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

Friday, December 26, 2008

Remembering 10 Years Later


From the Black Voice News

Remembering Tyisha 10 Years Later

Thursday, 18 December 2008

By Mary Shelton -- It began as all journeys do with a single step, after the shots were fired which were heard around the world. Most of Riverside slept through the night which would dawn into an era that changed the city forever.

Tyisha Miller, 19, never saw the faces of the four Riverside Police Department officers who took her life and they never saw hers until she was dead. Her relatives had called 911 for medical assistance and had told the dispatcher that Miller had a gun on her lap. Four White police officers arrived, with a combined level of experience of about 10 years between them and formulated what turned out to be a deadly plan.

Within seconds, 24 shots rang out from four guns and she lay dead, the fourth person to be shot to death by police officers that year in Riverside. Officers around her slapped their hands together, laughed and in some cases, made racist remarks. One police officer of Puerto Rican descent wasn't laughing and what he had to say would be heard around the world as well.

"If it will help her family, tell them we used black bullets," said Sgt. Gregory Preece. This remark and other cruel and racist statements made by officers as Miller lay dead were reported by Officer Rene Rodriguez to investigators after the shooting although it took months for them to come to light amid an atmosphere of confidentiality and secrecy.

Riverside woke up the morning after the tragic shooting to a different world. Members of the Black communities woke up to the death of one of their sisters and daughters. It would take several more weeks for most political leaders to realize that life had changed in this growing city and they had to respond to the crisis. The people of Riverside had already responded in force.
Just as African-Americans led the marches for civil rights in the South decades earlier, they led the protests in Riverside. They were joined by Latinos, Asian-Americans, American Indians and Whites, a sea of races united that the city hardly sees. Children marched alongside their parents. Rich people marched with homeless people.

At City Hall surrounded by police officers and as elected officials watched from above, community members and national leaders spoke for justice in the case of a young woman snatched away from life before her time. City leaders watched silently from City Hall while people demanded that change be born.

And even after these national leaders went home, hundreds of people returned week after week, always on Monday mornings and marched in rain, wind and the heat of summer. They marched when harshly criticized by those who wished they'd stop marching and stay home. They marched even when some of their own supporters told them to give the city the time it needed to do the right thing. They marched even while the city ripped news racks from a community
newspaper out of the ground and tossed them in the back of a truck because during times of upheaval, a newspaper printing history can be both the most frightening and liberating force.

They marched for the same reasons that King wrote about inside the jail cell in Birmingham on a roll of toilet paper.

"This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." (King, Jr. 1963) Historians rarely ask the foot soldiers of a civil rights or social movement why they march and there's no one better to speak for those who do than themselves.

But for over a year, these individuals spoke with their feet with each step taken, with each word
spoken from their hearts. Their stories often fade in statements made by political leaders about
events that touched the lives of many people on anniversaries such as this one. Often these people fade away in the shadows, returning to their lives forever changed just as much as the
world changed around them because they marched.

But these are the people that the world requires. Without each individual person, no injustice can ever be undone, no tragedy can ever be rewritten into something positive and no change can ever take root and grow. The past can't be undone but the future can always be written.

So where is Riverside 10 years after the death of Miller?

Tremendous changes have been made in the police department through the collaborative efforts
of the communities of Riverside, the police department and the city. Over $22 million has been
spent on reforms recommended by the members of the Mayor's Use of Force Panel and mandated through a stipulated judgment with the State of California. In 2000, the Community Police Review Commission was born, a product of the community which demanded it.

"We don't ever want to go backwards," is a statement that's been said often, from community
members and police officers alike who lived through the period preceding the death of Miller.

But the city of Riverside currently lacks the leadership at its highest level that is required to
keep the department moving on the path it must take and in fact, appears intent on taking steps

The average officer today is 24 years old and less experienced than two of the officers who shot Miller. The police department is still about 70% White and 91% male in a city which is increasingly more diverse.

The budget crisis threatens staffing levels particularly at the supervisory level, which mirrors
similar problems in the years before the Miller shooting. The current city government seems
as disinterested in the department's struggles as they are in its accomplishments including the
creation and implementation of crisis mental health intervention training.

The police commission is under attack by political forces who didn't listen to the message
that voters sent in 2004 when they placed the Community Police Review Commission in the city's charter. These voters placed it there to keep it from the type of harm it's currently facing
now by those they elected into office.

That's why it's critical to keep marching, if not with our feet then with our hearts. Every individual
matters in this struggle and every voice is needed.

From Black Voice News


As December 28, 2008 approaches, we stand on the threshold of the tenth anniversary of the Tyisha Miller shooting by four Riverside police officers. After this senseless killing of this Black teenager by four White officers, it set into motion a year long protest that will be a permanent
part of our communities history.

The Miller and Butler families, led by Rev. Bernell Butler, organized a Tyisha Miller Steering Committee with Pastor Jesse Wilson of Kansas Avenue SDA Church as president. There were other clergy serving on the committee as well as other community activists no one had heard of but are now famous. Week after week they would gather in front of city hall and raise the battle cry “No Justice, No Peace.”

During the struggle, national civil rights organizations, movie stars, and local and national politicians in the protest joined them.

The biggest news event came when they walked onto the Freeway and conducted a prayer vigil that caught national attention. Every major media outlet converged on Riverside including the BBC of England weighed in by conducting international interviews with the Black Voice News staff.

All of this activity caught the attention of the United States Justice Department and the California Attorney General’s office which imposed the first ever “consent decree” on a city police department’s It had an impact on police policies and assignments in the field. The four officers were terminated and forced change in police management and later in city hall.

The community activism led faculty at several colleges and universities to study various components of this shooting from media coverage, police relations, racial profiling, discrimination in hiring, promotions, performance evaluation of officers, officer training and the like.

One of the ongoing victories that came from the protest is the Community Police Review Committee, which new elected officials do not understand. This lack of understanding at city hall is leading to high anxiety once again by some people in the community. At one point in the past ten years the community’s trust level had improved but recently a rift has come in the relationship over the investigative authority and procedures of the committee.

While Tyisha Miller has gone, the memory lingers on and it is my hope that this city council and police chief will take positive action with the community before another incident will spark a community outcry or ‘No Justice, No Peace” protest.

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