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, January 05, 2009

As went the CPRC, so will the Human Resources Board?

"Tomorrow is a big day for you."

---U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford to former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona on the eve of closing arguments in his trial.

"Look at the bigger picture."

---Riverside City Attorney Gregory Priamos to one of the CPRC commissioners during some "special" training.

Interesting discussions and revelations at this month's meeting of one of the city's boards and commission, a session which mirrored some of the same disturbing dynamics which have also impacted the Community Police Review Commission. Once again, City Attorney Gregory Priamos claimed that one of the city's boards and commissions had exceeded the scope of the language defining it in the city's charter when it asked for information from the city. If this sounds familiar, it should.

But this time it actually wasn't the CPRC that was the focus of Priamos' pique. It was the Human Resource Board which had been operating somewhat under the radar for at least six months until it started asking the city for information on labor issues that it has wanted to address for some time now.

It happened in some correspondence between the board and Priamos after the nine-membered panel requested to receive information on three items it had requested at the previous meeting. The updates to these requests were provided by Human Resource Director Rhonda Strout, who attended the meeting along with administrative analyst Jeremy Hammond. Their requests had been routed to the city manager and city attorney offices for a response. Strout and Hammond were the mouth pieces to relate the information back to the board.

And what response did the board members receive? A big old road block put in their path. Surprising? Again, hardly if you have been watching what's been going on with the CPRC during the past year or so. The behind the scenes maneuvering involving city employees and who knows, perhaps a city council member or two was brought out in the open by concerned city residents and the Press Enterprise Editorial Board. Enough so, that the city council is now playing hot potato with any public discussion of why it's either condoning or directing the manhandling of the city's oversight mechanism. At this point who knows where it will eventually pop up for public discussion?

So how did the Human Resources Board fare in how it handled the road blocks thrust in its path towards obtaining more information about what's going on in the city's labor force?

Somewhat better than the CPRC in terms of coming to a consensus of how it wanted to handle the situation.

First, attempts to receive information about an audit being done by the Riverside Police Department to determine why the retention rates for female officers are much lower than those for male officers was blockaded by Priamos who said that even statistical information on this issue was prohibited by state law PC 832.7, a tired and erroneous argument he provided in the past for justifying the denial of releasing statistical information on citizen complaints against police officers that is able to be released under a provision of that state law. The board can access information which doesn't directly or indirectly identify a specific employee. Statistics by their very nature are faceless generalizations involving populations of people where identities are hidden by their numbers. It just sounds like the city is hiding behind its own embarrassment and is there a reason to do so regarding its retention rates of female officers? Is there a compelling financial reason to do this?

The sensible thing to do if the city and department are concerned about this situation is to solicit input from different perspectives and different sources on how to address retention issues in the police department and the Human Resources Board would be a very useful place to start that process. And this board has provided an opportunity for the department to do so by extending an invitation for it to appear at one of its meetings.

The board did plan to ask representatives of the police department to present on the issue of the retention of female police officers as early as next month even with the prohibitions put on it by Priamos. Will the department demur and say or state that it's not prepared? Will there be useful information provided and a good discussion fostered on why the department continues to hemorrhage in terms of losing its female hires?

When the board moved towards asking for a followup to its request for more information on the city's lawsuits, grievances and terminations, Priamos' office again stated that the information could not be released in any form. He said that the action of reviewing and discussing these actions would exceed the scope of the authority of the board under the city's charter.

Some of the board members in attendance seemed incredulous at the responses which came from Priamos' office. The reason why, is because they haven't attended any CPRC meetings lately and seen what's happening in that arena. The reason why, is because they put work into this committee, intend to put even more work into it and they hoped the city would assist them in those efforts. They had plenty to say about the response they received and they are less tentative in their words as a body than the CPRC has been in similar situations.

One, Chair Erin House said that the board had powers that were given to it including some investigative abilities.

"That trumps what the city attorney said," House said.

Could you imagine if House's counterpart on the CPRC, Brian Pearcy said anything remotely like this during one of his commission's meetings? You'd have to bring out the smelling salts to revive a room filled with people!

Another member, Art Butler said that the city attorney was being "very cavalier" in his treatment of the issues they had expressed concern about during their meetings. So when faced with being roadblocked by Priamos' office as well as that of City Manager Brad Hudson, the Human Resources Board did what the CPRC had done before it, it decided to draft a letter to the city council for clarification on these issues that had arisen. And the members cited some other familiar words, those being that we report to the city council not the city attorney or city manager. House said that they were trying to get information but the city attorney and city manager's office were not assisting.

"We don't work for them," House said, "We work for the city council just like they do."

What a concept! Because the saying in this city is that the council works for the city manager and city attorney. More smelling salts needed!

Board member Rosetta Runnels asked why there were problems getting this information because she believed that the city government or at least a few members of it had given the board their blessing. After all, when the board had presented its annual report before the city council several months ago, it made it clear it wanted to more actively pursue its role as a board. The response of two city council members on the dais that day had been to, go for it. The problem is, did other elected officials send separate and contradictory instructions to the city attorney and city manager who were once compared to wind up toys by one city official.

"We were allowed to do this," Runnels said, about getting the information asked for by the city.

House said that the statistical information on departures from the city's employment rank could reveal important information about the work force's moral.

"Statistically we learn alot," House said, "They don't quit jobs, they quit supervisors."

It was fascinating watching the Human Resources Board which includes among its members dedicated volunteers representing city residents from each ward. It appears to have avoided the downside of the politicization of appointments on other panels including the CPRC, meaning that you look at the membership and you can't easily tell which ward they represent. What was so interesting is that in many ways it was like watching a CPRC meeting in the sense that the behavior by two of the city council's direct employees were the same as they are with the CPRC. What was also noteworthy about all this is it showed once again how the city attorney's office was in a position of representing two entities who potentially could be on opposite sides of an issue and like what happens with the CPRC on a regular basis, the Human Resources Board is the casualty of this conflict.

It's not clear whether they are allowed to put items on their own meeting agendas without having to see whether or not Hudson or Priamos are pleased with them or like what they plan to talk about at a given meeting. They might be heading in that direction if they aren't there already because of their inquiries about the city's labor issues.

The Human Resources Board allegedly already faced one attempt by Hudson's office to dictate its own operations but this board rather than rolled over like the CPRC does most of the time simply responded back that it reported to the city council not Hudson's office. And that was that, at least for a while.

It remains to be seen how the city council will respond to the latest commission to ask for clarification on why it's being blocked by direct employees of the city council. Who knows perhaps in coming weeks or months it will receive another letter or phone call from Councilman Rusty Bailey (whose term as mayor pro tem is set to expire soon) that its concerns have been "received, reviewed and filed", the same nonresponse Bailey gave on behalf of a fairly clueless city council (at least in terms of knowing that Bailey had opted to respond on its behalf) to the CPRC in a similar situation.

Charter Section 807 defines the roles and responsibilities of the Human Resources Board for those who want to know about it. There's other language on the board's role and responsibilities but further research is needed to realize the scope of what the board was given because the provisions cited by the Human Resources representatives don't appear to be the correct provisions in the city's charter.

a) Recommend to the City Council, after a public hearing thereon, the adoption, amendment or repeal of personnel rules and regulations

b)Act in an advisory capacity to the City Council on matters concerning personnel administration.

Speaking of the CPRC, Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein chastizes the mayor and city government on their treatment of this micromanaged, barely there panel.


Riverside's MayorLuv is batting .500! Ten years ago, he skipped Tyisha Miller's funeral (and absorbed a dose of criticism) as City Hall scampered behind the skirt of a pricey ($233K) PR consultant.

But days ago, he showed up at a memorial service for Miller, who was shot and killed by Riverside police in 1998. Civic and religious whoozwhooz used the occasion decry the spay-neuter job City Hall has performed on the police review commission, which was created because of this shooting.

The city manager decreed the commish must cool its investigative heels (and allow cases to get colder) until cops finish looking into officer-related shootings. The commish wants the electeds to weigh in, but they (MayorLuv included) have pretty much told the police reviewers to buzz off. At the memorial, though, the mayor said a committee might take this up. Not the whole council. Three council members. Wow!

If whoozwhooz hope to put meat on the bones of this voter-backed commission, it might take more than a memorial service. Lots more.

The city council and mayor can't even decide what public forum to send the CPRC so they can weaken it further because after all, it's much better and easier for them to do it behind closed doors or behind responses like "received, reviewed and filed" given by its members like outgoing Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Bailey. That's leadership for you.

Riverside County is using eminent domain to kick out seniors.

Is Moreno Valley's money going bye bye?

Former Riverside City Council candidate Paul Fick dies at 60.

Closing arguments are being prepared in the continuing federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona. It's been a long trial with lots of witnesses and no shortage of drama but it's almost at its end.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Today, the panel of 11 men and one woman returns after two weeks off to hear closing statements as prosecutors and defense attorneys attempt to put their final spins on a case against Orange County's ex-sheriff that, by most accounts, lived up to its sensational billing.

The Michael Carona corruption caseTestimony ends in Carona trial
Prosecutors are expected to play excerpts of the secretly recorded conversations that they say capture Carona plotting to cover up a trail of cash payments and other gifts from Newport Beach businessman Don Haidl, a former assistant sheriff who was the government's chief informant and central witness.

Certain segments of the obscenity-laced tapes could possibly be played for jurors by defense attorneys, who have argued Carona exonerates himself during portions of the recordings and who were not afraid to play hours of the tapes during the trial.

More information on the trial here.

Firing 14 deputies was the new Clayton County sheriff. People disagreed with the reasons behind the sudden employment terminations.

(excerpt, WSBTV)

"I was fired because of my affiliation with Victor Hill," insisted former Deputy Edward Hobbs.

Kimbrough said he fired Hobbs because Hobbs has a criminal record.

"I don't know this guy, I don't care about this guy, but he is a criminal, a thug," said Kimbrough.

Kimbrough told Channel 2 Action News he's instituted a new code of conduct built on the foundation of integrity and honesty.

"Victor (Hill) hired outcasts, thugs and rejects from every agency," Kimbrough said.

The new sheriff said as long as he wears the badge, "accountability will be the buzz word."

A new era for community policing in Minneapolis? At least one person thinks so even in the aftermath of the expiration of a five-year mediation program between the department and the communities.

The police chief says one thing.

(excerpt, Minnesota Public Radio)

At the time, Police Chief Tim Dolan was in charge of the Fourth Precinct which includes the neighborhood where the melee occurred.

"When I look back where the police department was back then," Dolan said. "I think we had a lot of things going on that were - where we were in danger of maybe having federal oversight."

Dolan says the department lacked certain accountability measures, such as requiring a supervisor to visit a scene where use of force or an injury occurred. Dolan says the mediation process helped the department fix those gaps.

Dolan was an early member of the Police Community Relations Council. The group was formed in order to make sure the long list of action items contained in the mediation agreement were being followed. The list included changes in police use of force techniques and increasing racial diversity in the police force. Dolan says sometimes the police department shared evidence with community council members -- like squad car video -- in order to combat rumors about police misconduct.

"We had chases, where officers were alleged to have rammed people. And we were able show those videos to them and say, 'Here's the video,' and they could see the video," Dolan said. "And they could go out to the community and say, 'This is not true. This is not what we're seeing.'"

But community activists still remain concerned.


Metoyer says the group is pondering legal action against the city, including asking the federal government to place the department under receivership.

"Do we want to do that? No we don't. No we don't," Metoyer said. "It would be good for us to get back to the table and get things done in a working manner. That would be ultimate thing for us to do."

But some say the community relations council has been ineffective.

"Things are not better - five years later. Things are not better," said Michelle Gross is with Communities United Against Police Brutality.

Gross was a part of a small group who initiated mediation talks. But she declined to work with the community relations council because she didn't think the group was as inclusive as it should have been.

Gross says her group has been getting a steady stream of brutality complaints. And she says if the city was really serious about improving police community relations, they would boost the power of oversight departments like the Civilian Review Authority or the CRA.

"The CRA has been so completely defanged that it's pretty much non-existent," Gross said. "Internal Affairs was never set up to be an accountability mechanism for external complaints. It works fine for internal complaints, but not external complaints."

Unfortunately, the new year has brought new cases involving sexual misconduct allegations against law enforcement officers.

In San Jose, an officer has been charged with battery and false imprisonment after an inappropriate search of a woman who was detained.

(excerpt, KTVU)

Police say the patrol officer -- 41-year-old Julio Morales -- has been charged with false imprisonment and sexual battery over his detention and physical search of the alleged victim several weeks ago.

According to the victim, what Morales did during the incident wasn't a pat down; it was sexual battery.

"The incident occurred on December 3rd,” said San Jose Police spokesman Officer Enrique Garcia. “The victim reported she was walking in the area of Third and Keyes and she was detained by a patrol officer. During that stop, the officer conducted a pat-down search of her body."

The victim reported that Officer Morales touched her inappropriately during the search, then put her in the patrol car and drove her to a nearby home and dropped her off. She immediately informed her mother of the incident.

"We launched a criminal investigation and yesterday the D.A.'s office filed a complaint," explained Officer Garcia. "Subsequently we obtained an arrest warrant today. And so the officer self-surrendered at the Santa Clara County jail."

Also being arrested for sexual battery is a Warren County Sheriff's Department deputy who elicited complaints of inappropriate conduct at a store.

(excerpt, KRAL)

Raleigh investigators say Deputy Cornelius Orlando Davis, 40, of 119 Downey Road in Norlina, inappropriately touched women at two stores in a north Raleigh shopping center by rubbing his genital area against their buttocks.

Police said they believe there are more victims who have not come forward yet.

Raleigh Police spokesman Jim Sughrue said the first incident happened May 30 at Wal-Mart, 10050 Glenwood Ave., and the second at Kohl's, 7822 Alexander Promenade, Wednesday afternoon. Both are in Alexander Place Promenade, at Brier Creek Parkway and Glenwood.

Kohl's security staff noticed Davis acting suspiciously and alerted security at Wal-Mart when he left the store, Sughrue said. Police arrested Davis at the Wal-Mart around 10 p.m.

And proving the adage that bad things happen in threes or it's going to be a busy year, another law enforcement officer was arrested in Illinois on sexual misconduct allegations.

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