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, January 31, 2008

Canary in the Mine: Riverside and Portland part one

"I was raised to question piles of food with weird labels that just fall out of the sky"

----Bernard, Lost

"You might never accept us. You might never believe that we are all created equal. But until you learn of these things, you will respect us."

---Sign left at the household in Lima, Ohio where Tarika Wilson was shot and killed by SWAT Team members.

Riverside has declared its food for fines program a success. That's good news, to take into this weekend's annual Charles Dickons Festival where the city celebrates all things English, 1800s from Friday to Sunday in the downtown area. Lots of interesting costumes, wares, food and on some occasions, sustained booming sounds.

Another press release from the Office of Police Complaints in Washington, D.C. stating that it's about to release its annual report.

January 24, 2008

Police Complaints Board and Office of Police Complaints Release 2007 Annual Report

(Washington, DC) - The Office of Police Complaints (OPC) and its governing body, the Police Complaints Board (PCB), today released their 2007 Annual Report. The agency closed the most complaints, completed the most investigations, and adjudicated and mediated the most complaints in its history.

The agency received 440 complaints from the public against officers of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the DC Housing Authority Police Department (DCHAPD). This figure was a 6% increase over the year before.

The agency prepared 345 investigative reports. In addition, 22 complaints were adjudicated and 19 of the complaints had allegations that were sustained and forwarded to the Chief of Police for discipline.

OPC also conducted 35 mediation sessions, 26 (or 74%) of which were successful, and led to an agreement between the complainant and subject officer that resolved the complaint.

"This was a very productive year for the agency," said Philip K. Eure, OPC's executive director. "We made progress on a number of fronts, which will allow us to better serve the District and promote greater confidence in the police."

In addition to investigating and resolving individual complaints of police misconduct, the agency issued four detailed policy recommendations, including a report on its monitoring of MPD's handling of several protests held in Washington in the spring.

Overall, the agency has been pleased with steps taken by MPD and the city to implement proposals made by PCB. For instance, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and MPD took immediate steps to carry out the Board's September 2007 proposals designed to increase public awareness of District law regarding drivers and cellular telephones.

Unfortunately, though, MPD and the city have not adopted key elements of the September 2006 recommendations made by PCB that urged MPD to become more proactive in addressing the needs of people with mental illness who interact with police officers.

Beyond the handling of individual complaints and the issuance of policy recommendations, the agency conducted a variety of community outreach activities during the year. For example, the agency launched a partnership with the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project at American University's Washington College of Law that involved OPC providing student interactive training at 12 schools throughout the District.

To view a full copy of the 2007 Annual Report, visit OPC's website at .

In related news, the Community Police Review Commission released its 2006 report only several months ago. It's late in part due to the turnover in the executive manager position as well as the exodus of weary commissioners and the influx of their replacements through the city council's selection process which has been refined somewhat since the appointments of the earlier commissioners who have since departed. It's out despite the fiddling and fudging going on with the CPRC's current staffing situation or more accurate, lack of staffing situation. The commission which has always needed more staffing than it's received has had problems in the wake of its one full-time administrative assistant who's put years of hard work into the commission, being on medical leave.

Instead of placing another employee temporarily in the position full-time until the employee returns to her position, the city manager's office has offered it only part-time staffing support. It's curious because one would think in an office that claims to bring so much expertise to this entire process that it would realize how important it is for a division to be provided with enough staffing support. This bit of how-to on police oversight mechanisms probably is in a section of the manual they haven't reached yet.

Other commissions had experienced difficulties with full-time employees who were reduced to serving part-time including the Human Relations Commission which experienced just that while it was under the city manager's office. Curiously enough, the timing of the staffing reduction on that commission decreased not long after the HRC sent a letter to the city manager's office requesting race and gender information on employees at City Hall in the wake of the "departures" and demotions of several men and women of color. At any rate, the HRC stuggled under this system until it was moved to the Mayor's office. The CPRC continues its struggles, because adopting it out to other branches of city government just isn't an option.

At any rate, despite the fiddling and fudging that's been going on the past year involving the CPRC, the annual report finally was released then promptly shelved. It would have been nice if the city manager's office which has taken it upon itself to remold the commission into its chosen image would have cared enough about the body to promptly schedule an appearance by CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy before the city council as is customary for all the city's boards and commissions. Perhaps as some might say, it was time to reshelf the books at the library or do promotions or "at will" positions in the police department, tasks which would keep the city manager's office very busy for at least a little while.

At any rate, the city council will finally be hearing from the CPRC for the first time in two years on Feb. 26, at 6:15 p.m. for about 15 minutes including a power point presentation on the high points of the past year. Sticking of course to the points that are fit to print. Not included will be a flowchart explaining the cast of characters and the roles they have played and continue to play on what has been one of the city's most riveting dramatic serials in the past several years. For one thing, it would take up too much space and time.

The reason why they will finally hearing from the CPRC after all these months and now, years is not because the city manager's office took the initiative to schedule the date, but because it was prodded to do so by someone not making six figures a year, driving the company car and assigned to carry out this small little task and one concerned city council member out of seven who asked questions about it because it needed to be done.

I received an inquiry yesterday about the CPRC and this person stated that the CPRC is pretty much the way the city government wants it to be and this person who's always had insightful things to say about the CPRC specifically and the city in general is right. But it's been a work in progress during the past several years under the current city management which is being of course, directed by the current city council leadership.

It's difficult not to be reminded of that when reading reports on civilian oversight mechanisms in other places, like Portland.

Reading through Dr. Eileen Luna-Firebaugh's analysis and recommendations report for Portland, Oregon's Independent Police Review is very interesting. She begins with a letter to the city's mayor, Tom Potter and among other things, thanks the city's auditor, Gary Blackmer and his staff for their assistance. Which is funny in a sense because after she released her report, Blackmer bashes it in his own written response in large part, because Luna-Firebaugh stepped outside the lines set for her and dared to take input from community members and organizations including Portland CopWatch and the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center. She probably was encouraged to survey the city residents on their feelings about the process. What she surveyed apparently included the wrong crowd.

Besides interviewing and surveying these horrid people which Blackmer apparently doesn't believe represent "community", Luna-Firebaugh interviewed police officers including management personnel and supervisors, city administrators, civilian police oversight experts, academic professionals, lawyers, complainants and community activists. So she interviewed a wide breadth of people for her report including those who had actually utilized the service in question but the only ones who displeased Blackmer and others like him were those who actually utilize the complaint system under study. Those, gasp, who are part of the process in a way that those who frequent tony social events and mingle with elected officials in any city are not. Perhaps it would have pleased Blackmer if he'd provided Luna-Firebaugh with a list of people in Portland who constitute "community" and those who do not to help her out.

It's just so amazing, though not really to think that one relatively small action by Luna-Firebaugh could have created such a response. Or that a city would have probably responded differently if city residents had assigned glowing grades to the process, rather than essentially flunked it. That's the story of civilian review in Portland, past and present flashing by in this one exchange.

No wonder many people in Portland who were asked for their input on the process didn't give it high marks.

Blackmer reminds me of a couple folks in City Hall in Riverside whose philosophy regarding "community" doesn't appear much different. People who are under the mistaken impression that a successful community meeting takes place when the number of city employees who attend outnumbers city residents, who after all, only *count* if they're flattering the city. But the problem is, after these employees move on to bigger or better things or back to their old haunts, the city residents, those who count and even those who don't will be left with the legacy they have left behind.

If the city of Riverside could figure out a way to purge the word, "community" from the CPRC's name, it would. It just hasn't figured out how to do it yet. However, it was interesting to note how Ward Five Councilman Chris MacArthur's favorite candidate for the CPRC kept calling the body, the "Police Review Commission" on his application. The process for interviewing the three prospective candidates to replace a termed out Jack Brewer on the CPRC has yet to be announced and with three new councilmen involved in this process, it will be interesting to see how this latest round of the selection process plays out.

Will the city's philosophy towards "community" change with dais changes which came due to Election 2007? That remains to be seen.

There's a saying in Portland, Oregon regarding its own experiences with civilian oversight mechanisms and that is that the city wants the appearance of accountability and oversight but not the reality. That adage applies to Riverside as well and that's what one Riversider was telling me yesterday. It's interesting to see how two cities that are very different in many ways including politically share a lot in common when it comes to how civilian oversight over their respective police departments is handled by City Hall.

Even the formidable police unions take second billing to the city government when it comes to challenging civilian oversight, the difference being that one of the entities is paid to ensure that this mechanism operates in a successful manner as part of his or her list of job responsibilities and the other one isn't. To examine their relationships with each other is dependent on examining their separate relationships with the elected city government. That seems to be the case in both Portland and Riverside.

Luna-Firebaugh included recommendations in her report. One of them was that the citizen review board be able to decide whether or not to hear appeals and not have to depend on the decision of its director to do so and in addition, the Independent Police Review should play a more active role in initiating investigations of citizen complaints. It's not clear how much the Portland government is going to like that suggestion. For one thing, if that's what the system in place wanted, it would already have it and would have installed it without any recommendations or urging from anyone including paid consultants. It will be interesting to see how they address the recommendation to expand accountability and transparency, now that it's been made by an outside expert in a public report now accessible to residents in the city. But Luna-Firebaugh stressed a much more involved process, greater independence, greater transparency and all three are more difficult for a city government to swallow than a bowling ball.

A good bet in almost any city would that on the surface, there might be language used to welcome those suggestions and talk about how great they are, but behind the scenes? The liklihood of the city strengthening a mechanism when it didn't do it on its own volitiion before is not very high, unless there's significant pressure from the city's residents including those that Blackmer and his ilk have not written off as nonentities. The only power that comes from the recommendations of a consultant such as Luna-Firebraugh is in how much the community responds, not in terms of how little the government who pulls the strings including those of the purse of the oversight mechanism does.

Luna-Firebaugh also supported the use of mediation for complaints alleging discourtesy and other similar violations but not for more serious allegations including excessive force, criminal behavior and in cases where the involved officer was engaging in a pattern of misconduct.

Improving outreach was necessary, she said, and the process should utilize student organizations and law school clinics to engage in it, which likely would expand the publicizing of the Independent Police Review without significant additional expenditures of its annual budget. Outreach for the CPRC has been beyond poor during the past 18 months stemming in part from the city manager's decision in the autumn of 2006 to bar then executive manager, Pedro Payne from attending community meetings. You can go into neighborhoods in Riverside where people have no idea that the CPRC exists let alone what it does.

More to come from Luna-Firebaugh's report and how it factors for both Portland and Riverside, two cities divided by over 1,000 miles, lots of trees and politicial ideologies but when it comes to micromanagement by city processes of civilian oversight, they couldn't be closer.

For those who aren't following the situation of the CPRC but are involved on other civic issues, there are lessons to be learned here that apply elsewhere. The situation involving the CPRC is an excellent model for observing how different forces in this city can impact the services that city residents utilize in different ways depending on what the city's agenda is at any given moment in time. It's after all, the canary in the mine.

Crowds in Cincinnati have appeared at city council meetings to protest the promotion of a police officer who was fired then reinstated, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.


More than 50 blacks packed City Council chambers, many of them urging council to denounce the promotion of Sgt. Patrick Caton.

The city fought for three years to fire him; on Wednesday not a single council member defended him.

Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls immediately got a resolution written to improve disciplinary processes. Next, citizens will be able to comment at hearings before council’s Law and Public Safety Committee about how to change state law, civil service rules and the police contract so that the city might not have to re-hire and promote more officers in the future.

“I don’t think there’s anybody here,” Mayor Mark Mallory said, “who wants to see this promotion go through.”

Qualls said she “would hope, quite frankly, that the FOP and all police officers would agree” that Caton’s not someone desirable for the Cincinnati police force.

Caton couldn’t be reached Wednesday. But the head of the police union defended him, pointing out he was acquitted and that civil service rules – not politicians – should determine who is promoted.

The federal judge in Los Angeles who oversees the federal consent decree involving its police officers had some words for the jury that convicted William and Joseph Ferguson, two former police officers in connection with a home invasion robbery ring.


"I've never heard testimony like I've heard in this case," said U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Feess, who has practiced law since 1974 and was appointed to the federal bench 12 years ago.

Feess then disclosed to jurors that he is also the judge who oversees the federal consent decree imposed on the LAPD in the wake of the 1999 Rampart corruption scandal.

"People may now have an understanding of why we have that decree," he said.

Feess also reiterated his commitment to the police reforms "to see that this sort of thing never happens again."

The convictions of William and Joseph Ferguson capped a six-year probe by the FBI and LAPD and represented a major victory for prosecutors.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Inland Empire Forecast: Storm Clouds Ahead

If you're going to microwave your popcorn, it's best to follow the instructions on the packet carefully. That's why the Southwest Justice Center was forced to evacuate on Wednesday morning because someone scorched their popcorn in the microwave.

The foreclosure rates in the Inland Empire are among the nation's highest amid a report of even more bad news for the Inland Empire.

San Bernardino County has urged caution during its own budget workshops.

The city of Rialto prepares its own annual budget, anticipating budget cuts. Like Riverside, Rialto will be hitting the reserve funds, but unlike Riverside, that city government will be delaying some of its public projects.


"We're anticipating at this point no real revenue growth, or very small revenue growth," Assistant City Administrator Kirby Warner told the Rialto City Council during a budget workshop.

The council took no action during the informational session, as it has until June to adopt a city budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

"It's easy to manage (the city) when you have money and you're growing," Warner said.

The economic slowdown means belt-tightening for governments nationwide, and Rialto is in the same position.

Meanwhile, former Ward One Councilman Dom Betro chides the current city council which clearly can't function without him, according to the Press Enterprise. Which is a bit strange considering how little things have actually changed since the election, in terms of actions from the dais. What's been added to the mix is news about foreclosures and an upcoming recession which has many people including city residents greatly concerned. He's knocking down his replacement quite a bit very early in his term, but then Betro never struck me as a very patient person.


We seem to be regressing to an era of "Do nothing and people won't expect much, and eventually they'll give up on getting what they want and need from their government."

So just "Put it on hold," "Do another study," "Blame someone else for our failure to lead," and if you do this long enough, the voters will set the bar very low for what they expect political and public-service leadership to provide.

What is being resurrected is the stagnation and impasse that comes from a lack of leadership, resulting in neglect and fear of the future.

The stagnation is fueled by the classic pitting of groups against one another so that inaction is preferred. This keeps the politicians above the fray, feeling your pain but never putting themselves in the position of being problem-solvers for fear of political risk.

The impasse is caused when a government abdicates its role to improve its public spaces, inappropriately asking volunteer organizations to do the things that it should be doing. Volunteers by and large don't have the resources necessary.

On the one hand, we should be grateful that these groups have been willing to step in over the years. On the other hand, it is hard to let go when leadership finally steps up to the plate.

It's even harder for some of those in leadership positions who say they have stepped up to the plate, pushing actions including the use or threat of eminent domain to take the land where local businesses and turn them over for private development, to realize that whatever great plans they had for the city apparently weren't enough to get them reelected, in order to keep carrying them out. And that's regardless of how much money sits and is later spent from your campaign coffer, even to the tune of $200,000.

Because Election 2007 would have ended a lot sooner in Ward One if that particular ward was totally cool and down with Betro's vision for the downtown area especially and most importantly, in terms of how it was being carried out. The fact is, not only didn't he not get the landslide victory, he lost and a new councilman is sitting on the dais. Just like Councilman Art Gage lost, and was replaced by current councilman, Rusty Bailey.

But then that returns the issue to how divided Riverside is along many different lines, with only the most obvious being along ward lines. And the position that the winning candidates are in because none of them really received mandates from the city's voters, given that all four of the winners were picked in runoff elections and two of them squeaked into office by a handful of votes. Consequently, the winning councilmen have no choice but to be concilatory to try to be a fair and equal representative to all the constituents in the ward.

Betro wouldn't have been that councilman. Like him or not, it was always his way or the highway and his latest opinion piece on the downtown clearly reflects that this style has followed him off the dais. Not to mention his postelection comments essentially writing off people who voted for Gardner. However, he doesn't represent a ward nor live in a city where that's a workable reality. If it was, then what's on the dais now would look a lot more like what was on the dais one year ago.

Ward Seven Councilman Steve Adams isn't that person either. He's pushing the same agenda he did despite winning by only about 16 votes (according to the recount) as if he won by hundreds of votes. But that's not surprising. Only one year before the election, he apparently decided he wasn't interested in being a councilman any more and decided to run for state office but washed out in the Republican primary putting that quest to rest for at least a little while.

It's too early to see where Councilman Chris MacArthur, who represents the fifth ward is going due in part to him winning an openly contested seat but several other councilmen are still working on wooing him anyway to beat the rush.

So it's left to Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner and Ward Three Councilman Rusty Bailey to figure out how to do that and figure out how to bring the factions together. Neither of them are in enviable positions, particular Gardner. If they follow the wishers of their election supporters, then they will be accused by those who voted for the respective incumbents of ignoring them. If they follow the wishes of those who voted for the incumbent, they will be seen as ignoring other constituents plus of violating their campaign promises and following the paths set by the incumbents.

They each bring separate baggage and issues carrying over from the election as well. Gardner's is the failure to receive a mandate through the vote. Bailey's is battling the impression that he was preselected by a voting bloc on the city council to be a "team player" though someone told me that the fact that he's a West Point Academy graduate, means less risk of a person being a puppet which I suppose is nice to know. So in a sense, that's a test Bailey will face.

I had a conversation last week with the president of one of the city's labor unions and he was explaining to me the numerical totals of the election in terms of the votes he received, those the other candidate received and those who hadn't voted at all in an election to select both their leadership and their representation. I mentioned that the last thing was a problem, not meaning that it was negative. But it's a challenge when leaders are elected in any election process among any population of people, with one winning, the other losing and a chunk of people opting out entirely. The opting out is not unique to labor union elections or city elections, it's seen a lot at the national level as well. Even though we live in what's called a democratic republic, our voting turnouts are still fairly abysmal and people who don't vote provide different reasons why. It will be interesting to see what happens during the primary election next week.

Some city council candidates hoped or planned for a low turnout at the polls, even planning to downplay efforts at reaching those voters to focus on the absentee voters. That didn't work out very well.

But ask yourself this if you're a leader. What are you going to do, to bring the different crowds and cliques together? I've been told in writing by some anonymous fool named only "B" that I didn't know squat about politics and what it means to be a leader. Perhaps, but I do understand what it means when you're in a position with different factions and trying to work on ways so that no one feels they are left out in the cold. It's a very challenging situation and it seems to me that to be a leader, means facing it head on and formulating an effective strategy to do so. But there's not any new elected leader, certainly not anywhere in this posting that's not capable of rising to that challenge or has the ability to do so. But it's still their decision to do so or not.

It's important first of all, to reach out to those who didn't vote for you, and also as important, those who didn't vote at all for whatever reason and there can be many different ones. That's not easy and it takes a lot of time, energy and passion for really understanding your constituency. Going around and talking to people, because you can't always know who didn't vote or who voted for different candidates about what they would like to see, their expectations and most importantly, their criticisms and their concerns. Winning close elections or splitting electorates down the middle in an election wherever it takes place is one of the greatest challenges of all. Which civic leaders in that position are going to step up to take that challenge so none of their constituents feel as if they are being left out in the cold?

At any rate, Betro's allegedly planning a run at the state assembly seat for one of the districts according to just about everyone, so his opinion piece keeps him visible on the political radar during a particularly critical election year. It's an interesting article anyway, so check it out.

Trying to become a judge is Chief District Attorney Michael Rushton who hopes to replace a retiring Judge Thompson Hanks.

Rushton is well known in some circles for having had several trials he prosecuted and received convictions for coming back to local courts from the State Court of Appeals on Wheeler Motions, meaning that those motions to challenge his expulsion of several Black and Latino jurors for bias reasons should have been granted by the presiding judges but were not. In one case, convictions against four defendents were vacated after a Wheeler motion was reheard in the courtroom of Judge Ronald Turner after being sent back for a hearing by a higher court.

Judicial elections aren't really elections. Usually there's only one interested candidate and that person gets the position. That's likely to be the case with Rushton as well.

The Ferguson brothers who worked for the Los Angeles Police Department and Long Beach Police Department and ran a drug ring with other police officers were convicted in court after their trial.


A federal jury convicted them of charges that include conspiracy to deprive people of their rights under color of law and conspiracy to possess marijuana and cocaine.

William Ferguson was found guilty of 13 charges and acquitted of five counts. His brother was convicted of three counts.

Jurors deadlocked on 18 other counts.

Defense attorneys said they would appeal the verdict.

Prosecutors did not immediately say whether they would retry the brothers on the deadlocked charges.

A New York City Police Department detective has been arrested and charged with kidnapping a 13-year-old girl and forcing her into prostitution.

A police recruit may have witnessed the tragic "friendly fire" shooting of an offduty Black police officer by four Westchester Police Department officers, according to the New York Daily News.


The Daily News learned of her testimony to investigators as Ridley's family attended a standing-room-only promotion ceremony Tuesday in Mount Vernon.

"Chris is a hero," his cousin, Danielle Scholar said, reading a statement from the family. "We are proud. This gives validation that Chris acted properly."

Ridley's family has said they believe he would still be alive if he were white, despite the racial makeup of the cops who shot him. Two were Hispanic, one was black and the fourth was white.

The incident happened in White Plains, New York and apparently major portions of it were captured by a video camera. The officer, Christopher Ridley, 23, was trying to intervene in an assault taking place and then struggled with a homeless man over his handgun. That's when the police officers showed up. What happened next is under investigation.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

White Plains detectives are poring over the footage that shows the last moments of Mount Vernon Officer Christopher Ridley, 23, who was killed Friday after struggling over his pistol with a 39-year-old homeless man, police said.

In all, the four county cops fired nine shots at Ridley, striking him five times, a police source confirmed. One of the bullets struck Ridley in the back of his head, the family's pastor said.

"It's not everything, but it's a portion," White Plains police spokesman Daniel Jackson said of the "significant video" of the shooting at a social services office.

Witnesses said they never heard Ridley identify himself as a police officer when the four other officers arrived on the scene and saw him with a gun in his hand.

Ridley's shooting is not an isolated event. Black police officers were shot by members of their own departments in Providence, Rhode Island, Oakland and Los Angeles among other places. But whether or not race played a role in Ridley's fatal shooting is a question that his family and others have asked.


The black Mount Vernon cop shot to death by Westchester County police officers had run into a government building and called for backup before he was killed Friday, his pastor said Sunday.

"He went in and asked for assistance," said the Rev. Franklyn Richardson of Mount Vernon's Grace Baptist Church.

"The police who came ended up killing him."

Richardson also said the slain off-duty cop, Officer Christopher Ridley, 23, was given no medical attention for as long as 20 minutes after the shooting.

"This is an outrageous execution of a young African-American man who'd chosen to do the right thing," Richardson said after a jammed memorial service at his church.

"This same situation would not have occurred if he was not African-American."

In Philadelphia, a racist poster found in a narcotics officer's locker is has led to an investigation, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The poster depicts a police officer dressed half in a police uniform and half as a Ku Klux Klan member, with the words, "blue by day, white by night" and "White power". The drawing was seen by another police officer who reported it to supervisors and miracle upon miracle, that officer didn't get fired.


The officer, Scott Schweizer, who has arrested countless drug suspects in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, was removed from his undercover police duties and given a desk job earlier this month, authorities said.

The disturbing find triggered an internal probe that widened yesterday as investigators began to explore whether the scope of the case is limited to Schweizer or somehow broader.

"It's certainly of great concern that someone would even think it's appropriate or think it's OK to even put something like that in a locker," Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday. "We don't condone that kind of behavior."

Schweizer could face administrative action ranging from a written reprimand to dismissal. Schweizer did not return a phone call from the Daily News and did not respond to a note left by a reporter at his Northeast Philly home yesterday afternoon.

Roosevelt Poplar, a vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5, in Philadelphia, said he was aware of the investigation but did not know its scope.

"We have no idea what the investigation entails at this time," Poplar said. "We have to give every member the benefit of the doubt before we make any statements or come to any conclusion."

It looks something like the picture below.

One People's Project blogged out how it was not surprising given the history of the Philadelphia Police Department but adds that police officers in that department should be upset about it as well.


To that end, you can pretty much say that the police in our current stomping grounds, the same police force that once gave us the racist cop turned mayor Frank Rizzo, they are not at all happy with one of their own taking that same picture and slogan and adding the words "White Power" to it - then putting it in his locker at work.

Officer Scott Schweizer is riding a desk now, as police try to figure out what to do, especially given the fact that while he has his right to believe as he does, it will still have an impact on those cases he was involved in. If you Google his name you can find drug raids that he has led in the past, which is going to be of interest to the lawyers of those people of color that have been arrested by this guy.

See, you can have whatever beliefs you have, but if those beliefs mean that you are going to engage in unfair or unethical practices, like arresting people who don't deserve to be arrested, then don't act surprised when you are held up to scrutiny. We will be following this pretty closely.

But the officer does have his supporters here. Yes indeed.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

If a city clashes with its civilian review board, is that a civil war?

Riverside County will be making some serious cuts at the 5% level, according to its midyear report. And what the Riverside County does with just about everything, so does Riverside city so keep a close eye on what's going on until the budget is approved in some form or another by June.

Ramon Hernandez, the former councilman in Colton has plead guilty to the misuse of funds that were used to call phone sex lines.

A Riverside County Superior judge has announced that the two appellate lawyers assigned to Jackson Chambers Daniels, jr. will represent him during his second capital murder trial. Daniels will be tried possibly as early as June for the 1982 killings of Riverside Police Department officers, Dennis Doty and Philip Trust. It's likely however the trial won't occur for at least a year.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to file a law suit to reduce the pensions of its sheriff deputies.

The Los Angeles Times stated that if the law suit was successful, over $187 million could be saved and also outlined the histories and relationships of the players involved, as well as outlining the process.


Though the county will technically name the county's employee retirement system as the defendant, the deputies' union plans to join the case as an interested party and fight the effort aggressively. The union maintains that an entire body of law -- ranging from the California Constitution to case law and an opinion by former state Atty. Gen. George Deukmejian -- protects their pension agreement because the deal was struck in good faith through collective bargaining.

Election-year politics lurked just below the surface throughout Tuesday's debate. Two supervisors, Janet Nguyen and Bill Campbell, are up for reelection this year, and the issue of reforming public employee pensions and reining in their unions plays well with conservative voters.

But the move also infuriated the politically powerful unions that represent firefighters, teachers and public safety managers, in addition to the deputies. There were less-than-subtle suggestions that the unions "would not sit idly by," in the words of Arlene Pavey, president of a group of retired members of the California Teachers Assn., if the county went ahead with the lawsuit.

So far the Los Angeles City Council has not vetoed the Police Commission's recommendation on enforcing one of the most controversial provisions of the city's consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to reform its police department. The process soon to be going on its eighth year required that financial information connected to its gang and narcotic unit detectives be audited every two years, beginning two years after the en action of this component of the decree.

Community leaders urged the city council this week not to overturn the commission's own vote.

Councilman Jack Weiss has been pushing for the vote, with his critics saying that he's doing so because he has higher political ambitions and is angling for campaign donations from the Police Protective League which represents most of the police officers in the department.

Still, the leaders pressed with even a former secretary of state getting involved.


Pressure on council members to abandon the veto increased this week as former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and others warned that any such move "would seriously undermine the confidence of the people" in the city's willingness to fulfill a broad set of reforms imposed on the Los Angeles Police Department in 2000 after the Rampart corruption scandal. The LAPD has been under federal oversight ever since.

"The interests should be weighed by the expert body, by the people dealing with this day in and day out," Christopher said. "It would be unfortunate to have someone else substitute their opinion instead."

Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben, who also signed the letter, echoed Christopher, saying, "We just have to move forward."

Along with Christopher, who led a major reform campaign after the 1991 beating of Rodney G. King, and Toebben, 15 other prominent civil rights leaders and reform advocates signed the letter, including many who have closely followed developments at the LAPD for years. Los Angeles Urban League President Blair Taylor, United Way Chief Executive Elise Buik and George David Kieffer, who helped write the City Charter, were among the council's critics.

Tim Sands, president of the Police Protective League, which opposes the commission policy, rejected the letter's message, saying that Christopher and the others were more concerned about ending the federal oversight of LAPD than the merits of the plan.

"Nowhere in their letter do the well-intentioned civic leaders suggest that the financial disclosure plan under discussion should be implemented because it will be effective at rooting out or preventing corruption," he said in a prepared statement.

It's a bit troubling when prosecuting agencies like District Attorney Steve Cooley's office get involved and take sides on police issues. Cooley's goal is to get more funding from the police union's considerable campaign chest for his reelection bid, but the message that it's sending is that the county prosecutor is very closely aligned to members of an agency including those who could conceivably be investigated for criminal conduct whether or not this particular mandate of the consent decree is implemented or not. What Cooley should be instead is a neutral party in the matter. His involvement causes a contentious issue to become even more politicized which isn't healthy. It's already provided local columnists with good fodder.

The obvious problem with the city council's belated positions on this issue is that it is belated. When the council voted to accept and implement the consent decree some years ago, they also voted to accept this provision. Where was the debate and discussion back then? And ultimately, whatever the position on this issue, it all comes down to what the federal judge assigned to monitor the department for the duration of the decree decides and he's not been very happy with the city or the department during the past two years so catching him on a good day is going to be challenging.

This component is one of the more questionable mandates in the consent decree because whatever salary supplementation any unit officers are receiving (and this reform doesn't extend to field patrol officers or anyone else), probably wouldn't be stashed in their children's college fund anyway because if they were investigating for grifting at some point, these accounts and others would likely be audited anyway. Or as was done by the officers in the Rampart scandal, the officers involved might simply just spend it.

Perusual, this isn't the only clash between a local government and any form of civilian review mechanism overseeing a police department's personnel investigations. In other words, it's business as usual at different venues from coast to coast, but an interesting theme has emerged and that's where city and county officials throw up their arms at these oversight mechanisms after paying for consultants to perform audits, investigations, reviews, studies or whatever and not liking the news they receive in return. Is it a form of "buyer's remorse"? Perhaps, but then again, be careful what you ask for when claims are made that the intent is to "improve" governmental mechanisms or programs.

None of the truly great dramatists were alive when civilian review mechanisms and their cities started clashing and it's unfortunate that William Shakespeare never directly wrote plays, comedies or melodramas, on these epic conflicts but if you look closer at some of his more famous works, he actually did do this in a manner of speaking.

The Seattle Times published this article updating the situation involving the triangle between the city government, the police department and the Office of Professional Accountability. The latest installment has Mayor Greg Nickels announcing that all of the 29 recommendations forwarded to improve the accountability of the police department will be implemented.


"The people of Seattle must have confidence in their Police Department because police rely on the community to do their job well," Nickels said.

The panel he appointed issued a report this morning calling for Seattle police officers to face tougher discipline and sharper scrutiny.

"There is oversight in Seattle," the panel's chairman, retired Judge Terrence Carroll said at a morning news conference. "We want to strengthen that and make it better for people and the Police Department."

Here are some of these recommendations. The entire list of recommendations is included in this report.


Among the panel's recommendations:

• Expanding the role of the auditor. The auditor currently reviews ongoing investigations, and that role should expand to include reviewing past cases and making recommendations to improve the system.

• Increasing the independence and authority of the OPA director. The panel recommended that the OPA office have a separate budget from the Police Department and that its director have the ability to attend disciplinary hearings.

• Charging the OPA Review Board with working with the community. The board, which now has three members, should grow to include five to seven members. The board should have the authority to hold public hearings, review OPA policies and make recommendations for improvement.

• Maximizing public access to information. The panel recommended requiring disclosure of all internal-investigations records to the extent allowed by law while protecting the privacy of officers.

The panel had urged the recommendations to be implemented in toto. It will definitely be interesting to see that happens. My guess? The recommendations will be implemented to fit the comfort level of the Seattle mayor and government. Usually what happens when recommendations of any kind are announced on any issue is that the governmental body congratulates itself as if it did all the work and then implements the easier, less earth-moving ones and shelves the rest of them, hoping that no one is really paying attention to what's not going on. It's interesting from both a politician science and sociological perspective to see how often this scenario has played itself out, from one local government to the next one.

The three recommendations listed above are likely to be particularly troublesome for the city government to accept, but they are nice ones anyway. Perhaps if they would water down the second one into some sort of vague support for "better outreach" meaning that here we are, this is what we do, be satisfied with it, that is all. That might take a little bit of work.

Consultant and University of Arizona Eileen Luna-FirebaughPortland Oregon Independent Police Review had come under fire from City Auditor Gary Blackmer, according to the Portland Mercury. It's not surprising, as her review of the mechanism was scathing. That's not exactly what the city thought they had paid her to do, was to provide an honest assessment? Was a requirement of the task that they had to like what she stated or she was just there to provide their mechanism with a clean bill of health?

It shouldn't be that way. Hopefully, Blackmer etal will just get over it and focus on improving the operations of the Independent Police Review.

Amazingly or not, one of the areas Blackmer sharply criticized Luna-Firebaugh on was her engaging in conversations with members of the Portland community including organizations like Portland CopWatch. As if performing a survey of customer satisfaction with a city service should play no part of an inquiry process, which makes little sense. A commenter at Portland Indymedia wrote the following in response to that.


As one might expect, Blackmer is not at all happy with this report. One of the problems with it, according to Blackmer, is that Luna-Firebaugh listened to the wrong people... that is, she actually dared to interview people from Portland Copwatch, from African American community groups, from NWCRC, and from other police accountability activists. Here is an excerpt from a confidential draft that Blackmer addressed to Luna-Firebaugh, and cc'd to Mayor Potter, back in November after he realized which way the wind was blowing in this study:

"If your definition of the community is comprised of the groups and activists you listed in your workplan as contacts then we must question the basis of your conclusions. We don't believe that they represent the community at large. Despite our efforts and results over the past five years, many of these people have misrepresented and undermined our accomplishments. During that period we sought to include them and reach common ground, but never satisfied them simply because their "need" is the creation of a complaint investigations body separate from the City of Portland."

I wonder who Mr. Blackmer includes in his definition of "community"? Apparently, not you and me.

That person's right and whether they live in Portland, Oregon or Riverside, California, "community" is a favorite buzzword meaning different things to different people. And as this commenter noted, it may be defined by a city government as essentially people who agree with it. And what comes to light in a comment like that above by an individual like Blackmer, is that what's really at stake in Portland is not a report by an outside consultant, or even the Independent Police Review, the subject of the evaluation. What's really at stake is the issue and implementation of independent civilian review over the police department. In other words, some of the city's residents had asked their government for too much more than it was comfortable addressing so therefore, they weren't really "community" anymore, just troublemakers. That lends support to the contention that at least as far as Blackmer is concerned, Luna-Firebaugh wasn't really hired to provide her honest assessment of what the situation was involving the Independent Police Review.

It's interesting how Blackmer also defines "common ground" as somehow being completely outside of the issue of civilian review. It's often the case that city residents want a stronger, independent form of civilian review and it's also often the case that city and county governments favor a weaker, less independent form if they have to suffer through the process of implementing civilian review at all. Most do it not all that willingly unless they see that their constituents are working towards developing a stronger, independent review mechanism through the ballot initiative process for example, than the city's ready to face. Then they do the "right thing" and implement civilian review on their own terms. That's what Riverside did in April 2000. But what the city has done is struggle with the process since, on just about every front.

Struggling to keep the CPRC in constraints or restraints has been the task the city's set for itself during the past two years, beginning when the commission released its first and only sustained finding on an officer-involved death in November 2005. Some say, that in a sense City Manager Brad Hudson simply did a "pocket veto" of that decision. At the time that Hudson's office essentially did nothing, Hudson attributed it to having only spent a meager six months as city manager and told community leaders that if the same situation arose next time, it would go better.

But that's not what Hudson said in his declaration that he gave in the law suit filed by Officer Ryan Wilson in 2006 through the Riverside County Superior Court, to challenge the finding by the CPRC that his shooting had violated the department's use of force policy. In that declaration, Hudson never mentioned the actual finding released by the CPRC, but stuck to discussing the public report only to say that he never really considered it at all and that it was never included in any discussion or situation involving Wilson after it was released. As you know, then Presiding Judge Dallas Holmes (who later retired in protest of the shut-down civil court system) ruled that it's impossible to hold a "name clearing" hearing in a confidential forum.

Not long after that, the city settled the shooting in question, that involving Summer Marie Lane for $395,000.

So which is real? The explanation provided to community leaders or the one that Hudson signed onto under threat of perjury as part of a civil law suit? Too many questions surround one of the commission's most fundamental purposes and they started being asked more in earnest after three fatal officer-involved shootings took place during a six-month period in 2006. Since then, only one of those shootings as of Jan. 30, 2008 has nearly completed its journey through the CPRC.

At any rate, the CPRC then began the latest leg of its journey as some sort of body that is shared by City Hall and the police department. After all, for a while in 2006 and 2007, there were more city staff members and police department employees at meetings than community members. The commissioners conduct meetings where the majority of agenda items are housekeeping, rather than issues that communities are interested in discussing. The first question people ask about the meetings, is what is on the agenda. They hear it, shrug their shoulders and say that it's not anything that has anything to do with them or their communities.

One of the provisions of the CPRC under the charter amendment which houses it, is that the commission is to advise the mayor and city council on all police/community relations. This is one provision that to this date, has not been utilized at all. In fact, it's the Human Relations Commission which has adopted that role for the CPRC, including its sponsorship of a 2005 community forum on the police department's analysis of its traffic stop study which was issued through a public report. At a recent meeting, the HRC proposed doing the public forums on this particular issue on a regular basis. What's ironic is that there's been more discussion of a police issue that concerns many people in this city and the HRC has discussed it or even invoked the subject while the CPRC has not even mentioned it.

There are comments made during the past several years including by those serving on the commission who believe that the CPRC is just to review complaints or that its "meat and potatoes" is defining and releasing policy recommendations (which paints it more as a mirror to the now-defunct LEPAC). But what needs to be said to these individuals, is to go back and read the city's charter.

The community while still utilizing it to file complaints (except in the Eastside, for a variety of reasons) has pretty much just sat and watched as this has taken place, feeling probably not much different than many people do in Portland.

Luna-Firebaugh's recommending in her report that what Portland's got needs to become more aggressive, more stronger and more independent. By blasting its hired consultant who's carried out the task the city has paid her to do, Blackmer is essentially telling her and the "community" of Portland where to stuff that recommendation. It will be interesting to see how the elected leadership responds including former police chief and current mayor, Tom Potter. So far the official word is that Luna-Firebaugh's report is being taken under advisement. The government has at least a month or so to do that because it's not presenting the report officially in technicolor until Feb. 28.

But what you probably won't see Portland do is do what Luna-Firebaugh recommended and work towards the realization of a stronger, more independent body. If the city residents want that, they'll have to go down another path. And Portland's more progressive in many ways than Riverside is, but it still faces most of the same challenges when it comes to civilian review.

Luna-Firebaugh provided her response to Blackmer's criticism about her taking testimony from community members who have utilized Portland's current process. This forum that took place last was one opportunity for city residents to weigh in on the process involving the Independent Police Review for Luna-Firebaugh. It's the one that apparently got Luna-Firebaugh into trouble.

(excerpt, Portland Mercury)

"It's always difficult to have a performance evaluator come in and look at your agencies," Luna-Firebaugh told the Mercury last week, at a Southeast Portland community meeting co-hosted by Copwatch to discuss individuals' experiences of the review process. "If someone feels a little uneasy, that to me is human nature."

Luna-Firebaugh's interim report found that only about one in four former complainants were satisfied with the oversight process, and only about four percent of complaints that were actually investigated were sustained. The IPR dismissed about 57 percent of its cases without investigation in 2006, says the NWCRC.

It's interesting who in Portland, Oregon is considered to be part of the "community", isn't it?

The City of Riverside has so divorced the communities from its own police oversight mechanism that one of the applicants for the Ward Five position, referred to the body he wants to join as the "Police Review Commission" several times. Given that this applicant is current Ward Five Councilman Chris MacArthur's first choice, someone at City Hall should provide him with the proper name of the organization if they even remember it themselves. Another politicized appointment, exactly what the commission needs but it's the city way. After all, it's not like the Board of Library Trustees got nearly so much attention from the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee until the library and museum renovation project or projects took front and center stage one week. That's often how it is with boards and commissions in Riverside. A controversial issue involving a lot of money and prestige comes up and then there's city officials talking all of a sudden about how important a particular board and commission is and how suddenly important it is to pick just the *right* people to serve on it.

That's exactly how a board and commission's appointment process becomes politicized.

The CPRC has a customer service survey of sorts that is offered to those who file complaints but it's entirely internalized, so consequently there are no statistics or any information provided whatsoever from this body or from those who operate it at City Hall.

Portland Indymedia provided one analysis of Luna-Firebaugh's report that's a bit different than that offered by Blackmer.


Still, Luna-Firebraugh hastens to add, transparency alone will not be enough to solve all of the problems inherent in this system. As the report notes,

"If a police complaint system is not based on fairness to all, the public, the subject and witness officers, and the city government, all the transparency in the world will not help other than to reveal the worm in the core of the apple." ...Indeed. After the inexplicable killings, the beatings, the pepper sprayings, the racial profiling, and the rampant abuses of power suffered by Portlanders at the hands of the PPB, it is easy to imagine why auditor Blackmer had preferred to play things close to the vest on this. Surely there is a very big worm at the core of this apple, and no one in the city wants to reveal this to the public. (I will let you in on a secret, though. Virtually everyone in the city has seen this worm for themselves; we already know it's there.)

The problem with the lack of transparency, though, is that it leads to a lack of accountability, a lack of respect for citizens, and a lack of improvement. So long as the problems of the PPB can be safely covered up by a collusive oversight process, officers who violate the law are not punished, and the system is never forced to change.

Luna-Firebaugh notes that, among the cases which she and her colleagues reviewed, there were numerous instances where clear evidence of officer misconduct existed, but the IPR failed to substantiate wrongdoing. And again, although it has the authority to investigate claims, the IPR has never once, in all its history, conducted an investigation into police conduct. In other words, even though Portland has an "independent" body of oversight into complaints against police on paper, the reality shows that there is no real oversight.

Clearly, this would indicate a conflict of interests to any reasonable person. No one is looking out for the concerns and best interests of Portland citizens who have been victimized by the police.

Luna's report on the Independent Police Review is here. Blue Oregon also is posting articles on the report and its response.

Portland CopWatch offers its own analysis here. A prior posting already featured its comments on the conflict of interest issue that arises when the city assigns its own attorney to "advise" the civilian review mechanism. That's certainly relevant in Riverside where there's been a lot of speculation about City Attorney Gregory Priamos' sudden interest in the CPRC in terms of where it's based and where it's coming from. As for Priamos since he began showing more interest in what he had pretty much avoided for the first six years since the commission's founding, how has he participated? He wouldn't even allow a CPRC member to place an item on the agenda to discuss hiring independent counsel. Is he there truly to advise, to look out for the city's risk management and civil liability interests, or because someone threatened to hire a separate attorney to do that job if he didn't show up? Any or all of the above?

That was one of the issues CopWatch discussed. Not surprisingly, they pushed for the Independent Police Review to be stronger, more independent as well as expressed concern for what was called a "cozy" relationship between the board and the police department's internal affairs division.


But the report doesn't go far enough. The mistrust that the community has for the system is based on the IPR's dependence on the Police Bureau (this and other reasons for lack of trust are noted repeatedly in the report).

Yet the report's recommendation is for some investigations to be done by civilian investigators, not all.

The report highlights the "easy" relationship between the IPR Director and the Bureau's Internal Affairs Division. While there is much to be said for this, it ignores the institutional problem of this cozy relationship.

There is no mention at all of the conflict of interest inherent in the City Attorney advising both the Police Bureau when they get sued for misconduct and the IPR/CRC when they investigate misconduct.

There are lots of golden nuggets, including the same recommendations we've made for years for additional "findings" of Policy Failure, Supervisory Failure, and Training Failure, as well as presenting reports to Council annually, and more.

The issues raised here about trust and how it is often based and evaluated on the relationships that civilian review mechanisms have with police departments is a very common one and the questions related to it are asked just about everywhere that there is a form of civilian oversight in place. In Riverside, the commission is a weakened form, getting even weaker thanks to forces at City Hall, and it's one that's entirely dependent on the Riverside Police Department's own internal affairs division on complaints, and to a more limited extent on its investigations into officer-involved deaths.

Some communities have seemingly divorced the commission and police department's complaint systems altogether. This is particularly true of the Eastside neighborhood which went 2006 without filing a single complaint with the police department according to statistics released by the CPRC through its most recent annual report. The reasons why, vary from fears or perceptions of retaliation after filing complaints, to community organizations working in that neighborhood opting out of the process and utilizing some form of working arrangement with the police department.

In others like Casa Blanca, memories persist of the blacklist against its residents that was created by the Riverside Police Officers' Association in the mid-1990s when Jack Palm was president. Also, the majority of complaints that I've heard from that area have involved primarily one or two officers assigned there, which is different than the Eastside for example. Doubts and questions about the process also exist there and in several other neighborhoods as well, particularly due to the city's handling of the CPRC in the past two years.

Comments like those made by Commissioner Peter Hubbard that derided the civilian witnesses of the Lee Deante Brown shooting for example and the silence of the other commissioners in response, don't exactly inspire much confidence in this body as a mechanism that considers what civilian witnesses say especially when it contradicts the versions of events provided by police officers. It wouldn't be surprising if there are civilian witnesses who see the events before and during an officer-involved death who just opt out of being interviewed afterward by investigators. That's what will likely happen if they believe that their versions of a critical incident will be given little credence. If so, then it's difficult to see how that exactly strengthens or validates an investigation in a greater way.

Unlike many officer-involved deaths, the ones involving Brown and Lane occurred in front of quite a few civilian witnesses. But whether or not they were given any credence in the absence of outside evidence (i.e. inconclusive DNA tests with Brown due to problematic sample collecting procedures), depended a lot on who they agreed with. Even here on this Web site.

What was interesting that took place on this site was how there was this call by anonymous individuals in the autumn of 2005 to focus attention on a female civilian witness who allegedly made a 9-11 phone call in the Lane shooting case who agreed with the officer's version of events (as did most of the witnesses in that case) but no similar outcry to pay attention to any particular civilian witness in the Brown shooting case where they all disagreed with the officers' versions of events. Anonymous individuals did the opposite in that case during the spring of 2006 and derided the witnesses of the Brown shooting in much the same way that Hubbard had at one CPRC meeting.

So civilians' participation in that process is apparently only valued based on how much they agree with the police officers' version of events in some circles. If that is indeed the case, then you can't really blame civilian witnesses if they ever do opt out of the investigative process because of the perception that they won't be believed or even listened to. So if the department does wind up with a critical incident being watched by a crowd of people but none of them saw a thing, this might be a major reason why. And that will be too bad if that does happen, for those who desire a thorough investigative process of critical incidents where there are civilian witnesses. But only those people will be concerned about that.

That's all well and good for those who think that way like Hubbard and others, as they are entitled to their opinions. But then to ask civilians who wish to file complaints involving police officers to engage in the process, that only values their input when they agree with the police department or City Hall, much like the case in Portland, is a bit disingeneous. And it's interesting that the city in all of its rush to either break or fix the commission depending on your vantage point hasn't once thought to really examine what the different neighborhoods and their residents even think about the process. In fact, the city has done the opposite nearly every step of the way.

That's the one part of this equation which really hasn't been done yet at or by City Hall. Which is why the parallels between what Blackmer allegedly said about Luna-Firebaugh's inclusion of these perspectives in her report and the complete disinterest by City Hall in the communities' assessments of a very important process are so apparent.

Do you think the police oversight report will lead to change in Portland? You can answer that at a poll that's being conducted here. The jury is truly out on that one, both in Portland but also in Riverside, as this city prepares to issue a report produced by a consultant on recommendations for the CPRC.

Drew Peterson, the former Bolingbrook Police Department sergeant suspected in his wife's disappearance, wants to take a lie detector test on national television. Why the change of heart when he had previously refused to take such a test, is not known. It's also not known if he's still interested in being involved with the "win a date with Drew" program.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Tuesday's child is full of grace

The economic picture for local city and county governments in the Inland Empire continues to worsen with each passing week. Due to anticipated decreased growth or increases in both property taxes as well as sales taxes, many local governments are planning to make cuts in their upcoming annual budget.

So how will that impact Riverside? Just ask Asst. City Manager of Finance Paul Sundeen.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In Riverside, the largest Inland city, property tax revenue is expected to grow by 8 percent in the current fiscal year, down from the 11 percent the city first estimated, Finance Director Paul Sundeen said.

For next year, the city had estimated in October a 5 percent to 7 percent increase for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Now, those estimates are down by half. Sundeen said the city is confident it can get a 2 percent increase in property tax revenue but hopes for 4 percent growth.

Sales tax revenues in Riverside are dropping by 5 percent, or about $3 million, Sundeen said.

"Car sales are not doing as well. That is a big piece of our sales taxes," he said. "Secondly, the construction industry is down. The combination of those two are the principle reasons the sales taxes are dropping.

"As we sit here, we still plan to have a balanced budget," he said.

Sundeen said there are no talks of layoffs, but vacancies likely won't be filled.

So how will the city cope?

"The obvious way is to look at all of our programs, and to the extent the council sets priorities, our programs will be drawn back a bit," he said.

The first harbinger of depressed sales tax revenue was actually apparent last year when City Manager Brad Hudson warned that the revenue from sales tax for the 2007-2008 fiscal year would be less than seen in previous years, including a lower cash flow from auto sales.

Mayor Ron Loveridge did not elaborate much in his State of the City address last week on the budget cuts, but there was some hint in his words of the decisions that Hudson will face in the months ahead. Departments in some cases have been asked to produce two separate budgets, one for 5% cuts and one for 10% cuts. However, at least one city department anticipates a 15% budget cut. There will be likely be some sort of hiring freeze, meaning that vacancies won't be filled. One of the most notable being a deputy chief position being vacated by David Dominguez who will become the next chief of Palm Springs Police Department next month. The fate of other promotions within the police department that were vacated or to be vacated through retirements is unclear.

Riverside Renaissance is all paid for, either through other sources of funding and likely, borrowing as well. No worries there, says the city government including its mayor. And that is what truly matters. If some city services get decreased or eliminated, well that's just life or you need to get one.

More discussion whether it's a difficult fiscal year or not, on the planned renovations of the downtown main library and the museum. Whether to do each project separately or as part of a combined effort. Over 300 people showed up at a public meeting that was scheduled in the middle of the day, filling up the city council chambers as the Board of Library Trustees and the Metropolitan Museum Board jointly received input on the process. The fact that in this venue, the views expressed by individuals overwhelmingly supported separate renovation plans for each facility, it didn't seem to really move the city council members present at the meeting in that direction. While it's important to get more insight and views of different city residents, it's also important to not keep searching for those who will espouse your specific viewpoint either.

If you're interested in the plans for the renovation of the public library, the Board of Library Trustees will be meeting on the fourth Monday of each month at 4:30 p.m.

For more information call (951) 826-5213.

And indeed this board has already met on this issue, according to the Press Enterprise.


After analyzing staff reports, studies and demographic data, the Riverside library board determined that it needs 123,000 square feet of total library space.

In a surprise move at Monday's monthly meeting, the board voted to inform the City Council about the library's space needs to serve a projected 84,320 users to 2025.

"I fully expect them not to give us that much, because I don't see how we can afford it," said Trustee John Schreck, who compiled all the information.

He calculated that the proposal would involve an additional 20,000 square feet of space and $2.5 million more than an architect's original $25 million expansion plan.

Polled by the board before the vote, all six library staff members present approved of taking the recommendation to City Hall.

There is a vacancy on the Board of Library Trustees for the fourth ward and the city council members and mayor who currently serve on the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee have apparently discovered that this board exists given their additional interest in filling this vacancy with just the *right* person. It's nice to know that the Board of Library Trustees is finally topping the "what's in style" list in terms of fads but the timing of this interest is well, most interesting.

The Metropolitan Museum Board will be discussing and taking public comments on the expansion of the downtown museum on the second Tuesday at 4 p.m.

For further information to leave messages for Board members call Toni Kinsman at 826-5273.

As soon as this board joins its sibling on the "what's in style" list, there will be a note of it made here.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein has his own ideas for balancing the budget in a manner of speaking. O-kay. Maybe you need to go back to the drawing board there. And sometimes a flute is just a flute as Sigmund Freud probably wouldn't say.

On Feb. 5, the city will be hosting a reception for Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez who will be off to Palm Springs to serve as its new chief. It will be in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room at City Hall at 5:30p.m. and he'll be honored by the city council at its 6:30 p.m. meeting. More than one person described his departure as "bittersweet" meaning that they wish the best for him in the greener pastures of his new job but will miss him here. It's nice to see the city honoring him while he is departing but it would have been nice for the city to have treated him better while he was still working here particularly in the past year or so.

So Dominguez is the latest recipient of the "you don't know what you had until it's gone" award for the City of Riverside and he was included on a list of Black and Latino city employees which included Art Alcaraz, Jim Smith, Pedro Payne and Tranda Drumwright as employees that let's just say, weren't very much appreciated by those in power at City Hall. The employees listed here and who are current and were prior recipients of this unofficial award were some of the best and brightest on the city's roster and in Drumwright's case for example, she was told by another employee that she wasn't seen as "management material" despite her tremendous educational and work credentials. She wasn't seen as "management material" whereas a less experienced White woman was, because she was a Black woman. Smith also watched a White man he had once supervised elevated above him in a permanent assistant city manager position.

Like Dominguez, employees like Smith and Alcaraz were hired in very good positions elsewhere. So other cities and entities have gained what we as a city have lost because of attitudes which frankly, shouldn't have followed us from one century to the next.

Now, they are all pretty much gone despite their hard work and talent that they put into their jobs and it's the city's loss and the loss of the city's residents as well. But for men and women of color in management positions, this hasn't been the kindest or warmest city for quite a while now especially since the new city management team has come aboard. Some of the others have had receptions too, which though nice offer a tone of irony to the situation and unfortunately a dose of hypocrisy as well.

But what's especially nice about the situation is that Dominguez was singled out for his new job based on his wealth of experience working with and alongside community members and organizations. Not exactly something he received as much credit as he should have in some circles here but it was obviously highly valued elsewhere. Which puts Palm Springs above Riverside in valuing community involvement in its employees.

But if you have good employees who are working in a political or labor environment which doesn't favor them, then there should be people doing what no one should have to do and that's defending their right to be there. Some fellow police department employees of Dominguez did that for him almost a year ago at a community meeting at the Coffee Depot. More people need to do that for city employees like him as well.

One lesson learned, is to find a city employee or two whose work you value and tell him or her that you do today. So while we wish Dominguez the best in his new venture, there's a lesson that should have been learned before this to remember as well.

This post has been repeated at Inland Craigslist. "Get a life and some makeup," it states. Apparently not an Avon lady making a sales pitch, but someone trying to get a rise out of someone else by castigating their looks. It's interesting how anonymous people never make these kind of comments regarding physical appearance about men, almost as interesting as the fact that they seldom if ever make these kind of comments under their real names. If someone is engaging in making cruel comments such as these, then telling this individual to get a life would be a wasted endeavor. Personally, I'd rather read 100 posts about the Longest Walk which is actually quite interesting, than one post of this ilk which says more about the person who writes this kind of thing than the person it's about.

Not that I don't know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of this cruel behavior, as usual by someone who can't even put their name to it. I've been treated the same way, many times. About my clothes. My looks. My hair. My underwear. And not once, with anyone's name attached to it or at least not a real one. Why? Because it's called being a coward. Nothing more, nothing less. That's pretty much it. It's all about trying to get a person to silence him or herself, but the thing to do when you're treated this way is to take a look at what you're talking, or writing about as something that needs more scrutiny. And often with men, it's their ideas that get criticized, but with women, they criticize our ideas and speech through castigating our looks as if the women they harass care about what someone like that thinks or even less likely, whether someone like that considers them attractive or not.

It's ironic the excuses people give for writing anonymous notes that castigate people on things other than their opinions on issues, including attacking physical appearance. Some of them go even further and say that they have the right to define what a real woman is. They say they do it for the city, the police department, perhaps even God and country. They never say they do it because they're just mean individuals who are lashing out to feel better about themselves. But is it really any of those things or just an excuse or an opportunity to be cruel? It's not easy to figure that out given that none of them do leave their real names.

Not that it's just members of the public that are impacted. During the long, hot summer of 2006 when the labor unions were undergoing the worst year of contract negotiations in recent memory, some of them complained of being penalized for speaking at public meetings on their own time. Others allegedly faced retaliation of one form or another including recipients of a threatening flyer that was apparently sent to try to intimidate them before they were going to be interviewed for an investigation in one of the city's departments. One union's members were bashed in a letter sent out by one of the councilmen running for office last year.

This isn't an easy city or an easy political climate to express opinions on issues that differ from what the city council wants, the city government wants or the status quo, pretty much whoever you are. You do so and you'll be treated accordingly.

Whether it's city council members saying you are a liar, have no ethics or no integrity either from the dais at city council meetings or inside subcommittee meetings as happened recently at the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee when Councilman Steve Adams bashed two former candidates who ran against him during elections who had also applied to be interviewed for the Planning Commission. Some city officials are apparently so insecure about being criticized on an issue they support that rather than simply thanking an individual for their comments, they have to give a speech afterward defending that issue as if that's necessary for people watching to decide whether or not to support an issue. If they were truly confident that the issues that they defend would pass the muster of the vote of either the city council or the public, then they wouldn't find it necessary to do so over and over.

With an environment like that among elected officials towards those who criticize their actions, it's small wonder that you have people crawling out from assorted rocks to write online comments purportedly giving people hair and makeup advice or taking some photograph of you and attaching it to a rant. No wonder at all and the scary thing is that these individuals have deluded themselves to really believe they are defending the city's honor or something of that nature. Of course, it doesn't help when a creepy and harassing email taken out in an account in your name traces back to the city's ISP service as its point of origin.

And if you have a city council member who says something like the following.

"You need to have integrity to apply for this commission and two of the people here don't have any."

Which is exactly what Adams did several weeks ago. If you want to hear his comments, they are on the recording for the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting that took place on Jan. 15. Most elected officials in this position of deciding would simply say they are concerned about a candidate's lack of community involvement or say they should have been living in the city longer. Adams obviously couldn't go that route so he just said they had no integrity, but at the same time he was showing exactly how he viewed himself in that area. Showing rather than telling.

At any rate, what to do if an elected official makes the above statement?

You can respond like this.

"I really appreciate that Councilman [insert name] but I'm still going to apply for this commission."

If an elected official calls you a liar or says that you're lying at a public meeting, here's a possible response.

"I got that [insert name], but I'm still going to speak out on this issue."

Of course, this can be most difficult because most often, elected officials make these comments when the subject of them is unable to respond even to defend his or herself. If this is the case, then wait for another city council meeting and just briefly and courteously say the above comment and then move on with your other planned comments. Don't let them discourage you into silence, by these remarks. Keep participating in your elected government.

And if you do address them by name and are not complimenting them, then Loveridge will probably tell you that you have to address the entire body. That is, if another elected official doesn't helpfully bark out, "point of order" to do so. This however, applies only to criticisms and not compliments.

For example, which comment below will elicit this type of action?

A) "[Insert Name] is withholding information from the body."

B) "[Insert Name] looked amazing in his brand new suit at the reception the other week. Did you note the exquisite pattern on his tie?"

Take your guess.

Also, from time to time, elected officials will compliment your manners and style of commenting and then say, "you're really a cut above [insert name or names]" or "you're not at the level of [insert name(s)]. However, before you are pleased at what the elected official has just told you this or you fail to see it for the strategic move that it is, remember this. The next week, they could be saying that you've got no ethics, which may cause your head to spin around faster than Linda Blair's did in The Exorcist not to mention the confusion which often comes with doublespeak which is an unfortunate side effect of politics in Riverside and other places as well.

So you have to take even compliments from politicians with a grain of salt. They may or may not mean them or they may actually believe them then but not later, and that's the nature of the game. It doesn't matter how nicely you behave or how politely or how well they have already said you conduct yourself. If you disagree with them on an issue particularly one they feel passionately about, you will be treated this way at some point. Even well-respected community leaders who have always been polite to elected officials have been called or labeled as liars by one elected official or another. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is, as musician, Bruce Hornsby might say.

It has everything to do with them especially during an election year, not with you, so keep focused on the issues involving the city that you feel passionate about, whether it's the library, parks, public participation or others. Keep speaking on these issues. And if you get insulted for it, just thank them courteously for their comments and keep on being active.

The interesting and sad thing is that other elected officials who don't directly participate will sit and watch because this is how business is conducted and I suppose they really know no other way to do it. In a sense, that's their operational culture. If anyone runs for office in the future, they will have to make the decision at some point if this is behavior that they will either engage in themselves or will support tacitly or otherwise. It's on a list of a lot of considerations when running for a political position but once you get there, it's hard to sway that climate.

And until we have a generation of politicians in office who will reject this attitude, it's likely here to stay for a while.

Opening arguments are beginning in this police officer's trial on charges of molesting two teenaged girls.

The latest issue of Urban Politics by Nick Licata addresses the future of civilian oversight in Seattle. Licata is the strongest proponent of civilian review and the Office of Professional Accountability and supports appealing the recent court decision in favor of the Seattle Police Department's police union.


I believe that the City should appeal the decision. It may also be necessary for the City to appeal a final PERC decision to the Superior Court if PERC proves to be incapable of weighing public concerns that go beyond those of the police guild's membership.

The struggle that goes on in Seattle between the Police Guild and the City in defining a workable and fair citizen oversight mechanism is one that is taking place in city after city across the U.S. At a recent conference of the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), a speaker noted that European police unions were the easiest to work with on establishing police accountability functions; while Canadian police unions were more difficult; and that those in the U.S. were the hardest. If true, that would mean where unions have the most political influence and the best compensation packages, the acceptance of civilian oversight is easiest. Perhaps it is so difficult in the U.S. because police unions feel that they have so little of each.

In any case SPOG has filed more ULPs than any other union with the City of Seattle, and their willingness to file them does not seem to be slowing down. SPOG President Rich O'Neill told the Seattle Times that the police guild expects to file another complaint with PERC on another ordinance (122513) that I sponsored and that was passed unanimously by the Council. It requires that the Chief of Police and the OPA Director provide written explanations when they disagree on the final disposition of a complaint investigation, and to require that the OPA Director provide a written explanation when his or her recommendation to sustain a misconduct complaint results in no discipline because the complaint investigation was not completed within the time period specified in the applicable union contract.

SPOG's attitude has been consistent. They insist on bargaining almost any oversight of police officers. But they have also consistently opposed such measures - although a recent quote in the Seattle P.I. from O'Neill suggests that if their union receives a high enough payment then civilians can have an oversight function to promote greater police accountability:

"I'm not saying it's impossible to get it. All I'm saying is let's see how serious they are about wanting it."

Which brings this discussion back to the bargaining table or the courts to determine: "What is a mandatory subject of bargaining?" That is what this fight is about in legal terms. In practical terms it's about protecting civilians from police abuse and promoting fair and accountable policing in a manner that is respects employee rights.

I will continue this pursuit and I hope the Council, the Mayor and the public does as well.

The Seattle Police Department Police Officers' Guild issued a press release in response.

January 25, 2008

TO: All Media Outlets

FM: Richard F. O'Neill, President
Seattle Police Officers' Guild

RE: PERC Rules that Seattle Ordinance Violated the Law

In May 2006 the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance, spearheaded
by Nick Licata, that allowed the OPA Review Board access to unredacted
files from OPA investigations. The council also changed certain
confidentiality requirements for the OPA-RB members in an attempt to
hold the members harmless in the event that unredacted file
information was improperly revealed to the public or the media.

The Seattle Police Officers' Guild filed an Unfair Labor Practice with
the state and argued that the ordinance violated state law. A hearing
was heard before the PERC examiner in April 2007. On January 23, 2008,
the Washington State Public Employee Relations Commission released
its' ruling in favor of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild. The
commission stated that the city "unlawfully violated the obligation to
bargain in good faith when it unilaterally adopted a change in the
confidentiality and redacted files rule utilized by OPARB and OPA."
The commission voided the Licata ordinance and further ordered the
city to purge all findings of the OPARB based on unredacted files and
to return all unredacted files back to the OPA.

SPOG President Rich O'Neill said that he was elated by the decision
and that this is a major victory for SPOG. "Hopefully, this sends a
clear message to the city council that the way to seek changes in the
police contract is at the bargaining table and not by passing an

The official notice is attached to the press release. For more
information contact SPOG at 206-767-1150.

A blue ribbon panel had both good news and bad for the Kings County Sheriff Department.

(excerpt, Seattle Press-Intelligencer)

The Blue Ribbon panel was formed in 2006 after the Seattle P-I's "Conduct Unbecoming" series exposed a system of poor oversight in the Sheriff's Office for deputies accused of misconduct. It urged sweeping reforms in oversight of the Sheriff's Office and had been holding public hearings last year on adopting those reforms.

In its report, the panel urges the county to amend its charter to grant Rahr more authority in negotiating with the deputies' union over working conditions. In past contract talks, the sheriff offers recommendations to the county executive, who negotiates wages, benefits and working conditions. But the sheriff does not sign the contract.

"This arrangement creates a structural impediment to an effective and accountable outcome that best serves the interest of the public and the employees of the Sheriff's Office," according to the report.

"Without this authority, it is difficult and unfair for citizens to hold the Sheriff accountable for leadership and oversight of the office."

This is interesting, given that for many law enforcement agencies, the head of them is not necessarily involved and in some cases encouraged not to be stuck in the middle of negotiations between law enforcement labor unions and the city or county management. Yet, the chief or sheriff of those agencies should and is held accountable in terms of leadership responsibilities by the public.

During an interview, former Bolingbrook sergeant, Drew Peterson cut it short when questioned about the investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Stacy including questions about the blue barrel that he and a relative allegedly carried to his SUV about the time his wife disappeared.

Peterson was more interested in participating in a dating game put together by a radio show. Perhaps he knows something that everyone else does not.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

Peterson tried to halt the line of questioning, saying he'd agreed only to talk about the ''Win a Date with Drew'' contest that he had wanted to have.

When Smith said he'd never agree to limit what he could ask about, Peterson became perturbed.

''OK, I guess I got to walk away. Have a good day, Mr. Shepard,'' he said before pulling the microphone off and walking back into his house.

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