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

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

If Greyhound leaves town, will Councilman Adams really shuttle passengers to San Bernardino?

"If someone was actively resisting, which it appeared this guy was, the device to use would be the Taser, to overcome his resistance. The Taser is a great controlling device. But if you grab the wrong device, you kill somebody."

---Former BART Sgt. Don Cameron

"It was scientifically and ethically irresponsible. All this raises extremely disturbing questions about the integrity of the LAPD's approach to this investigation."

---Dr. James Ribe, who did the autopsy on Suzie Pena

A shootout involving a man and several Riverside Police Department officers trapped inside a house during a probation search led to over 50 police officers responding from the Riverside Police Department, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol to assist them. The man was later arrested and had been involved in a shooting incident several years ago which led to the death of a 4-year-old boy. No one was hurt, which is a very good outcome.

Individuals in the comment thread disagreed about whether it was the Riverside Police Department SWAT Team that responded first to the officers' calls for help or the Riverside County Sheriff's Department SWAT Team that responded first. At any rate which ever "team" or both teams that showed up, the officers were safely removed and isn't that the point of having a SWAT Team respond?

The Riverside County District Attorney's office is already commenting on this incident and how the man's earlier criminal prosecution was handled including an immunity deal he received from being prosecuted on the murder case of the young child.

The fate of Greyhound Bus Lines in Riverside was the focus of more discussion by city council members who discussed its possible relocation. Further discussion will take place at the Transportation Committee meeting on Thursday, Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. at City Hall. It's chaired by Ward Seven Councilman Steve Adams so it should be an interesting meeting to see if he at least rehabilitates his image after he tried to push a motion to a vote on the Greyhound issue that wasn't even on the agenda during the public comment period of a recent city council meeting. Who needs a refresher course on the Brown Act?

Anyway, Adams will be joined by committee members Andrew Melendrez and Mike Gardner who's subbing in for Chris MacArthur on the Greyhound issue.

This report includes a prior agenda from the Public Safety Committee which met in October 2005 to discuss police staffing and public facility use which were signed off by City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis to utilize the downtown terminal for fire and police facilities which was the plan at the time until it got tabled during rosier economic times when the city's coffers flowed like fountains instead of trickled like drying brooks.

So the plan to utilize Eminent Domain to kick out Greyhound and replace it with fire and police facilities is nothing new, but what was necessary was to create the argument that the Greyhound Bus Lines space was "blighted". And despite former Councilman Dom Betro reenvisioning himself as the Savior of Greyhound, he and other elected officials played a role in laying this portrait out, painting Greyhound's bus riders as felons, gangsters and parolees even though Betro was right at least after he left office in defining them as mostly poor, mostly elderly individuals who were disabled and/or people of color. That was their "blight" because to some people, people of color, the disabled and elderly people clearly are a "blight" in the downtown area. The ones who owned small businesses certainly were but they're already gone or on their way out.

Ironic considering that one presence at the terminal was White Supremacist and founder of White Aryan Resistance Tom Metzger who with other racist skinheads handed out flyers at the terminal.

Most of the actual criminal activity took place in the outside portion of the property which housed the Riverside Transit Agency's buses. In fact, years ago a woman was stabbed within a short time after getting off of a Greyhound Bus Lines and walking through the outer bus terminal area to use a pay phone. It's more likely because Greyhound is a constant presence in the downtown terminal whereas RTA bus drivers simply pass through to pick up or discharge passengers that most of the calls for service even those impacting the outer area would come from Greyhound personnel. But it's not the first time the city has punished individuals for calling the police for assistance. In one neighborhood in the Eastside for example, residents were encouraged to call police for services and many did, mostly against two apartment complexes in a square-mile area and then the city used these high numbers of calls for services to penalize the residents of the entire square-mile area when they hired a consultant from out of state to figure out how to turn that entire piece of real estate into some sort of home owners' association for most likely future university students, which will eventually be kicking out most of the tenants renting, the same people who thought they were doing a good thing by calling the police.

That's too bad. Residents should feel safe enough to call the police for help and not have to decide whether they are willing to be penalized later on by city officials who simply label them this way to take their land at a later date.

Buses which were originally going to be moved to the Market Place area next to Metrolink until that idea was torpedoed by the recession induced budget cuts. Rather than slandering Greyhound passengers in reports such as this one, Hudson, DeSantis and others could have simply stated that it was their plan to move the city's departments occupying rental space into that terminal all along. But that's not how city government works these days. They talk about words like "transparency" and "disclosure" and you think as soon as they walk out of a meeting, they should go get a dictionary and look those words up so they learn their definitions.

It's indeed generous of the city government to finally include this information in a public report for an agenda item at a meeting after this lurid depiction it's been painting of criminalizing Greyhound passengers and trying to cleanse the downtown area of people from certain racial groups, certain classes and age groups.

Several city council members appeared to actually have a different opinion on the issue than Hudson who doesn't want Greyhound to factor into his Riverside Renaissance plans for the city especially the downtown. Again, over 80,000 bus passengers who are predominantly elderly, disabled and/or poor have been labeled by some city officials as solely "parolees" and "drug dealers" who in reality, aren't even connected with Greyhound. If they come on any buses, it's the Riverside Transit Agency buses because most of the problems with at the terminal area come on the outside portion which houses RTA and most likely, aren't even bus passengers at all. Even Chief Russ Leach told Dan Bernstein in one of his columns that drug dealers and parolees just don't get off the Greyhound, they're from the city. Which means that when Greyhound has been evicted, they will still remain there because the RTA isn't providing any security either and apparently the decision to move them to the Market Place area of the Eastside has been postponed due to budgetary reasons.

With the salary that Hudson and some of his minions are raking in, it would seem that they could do the research and realize that Leach is probably correct in his assessment that he provided for Bernstein in his column a while back. No, Hudson and some of his assistants don't live in this city but they should know more about it from working here.

And if any city council member made a comment about telling disenfranchised Riverside bus travelers to take a taxi to the San Bernardino terminal, then they are really out of touch, because the cab ride would easily cost more than a bus ticket because of the mileage and the reality that cab services charge their passengers when they have to sit in traffic jams like you find on most of the neighboring freeway systems in Southern California. And cab service has really deteriorated in Riverside in the last 20 years. It's difficult to even reserve cab service anymore or even to predict when it will arrive at the location that you are for service if you call a company. That's an anomaly in cities which pride themselves on being key cities in Southern California.

Will Adams actually follow through on his vow to shuttle passengers to San Bernardino's terminal? Surely you jest!

If you've been to the downtown terminal, you will notice a middle section of the building which originally housed Greyhound bus services but then was utilized for public agency departments including California Conservation Corps and the city fire department. Now it stands empty and is the only part of that building which constitutes an unattractive nuisance because it's not being properly looked after as a vacant portion of the building under the control of the city. Since the city owns the building, it should really cite itself for its failure to do even mediocre maintenance of that portion of a building which it owns.

The actual Greyhound portion of the terminal sits where Trailways Bus Lines used to keep its own bus terminal.

The police department is planning to utilize a portion of the space in the terminal for its administrative divisions which are currently or were currently occupying rented space including the Internal Affairs Division which occupied rented office space near the Riverside Plaza. It was bifurcated from its original digs in the Orange Street Station which is currently rented by the city from the county and still houses various police divisions including the Chiefs Office. Concerns expressed by the move of the Internal Affairs Division to the downtown bus terminal mean that it's likely that it won't be the only police division housed there for very long but will be joined by others.

This is not a great decision by the city manager's office due to the necessity of maintaining geographic separation between this investigative division and other police divisions. One of the proponents of its separation from other police divisions was former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the Internal Affairs Division moved to its former location on Central Avenue after the city entered into its stipulated judgment with Lockyer's office. But then it's not like the city hasn't made unwise decisions before regarding the police department. They made a horde of them before entering into the stipulated judgment in 2001.

At the Governmental Affairs Committee, Chair Frank Schiavone brought up the issue of the city council being uninformed about the city's decision to settle with Greyhound Bus Lines for a huge chunk of money (even more than they paid known slum lord Menlo Park to vacate the city several years ago) so they wanted to change it so that the city council would be notified by its attorneys when a case was settled so they could then disseminate it to the public, if only for controversial eminent domain cases. What's kind of funny about this is this is how lawsuits such as this one used to be handled. You know back when City Hall was just a teeny weeny bit more transparent than it is now?

Inside Riverside predicts that all the incumbents in Riverside's City Council will be reelected. One reading that I got from his or her interesting article is that some entity is going on a search and recognizance mission to find someone in Ward Two (or someone to move to that ward) to run against the "most vulnerable" City Councilman Andrew Melendrez, who although he has a son who is a Riverside Police Department officer is being portrayed as "anti-police" and his voters are all police haters. And so forth. I hope whoever candidate the law enforcement crowd picks to run against Melendrez next, that this individual doesn't make it a practice to denigrate areas of Ward Two or assign them negative stereotypes or he's probably going to have problems unseating him. Just because a former law enforcement officer couldn't get elected (in large part due to his indecisive campaign strategy and ill-fated decision to coast through a runoff period mistaking a win at the first round for an election win) doesn't make the voters of Ward Two police haters. It just means they didn't choose to vote for him.

But that label only stings for about the first dozen or so times it's used on you. After that, you kind of shrug your shoulders and move on because the crowd that uses it either wants you to agree with them 100% of the time or you're disagreeing with them 0% of the time or something like that.

And it gives you an idea of who law enforcement in Riverside County will be endorsing from Inside Riverside's blog entries and who they won't so that makes it very useful. And someone's clearly still smarting from former candidate, Ruben Rasso's loss to Melendrez four years ago. But it's 2009 and you can always try to run again. The more the merrier and there's plenty of time until the filing deadline for the upcoming Election 2009 so anyone who wants to run for any of the elected positions should just do it.

San Bernardino County Sheriff Gary Penrod is stepping down.

A temporary police facilities arriving in Redlands.

Did the Los Angeles Police Department try to manipulate the coroner's report in a controversial officer-involved shooting?

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Ultimately, the LAPD's campaign led nowhere. The coroner has stood firmly behind its conclusions. But the Police Department's unusual attempt to have the case reopened underscores the deep, lasting effect the death of the child, Suzie Peña, has had on the officers involved and on SWAT as a whole.

The elite special weapons and tactics unit had never before killed a hostage in thousands of operations over nearly 40 years and had long operated as an insular, seemingly untouchable group shrouded in mystique. The shooting exposed SWAT, used largely to serve warrants on dangerous suspects and handle standoffs involving barricaded people, to vigorous scrutiny by a panel of consultants convened by LAPD Chief William J. Bratton that conducted a top-to-bottom review of how it operates. Out of the review came changes aimed at making the unit less isolated from the rest of the department and reforms in the way members are selected.

Through a spokesman, Bratton refused to comment for this article and refused to allow other LAPD officials to respond, citing ongoing lawsuits regarding the Peña shooting. Coroner's officials also declined to comment.

The attorneys for former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona said that audiotapes exonerated him. The attorneys were giving their closing statements at the end of Carona's federal corruption trial.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

"Why do they want you to know?" Jeff Rawitz said during closing statements. "What do you think the real purpose of it was? It was to inflame you. To get you forget your duties as jurors."

Jurors have heard that Carona – the highest law enforcement official ever tried in Orange County – engaged in affairs with lawyer Debra Hoffman, sheriff's department secretary Sandy Trujillo-Murphy and Jaramillo's sister-in-law, Erica Hill.

Hoffman also is charged in the case, as is Carona's wife, Deborah. They are scheduled to go to trial after Carona.

Rawitz said Carona's relationship with Trujillo-Murphy – brought up when she testified – was irrelevant to the case. She testified that Carona convinced her not to report a sex harassment claim against former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo. The alleged affair with Hill – brought up by Carona's campaign fundraiser Lisa Jaramillo – was stricken from evidence.

Rawitz also questioned why prosecutors played excerpts of Carona using racial epithets when talking to former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl in summer 2007.

"You have to wonder were they really in good faith?'' Rawitz said of prosecutors' motivations. "Or did they just want you to hate him a bit more?"

More controversy in the shooting of a young Black man by a police officer at a BART station in Oakland.

Before the video surfaced, the police department provided one version of the shooting.

(excerpt, KCBS)

Agency spokesman Jim Allison said the officer's gun went off while police were trying to restrain 22-year-old Oscar Grant at BART's Fruitvale station around 2:15 a.m. Thursday.

Allison said Grant was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead later Thursday morning.

Authorities said they were still investigating whether the gun was fired on purpose or accidentally.

That's before the video showed up that depicted their police officer executing Oscar Grant while he lay on the ground. After the shooting, police officers moved immediately to seize any video cameras or cell phones as "evidence" and they got most of them.

Except one.

Anatomy of a Shooting: This YouTube video, which is about 45 seconds long depicts the events immediately preceding and after the officer fires his gun.

(excerpt, San Francisco Chronicle)

In fact moments before he was shot he was pleading with his friends who were all cuffed up to calm down and be cooperative with police. Grant was seen begging the police officers, who had pulled tasers out and pointed them at the heads of his friends, not to shoot.

For reasons unknown to us, the police officer pushed Grant to the ground. One officer kneeled on his neck while the other officer pulled out a gun and shot him point blank in the back. The bullet went through his back, hit the ground and bounced back up and pierced his lung, killing him.

The police then ran around and terrified witnesses by taking away their cell phones and video cameras for “evidence.” The video, which was shot by a witness named Karina Vargas and has been seen by everyone on KTVU, was also going to be confiscated, except her train started moving as police attempted to snatch away her camera. The cops obviously did not see the other video cameras buzzing away.

Now after lying to everyone about the shooting, BART is asking for people to remain calm. Good luck. The first protests began today. No justice, no peace.

More information on protests here.

The police department is asserting that the shooting is justified and at worst, the officer might have mistaken his gun for a taser and fired the wrong weapon.

(excerpt, San Francisco Chronicle)

That officer, a two-year veteran, has not been publicly identified and has been placed on routine administrative leave. BART officials have said only that his handgun discharged at about 2:15 a.m. Thursday at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland and that the bullet struck the unarmed Grant, who had been detained with several others.

Officials have not said whether the officer intended to shoot Grant. One source familiar with the investigation said BART is looking into a number of issues, including whether the officer had meant to fire his Taser stun gun rather than his gun. Alameda County prosecutors are conducting their own investigation, as is standard in officer-involved shootings.

"We are taking this investigation very seriously," Gee said during a news conference at BART headquarters in Oakland on Sunday. "As frustrating as it is, I want to stress that we cannot and will not jeopardize this case by discussing details before the investigation is complete."

The unidentified officer who had less than two years on the force hasn't been interviewed yet.

The San Francisco Chronicle implored the department to be more transparent to the public.

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