Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Did the RPD racially profile a Black police sergeant: An Update

“When you add all these things together and look at what happened, it couldn’t have been anything but race.”

---LAPD Sgt. Wayne Guillary

“We are aware that Mr. Guillary has filed a complaint with the Riverside Police Department and, just as we do in any case, we await the outcome of the internal affairs investigation before we conduct any review. That’s the status we’re in now.”

---CPRC Executive Manager Kevin Rogan

“It’s part of an ongoing internal affairs investigation and we don’t comment on stuff like that."

---Lt. Brian Baitx, Public Information Officer and head of Audit and Compliance Bureau, Riverside Police Department

“Mr. Guillary’s got a very serious claim. Whether it’s true or not, we don’t know yet, but he’s making a very serious claim. There will be a winner and there will be a loser and there will be repercussions. This is going to have some life-altering effects—undoubtedly—for someone.”

---CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy, also formerly of the LAPD

The Inland Empire Weekly published this article about the ongoing situation involving a Los Police Department sergeant who alleged that he was racially profiled and forced to the ground at gunpoint by a Riverside Police Department officer. It's a pretty comprehensive article about the incident, its aftermath and the sergeant's history in the Los Angeles Police Department. I guess its author has read this blog because it's quoted too.

Sgt. Wayne Guillary was written about on this site in early November after he appeared at a public forum sponsored by the FBI's multicultural committee at the Riverside Medical Clinic and the Press Enterprise wrote about his case last month. He alleged that in October, he was approached by a Riverside Police Department officer with a surname of "Vazquez" while he was talking to a Black woman selling Bibles door to door in the tony neighborhood of White Gate Estates. He alleged that the officer assumed he was trespassing on someone else's property from the start.


The officer continued to tell them that they were trespassing and, in response to Guillary’s questions, said, “So, you are a smart guy! You want trouble, you got it!” the claim alleges.

Guillary next maintains he tried to explain to the officer that he was the homeowner and a fellow officer, but to no avail. The officer pointed a Taser at Guillary and threatened to shoot, then pointed a gun and, again, threatened to shoot, according to the claim. Guillary says he eventually complied with the officer’s commands to lie down. The officer continued to threaten to shoot Guillary if he moved, the claim states. Guillary says he pleaded with the officer to let him produce his police badge and identification but got no response.

About eight additional officers, with lights and sirens, later showed up, the claim says. Guillary was then handcuffed and searched. After officers verified that he was the homeowner and a cop, he was released. Then and since then, no one with the Riverside Police Department offered an explanation or an apology.

“The whole experience was dehumanizing and demoralizing,” Guillary says.

But it didn't end there.

What happened next was the city's response to this incident when it became publicized, including through the Press Enterprise which ran two articles in the past several months. The police department through former Public Information Officer Steve Frasher said it couldn't comment, because it was a personnel manner. And then after the first article was published, Chief Russ Leach told Columnist Dan Bernstein that the article was one-sided and said that Guillary was trying to stir up publicity to avoid getting in trouble with his employer. So was that actually a departmental response in the wake of its nonresponse?

It put the department in a difficult situation especially since the police chief had made comments saying that the complaint was unfounded while it was still being investigated by the Internal Affairs Division. That made it seem that the department was making a decision on a disposition for the allegations while in the process of investigating and added fuel to the argument that law enforcement agencies including the Riverside Police Department can't self-investigate. Any finding that results will be impacted by those early words, which isn't great news for any of the parties involved.

The Community Police Review Commission has been restricted from initiating its investigations into officer-involved deaths despite it having an untarnished record of investigations, some folks at City Hall have gotten their knickers in a knot over how the commission's involvement might tarnish the department's own investigation and the review done by the Riverside County District Attorney's office. Yet never once has the commission ever once listened to an initial briefing of a death case given by the police department and said, the officer's in the right or in the wrong.

None of its members have said that while their own investigator is conducting his probe on their behalf. Yet the police department has initiated an investigation into Guillary's allegations and is releasing in a manner of speaking statements to the media that the allegations are false, while also stating that its own investigation is still ongoing. So why isn't City Hall as concerned about this realities as they are about the CPRC's possibilities? Because any conclusions drawn and aired out publicly by a police department kind of put a damper on the integrity of an investigation. It also puts an impetus on any investigator to have to decide to pursue where the investigation goes or to shape it to what's already been said.

City Attorney Gregory Priamos towed out the tired and oft-repeated statement that his office always issues in cases which eventually the city settles for huge sums of money and that was that the case was frivolous and that the city would deny the claim. The interesting part of this is that there are probably few civil attorneys who actually believe this, because they know that all they have to do is sue and wait the city out and the city will settle. It settled several lawsuits stemming from fatal police shootings in the past year alone, to the tune of about $1.5 million.

But the reporter tried asking the police department and Leach (who last commented on the case to the Press Enterprise just weeks ago) and these were his responses that he received.


The responses by the police department and city attorney’s office to Guillary’s allegations have varied. They’ve either opted not to discuss the case or have accused the LAPD sergeant of attempting to cover up his own wrongdoing.

Leach denied that his department engaged in any racial profiling but that it would look into how officers behaved during the disputed encounter, he told The Press-Enterprise last month.

Guillary is “launching a publicity campaign to exonerate himself from misconduct,” Leach told P-E columnist Dan Bernstein.

Leach did not respond to multiple IE Weekly interview requests for this story.

The Riverside Police Department’s spokesman previously declined to discuss the case. The department’s public information officer, Sgt. Jaybee Brennan, also didn’t respond to numerous requests for comments and interviews. Last week, Brennan’s voicemail referred press inquiries to Lt. Brian Baitx. Baitx said the department could not comment on the Guillary case, in part, because it involved potential litigation.

“It’s part of an ongoing internal affairs investigation and we don’t comment on stuff like that,” he says.

RPD Sgt. Frank Patino, who Guillary names as one of the officers who showed up later at his home during the Oct. 7 incident, did not respond to requests for an interview.

City Attorney Greg Priamos, in previous published reports, has said Guillary’s allegations have no merit. Priamos also declined to discuss the case. Others in the city attorney’s office did not respond to requests for interviews or comments.

Ironically, Chief Leach had described prior media coverage of Guillary’s allegations as “one-sided.”

Officials with the LAPD have also either not responded to requests for interviews or declined to discuss the case because it involved a pending lawsuit.

However, at least one fellow LAPD officer has come forward to vouch for Guillary and the credibility of his allegations.

Guillary’s “been a freedom fighter for justice in the department for many years,” Ronnie Cato, president of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation and an LAPD sergeant, says.

There's several issues that are interesting to note in this quoted section outside the usual circling of the wagons by the city and the police department in cases like this. The first is that Priamos hasn't just announced that the city will deny the claim but threatened Guillary with suing him for attorney's fees if his case proved to be frivolous. This is very similar to what the city has done in the past with plaintiffs on inhouse labor lawsuits, actions to circulate petitions for signatures on ballot initiatives and others as well. It's called threatening a SLAPP suit action but fortunately there are legal remedies available for addressing this practice. They're not needed in this case because Priamos is bluffing. In order to be proven "frivolous", Guillary has to lose at trial and the last thing Priamos or anyone in this city including those quoted in this article want is to have this case taken to trial even if he did lose. And that's including if the complaint actually was frivolous, because the trial could prove to be as much of a problem as the verdict.

Priamos' rabid response to a claim he's already denied (and the city routinely denies the vast majority of claims it does receive) is perplexing. When Priamos gets worked up enough to make SLAPPish threats like this, it always worthwhile to take a closer look at what's going on from his perspective of pleasing at least four city council members enough to keep his job which is to protect the city from undue risk of civil liability.

Another side issue is the assignment of the public information office job to Sgt. Jaybee Brennen and Lt. Brian Baitx who are actually members of the department's Audit and Compliance Bureau. Hopefully, this panel still has enough time to do its important function of conducting departmental audits including on the differential trends of the male and female attrition rates for officers as well as oversee the implementation of the police department's five-year strategic plan.

A complaint was also filed by Guillary with the CPRC, and Rogan is quoted in the article as saying the investigation could take a year or more before it's even reviewed by the commission. Don't be surprised if it takes "the more" because of the ongoing backlog in investigations being conducted by the Internal Affairs Division. Still, 365 days for a complaint or more would still be higher than the average time it takes a complaint to even reach the CPRC which is usually between 100-250 days, depending on which monthly report you're reading. Actually it will be a surprise if the CPRC ever actually receives it at all.

Greyhound Bus Lines may get a six month reprieve from its eviction from the downtown terminal.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside City Councilman Mike Gardner has offered to extend Greyhound's stay in its downtown terminal for six months after Jan. 31 as long as the company provides on-site security and meets other conditions, he said Thursday. He is still waiting for Greyhound's response to one condition, which is to keep the terminal's waiting room open from the time the first bus arrives to the time the last bus leaves, Gardner said.

The ticket office is open from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day, but buses arrive at least half an hour before it opens and leave more than an hour after it closes, according to Greyhound's Web site.

The two other conditions Gardner wants the company to meet are to keep the terminal clean and to keep looking for a new terminal location, he said.

An attorney representing Greyhound, Peter Flanderka, said he didn't have an official response to Gardner's request for extended hours.

Riverside's Ward Four political candidate Paul Davis has a Web site. Davis will appear at the Friday Morning Club on Jan. 16 at 10 a.m. to present and answer questions. It's located at at the Janet Goeske Senior/Disabled Center, located at 5257 Sierra Street with the nearest cross street being Streeter.

One unnamed political correspondent hopes his police history will be explained. This person has made periodic insinuations about Davis' career being aborted in that profession.

(excerpt, Inland Empire Craigslist)

He worked for RSO and RPD and was allowed to resign from both or be FIRED.Lets hear his story Friday.I bet its a goody !!!!

How would this person know to be so sure?

The state's commission on judicial performance is investigating a complaint against another Riverside County judge.

After the arrest of San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus, discussion has resumed about his future in his elected position.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"If what the county assessor came and stated on Jan. 6 before the county Board of Supervisors was in fact a lie based on his arrest today, I am outraged, I am thoroughly outraged," Gonzales said. "I am insulted we ... were used as a venue by which the people of San Bernardino County could be lied to."

At their next meeting Jan. 27, the supervisors will determine whether to move forward with their own probe of Postmus and discuss removing him from office.

"This is a sad and embarrassing day for the county, but the Board of Supervisors is confident in the district attorney's ability to investigate the issues involving the assessor and bring the situation to a proper conclusion," Ovitt said.

Earlier today, DA's investigators finished their search of Postmus' Day Creek Boulevard apartment, hauling away cardboard boxes filled with financial documents and other items.

Over 1,000 cases impacted by problems with the Los Angeles Police Department's fingerprint analysis process.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Prosecutors began a review of the cases as part of their work with a multi-agency task force formed by Chief William J. Bratton last fall in the wake of a Times article that revealed that six print analysts with the LAPD latent print section had made critical errors in their work.

"Our goal is to go through all of [the cases] within about three months, starting with the D.A.'s priorities," LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said. Even though the review focuses on the work of the six analysts, Beck said LAPD officials would conduct random sample tests for the entire latent print unit.

The LAPD's effort to reform the unit, however, has moved slowly because of a lack of funding. Beck said the department has not secured the $400,000 to $500,000 in grants it sought to bring in an outside firm to review practices and protocols of the 80-person fingerprint unit. He said he is determined to move forward with the help of prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies.

The review of cases is being conducted by six of the LAPD's top fingerprint experts. In a limited number of reviews so far, no new wrongful charges have emerged, officials said. Nonetheless, none of the six analysts has been allowed to resume print work, several have been disciplined and one has been fired, according to Beck.

The jury in the federal corruption trial of ex-Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona is still deliberating but is asking questions.

Former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle was transported to the Bay Area and has been charged with unspecified murder charges in connection with the Jan. 1 shooting of Oscar Grant.

(excerpt, San Jose Mercury)

Witnesses told authorities that Mehserle fired a shot into Grant's back while Grant was lying facedown on a train platform at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland. Grant and others had been pulled off a train after reports of fighting, as New Year's Eve revelers headed home after midnight.

New court documents say Grant had his hands behind his back and another officer was kneeling on his neck when he was shot.

The allegations were revealed in an Oakland police officer's request for an arrest warrant. It said it appeared from cell phone video that "Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant while Grant was restrained and unarmed."

In an arraignment, Mehserle plead not guilty.

Several undercover detectives in the New York City Police Department were indicted after being caught implicating innocent people in phony drug busts.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Henry Tavarez, 27, and Stephen Anderson, 33, surrendered on a 42-count indictment stemming from the January 2008 "buy and bust" operation in a Queens tavern, District Attorney Richard Brown said.

The officers tampered with evidence to arrest four innocent men - including one who spent three days behind bars before making bail, Brown said.

"Such egregious conduct not only taints the reputation of their fellow officers, but erodes public confidence and trust in the department," Brown said. "Conduct like this can never be tolerated."

Pleading guilty was an NYPD sergeant who illegally used a police database.

At the Community Police Review Commission's Web site, the investigative material on the Joseph Darnell Hill officer involved death case is online. This shooting that took place in October 2006 is currently being reviewed by the commission after investigations conducted by the commission's own investigator and the CPRC. This shooting case was the last officer-involved death to truly represent the commission's power of investigation under the city charter.

Joseph Darnell Hill

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