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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vigils and valedictions

Over 30 people attended a candlelight vigil at the Riverside Police Department's Orange Street Station in response to recent shooting incidents in the Eastside neighborhood including one on Dec. 14 which claimed the lives of Salvador Gilbert Soliz, 18 and Ramiro Sanchez, 16 at a party on Enterprise Street.

Members of the Eastside Think Tank sponsored the press conference and vigil and some of them as well as family members of the two young men spoke in front of the police department's "safe in his arms" statue.

Mary Figureroa who leads the Think Tank said that the site was chosen because that's the philosophy that people in neighborhoods should express, and that the violence in these neighborhoods needed to stop.

"That statue speaks to the concept of why we're here," she said.

Woodie Rucker-Hughes who is the president of the Riverside chapter of the NAACP, said that she stood with sadness in her hart as a mother who feels grief for another mother who was left to bury her son. She said it didn't matter what color the individuals who were shot were and that the African-American community struggled with similar problems. And she like others who attended and spoke hoped that there wouldn't be any more violence in the form of retaliation for the shootings.

Dell Roberts, who worked security for the school district said that fighting had been part of the community where he grew up but people suffered from broken arms and legs and weren't fatally injured through shootings.

Figueroa spoke about how North High School's principal, Dale Kineer had to address increased tension in the high school between students in the wake of the recent violence. Riverside Poly High School has also been on lock down according to one man whose daughter attended that school.

Anyone with information on the shootings, contact Det. Mike Medici at (951) 353-7104 or Det. Jim Brandt at (951) 353-7137

Riverside City Council approved a lot of projects during its meeting on Tuesday night but one that got postponed until the "economic slowdown" is over is the police department's new training facility.

But Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein took on the electeds in his latest piece which is a followup to the scolding given by the Editorial Board on this same topic. And that's the secrecy surrounding the city's settlement or payoff of Greyhound Bus Lines, the latest chapter of one of the sorriest episodes in recent city history.

Yes, this was the case where the city paid out $625,000 out to Greyhound even though it leased the city-owned space for only a buck a year. All without taking it to a city council vote. Even in closed session, which is not to be confused with the back room deal which is what resulted in the end.

Bernstein had some harsh words for Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents the downtown.


Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents downtown, doesn't remember when he learned the settlement had been signed. But he didn't say much about it, and admits he screwed up. "I should have asked for it to come to council (for a vote), and I didn't."

Barely a year ago, Gardner swept into office by seven votes, hinging his long-shot candidacy on such declarations as: "Let the citizens participate. They are ignored and treated with disrespect."

After he made it into a runoff, he said voters may approve of what the city was doing, but, "I think it's really more a style, access and responsiveness issue." He pledged to restore openness and trust to the council. How does the rhetoric square with Greyhound deal?

"It doesn't. I did the wrong thing here. I didn't understand there was any level of public interest in the process. I just didn't see it."

Gardner was focusing on how to keep Greyhound operating somewhere in the city. But "Greyhound does not seem to want to play. They've been absolutely silent." (Hmmm. Just like the council.)

Transparency, what's that again? Oh yeah, it's become a four-lettered word.

The Riverside Transit Agency is cutting its operational budget. But not its bus schedules or so it says.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Among the cost-saving steps approved by the bus system's board is a requirement that all administration staff take 12 unpaid days off in 2009 and a hiring freeze at the agency's headquarters.

"I wish we could say 'no' to it, but it is prudent to say 'yes,' " said board member Jeff Comerchero, a Temecula councilman.

While board members praised the staff for suggesting the savings in an effort to save the equivalent of five jobs in the 100-person administration, Comerchero warned cuts could happen.

"It concerns me as the economy continues to deteriorate we find we might accept this offer and still must cut jobs down the road," he said.

The savings are the result of a decline in what the bus system can expect to receive from Riverside County's half-cent Measure A sales tax dedicated to transportation. Transit agencies receive 12 percent of the sales tax

The city of Hemet laid off nine employees including four police officers.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Most of the employees will be laid off by next month, but the officers will be laid off between Jan. 15 and June 30.

City Manager Len Wood said some officers already are looking for other jobs, and the city could end up losing more than four officers if the layoffs are implemented right away.

The City Council approved the plan by a 4-1 vote Thursday night, with Councilman Jim Foreman dissenting.

The council needed to approve the layoffs to deal with a dismal budget picture, which could lead to a budget deficit of $6 million for the 2009-10 fiscal year if changes are not made, according to projections.

Redlands is giving some of its employees unpaid furloughs in response to the economic downturn.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Most city facilities will be closed every Friday as a result, city spokesman Carl Baker said. City offices already are closed every other Friday.

The first furlough will be Jan. 2, because of the New Year's Day holiday. The next one will be on Feb. 27 and they will continue until June 19, nearly the end of the fiscal year. The schedule was released Thursday by the city.

The plan calls for all civilian city employees to take 80 hours of unpaid leave over the six-month period.

The possibility of furloughs was raised before the City Council last month, with city officials expressing concern about declining sales, property and transfer taxes. The council agreed to the step on Tuesday, after discussions with city employee unions, whose members agreed to the plan this week, Baker said.

"They understand the city, like the rest of the nation, is undergoing a financial crisis and everybody needs to pitch in," Baker said.

The wife of a former Canyon Lake councilman plead not guilty in a corruption case.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside defense attorney Paul Grech wants Suzanne Kessler released on her own recognizance.

Prosecutors allege the couple, who were arrested Wednesday, used a city-issued credit card to finance gambling on a cruise and to pay a $2,000 debt. Suzanne Kessler is accused of borrowing more than $880,000 from people who believed she would pay them back from a trust account that did not exist, and writing $87,000 in checks from an account that did not have a balance since 2002.

"This is a nightmare for her and she wants to go home and be with her husband," Grech said.

Frank Kessler, 76, posted $8,000 bail and was released Wednesday. Frank Kessler, reached Thursday by phone, said he is "devastated" by the turn of events and that he did not intentionally misuse the credit card.

Suzanne Kessler, 58, who prosecutors originally reported faced 21 charges, now faces 23 felonies: one count of embezzlement and one of misappropriation of public funds, five counts of grand theft, 15 counts of bouncing checks and a count of burglary. She is in custody at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

Grech said he believes the bail is excessive because the couple paid back the city and most of the money she is said to have borrowed from people.

The fallout from the conviction of a formal Murrieta councilman continues as people debate what his punishment should be after his convictions on corruption charges.

The Rialto City Council just voted to give itself a pay raise.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

The council at its meeting last week approved the first reading of an ordinance introduced by City Attorney Jimmy Gutierrez that would bump its pay 10 percent, from $1,001 to $1,104 a month.

Gutierrez cited the time invested by council members into the community as the main reason for the pay increase, giving examples such as attending functions, reading documents and working with public officials.

"Unfortunately, you're not compensated at the level you should be," Gutierrez said.

State laws measure compensation for council members by the population of a city, and councils may increase their pay when a new member takes office, Gutierrez said.

The council last approved a pay increase two years ago.

The ordinance included a $600 a month car allowance, which the council rejected.

It's good that some of the incoming council members didn't have the stomach to grant themselves pay hikes during the economic crisis that's afflicted the state and its local governments.

The ACLU and the city of Los Angeles settled the lawsuit filed over searches conducted on people on Skid Row. Heading the lawsuit effort for the civil liberties organization was Riverside City Attorney Gregory Priamos' favorite attorney, Pete Bibring. Bibring, if you remember challenged Priamos' interpretation of several provisions of the Community Police Review Commission's language in the city charter. Even though Priamos wasn't in town at the time Bibring addressed the commission the first time, the incident obviously left a strong impression on Priamos that his turf was being invaded. At the time, Deputy City Attorney Susan Wilson had promised a response in writing to Bibring's legal argument but later on, demurred and said that no response from Priamos' office would be forthcoming.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles several years ago.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The agreement comes 18 months after a federal judge found that the LAPD was unconstitutionally searching homeless people in the skid row area as part of Chief William J. Bratton's crackdown on downtown crime.

While the LAPD has strongly disputed the judge's findings, officials have agreed to dozens of conditions under which officers would be prohibited from searching people they come across on the street.

Officers will no long be allowed to search people caught jaywalking, sleeping on the street or cited and released in the field for minor offenses. Officers are also prohibited from handcuffing subjects "unless there is reasonable suspicion that the person may harm the officers, other people or may flee or destroy evidence." Limits were also set on when officers can run warrant checks.

"This settlement will ensure important checks on the LAPD’s aggressive tactics on skid row," said Peter Bibring, an ACLU of Southern California attorney. "The Constitution protects every Angeleno against unlawful stops and searches, from those living in Hollywood Hills to those sleeping on the streets of downtown. This is an important step in showing aggressive policing is not going to solve the problems of homelessness in the downtown.”

The current LAPD captain for Central Division, Jodi Wakefield, said that she disagreed with the judge's assessment of her officers' conduct.

"We agree to disagree," she said. "But there's nothing wrong with us going back and making sure that our officers clearly understand the Constitution, and all the laws they have to abide by. I feel confident they do."

The federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona saw testimony alleging that one of his assistant sheriffs threatened the county district attorney.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

During another meeting, Jaramillo donned a uniform to talk to the top prosecutor. He said Greg Haidl was "a young normal boy,'' and described the victim as a "bad person" who engaged in a consensual encounter, Rackauckas said.

"I wouldn't say he was begging, but he was asking, cajoling, imploring … throwing in these things that appeared to be threats along the way," the prosecutor said.

Rackauckas said he responded that Greg Haidl would be treated the same as everyone else — and not with favoritism or in an extra harsh manner since he is the son of a law enforcement officer. Rackauckas said he decided to take himself out of the charging decision over the case — and left it to Chuck Middleton, the chief assistant district attorney, to oversee such decisions.

Rackauckas said he told Mike Carona about the meetings.

"I thought it was very important for the Sheriff's Department to stay out of this case," Rackauckas said. "He agreed … he said absolutely right."

But upon cross-examination by federal prosecutor Brett Sagel, Rackauckas said he didn't think Carona lived up to his word.

"It didn't hold up," Rackauckas said. "George Jaramillo's actions were not affected."

In San Jose, over 272 complaints filed against police, according to a report presented to its city council by outgoing independent police auditor, Barbara Attard.

(excerpt, KCBS)

Independent Auditor Barbara Attard outlined in the report statistical analysis of complaints filed during the six months of the year and highlights the importance of a strong auditor's office.

"With the leadership of the IPA in transition in Jan. 2009, this report includes information regarding accepted minimum standards/necessary features for effective audit models of oversight of law enforcement," the report states.
ListenKCBS’ Mike Colgan reports

The report notes 272 complaints filed by the public, showing a 10 percent increase from the mid-year 2007 report.

"Complaints have risen considerably over the last three years," Attard said to the council today. "The administration points out that the San Jose Police Department and the IPA do outreach and some of the increase in complaints can be attributed to this. I also believe that the increase is reflective of the current delivery model of police services."

The City Council decided in late October not to renew Attard's contract after four years in the position in the Office of the Independent Police Auditor, which works to provide oversight of the Police Department and improve community relations with the department by "instilling confidence in complaint process" and reviewing police misconduct investigations. The office also conducts community outreach and makes recommendations to the City Council.

The City Council today appointed Shivaun Nurre to serve as Acting Independent Police Auditor, Mayor Chuck Reed's spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said. Nurre has worked as assistant police auditor since 2007, McGurk said. The city is working on a recruiting process.

Arrested for the fourth time for driving under the influence was a Prince George County Police Department lieutenant.

(excerpt, Washington Post)

Two of the drunken driving charges against Lt. Kenneth W. Parrish were dropped by county prosecutors, one of them in a plea deal and the other when the arresting officer failed to appear for a court hearing.

Parrish, 44, was suspended with pay in February after he was charged with driving under the influence while operating a county police cruiser off-duty in Laurel. Acting county Police Chief Roberto Hylton said that police officials take Parrish's conduct seriously and that internal investigations are continuing.

"We understand this is a public safety issue," Hylton said.

In the most recent incident, Parrish was arrested Friday when Montgomery County police found him asleep behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade near a gas pump in Silver Spring, with the car in drive and his foot on the brake pedal, according to a charging document.

Watergate's Deep Throat dies.

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