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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Election 2009 kicks off and who's moving to the Greyhound Station?

The Community Police Review Commission met again for its only scheduled meeting this month and the first news of the day, was the sudden resignation of its Ward Four representative, Linda Soubirous who was appointed in early 2007. The official explanation is that she was hired by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, which had just allegedly implemented a 5% pay cut across the board and has frozen many of its positions.

Her resignation took place several weeks after Soubirous and other commissioners had voted to initiate independent investigations into the officer-involved deaths of Carlos Quinonez, Sr, Jose Luis Sanchez and Marlon Oliver Acevedo. No action was taken as the request to initiate those investigations never traveled further than the staff, a revelation which startled several commissioners but really goes back to the contention of several individuals including former commissioner Steve Simpson that the executive manager couldn't serve two masters. And only one available one signs pay checks.

It's not clear when Soubirous' vacancy will be filled by the city council. If the vacancy is open more than 60 days, then the mayor's given the task of filling the spot. It's likely that Mayor Ron Loveridge and Councilman Frank Schiavone will decide amongst themselves who will fill her seat instead of putting it to the vote of the entire city council which has been the past practice of selecting any commissioner for the CPRC.

After that bombshell was dropped, the meeting got started.

Over 30 people attended including King Downing from the ACLU's national headquarters to watch the proceedings which took place over about three hours, with the lights going off about twice.

After it happened once, Commissioner Art Santore stood up, said "enough" and was out of there. He told City Attorney Gregory Priamos in the hallway that the commission had been promised by the city that the lights would stay on until 10 p.m. but it was only about 7 p.m. when they turned off as they have a tendency to do every 30 minutes or so at City Hall at night. His meltdown was the only one this meeting, but some tempers were frayed as commissioner sparred off with commissioner and commissioners sparred off with Executive Manager Kevin Rogan. In other words, it was a fairly typical CPRC meeting.

There was some discussion of the issue involving the move by the city manager's office to bar the CPRC from effectively and timely investigating officer-involved deaths even though it's not on the agenda.

As of this day, there's been no real response save an 11th hour phone call by Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Bailey to CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy on behalf of the city government including at least two members of the city council who had no idea he was doing so, that it was to follow the directive issued via memo by City Manager Brad Hudson.

Rumors are that there will be an announcement of some sort that the city council will come away from its discussions which have been taking place out of the public forum and bring the issue to one, in the next week or so. Odds are that the discussion will take place at the Governmental Affairs Committee despite its lack of interest in the CPRC during the past several years. Packed with council members not supportive of the CPRC's directive by the charter to do independent investigations, it's likely that the CPRC will crawl out of that committee with further recommendations to weaken it.

Commissioner Chani Beeman tried to request that an agenda item be placed on the next meeting's agenda to discuss the process of initiating investigations into the three officer-involved deaths but asked if it would be definitely placed on the agenda or would be at risk considering the city's employees reviewed all of the commission's meeting agendas. It's really sad when you have a commission that's so micromanaged that the commissioners have to worry about whether or not agenda items they request even make it on the agenda after they are reviewed by both the city manager and city attorney's office. But that's what it's become.

Priamos finally stepped into the discussion by stating that according to the charter, the executive manager of the CPRC reported to the city manager's office and not the commissioners. It was nice to have someone at City Hall at least make that announcement official.

The Riverside Police Department has begun to move its divisions into the building that currently houses both Greyhound Bus Lines and some divisions of the city's fire department. Everyone should know by now that the decision to oust Greyhound wasn't ever really about it being a crime-ridden center or about it being a nuisance. That's why you've got individuals at City Hall coming out of the woodwork and pulling the ultimate reversal which is to blame the Riverside Transit Agency for the problems downtown and not Greyhound Bus Lines. People had been pointing that out for months but the city council at that time was too busy blaming Greyhound and demonizing its passengers.

No, the decision to oust Greyhound probably had more to do with the city revisiting an old proposal to move the administrative divisions of the police department which are currently housed at the Orange Street Station to what will be a fully former bus terminal at the end of January. With the city facing a serious budget crisis, it's moving its administrative divisions which use rental space to the downtown terminal. It's looking more and more like Greyhound kind of got into the way.

In fact, the police department's already began moving its operations over there, even before Greyhound has vacated the premises.

The police department's Internal Affairs Division is in the process of moving out of its rented office space on Central Avenue to its new home at the downtown bus terminal building where some of the fire divisions are housed, according to news that was announced at the CPRC meeting. This had been in the works for a while and it's too bad no one came out from the city and said what a bad idea this is if the city does follow through and move other police divisions to the bus terminal to join it.

In fact, there's been little fuss at least in public regarding this latest move. But then the public most often is kept in the dark when the city's making decisions. In fact, they would rather let the public believe Greyhound was a crime magnet (and RTA's section of the terminal was not) and all its riders were thugs and criminals (and not elderly, disabled and/or poor families) than believe that it was more about intent on relocating portions of its own city departments into that space.

Here's some history involving the original move of the Internal Affairs Division from its former home on the second floor of the Orange Street Station which has served for years as the police department's administrative headquarters. That building was somewhat cramped for space and that impacted all the divisions which were housed there.

Chief Russ Leach went around to meetings from 2001-02 or so stumping for a separate location for the Internal Affairs Division. Former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer pushed for that as well. The reasons both provided at the time were sound reasons and the decision to move Internal Affairs away from the other police divisions which it had previously shared housing with was a very good one. The Internal Affairs Division was then moved to leased office space near the Riverside Plaza.

Why is this decision to move it to the terminal not a great one?

For several different reasons. For one thing, it will not be the only division which is housed at the building for very long because other police divisions which were located at the Orange Street station are planning to move there eventually as well. That's probably the most serious problem with this ill-planned decision.

It seems would have to do a lot of renovation at the old bus terminal to have an adequate facility for any police departments including Internal Affairs which would require secure quarters for any files including ones that are protected by state law.

In addition, there's lots of police assigned downtown so it creates a problem about moving witnesses, complainants and officers in and out of a facility for interviews without them being seen by other police officers. For complainants, they have the option to have an interview at another location if they are made aware of that option. But in some cases, that might not be possible for them or their witnesses. For police officers, it's important for those involved in Internal Affairs cases either as subjects but especially witnesses or even complainants to have that separation from the rest of the department and that includes physical separation.

Now, there will be witnesses, complainants and officers going into the Internal Affairs division for interviews and they can be seen by other police officers. That's going to hurt the integrity of that division.

It's also critical for the perception of the public that the Internal Affairs Division is a separate entity from the rest of the police department to maintain that geographical separation. There's already some separation of Internal Affairs personnel from other officers during their 2-3 year stints working in that division. It's not a popular assignment in any police department. Most people who file complaints or are witnesses for complaints and internal investigations don't want to have to fear they will run into that officer who's the subject of the investigation or any of his friends or other officers while going to interviews. Many officers probably don't want to be seen going to interviews either particularly if they are reporting misconduct in a department which historically has not been kind to its whistle blowers.

So for both civilian and officer populations, it's important to maintain the Internal Affairs Division in a separate geographic location than any other police division including the chief's office. But now that's not being done. Who made this decision anyway? The city? The department? A flip of a coin?

Election 2009 hasn't even officially kicked off yet in Riverside and already the innuendo is flowing nicely with insinuations of some sort being made against Ward Four candidate, Paul Davis by the usual nameless suspects.

(excerpt, Inland Empire Craigslist)

So, Mr. Davis I just read the Nation's Rent to Own "press release" of your intentions to run for City Council. What I find most interesting is that Mr. Davis refers to himself as a former police officer. What he probably doesn't want you to know is why he's a FORMER police officer.

What's bound to come out during a campaign is the fact that Mr. Davis was "technically" fired from . . . first, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and then the Riverside Police Department but was allowed to resign.

Oh, but that is confidential.

Of course, naturally as is this person's identity. And if he decides to run, then this person will... There's a name for that actually and it's not nice.

It would be a miracle if anyone running for office in this town ever campaigned on the issues. And it looks like the mudslinging on this particular race is going to start even earlier than predicted. If Davis' history as a law enforcement officer is an issue, then it can be raised in a forum that's not solely used to discourage him from even running for office or else.

A former Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputy plead guilty to misdemeanor sexual misconduct in court. He's the latest deputy in that department to do so out of the half-dozen or so who are being prosecuted for sexual crimes under the color of authority.

Former Riverside Police Department officer, Robert Forman appeared in Riverside County Superior Court on his three felony counts of oral copulation under the color of authority and sexual battery to tentatively schedule his preliminary hearing to Dec. 22. He was arrested on Oct. 14, after being investigated by the department's sexual assault and child abuse division for alleged incidents which were reported by three women between February and April this year.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department receives very few complaints and it's trying to figure out why.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Newly appointed Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she wants the department to track complaints from the public more closely. The department is overhauling its complaint process, Nighswonger said.

"We're going to become more in line with some of the bigger agencies as far as the tracking and accountability that we don't have right now," Nighswonger said.

Wayne Quint, president of the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, said he doesn't think changes are necessary. The low number of complaints, he said, underscores the cooperative relationship between his department and the public.

"You walk into our academy and you'll see the slogans on the wall about treating people with dignity and respect, and it starts there. Our deputies are the very best," Quint said. "The people of Orange County are the greatest customers a law enforcement department could want. I'm not just saying that because the numbers are low, but because there's a great working relationship between law enforcement and the community. It's always been like that. It's why the housing prices are so high here."

Pomona Police Department loses its latest police chief. Joe Romero, a long time employee is gone.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

On Wednesday, Assistant Police Chief Dave Keetle was named the department's acting chief, according to a city official.

Council members could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Community activists were surprised by the dismissal. "Everyone's upset about this. [Romero] is respected and well-liked." said Frank Delgado, 32.

"I think it's unjustified," said community activist Virginia Madrigal. "He's served [more than] 30 years with the city."

Romero was hired as a police cadet in 1975. By 1994, he had become the department's first Latino police captain.

In September 2006, Romero was sworn in as police chief.

He has been praised by community activists for being accessible, staying active in the community and promoting youth programs such as Gang Resistance and Education Training.

But his short tenure as chief has also been filled with several controversies.

In Atlanta, it didn't take long but even as this city has created a civilian review board, the police department is pushing changes which could as some people say, turn it into a "toothless tiger".

(excerpt, Atlanta Journal Constitution)

The Atlanta Police Department, with the help of the city’s Law Department, introduced legislation Tuesday to amend city law regarding how the Citizen Review Board investigates complaints about Atlanta’s law enforcement officers.

The proposed change comes just as the review board has begun its work. Created in the wake of an illegal police shooting that left an elderly woman dead, the board was intended to restore the public’s trust in the police department.

The city law recently enacted to create the review board gives the board “full access” to police reports and documents. Police officials are asking the city to allow them to only turn over documents and information that are public record, which is minimal when an investigation is ongoing.

If the change is approved, it would essentially allow the police department to withhold most information from the Citizen Review Board until after the department conducts its own investigation.

Those on both sides of the issue attended the city’s Public Safety Committee meeting, including Lane Hagin, the police major who heads the internal affairs unit and spearheaded the effort.

No police officials spoke, but state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and the review board’s secretary, Rod Edmond, addressed City Council members, both voicing their opposition to the amendment.

“In effect, it would defang the Citizen Review Board and make it nothing more than a paper tiger,” Fort said.

The three New York City Police Department officers were arraigned after being indicted in relation to the alleged incident where a man was sodomized in a subway, but not before one plain-clothed officer called Michael Mineo a "faggot" inside the courtroom. Nice.

The Fraternal Order of Police will be footing the bill in the defense of a Chicago Police Department charged with perjury to the tune of $1 million.

The Better Late Than Never Award

It took two whole years but now a Seattle Police Department officer admits he was drunk when he plowed his vehicle into three others. At the time, he was driving the wrong direction of the freeway and after causing a serious accident, he fled the scene.

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