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

Friday, January 16, 2009

The S.S. CPRC: The ship with two captains


Another fatal Riverside Police Department officer-involved shooting took place on Saturday evening. Russell Franklin Wyatt, 38, died at the scene.

The Friday Morning Club in Riverside hosted Ward Four city council candidate, Paul Davis who fielded questions ranging from the city's budget, to the Community Police Review Commission to public participation at governmental meetings asked by several dozen people (including Councilman Chris MacArthur's legislative aide who stayed for a while) attending the meeting. He said that one of the reasons he had decided to run was he had polled parents of kids in sports leagues in the fourth ward and found out that most of them didn't even know who their elected representative was on the city council.

He mentioned that he and his wife had attended a city council meeting recently where one city councilman, (probably Steve Adams because there were quite a few complaints about him at that meeting), went off on a city resident who was speaking on an issue and his wife had told them as they left how disgusted she was with that councilman's conduct.

Davis spoke about the current situation involving the Community Police Review Commission which is being subjected to actions by the city manager's office and members of the city council regarding how it conducts officer-involved death investigations. He said that while it was important that crime scenes aren't contaminated, he said that there hadn't been any examples listed of any problems including lawsuits filed on this issue and that this was based on a perception put out by the city government.

Last spring, Davis said he was contacted by members of the Riverside Police Officers' Association to conduct an audit and analysis of the city's annual budget passed in June and offer his opinion on the true financial state of the city. The police union was preparing to go into negotiations for its next contract and was hoping to know what its position would be. Davis analyzed the city's budget, predicted a $14 million deficit which came to pass in early December. He told those union members that the picture presented was "not pretty".

He also talked about the state of the city's economy in the worst downturn since the Great Depression and how it might fare. He predicted that the city's deficit might keep increasing and that the city's investment in trying to accomplish 20 years of improvements in five years, otherwise known as Riverside Renaissance, may have contributed to the situation.

Another city council meeting will be held at Riverside's City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 20 and here is the agenda.

At 3 p.m., there will be this workshop conducted on the future of the improvements of the oft-mentioned downtown library and museum and the new addition, the municipal auditorium.

The City Council in Riverside will be hearing a presentation at the upcoming city council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. on the Riverside Police Department's mental health crisis intervention training and pilot program. The department trained most of its police officers and civilian dispatchers and other employees in the 30 hour training course certified by POST. It had created four mental health responder positions but filled only one of them and this individual is staffed from about 8 a.m. -5 p.m. It kind of reminds you of the situation with another co-partner model in Birmingham.

The city council will also be including on its consent calendar this agenda item which is a request by Ward Two City Councilman and Public Safety Committee Chair Andrew Melendrez to substitute for Councilman Rusty Bailey on the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting held on Wednesday, Feb. 4 while it discusses the CPRC "investigative procedures". According to the report submitted by Melendrez, Bailey has concurred with his request for substitution. Initially, both Melendrez and Councilman Mike Gardner had requested substitution on this committee and both were initially rejected.

Will this item pass with the rest of the laundry list or will it be pulled? And if so, by whom? Will the other two members, Chair Frank Schiavone and Steve Adams, the two biggest opponents of the CPRC, reject Melendrez or allow him to serve in Bailey's stead figuring it will pacify city residents and still put him in a position to be outvoted by the other two?

Gardner with his past experience on the CPRC was the stronger elected official to substitute in but his odds of succeeding were much slimmer than Melendrez' because of that fact. Schiavone and Adams want to use the platform of Governmental Affairs to make it appear as if they are allowing public discourse but what will come out of it, is simply a reinforcement and rubber stamp of the Hudson directive which brought the successful and complaint-free protocol of allowing the CPRC to initiate its investigations of officer-involved deaths soon after receiving notice of them from the police department to a sudden halt.

If they put Gardner on, his experience on the CPRC including his involvement in the handling of officer-involved deaths would provide a lopsided conversation between him and the other two poorly informed elected officials, Schiavone and Adams. The latter two elected officials are probably hoping that Melendrez won't provide that much of a challenge. They want to control the discourse of the meeting, not look silly especially Schiavone who faces a reelection bid this year.

What's expected is that the two city council members will dust off Executive Manager Kevin Rogan's report on comparative studies between oversight mechanisms in other cities. This report is being kept under wraps and has never been made available to the public before or at any meeting where it's been cited.

But here's a trivial question to consider. What was the only complaint ever lodged about the integrity of parallel investigations of officer-involved deaths and/or shootings in Riverside's history and where was it lodged?

Hint: The answer doesn't have anything to do with the CPRC at all.

Some conversation on the actions of Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis' during the latter portion of the CPRC meeting on Jan. 14. DeSantis attended his first CPRC meeting in a while and stayed through the meeting even as it hit the 9:30 p.m. mark. Some wondered why City Manager Brad Hudson's adjutant, DeSantis was still there. They found out after the special meeting of the CPRC was adjourned and Policy and Procedure Committee Chair John Brandriff opened that meeting. That's when DeSantis took control.

The purpose of this committee was to write bylaws for the investigative procedures for officer-involved deaths but this isn't something that Hudson, DeSantis, City Attorney Gregory Priamos (who alas, had departed by then) really wanted at least not until they can seat the new Ward Four commissioner (replacing Linda Soubirous) so DeSantis showing the commission who was truly managing it intervened in the meeting, even at one point directing Brandriff to speak even though Brandriff was chairing the committee meeting!

The best way that DeSantis could have shown support for his direct employee, Rogan would have been to perhaps do as Priamos does and take a seat to the side, to let him handle himself during any disagreements with commissioners like any management employee would be expected to do rather than overstep his authority and do it for him. Except for Rogan's tendancy to offer up rebuttals to other people's statements while apparently failing to understand exactly what it was that they said in those statements, he doesn't appear to need much help from DeSantis. But the assistant city manager is hands on (as witnessed by somewhat humorous accounts of him dictating the shelving of books at the city's libraries and not so humorous stories of him inside labor negotation sessions a couple years back), and his boss, City Manager Brad Hudson has apparently reassured people that if DeSantis goes too far, he just tugs back on his subordinate employee a bit. And maybe that's what has happened except for on one noteworthy occasion.

After all, it didn't appear that Rogan's needed DeSantis' assistance at earlier meetings where conflicts arose. What he did is show that he doesn't have much confidence in him. But I guess we won't know the extent of all this latest drama until it's discovered whether any more chastising letters will be sent out scolding mouthy commissioners as has already happened with two commissioners who received letters from Schiavone.

One commissioner even was sent to spend several hours with City Attorney Gregory Priamos for "special ethics training". Priamos' advice? Telling him to look at the larger picture and think about running for elected office. It's really too bad that this eight-year experience in civilian oversight in Riverside has become a side show run by elements at City Hall.

The most brilliant part of this whole meeting is that DeSantis and company performed this micromanagement in front of an attorney visiting from the American Civil Liberties Union, which has spent more time in Riverside in the past six months than they had in the previous six years, drawn perhaps by what's transpired in this city.

The CPRC issued its recommendations for the fatal shooting of Douglas Steven Cloud over two years after the shooting took place. And guess what? They're not a whole different than what the city had allegedly promised Cloud's mother it would do as part of the settlement of the lawsuit filed in that case.

The CPRC public report on the Douglas Steven Cloud shooting is here.

Douglas Steven Cloud shooting

Press Enterprise Columnist makes some predictions about the Mayor's state of the city address coming to posh downtown next week.

San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus is back at work.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Ovitt met today with the county's lead lawyer to discuss the county's options, he said.

"I think it's fair to say all of the board members feel some obligation to address this matter," said county spokesman David Wert. "Frankly, they're concerned someone who has this type of problem ... is operating such a vital county department."

Postmus is back at work today, though not in his San Bernardino office, said Ted Lehrer, a spokesman for the assessor's office.

There has been no internal communication from Postmus to his staff of roughly 200 employees about his arrest early Thursday at his Rancho Cucamonga apartment by investigators for the San Bernardino County district attorney.

"He is going to continue with his responsibilities and duties as assessor," Lehrer said. "There are no changes in the structure of this office."

Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, said Postmus' arrest puts more pressure on the Board of Supervisors to remove him.

"I'm sure most people in the county wish he would go away and resign his post," Stern said. "Clearly, he is not going to do so."

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board believes he should just resign now.


Nor are drugs the assessor's biggest public failing. A grand jury report in June found that the assessor had hired unqualified cronies as top administrators and run a political operation out of the office at taxpayers' expense. The same day the report hit, authorities arrested Postmus' top aide on charges of giving false evidence and destroying public records. The revelations added to Postmus' long list of ethical lapses.

The assessor said this week that he plans to stay in office until his term expires in 2010, but he should resign now. He has become a distraction from public business, and an embarrassment to the county. Nor does the county need the three-ring circus that would result from supervisors' attempting to oust Postmus.

Postmus' troubles hinder his effectiveness as assessor, and he should step down, for his own -- and the county's -- good.

Former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona exonerated on all charges except wire tampering in his federal corruption case. Some jurors believed he was guilty but said they had to follow the law.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Jurors rejected the government's contention that Carona used his office to enrich himself and others. But they did find that Carona tried to persuade former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl to lie to a grand jury investigating corruption allegations.

The charge stems from an August 2007 meeting between Carona and Haidl at the Bayside Restaurant in Newport Beach, during which Haidl carried a hidden microphone at the government's behest.Carona faces up to 20 years in prison. His lawyers say they will appeal the conviction, arguing that investigators knew Carona had legal representation at the time of the meeting and had no right to arrange the secret recording.

Carona and his wife, Debbie, wept as the not-guilty verdicts were read, Carona dropping his head on the defense table and shaking. At the single guilty verdict, he leaned back in his chair and sighed.U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford allowed Carona to remain free until his sentencing -- the date has not been set -- but restricted his travel and forbade him from entering airports, train stations, harbors or other places from which he might flee. Carona also must surrender any weapons he possesses.

Thursday, Jan. 22 at 11 a.m., at the Riverside Convention Center, the mayor's state of the city address. If you have some major bucks, you can buy lunch and table space. If not, seats will be provided in steerage in the back of the room.

Thursday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. there will be some kind of civic engagement at City Hall on the seventh floor to discuss the future of the city. It's being held by Karthick Raakrishnan who is an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside.

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