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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What an independent and parallel investigation looks like: Joseph Darnell Hill

"The sky is falling."

---Chicken Little who's got a following at City Hall in River City these days involving the CPRC.

What does an independent, parallel and timely investigation by the Community Police Review Commission look like?

That is something that City Hall doesn't want city residents to know. Or if you did know, this is what City Hall wants you to forget. There are two ways to achieve this and they are most effective when done in tandem. The first step is to eliminate the practice in question at least until the collective memory almost forgets it. City Hall accomplished this when City Manager Brad Hudson released his directive barring the CPRC from initiating such investigations until the police department had completed its own investigations and review, a process that can take six months to a year or longer.

The second step is to replace the memories of what independent, parallel investigations actually were by replacing them with falsely generated recollections or rather, reinventions. And that is how the most outrageous falsehood in this situation was developed. Let's call it the "bumbling, obstructive investigator who tramps through crime scenes", the straw man argument that's been dragged out a lot lately in defense of the Hudson directive by various parties including those who have waited over eight years to bring it up.

Never mind that the investigators (most of whom retired from the FBI) from the Baker's Street Group never conducted themselves in any manner than what was professional. They never even visited a crime scene the day of the officer-involved death, let alone trampled over the crime-scene tape being set up around it thus throwing the entire investigative process awry. If you're doubtful about this, then here's something you can do. Contact your elected council representative, any other elected council member or Mayor Ron Loveridge and ask him or her to cite examples of incidents where investigators showed up at crime scenes and trampled evidence. Ask the elected official too if he or she ever received any complaints of investigators barging into crime scenes and trampled evidence. But it's important to paint this vivid portrait of investigators trampling evidence and contaminating witness accounts (when the fact is, most problematic witnesses contaminate their own statements) so that people hear it, envision it and then say, oh my gracious without even knowing that the elected officials and direct city employees who they trust have imprinted their minds with false memories which lead to an attack of the vapors which they need smelling salts to revive from.

It never happened.

No investigator ever trampled a crime scene nor has one ever contaminated a witness statements. If witnesses give slightly different or even completely different versions of accounts of an incident to different investigative parties, then it's probably a blessing in disguise for the criminal investigators and any potential prosecutors (in theory not practice because only one officer-involved shooting death case was ever prosecuted in this county's history) to realize that there's a problem with that witness' recollection at that early juncture in an investigation rather than while that witness is under direct examination by a prosecutor at a grand jury proceeding, a preliminary hearing or better yet a trial after months of time has been spent preparing for those legal proceedings both by an investigative agency and a prosecutors' office.

Seriously, and no smart elected official who tells the truth at least some of the time will say that it did. Yet there are elected officials and their direct employees running around claiming that it will, like Chicken Little who went around the barnyard telling everyone the sky was falling on his head. Anyone who participates in actually perpetuating this farce should truly be ashamed of themselves.

As you are probably aware, the ability of the Community Police Review Commission to do independent and timely investigations has been restricted by a directive issued by the City Manager's office, enforced by the City Attorney's office and backed by at least two city council members currently sitting on the dais including one who is up for reelection this year. Those two city council members sit on the Governmental Affairs Committee which most likely will be cementing the Hudson directive to take back to an indecisive and relatively quiet city council to be rubber stamped at that level.

But before that happens, one final reminder of what an independent and timely investigation process by the CPRC looks like. And what an investigative process under City Charter Section 810(d) looks like and will look like again when more enlightened people who truly respect the vote of the people to put the CPRC in the city's charter are elected to the dais to replace those who simply reject the fact that Measure II passed in every precinct in every ward and are bowing to the wishes of a minority. This happened to LEPAC in the 1990s and out of that, came the stronger CPRC. Now it's the CPRC's turn and like with LEPAC, in the long-run it most likely will spawn a stronger, more independent civilian review mechanism. But that will be over the long-term most likely because Riverside tends to repeat its history.

The CPRC is currently carrying out its most last case involving parallel investigations done by the body's own investigator and the Riverside Police Department because this case took place before the Hudson Directive. That directive as stated disrupted a protocol of investigation which had been successfully in place since 2002. This protocol was used in the investigations of 11 officer-involved deaths without a single complaint made against it by any faction of the city or its departments, any lawsuits filed protesting the protocol and any concerns raised by anyone from any city or county agency about potential contamination of crime scene evidence or witnesses by investigators.

In other words, this is probably one of the most blatant campaigns of falsehoods foisted on the city residents including the majority of voters who put the commission in the city's charter in recent memory. It actually does a complete disservice to the police department and the city's residents because it makes it clear that City Hall has to resort to falsehoods to restrict the impact of the CPRC on its civil liability involving the police department. It benefits the city attorney's office, city manager's office and city council who are more concerned about civil litigation instigated against the city (through its police department) than in maintaining the integrity of any investigative process done by anyone. But it doesn't benefit the city's residents or the police department which has the added burden of having to appear as if the city simply doesn't have any trust in it. Any city that had faith in its law enforcement agency would welcome independent and transparent investigations of its most critical incidents most namely officer-involved deaths. Riverside has opted out of this process because it's afraid of what the CPRC might uncover? It's afraid whether there's really anything there or not and it's fascinating how all this concern and sudden need for change of protocol took place after the city dissolved its consent decree with the State Attorney General's office. Is there some reason why even Hudson, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis and several city council members didn't come up with this plan to do so while Bill Lockyer was still in control?

Below is what a parallel investigation looks like. The police department initiated its own investigation and review process the day of the shooting. The CPRC did its own investigation and review process beginning within several days of being notified by the police department. Thje work product for the police department and that of the investigator are available online.

This section of the CPRC's Web site contains information from the officer-involved death investigations of Joseph Darnell Hill who was shot to death by a police officer in October 2006. Investigations is plural because the material included online at the CPRC's Web site is from the parallel investigations done by the Riverside Police Department's Officer-Involved Death Team housed in the Central Investigations Bureau and the CPRC's own probe. Not included is the administrative review conducted by the police department's Internal Affairs Division which is confidential under state laws.

Most of the documents are in pdf format so Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to access them. It's recommended that you use version 7.0 or higher as the 7.0 version is what is used by most city departments.

This is the criminal casebook for the Hill case provided by the Riverside Police Department. Although portions of it were redacted by the police department's records division, it includes information including reports, statements and other documented evidence.

Here are some portions of the case book which is identified on the Web site page through tab numbers which makes it a bit confusing to know which tab sections covers which part of the investigation as there is no index or table of contents like there would be in the actual case book that's not online. So you have to kind of click each one to find out what information if any it provides. About three of the tabs for whatever reason are not hyperlinked and are thus unable to be accessed.

For example, here is an incident report filed by Officer R. Nibecker who had responded to an emergency call for assistance and a report of "shots fired".

Here is a report filed by Lt. Guy Toussaint where he approaches Adcox and Ili to ask them safety questions (as supervisors are limited in terms of what they can ask officers involved in shootings at the scene) and then ask Adcox to voluntarily submit blood samples for toxicology reports. The officers are told if they don't do it voluntarily, then the Internal Affairs Division will compel them to do it for the administrative review. Both declined, which has been a more recent trend since the Riverside Police Officer Association retained the firm of Lackie and Dammeier to represent it and so Sgt. Duane May and Sgt. Brian Dailey from the Internal Affairs Division showed up to compel samples which were provided as required.

Interview with witness, Jorge Quniones (Spanish with Officer D. Nelson and translated into English) where his version of what happened to the taser is a little different than that provided by the two police officers.

Officer Carlos Vazquez writes this report about laying out the crime scene and canvassing the area looking for witnesses of the shooting who will then be more thoroughly interviewed by the shooting team investigators. It's easy for the patrol officers to conduct field interviews including in canvass sweeps because the department issues all of them digital recorders as part of what was once the stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office.

Other officers like R. Olsen respond and secure the scene or form a perimeter or like Motor Officer Greg Hayden traffic control.

Here is an investigative report submitted by Det. Rick Cobb one of the detectives assigned to the Officer-Involved Death Team. It includes information about what the scene looked like when he arrived down to the smaller details. It also includes a listing of evidence collected.

Sgt. Kossky submitted this report from the Central Investigations Bureau at the Magnolia Station. He details how the involved officers are kept separated from each other before their interviews by being directed to vacant offices.

The officers are then interviewed by members of the Officer-Involved Shooting team's detectives. Included in the information are those present during the officer's voluntary interview with the investigators.

Interview of Officer Jeffrey Adcox took place at the Magnolia Station with Det. James Brandt and Det. Mike Medici. Present were representatives from the Riverside County District Attorney's office and also the law firm retained by the police union to represent officers during these interviews. Not mentioned are whether there are any personnel representing the Internal Affairs Division as there had been in the past. In August 2003, the filing of The Riverside Police Officers' Association v the City of Riverside addressed the presence of personnel from this division during the voluntary interviews, most often sitting in another room out of sight listening or watching the interview through a live feed. These administrative reviewers would often submit questions to the Officer-Involved Death Team without the officers who were being interviewed knowing the source of the question.

The lawsuit was ultimately settled in early 2005.

Interview with Officer Giovanni Ili which includes much of the same background information as for Adcox including who is present while the interview is taking place and its location. If you look at the transcripts for both Ili and Adcox, you will notice that admonitions are delivered at their beginnings and ends by the labor union attorney Michael McGill.

Tab #59 and Tab #60 were confusing to figure out until I realized they were actually two officer interviews from the Douglas Steven Cloud shooting investigation. Oops! They also spelled RPOA attorney Michael Lackie's name wrong. Its spelling is not the same as Officer Matthew Lackey's name.

The autopsy report of Hill in terms of the process as done by a medical examiner from the Riverside County Sheriffs-Coroner's office. Very brief and not in great detail.

The evidence log which catalogs the items found at the scene of the shooting relevant to the investigation. It is submitted by Technician Carlton Fuller. Not included is any information about the tests conducted on DNA samples and fingerprints from the taser. Both failed to provide enough of a viable sample to use for identification purposes.

Adcox's firearm is inspected as part of the process of evidence collection.

Transcript of Adcox's belt recording of the incident. All field officers are required to carry digital belt recorders and to record all professional officer-initiated contacts with the public pursuant to a department policy instituted while the city was under the stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office. This recording is not complete nor is it time stamped. It was signed by Adcox on Feb. 23, 2007 as being in his mind an authentic reproduction of his recording.

Transcript of Officer Giovanni Ili's belt recording. The recorder apparently was activated after the shooting and contains exchanges between him and other officers who arrived afterward. Ili also signed the transcript which can't be used as evidence but only as a visual guide for the recording which can be used as evidence in a proceeding.

Transcript of radio traffic between police officers and the dispatcher during the incident.

This diagram shows an aerial view of the scene during the shooting incident.

Here is the investigation report submitted by Butch Warnberg of the Baker Street Group, an investigation firm in San Diego County retained by the CPRC for the purpose of conducting its own independent and parallel investigations including interviews of all the witnesses. Does it look slender in content? When compared to prior reports submitted by Warnberg and other investigators working for that company especially those involving the deaths of Terry Rabb in 2005 and Lee Deante Brown in 2006, it is but according to one commissioner on the CPRC, there's a reason for that.

The CPRC investigators had provided some valued service to the investigative process.

While doing investigations into several cases including that of Summer Lane in 2004, the commission or its investigator uncovered other witnesses the police department didn't know about. It also found someone in the Anastacio Munoz case who had appeared at a briefing held on that fatal officer-involved shooting in 2002. In all cases, the commission or its investigator provided the police department with this information. And what's happened in return? City Hall has branded the investigators as running around trampling crime scenes and compromising the police department's own criminal investigations of incustody deaths.

But what's happened to Warnberg's reports during the past few years as a result of the alleged obstruction by City Hall into investigations conducted by his company?

Commissioner Jim Ward told the commission at several meetings that when he asked Warnberg while the reports were weaker than they had been for earlier deaths, he said he was told that Hudson's office had issued an ultimatum to Warnberg and the other investigators with Baker Street Group that if it wanted to continue to get paid by the city, it would conform its reports to the liking of the city manager's office. The company was reminded by the city who wrote its pay checks and those who did were in control. None of the other commissioners seemed that shocked at Ward's revelation of behind the scenes actions. Some most likely were more jaded at that point than others.

Compare and contrast that situation to what was outlined in the Hudson Directive that the CPRC couldn't spend its own investigative budget (which was $50,000 but is likely gone by now for other non-commission related expenditures) without the permission of City Attorney Gregory Priamos. So the city manager's office was already causing problems for the CPRC's ability to do its own independent and transparent investigations even before the Hudson Directive was issued.

In fact, the majority of the CPRC voted to initiate independent and parallel investigations into the officer-involved deaths of Carlos Quinonez, Fernando Sanchez and Marlon Oliver Acevedo but those investigations never got off the ground because Executive Manager Kevin Rogan, a direct employee of Hudson, refused to contact the investigators as directed to by the commission and Priamos' office refused to provide any money. People in the community actually offered to raise money themselves so that the commission could at least initiate an investigation through a firm but it's likely that wouldn't help because the investigative process would still be roadblocked by Rogan, Hudson and Priamos. But it's worth noting that there are many city residents who value the process of independent and parallel investigations and understand what that really means (as opposed to the line of horse manure that City Hall is trying to hock) to offer to do such a thing.

Hopefully, they will show this same commitment at the voting polls this coming election cycle. Many plan to do so.

You can't fault Rogan even though he was nary two weeks out of a long stint with Pomona's police department and had turned down a job with a top police defense firm before becoming the executive manager of the CPRC. Riverside's residents saw what happened to his predecessor, Pedro Payne who "resigned" not long after Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis met with him and others to discuss changes to the protocol involving officer-involved death investigations by the CPRC. A couple applicants to fill his vacancy called up before the oral interviews to ask what had happened to him and who really pulled his strings. At that point in their background research into the CPRC, the executive manager's role and how that role was shaped by City Hall, they had already figured it out or had a sense of what the dynamics would be.

Several postings ago, there was a trivia question which was as follows. Name the only controversy involving the conducting of parallel investigations involving officer-involved deaths. The clue provided was that it had nothing to do with the CPRC and that's the truth. The lawsuit which resulted from problems that arose with how the police department conducts its own parallel investigations of officer-involved deaths and nonfatal shootings was named, The Riverside Police Officers' Association v the City of Riverside filed in August 2003 and that's the same case that was mentioned earlier. It resulted from an alleged blending of two investigations which were supposed to be independent of one another, which were the criminal investigation and the administrative investigation (which actually resembles a review more than an investigation) during the interrogation of involved officers.

And what do you know! The CPRC actually noted this blurring of the two factions while drafting policy recommendations for several officer-involved deaths including that of Munoz. But the rewrite of that history is again, all about inept investigators trampling over crime-scene tape. Oh that odious, incompetent investigator, you know the one that doesn't actually exist except in the re-imagining and rewriting of history by some individuals at City Hall.

The Riverside County government did an audit and now it's asking some questions about its expenditures.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The Department of Public Social Services then bought another $1.1 million in computers and accessories in fiscal 2007 without considering the hundreds of computers, routers, printers and modems collecting dust, the audit said.

"Some equipment in inventory should have been used before purchasing similar new equipment," the department's director, Susan Loew, wrote in a 2007 response to the audit. "We are remedying this situation."

The audit says the department failed to use about 1,400 computers and other electronic items in a timely manner, potentially wasting taxpayer money as the items become obsolete.

Loew said Friday that the department purchased most of the 1,400 computers in spring 2006. The department had to store the new computers for more than a year due to unforeseen "external factors," she said. Loew said she did not know the specific reasons offhand.

Since the draft audit was completed in 2007, the department has put all the computers to use among its 52 offices around the county, she said.

The day the lights went out in Hemet. At about 700 businesses and homes. Fires and explosions involving Southern California Edison took out power for 2,000 customers altogether since Friday night.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older