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, December 21, 2008

City Hall Blues: Will you be my marionette today?

I had some more conversations about what's going on with the Community Police Review Commission this week. For the council members who insist like Ward Three's Rusty Bailey that they don't get complaints about what's happening to the CPRC, would you like to trade places for a little while? Perhaps, the people who are unhappy with what's happening have been watching how city council members like Bailey (as mayor pro tem) have refused to conduct the business involving the city council's handling of the commission in a public forum. Not to mention that people in this city have watched how some city council members have conducted themselves at city council meetings over the past year or so particularly during the public comment periods and haven't been impressed or themselves have been worried that if they say something the city government doesn't like, they will be treated the same way.

But I've received numerous complaints from every ward in this city about what's been going on with the CPRC as of late and what's been written about in the daily press.

It's interesting to the point of being funny how some elected officials are claiming with an election year on the horizon that they are more amiable to people coming to meetings and criticizing them or "shouting" at them (which rarely has happened in truth) when some of these same individuals outside of election year have rolled their eyes, shuffled their papers, held private conversations with others on the dais, left the room, gone to chat with the city attorney, ordered the city attorney to send letters to these people's houses, sighed, grunted, laughed or called people liars, say they have no class, no ethics or whatever pops into their mouths before their brains can remind them that they are elected officials. But then election year brings kinder, gentler politicians into the arena and they remain that way until the final votes are tabulated in their respective elections. But there's a reason for that given the role that city council meeting decorum played against some individuals most notably former Ward One Councilman Dom Betro during Election 2007.

And it's unlikely that you'll see any elderly women getting removed from the podium or evicted from the chambers during an election year.

That's part of what makes the election cycle so fascinating is comparing and contrasting the behavior and mannerisms of elected officials during the election cycle and outside of them, of how politicians reinvent themselves to woo the voters' support. That's part of why two incumbents in the last election cycle didn't get reelected and a third had to struggle for every last vote to remain in office over a candidate he outspent by at least 20 to 1. Will that trend repeat itself? It's very possible but it's too early to tell.

The CPRC has some interesting stories around it, including one involving a commissioner who was deemed as being too mouthy by certain elected officials including one who decided that this individual needed some impromptu ethics training by city employees. Only this training turned out to be several hours spent in front of a certain city employee who lectured that individual in a way that made it appear that this was an attempt at reprogramming this individual who remained firm to his or her beliefs despite the attempt at retraining. The story was hilarious but it was also very sobering in the realization that the city council is not only whittling down the ability of city residents to participate publicly at meetings but at least several of them are actually involved in trying to turn some of the commissioners into their marionettes through the use of city employees.

And no matter what members of the city council might say or do to try to influence or retrain commissioners in things like "ethics", they have no right to impose their belief systems on the volunteers who put in their time and energy while serving on the city's boards and commissions. For one thing, micromanagement and retraining with personalized "ethics" training isn't included as information on the recruitment brochure. For another thing, it's likely that the majority of city residents who apply for board and commission spots and even those who survive the appointment process would not want to be shaped into what their elected officials want them to be.

It's no wonder that some commissioners like Ken Rotker on the CPRC are confused as to who they owe their allegiance to that they truly believe that they have to answer to the city council because the city council appointed them to their positions. Is this something that Rotker believed on his own or is this how an elected official explained the conditions of his service to him?

Under the city charter, the city instituted an ethics code in place and members of boards and commissions are required to receive training in the ethics code. This includes members of the CPRC. But this is a far cry from a city council member or two trying to push members of these bodies to undergo further "training". Perhaps it's the elected officials who engage in these practices who need to undergo further ethics training themselves. And the other city council members need to stand up and call this behavior for what it is, unacceptable and embarrassing to the entire governmental body. And if they don't know what happened, they really need to start paying close attention to what other individual city council members do or say on their collective behalf.

This behavior was very inappropriate and not even remotely close to being ethical behavior by those who are engaging in it, while publicly appearing to be "hands off" of the commission. The problem is that the city officials who aren't engaging in this behavior aren't saying anything in public regarding the CPRC either. The members of the city's boards and commissions who generously offer up their time need to be supported, in their ability to remain independent thinkers and they shouldn't be subjected to attempts to be reeducated by city employees on the city residents' dime.

Why is the CPRC the target of so many attempts to undermine it in different ways, ways which go beyond its ability to carry out its charter-mandated responsibility to investigate officer-involved deaths which can only be done in a thorough and timely manner? To find the reasons, common sense and plain logic would tell you to turn your attention to the law enforcement agency which it oversees through its involvement in the complaint process. To find the reasons, common sense and plain logic would tell you to look at various political forces inside City Hall and how they interact and interface with representatives of the police department including its current management. To find the reasons, common sense and plain logic would tell you to look at the interactions of the city council and its current city manager and city attorney and ask yourself is the dog wagging its tail or is the tail wagging the dog? The answer to that question might both dismay you and surprise you.

City governments hate civilian oversight and that's a universally known fact. Whether it's Columbia, Missouri, Atlanta, Georgia or Eugene, Oregon, whenever a civilian oversight mechanism is developed and implemented, it's almost always under duress. Meaning that the community members push for civilian review until the city or county government finally caves in and tries to co-opt the process or impose the weakest form of oversight that they can away with. Most particularly in jurisdictions where the labor unions in the police department are the most powerful political forces. So what's happening in Riverside is hardly unique but it's taken on some attributes which are not as commonly seen in other cities and counties, attributes which will be discussed in future postings.

The CPRC was called the "snivilian review board" by a blogger in response to the antics and intrigue surrounding the beleaguered commission brought to the city residents' by City Hall in Riverside in a somewhat belated response to the voters decision to go to the polls in 2004 and place the commission into the charter and hopefully off of the political football field. Sadly, the city council listened to the will of the voters for about five minutes before launching their greatest attack on Riverside's police accountability mechanisms about 10 minutes or so after the city dissolved its five-year stipulated judgment with the office of former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer. At any rate, the rush for instant gratification from weakening the CPRC was only briefly delayed most likely for appearances sake.

The CPRC also hasn't down outreach in years as evidenced lately by the last two monthly reports which aren't yet available online and by this report, that report and even this one. Members of some of the neighborhoods where the CPRC has done zero outreach in the past year attended the most recent meeting held by this commission, many of them coming in without any or very little information or knowledge about the CPRC, what it does and its history in this city.

Coming soon, will be another Web site which will provide information on the CPRC, its history and information about every step of the complaint filing, investigation and disposition process. Because the CPRC has failed time and time again in the past year to do appropriate outreach, even though some of its members have valiantly tried to accomplish this, the responsibility of outreach can no longer be left to the commission to do. Whether the city government is setting up the commission to fail at public outreach, the city manager's office is still hostile towards community outreach (through equating it with bias against the police department) or the commission and its agents have been rendered impotent by political influences at City Hall, it's been a serious problem.

More information about this new site will be available here and elsewhere soon.

The Los Angeles Times Blog catches readers up on the reapplication process of former Riverside Police Department officer Jose Nazario after his acquittal in federal court of manslaughter charges in connection with an alleged killing of Iraqi detainees in 2005 in Fallujah.


As a probationary employee, Nazario had no civil service protection.

His application has to start from the beginning, meaning he will compete with other applicants, said Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach. That process is currently in the background-check stage.

Nazario may or not have an advantage. Leach was 20 years in the Marine Reserves and has several former Marines in his department.

"I have a soft spot for Marines," he said.

Another former Riverside Police Department officer who became a current one is Vincent Thomas who's been reinstated after the city bowed to the ruling issued by the State Court of Appeals last July. He'll be out in the field again pending a background check.

Nearly six years ago, Thomas was arrested on child molestation charges in relation to allegations made by a teenaged girl he had guardianship over. After two hung juries at trial, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office dropped the case.

Speaking of blogging, there are quite a few interesting blogs in the Inland Empire, a hotbed of political intrigue and accountability issues where the Grinch steals Christmas.

A posting by this blog was referenced in an interesting and informative blog on politics in the Inland Empire particularly from Southern California.

The rants and raves of Aric Isom is a very well known and very good local blog.

Inside Riverside, blogs about the antics and politics of Riverside County including the Sheriff's Department. This blog is back in action after a rather long sabbatical.

Save-Riverside, the blog of an activist organization in Riverside provides a lot of information including its goals and mission statements.

Inland Empire Craigslist Politics contains information and discussion on Inland Empire politics especially in Riverside. Key topics right now are the situation with Greyhound Bus Lines and Election 2009. Discussions have especially kicked off on the Ward Four council race which begins early next year.

Another blog which covers the Inland Empire is Big Bear Observation Post which deals with politics, government and law enforcement related issues.

The blog, IE Chatter gives indepth coverage of the sins and tribulations of civic governments throughout the Inland Empire whether it's the conviction of a former Murrieta councilman to city councils in different cities including Rialto voting to give themselves pay raises.

Inside Southern California wrote on the delay placed on a lawsuit filed by a U.S. airman against the San Bernardino County Sheriff deputy who shot and wounded him.

An interesting look complete with photos of the Inland Empire Democratic Committee organizations.

Riding in Riverside talks about commuting from one of the top regions for commuting in the state.

IE Papers is a blog about the coverage provided by the daily newspapers in the Inland Empire most particularly the Press Enterprise.

A downtown Riverside developer has responded to the collapse of the new housing market by reducing the number of units he plans to build and instead of building condos, he will be building apartments, bringing more rental units to the downtown area. This was exactly what many people watching the project believed would happen when the housing market took a plummet but the city officials of course nay sayed their criticism and concern.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The economic downturn and expense of the previous m solé design -- which called at first for 104 condominiums wrapped around a central parking garage then shrank to 91 condos surrounding the garage -- forced the changes, Mruvka said.

Fresh & Easy is eager to open the market, he said. Brendan Wannacott, a spokesman for the chain, said he could not comment.

Mruvka said he is confident about filling the residential units.

"I'll find 48 people that want to lease it up," he said.

He expects the one- and two-bedroom units to rent for between $1,200 and $1,900 a month depending on their size. There are four sizes ranging from 778 square feet to 1,602 square feet, and most of the units would be the one-bedroom or smallest two-bedroom types.

The big challenge will be filling the other retail space, Mruvka said.

He already built the first phase of m solé -- the m is for Mruvka and solé is for sun -- 10 three-story live/work units on Market on the half block from Third Street north towards Second.

The 10 units started out as condos but Mruvka now has them for lease.

Only one person has moved in so far.

Dan Bernstein from the Press Enterprise dedicated his column to thanking all of his subjects in the past year.

You're welcome, Mr. Bernstein and thank you for everything that you do. You kicked some ass this past year as usual. Happy Holidays!

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board praises six retired judges who are handling civil trials in the hopelessly backlogged Riverside County Superior Court. It also scolded District Attorney Rod Pacheco's office for its role in the backlog.


Riverside County undeniably holds more criminal trials than comparable counties do. State judicial reports show that Riverside County held 863 criminal jury trials in 2006-07, while San Bernardino County held 259. The numbers were 709 for Riverside County and 272 for San Bernardino County in 2005-06.

The counties, which have similar population figures, both have high caseloads and a shortage of courtrooms -- but only Riverside County's courts are overwhelmed. The difference is in procedures and policies. And in fact, San Bernardino County prosecutors say they take court congestion into consideration when deciding whether to file a criminal case.

Yes, Riverside County needs more judges, because the number of judicial positions has not kept pace with the region's growth. But the state's $40 billion budget shortfall probably rules out funding for new judges anytime soon. And certainly, the DA's approach in prosecuting cases is not the only factor in court congestion.

But the district attorney cannot simply ignore the practical limits on Riverside County's court system. The DA's policies reflect a political position, not a public-safety imperative. Other counties manage to protect the population without coddling offenders or clogging the courts with criminal trials. Riverside can do the same.

Not exactly a shock, but still surprising was the retirement of San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong.

(excerpt, San Francisco Chronicle)

Fong told The Chronicle that she is not being pushed out by the mayor, who has publicly supported her, or by her critics, including members of the rank and file, middle managers in the San Francisco Police Department and the police officers union.

"None of us can be chief forever," said Fong, 52. "I felt I've accomplished a lot."

Still, she acknowledged in the interview, "It has not been an easy four or five years. There are people who thought they should have been chief."

The critics, she said, can apply for her job. "Now they'll have the opportunity."

Haines City's own police chief resigned in the wake of the arrest of one of his captains who allegedly lied about a sexual relationship he had with one of his female subordinates.

Two police officers in Mesa, Arizona are under investigation by Internal Affairs for different incidents.

A man in Santa Rosa died after being tased.

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