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

Monday, December 22, 2008

Another blogger harassed

Threatening emails have been sent to a woman who blogs on law enforcement-related domestic violence. She's one of the top if not the top blogger in the country who tackles this issue and unfortunately, like some people who write on law enforcement issues, she probably hears from people who are unhappy with her activism. Now she's been getting emailed threats.

This is what one of the emails stated:

(excerpt, Behind the Blue Wall)

"When I find you and I will, your going to understand what it's like to be a fish out of water. God help you and your family. I tracked your IP address and I'm coming for you ...... you don't know when to stop and when you do it will be too late for you to start ever again."

Sounds like a threat, a threat of bodily harm or worse to her and her family. The emails have apparently been traced to a Palm Beach Sheriff's Department deputy who's been employed by at least three other law enforcement agencies during his career and has been in different kinds of trouble during his tenures. This blogger had been writing posts about this individual, Deputy Ira Peskowitz who has apparently made a career out of compiling a troubling laundry list of just about every type of police misconduct that's out there including domestic violence. Yet despite that or maybe because of it, he still remains employed by the profession which is supposed to be the antithesis of everything he represents. It might sound shocking to some people but it's not really all that surprising. At least one law enforcement agency boasted about hiring other agencies' rejects but found itself under investigation by outside agencies way after the fact.

More emails received from an AOL email address linked to this deputy were also received by this blogger, who not surprisingly is left fearful for her own safety and that of her family and who has received little in the way of any meaningful response from either the Palm Beach Sheriff's Department or the law enforcement agency in her own city which really isn't all that surprising. But if that's the case, then the chances that the responsible individual will be held accountable are pretty much next to zero. This is a profession that does very well at looking out for and after its own, most particular its bad apples even apparently those who might work for other agencies. One reason why civilian review boards and police commissions are popping up across the country just in case there are still people out there scratching their heads at where and why they are coming from. It's the almost instinctual way that officers almost always back up misconduct by other officers when it happens. Behind every "bad apple" there's at least one officer and probably more who kept their mouths shut to protect him or her. If they don't, then who will protect them when they need it?

That's what gave birth to civilian oversight and review.

I know and fully understand the feeling of being harassed by someone who left a trail back to a municipality which circled its wagons in response to a request for an explanation as to why a harassing email to me had the city's fingerprints on it. In 2007, I received the following email from a Yahoo account started under my name and with an address very similar to one that I used.

Mary, Mary with shorter (yet still greasy) hair -e.
Why do you hate people so?
Do you truly despise others?
Or, perhaps just your mother?
Or, maybe...just yourself.

The full header provided by Yahoo revealed the following:

Authentication-Results:; domainkeys=pass (ok)
Received: from (HELO ( by with SMTP; Tue, 17 Jul 2007 18:17:57 -0700
Received: from [] by with NNFMP; 18 Jul 2007 01:16:16 -0000
Received: from [] by with NNFMP; 18 Jul 2007 01:16:16 -0000
Received: from [] by with NNFMP; 18 Jul 2007 01:16:16 -0000
Received: (qmail 28370 invoked by uid 60001); 18 Jul 2007 01:16:15 -0000
DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; q=dns; c=nofws; s=s1024;; h=X-YMail-OSG:Received:Date:From:Subject:To:MIME-Version:Content-Type:Content-Transfer-Encoding:Message-ID; b=xDvCgPvGCzQPgI0QueBRrONM45GLbto29mHtinQtQprwZ9fytKJavlUl
Received: from [] by via HTTP; Tue, 17 Jul 2007 18:16:15 PDT
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 18:16:15 -0700 (PDT)
From: This sender is DomainKeys verified
Mary Shelton

According to IP-Adress locator, the IP address, contained the following information.

IP address [?]: Copy [Whois]
IP address country: ip address flag United States
IP address state: California
IP address city: Riverside
IP address latitude: 33.940399
IP address longitude: -117.395897
Local Time of this IP country: 2008-12-22 22:31

I contacted the city for an explanation as to why a harassing email written in an account impersonating me was sent out through their computer network. I was essentially told by Information Technology head, Steve Reneker to contact Yahoo about the "alleged impersonations" because the city couldn't or wouldn't even provide an explanation as to how why its IP address appeared on a header with the harassment email. The city apparently believed that the appropriate response to this situation was to have Yahoo answer to a behavior that was done on a city-owned network that it had nothing to do with. That's called passing the buck in most worlds.

So can people write harassing emails on city owned equipment or using city-administrated networks do so with impunity. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. This is a much less serious example of how that is so than that involving the above blogger but the mentality is pretty much the same. It comes from pretty much the same place. And it's not a very good place at that.

Just as it was yes, when I was harassed for two years by still-unidentified (at least to me) individuals although I bumped into one of them on another site about a month ago. The writing style, syntax, punctuation and overall flair if you can call it that, were the same that I was subjected to for month after month filled with hateful posts where he harassed me and thumbed his noses at those allegedly investigating his antics.

It was like getting hit in the face by a blast of cold air. Being among his own kind considering how he identified himself and not the "whore" or the "bitch" or maybe even the "cunt", his manners were somewhat better than how he had behaved on my site with his friends. I had pretty much put the episode of cyber stalking behind me but when I read the familiar style of writing, it all came back in a rush. Just like it did when in the autumn of 2006, I watched the only cyber harasser who had ever been identified to me by a representative of the police department, receive a civic award from the city council. Only in Riverside can an officer get slapped on the wrist for conduct unbecoming of an officer and get a civic award in the same year. But then that might not be the case at all. Maybe that happens everywhere. Maybe it's when it doesn't, that is when an exception prevails over the rule.

So I know better than most what lies ahead for this woman if she insists that she live in a world where she can blog about the issues that matter to her and keep herself and her family safe from individuals like those who threatened her via email, who may or may not be the same people who are sworn to protect and serve people. But when someone states in writing that they're coming after you, it's going to make you fearful, it's going to make you always look over your shoulder and that's part of the thrill and the power these cowards exert over others. Just like when someone "prays" that serious harm comes to you or your family, or says they are coming looking for you with their friends in blue. But what's the incentive to not engage in this behavior if you're awarded after the fact? The decision to do just that sent a pretty loud message about some of the disturbing remainders of a police culture which was supposed to be stamped out by former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's consent decree. In some elementary ways, this agency has a long way to go even as it's been successful in other areas of reform.

It's going to make you wonder if this person, that person or that person in that squad car over there is the one who wrote somewhere that they saw you that day. That they saw you the day before and the week before that and then paint that image they took from those sightings in disgusting and intimate detail. After all, they can afford to do so in Florida and they can afford to do it here, because their privacy under state law is more important than your safety. It's their playing field after all.

So having learned the reality of how the system of self-investigation works and just how well law enforcement handles its own problems in its midst, I can only hope that this blogger receives some form of justice and feeling of safety for having the life of her and her family threatened by some coward hiding behind anonymity but unfortunately, I'll be surprised if that actually happens because in law enforcement's current state, it can't as long as it thinks the "good" that its "bad apples" do when they're not engaging in bad behavior outweighs that bad behavior that they do and anyone harmed by said bad behavior, is just acceptable collateral damage. That's a pretty good explanation, as good as any as to why a department and a city would award an officer who had committed what it called misconduct.

I also hope that she never gives up her blogging though that can be difficult in the face of threats especially if you have children. But in the end as abhorrent as this behavior can be, it's a litmus test on whether or not your blogging is having an impact though that's not much consolation when it happens to you.

Eventually, you learn to live with it. You learn to take precautions. You learn to be careful about who you trust including police officers. It's not really fair because the vast majority of them are good people who work hard to keep people safe but unfortunately, there are members in their rank who hide behind them as justification to harass. Why not? They have all the protection in the world. After all, who's going to investigate them anyway? Their former supervisor who got transferred to Internal Affairs after working in the same unit? Their drinking buddy? Their best friend? The officer whose life they saved a month before by backing them up in a dangerous situation? One or more of the above?

But it's hard reading about it when it happens to someone else. Because an attack against one blogger is really an attack against all of us who address these issues.

In this particular case involving the city-sent email, about a week later, after I blogged about the email, I received the following one from a Charter Communications ISP in Riverside. That's the first and only apology I ever received from a cyber harasser to date.

I am writing to apologize for my previous letter. I'm most sorry that you were concerned that it was some sort of threat or harassment. It was not intended that way at all.
By choosing an address like yours and writing that note, I was simply trying to suggest that you look within yourself to learn why you might be so negative about so many things. I meant you no harm, and my letter was not well written therefore the intended message was not perceived.
No further messages will be sent from this address, as I will close it and will not re-open.
Again, I am very sorry. I wish you happyness and peace.

I got tips about the source of both emails but I'm not sure whether or not they truly indicated the person responsible or just who the most unpopular people on the city's payroll are.

But the harassment of this blogger is yet another sad example of what happens when you write on police accountability issues. Hopefully, she will be safe and able to keep blogging, shining a bright light on the issues that her harassers don't want to ever see the light of day.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein wrote about the lack of heat at Banning's jail facility.


When I asked Chief Deputy Thetford, the man in charge of Sheriff Department "building facilities," why he didn't bring in portable heating units, his answer was chilling.

"Excellent question. I wasn't aware of this before this morning."

He'd heard about it shortly before he called me. He was getting ready to head out to Banning to see this mess first-hand.

"I'm not too happy," he said. (Which brings the number of unhappy people to 97.) "I just got off the phone with the facilities commander."

Glad someone reached Capt. Walt Meyer. When I tried, they almost patched me through to the jail's watch commander. But when I told the woman who answered the phone what I wanted to talk about, she put me on hold, then said I'd have to call the sheriff's PR man. When I asked for the number, she said I should already have it since I work for the paper. That must be how they do business out there: blankets for inmates, cold shoulder for everyone else.

In the most refined bureaucratic lingo, Thetford called the blankets and clothes "minimal mitigation." He said inmates "were being exposed to the weather" and called it "an emergency situation."

"One way or another," he said before heading to Banning for a warm little chat with Capt. Meyer, "it will be resolved today -- either by actual repair or some form of portable units being brought in."

A Los Angeles Police Department officer is under investigation by both federal agencies and his department for allegedly smuggling firearms to his security company in another country.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Officer Johnny Baltazar is accused of purchasing eight .40-caliber Glocks from the LAPD Academy store and secretly shipping them, along with two other guns and 1,530 rounds of ammunition, to Belize where he runs a company called Elite Security, according to documents obtained by The Times.

Baltazar, 49, who was assigned to the West Los Angeles Division, has been accused administratively by the LAPD with exporting firearms without a license, failing to declare firearms he exported and failing to notify his LAPD superiors that he was under federal investigation, documents show. He has been suspended with pay pending a disciplinary hearing that could result in his firing.

Such hearings, which were open to the public for decades, have been conducted in secret since a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that limited access to police personnel information.

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