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 05, 2008

Riverside Councilman Frank Schiavone: "We are in a global meltdown"

The Friday Morning Club hosted Ward Four Councilman Frank Schiavone at the Goeske Center and the major focus of the discussion was the state of the economy, both locally and nationally.

He said the city was in excellent shape in comparison to other cities with a $44 million reserve and not as much impact to the city's labor force.

"To date, we've only laid off seven employees," Schiavone said.

Actually, it's at least nine employees who've been laid off but Schiavone's just citing what Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis and this article said.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

One way the city is cutting spending is by letting workers go. The city fired two contract workers in mid-November and at the same time gave 30 days notice to four full-time employees.

This week, the city gave 30 days notice to a civilian, non-safety employee in the Fire Department, Assistant City Manager Tom DeSantis said.

So add that all up and you get seven, and only one employee being mentioned as someone who was given a 30 day notice of termination for this week. The problem with that, is that both DeSantis and the newspaper failed to mention that at least three full-time city employees received such notices this past week including two not mentioned by DeSantis or in the news article.

The departments where employees and their positions were laid off are the following.

Riverside's most recent layoffs by the numbers:

Information Technology: 2

Museum: 1

Library: 1

Park and Recreation: 2 (Project Bridge outreach workers)

Mayor's Office: 1 (Community Relations Director)

Fire Department: 1 (unspecified civilian)

Police Department: 1 (civilian, police chief's office)

But that's not a complete picture, because there's more layoffs, including about 30 part-time positions in the library and the layoff of at least some of the city's contract employees.

The city of Corona was used as a comparison to Riverside to point out how much better the latter city is doing but a more accurate portrait of whether it is or it isn't won't be painted until late next year or the year after. This article outlines Corona's current situation.

The city is cutting about 13.3% of its entire workforce and the full-time positions cut comprise about 6.42% of its entire workforce. The article didn't present statistics reflecting the total number of full-time employees in the city's roster, only its total number of employees.

Corona's lay offs by the numbers:

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Total work force: 840

Total: 112

Full time employees laid off: 54

Full-time positions frozen: 33

Part-time employees laid off: 15

Part-time positions frozen: 10

But then you get into the messy situation of calculating percentile figures for frozen or eliminated positions and that's been done to boost the percentage rates to 20-25% of the workforce which is being laid off by Corona. One miscalculation had Corona laying off as many as 250 of its employees. But if you subtract the frozen positions out since they aren't actually laid off positions because they were vacant, the percentage for Corona according to these figure doesn't even reach 13.3%. The adjusted figure for full and part-time positions would be 8.21% and for only full-time positions, it would be 6.43%.

The higher figures are then used to paint the picture of how much better the Riverside city work force is doing. Except that Riverside's layoff figures aren't including layoffs for part-time positions and frozen positions. So you're comparing a standard that overemphasizes Corona's layoffs against one that underestimates Riverside's own layoff situation.

These are your calculations for the percentages of comparison being used by Riverside when comparing the layoff situation of city employees by percentages in Riverside vs what the picture shows in Corona.

Corona: total layoffs in Corona including frozen positions/total positions in Corona x 100

Riverside: only full-time layoffs in Riverside/total positions in Riverside x 100

Not the best of comparisons really and not the most honest depiction either.

This is not to under emphasize what Corona is facing but to put it in a perspective for proper comparison to Riverside if you're using numbers and percentages to do that.

As if employee positions haven't been frozen in Riverside but they aren't included in the calculation of its layoff percentages. If they were, Riverside's picture would look quite a bit different.

Were they eliminated? It's not clear how many have been permanently eliminated but many have them have likely been frozen until the economic picture clears up which in the Inland Empire could be as late as 2012 when the housing market creeps up from whatever "bottom" it falls to during its current plunge. The Inland Empire is one of the national epicenters for the current recession due to its dependency on the health and vigor of the housing market particularly that involving new home construction.

Let's use the police department as an example of how many positions have been "frozen". So far, possibly as many as 19 patrol positions (though eight attrition positions may have opened up), four sergeant positions, one lieutenant position, one deputy position and at least 24 civilian positions. Just in this department which is the highest recipient of general fund money of any city department, there are possibly as many as 49 frozen positions and it's likely to be even worse in divisions not involved with providing public safety. There were no layoffs of people involved as these were positions which were vacated for a variety of reasons and deliberately left unfilled.

Corona's City Hall emphasized that the decision to cut positions now was to avoid having to make that decision during the next fiscal year. Meaning that Corona is trying to take its dose of pain now and get it over with, hoping that there's not more of that to come.


Officials said the drastic budget cut was partly an effort to be proactive. They hope to avoid ending the current fiscal year with a deficit, and in about two months they must start drawing up the 2009-2010 budget.

Asked whether there will be additional layoffs in the near future, City Manager Brad Robbins said, "Based on what we know today, no."

If the city can make such a large staff reduction with little to no impact on city services, Nolan admitted, perhaps not all those positions were necessary to begin with.

"That's a very good question -- and you know what, based on the economic climate right now, probably not," he said.

Corona General Employees Association President Karen Alexander could not be reached for comment. Employees leaving City Hall on Thursday declined to discuss the layoffs.

So Corona's laying off now instead of later and Riverside's laying off a few people and possibly more later as the economic crisis reaches its peak? It's not clear yet whether or not Corona will really save itself from future layoffs by doing them now.

But Riverside's already seen its projected annual budget slide from $226 million this year to $215 million and then $202 million due to declining revenues from property and sales taxes. The city's dependency on the auto center for the largest proportion of its sales tax revenue left it more vulnerable to being impacted by an economic downturn. Schiavone said that sales generated by the Auto Center had decreased by 46% and one of the biggest producers of revenue, a lumber sales company, could close its doors and is investing its money to prevent that.

So the news about Riverside's economic picture in terms of how it impacts its labor force might be just a tad bit rosier than it truly is and not as bleak in Corona as some people have painted it but there's so much which makes the future so difficult to predict, only that it will get worse before getting better. But Riverside residents need a much more accurate and even honest account of the city's current status than what they are getting.

Schiavone who's running for reelection next year said that he supported Greyhound's presence in Riverside.

Greyhound is scheduled to be evicted from its terminal in the heart of downtown on Jan. 31 to allegedly make way for the relocation of some of the police department's administrative divisions. A plan that might have been in the works for a while. After all, this was something the city had originally planned to do several years ago which remembering that, makes one look at this whole "Greyhound is bad" situation in a different light.

Shell game, anyone?

But the police department currently has its field operations and investigations divisions in buildings owned by the city and its administrative operations in buildings leased by the city. Both the Magnolia and Lincoln stations underwent extensive renovation to house some of the department's largest divisions.

The department's general investigations bureau (which was renamed the central investigations bureau) and special investigations division are located in these facilities. These had previously occupied leased office space on Spruce Street but were relocated to the other facilities.

The city no longer owns the Orange Street Station which among other divisions houses those under the chief's office but is leasing that building from Riverside County. The city's also leasing office space inside a commercial building near the Riverside Plaza to house its Internal Affairs Division, since it was relocated from the Orange Street Station several years ago to provide it some much needed physical separation from the rest of the police department.

It's possible that the city has decided to stop paying leases on the current spaces housing its police divisions to save money and is planning on moving some or all of them to the building that now houses the Greyhound Bus Lines and staffing from the city's fire department.

However, attempts to receive more information on whether or not the city is relocating police divisions to the downtown bus station and if so, exactly which divisions are on the list to be housed there haven't been fruitful so far. Which is kind of business as usual in Riverside.

Schiavone said that few of his constituents have called him on Greyhound but believed that many of his ward residents who hadn't were those who did not know how to access City Hall or attend meetings. If his support of is genuine, then that's a good thing and maybe that will help save Greyhound. If it's politically motivated, then those who pushed the issue are to be commended for turning it into a campaign issue and it's necessary to keep pushing that issue.

He also said he supported people coming to city council meetings and would rather have people "yelling and screaming" at the dais and not coming at all. They shouldn't serve popcorn at these events because it's a choking hazard to be eating it you are driven by the urge to start chuckling. This person who's a "racist" and has "no ethics" would really like to believe that Schiavone's sincere in his request to have more people come on down to the dais but it's actions that speak loudest, not words unless words are part of that action of course. Though it's a known effect that election seasons do tend to mellow out elected officials at least for a while.

If that's true, he might want to improve his body language at meetings. That might help him portray this facet of himself more clearly. It's not quite coming across. Colton hired an etiquette consultant to observe the body language given off by that city's elected officials at its meetings and it's worked wonders.

"The only time you hear about it is when they want to bitch," he said saying people weren't involved in the process.

But sometimes when people do get "involved in the process", people start to bitch about it, forgetting just who the city government belongs to and that's the residents of this city. At any rate, it was an interesting meeting and not a bad way to spend a morning in Riverside.

Election 2009, let the games begin!

The Community Police Review Commission will be having a meeting next week on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss their work on the officer-involved death cases of Douglas Steven Cloud and Joseph Darnell Hill. They will also recognize one of their own, Jim Ward, the first recipient of the Bill Howe Police Accountability Award, which he received at the annual awards breakfast held by the Group.

How to file a complaint is a new brochure being designed to provide to the public which includes answers to questions about the process. It will be examined again during discussion of the commission's outreach activities which are currently nonexistent.

In other CPRC related news, there's expected to be some sort of announcement from the city council of bringing the commission for discussion to the city council or more likely, one of its subcommittees.

The likely choice is alas, Governmental Affairs where Schiavone's rediscovered dedication to listening to people attending meetings will again be put to the test. Actually, at this meeting there won't be much to discuss, because the deck is pretty stacked against the CPRC, given that two of its members, Schiavone and Adams, wrote an op-ed piece for the Press Enterprise essentially redefining the commission as its predecessor, LEPAC and the other member, Rusty Bailey is so far, the "me too" member of this committee and with the CPRC. His staunch support of its independence of the panel during his political campaign, apparently a distant memory.

One thing is for sure, amid the bells and whistles, the CPRC will likely come out of Governmental Affairs with recommendations to weaken it and probably not just in its implementation of City Charter Section 810(d).

It would be something to be greatly worried about if you weren't a student of local history. Every single time that the city government has taken a body of civilian oversight, the community has demanded and eventually won a stronger model. That was the case with LEPAC and the birth of the CPRC. It's kind of interesting to see down the road what our next stronger model is going to look like. So yes, the Governmental Affairs and eventually the city council weakening the CPRC in the short term is bad but civilian oversight will not be down for long in this city if history is any indication.

It's war!

That's what several cities' redevelopment agencies are saying to the state and they might sue to prevent their money from being collected by the state's coffers.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"It is not right that local governments can be fiscally responsible, yet we're forced to pay for the state's failure to budget responsibly," Moreno Valley Mayor Bill Batey said in a statement.

The Moreno Valley Redevelopment Agency joined the California Redevelopment Association, which represents nearly 400 agencies statewide, in filing the lawsuit in Sacramento.

In a spending plan approved by lawmakers and the governor in September, the state will take the $350 million away from redevelopment agencies and shift the money to K-12 education and community colleges in the current fiscal year.

Redevelopment agencies receive property-tax revenue and use it to pay bonds for improvements such as new roads, parks and sidewalks.

The 51 agencies in the Inland area stand to lose a combined $75 million this year, including $1.1 million from Moreno Valley. The agencies must pay the state by May 10, and local officials say the loss will halt or delay for years the start of much-needed improvements.

The Riverside County District Attorney's office said it won't be influenced by protesters to file animal cruelty charges against an Los Angeles County Fire Department assistant chief. If they file, that would be shocking indeed.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"The DA may say they are not going to be influenced, but some question if they really are influenced by outrage and media coverage," Lonergan said.

Even with animal cruelty statutes, the law is based on "the everyman standard," or what the general public would consider reasonable or a crime, she said.

"Those screaming outside the DA's window are not honestly going to be something he takes into account. Hopefully a case will be judged on its merits," Lonergan said.

In recent weeks, animal-rights activists and the dog's owners have launched a campaign seeking criminal charges against Los Angeles County Assistant Fire Chief Glynn Johnson, of the Woodcrest area of Riverside. No charges have been filed.

Johnson severely beat the puppy, Karley, with a rock. He has said it was in self-defense after the dog latched onto his hand and nearly bit through his thumb, but owners Jeff and Shelley Toole say they believe the attack was premeditated and stemmed from a neighborhood dispute.

The case has been under review by the district attorney's office since Nov. 12, when Riverside County sheriff's deputies recommended animal cruelty charges be filed. Johnson has not been arrested.

In Dallas, 17 police officers violated the high-speed pursuit policy.

(Dallas Morning News)

None of the officers, including the one who was injured, were authorized to be involved in the 28-minute chase that began in Lake Highlands when a driver tried to run over several officers during a confrontation in an apartment parking lot.

Two pairs of officers also face discipline for having turned off their squad cars' in-car video cameras in violation of the department's policy, according to the report obtained through an open-records request.

What discipline the officers may face has not been determined. But the chase, along with an October incident in which a squad car fatally struck a 10-year-old child while racing at least 29 mph over the speed limit without sirens or lights on a darkened road, prompted the department to tighten its procedures on how officers respond to emergencies.

Senior Cpl. Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association, said he believed that much of the criticism aimed at officers has been unfair second-guessing.

"Officers are going out there trying to do the best they can. God forbid when something happens, because when it does, everybody's up for scrutiny and we're all criticized," Cpl. White said.

The New Haven Police Department says its internal affairs division is improving on how it handles complaints but city residents say, not quickly enough.

(excerpt New Haven Advocate)

Identifying officers like O'Connell who have multiple complaints may be easier next year when the NHPD plans to buy a $25,000 Internal Affairs software program. The software would help the department be pro-active in finding "at risk" officers. All the necessary information is currently available to identify those officers, but Assistant Chief Roy Brown, who oversees Internal Affairs, says he doesn't want to review past complaints.

"I'm not a past-looking guy. I'm looking to the future," he says. "We're looking at creating new policies and making sure the complaints get investigated."

If Brown did review O'Connell's complaints, here's what he'd find: O'Connell has nine closed complaints (and at least four ongoing investigations). Seven were never investigated — one was filed a year late and six were determined "non-pursuit" after investigators were unable to follow up with the complainants.

Of the two remaining, one was dismissed because of a discrepancy between the complainant and a witness: The complainant said he was beaten first and handcuffed later but the witness recalled the inverse.

In the most recent investigation — community activist Barbara Fair's nephew Dramese Fair says O'Connell did an anal probe of him — police concluded O'Connell did an illegal strip search but he was never disciplined.

Access to some divisions of the Eugene police department including its Internal Affairs Division has been returned to the city's police auditor.

Relations between the two entities had been somewhat stormy in months past.

(excerpt, Eugene Register-Guard)

The move to block the auditor’s access was particularly surprising because it came less than two weeks before Lehner left Eugene for a new job in California.

Reynolds said Kerns’ decision to reopen the door to her during regular business hours symbolizes a new spirit of cooperation that appears to be emerging between top police and civilian oversight officials.

“We work together so frequently, and this was a barrier” to that work, Reynolds said. “When we talk about wanting transparency (in the oversight system), Pete recognizes that as a value. It’s genuine.”

Kerns said both Reynolds and her assistant, interim Deputy Police Auditor Elizabeth Southworth, deserve easy access to areas of the police department where they often spend parts of their workdays.

“They interact so much with internal affairs that it made good business sense to provide them with this level of access,” Kerns said.

“This seemed like a simple solution to a really uncomplicated problem,” he said.

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