April showers and what they bring
For those who haven't been downtown, the the portion of the pedestrian mall on Main Street has been torn up for renovation to the tune of at least $12 million. Although renovated by the Downtown Neighborhood Partnership some years ago, this project is being paid out as part of Riverside's renaissance.
The past renovation that had been done on the mall utilized business tax collections from the downtown businesses including those that no longer exist or will exist due to threats of eminent domain. That was when the partnership had promised these businesses that their turn would come when the tax money collected would be used to renovate Market Street. But it never did come. Instead, came the day that they would have to sell their properties to the city so that the city could hand them to private development firms outside of Riverside.
The city seems to believe the mall will be completed ahead of schedule.
(excerpt, Press Enterprise)
City officials originally said they intended to do the Main Street renovation in two phases -- one to be completed before this year's Festival of Lights, which begins the day after Thanksgiving, and the second to be done after the festival ends in January 2009.
Though the issue remains open, now all five blocks might be completed by Thanksgiving.
"We are still considering an expedited schedule to have it all done by the Festival of Lights," Beck said.
David St. Pierre, who owns the Delights & Invites gift and stationery store on Main Street between Mission Inn Avenue and Sixth Street, said he'd like to see the project finished in one fell swoop.
"Just to get it over with," he said outside his shop.
That sounds like an enthusiastic response from the downtown business community indeed but you can't blame them. Being in the middle of construction is never good for business so it's important to remember that they are there and support them amid the din of jackhammars and cement mixers.
Even as the governor of California threatens to close Citrus State Park due to budget cuts, more trees are being planted there.
(excerpt, Press Enterprise)
Sector Superintendent John Rowe said workers are planting despite the threatened closure because the park would not be closed forever.
"Instead of having barren fields, it's better to plant as planned," he said.
Osbaldo Hernandez plants lemon saplings Monday at Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside. Plans to replant the grove include a few exotic varieties, 20 acres of lemon trees and 10 acres of grapefruit.
In the late 1900s, Riverside had more than 25,000 acres of citrus, Rowe said. Current estimates put the number at about 4,000 acres.
Another mini-session of the Riverside City Council will be held tonight. Here's the agenda. People have committed on the trimmed down meetings of recent weeks. But given that the minds of elected officials are pretty much made up for they come to the meetings, it makes a lot of sense to trim the time spent down a bit. It's also great for the local bars and restaurants where people can hop to after meeting's end and help out the local economy.
Dinner and a show, or a show and dinner. Not bad for a night's out and the city council meetings are still free.
Among the highlights, are the naming of the 25 remarkable teens and the presentation of a proclamation to head librarian, Barbara Custon. One hopes that Custon didn't have to receive special written permission from her boss's office to even accept this award, given the policy against speaking that was instituted on the rest of the library's employees even when it comes to explaining policies to visitors.
There will be a local business appreciation reception being held for local businesses. Most likely those not on the invite list are those local businesses who were threatened with eminent domain if they didn't agree to be purchased by the city to be handed off for private development. Maybe they'll hold a separate appreciation reception for them.
A former Riverside County Superior Court who was removed from the bench by the Commission on Judicial Performance last year, removed his name from an election ballot. The judicial races coming up are shaping to be exciting ones, which isn't usual given that most judges run for additional terms unopposed.
Speaking of Riverside County's judicial court system, it figured prominently in the State of the Judiciary speech given by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George. The Press Enterprise Editorial Board again pushed for the funding of more judges. You know the judges that were promised the Inland Empire this year? Well, their arrival has been delayed until at least 2009.
Riverside and San Bernardino counties need, and have been promised, more judges. Yet judicial hiring was one of the first places Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislators looked for savings in the mid-year budget cuts that legislators enacted in February. The cuts delay the hiring of 60 judges and construction of courtrooms to house them until 2009. Of the delayed judges, 13 were bound for Inland courtrooms to relieve crushing caseloads of about 6,400 cases per judge per year. The average for the rest of the state is 4,600.
San Bernardino County has 84 judges. George cited a National Center for State Courts assessment that found it needed 145. The corresponding numbers for Riverside County are 76 and 133.
Those numbers mean that justice is being delayed in the Inland counties, often for absurdly long periods of time. Riverside's civil courts have been essentially closed for most of the past two years as those judges were reassigned to criminal cases. George last year assembled a 12-judge strike force to help clear the backlog. But the crush is still more than 1,000 cases deep, and George said Tuesday he would not budget the task force for another year.
This ongoing crisis has been one that's gripped the Inland Empire particularly Riverside County in the past several years after the District Attorney's office changed its procedure for handling major felonies, bringing more trials to an over strapped court system that's been more than a few judges short of a full load for years.
The Riverside Sheriffs' Association has reached a tentative labor agreement with the county's board of supervisors. Their members will be getting about a 12% increase over three years beginning with a retroactive raise back to January.
The family of a woman who died in police custody at Phoenix Airport has filed an $8 million claim but the city has vowed to stand by its officers.
(excerpt, Associated Press)
Gotbaum family attorney Michael Manning wrote in the claim that police erred by putting her alone and shackled in a holding room.
"In the process, they ignored the warning signs that their own policies, procedures and training materials told them could result in Carol's death," Manning wrote.
Police have contended that Gotbaum's death was accidental and that officers who took her into custody did nothing wrong.
Wednesday's letter from the city's legal department to Manning said the claim that police should have responded differently was wrong.
"The thrust of the Gotbaum family claim is that the City of Phoenix police officers should have been more supportive than Carol's own husband, more knowledgeable than her own family, and should somehow have known that she suffered from a private condition that she deliberately hid from the public," said the letter signed by attorney Stephen Craig.
"But the Gotbaum family has publicly admitted, not only that Carol hid her medical and mental condition, but that the officers responded to Carol exactly the way her husband knew they would respond because they did not have critical information known only to the Gotbaum family," the letter continued.
The city letter included transcripts of phone calls Noah Gotbaum made to the airport the afternoon of his wife's death, telling officials he was concerned about her whereabouts because she was depressed and suicidal.
The Phoenix Police Department will probably refuse settling in any way, said Sgt. Andy Hill, a spokesman for the agency.
"The promise that was made to the police officers involved by the city legal unit when this all began was if those actions by those officers were justified and were professional, that they would go to the furthest extent possible to protect those officers," Hill said. "That is what's happening today."
That's what cities and counties always say in cases like these and that they'll stand by the officers and they do, right up until the point they settle these lawsuits for major dollars behind closed doors. And more often than not, the city through its attorney will insist most ardently that it will on the cases that end up yielding the highest dollar amounts.
Riverside's justified the shootings of Summer Marie Lane in 2004 and the shooting of Lee Deante Brown in 2006 and likely will do the same with Douglas Steven Cloud, another 2006 shooting. Yet, by the time the settlement is announced and finalized in the Brown case, the city will have paid out nearly $1.5 million in settlements with still two lawsuits filed by Terry Rabb's family members not included. One would think that if the city was really standing behind its officers who use lethal force, that the payouts would come closer to equaling $0. But then again, it's clearly not the city manager's office or more accurately, the police department that's making the final disposition on these officer-involved deaths, it's the city council.
That's why it's not going to be surprising to hear months or a year from now, that Phoenix will be quietly paying out a settlement to the family of this deceased woman behind closed doors.
This editorial appeared arguing in favor of an independent police review board in DeKalb County, Georgia. It arose in response to a review that showed out of 12 officer-involved shootings that occurred in the county last year, 11 were justified.
(excerpt, Atlantic Journal-Constitution)
The close working relationship among police, crime scene investigators, the medical examiner's office and the district attorney's office illustrates why large police forces need independent oversight. Counties in metro Atlanta rely almost exclusively on internal investigations of police shootings, followed by grand juries if there is evidence a shooting was unjustified. Those procedures rarely result in a review that helps police determine whether the shootings could have been avoided.
Independent civilian review boards —- like the one being formed now by the city of Atlanta —- provide a better framework for examining police use of force and learning from the incidents. They can study procedures and policies, spot trends in how the department handles confrontations and bring persistent complaints to the attention of department commanders and public officials. That's why more than 100 large American cities and counties have adopted citizen-review panels or hired professional monitors to examine police conduct.
Since the 2006 spate of shootings, DeKalb police have been involved in only one fatal confrontation with a suspect. But two DeKalb officers were gunned down this year by a man they were trying to search.
By going outside the thin blue line and adopting independent oversight of police actions and procedures, DeKalb County may minimize the number of suspect shootings and save the lives of officers in the process.
IN White Plains, there's a crime wave, but it's police officers being arrested.
(excerpt, Associated Press)
The cluster of cases over the past year in Westchester County may be an aberration, but even a partial list seems shocking in this relatively affluent and quiet New York City suburb:
-A Mount Kisco officer was charged with manslaughter in the death of a homeless, drunken immigrant who had suffered a blow to his abdomen. The officer has resigned and is fighting the charge, but the case has raised tensions about immigration and revealed a practice of police departments "dumping" their undesirables in neighboring towns.
-A New Rochelle sergeant, husband of a local TV anchorwoman, has been charged with forcibly raping a 17-year-old girl.
-The Justice Department is investigating allegations of brutality in Yonkers and Sleepy Hollow, where officers used a stun gun on a 16-year-old suspected of stealing a bicycle.
-County officers killed an armed, off-duty Mount Vernon cop who was trying to make an arrest in White Plains. A grand jury cleared the officers, who apparently did not know Officer Christopher Ridley was a policeman, but some black leaders say he might not have been shot if he were white.
-Two off-duty New York City officers were accused of assaulting a man outside a Yonkers bar, and two colleagues were accused of attempting a cover-up.
James McCabe, who retired from the NYPD as an inspector and now teaches criminal justice at Sacred Heart University, said the litany of cases "certainly sounds alarming, but we don't know enough to say if this is a trend." Serious police crimes are very rare exceptions, he said.
Trent Benefield, one of Sean Bell's friends who was also shot by New York City Police Department officers took the stand in the trial of three NYPD detectives.
(excerpt, New York Times)
The testimony from Mr. Benefield, 24, appeared to contradict the grand jury testimony of the detectives, none of whom have said they shot at him as he ran away. Mr. Benefield said he was first shot in both calves in the back seat.
Asked what happened next, he said: “Opened the door and jumped out. Started running.”
“I got shot again,” he said. Asked where, he said: “My thigh. My left thigh.”
He said a man in plain clothes approached with a gun, so he put up his hands. “I told him I didn’t do nothing,” he testified. “I was just shot.”
Mr. Benefield’s sworn account of what happened outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, Queens, on the morning of Nov. 25, 2006, was given to grand jurors last year, but had not been heard publicly until today.
Benefield provided his account of the shooting on the witness stand.
(excerpt, New York Daily News)
Testifying for the first time at the trial of three detectives on trial for killing Bell, Trent Benefield said moments before he was sitting in the back seat of his slain friend's car when a "dark skinned" man suddenly appeared.
"He was in the front of the car, closer to the passenger side," Benefield said. "He had a gun pointed towards us. He had it pointed at the car. He had it pointed toward 'S'."
Benefield, who was badly wounded in the shooting, said he didn't recognize the man, whom prosecutors have identified at Det. Gescard Isnora. He said he did not see any police badges displayed.
"Joe told 'S' to go, drive," Benefield said, refering to Joseph Guzman and using his nickname for Bell. "He started to drive, I felt a collision ... I covered my face like this."
And as a packed Queens courtroom looked on, Benefield balled his fists and held his forearms in front of his face.
"I heard shots," he continued. "I felt myself get shot. My two calves, both. I opened the door and jumped out on the drivers side. I started running."
Benefield said he didn't get far.
"I got shot again, my right thigh, I fell to the ground," he said. "When I looked up, I saw a man walking up to me. He was tall, heavyset, dark-skinned guy. I was on the sidewalk."
Benefield said the man told him to "stay down."
"I told him I didn't do nothing," he said. "I'd been shot."
Blue by day, white by night
These were on racist stickers that were posted by two narcotics officers from Philadelphia's police department. These officers were disciplined, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey this week personally punished officers Scott Schweizer and Eric Dial, transferring the pair out of the Narcotics Strike Force to routine patrol in districts where they started as rookies. The officers were also each suspended for 20 days without pay and prohibited from using vacation days toward the unpaid leave.
The disciplinary action punctuated a two-month internal investigation that began after two racist stickers were found inside Schweizer's locker. One sticker read: "White Power." The other depicted a cartoon of a man, half as an officer in uniform and half as a Klansman, with the words "Blue By Day - White By Night."
Ramsey described the discipline as "harsh" but "just" and said he stopped short of firing the officers because they "had no histories that would indicate that they engaged in any racist type of activities."
"We live in a diverse society . . . Police officers can't harbor prejudices," Ramsey told the Philadelphia Daily News in a phone interview. "We do have to serve everyone equally and fairly."
Here's an interesting job opening in the field of mediation.
The New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) anticipates
a future opening for the Director of Mediation position. The CCRB is
a mayoral agency that provides independent civilian oversight of the
New York City Police Department. It is the largest civilian police
oversight agency in the United States. The CCRB is independent of
the NYPD and is empowered to investigate and mediate complaints
against New York City police officers involving the use of force,
abuse of authority, discourtesy or offensive language. The agency's
staff is composed entirely of civilian employees. The CCRB receives
approximately 7,500 complaints each year. The Mediation Unit
processes approximately 500 of these cases each year, making CCRB's
mediation program the largest of its kind in the country.
The incumbent oversees the agency's mediation program and reports
directly to the Executive Director. Duties include: (1) managing
the Mediation Unit; (2) working with the Board's ADR Committee,
senior agency staff, and NYPD executives; (3) implementing ADR
policies and procedures developed together with the ADR Committee and
the Executive Director; (4) training CCRB investigators in agency's
mediation program; (5) recruiting and training outside mediators; (6)
assessing and maintaining the quality and diversity of the mediation
program and of the mediators' roster; (7) providing continuing
education for mediators; and (8) representing mediation program
outside the agency by using media, public presentations and outreach.
Candidates must have: (1) significant experience and training in
facilitative mediation; (2) strong analytical, interpersonal and
communication skills; (3) experience in developing and managing
programmatic initiatives; and (4) either (a) a master's / doctoral
degree from an accredited university in a related field (dispute
resolution, law, business, public administration, etc.) and at least
2 years of satisfactory full-time executive, managerial, or
administrative experience, OR (b) a baccalaureate degree from an
accredited college and at least 4 years of satisfactory full-time
professional experience, including 2 years of executive, managerial,
or administrative experience. New York City residency within 90 days
of appointment is required.
SALARY: $70,000 - $80,000 plus excellent benefits.
DEADLINE TO APPLY: April 25, 2008. Early submission is encouraged.
Resumes received after the deadline may not be considered.
SEND RESUME AND COVER LETTER (referencing "Director of Mediation"
Beth Thompson, Director of Personnel
Civilian Complaint Review Board
40 Rector Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10006
by mail -OR-
by fax 212-676-6037 -OR-
by e-mail (as a PDF or Word attachment) to ccrbjobs@ccrb. nyc.gov
ONLY CANDIDATES SELECTED FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION WILL BE CONTACTED
Additional information concerning the CCRB is available at
CCRB is an Equal Opportunity Employer