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 14, 2009

Internal Affairs resurfaces and DeSantis shows the CPRC who's boss


San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus has been arrested after raids were done on two separate homes.

Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro
Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw.
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw.
Wooly bully, wooly bully.
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.
Hatty told Matty, "Let's don't take no chance.
Let's not be L-seven, come and learn to dance."

----Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

---L. Frank Baum

It seems that a lot changed in one day with the situation involving the relocation of the Internal Affairs Division into the downtown bus terminal. Currently, it's been assigned into a building space that has zero signage giving any indication that there's a police facility inside it, let alone the Internal Affairs Division. What the city did by allowing this to happen is show that they have little regard for the police department in general and the Internal Affairs Division in particular by housing it in a building that looks like it needs some exterior care and where there's no signage stating what division is housed there. That's the message that they put out on blast during the past month that the city really didn't seem to be concerned about it. A bit disturbing a scant three years after the city dissolved its consent decree with the state but then some people entrusted with a lot of decision making at City Hall on these issues don't seem to really care about that.

A meeting with Councilman Mike Gardner several days ago, resulted in a promise by him to visit the facility and to talk with City Manager Brad Hudson about the issues.

A visit out to the facility late yesterday showed that the signage hadn't been replaced but two employees from General Services had appeared to evaluate the building because an order had been given to expedite its renovation and place it at higher priority. It still remains to be seen what will actually happen.

According to both of these employees, the signage will be added by one week, including a sign in front and a larger cement sign in the parking area. The building itself will be water blasted to improve its appearance and there will be further work done on both the exterior and interior of the building. The General Services employees wouldn't specify what interior work the division needed but hopefully, all the equipment will be up and running and any interior issues will receive as much attention as those on areas of the building more visible to the public.

In one month, a contingent of police officers and a sergeant will be moving into a substation there to join the Internal Affairs with no assurances of the geographic separation which is important for the Internal Affairs Division to have from other police divisions.

The update on this renovation was delivered to the Community Police Review Commission and was readily received by the commissioners and others in attendance except by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who smirked as he did during much of the meeting when he wasn't stepping into the shoes of Executive Manager Kevin Rogan and performing his duties for him in what was one of the most embarrassing meetings of the CPRC ever conducted in its eight-year history. What was interesting is when the puppeter, DeSantis of this Punch and Judy show actually came out from behind the curtain and engaged in his micromanaging in plain sight.

At one point, he was even directing Policy and Procedure Committee (which almost looked like it was being neutered before it even got started) Chair John Brandriff to speak as if he were chairing the meeting, by gesturing towards Brandriff after he was done with his chastising the city's volunteers who do invest nearly 40 hours of work serving on this commission. Brandriff and Chani Beeman expressed their frustration with Rogan and were chastised about their choice of language by DeSantis who attended his first CPRC meeting in a while, apparently not as confident about the direction it was going. He certainly didn't act like it.

Will another round of letters be sent out chastising commissioners for their comments? Will members of the city council call them up asking them to attend very special ethics training conducted by City Attorney Gregory Priamos?

Wait and see.

But back to the current status of the police division housed in a facility that apparently hadn't been properly renovated for its arrival in mid-December.

Why was this done by City Hall, was one question asked.

The official reason provided by these General Services employees for the relocation of the Internal Affairs police division was that the lease on the office space on Central Avenue which had housed it for over five years was set to expire and that the services division received only a two-week notice that the relocation was necessary. If this is the case, it seems to indicate some serious communication or management problems somewhere because after all, if a lease is set to expire, tenants including those representing public agencies usually know that this is going to happen months or weeks ahead of time because leases expire on set dates unless they are month to month and notice is given. There was plenty of time to work on this relocation issue perhaps even to find more suitable digs for the Internal Affairs Division so it could maintain its geographic separation from the rest of the department.

How could a city only have two weeks advance notice of the expiration of the lease and allow only that notice to act on relocating. If a city has to make decisions in a rushed, last minute fashion, then it's going to increase its likelihood of making poor decisions which is what happened here. Is the city much broker than we thought and that pushed it to a rash decision?

The city also defended placing Internal Affairs being placed in a space without any signage because they said that it was a "private" division not a public facility. Hogwash, there were complaint brochures on the front counter presumably to be made available to the public if so requested. It's a public building paid for by tax dollars, including the $625,000 to pay off Greyhound to go away.

Here are some recommendations which appear to be common sense and perhaps in an era of competent management in the city, they would seem more obvious than they seem here. But we are not currently enjoying those times.

1) Install at least temporary signage on the office space until a permanent solution can be found.

2) Update the police department's Web site to provide accurate location and contract information for the Internal Affairs Division.

3) The city council should perform an audit on all requests for equipment, services and correspondences from the Internal Affairs Division to any other city department including the police department and city manager's office as well as any outside contractor involving any process involved with relocated the Internal Affairs Division to the downtown location.

4) The Public Safety Committee (or full city council) should conduct a public meeting to discuss the issue of appropriate separation of the Internal Affairs Division from the rest of the department as well as any and all outstanding issues involving its relocation to the downtown terminal.

5) No police division or police employees should be transferred or stationed at the downtown bus terminal until the facility is renovated completely to accommodate them and their equipment. You wouldn't think this would need to be included but some people at City Hall apparently think it's okay to move a department division in a facility that's not completely renovated.

One gentleman spoke at the CPRC meeting saying that he had outstanding complaints, including one unresolved one dating to 2006 when it was filed, that's being handled by Sgt. Steve Bradshaw of the Internal Affairs Division. Rogan who was allowed to speak on this issue apparently said to the complainant that he would follow up on the two complaints. Even with the considerable delay in the handling of complaints due to a backlog primarily impacting the department's internal investigations, two years is a very long period of time to leave a complaint hanging for all parties involved.

As stated earlier, DeSantis' lecture to the commissioners on proper conduct during the meetings and what could be discussed about city staff and what could not was the highlight of the long meeting where there was a lot of discussion about a subcommittee which was created to address the commission's bylaws and a reinterpretation of some component of the commission's bylaws on how to amend bylaws and an explanation on why that can't be rushed (but apparently "amending" the charter without the public vote can be done rashly and in a rush). Oh what tangled webs we weave...

But for an assistant city manager to micromanage the commission to the extent where he's lecturing commissioners on what they can and can't say is so ridiculous, but unlike the case with Hudson, you have to applaud DeSantis for at least engaging in this behavior in a more public manner and not staying in his office issuing directives and memos rather than coming forward and explaining his position and those of the city council members directing him to the commission. But DeSantis' behavior very much undermined the authority of the commission's manager and made it appear as if the public should have less faith in DeSantis' direct employee rather than greater confidence. So who really is the executive manager of this commission? Some people in attendance left the meeting confused after this most recent turn of events.

Not a brilliant move on the part of DeSantis at all. Especially mere weeks before the Governmental Affairs Committee will perform the snip-snip, ouch ouch on the commission's ability to investigate officer-involved deaths in a timely and meaningful manner.

City Manager Brad Hudson and City Councilman Rusty Bailey defended a no-collateral loan from the city coffers to a conservancy.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

He said it is likely that if the 20-year- old conservancy is unable to pay off the loan, the city would end up owning the property.

Gail Egenes, executive director of the conservancy, said that is possible but the conservancy has every intention of paying off the 10-year city loan this year.

The conservancy needed the city loan because it could collect only $6,500 of the $35,000 needed to complete the purchase, Heyming said last month.

Egenes said the conservancy has bought $80 million worth of land for $40 million since 2000, but it proved harder to interest donors in a relatively small purchase like the top of Pachappa Hill. The hill's name is believed to stem from a Shoshonean word for water.

The conservancy is putting together strategies and an action plan to obtain the money needed to pay back the city loan, she said.

Bailey said he doesn't object to the loan without collateral because the city's chief financial officer, Paul Sundeen, cleared the deal and he has always been extremely fiscally conservative.

One law enforcement sergeant wants to change the way police officers deal with at-risk youth.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The weeklong course, with 38 officers from 11 law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties participating, was one of the first steps in that process.

Sgt. Mark Cripe, the course instructor, said officers need to change their mindsets when dealing with at-risk juveniles. Instead of looking at them as potential suspects to lock up, they should start looking at how they can unlock their potential and move them away from a life of crime, he said.

The course, offered by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, is the only state-certified program that instructs officers in how to deal with juvenile intervention. Officers are taught communication skills, motivational strategies, delinquency trends and how to lead groups and encourage team exercises.

Cripe talked about how police need to communicate differently and open up if they want to earn the trust of juveniles.

"You want to get to know these kids and these kids, believe it or not, want to get to know you," he said.

In the midst of a recession, the Rialto City Council gives itself a pay raise. It must not be an election year.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The council voted 3-0 to give final approval to an amendment to a city ordinance that calls for the four council members' salaries to increase from $1,001 a month to $1,104.

Councilwoman Deborah Robertson left the meeting early to catch a plane to Sacramento, missing the vote.

The council gave the ordinance preliminary approval in December, just after Mayor Grace Vargas and Councilman Ed Scott won re-election and real estate attorney Edward M. Palmer had unseated two-term Councilwoman Winifred "Winnie" Hanson.

Palmer abstained from voting in December, saying at the time that he didn't think it would look right to be approving a pay raise for himself at his first meeting.

He abstained again from voting at Tuesday night's meeting but defended the council's decision.

"I didn't realize how much work goes into this job," he said. "It's like a second job."

Amazing. I'm sure this individual doesn't realize how much work went into the jobs of people that were probably laid off to balance the budget so he could get his pay raise. But at least he abstained.

Highland's wish list during fiscally difficult times.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The City Council met Wednesday morning to go over 47 projects recommended by various city departments.

The council will prioritize the projects in two weeks and vote in February, said City Manager Joe Hughes.

One of the most expensive items is the replacement of the city's 1982 American LaFrance fire engine. Hughes said a new engine would cost $500,000.

"This is a big-ticket item and we want to make sure the council wants to spend the money," Hughes said.

Mayor Penny Lilburn asked whether the current engine needs replacing. Hughes said it could be more expensive to keep the engine running than to buy a new one.

The council also will have to determine whether to put a public safety general tax on the ballot for Nov. 3.

The tax would be used to fund public safety services. Election costs would range from $127,000 to $141,000.

The former BART officer who was caught on video shooting Oscar Grant was charged with murder.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

"At this point, what I feel the evidence indicates is an unlawful killing done by an intentional act," Alameda County Dist. Atty. Tom Orloff said Wednesday in announcing the charges.

Legal experts said it was rare for an officer to be charged with murder in connection with an on-duty shooting, and that convictions are difficult.

Mehserle's attorney, Christopher Miller, said he expected that his client would eventually be cleared of the charges arising from "that chaotic night."

Mehserle "was a fine young officer with an excellent work history," Miller said at a Sacramento news conference, adding that "this case is not just about a video."

Law enforcement officers aren't just getting arrested in the United States for sexual misconduct. They are getting arrested in Canada too. Like Ottawa.

(excerpt, The Ottawa Sun)

The woman testified that during the ride to Arnprior, in a police cruiser, Acting Sgt. Rohan Beebakhee, 39, had her unbutton her coat so he could fondle her breasts, which he told her were nice.

Beebakhee was charged with sexual assault and breach of trust a few months after the alleged incident by the Ontario police watchdog following a complaint made by the woman a few days following the alleged sex attack.

The Special Investigations Unit felt there were "reasonable grounds" to believe the officer committed the alleged offences.

The woman then testified Beebakhee forced her to grab his crotch and reached into her spandex tights beneath her underwear and fondled her vagina.

She also said the officer asked her a couple of times where there was a good place to pull over.

She said she had to get home because her father would be worried about her.

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