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

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A legend is recognized, a city's lost capital and life goes on

"The city doesn't have the resources to do the projects."

---Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson during the workshop held by the city council on the planned expansion and renovation of several downtown facilities. In other words, the city's pretty much broke as far as completing capital projects at least for now.

Lt. Mike Cook from the Riverside Police Department provided an update on the police department's crisis mental health intervention program to the city council. This came after the issue of creating and implementing this program had come before the Public Safety Committee for regular updates over several years. Also in attendance for the briefing, were Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa, Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel, Capt. Meredyth Meredith and Lt. Bob Williams.

The city council agreed to receive the report and enter into a three-year contract (retroactively dated from July 1, 2008) with Riverside County Mental Health. The proposed contract which still needs to be approved by the board of supervisors is here.

About 350 out of the department's approximately 400 sworn officers have undergone the 30 hour POST certified training. Another different bloc of training had been set up to be taken by the department's civilian employees and about four more blocs were scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009. Cook said that the training and the pilot program were both really well received by the officers who participated.

So far, only one mental health employee has been able to be hired to fill one of four available positions and that person is working shifts during the daytime periods of the work week. Other similar co-partner models of mental health intervention programs such as the one in Birmingham have faced similar challenges with staffing outside of normal business hours. The mental health professionals would not participate in calls that put them in physical danger, Cook said, then the police department would respond.

However, that's when the CIT training that the officers have received as well as any similar additional ongoing training could come into play in addressing those situations. This has worked in cities that utilize CIT models such as Memphis.

The city has said that it's trying to fill the mental health positions. At least one applicant for the position didn't pass a background check. Cook also said that filling the other positions would be contingent on the county's own budget picture particularly in the area of mental health.

The contract also stated that the officers would be utilized more in the formation of crisis intervention teams. The inclusion of this particular item led to questions asked by Councilman Rusty Bailey who wondered if the city and department were transitioning from one model of intervention to another over a period of time.

One of the keys to pushing this program was to get the Public Safety Committee to receive regular reports from the police department on its development from its inception through the implementation of its POST training to the creation of its pilot program. Community members were the ones who really wanted to be regularly updated on its progress.

Councilman Frank Schiavone brought up some issue with the confidentiality of mental health records and tried to tie it in with the Community Police Review Commission's investigations (as if they really still even do those) of officer-involved deaths claiming he wasn't "bootstrapping" the commission. However, in past cases, mental health records haven't appeared in the officer-involved shooting case books provided to the commission. If any information about mental health history does come out, it's often through interviews with family members and friends of the deceased as happened in the fatal officer-involved shooting of Todd Argow who suffered from chronic clinical depression.

As for anyone "bootstrapping" the commission, I guess we'll all find out if that's taking place on Feb. 4 when the Governmental Affairs Committee meets to discuss the CPRC's "investigative guidelines". The commission has had little say in establishing its own guidelines because every time it tries to through a subcommittee process, it's roadblocked by the city manager's office, including at its meeting last week when Policy and Procedure Committee Chair John Brandriff watched as Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis essentially ran his meeting for him. And that was after being chastised by DeSantis for being too critical of the commission's micromanagement.

Speaking of the Feb. 4 Governmental Affairs meeting, the city council approved a consent calendar item to substitute Councilman Andrew Melendrez for Rusty Bailey in that discussion but it doesn't matter. Even if he has the fortitude to disagree with the proposed rubber stamping of the Hudson directive, he'd likely be outvoted by the other two.

Marjorie Von Pohle, 90, received her proclamation from the city council and mayor and received accolades from elected representatives on the dais including several who ordered police officers to evict her from a meeting when she was "gadflying while elderly". At that meeting which took place in March 2007, she told two police officers that they would have to carry her out of the chambers. The two officer demurred and even though city staff on the order of city council members allegedly called detectives in the department to start cases against Von Pohle and three other city residents evicted from that meeting, not one detective took the case up. Perhaps they probably had other important things to do.

But the applause that Von Pohle received for her commitment to the city over 60 years of activism and civic involvement was richly deserved. About 1000 times.

Earlier in the day, the city council held its workshop to discuss the expansion renovation of the downtown library, museum and the municipal auditorium which had been tagged onto the proposal at a more later date. Apparently, some elected officials gave some sort of performance at the auditorium and discovered its backstage or something like that and decided it needed to undergo immediate renovation.

Not too long ago, City Manager Brad Hudson had issued some bold statements about demolishing the downtown library and building a new one from scratch.

But that's in the distant future because the city's out of money for any of these projects except for bare boned renovations of any of the three facilities especially the library.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Hudson said he wouldn't recommend putting the bond measure on the ballot amid the economic crisis.

"It's just not the right time," he said.

Councilman Steve Adams sounded a pessimistic note about prospects for the full-blown projects.

"We have a long way to go and no money to get there," Adams said.

But Councilwoman Nancy Hart said the council shouldn't underestimate residents' willingness to approve a bond measure when the right time arrives.

About 40 people attended the council's afternoon session. and nine addressed the council regarding Hudson's proposals.

Judith Auth of the Committee to Renew the Library and Doug Shackleton of the Raincross Group, both of which have played a major role in helping the city figure out a future for the library and museum buildings, asked the council for time to review Hudson's report.

Auth said a parcel tax of $40 to 45 a year far exceeds the amount for which her group found support in a 2006 survey. With her group's help, Riverside residents in 2002 approved Measure C, which funds library construction projects and operations. It costs $19 per parcel until 2012.

Nothing will actually be built until 2011 at the earliest due to the current budgetary situation, according to Hudson. The solution as he saw it was to invest in design plans now and then double the amount of property tax paid out by residents for bond issues in relation to these projects during the biggest drop in property values in decades in the region in the nation hardest hit by declining property values.

Measure C is up for renewal in 2012 and by then, its expansion might not be a difficult sell but doubling the amount will still be. Some of the funding for these projects was to be raised through real estate sales, which of course can't be done now because it's become so difficult to get buyers for land unless the prices are dropped dramatically.

Also, it's easier to sell the future demolition of the downtown library because it differs from the museum and auditorium in another fundamental way. It's a service institution, which reaches out to various populations of Riverside and provides them with opportunities from studying for their GED, getting assistance filling out income taxes, being tutored on literacy and receiving information on how to start new businesses or be interviewed for jobs. When one or more individual at this meeting and others have referred to the downtown library as the "people's university", they actually described its purpose and its role very well.

That's why hearing about a proposed plan for its demolition at about the same time as the emergence of the Fox Theater and the renovations of the auditorium and the museum make it almost necessary to reexamine this proposal again. Does the governing body and some of its supporters downtown view the library the same way as they view the downtown bus terminal, as a base for the gathering of homeless, for example? Do some think by demolishing the library that the homeless will just leave? It's not obvious whether or not this is the case but after listening to the false portrayals of Greyhound passengers and of crimes alleged to be caused by Greyhound (while city employees such as the police chief argue that those committing crimes aren't taking any buses) does make one leery of any suggestion of a similar argument.

Does that mean that the demolition idea is necessary all bad? No, but it means that it bears further watching and further reflection by the public which needs the opportunity to do just this. And much more discussion and community input during a time they could do so as League of Women Voters leader, Barbara Purvis said at the workshop. She and other speakers urged a continuance on the discussion of the Hudson Proposal until they could read up on it further.

The continuance was granted as the Hudson Proposal will be returning to the city council on Feb. 24.

Speaking of the downtown terminal, there's still no signage on the area where at least one police division, the Internal Affairs division, is currently being housed. A police department representative did say that the signage would be installed soon and was being designed and looked really nice. That's important to have signage that's both functional and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but while walking by the terminal to check for any signage today, a woman asked me if I was looking for Greyhound and I said, no that I thought I was looking for the police station. She was surprised there was one at that spot.

The police representative added that the department management met with the Internal Affairs Division within the last couple of days and that reuniting the Internal Affairs Division with other police divisions wasn't optimal but done strictly for budgetary reasons. He did mention that people had problems finding the old location which occupied rental office space at Central Avenue and hoped that its relocation would alleviate that situation.

By the way, this interest in the relocation of the Internal Affairs Division doesn't mean favoritism towards that division for my readers who might freak out that I'm mentioning it at all.

This particular entity means different things to different people, very little of them anything but negative. But it's important that it be housed properly in a professional looking building because every division should be given that consideration and it does send the wrong message about how the department values (or not) the purpose of its Internal Affairs Division if it houses it in a facility that's not prepared ahead of time for it.

Norco's trimmed its budget but it's still in the red.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The City Council will vote today on midyear adjustments to the budget, which include a $250,000 drop in revenues and a $512,630 decrease in spending from the general fund.

The net effect of the changes will be a slightly smaller deficit --$1.25 million instead of the expected $1.5 million -- when the fiscal year ends June 30.

The gap will be filled with reserve funds.

Even with the reduction, "to me that's a huge deficit," Councilman Malcolm Miller said. "Our reserves won't last forever."

The city coffers depend heavily on sales taxes, but the biggest loss in the current adjustment is attributed to a decline in permit and inspection fees from construction projects.

Hotel taxes and business license fees also are down.

Other cities like Hemet and Temecula are considering throwing out their attorneys to try to balance their budgets.

In San Bernardino County, Assessor Bill Postmus is seen as just one in a long line of politicians to be involved in a corruption scandal. It's kind of a tradition there.

The disappearance of Chinatown. Only this one's not in Riverside.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Whether it was simply this unease or other issues along with it, when the block of businesses and residences on Third Street, between Arrowhead and Mountain View avenues, caught fire, many in the city were happy to see it burn.

The city water superintendent reportedly shut off the water main so that the fire couldn't be extinguished. The fire captain refused to let his men battle the blaze.

Half the community was destroyed.

Maybe the city thought it was doing its Chinese residents a favor in 1930, when it announced plans by a local contractor to build a new Chinatown.

Riverside County Superior Court's presiding judge Richard Fields has stepped down and handed off the gavel to his replacement, Tom Cahraman. The problems which have plagued the system and backlogged it for several years still remain to be taken up by the new man in charge.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Funding was delayed from this fiscal year to next to supply the county with seven additional judges. And the county has five positions open due to retirements.

It is difficult to predict when any relief might come, Cahraman said.

The county has used retired judges from around the state to supplement its bench. In fiscal 2006-07, there were 583 felony trials in Riverside County. Only Los Angeles County appears to have heard more felony trials with 2,098. Orange County did not report results to the Judicial Council.

"Our judges are working very hard," Cahraman said. "When judges finish a trial and send 12 jurors out (to deliberate), they might take a 20-minute break and then bring in 50 more jurors to start the next trial -- even at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon."

A new criminal court calendar system introduced last March has reduced pending felonies from 6,325 to 5,383 in late December, a reduction of 942. The new system introduced vertical calendar departments, designed to handle all the developments in a case except settlement conferences and trials.

"The courts have energetically and courageously initiated settlement discussions," Cahraman said. Defendants are often willing to plead guilty as charged, if they know what their punishment will be, he said.

Los Angeles Times Columnist Dana Parsons offered his take on the acquittal of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona on most of the corruption charges involving his federal trial.


I suggested way, way back that the government would have some explaining to do if it lost this case. That stems from a still-troubled part of me that says if the government brings its weight down on someone, it should have a case that's pretty air-tight.

No, I'm not saying it should be 100% when it brings a case. But let's take the Carona matter. While clearly exultant last Friday, Carona noted that he'd had a $3-million defense. True, he didn't pay a dime for it, because some as-yet unknown benefactor picked up the tab. Whether it was the Jones Day law firm that represented him or some other outsider, we don't know.

But let's assume Carona hadn't been so lucky. After being charged, he'd have been left with this choice: come up with a million-dollar defense (he wasn't destitute) or, most likely, agree to a plea bargain just to avoid going broke.That isn't much of a choice. And because we now see how much the government misread the strength of its case, it makes the dilemma for a defendant all the more troubling. Go broke or go to the penitentiary, even if you eventually could have beaten the charges.

So, I was prepared to blast the government for overreaching.

Several days earlier, Parsons stated that the government's case had too many flaws but before the nearly blanket acquittal, he had stated that he wouldn't bet on an acquittal. How quickly one week changes things.

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