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 31, 2008

Goodbye holidays, back to doing business as usual?

Mayor Ron Loveridge in Riverside told the Press Enterprise last week that the Governmental Affairs Committee would be addressing the ongoing issue revolving around independent investigations of officer-involved deaths with the Community Police Review Commission this month yet according to a representative from the City Clerk's office, it won't be included on the agenda for the committee's meeting being held on Wednesday Jan. 7 at 3 pm at City Hall. In fact, the city council doesn't seem to have come to a consensus yet on where to host a public discussion on the CPRC and how to restrict it further, although a couple of council members have said that the issue might come to the full body for analysis and discussion.

What does this indecision and conflicting information mean?

It just shows how divided the city government is on whether or not to curtail the commission's ability to perform its charter-mandated responsibilities. Did the mayor want to push it in the direction of Governmental Affairs Committee while the chair of that committee, Councilman Frank Schiavone might have been thinking it's not the best idea during his reelection year? Why then did Governmental Affairs earlier try to muscle control of this issue away from the Public Safety Committee chaired by Councilman Andrew Melendrez which has received briefings on the commission on various issues since early 2006? As the worm twists and turns...

There will be a few more twists before the latest neutering of the CPRC has been done. In the meantime, the city council has to fumble its hold on the political football a while longer, with the city residents as its captive audience.

What the city council has shown during the past several months is how right the voters were to pass Measure II in November 2004 to place the CPRC in what they thought was a safe place for it, the city charter. It wouldn't take long for the city's residents to find out how wrong they were that their vote had actually made a difference and that the city government would respect the wishes of the voters and that yes, there were elected officials on the dais who would thumb their noses at them and interfere with the commission anyway by creating one of the most elaborate straw man arguments in recent civic history.

It's called the incompetent, interfering and obstructing independent investigator fallacy that's been perpetuated by direct employees of the city council and at least three city council members. Despite a seven year record involving 11 cases where there had not been a whisper of complaint about investigation protocol, these individuals are now jumping up and down in various venues claiming that the integrity of the department's own criminal investigation is at terrible risk of well, something. And to their limited credit, none of these parties promoting this bogus argument can even list a complaint in the city's history where there were any problems. They can't because they spent those seven years with their lips zipped being quiet, except for Chief Russ Leach who actually told the CPRC at one of its meetings in 2002 that it had to decide how best to do its own investigation including when, which were sensible words.

What they do owe is an apology to the investigators at the Bakers Street Group which did those 11 investigations for the CPRC for insinuating that they were anything but complete professionals when they conducted these investigations for the commission. If anything, City Hall has tried to control how this firm does its work, by allegedly telling them through phone calls that if they want their pay checks to be signed by the city manager's office, they'd better produce investigations more to that office's liking. Since then, the written work product of the investigators of that firm has been watered down. All this drama involving the city's handling of the investigations and the investigators was brought out at several CPRC meetings during this past year. And in some very sad commentary, no one sitting in the audience was really that surprised at what had taken place behind the scenes but had finally entered into the public forum for some sort of disclosure.

To examine this for yourself, all you need to do is visit the CPRC office and ask for written copies of the investigation reports submitted by individuals from this firm (and not the commission's final public reports which are a different work product) and compare and contrast the investigations done of the fatal shootings of Summer Lane and Lee Deante Brown not to mention the investigation report for the incustody death of Terry Rabb with the later ones done involving the fatal shootings of Douglas Steven Cloud and especially Joseph Darnell Hill. You might have to wrestle them out of the CPRC's office's hands these days but these investigations were paid for by city residents' dollars.

The city residents who have come up to me or contacted me totally puzzled as to why this is being done and asked me if there were any complaints have left with the answer being that no, there weren't any. In reality, this appears to be some sort of power play by these parties. Nothing more and nothing less. That there are puppets in this charade and that there are also puppeteers. Not exactly Punch and Judy but fairly close.

A Press Enterprise reporter covering the Tyisha Miller event where I and other individuals in this city spoke on the past and present of Riverside and the police department asked me about something I had mentioned in my speech. And that was the often repeated adage about canaries in mines. It's a visual metaphor for what's been going on in this city for the past few years as well as what had happened in the 1990s that works as well as anything else.

Why did miners take canaries into mines?

In this case, the canary is the CPRC and the mine, the Riverside Police Department. It's a pretty good indication that if the canary or the CPRC is ailing, then the police department's probably not in great shape either or exactly where it needs to be. The problem is when people focus on the canary and ignore the mine, or in this case actually punish the canary for being sick.

And rather than look at what's going on in the police department, all the attention and energy is focused on the CPRC. The city council will expend energy trying to dilute the power or weaken the effectiveness of the commission but won't spend any time discussing actions taken in the wake of the budget crisis against the police department during this past year including the freezing of many civilian and sworn positions. It's not known whether or not the training budget has been adversely impacted by budget cuts coming out of City Manager Brad Hudson's office, but if it has been, the city will know soon enough. But the city government has no time to even discuss those issues because it's too busy preoccupying itself with nonexistent problems involving the CPRC.

The Governmental Affairs Committee will however be reviewing the city council rules at the meeting on Jan. 7 so expect more recommendations for restricting public expression and participation to come out of any discussion of that agenda item. This report provides more information on the agenda item but interestingly enough, not very much as it simply states that if any recommendations are forthcoming, they will be reviewed, discussed and recommended. That's useful to elected officials more than members of the public attending or unable to attend the meeting because the members of the committee will know what they wish to recommend and discuss it without giving the public any advance notice on what's being discussed.

But in the meantime, more political game playing involving the CPRC because Riverside wouldn't be River City without it.

In related news, the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee has been scheduled to hold its next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 6 at 1:30 p.m. at the Mayor's office on the seventh floor of City Hall. This meeting like all city council committee meetings is open to the public.

Every January, the committee which consists of Loveridge and the members of the aforementioned Governmental Affairs Committees meet to screen applications and select city residents to be interviewed by the city council at a later date to fill vacancies on the city's boards and commissions. And sure enough that's what's on the agenda.

Here is the report. You will notice on page three that there's an attachment that's available for viewing at the city clerk's office on the seventh floor of City Hall. These are the applications submitted for serving on the boards and commissions as well as a list of the openings for each board and commission.

This provides a very educational process in witnessing how the committee members make their decisions or reach a consensus on who in the pile of candidates gets to be interviewed and who doesn't. And sadly, too often it does come down to who knows who, especially when candidates are introduced by committee members which is their purview who didn't submit applications to the city clerk's office. Sometimes, it's political backscratching at its best or worst depending on how you look at it. Especially if one board or commission has been designated with the title, "special" or on occasion, "very special" titles.

Quite a few of them "special" and otherwise have vacancies from term expirations as well as resignations submitted in December. One of the latter includes the CPRC which lost its Ward Four commissioner, Linda Soubirous last month. If the appointment takes longer than 60 days to fill, then normally it's up to the discretion of the mayor who usually discusses candidates with a city council member if the vacancy is in one of the ward-designated seats. However, if they are members of the city's Planning Commission, the Board of Public Utilities and the CPRC, then the candidates go to the city council for interviews.

Some prospective appointments have already been working hard with elected officials to get on boards and commissions. And that usually means behaving yourself and not making waves on any issue in this city. Expect yet another political appointment for the CPRC to arise out of this process, especially considering which ward is being represented.

Speaking of the city council, it comes off its holiday season and will meet again this Tuesday for both afternoon and evening sessions. The city council breaks its monotony of "receive and file" reports disguised as discussion items and actually will be hosting a public hearing. However, the consent calendar as usual is packed with lots of items including at least one high-ticket item.

The Greyhound debacle must be going to the Transportation Committee chaired by Councilman Steve Adams because there's a consent calendar item substituting Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner for another council member on that committee. Perhaps during any discussion on that committee, Adams can further elaborate on his offer to personally drive customers of Greyhound to the San Bernardino station. Surely he wasn't joking at the expense of other people when he made those comments at an earlier meeting? Most astute, intelligent elected officials realize that joking about hardships and increasing the hardships faced by the elderly, lower incomed and/or disabled populations who make up the majority of Greyhound's riders especially during these difficult economic times is just tacky and tasteless.

But then there's intelligent and astute, and then there's Adams.

The family of Julian Alexander, a man shot to death by Anaheim Police Department officers earlier this year have filed a lawsuit against the city.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Their son, Julian Alexander, 20, who was black, was shot dead by an Anaheim officer early in the morning of Oct. 28, as he stood outside his in-laws' Anaheim home, where the newlywed was living with his wife.

The suit claims that Alexander was a victim of police negligence and excessive use of force motivated by racial prejudice. Alexander, who was born in Riverside and grew up in Moreno Valley and San Bernardino County, went to Riverside's Notre Dame High School.

Bell, his mother, lives in Moreno Valley. His father, Jerry Alexander, is a former Crestline resident who lives in San Luis Obispo County.

Cristina Talley, Anaheim's acting city attorney, said she could not comment because her office had yet to receive notice of the lawsuit. Talley said that Alexander's parents have filed a claim with the city but said the city has yet to accept or deny it.

Alexander was shot as he came out of the house to check out a commotion at the property, said the Anaheim Police Department. A police officer pursuing four burglary suspects on foot shot Alexander. In the shooting's aftermath, Anaheim police said that a police investigation found that Alexander had armed himself with a club-style weapon.

Did a pursuit in New York City contribute to the hit and run death of a woman? That question has led to an internal investigation by the police department.

(excerpt, Newsday)

The NYPD, as a rule, advises its officers not to engage in high-speed chases unless there is reason to believe someone's life is in jeopardy.

State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), a former NYPD captain, said Kelly should issue a directive re-emphasizing the department's policy.

"If I was a supervisor, I would have called for a termination of the pursuit," Adams said. "If the perpetrator had just shot someone and got in a car with a gun, I could see letting it go on longer. But if all you've got is someone in a stolen vehicle, that's not enough to continue the pursuit."

Blount's relatives said they still were learning details of the case and wouldn't comment on how she died. Instead, relatives chose to focus on the life Blount lived.

"She was a very kind and helpful person," said niece Sharice Ward, 28. "She knew everyone and was very generous."

A police officer in Cedar City, Utah faces misconduct charges.

(excerpt, Deseret News)

Cedar City Police Chief Bob Allinson referred the complaint to St. George police to investigate. An internal affairs investigation also is pending.

Allinson would not divulge details of the complaint but said he was called about it by a third party on Dec. 14. The chief tracked down the people involved, then placed his officer on administrative leave while he called on an outside agency to investigate. Allinson wouldn't characterize the complaint to protect the reputation of the officer.

"If there's something there, he'll be held accountable," Allinson said Tuesday. "If not, I hate to throw too much out there because it's so hard to recover from."

Prosecutors involved in the investigation of the fates of two wives of former Bolingbrook Police Department Sgt. Drew Peterson are confident that 2009 will see the filing of criminal charges in at least one of the two pending cases.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

"I'm very positive. I'm very encouraged by the work the police have done,'' said Glasgow, speaking about the cases for the first time in several months. "We are not at a dead end by any stretch of the imagination.''

A grand jury that for 14 months has been probing Stacy Peterson's disappearance and Savio's death will resume hearing evidence next month, Glasgow confirmed.

"It'll be meeting next year,'' Glasgow said of the grand jury, which also has heard evidence in the April 2007 still-unsolved disappearance of Plainfield mom Lisa Stebic.

In October -- near the one-year anniversary of Stacy Peterson's disappearance -- Glasgow said he expected a resolution to at least one of the cases in the "near future.'' He wouldn't clarify that timetable Tuesday.

Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, allegedly had drowned in her own bathtub several years ago. Her death was ruled accidental by a coroner's jury which didn't have many ruling options to choose from for cause of death (including no option to issue an inconclusive ruling) and after her body was exhumed last year, her death was determined to be a homicide and is currently under investigation with Peterson as the main suspect.

Stacy Peterson, the current wife disappeared in late October 2007 and hasn't been seen since. Her disappearance is being investigated as a potential homicide.

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