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

Monday, June 30, 2008

Going into the holiday

****Breaking News: A lieutenant's position in the Riverside Police Department was filled today****

Eddie Dee Smith, 99, one of the true icons of both Riverside and Rubidoux has passed on. I received a phone call today from a good friend about her death at Riverside Community Hospital. She's been a fixture in community grass-roots activism almost forever.

She will be greatly missed by many but her legacy lives on. Rest in Peace, Eddie.

Welcome to the visitors from Open Records a blog about the sunshine laws which promote accountability and transparency of government and its agencies. The blogger liked the quote from Lewis Carroll which is located at the top of the page under the header. It speaks to the importance of keeping a written record of events as they transpire particularly at the local level. That is most certainly true.

Today is July 1, the first day of the new fiscal budget year for this city, Riverside. There's been a lot of discussion and a lot of concern about the status of the budget for all the city departments and the hiring and promotion freeze mandated by the city manager's office to offset the budget deficit at both the local and state levels (with the trickle down from the state being less this upcoming year).

At first the recommendation from the city manager's office was to provide budgets anticipating budget cuts between 5 to 10% but as you can see from the link to the city's budget that there was great differences between the budget pictures among the city's departments when all was said and done. But the financial aspect of the city's budget is only part of the picture, the other huge factor stemming from the city's budget problems are the personnel hiring and promotion freezes that are city-wide.

So what's the job picture in the city? Not bad if you're into public utilities but not great for anyone else. In the police department, the only positions that appear to still be open really aren't. They're merely the announcement to employees already working in that agency about whether or not they want to be included on a promotional list (i.e. for police captain). For positions that even if vacancies open up, they might just be frozen anyway.

In the midst of this is the Riverside Police Department, which was the beneficiary of the highest budget increase of any city department at 5% (from the 2007-08 starting budget). It was one of only two city departments with the other being the fire department to see a budget increase, in a year where every other city department took cuts. Yet, last Tuesday the department received an audit that warned that if the current staffing vacancies remained unfilled that there might be problems down the road with its forward movement. Of particular concern were whether or not sergeant and lieutenant positions in the field operations divisions were being frozen after being vacated through retirements. Meaning that if they were frozen, they wouldn't be filled after these retirements took place. And when they're frozen, it's not always clear where the money that would have been spent filling and paying a salary on those positions will be going. Will it be remaining in the department or will it be in the city's coffer to be spent or stashed some place else?

One time, you'll hear that they're frozen. Then it's no they're not. Then it's well, maybe they are or this one is and maybe they're not except for this one. And then you scratch your head and wonder where all the leadership is. That question is one that's been asked before.

So why does this matter?

The stipulated judgment included two requirements that the department was to adhere to between 2001-2006 which involved maintaining a 7 to 1 ratio of field officers to supervisors and lieutenant watch commanders on all shifts. In March 2006, the city council voted to among other things stick to implementing these two requirements as recommended by then monitor, Joe Brann in his final report before the dissolution of the stipulated judgment. One of the reasons being that the Riverside Police Department had a very young work force, with the average officer being between 23-24 years of age and having about 2 1/2 years experience in the field. This reality has been in place for several years and is a byproduct of the massive employment turnover that took place in the sworn division after the shooting of Tyisha Miller by four police officers in 1999 and the imposition of the stipulated judgment in 2001. The majority of police officers hired since have been new ones, graduates from local police academies.

In 2008, the patrol officers are still young, relatively inexperienced and about 23% of them are probational officers. Because of this, it's been recommended that they be closely supervised and consequently that the officer to sergeant ratios adhere closely to the 7 to 1 standard that had been set by the judgment and one that's actually used by other law enforcement agencies. That's difficult to argue against and funding these supervisors should have been a major priority. For whatever reason either because of the city or the department or both, it was not. Hopefully, that attitude will change before the next audit but it's difficult to be really impressed with what played out last week.

So does this young police department have adequate supervision by its sergeants and lieutenants? That's one question that probably most needs a definitive answer, but it's also the question that it seems no one can answer. Rather, instead there are different answers provided by different people whether they planned to provide them or they were hit on the spot with an unexpected question.

Some people Like Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis have said yes and then some, arguing that the staffing ratios are better than ever. Some people said of course not and that the staffing ratios are near the point where they'll surpass the 7 to 1 ratio especially with summer vacations coming up. Somewhere in there, lies the truth. It's beyond annoying when the city puts the city residents which put tax money into its coffers creates this situation over and over again because the bosses of the city council, who are the constituents deserve to know the truth.

So here's some breakdown of some statistics pertaining to the police department's operational budget for this fiscal year which began today, July 1.

The police department’s budget

(source: the city's 2008-09 annual budget approved on June 12.)


Personnel Services: $77,491,725 (from $75,548,968 in 2007)

Non-Personnel Services: $6,857,985 (from $8,375,473)

Special Projects: $328,842 (from $523,765)

Equipment: $14,181 ( from $7,372,764)

Budget requirements: $93,957,937 (from $102,708,744. as amended with the original budget at $88,622,361)

If you notice, the only part of the police budget that increased was personnel service costs, which include salaries and related costs paid to the civilian and sworn employees in the department during the fiscal year. Every other category is down, from last year's initially passed budget.

The equipment budget took the sharpest decrease perhaps in part because monies were spent last year to purchase several dozen marked police cars. In addition, the department was purchasing a new helicopter.

Last year, the department had a supplemental appropriation made to its budget which was about 20% of its initially approved budget. The police department's incremental budget increase from that initially approved budget was 5%. Depending on how much money it was spending in the last six months, minus any one-time uses, it's not clear how much of this is really an increase or if in fact, it's a budget cut especially when the salary increases (including 3% to members of the Riverside Police Officers' Association) from any existing MOUs are factored into it.

That's one question that needed to be asked and answered.

Breakdown by divisions:

Office of the Chief:

Lieutenants: 2

Sergeants: 7 (five in Internal Affairs and two on the Audit and Compliance Panel)

Personnel and Training

Lieutenants: 2

Sergeants: 3

Field Operations (Patrol)

Officers: 194 (from 201 in 2007)

Sergeants: 29 (from 30) *one sergeant transferred to Special Operations Division

Lieutenants: 11

Special Operations (including K-9, SWAT and PACT)

Officers: 43 ( from 38)

Sergeants: 7 (from 6)

Lieutenants: 4

* The upcoming retirement of Traffic Division lieutenant and consolidation of Community Services/Youth Court and K-9/PACT may or may not have been factored into this. *

Central Investigations (formerly GIB)

Detectives: 24 ( with four/Neighborhood Center)

Sergeants: 4

Lieutenant: 1

Special Investigations (including gang, narcotics and vice units)

Detectives: 23

Sergeants: 4

Lieutenant: 1

In the field division, a sergeant was transferred out of that division into special operations according to this budget. The budget also doesn’t factor into at least one sergeant retirement taking place at this time and at least another retirement which make take place this autumn. If you subtract those positions from the field operations division, the overall officer to sergeant ratio goes from 6.7 officers per sergeant to 7.2 to 1. So as you see, the current ratio sits near the cusp of the 7 to 1 ratio mandated by former Attorney General Bill Lockyer during the stipulated judgment. To accommodate the ratio which remains in place upon a vote of the city council during a workshop that took place in March 2006, the sergeants have to put in overtime to erase the deficit. Another issue arises because overtime was one of the areas where the department was to trim its budget.

In order to staff adequately for the 4.3 to 1 ratio provided by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis at the city council meeting on June 24, the division would require 16 sergeants more than it currently has assigned to field operations to avoid relying on supplementing the shifts with sergeants working overtime. That's also assuming that none of them are off duty on any type of leave or workers' compensation situation and there were high figures cited department-wide for those types of vacancies as well. Hopefully, the city manager's office will elaborate further on the figures it provided at the city council meeting in a public venue. But the city's leadership both in government and in other venues seem content to take a wait and see attitude with this situation and we all know how successful that strategy was in the 1990s. We all had the opportunity to witness how well that worked out.

It's not about handing out money to the police department. It's not about handing it over to the city manager's office (although consolidation of the finance department under its wing gave it the keys), it's about accountability with both the city's budget cuts and the city's frozen personnel positions particularly inside an agency which was once under a court-ordered mandate to hold itself to established staffing ratios. It's about financial and staffing accountability within the department by the department and by the city. It's about providing answers to questions and addressing concerns about why it is that the staffing ratios may be in jeopardy in the future. The information provided has been different and there's been no discussion in public at least among the elected leadership and their direct employees about that. And it's not likely that there's going to be until the situation becomes much more serious.

That's how Riverside often works as history has shown.

But this person stated that a closer look needed to be taken of this whole situation and I definitely agree. But will that happen? Will city leaders continue to be passive when it comes to even questioning the information presented to them by their own employees and will city leaders including those who are "prominent people" continue to stick their fingers in the air to see if it's politically appropriate to say or think anything?

While doing this, they should ask themselves, did this really work for the city during the last century? And is what I want for myself really all that important in the scheme of things? The last question must be asked in a city where watching people move about with their political agendas is like watching bumper cars at an amusement park. Which leaves us in the position of where the police department will be during its next audit? Will it be better off? Will it be worse off? Will past indeed be what's prologue in this century as well. Will all these leaders be quiet then?

These issues need to be discussed, deliberated and then resolved. Because there are other more serious issues in the police department which need the attention and time to be addressed. Instead of that happening, the department is once again marching in place.

To be continued...

San Bernardino's city government has created and passed its fiscal budget but not without laying employees off.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The council vote means that 13 full-time City Hall employees and 38 part-time employees will lose their jobs and that 76 positions will be frozen, Wilson said. That amounts to a 7 percent cut in the city workforce, he said.

Assistant City Manager Lori Sassoon said the layoffs will take effect "within weeks."

The council rejected Wilson's recommendation to eliminate staffing for one of the city's 12 fire engine companies through attrition and his proposal to leave four code enforcement positions vacant.

They also turned down -- for now -- a reorganization of the Police Department that would have eliminated six police positions through attrition. Police Chief Mike Billdt says the new organization would make the department more flexible in responding to shifting crime trends, would increase the number of neighborhood beats and would save the city $653,000 annually.

But council members balked Monday at any reduction in the number of uniformed officers. They agreed Monday to take up Billdt's proposals next week.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein takes on architecture and the downtown buildings. He seems to state, bring out the demolition ball.


Maybe, allowed Lech, the library "... needs to go. But to say it needs to go just because it isn't the Carnegie Library or because it reflects the time in which it was built is just shortsighted."

He's right. It should go because it's ugly.

As the name implies "New Formalism" appears to have been an untested spinoff of formalism. Whether it was the era or the execution, the Main Library proved to be a stupefying clinker.

That said, the question isn't whether, in the finest tradition of Riverside "redevelopment," this box should be demolished. The question is: Does it make financial sense to do so? Some estimates, though unofficial, put the cost of replacing this eyesore at $15 million.

Demolitionists might be able to doctor satellite photos enough to convince the Bush administration that the library is really a North Korea-style nuclear reactor that could be easily blown up in exchange for certain aid considerations, valued at around $15 million.

Another columnist, Cassie MacDuff takes on the whole Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District mess.

Congratulations to Wildomer, this is the first day it's officially a city.

Scandal has rocked the San Bernardino County Assessor's office with one employee there being indicted by a grand jury and the grand jury then turning around and harshly scolding that office.

In Los Angeles, there is big trouble for that police department after a judge dismissed a case against a man after it came to light that police officers had planted drugs on him. How did this happen? It was all caught on surveillance tape.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

During the trial, which began Friday, the officers told jurors that they had chased Alarcon, 29, into his Hollywood apartment building last year and seen him throw away a black object. They testified that one of the officers picked up the object a few feet from where Alarcon was standing and discovered powder and crack cocaine inside.

But footage from the grainy video, which Alarcon's attorney said came from an apartment building surveillance camera, shows that it took the two officers more than 20 minutes to find the drugs. They were also aided by other officers in their search.

The quality of the tape, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, is poor and it is difficult to clearly hear what is being said. But at one point, an officer seems to make a reference to the arrest report that needed to be filled out.

"Be creative in your writing," the officer appears to tell another after the discovery.

"Oh yeah, don't worry, sin duda [no doubt]," comes the reply.

Creative? Oh, you mean lying on police reports and/or on the witness stand. Is this an isolated event in the LAPD? Probably not, because it hasn't been in some of the officers that agency has run off to other unsuspecting law enforcement agencies in Southern California.

Buyer beware, is the motto which should be considered when hiring police officers particularly lateral officers. And don't skimp on the background check no matter whose kid it is that you're hiring. Because you might not pay in heart ache and through civil litigation today for any potentially bad hiring decision, but then hiring bad laterals is payment on the installment plan.

This should go without saying of course but then you just never know, do you?

In New York City, a lawyer working on a special panel to oversee the New York City Police Department said she was fired for asking too many questions about the tasing of a teenager.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Willa Bernstein, one of the commission's investigating lawyers, said she thought her job was to critique the NYPD's Internal Affairs cases.

"The real job description should have been: 'Just go along. Don't rock the boat,'" she said.

Bernstein said she was fired from her $75,000-a-year spot in October after the chief of NYPD Internal Affairs complained to her boss that she had an "anti-police" bias.

Bernstein said there was a target on her back after she questioned why police officers Tasered a violent teenage suspect after he was shackled and handcuffed in a police stationhouse.

In a September meeting about the incident, Bernstein compared the case to the notorious Abner Louima police brutality case in 1997.

"I said this case needed to be aggressively investigated because no one wanted another Abner Louima case," Bernstein said. "IAB and people in the room were horrified by the comparison."

Which means that none of those horrified people got it. That the Louimas don't happen in a vaccuum. They use these other incidents as stepping stones to get to that place first.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

From Acorns to Oaks: The CPRC and Outreach

I ran into several individuals in the past week who wanted to know what Riverside's Community Police Review Commission had been up to lately.

Its members have been fighting more lately which isn't nearly as interesting to watch as it sounds and outside the presence of the oft-absent chair and vice-chair, the majority of its members voted to pass regulations making it more difficult for members of the public to respond substantively and in any real meaningful way to discussion items on their agenda. That was a pretty strong sign of how the commission views public participation and one of the relatives of Douglas Steven Cloud (who was killed by police officers in 2006) was asked to comment on the related agenda item before it had even been outlined by the commission and responded she couldn't because she didn't know what was going to be discussed. At that point, despite the vote that had just been taken, Brandriff allowed her to reserve her comment until after the discussion which was the appropriate action to take but which also makes it clear that the previous vote was a bad one and it didn't take long at all for some rejection of it to take place.

That said, there will probably be another vote taken next time out to change the guidelines of public participation again. Especially since no discussion item is spared from comments by the public and after watching some commissioners on the dais, it's like deja vu going back to how city council members looked on the dais while being subjected to such horrendous circumstances like city residents pulling items from the consent calendar. Ironically, one of the current commissioners had spoken on behalf of a particular action to restrict public comment including the pulling of consent calendar items which was passed by the city council on July 12, 2005.

But back to the CPRC's meeting last week after the commissioners had voted to change the rules in the middle of the meeting.

Family members of a relative of Joseph Darnell Hill which is under investigation were told that they could speak during public comment on non-agendized items and also public comment under the appropriate agenda item, then they were skipped over by acting chair, John Brandriff who was eager to move on to the next agenda item. Then they were told the same thing, that they would have to comment at the beginning of the item before it was introduced by the commission instead of at the end. At the next meeting, the rules will be changed again. And so forth depending on which commissioner is exercising a power play against another one which shouldn't be a surprising dynamic considering the wealth of political appointments on the CPRC. It has little to nothing to do with the communities. If it did, these commissioners would just use nerf sticks to decide who's in charge and not make decisions at the expense of community members.

I've heard from activists in other cities in terms of the role played by their mechanisms of civilian oversight and they seem amazed at what has happened in Riverside during the past several years. Many of them are stunned to hear of the high composition on the commission of both White individuals (with seven out of nine commissioners being White) and individuals with law enforcement backgrounds or connections but then at least one finalist for the executive manager position had found that unusual.

I'm beginning to learn how unusual it must be to see these factors to the degree that they're seen in Riverside. But even as they struggle with issues pertaining to their own forms of civilian oversight, they are still moving in a forward direction even with fits and starts while Riverside's stands still in its tracks.

I was also working on a report on the CPRC which was broken down into different sections. One of those was public outreach, which is one of its responsibilities listed under the city's charter. Providing input on the commission if you're a community member is kind of like spitting in the wind,because community is a four-letter word to certain factions at City Hall but it provides a learning experience.

This will be part of an ongoing series on the CPRC.

The Community Police Review Commission and public outreach

Outreach is very important, but its definition is fairly narrow in the charter in terms of being solely to educate the public on the purpose of the commission. This is ironic in a sense because one of the “purposes” of the commission includes advising the Mayor and the City Council on all police/community relations. Outreach could be a valuable tool at assisting with the implementation of this other charter responsibility.

Outreach to the community and the police department has greatly declined particularly in communities like Arlanza, the Eastside and Casa Blanca in the past year or so. Part of the difficulty is determining who does outreach for the commission, because with different oversight mechanisms in different cities, it differs who is given the responsibility. Ideally, it would be good if both the executive manager and the commissioners themselves participated in outreach as defined by the charter. It helps community members trust a complaint process more if they can see the faces of those who play the different roles with that process. This is true for both the CPRC and the police department as well. Seriously after some of the comments I’ve heard from several commissioners this past year, I think they would greatly benefit from doing outreach in communities they don’t spend much time in like the Eastside and those that generate larger number of complaints.

The problem with executive managers and commissioners doing a lot of outreach is time constraints on both positions. Most commissioners work and already put in between 30-40 hours per month with meetings and reviewing cases so where do they find the time? I’m not sure what the solution is, whether it’s to better organize outreach within the time constraints, seek assistance from another commission like the HRC or the Commission on Disabilities (or the Model Deaf Task Force which arose in part from a police incident) for assistance in outreach or for ideas of areas of outreach, or to have support staff for outreach purposes (which isn’t likely during a fiscally difficult budget period). Whatever the city decides to do, something needs to be done to greatly increase outreach because the lack of it has already had a profoundly negative impact on the commission, the communities and probably the police department as well whether it's aware of that or not.

Having a strong and active Outreach Committee that can find opportunities for outreach is very important. For example, there are many city events where they could have booths but they rarely have done this except for several events and their presence at these events has declined further as part of the decline in overall outreach. There are outreach opportunities in neighborhood watch groups, organizations, youth groups and the school districts. For example, do students in schools where campus safety officers are assigned know that there’s a complaint process if they wish to file one against one of those officers?

There has been a history of some outreach to the police department through roll call question and answer sessions done by several commissioners which seemed to be successful as well as meet-and-greets that former Executive Manager Pedro Payne held with newly hired police officers. Those were suspended after his resignation. It’s important to do outreach with officers so that they can understand the purpose and procedures of Riverside's civilian review system and have questions answered by those who are actually working on that body.

I’ve gone to several outreach committee meetings and in past years, they were good at coordinating outreach opportunities with both the community and the police department though more so several years ago. The last one I attended consisted of some outreach discussions intermixed with some pretty harsh complaining about community leaders coming to the CPRC meetings to complain about how the CPRC was functioning. This wasn’t long after several community leaders came to address concerns they had about the handling of the Lee Deante Brown shooting case. After they had complained for several minutes about those community leaders' comments, one of the commissioners serving on the committee noticed that I was sitting in the room and said, “oh we don’t mean you, we’re talking about other people”.

While I realize that several commissioners might be frustrated with the community especially the “vocal critics” which no doubt includes people like me, I don’t believe the public outreach committee meetings are the best place to vent about city residents under the guise of having discussions about outreach. It's ironic that such complaining would even take place during meetings to discuss doing outreach to city residents but then the CPRC clearly hasn't thrived during the past several years.

The commissioners changed the outreach discussion process but they take place after the general meetings now, including some lengthy ones. Before this, there hadn’t been that many public outreach committee meetings in the past several years because of lack of quorum. One reason why, is because several of the recent resignations involved members of this committee who were very active in outreach efforts. However, the committee has been restaffed with four members including one alternate so hopefully it will become a more effective mechanism for coordinating outreach.

The outreach that’s done should be documented and included in public reports including the monthly reports (when the commission released them) so that the city government, police department and community can be informed of where outreach by the CPRC has been done. This might help address perceptions that outreach is being focused in one area to the detriment of the other and if there are deficiencies then it helps make them readily apparent to the commission.

The executive manager is assigned a role in outreach in his job description and also because it helps to build trust and better understanding of his role if he does some outreach. In the past, the city manager’s office has barred an executive manager from attending community meetings. That sent a message that it was okay to attend law enforcement appreciation dinners on behalf of the commission (and that’s definitely outreach to do so) but not attend community meetings. If there was truly an imbalance in outreach rather than addressing it this “correction” just alienated community members and presented an image of the commission as being favorable to police officers.

Part of the problem was difficulties in implementing better outreach opportunities with the police department. Rather than restricting community outreach, any directive and energies should have been focused on strengthening outreach with the police department rather than restricting community outreach and creating a situation that caused a lot of turmoil and proved to be an embarrassment to the city. If the city manager’s office doesn’t want to be viewed as “micromanaging” the commission by community members, it would be greatly assisted in promoting a more positive image of its role if it didn’t engage in these types of actions. Then you might not have city council members like Mike Gardner asking if instead the CPRC should report to the city council at public safety committee meetings.

A particular area of concern in outreach has been in the Eastside communities. If you read the 2006 annual report, you will see that zero complaints were filed from the Eastside during that year. This issue was addressed by community members at the CPRC outreach committee and general meetings, the HRC’s general meeting and community/police ad hoc committee meetings and the public safety committee meetings. At some point, the police department representative disagreed with the CPRC’s statistics but offered nothing on paper to refute them as of this date.

In the Eastside, there seems to be different reasons why no complaints were filed. It could be because there were no complaints to be filed. It’s difficult to believe that this is the case because I heard about at least a dozen complaints. Some of the problems include a lack of knowledge that there’s a complaint system let alone a civilian oversight mechanism such as the CPRC. This might be from the problems with outreach in recent years or because new people moving in the neighborhood or cultural or language barriers. If you have undocumented immigrants, then that might provide a barrier as well especially considering how in the Riverside County Board of Supervisor race that just took place several personnel from the department were speaking about "illegal aliens" and public safety. The unfortunate aspect of this is that it sends the message that if undocumented immigrants do experience crime whether as victims or witnesses, they should not go to the police.

Other reasons mentioned for not filing a complaint is fear of retaliation. Even if it’s just perceptional, it’s pretty strong in many community members in the Eastside and in other neighborhoods. There’s also some sentiment that the process isn’t effective or useful or that it will back the police because in part of the high number of people on it with police backgrounds. And after watching how the commissioners interact with community members compared to how they interact with police representatives including relatives of individuals whose cases they are investigating or reviewing, that's a valid point.

In part because of the ongoing permanent injunction against a Latino gang in the Eastside and surrounding areas, there should be greater education and outreach efforts made to increase the awareness of the CPRC. One of the fears of Eastside with the injunction is that there are no outside accountability mechanisms in place for actions done by the officers in enforcement of the injunction. A mechanism of filing complaints (while it shouldn’t be used for the sake of just filing complaints) that people can use with confidence and trust can be useful in monitoring whether or not there is any misconduct (i.e. multiple complaints against a particular officer) taking place that needs to be examined and/or investigated further and it can build trust in the police department if such a mechanism is not only made available to them but is included in discussions of the enforcement of the injunction by the police department. This would further show the department's commitment to accountability and transparency in its operations.

Accountability alongside with enforcement. The department if it’s truly ready to partner with the CPRC in outreach would have invited the CPRC commissioners to attend any forums held addressing its enforcement of the injunction. If the public can see that the department is comfortable enough to allow information to be provided on the CPRC at meetings for residents to utilize to file complaints, then it might help the public become more confident in the department’s actions in their neighborhoods.

Another explanation which has been provided is that there’s apparently already an informal process for handling complaints in the Eastside between one of the community organizations and the police department. Not much is known about this process outside the parties and perhaps the Eastside residents which utilize it whoever they are. While it’s important for community organizations and police agencies to partner to build better relationships in communities, the lack of information particularly about the process is a bit of a concern and perhaps the individuals and organizations using this informal process could provide that outreach to the general public. The department’s official complaint process serves multiple functions, only one of which is to handle and investigate complaints against police officers.

It also ties into other mechanisms of accountability such as the Early Warning System, Use of Force Reviews and evaluations. There’s other methods to receive information for these mechanisms with an informal process particularly if supervisors of the officers and the management of the department is involved, but it’s not clear to the community at large if this is in place and this is what is going on. That reassurance is needed for the city's residents by the department if it's utilizing a less formal system.

Commissioners have expressed discouragement and one resigned upon hearing of this informal system which they read as a lack of faith, support and trust in the CPRC since they believed that this informal mechanism was bypassing the CPRC. It’s difficult to blame them for that. If neighborhoods were utilizing these systems, better communication about them might have helped in this situation.

It’s not clear what the process is, what kind of complaints are handled and how they are handled. Does this pertain to minor allegations like discourtesy or include category 1 complaints like allegations of criminal conduct and/or excessive force? Is this an informal mediation process? Is this informal complaint process audited and are its statistics included along with those in the more formalized complaint process? And how does this informal process impact the CPRC? Are complainants informed of all their options with equal emphasis for each one? Is this process optional or is it replacing the more formalized complaint process used by the department which is represented in departmental policy #4.12?

I had experience this past autumn with a reported incident that took place involving a gentleman where the allegation was Category 1 Excessive Force, Level 5. There were initial issues including whether or not photographs were taken of his injuries as well as whether or not a supervisor was called out and confusion surrounding both issues. Issues that might be examined as part of an administrative investigation and/or a process of examining use of force incidents involving officers. Both the complainant and the department could greatly benefit from this examination of an incident.

The man didn’t file a complaint because his family feared retaliation. Another party inquired about it with the department and an investigation most likely internalized was initiated and assigned to a field sergeant which is good to know that in this case there might have been that system in place to address it. However, there’s some confusion and concern as to whether an inquiry about whether or not an incident is being investigated in a similar situation would be initiated or handled given that there are apparently different complaint systems in the Eastside. It would be a good thing to have an accounting of this informal process than have it be discovered based on rumor and hearsay. It might help with formulating outreach strategies regarding the CPRC in the Eastside neighborhood.

This might appear to be a separate issue and maybe so, but it does create some concerns that are related to the CPRC’s operations and how it serves residents in the Eastside, a community that actually played an instrumental role in the creation of a civilian review mechanism in Riverside. It also creates concerns about the direction of outreach in this neighborhood. Not to be critical of the informal process because it's difficult to know for sure what it does or does not do since information about it is not advertised.

The police department could be a very valuable tool for helping the CPRC to do outreach to various communities in Riverside. But they have to stop fearing it first. I think they’ve made strides at the management level but their unwillingness to answer questions fielded by a commissioner in the Brown investigation indicates that there’s still some defensiveness and reticence from that corner. The CPRC cited this lack of meaningful response to its inquiries in its public report issued on the Brown shooting. There have also been great opportunities for the police department to do this outreach at different meetings and it hasn’t done so. But then again, neither has the commission.

What’s interesting is that the perception that the commission is micromanaged by the city manager’s office is running about dead even with the perception in the police department that it is being micromanaged by the same office.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board states that development of March Air Force Field needs to continue onward with its May decision to expand civilian use.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Myopia is not a strategy for the region's future, however. March air field has been around since 1918, far longer than the homes under its flight path. And anyone who moves in next to an airport has little justification for objecting to airplane noise.

Nor is it realistic to expect economic advances to cease because of the region's traffic and air quality woes. Southern California needs to address those issues, certainly, but the region cannot fix them by committing fiscal suicide.

A functioning airport is a valuable commodity that the region cannot afford to waste. Building a new airport in Southern California is nearly impossible, so a large, existing air field offers enormous transportation and commercial advantages. The region should build on those strengths, not blindly discard them.

Riverside's most endangered buildings are the topic of an opinion piece in the Press Enterprise. Included on the list that local historians fear will go to the bulldozer is the downtown library.

Over picnic tables, Eastvale discusses cityhood while that den of political intrigue, Colton, is fighting over development issues mere weeks after its mayoral recall election and contemplating the public's response to its railroad crossing project.

Yet another Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputy has been busted for rape under the color of authority. About a half dozen other sworn and correctional deputies are currently at some point in the Riverside County Superior Court criminal system facing similar charges.

A Memphis Police Department officer was fired for beating a transgendered woman. The incident was caught on surveillance video which is included in the linked article.

Another officer has already been fired in relation to the incident.

(excerpt, Memphis Commercial Appeal )

Murray Wells, one of Johnson's attorneys, said Wednesday that McRae's firing was inevitable and long overdue.

Accused of using a racial slur is a Monroe Police Department officer.

(excerpt, WSB-TV)

Chris Wilburn filed an open records request for the dashboard camera video after he was arrested on charges of driving alone with a license that required an adult in the car. He was also charged with disorderly conduct for telling the officer he thought the arrest was wrong and for saying,"Jesus, have mercy on all your kids. Have mercy, have mercy"

Once Wilburn got the tape, he said he was shocked when he heard Monroe police Officer Eric Harrison apparently say,"Bagged me a smart *** (n-word) a while ago running his mouth"

The comment has Harrison on paid administrative leave and in jeopardy of losing his job.

"I think he should lose his badge" said Wilburn.

Harrison was allegedly referring to Wilburn when he made the slur. "I hear him say the n-word. That really burned me up" said Wilburn.

"It's highly coincidental that within a week of this becoming public that the officer is terminated," said Wells.

But Police Director Larry Godwin said that the hearing had been scheduled a month ago, before the incident became public. McRae had been on desk duty since the incident.

Wells wants to negotiate a settlement with the city rather than file a lawsuit.

"If we file a lawsuit, then the only thing we can get is money," Wells said. "We want officers to have sensitivity training and for the city to create a hate-crime law."

The Atlanta Police Department officer who's been accused of obstructing a porn investigation involving another officer has been fired.

Good news for the residents of Columbia, Missouri who have been fighting for civilian review. A special panel researching the issue has recommended that a civilian review board be created.

(excerpt, Columbia Missourian)

Co-committee chair Rex Campbell said he anticipated the outcome, though the unanimous vote was unexpected.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I thought there might be one or two dissenters. I am pleased.”

Yet Thursday’s decision is just the beginning of the process to establish a review board. The oversight committee has designated models for a subcommittee to investigate. These models are based on examples of other police review boards nationwide, and the subcommittee will evaluate them to gauge which components should be implemented.

Co-chairman Jefferey Williams said the committee is still concerned about how to improve transparency, communication and trust.

“I’m encouraged with the unanimous vote and that everyone felt that there were reasons to take the next step,” Williams said. “We want to build a public trust and work to build a relationship between the police and the community.”

Visitors to this site include the following.

City of Riverside

County of Riverside

State of California Treasurer's office

University of California, Riverside

San Manuel Band of Indians

Belo Enterprises

Washington State University, Seattle


Tennessee Board of Regents

City of Salinas, California

Opera Man, this time from Stockholm, Sweden

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

What would Lockyer think: The case of the missing officers

What would Bill Lockyer think is a thought that ran through my mind on Tuesday night after the report was given to the city council about the progress with the police department. According to the stat log, his office (which is the state's department of the treasurer) does visit this site occasionally including this morning. But I think that was a question that other people were wondering when watching the city council receive the news that the freezing of employment positions in the department would certainly impact its foreword movement and growth in a negative way.

In the aftermath of the most recent audit of the Riverside Police Department's implementation of the strategic plan, there are different versions of what exactly is the status of the case of the missing police officers provided by different individuals.

On Tuesday night, an audit of the department was given by consultant Joe Brann about the progress made by the agency in implementing the strategic plan which provides a list of goals and objectives in different subject areas that the department hopes to accomplish by the end of 2009. The creation and implementation of this plan was one of the mandated reforms included in the stipulated judgment that the city entered into with former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer in March 2001 for five years.

In many ways, significant improvement was noted particularly in areas where the department had stumbled in past audits. But when it came down to issues to address, the one that Brann had urged the city to examine immediately was the fairly large number of vacancies in both the civilian and sworn divisions of the police department and its impact on the agency's current and future development. The combined number of vacancies combined with positions left temporarily vacant by employees on various leaves, was a significant number that could create problems and provide serious obstacles to the department's continued improvement.

Civilian positions were frozen. So were "on call" detective positions including in the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse unit. That means that if there's a rape or a child abuse incident at night, there's no paid detective from that division that will come out. If they do, they might not be paid.

The impact was also centered at the supervisory levels, particularly with field sergeants and lieutenant watch commanders and this is where it's probably most alarming. Maintaining the 7 to 1 ratio of officers to sergeants that had been mandated in the consent decree was and continues to be critical due to the patrol force being very young with an average of 2-3 years work experience. The city council apparently thought so only two years ago and voted 7-0 to ensure that along with the other things they promised to follow through on.

This isn't a department filled with seasoned veteran officers and it won't be for many years yet. About a quarter of the patrol force consists of probational officers which are those with less than 18 months work experience. Many of the rest of them have between two to three years experience in the field.

Because of this, closer supervision and more training for these officers is necessary as the future days of a more seasoned workforce being representative were still far head. That was stated in the report and it seems obvious on its face anyway that this would be the case because newer employees in any field need more supervision and care taken that they receive the appropriate training and evaluation of their response to it.

Closer supervision and stronger oversight by management were two necessary components listed. But those are two important factors which might not be there if the city and its elected government continues in its current direction. But two areas of supervision getting hit are the officer to sergeant ratios and the 24/7 lieutenant watch commanders. And for the latter, the percentage of shifts which were at least partially covered by a sergeant watch commander began to creep up towards 20% earlier this year. They've declined slightly since but that's before going into the summer months were it's likely that under the current circumstances, that figure will increase again.

Apparently, while the Group was hosting the Community Police Review Commission at the Coffee Depot in downtown Riverside, the issue of the staffing cuts in the police department was brought up by Riverside Police Officers' Association President Chris Lanzillo and Paul Sundeen, the city manager of finance responded. That was the first inkling that many people had of the issues in the police department in light of the budget and Lanzillo had picked a good forum to express those concerns. People left the meeting talking about the situation.

One of the issues that's been raised and one of the questions I've been asked repeatedly is how to reconcile the 5% increase in the police department's operational budget with the frozen personnel positions in both the civilian and sworn divisions in the department. The two don't necessarily have anything really to do with one another. And I told people that when they contacted me after the Group meeting. It's entirely possible and in this situation, reality that you can have budget increments and staffing cuts or freezes, especially since the incremental percentage itself is not that large.

Executive ManagerKevin Rogan told the Community Police Review Commission at its general meeting this week when the issue of the latest audit in the police department was brought up, that the explanation that had been given at that meeting was that the increases in the department's budget were based partly on contractual increases in relation to the memorandums of understanding with the unions based on the current labor contracts. This would include the final 3% increase in the salaries of the members of the RPOA that are implemented this summer, with contract negotiations possibly opening up again early next year.

And that reality that the budget increase was merely to maintain a status quo in one area, left the door open to the fact that even with an increase in the budget, it was possible to see a decrease in filled positions on the personnel side. Yet, the budget increase was being sold as a commitment by the city council and city manager's office to the police department while it moves through a critical phase of its evolution.

However, if you listened carefully to what Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis said on Tuesday night, there's apparently a bit of a contradiction taking place here. One of the unfortunate characteristics of dealing with the city manager's office is that you need a group of people to ask City Manager Brad Hudson the same question, then you can tally up his responses and the one that's heard by most people must be the right one. Perhaps, or perhaps not.

That was the case when different individuals asked Hudson his feelings during 2007 about whether or not the Community Police Review Commission should have its own independent counsel. Some community leaders who met with him in the winter of 2007, said that he was all for it (and then suggested Best, Best and Krieger) but when I asked him about it after a public safety committee in spring of the same year, Hudson said no, the CPRC didn't need an independent attorney because the Planning Commission didn't have one. And so it goes. Maybe that office doesn't believe that people get together and compare notes on what was said but people do.

But Hudson wasn't on the dais in his customary seat when the audit was presented. DeSantis was subbing in for his boss in the big chair and looked a bit off guard with the audit report, hence his response to inquiries about the budget picture in the police department including the status of the missing officers. He was under pressure for his response and didn't come out sounding very good even for a former public information officer with Riverside County. Maybe he was dealing with facts. Maybe he was responding off the top of his head but his words created a lot of problems and some serious disagreement with them from some corners.

DeSantis also referred to the budget increase which the department (along with the fire department which received a 3% increase) would enjoy while other city departments faced major cuts in their operational and personnel budgets. However, he didn't explain the budget increase by attributing it to the MOUs the city signed with the department's labor unions. DeSantis also mentioned that there was adequate funding to better the department's officer to supervisor ratio (from the standard of 7 to 1 to about 4.3 to 1) .

DeSantis also said told the city council this, which was that the city has a "fully-staffed and well-trained police department".

So this is what we have.

Positions frozen.

Fully staffed.

Postions frozen.

Fully staffed.

Positions frozen.

Fully staffed.

Positions frozen.

And omigosh, I just ran out of daisy petals.

But then again, it's challenging at times to know who at City Hall is telling the truth because council members bragged about how healthy Riverside's reserve was in comparison to those of other cities yet over 90% of the city's departments took even larger cuts than were initially anticipated (which were to be in the 5-10% range). In reality, quite a few city departments took cuts between 10-20% with the city council's office being one notable exception. That's not very healthy at all as it turns out even if it's comparatively less unhealthy than other cities even though some cities in the region do appear to be riding out the budget crisis better than this one. If you're going to put information about the healthy reserve on campaign literature during next year's election, few voters are going to buy it at this point. The current situation is something to keep in mind in case sitting elected officials including two who were noticeably absent on Tuesday night throw their hats in the ring again.

Some city leaders have taken these stats and reassurances cited by a representative of the city manager's office and have planned to take a wait-and-see attitude just like they did when Hudson and company fumbled with the city council's directive on how to implement the strategic plan in 2006. So congratulate the city government for locking into one of its most common and problematic patterns of shuffling their feet as they did back in the 1990s, so they do now. And that just proves that you can change the faces on the dais periodically through the election process but that cultural dynamic remains the same from one decade to the next.

The problem with that politically safer position once again is that it might work if there's no problems yet and it might help these folks maintain their positions, but if there are indeed problems already because of this situation, then the "wait and see attitude" will worsen them as it usually has. It's too bad that there aren't leaders who are willing to say, okay you gave us these stats and your assurances. Where did they come from? What do they translate to in reality for now? For next month? In three months? It's too bad that not a single leader at City Hall has responded to the audit which was presented on Tuesday night with answers to any of these questions let alone a plan to address this problem. It's too bad that no one on the dais can take the initiative to have further discussion on this issue in a public forum. It's too bad that staffing problems at the police department just isn't as damn glamorous, ego stroking and well, as sexy as Riverside Renaissance and its assorted development projects including condo and loft housing projects that might fill up with people by 2012 or so after the housing market rebounds.

You can't tackle staffing issues in the police department and get a huge sign marquee sign erected on some city street or in front of some hole in the ground with your name in bold letters. You can't solve it and then host a ribbon cutting ceremony. You can't solve it and get a reception in your honor for doing so.

So what would a city government with at least one real leader within it do to prove that this isn't the 1990s all over again? They would take the initiative to look into the situation and bring all of Locker's stake holders or co-producers in public safety into the dialogue to figure out how to address the problem. They could prove the system isn't as broken now as it was back then.

Several of the current elected officials ran for office because of those past failures or so they said and they pointed fingers at past city councils as the primary reason why the police department needed fixing. And that's fair enough for them to do so, but the minute they were sworn into office that's when the fingers should have been turned away from pointing at past elected officials and turned inward towards themselves. Because this is their watch now and if there are problems going on, they are the ones whose are responsible on the dais for addressing them.

Yes, they might have inherited the police department but they knew or should have known that going in.

One venue where that could take place is the city council's public safety committee chaired by Councilman Andrew Melendrez and membered by Nancy Hart and Mike Gardner. The police chief's office and the personnel and training division could bring its statistics. Hudson and DeSantis and Sundeen could pool their statistics and bring them. The three labor unions who represent employees in the department could bring their research.

Another venue where all city council members could be involved is a city council workshop, which was done in March 2006 to grapple with the implementation of the department's strategic plan after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment.

These are just two of the options which have been used in the past to address similar issues impacting the police department. One or both of them might serve a useful function now. But it's hard to know what options are being considered if any for further discussion if what comes from the dais in the face of bad news, is silence.

If a developer of a housing project was set to walk away, you'd hear more noise from both the city council and its direct employee, the city manager. But not here, you just get silence.

What would Lockyer think about such silence?

That question is easy to answer. Just listen to the various speeches he gave to the city government and city residents in 2001 before the stipulated judgment where he outlined the history of non-committed response by the city government to problems faced by the police department.

At an appearance in San Diego several years ago, he said the following according to Indymedia:

Lockyer found that the Riverside City Council balked at signing on to the deal. They did some things of their own which they'd done three times before, and each time there had been slight improvements and then things had got worse again, he recalled. Finally I went to one of the Council meetings and said, "The choice is, you adopt the reforms or I will sue you and we'll see what the federal courts have to say.

They said, "Our constituents don't like outsiders coming in," and I said,
"I've got news for you. All your constituents are my constituents as well." They voted 7-2 for the reforms, and two years later the Riverside police chief, a new one they'd brought in from outside said, "Had it not been for Lockyer's intervention, nothing would have changed."

But what has happened instead of any discussion is silence, a "let's wait and see" and one again, the city council as it proved in 2006 is unable to press its own direct employee for a response. Just as the city council waffled through the summer and most of the autumn of 2006 while Hudson dragged his feet on following the directive issued by that body on implementation of the strategic plan.

Apparently, the police department's budget is a flexible one, which allows appropriations to supplement it, but there was no comments from City Hall of what path would be followed. This is reminiscent of the 1990s when positions were cut due to budget woes and never returned. I'm sure back then promises were made to restore cuts but by the time the city was sued by the state over its police department in 2001, the staffing in the department was viewed as being too inadequate to do just about anything. The judgment with its recognition of collective bargaining rights included provided leverage for bringing in staffing, training and equipment to the department in ways that even the consent decree's harshest critics should recognize. But as soon as it was gone, there was already concerns that the city would reverse all that during lean budget years.

What is past may be prologue after all.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein imagines a conversation between Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco and Riverside Police Department Chief Russ Leach about who enforces the injunction they jointly filed against Eastside Riva.


Item de News: In the five months since RivCo DA Rod Pacheco obtained his anti-gang injunction, not one of the 114 alleged East Side Riva members has been arrested. How is this injunction being enforced?

Pacheco: Ask Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach.

Leach: Ask Rod Pacheco.

Which makes it kind of hard for ordinary folks who pay the DA's and chief's salaries and bankroll their vast fiefdoms to know what these crack lawmen are doing about gangs.

Could it be that Pacheco and Leach, who stood side-by-photo-op-side when this injunction was unveiled, never thought about what they'd do if a judge actually approved it?

Fortunately, someone slipped me a taped conversation. It really clears things up -- even though Rod 'n' Russ sound an awful lot like Abbott 'n' Costello discussing that question for the ages: "Who's On First?"

Moreno Valley's city manager is reorganizing the city's services that it provides to the public, while the county's newest city, Menifee, appoints a city attorney.

The strike team of judges who were dispatched by the chief justice of the state supreme court to fix the mess of the Riverside County Superior Court system have left the building.

But all the parties in the judicial system fear that the state's budget crisis will undo most of the progress made by the visiting judges.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The judges cleared 125 of the long-pending cases during their 10-month tour of duty and also volunteered to hear other matters, bringing to 205 the trials they heard. They also sat on preliminary hearings, 289 of them by June 20.

The county has one of the highest case-to-judge ratios in California as well as one of the worst backlogs of pending criminal trials.

Many of the cases handled by strike force judges had been pending for several years. At least one had waited seven years to be tried, and several others for five.

Associate Justice Richard Huffman was appointed by California Chief Justice Ronald George to help local officials reach agreement on long-term changes for court procedures.

Some of the strike force's judges are retired, but others are still active, meaning their home counties lost their services while they were in Riverside County. A few will remain behind to finish up cases that go beyond today.

"A number of them sacrificed a lot of their family life. It's a tough living," Huffman said. "But we did not receive a single complaint."

The judges "felt they were able to contribute something to the statewide system. There was an outpouring of camaraderie," he said.

Will "Green Path North" lead to eminent domain against 3,500 homes?

California State Sen. Gloria Romero's sunshine bill died in committee.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Three Democrats on the seven-member Public Safety Committee refused to cast a vote. Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) voted for the measure, and Assemblymen Greg Aghazarian (R-Stockton), Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) and Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) opposed it.

The bill's author, state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), lashed out against the members who abstained. They were Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), the committee's chairman, and Assemblymen Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) and Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge).

"I was really taken aback by the [bill's] death by silence," Romero said. "The fear, you could feel it -- the fear of what will happen if you look out for the public's interests when they may differ from the interests of the law enforcement lobby."

Tim Sands, president of the Police Protective League, which represents 9,300 LAPD rank-and-file officers, said he was pleased that "this bad piece of legislation was stopped." He reiterated the union's stance that the department's discipline system allows sufficient civilian oversight. The league launched a radio campaign that was highly critical of the proposed law, and Sands, in a recent interview, accused Romero of throwing a "legislative temper tantrum."

Villaraigosa, who encouraged Romero to sponsor the bill and made calls to Solorio and several other members, echoed the senator's frustration.

"It's an outrage," he said. "This was the status quo for 20 years, and the people of Los Angeles want this type of transparency."

The police need more oversight. This message is being sent out by Latino groups in response to a report done on the police department's complaint systems in Monmouth County.

(excerpt, Asbury Park Press)

The report's cover lists the authors as the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, Monmouth Chapter, the Hispanic Directors Association of New Jersey, and the New Jersey chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association. However, late Monday afternoon, the Peace Officers group released a statement saying the report was neither generated nor sanctioned by that organization.

During a news conference at the Monmouth County Courthouse, Frank Argote-Freyre, the director of the Alliance's Monmouth County chapter, said the report was not an effort to give police a black eye, but to make internal affairs procedures more transparent.

"We need a pair of outside eyes," he said. "The system, to us, appears to be too closed."

The Portland Police Bureau finally released the name of civilians who volunteer to serve on use of force and other review boards within the department.

(excerpt, The Oregonian)

The Performance Review Board examines the results of internal affairs investigations, decides if policies were violated, and makes recommendations to the chief concerning potential disciplined.

At a recent Citizen Review Committee meeting, committee members questioned who the citizen volunteers are, and when their names would be made public.

"I've got to be honest with you, I thought we had done that," Assistant Chief Brian Martinek said, at the meeting. Martinek pledged to get the names out.

The investigation of a complaint by Portland's Citizen Review Committee might have been impacted by the failure of an officer from another investigation being able to be interviewed.

(excerpt, Portland Mercury)

Officers from Milwaukie, Hillsboro, Beaverton, and Washington County work in Portland on MAX with Portland's TriMet cops under intergovernmental agreements. But because of the way those agreements are written, those officers are subject to a lower standard of oversight than regular Portland cops. If a fellow Portland cop had witnessed the fight, for example, they would have been compelled to testify to Portland Police Bureau's internal affairs detectives.

"My concern is that if these officers are working in my jurisdiction, they should be responsible for the same rules as Portland cops," says CRC member Hank Miggins.

Galvanston, Texas needs civilian review now.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Anatomy of a shooting: Joseph Darnell Hill

"I still don't believe there was any reason for Joe to die."

----Leslie Braden, Joseph Darnell Hill's sister.

"It could happen to anyone's family. It happened to my family, twice."

---Yvonne Hill, in reference to the officer-involved shooting death of Charles Hill by Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputies.

"Dr. McCormick reported that Hill sustained four gunshot wounds to his torso. The wounds included one on the right side of his chest near the armpit, one in the right portion of his upper chest, and two in his upper back. Dr. McCormick concluded the cause of death was due to gunshot wounds to the torso."

---Butch Warnberg, investigator Baker Street Group on Joseph Darnell Hill investigation briefing.

Anonymous said...

I Love It!!!!Mary, what are the odds that 2 "Brothas" would be shot by police under similar circumstances within a 15 year period? I can only imagine the amount of victims these two left in their in their wake over the years. I'd bet there's not enough Bath and Body candles to hold the amount of candle light vigils it would take to cover all of the people these two victimized over the years. But their "sista" can feel comfort in knowing that they are now in the hands of "Allah."

P.S. I like your new addition-the whole comment moderation thing. Nice touch for a self-proclaimed journalist/editor/advocate for free speech.

"We're a movin on up, to the East Side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky"---George Jefferson


One of Riverside's Finest

Oct. 26, 2006 at 10:47 p.m.

I know how the Darnell Hill shooting could have been prevented. His family could have turned him in after he committed that robbery of a local Riverside eatery several months ago. Oh, how come the family, who posted Stop Police Brutality signs during his vigil did not post "Stop Armed Robbery" banners? I wonder if Deputy Chief Dominguez extended his sympathies to the famalies of the officers who have been put in the unfortunate position of having to take another human life and of almost being seriuosly injured or killed themselves? I bet he hasn't. But can't say I'm surprised. Anyways, bye!

President of the Inland Empire Chapter of Accountability of Police Accountability Activists. I wanted to use "President of the League of Hot Female Cops" but I was afraid you might edit my comment.

(Oct. 27, 2006 at 4:35 p.m.)

Deceased: Joseph Darnell Hill, 33 African-American man from Riverside, California

Officers: Jeffry Adcox, Giovanni Ili

Date/Time of incident: Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006

Location: Near Arlanza, Riverside

Lawsuit filed? Yes.

The Community Police Review Commission received a report from its investigator, Butch Warnberg from the Baker Street Group on the Joseph Darnell Hill shooting while members of his family were in attendance. This briefing was made more than 18 months after the shooting occurred and unlike past briefings on other investigations, was very short.

He provided the following summary of events. It was a very brief report but then Warnberg's reports have gotten briefer since the city manager's office began contemplating hiring a variety of private investigation firms beginning in early 2007.

On Oct. 19, 2006 at about 10:17 a.m., Officer Jeffrey Adcox stopped Hill's vehicle at or near the intersection of Crest Avenue and Babb Vvenue. The officer approached the vehicle and talked with Hill obtaining his drivers license. Adcox activated his belt record (as required under policy 4.60) and returned to his car to call on the radio for assistance.

Officer Giovanni Ili soon arrived to assist Adcox. The officers approached the car and Adcox asked Hill to get out of the car which Hill did. Adcox conducted a brief pat down search of Hill's person for weapons. Adcox told Hill to sit on the curb with his legs in front of him. Hill did that but argued with the officers and said they were harassing him.

Adcox decided to put Hill in the backseat of his vehicle while the officers searched the car. Adcox told Hill to stand up and then put his hands behind his back. Hill did so and Adcox put his hand on Hill's fingers to control him while moving backward to the squad car. Hill said, "you're not going to arrest me" and pulled away. Hill spun around and put Adcox's neck in a headlock. Hill and Adcox fell to the ground in a clench. Ili also struggled and fell on the ground.

Hill made several attempts to grab Ili's handgun and was able to remove and gain control of ili's taser. Ili managed to grab it and pull the dart cartridge out during the fight. Although the cartridge was removed. The taser was activated for two seconds. Adcox ultimately fired four rounds from his gun, hitting Hill four times. Medical assistance was called and Hill was taken to Riverside Community Hospital where he died.

Warnberg took questions from the commissioners (and there were few) including one by Rotkers about Hill's criminal record which was stated in the report as follows.

"Hill had a documented criminal record with a conviction for assault in June 2006 in the city of Riverside. Hill was also alleged to have been in possession of marijuana during a warrant arrest in 2006 and alleged to have furnished alcohol to a minor resulting in an arrest of Corona of October 2006."

That was what was included and presumably taken from the police department's own investigative file although given that there's no citation for it, that is not clear. But what Rotker had addressed had something to do with an armed robbery at a fast food restaurant, possibly Der Weinerscnitzel, where the case was dropped. That part was puzzling because it's not mentioned in the report nor is it on record in the Riverside County Superior Court either. The only other mention of it that I'm aware of appears in the lovely posting cited above that was written one week after Hill's shooting written by the "President of the League of Hot Female Cops".

On the case of furnishing alcohol to a minor, the records show that Hill failed to show up at an arraignment in December 2006, two months after he was killed and a bench warrant was put out on him. The news of Hill's death apparently not reaching the courts yet.

The briefing was sparse and fairly simple about the events which led to Hill's death. What followed was neither of these things.

Because the CPRC had set up this really confusing agendizing system for the two officer-involved deaths, Acting Chair John Brandriff (substituting for the rarely seen anymore, Chair Brian Pearcy and Vice-Chair Sheri Corral) kept moving forward to the next agenda item before being reminded by Executive Manager Kevin Rogan that the commission hadn't taken public comment from the previous item. Most of the discussion in the past several meetings has been very difficult even to follow let alone understand and what comes across very strongly is that the commissioners don't seem to understand what they are doing or saying either. At least they don't come across that way. It makes you wonder about how they converse behind closed doors.

The procedure for hearing public comment on discussion agenda items has undergone quite a few changes in the past few months and it's getting harder to keep up. But that didn't really matter, because once again, there was a vote taken to change it once again.

The commission voted in the middle of the process while relatives of two individuals killed in officer-involved shootings watched, to change the process of public comment so that community members have to provide public comment before an agenda item is even outlined as to what it's about.

They did it while their chair and vice-chair were absent. They justified doing this by saying that any commissioner could do this and they didn't want to wait a whole month. Is it true that commissioners can make decisions about the process of chairing meetings while those who usually do so are absent? Yes, but it isn't really good form and it reeks of being some sort of power dynamic playing out on the dais, a dynamic that probably is most often out of the public's sight. Which is just as well because the public doesn't really care about political power plays and similar dynamics. A lot of us care about civilian review and oversight.

Unfortunately, given how much the public has seen some of those pushing the motion last night have clashed with those who were absent, that's the only way to read it. And that includes behind closed doors because when there's yelling or loud voices raised in the fifth floor large conference room at City Hall, you can hear them all the way to where the elevators are located. If not what is being said, certainly who is yelling it at that point in time.

As for waiting another month, why is it so pressing to push changes which impact and limit the community's ability to participate in discussions with the commission with any information about what is going on, yet when it comes to agenda items which impact community members in other ways besides restricting them, the commission can bump items up to six months or longer in the future through postponing them?

Essentially, putting the public in the position of having to speak before the agenda item is explained or laid out, is done to prevent community members from providing input in a meaningful way because as several people including Theresa Cloud said, how can you discuss an agenda item if you don't know what it really entails? That's the bottom line. If it's said to be done to expedite or even facilitate the process, that's not really the truth. Because how can either be accomplished by placing community members in the position of not being able to fully discuss or provide input on agenda items?

And it creates a huge disconnect between the community and the commission, but then what's becoming more and more clear is how the commission is isolating itself from community, even as it talks about doing further outreach. But maybe when the commission realizes that community members are every bit as much stake holders in the process as they are, as city staff members are, as police department officers are, then actions like these won't be taken without due consideration of the stake holders.

What the commission is showing is how effectively it can adopt strategies used by the city council to restrict public comment even those commissioners who say they are all for public participation. Because when Brandriff skipped from the Hill shooting to Cloud, there was silence on the dais even after he had just forgot or ignored the fact that several of Hill's family members had been waiting to speak until Rogan reminded him of that. Can you just imagine the uproar there would have been if Brandriff had inadvertently skipped over comments by a police representative? He probably would have been sent to the corner and left there for the rest of the meeting.

At least Rogan was paying attention to what wasn't going on.

If the chair and other commissioners can't even keep the agenda numbers of two different shooting investigations straight, how will they ever keep the two discussions separate in their minds? They had similar confusion with trying to keep discussion items for the Cloud shooting and the Lee Deante Brown shooting straight from one another at the last special meeting. They don't even seem to know what agenda item they are on most of the time, so how does that bode for being able to compartmentalize two separate shooting investigations? And why are they engaging in a process which it's clear few to none of them really understand? And why aren't copies of this new process made available for the public at each meeting discussing these shootings so the public has some idea what's taking place and what's being talked about on the dais?

Members of the public who attended the most recent meeting had a difficult time understanding what was going on because the process which the commissioners appear to barely understand themselves has never been explained to the public and the copies of the process which should be included with other information at the meetings haven't been made available to help facilitate the public's ability to track this process itself.

The commission complains and rightfully so that it doesn't like being presented with things like reports "cold" and then discussing them. Whether it matters or not, neither does the public! If allowing public comment after the presentation of an agenda item works for the city council, then it will probably work for the commission.

The new process for discussing officer-involved deaths is interesting to watch, but it's confusing to follow. You have individuals who weren't aware that they had to read the police department's own investigation file who are still catching up, you have people who've read trying to stop other people's "fact certification" questions from being forwarded and you have people who's minds are already made up and they're ready to argue and decide the case on the Cloud shooting whether anyone else is ready or not.

You have individuals fighting with each other and even making personal attacks or accusing others of doing so as in the case of the special meeting conducted earlier this month when individuals were accusing other individuals of saying or implying they were not professional. Then there were the subcommittee "serial" meetings where a majority of the commission would discuss issues on the agenda. Oh, it doesn't matter because those over the majority level aren't voting. But unfortunately to them, yes it does because the serial meetings provision of the state's "sunshine" law actually focus on what communications are allowed to take place among or between members of a Brown Act body much more so than the votes taken. And the ironic part of it, is that it's those who have prior commission experience who seem to have the most problems with the Brown Act.

A lot of egos (which isn't surprising because the political agendas of those sitting on the dais almost fill the entire room let alone the dais) expressed but not much in the way of interfacing with community members. It makes for compelling drama but to those in the audience, it just looks very dysfunctional.

The big standoff and smack down this time was between Brandriff and Commissioner Ken Rotker, when Brandriff essentially shut him off during one agenda item. Next meeting, it will just be someone else.

But for all the pandering and showdowns, any discussion of officer-involved deaths is academic because it's been two years and all the decisions made in accordance with state laws on these cases have been made and the books have been shut closed.

However, the dynamics of commissioner interactions with the public compared to police representatives is always interesting and is apparently more prevalent in Riverside than in other cities with civilian review because in part of the high concentration of commissioners with police backgrounds or connections with either the city council members who appointed them or the police department. When I discuss civilian review with people from other cities, they are puzzled at how Riverside's commission became so top-heavy with law enforcement representation. In some other cities for example, there's designated representation meaning a quota for selecting people from different backgrounds including law enforcement.

The one question that is asked in Riverside and elsewhere about the CPRC is this: Where are its community members? '

Good question. The answer is a long one.

Take a typical meeting when relatives of people who were shot and killed by police. How many commissioners even acknowledge that these individuals are even here? How many of them introduce themselves? How many of them even say, "hi" to them? Most of them walk by and pretend they're not even there. If you ask them why, they might say it's part of being impartial but then this is five minutes after they've walked in laughing and joking with one of the police department's representatives. That might seem natural to them given their ties to law enforcement and their collective lack of problems with them, but one comment that keeps being said by community members who attend one meeting and never return is that there's no separation between the department and the commission because there's not even a sentiment that the commissioners feel they even have to appear neutral given the differential ways they treat different people at meetings.

These interactions, the chats, the laughing might seen incidental to the commissioners as they probably are to the police representatives as well but they make a very strong and very negative impression on community members attending meetings that there's bias at work. And it would be interesting indeed if the commissioners were half as concerned about the perception of bias that they radiate towards police that they are of any perceived inkling of bias against them. The community doesn't receive that same consideration.

When I run into people who attend the meetings and ask them why they don't return, they say the police and the commissioners are on the same side and the public is on the outside. After all, they have said, look how chummy they are and I attended and no commissioner even introduced themselves to me or explained the process. How can we trust the decisions that they make if they don't know us? How could they ever be critical of people they are so friendly with in public when they don't communicate that way with community members?

This past meeting, about one or two out of nine of the commissioners might come up and introduce themselves after the meeting is finished. Usually after the police representatives have gone.

On the other hand, how many commissioners always greet or are seen chatting with police representatives either while arriving at meetings or at meetings? How many people are doing so while walking right past these family members as if they weren't there? And that leaves an impression on these individuals that right from the start, there's an inequality present. But the families in these most recent cases have filed active lawsuits and in the Cloud case, there was a push in that effort to institute real change in how the department does better with the hiring and training of its officers. And it's actions like those which are focused on doing so rather than placating law enforcement officers that might make the real difference in civilian accountability. How much so remains to be seen.

The Hill case is undergoing Stage II of its fact certification process or whatever they called it this week while discussion focuses on the officer-involved shooting of Douglas Steven Cloud. That discussion was very difficult to follow as well, especially since the two shootings were grouped under the same agenda item number. What's the problem with giving each investigative process its own agenda item number? Apparently, there's a huge one because they've been crammed under a single agenda item number for several meetings. But then maybe at the next meeting, there will be a whole different set of rules to follow. It's kind of like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party where his guests sit in one seat for a while and then everyone's ordered to stand up and move to the next one. The whole meeting is spent getting up and moving to the next spot.

Imagine doing that for several hours and that's what you have. Civilian oversight in Riverside, seven years later. What will it look like seven years from now?

Mayor Ron Loveridge's blue ribbon panel on the expansion and renovation of the downtown library and museum met for the last time.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Wednesday's meeting at City Hall was the sixth time the task force gathered since starting in mid-April. Its most recent meeting was a June 18 public hearing during which the panel only took comments from residents.

The city was previously planning to build a $25 million project in front of the library that would include expansion space for the library and space for the museum to host high-quality traveling exhibits, which the museum cannot now do.

But many people said the city proposal would shortchange both institutions.

The outcry led Mayor Ron Loveridge and the council to appoint the task force to study the issue and come up with recommendations.

The task force was told not to make recommendations on the architectural design of the expansions.

The library board on Monday endorsed the task force's draft principles.

Important future dates for this process include the following.

The Metropolitan Museum Board will meet on July 8 at 4 p.m. at the downtown museum. The city council will hear the recommendations by the panel on Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m. during its weekly meeting.

Why Greyhound is not a pariah in Temecula. So maybe if that's the case then Councilman Steve Adams can shuttle Riversiders to the station down there.

As for Greyhound in Riverside, the Press Enterprise Editorial Board wants to keep it there.

Former Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle gets to keep his political appointment on the parole board.

Local counties seek more money for grade separations.

If you think it's been smoggier this year in the Inland Empire, it's not just your imagination.

The lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles Police Department's "Special Order 40" became history after a county judge tossed it out.

The New York Times Editorial Board continues its discussion on tasers.


If more Tasers are deployed in New York City, strict conditions would have to be imposed on who could use them and under what circumstances. They might make sense as a last-resort alternative to lethal force, but it would be folly to allow them to be used in more routine situations like crowd control or policing political demonstrations. Nor should they be seen as the full answer to the problem of police shootings.

The RAND report suggested beginning with a pilot program in a few precincts. Mr. Kelly should give the matter the most careful study before taking even this limited first step.

A police officer in Florida got in trouble for impersonating a federal agent purportedly investigating corruption in his own police department.

(excerpt, Florida Keys Keynoter)

On May 29, Capt. Frank Sauer wrote his finding of facts on the Neary case, stating "there is a preponderance of evidence that officer Thomas Neary did represent himself falsely as: an agent, associate, representative or operative of the federal government...."

Sauer's findings also stated that Neary, a Big Pine Key resident, convinced fellow and former officers and a supervisor that "this information was to be kept confidential between him and the witness officers."

For those reasons and others, Neary's behavior was deemed "unbecoming conduct" but not "unlawful conduct."

The letter also states that Neary's attorney, Michael Barnes, sent a list of "an additional 112 witnesses that he now wanted to be interviewed, including Officer Neary." Barnes has refused to discuss the case with the Keynoter.

The Neary investigation even involved bugging Lt. Kathleen Ream's office to record conversations she had with him. Transcripts from the bugging show some statements that indicate Neary told Ream he and his wife are federal agents. Barnes has questioned the validity of those transcripts, saying the department altered them.

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