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

Friday, January 09, 2009

The case of Sgt. Guillary: Finding first, investigation later?

Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Wayne Guillary who alleged that he was racially profiled by Riverside Police Department officers during an incident at his house in October wants the department to expedite its Internal Affairs Investigation. The police chief repeated his earlier comments that he made to Press Enterprise Dan Bernstein that Guillary was essentially a publicity seeking hound.

Who wins, who loses?

That's left up to a debate about a complaint of racial profiling that's becoming some sort of range war between a current LAPD employee and a former one, but one definite loser in all this is the integrity of the department's complaint investigation process if a decision has been made about the outcome of a complaint while it's purportedly still being investigated. What lesson does it teach for a police department's management to make comments about complainants and their motives for filing complaints while an Internal Affairs investigation is still allegedly ongoing? What lesson is learned when there's an allegation of misconduct that has created a lot of concern among city residents and the apparent finding precedes the investigation?

The same lesson that's both learned and taught nationwide, that law enforcement agencies investigating their own officers' misconduct might be involved in a conflict of interest and this among other things has led to increasing support for civilian oversight mechanisms.

And if Leach is right about the complaint, his comments still detract from that outcome because of their timing which is that they're being made before the investigation has been completed and its results forwarded up the chain of command to his office. What impetus would it put on the investigators and their supervisors in the Internal Affairs Division if they discovered an outcome in their investigation weeks or months after public statements that contradicted what had already been announced by their boss? Would they challenge those statements and those who made them? Probably not, because they answer to management, a division some of them might hope to enter some day. After all, working in Internal Affairs is probably not an assignment the vast majority of officers would willingly take on.

Internal Affairs investigations take time and given the backlog of citizen complaints going back up to a year or longer for many of them, it could take much longer than it ordinarily would. But then this particular complaint has struck a lot of concern in Riverside. It's been on the minds of many people, who ask what's going to be done about it, what's going to said to address the alleged racial profiling incident? And people don't know whether to be more concerned about the incident or the department's response to it.

But first, there are the responses.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Guillary sent a letter Jan. 5 to Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton asking to learn the status of the complaint and when and how he could address the accusations made in it.

Officer Julie Sohn, a spokeswoman for the LAPD, said in an e-mail Thursday that the department doesn't comment on litigation.

On Friday, Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach said internal affairs is investigating, but that he couldn't comment on a personnel matter.

"He (Guillary) is driving the publicity. He's a sworn peace officer for another agency. We have to protect the rights of the officers involved."

"I want to see justice," Guillary said. "I want to see change in the way the RPD deals with the community."

Whatever happened to just saying that we're going to look at all the accounts and available evidence before we reach a disposition on the complaint? That would have been the smart thing to do and usually Leach is much smarter in his choice of words. But the message that he is sending whether he intends to do so or not is that law enforcement agencies are too close to their employees to be able to investigate them. That law enforcement agencies make up their minds before complaints are filed or investigations are initiated into those complaints. There's enough sentiment of that out there already and often for good reason given the ample list of case studies out there. It's unfortunate that the Riverside Police Department is adding to that.

The department should be taking steps to ensure confidence in the complaint process, not detract from it. And it's often those at the top of management including police chiefs and sheriffs who set the tone for everyone. They set the standard that others are to follow.

Why should Internal Affairs even bother spending the energy to investigate if the police chief has already declared the finding on behalf of the department? Why should there even be an Internal Affairs Division at all? If the department knows ahead of time what the outcome of the finding will be or who to believe and who to disregard, then there's really no need for these investigations or the division encharged with conducting them. Instead of beginning the process of reintroducing the Internal Affairs Division into the fold of other department divisions by moving it, they should have just disbanded it.

They should just take the lieutenant and four sergeants staffed there and assign them to the field division because they're superfluous in a division that is essentially set up to investigate after a finding has been announced publicly. If that weren't the case, then the comments issued by Leach would have been somewhat more neutral in tone. But then that would be the case of the comments made by the department after officer-involved deaths and that's not the case either.

Leach said that he can't comment on a personnel matter and then he just did. People will read this and believe that the police department reaches its findings and then it investigates to collaborate those findings whether that's the truth or not. It's unfortunate for whatever integrity the complaint process has that these statements about this particular situation were even made. It sends the message that the police department announces its findings and then investigates? Isn't that backwards? Do Leach's comments actually send the message that a complaint is true or false? Do they clarify whether it should be deemed sustained or unfounded?

They do neither. They just cloud that element of the situation and promote the argument that police departments are completely incapable of self-investigation. At the expense of a complaint investigation.

As for City Attorney Gregory Priamos' assertion that the claim filed by Guillary will be denied, that's routine practice by the city. It denied a claim filed by a female probational police officer against the city, before settling her lawsuit within several months of being served. Other similar lawsuits were settled after the claims were denied. If Greyhound filed a claim, it would have probably been denied before the city paid it off to the tune of $625,000.

Even as complaints filed with the department are going down, they're being filed with other organizations to the extent that those organizations are taking a closer look at Riverside. The comments made involving the Guillary case might be one reason why.

The Plymouth Towers retirement home might have found a buyer.

Does this mean that people who were pushed out to meet an eviction deadline will be able to return some day?

Inside Riverside has announced that it will be hosting the hosting of the Frank Schiavone Essay Writing contest and has posted four different categories and a list of rules. Schiavone for those who don't know is Riverside's Ward Four city councilman who's up for reelection to a third term this year. What's interesting is that not too long ago, Inside Riverside was not nearly as pleased with Schiavone as it is now, so two of the very first entries both for and against Schiavone could be posted by this blogger, perhaps as sample template essays for any contestants to read and model their format after whatever their position might be.

Of course, then the issue of conflict of issue (which is pervasive throughout City Hall) would come up and Inside Riverside could hand off its essay writing competition to an outside public relations firm (and there are plenty of them out there if the current rates for Sitrich are too high for these difficult economic times).

At any rate, the entry deadline is Jan. 12 so if inclined, get those pens to paper or fingers on the computers right now and submit your entry. Inside Riverside still hasn't announced what the prize will be for the winning essay in each category. Maybe it's something like a ticket to a political fundraiser of their choice or several hours of free consultation in public relations 101 when it comes to municipal governments.

Riverside's ousting Greyhound from its boundaries probably for good later this month but elsewhere, a transit hub will be built. It looks like San Bernardino will seize the title of being the transit hub of the Inland Empire away from Riverside.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

The first city is San Bernardino. There, Omnitrans officials plan to build a major new transit hub in the next few years.

The bus agency has closed a deal on the land and is about ready to begin the design process.

The second is Riverside. The political popularity of mass transit notwithstanding, the impending closure of the bus terminal there at least raises the question of whether a mass transit hub can help the economy of another city.

Cal State San Bernardino's Jim Mulvihill thinks Omnitrans' plan can work "if the city fathers would get off their duffs and build some nice middle class housing."

Mulvihill is both a member of the San Bernardino Planning Commission and a geography professor who studies urban planning.

One key difference between the two facilities is that in San Bernardino, officials plan to build not only a bus station but a rail facility that ideally, would be surrounded by new businesses.

In Riverside, the station sits on the western edge of that city's downtown and is isolated from rail lines. The nearest Metrolink station is to the east, on the other side of the 91 Freeway.

While it's true you've had city officials claim to support Greyhound and keep it in Riverside, talk is as they say, much cheaper than action. And the truth is that if any politician wanted to keep Greyhound within this city's limits, they would allow Greyhound to keep operating at the downtown terminal until a new location was found and developed to relocate it. But the fact is, they are actually pushing Greyhound through paying it off with $625,000, a decision they didn't even want the city residents to know about, to get it out because once it is a company without a location, they understand it will be easier to keep it out of Riverside than if it still had a foothold in the city.

The contempt that Riverside's political structure clearly has for individuals who wouldn't ever qualify for county club memberships might wind up denying it an economic windfall down the road. Their contempt for the ability of elderly and/or disabled individuals to use alternative transportation to the point where they would actually vote to place extra physical and economic hardship on these populations of people is just a really sad thing to watch in this city. Because if you're taking steps to make it more difficult, you're not exactly showing them concern or respect.

One person wrote an opinion piece opposing the removal of Cottonwood Trailer Park.

How will San Bernardino County replace its outgoing sheriff?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The position of sheriff is elected, but under the county charter the board must name a successor to fill the unexpired term, which ends Jan. 3, 2011.

The proposal calls for a three-week period for applicants to submit a letter expressing interest and a resume to the clerk of the county board. The application period would be from Jan. 14 to Feb. 3, the proposal states. Letters of recommendation would be due to the clerk by Feb. 6.

Candidates must be residents of San Bernardino County and hold the rank of captain or above with a law enforcement agency in the county. Candidates will undergo background checks, physicals and drug tests.

After that county's board of supervisors pick Gary Penrod's replacement, both counties in the Inland Empire will have appointed and not elected their latest sheriffs.

Four candidates, one empty city council seat in San Bernardino. Who wants it, who will get it?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The four candidates who met the filing deadline are Joe Arnett, manager of a telecommunications program at Loma Linda University; Saman Saman, owner of a Loma Linda mattress store; Fred Shorett, who sells supplies to the packaging industry; and John Valdivia, whose candidate's employment form says he is a pharmaceutical representative.

Derry resigned from the 4th Ward council seat last month to take up new duties after being elected a county supervisor. The council election will be March 17.

Will former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona get acquitted? One Los Angeles Times Columnist said don't count on it. He think it might be a guilty verdict or perhaps a hung jury.


As I sit now in front of the keyboard Thursday afternoon, the jury in the Mike Carona corruption case is in its first couple of hours or so of deliberations. Who knows? By the time you read this today, jurors may have already laid a guilty verdict on the former Orange County sheriff.

That's probably where the smart money lies. Although the much-heralded secretly recorded tape conversations between Carona and former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl have plenty of ambiguity in them, some portions are potentially deadly for Carona.

In his closing argument Thursday, Assistant U.S. Atty. Brett Sagel cited specific passages from the conversations in 2007 that he says point to Carona's guilt, but he was also persuasive when he discussed the meetings in a different vein. Why would Haidl, the government's star witness, agree to its request to secretly tape-record the conversations if he knew his allegations against Carona were false? And why did Carona, still sheriff at the time, continue the conversations with Haidl after they turned to subjects like lying to a federal grand jury if he was innocent?

So, is Carona's goose cooked? Is there any way he can beat the rap?

A former sheriff in Oklahoma is in big trouble after he used his position to coerce female inmates in the jails to have perform sexual favors. Some people get upset when people blog about issues such as this one, but when there are three to four incidents of similar misconduct at least reported every week, a more productive use of one's angst and indignation would be towards fighting this serious plague on the profession.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

Mike Burgess, who resigned as Custer County sheriff in April, has pleaded not guilty to 36 charges of rape, rape by instrumentation, kidnapping, sexual battery and oral sodomy. His attorney said the accusers are either lying or the sex was consensual.

Prosecutor Jim Swartz said six former jail inmates and drug court defendants will testify against Burgess, who faces up to 470 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Swartz said that in one case Burgess asked a drug court defendant to meet him at a hotel in Oklahoma City. Swartz said she feared this would violate travel restrictions imposed by the court, but she agreed to it after Burgess told her: "I'm the sheriff. I'll take care of that."

Swartz said Burgess, 56, used his position to find out where drug court defendants lived. One evening, Burgess showed up at an offender's hotel room, knocked on the door, and when she answered he said, "Booty call," before entering the room and having sex with her, the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney Steve Huddleston said in his opening statement that Burgess never forced anyone to have sex.

"This is a lie," Huddleston said. "Never did happen."

A Farmington, New Mexico Police Department officer who got intoxicated and smashed into a bunch of cars was fired by his agency.

(excerpt, Farmington Daily Times)

Glenn Mearls, a 14-year veteran of the department who worked with the bomb squad, crashed his personal truck Nov. 12 into two city vehicles parked outside the Farmington Police Station. Mearls was not scheduled to begin a shift at the time.

The 43-year-old officer was charged with DWI following the accident, which caused significant damage to one of the city's vehicles. Police who investigated the incident reported Mearls likely was under the influence of a sleep aid at the time of the crash.

The criminal charge is pending in magistrate court.

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said he fired Mearls on Dec. 19 after consulting with police administrators, who recommended termination after conducting an independent investigation of the crash.

"All of our officers deserve our support and have a right to due process under both the law and administratively under city of Farmington personnel rules. However, when serious lines are crossed, as with any of our city employees, we have no choice but to take serious action," Mayes said in a prepared statement.

Mearls has formally appealed his termination, Mayes said.

BART Police Department officer Johannes Mehserle has resigned before being called for an Internal Affairs interview.

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