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

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Hudson Directive: The backlog of officer-involved deaths grows

On Saturday, Jan. 17, a Riverside Police Department officer shot and killed Russell Franklin Hyatt, 48, in the downtown/Northside area of Riverside. According to the police department, the man was shot by the unidentified officer after he aimed a firearm at him in a vacant lot, after officers had been called about a domestic violence incident at a nearby residence. In the aftermath of the recent fatal officer-involved shooting in Oakland, the author of the article has asked for witnesses to contact him or her as well as anyone who took pictures or videotaped the shooting.

One witness told the Press Enterprise that Wyatt fired first.


"I was hoping that he would get his life back together because we had a child," said his wife, who appeared distraught.

Derring said he was inside his house in the 2800 block of Mulberry when Hyatt entered it about 7:30 p.m., asking to use a phone so he could call his wife and demand that she return his wallet and some keys. A handgun was in his back pocket, said Derring, who eventually followed Hyatt out as he ran into the street.

Derring said two shots were fired, one by the suspect and the other by police.
"I was telling my husband we could have worked through this," Hyatt's wife said. "Now my baby has no father."

The name of the officer who shot Hyatt was not released.

More coverage of this shooting is here.

The department is already defending the shooting through spokesperson, Sgt. Mark Rossi which it pretty much does no matter what happened. That's one major reason why civilian oversight has been created in cities and counties across the country including this one. The perception that police departments can't self-investigate, that their minds are made up is mainly shaped by comments issued by departments issued by their public information offices.

What often happens that if something looks good, law enforcement agencies including that in Riverside release statements that it's been pretty much justified within a day or so. If something looks not so good, they issue statements that they can't comment on personnel matters. Sometimes like in the recent case of the alleged racial profiling incident involving Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, Wayne Guillary, they do both.

What's the prudent thing to do? Issue a statement that the shooting is still under investigation and it's too early to issue a finding. Provide details on the incident to the public that have been uncovered so far in the interest of transparency but make it clear that there is more work to be done as part of the investigative and review process. For the most part, the department has provided information at its briefings before the Community Police Review Commission which have been accurate. Several including those of the officer-involved deaths of Summer Marie Lane in 2004 and of Lee Deante Brown in 2006 contained serious errors in their respective narratives. Those two shootings for different reasons turned out to be the most controversial shootings in recent memory.

Coming forth with words saying a shooting is justified within a day or so also further weakens the already frail argument that the CPRC is jeopardizing the department's own investigations because it makes it clear that the investigation's already been done so there's nothing left to be "contaminated" which is one allegation of the Teflon variety that's been lobbed at the commission in recent months.

Another thing to do would be to explain what the process actually is, what each step entails and who is responsible for doing it.

If the existence of civilian review and oversight vexes you (as I'm sure it does a fairly large portion of readers here) so much, then taking these steps is one way to make it a little less necessary. Not to mention it works much better in the long run than the micromanagement being done by City Hall.

The investigators are investigating a shooting that's already essentially been decided. And rather than express confidence in the police department's early decision making and thorough investigation practices, the city is instead throwing up a bunch of red flags that it has little confidence in the police department's practices by blocking the independent investigation of the Wyatt shooting and others by its only form of civilian oversight. Because if City Hall had any confidence in the police department, it wouldn't be restricting the CPRC from exercising its charter-mandated powers.

The death of this individual is the fourth incustody death involving the Riverside Police Department since Sept. 1 and the third fatal officer-involved shooting. This and the rest of the cases are currently being investigated by the police department's investigations division and they will undergo an administrative review by the department's Internal Affairs Division.

What won't be happening is that the Community Police Review Commission will be allowed to initiate its own independent investigation into this death any more than it has been permitted to do so for in the other three cases. What's standing in the path of its ability to honor its charter-mandated powers and responsibilities under Section 810(d) is a triad.

That triad is the city manager's office, the city attorney's office and several city council members at City Hall who may or may not have issued the current marching orders to two direct employees who until recently, never took any steps towards restricting the ability of the CPRC to do its investigations. Since this is what has taken place, it's pretty clear that both City Manager Brad Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos are engaging in this conduct because they've both received new directives from their employers, the city council and mayor.

Now these direct employers of Hudson and Priamos haven't stepped forward like responsible leaders should and have fessed up to who or how many of them issued these marching orders to Hudson and Priamos. The city council through its annual votes to determine whether Hudson and Priamos will continue to serve at its will hold the power in this situation, after all. After watching how quickly the S.S. Hudson can be steered on a new, more sensible path during the ongoing debacle involving the relocation of the police department's internal affairs division, it's seems clear that Hudson is similar to a windup toy that you simply point in the direction that you want him to go. But it also seems clear especially through some recent city council votes that this body has abdicated its control to its city manager.

After watching how quickly (though not as quickly) the S.S. Hudson was steered on the correct path after he tried to deviate from the instructions the city council issued regarding the implementation of measures in the wake of the dissolution of the stipulated judgment, the same applies.

The three earlier deaths are the following:

Sept. 1: Carlos Quinonez

Sept. 11: Fernando Sanchez

Oct. 31: Marlon Oliver Acevedo

And now a fourth one on the growing list of backlog generated courtesy of Hudson, his adjutant Tom DeSantis, Priamos and members of the city council. The commission actually voted to initiate independent investigations into the above deaths but were stopped by Hudson's office and City Attorney Gregory Priamos who controls whether or not the CPRC gets its allowance or not and how it's spent. And when the commission has asked Executive Manager Kevin Rogan to carry out its wishes, he bows to his employer and refuses to do so. Whereas his two predecessors, Don Williams and Pedro Payne balanced out their responsibilities between the city manager's office and the commission, Rogan's clearly with the city manager's office even if it means being in conflict with the CPRC. But then the Hudson/DeSantis team are the first representing the city manager's office to micromanage the CPRC.

And so the circle goes, with each case that's come about since the directive was issued during the summer months.

Any attempt by the commission to create new bylaws for governing how it conducts these investigations is blocked by any one of the following,

1) Hudson and DeSantis (who actually stayed until 10 p.m. just so he could direct the subcommittee meeting chaired by Commissioner John Brandriff) through directives.

2) Rogan, and interestingly enough, it never seems clear whether he's actually acting as the executive manager or as another attorney on Priamos' staff given that he's providing legal opinion as the executive manager often in cases were Priamos (and his staff) have left the building.

3) Priamos, but usually only when he shows up and is actually seated at the meeting.

The police department's Internal Affairs Division has filled one of its sergeant vacancies with the transfer of Sgt. Pat McCarthy.

McCarthy served as the president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association for about four years, departing in December 2005.

Over 700 people attended a celebration of the anniversary of Martin Luther King, jr's birthday at Park Missionary Baptist Church in Riverside.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Although the audience and participants were predominantly African-American, people of all ethnicities took part, including Jeff Earnest Jr., of Rubidoux, one of two white singers in the 60-plus member choir. "I love being a part of this," said Earnest, whose forehead was covered with beads of sweat afterwards. "It stands for everything I believe in."

Corona resident and developer Ali Sahabi, a native of Iran, was given the first Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for his support of the community birthday celebration and for awarding scholarships to needy students through the Riverside Clergy Association. Before the ceremony, Sahabi said he had tremendous respect for King and his principles, as well as the Riverside clergy group.

As most in the audience danced and clapped through the opening musical numbers, Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge seemed to stand stiffly. But when he reached the podium, he spoke eloquently of Obama's election and the 1million to 2 million people, going to Washington for the inauguration. He spoke of how the times have changed as denoted by Obama riding the train to Washington during the daylight as opposed to Abraham Lincoln traveling at night in 1861 because of fears for his safety.

Bishop Craig Johnson, of the Cathedral of Praise Church of Riverside and Rialto, said churches should be closed on Tuesday and watching the inauguration on television should not be discouraged.

Kamola Gray, 32 of Riverside, told the audience she was too young to have witnessed the civil rights struggle led by King but a trip to the museum of civil rights in Birmingham, Ala., made her feel the impact of it.

Lena Leartherwood, 65, of Moreno Valley, told of being forced go to the back of the bus because of segregation in Florida decades ago.

This interesting article by a former Riverside resident who survived the train noise while living near Jurupa and then fled the city for quieter pastures. At least he thought, until the day (or night) that DHL Express arrived.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

By 1994, I had had enough. So I told my real estate agent that I wanted a place as far away from trains, planes and freeways as possible yet still within the greater Riverside area.

I found nirvana in a place called Lake Mathews Estates. That is, until DHL arrived.

Oh ... my... God!

I soundproofed my house with added insulation and installed dual-pane windows, but nothing could truly muffle that noise. Ear plugs and sleeping pills didn't work either.

Yes, I had known that March Air Reserve Base was in the area, but I never considered a noisy plane flying in the middle of the night.

In a move of desperation, I created a 60-minute CD of a babbling brook and ran that all night.

Although I live at least 11 miles east of March field, the new preferred DHL route had the planes flying right over my house. Saying the noise is similar to a hair dryer next to your ear is an understatement. It is more like a roaring jet taking off from an aircraft carrier.

The California State Assembly has told one of its legislators in a district covering Riverside County to please place its representative office somewhere that's actually inside the district boundaries.

What in blazes is going on with the search for a new San Bernardino County sheriff by the county's board of supervisors? Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff tries to figure it all out.


Derry and Supervisor Josie Gonzalez expressed consternation that the support for Hoops made it appear a "foregone conclusion" that he would get the job.

Then they voted with the other three to consider only Hoops.

In a phone interview a few days later, Derry told me he was concerned the job requirements were so narrowly drawn that few people could qualify: Applicants would have had to live in San Bernardino County, and currently work at the level of captain or higher in a law-enforcement agency in San Bernardino County.

A highly qualified candidate from Riverside County couldn't apply. Even former Undersheriff Bob Peppler, who is returning from Washington, D.C., after a stint with Homeland Security, wouldn't qualify, Derry said.

So why not change the criteria? Derry said the process still would look like a sham. "If it's not going to be open and honest, let's not pretend it is," he said.

OK, maybe it would have been a sham. What else can the public conclude now?

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