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 15, 2008

Rain's come to Riverside

The first Pacific storm of the season's hit Riverside, dumping rain and flooding streets. There's another round due on Wednesday which might bring the snow levels down lower than is usual as this is a cold front.

A Riverside Police Department representative said recently that the officers were so impressed with the new female hires that they said that whatever the department did to hire the latest female officers, they should just keep on doing it and if they had done it this way all along, it would have been better. If this is the case, it's very interesting news on different fronts.

In one sense it's tremendously positive, in that it would show that the department's attitudes towards female officers are changing. It could also be showing that female officers are being categorized into two groups, those that there needs to be more of and those who are needed less? That there might be a two-tier system for "good" and "bad" female officers. Like this one provided by an anonymous commenter at this site in 2005. Only in this case, the categories are "weak" and "tough".


And a word to those females on the department reading this right now...If you are one of the weak ones... you already know it...and the tough ones, the ones that can handle their beat...can go out there and take people to jail..the ones that aren't going to let some parolee "chip" at them without smacking that punk into the ground know who you are too...and we respect you for that...nuf said

This individual whoever it may be provided his insight into whether or not the field training officers were too easy on the women or whether they were just weak field training officers. Meaning that there were different categories of field training officers as well along the same lines of "easy" and "tough". This individual is possibly afforded the unique perspective of what this field training thing is all about given his experience. Perhaps having been involved in training himself. Would this individual categorize himself as "weak" or "tough" is an interesting question. Clearly the latter based on his comments but as the trainer or the trainee? The parallels of the relationship between the categorization of the two is interesting.

In addition, the field training program's infrastructure had undergone dramatic study and changes in accordance with requirements under the city's stipulated judgment with the state attorney general's office. Was the categorization of some of the field training officers as "weak" or easier on female officers based on actual deficiencies or the renovation of the program overall and response to those changes?

But apparently these categories may not be just applied to female officers. A woman told me about a year ago about her friend's son who was undergoing field training in the police department and he apparently had some awareness of a "weak" and "tough" categorization. However, the woman said that her son believed that the former, otherwise known as the "wuss" category referred to police officers who used verbal communication over physical skills and the "tough" officers were those who were stronger in the physical skills. Perhaps this individual is an anomaly in the department and views things differently or perhaps not. But the text quoted above more than hints at similar criteria for membership in the "tough" vs "weak" classifications.

What's interesting is that both skills are very important for policing and each of them play critical roles but in this case for identification purposes, they seem to be bifurcated. People seem to be either one or the other, both in the comment left in 2005 and observations made in more recent times but in past history as well rather than a mesh of both.

Former Officer Rene Rodriguez talked about a similar dynamic when he was in the police department back in 1998 during the period when he had brought his allegations of misconduct to light. He said that while undergoing training, he saw how officers who were involved in fights received positive reinforcement from training officers and supervisors while officers who de-escalated situations through verbal skills were usually ignored and rarely if ever given positive reinforcement. It's not clear whether the "weak" and "tough" categorization which seems to be partly (but not completely) split along gender lines is the same today as it was back then or a different form that's evolved since that period in time.

The police department currently offers a course in tactical communication which is now a component of the mental health crisis intervention training and when I attended it, was an excellent and well presented and taught course. The officers in the class seemed to respond to it, asked questions and did the exercises in de-escalation which is an important tool in policing outside of that involving interfacing with mentally ill individuals which was a positive sign. But whether they take that information out into the field with them, is not as clearly seen as response to it in a classroom.

But as far as female officers, what ultimately will tell the tale as it always does, is what will be the retention rate of these female officers that have been classified in this more favorable group. In the past when the police department's hired female officers, they usually don't seem to last very long, as the department lost quite a few of them in the pre-academy phase and at the academy. Will these new ones that have been essentially called improved break that trend or will they be added to the department's poor retention rate for women?

When someone asked Police Chief Russ Leach what the pre-academy phase was at a city council meeting in October 2006, he described it as a two-week program where newly hired police officers were given opportunities to see what working in the Riverside Police Department would be like. He added that it had saved the city considerable money because it served as a weeding out process of eliminating officers who weren't serious or didn't know what they were getting themselves into when they took the positions.

And many of them were apparently dropped out or fired by the department. It's hard to know which category the departing women fall into because while the employment status of an officer is a public record, their reason for leaving, be it resignation or termination, is not. But in early 2006, the department hired a group of about nine new female officers and they were all gone in six weeks. The furthest any of them got was into the academy portion of their training.

More recently, the female officers hired have been cited by department representatives as particularly outstanding including one who graduated second in her academy class. They should be still in the process of being in the field training program, that is the ones who are still working for the police department. Still, the retention rate for female officers the police department is viewed as being very poor with the majority of them who are lost dropping out of the academy or failing to make probation.

The department's recruitment of female officers has been higher in recent years due to increased and improved efforts by the personnel and training division but the retention rate for those officers hasn't followed that trend. In fact it's still low enough that the police department assigned the task to its audit and compliance bureau to do a study on what's going on with the department's female officers and why they lose so many of them in comparison to male officers. It will be interesting to see what this audit uncovers, not that the public will ever know anything about it. Will it uncover any major problems, will it even look for them? Its purpose is to make sure there's nothing left of the "good old boy" dynamic in the department but will it be able to separate itself from this same dynamic?

And what if the audit uncovers some serious problems or even misconduct by officers? What steps will it take then?

In 2005, the police department fired one of its newer female officers, Kelsy Metzler on the day she showed up for her field training assignment. She had graduated from a local academy but during her stint there had filed a sexual harassment complaint or at least tried to against another male officer. According to her lawsuit, two Riverside Police Department officers showed up and warned her that they and the department were unhappy with her actions. So was her supervisor in the academy who she stated refused to show her a copy of her harassment complaint. After graduating and completing a two-week orientation session, she showed up for work and was led into a room with individuals including a representative from Internal Affairs for a meeting. And in that meeting, her career at the police department ended before it had begun and likely ended everywhere else in law enforcement as well.

Her firing and a quick and quiet settlement by the city of her lawsuit threw up more than one red flag that there was potentially a problem. Was she fired for problems in the academy or because she filed a sexual harassment complaint? Unfortunately, if it was the latter, she wouldn't be the first person in the police department to file a complaint. Last year, another individual was allegedly let go when she complained about an environment where other individuals including one she was working with were telling jokes at a local business. One man she worked with who she had problems with allegedly asked a police officer if he wanted to hear any "African-American" jokes. She didn't and complained but her supervisor told her yeah it was bad, not much could be done about it but they all had to learn to get along with each other.

Three days later, she was told that she was gone.

If this woman did indeed experience this, what exactly does it say about the complaint process in this city?

Maybe the right person to ask would be former director of housing, Tranda Drumwright, who was fired after filing a complaint with the state's fair employment and housing department or one of Project Bridge's former case workers who was fired by the city within three days after he filed a complaint when another employee used a racial slur in his presense. The city shrouded that shameful episode behind an alleged reconfiguration of the gang intervention program. So if it's a problem in the department, that might be because it may be a problem in the city.

The Human Resources Board has become interested in that study being done involving women and voted to ask the police department to present a presentation on the issue of the retention of female officers at one of its future meetings. In fact, it was so passionate on the issue it wanted to schedule the presentation from the department in January but that's not likely to happen. It will be interesting and hopefully informative when it does.

Some of the history of women in the police department was posted here and elicited some interesting responses including the one cited above. Some anonymous dude stated that I and other people were forcing the police chief to go out and kidnap helpless women to draft them to be police officers and then putting all the male police officers in danger. Are men hired and women kidnapped to be officers? That doesn't seem likely but the hyperbole is duly noted.

Riverside's City Council agreed to pay out $625,000 to Greyhound Bus Lines to vacate its current space at the downtown terminal. So it's a pretty good bet that unless the city council and its direct employees work diligently to not disenfranchise the over 80,000 people a year who ride the bus line, that Greyhound's history in this town. But guess what, even though the city's spending city residents' tax dollars, it doesn't have to tell them how much of those dollars it spent to buy out Greyhound's lease through eminent domain. That's just silly. Who's money do they think they're spending?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

But company spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said Greyhound is working with Riverside County officials to find a new location near Riverside and is hoping the city redevelopment agency will let Greyhound stay in place until they find one.

Councilman Mike Gardner, whose ward includes downtown, said he is willing to discuss the matter.

City officials did not announce the settlement, signed Dec. 9, at the council meeting that day.

Priamos said the council, while meeting behind closed doors, set a dollar range for the city's negotiators to stay within. The settlement fell within that range so no further closed-session discussion was needed, Priamos said. And because the agreement wasn't reached in a closed-session meeting of the council, he said, the state's open meeting law doesn't require an announcement.

Downtown resident Chani Beeman said the city should not have to be asked in order to tell the public how it is spending taxpayer dollars.

"Perhaps under the law, it's OK" not to announce the settlement, she said. "But is this the right thing to do?"

Still, will the city council be as energetic about finding a new home for Greyhound now that it's lost its current location? Councilman Frank Schiavone said he was interested in finding a new home for Greyhound at the Friday Morning Group meeting nearly two weeks ago and Councilman Mike Gardner said he'd talk about it. Let's see what action that this talking will translate into because there's tens of thousands of people including seniors, poor families, military veterans and/or disabled individuals who rely on this bus service.

The Riverside City Council's meeting and one of the items which will be discussed in closed session is the performance evaluation of City Manager Brad Hudson which is just a formality because his contract allegedly doesn't expire until some time in 2013. One of the items that will be used to grade him on may very well be his recent directive to severely limit the Community Police Review Commission's ability and budget to perform its duties to investigate officer-involved deaths under the city's charter.

But since it's likely that he's simply carrying out the orders of several elected officials, he'll probably receive high scores from those individuals for his currently expressed ability to weaken the CPRC.

Developers are showing up in Moreno Valley to provide feedback on affordable housing options.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Palm Desert Development Co. and a group consisting of the Family Services Association, the National Community Renaissance and Workforce Homebuilders will present their proposals at a council study session. The city is considering a housing complex on about eight acres at the northeast corner of Alessandro Boulevard and Day Street.

"What they're doing is presenting their qualifications and their plans for their project," city Economic Development Director Barry Foster said by phone. "The council will determine which one should be chosen for the exclusive right to negotiate."

Negotiations would lead to a formal development agreement, he said. The affordable housing complex, at 225 units, is expected to be the largest in Moreno Valley; city officials intend to re-designate the area to allow up to 30 apartment units per acre, with four- or five-story buildings.

The federal corruption trial involving former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona continued with one witness testifying about a financial payoff he gave to one of Carona's friends.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The businessman told jurors that he'd been told the money was necessary if he wanted "to move the project forward."

Giovanni D'Egidio, who along with his business partner was seeking a site for a paintball park in the late 1990s, said he did not consider the cash a bribe. But he said he became nervous about the transaction because when he arrived at Joe Cavallo's law office to pay him, Cavallo was sitting in his parked car and flashed his headlights to get his attention.

"I remember it was dark. . . . I heard my name. He was in the corner of the parking lot. . . . He flashed his lights and said 'Giovanni, I'm over here,' " D'Egidio recalled.

"I got a little nervous in the stomach. . . . It was an awkward, weird moment. . . . I thought we were going to meet in the office," he testified.

In the meantime, Carona's attorneys are trying to track down witnesses.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

At day's end Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Atty. Brett Sagel told the court that the defense had not provided a list of who would be testifying after prosecutors rested their case.

Sagel said that the defense had provided a list of 25 possible witnesses and that many of them lived locally. He specifically named former Assistant Sheriff Jo Ann Galisky, who was fired earlier this year amid questions about her conduct during an investigation into the death of a jail inmate, and retired sheriff's investigator Bud Hood.

"Neither have jobs and both are local," Sagel said. "I'm not sure why we're scrambling for all these people."

Carona attorneys Brian A. Sun and Jeffrey Rawitz acknowledged that they were having trouble lining up their witnesses for a variety of reasons, including scheduling conflicts, ongoing negotiations with lawyers for some of the people they would like to put on the stand, and 5th Amendment issues.

U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford reminded the lawyers of the powers of the court that could be used to get potential witnesses on the stand.

More witnesses testified in the trial but one Orange County Register columnist asks, is it really a good idea to try Carona's wife and his girlfriend separately?

Over 160 seasonal fire fighters based in the Inland Empire have been laid off due to the budget crisis. When La Nina brings another dry winter to the southern part of the state, increasing the fire risk again towards the summer and autumn, the state will be missing these fire fighters.

A Philadelphia Police Department officer has been accused of sexual assault at a massage parlor and placed on desk duty while an investigation is taking place.

In Jacksonville, the editorial board of the daily newspaper is telling the police department to be open in its discussion of officer-involved shootings. In the past two years, Jacksonville Police Department officers have been involved in 47 shootings.


This raises deadly questions:

- Is it the result of an escalating culture of violence? Or are police officers tending to resort to deadly force quicker? Is it some combination of both?

- How do local policies and training on deadly force affect the outcome?

- What can be done to lessen violence for police and people?

The president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Adora Nweze, wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and called for a citizen review board created to probe all police shootings.

Regardless of whether the Justice Department comes or a full-scale review board is launched, it's clear more could be done to broaden public participation in the shooting review process.

Public perception and cooperation - particularly in lower income neighborhoods where police shootings tend to happen - play a huge role in how effective police can be as partners with the public on countering crime.

Without more public involvement with the process, community tensions stand to rise and relations with police deteriorate.

That creates a potentially vicious cycle.

Several law enforcement officers working for agencies in New Mexico were sentenced to prison time for assisting drug dealers while working in narcotic assignments.

A Colorado Springs Police Department officer was arrested for burglary and domestic violence in Pueblo.

Atlanta's civilian review board which is facing pressure from that city's beleaguered police department has invoked the "S" word. It's not the one you're thinking, this one's much worse.

(excerpt, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Police Department has refused to turn over police officers’ statements in connection with an incident the Review Board is investigating. The board has meeting for 1-1/2 years and has been asking for police documents for several incidents since September.

The department also is trying to amend city law to prevent the Review Board, created after the illegal police shooting of an elderly woman, from getting most police reports and documents until after the department conducts its own investigation.

The board was created to investigate complaints against Atlanta law enforcement officers and, in a broader sense, to restore the public’s trust in the Police Department.

The standoff puts the city Law Department in the position of having two of its attorneys representing the Police Department, and two others counseling the Review Board.

R. Roger Bhandari, one of the Review Board’s attorneys, told the board Thursday that it needed to exhaust all administrative options before pursuing legal action against Pennington or his department. Bhandari acknowledged that the next step would be asking city officials for a subpoena.

Why do people yawn? The answer's kind of fascinating. Just as fascinating is the news that this week has seen the biggest box office flop ever.

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