manipulated by the city manager's office, the city attorney's office and some members of the city council (not necessarily in that order) all without any public dialogue with city residents. This has elicited a lot of discussion among city residents even those not keen on civilian oversight simply because there's this aversion to having people who volunteer their energy and time on the city's boards and commissions treated this way.

People wonder if some of these individuals are going to stop with merely striking a blow to the commission's ability to abide by its charter-mandated responsibility to review and investigate officer-involved deaths or whether they're going to continue onward until the CPRC is no more potent than its predecessor, the Law Enforcement Policy Advisory Committee. If you read the woefully under-researched article written by three council members several months ago (and keep some Dramamine near you if you do read it), they seem to view the CPRC as just a policy reviewing machine, city charter be damned. And a policy reviewing machine is what LEPAC was until its disbandment in 2000 when the CPRC was born.

At least Steve Adams and Frank Schiavone appear to believe that the CPRC and LEPAC might be interchangeable and their choice of words in their op-ed piece makes that abundantly clear. It's not clear whether or not the other author, Councilwoman Nancy Hart even read what she signed onto given that in one Press Enterprise article published afterward the embarrassing opinion article, she appeared to greatly soften her stance on the issue.

So far the majority of the city council hasn't been listening very well to advice from the editorial board. Each time it has failed to do so, out comes another editorial which is just as well because they're interesting to read and they present much better arguments than anything coming out of either the city council or anyone who has anything to do with either the city manager's or city attorney's office. You'd think the guys with the law degrees would sound more impressive than they do but except for CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy who put out a six-page thoroughly researched and documented argument challenging the city government, they've all fallen short in the face of what's been published by an editorial board for a newspaper owned by a major corporation in Texas.

The latest installment in an ongoing series of scoldings catches the city residents who've been left out of any discussion involving the commission's fate up to date with the most recent shenanigans from the city government in case people are starting to lose track of who did what to the commission, when. There's so much being done and said that you do need a score card to keep pace with city council members who've apparently gone amok with a kind of fever over a commission that some of them came onto the dais opposing. It appears that the passage of Measure II slowed down some of them in their fervor but ultimately didn't stop them from turning the CPRC into a political football of choice.

Some political watchers said that the commission would never be so challenged, so targeted for political attacks as it would be after its placement in the city's charter. And as it turned out, they were right.

The editorial calls the city government out on having Councilman (and Mayor Pro Tem) Rusty Bailey serve as its public information officer and informing the commission that the city council has determined it should follow the directive issued several months ago by City Manager Brad Hudson. However, at least two city councilmen were unaware that Bailey had taken the initiative to speak for them. These two, Mike Gardner and Andrew Melendrez, wanted the issue to go to a public discussion to add transparency to whatever directive the city government gives to the city manager's office. One suggestion offered up as a potential venue for that discussion was the Public Safety Committee which has established a jurisdiction of sorts through practice of receiving regular reports from the CPRC between 2006-08 without any public complaints from the dais. Gardner serves on that committee and Melendrez chairs it.

At one point, there was apparently some push by Councilman Frank Schiavone to lay sole claim to the CPRC by sending it to the committee he chairs which is the Governmental Affairs Committee. All three members of that committee at this point have voiced opposition to the CPRC continuing to conduct its independent investigations just as it has since 2002, either through op-ed articles published in the Press Enterprise as both Schiavone and Councilman Steve Adams did or sending letters or phone calls on behalf of the city council as Bailey has.

If it goes to Governmental Affairs, don't be surprised if the recommendations by the city council members on that committee pretty much ignore public input and push the commission in the LEPAC corner. Two members of that committee Schiavone and Adams clearly don't like the CPRC as much as they have sold to their constituents and city residents as a whole and have tried less hard to hide their aversion towards the panel. As for Bailey, he looks like he's along for the ride if he's sending out letters after "discussing" the issue with several council members and speaking on behalf of them and the rest. There doesn't appear to be as much resemblance between the Bailey who co-signed an argument supporting an initiative that put the CPRC in the city's charter and today's Bailey as far as even many of his supporters believe. Some of his supporters call him the biggest disappointment of the 2007 election cycle. Still, his term is still young and there's always room for him to stretch on this issue. He's bright, well-spoken and diligent and still navigating through the complicated web of municipal politics.

Still, if it goes to Governmental Affairs, at least any discussion of it will come partly out from the shadows where it's been for several months now. Not a very convincing reason to buy into the city government's rather weakly defined support of the city manager's directive on incustody death investigations. And the city council members will have the spotlight on their actions and discussions instead of having them remain in the shadows, as the city prepares to go into its next election cycle. That's as it should be.

Again, the whole sorry saga is outlined again in the editorial.


Commission Chairman Brian Pearcy tried again this month, sending a letter asking the council to clarify the limits of the new policy -- but with no more success. Bailey said last week the letter had been reviewed by the council and filed away. But that decision also happened without any official council discussion, and at least two councilmen said they would like to see a council committee take up the issue.

The commission deserves an official response from the council, based on something more concrete than a murky, behind-the-scenes council "consensus." City Hall's recent directives have limited the commission's reach and powers, based on a reading of the city charter that is open to considerable -- and legitimate -- disagreement.

Such steps weaken the commission's usefulness as a citizen oversight panel and buffer for police-community tensions. If the City Council really believes that the commission has run amok and needs restraining, council members should be willing to make that case -- in full public view.

There's no room in accountable, honest and transparent city government for "a murky behind-the-scenes council 'consensus'". If this is what is taking place, we do not currently have a government that is any of these things and it being an election year in 2009, better late than never to figure this out. Especially considering the sentiments expressed in letters, statements and especially through the ballot box by city residents who aren't particularly fond of closed, secretive governments that try to chill public participation.

Every article written on the CPRC is sent out to NACOLE's mailing list and the responses I've received back since sending out these articles have been interesting. One reader from Oregon actually called it the "Snivilian Review" board. But once again, Riverside's on the map for something and it's not in a good way.

Hemet's police department announced changes in the wake of the budget crisis. About 24 positions won't be filled and the hours in which stations are open will be cut along with other actions. The police department is still faced with cutting its operation budget by 20% this fiscal year.

Press Enterprise columnist, Cassie MacDuff updates the situation at San Manuel reservation.


Stacey Cheyenne Barajas-Nunez, the San Manuel tribal member sentenced on Nov. 6 to five years probation for an alleged murder-for-hire plot, was arrested Friday night for allegedly violating probation.

Barajas-Nunez's sentence had been criticized as unusually lenient, since she avoided prison in a very serious crime.

County prosecutors defended the sentence, saying Barajas-Nunez knew that if she violated so much as a single law, she could go to prison for 21 years.

She is expected to appear before Judge Michael Dest this morning, the same judge who sentenced her to probation, so he can decide whether she violated the probation.

She is accused of going to the San Manuel Casino despite a stay-away order barring her from the gambling venue, according to Doug Poston, the deputy DA who prosecuted her.

A sheriff's spokeswoman said Barajas-Nunez was arrested for trespassing. Her lawyer said it was a misunderstanding.

The judge will have to determine whether she really went to the casino, and if so, whether it constitutes a law violation under the terms of her probation.

Are commuters losing faith in Metrolink? Ridership is down after a recent train accident in Rialto where two engineers ran a red light and failed to report the red signal to the dispatcher.

A claim against Anaheim has been filed by the family of Julian Alexander who was killed by police officers who mistook him for burglary suspects they were pursuing.

A Los Angeles Police Department officer accidentally shot himself in the leg.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

The officer and at least one colleague were trying to detain the group in the Venice area around 12:15 a.m. when several of the people tried to run away. At that point, a "negligent discharge occurred," police spokesman Officer Sam Park said.

The shooting remained under investigation but Park said it appeared the officer shot himself. The officer's name was not released.

"I believe he shot himself in the leg," Park said. "The officer himself accidentally discharged and shot himself."

An ex-aide of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona takes the witness stand in Carona's federal corruption trial.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Elaine Vasquez, who worked for Carona for about seven years, said she wrote letters to various people Carona reimbursed, letting them know that it was inappropriate for him to accept freebies from anyone.

She confirmed examples that ranged from a $5 check for lunch with an Orange County Register publisher to $200 for the cost of a limousine that ferried his family to see "The Lion King," to hundreds of dollars for a suit from a Los Angeles outfitter.

In questioning Vasquez, prosecutors seemed to be showing the jury that Carona was aware of his obligations to disclose any cash and gifts he received as sheriff and as a member of the California Commission on Criminal Justice, yet at the same time chose to hide the lucre he allegedly received from Don Haidl.

Vasquez also testified about the sexual harassment of another female employee by a former assistant sheriff, George Jaramillo.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

Vasquez also said her co-worker, Sandy Trujillo, told her she was being sexually harassed by former assistant sheriff George Jaramillo. Vasquez said Trujillo said Jaramillo would push her against the wall and inappropriately touch her.

Vasquez testified that Trujillo told Carona, who responded Trujillo that he would “support her in whatever decision.” But prosecutors say Carona pressured Trujillo to lie about the harassment.

Trujillo — whom Haidl has testified was one of Carona’s former lovers – may be called as a witness in the trial. Trujillo never told her that she had an affair with Carona, Vasquez said.

Jurors also listened to an audio recording of Carona being interviewed by a reporter about why he hired Don Haidl as assistant sheriff of the reserve division.

In one excerpt, Carona explains: “I made him … an offer and said, ‘How’d you like to work long hours for no glory and no pay and become a reserve with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and make command decisions and open up a number of reserves?’ Don accepted … and that’s how the relationship started in terms of becoming assistant sheriff.”

Orange County itself will be facing a hiring freeze.

The New York City Police Department is hiring more officers during a time period when many law enforcement agencies have stopped doing so.

The presiding judge dropped the weapons charges against former Bolingbrook Police Department sergeant, Drew Peterson.

Did a Boston Police Department officer witness a murder while off-duty and fail to report it? And interestingly enough as it turns out, the department tried to fire this officer previously.

(excerpt, Boston Globe)

Commissioner Edward F. Davis placed Officer Junior Phillips on administrative leave yesterday after internal affairs investigators told him they believed the 36-year-old patrolman was present when Sheldon Andrews was stabbed to death at a Dorchester cookout. Investigators believe Phillips fled before homicide detectives arrived at the scene, police said.

"It's a major concern to the department and the police commissioner when we have information that an officer may have been witness to a crime and failed to come forward," said Elaine Driscoll, a police spokeswoman. Phillips, who was assigned to Brighton, could not be reached for comment.

Thomas Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he was trying to learn more about the allegations. "There is no comment on this until we know what's going on," he said. "We're monitoring the situation."

This is the second time Phillips has faced possible termination. He was fired in March 2007, accused of a series of violations, including conduct unbecoming an officer and excessive use of force. But this year an arbitrator decided that the police had no cause to fire him and he returned to the department.

Boston didn't have much time to deal with that because two female police officers also filed a sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the department. I mean it's bad enough that male management employees apparently need to be educated on how they treat female employees but do they really need to be educated on women's menstrual cycles as well so they won't make asinine comments about them?

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