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, February 20, 2009

Chinatown: Day of Action, Feb. 24, 2008

“Well, the requirement is to cooperate with the investigation. She was the victim of a crime. She needed to document as other officers do information, narrative information for a crime report.”

---Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach (in a deposition given in 2004) about former Officer Tina Banfill Gould's responsibilities under departmental policy #4.8 as he saw them.

“They tell me that you’re not the suspect. You’re a victim. The investigators are there to assist you and to help you through the process. However what they tell you and what actually occurs seem to be two different things. At least in my opinion. That’s how I felt. That’s what I meant by that’s what they tell you.”

---Former Officer Tina Banfill Gould in her deposition in 2004.

But I was thinking of a way To multiply by ten, And always, in the answer, get The question back again.

---Lewis Carroll

What do the above quotes mean? What does it mean when the city spends thousands of dollars of tax payer money to argue the opposite of what it's claiming as its position on the same issue now? That its department investigates its officers after they are involved in incustody deaths? That these really aren't investigations after all because the person to be investigated is deceased. That there are no interrogations but simply crime reports detailing the actions of the deceased against the officer to determine the culpability of the officers involved in their deaths. That there are interrogations done by investigators to determine whether or not the officers have committed crimes through their actions in these incustody deaths and the officers could face charges (although this is mostly hypothetical in Riverside County considering its lack of precedent*). Yes, there's a right to take the Fifth Amendment to avoid incrimination. No, there isn't because to do so means that you violate departmental policy by failing to provide a police report.

It's like the city were pulling off petals from a daisy. We do it this way, We do it that way, we do it this way, that way and it really doesn't make much sense if you have been following along with that exercise.

Not that the most recent display of angst about the integrity of the police department's criminal investigations of officer-involved deaths hasn't been interesting to follow even as it's increasingly difficult to swallow. And it's left to the city attorney (or his designees) to act as the legal adviser (for the city first, everyone else second) and defend both positions at different points in Riverside's history as if each of them were the absolute true one for all time. Not that it would be the first time for the city attorney's office which has walked this tightrope before when trying to protect the city from financial liability.

There is so much historically wrong with what City Hall has been doing in its latest round of micromanagement against the Community Police Review Commission. Not the least of which is its revisionist attitude about the history of the CPRC and the department's own exercise in conducting parallel investigations involving officer-involved deaths in Riverside during the past nine years. The people that are stumping for this revised history the loudest weren't even at City Hall (and in some cases, the city itself) when it played out. Yet they proclaim themselves to be experts on what has transpired since the commission was created through municipal ordinance in April 2000. And of course they are, of their own fictional vision of what was but not the truth.

They are defining this huge crisis that's taking place involving how the CPRC conducts its independent investigations. Its investigators are trampling on crime scenes of these incustody deaths before the tape has even been put down and they are contaminating the process, while trying to pretend that the fact that there's never been a whisper of complaint about this practice for seven years has no relevance.

In fact, their latest alibi is that they had no knowledge this illicit behavior of investigative protocol by the CPRC was even taking place until last June. Never mind that when June rolled around, it had been over 18 months since an officer-involved death had even occurred. The dynamic duo of the city manager and city attorney never ever mentioned what actually transpired, what bolt of lightning struck them from the sky during June that educated them on an investigative protocol that had actually been status quo for years. A protocol that they both knew about given their rather rigorous attentiveness to the commission in the past two years.

So that explanation by City Hall is obviously nothing more than a pile of bunk especially given that the commission had been likely submitting invoices or at least receipts for its investigative expenses to the city manager's office during this entire time. And if the city council is buying any such explanation from its direct employees then maybe they'll be looking next at beachfront property in Idaho. And if the public believes that the city council found out about this situation last June, then the same applies.

But what's been lost in this manufactured visit down a memory lane that never happened is that yes, indeed there was indeed trouble in paradise involving the issue of parallel investigations, only these problems didn't involve the CPRC at all.

Because if there were any problems with these parallel investigations, it sounds like they existed within the police department and in terms of the contrasting views that the police union and the police department (which appeared to have been an extension of City Hall even back then) had on whether or not police officers were actually being investigated for officer-involved deaths they were involved in.The police union was claiming that yes, the department did criminal probes of its officers for incustody deaths. The city was claiming, no it did not. It didn't investigate or interrogate its officers in these cases. They were victims of a crime after all and that was all.

Chief Russ Leach (who admitted he hadn't read the policy in question) gave testimony in his deposition which helped and hindered both sides of this argument.

While all this feuding was going on using tax payer dollars to defend the city's position, the CPRC was conducting 11 independent investigations with much less fanfare and pretty much no controversy. Certainly, no complaints from anyone, whether it was Leach, the police department or any member of the crowd at City Hall. Which is why they need to come up with the justification for this nonresponse by claiming that they didn't have a clue about what was going on until last June.

But that's to be expected given that most of the players in this latest installment to the ongoing storyline weren't even here when most of the history of the CPRC and what preceded it was unfolding.

It's interesting to see how the CPRC's being dragged into all this drama that existed very well without its inclusion. And how many people at City Hall from city council members to city staff are signing up for this representation of what never happened.

*Yes, there is lack of precedent for filing charges against law enforcement officers by the Riverside County District Attorney's office for incustody deaths and/or shootings. If you argue that this doesn't include the Daniel Riter case, you're wrong. Daniel Riter was indicted by a criminal grand jury and prosecuted by the State Attorney General's office.

More Riverside Renaissance projects have been completed even as the city's capacity for paying for other projects included under this banner has faded for now.

The city has also announced that it's finally sticking a house where the Kawa Market once stood. After nearly two years since it voted to add the Kawa Market to the list of businesses targeted for threatened eminent domain.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Eva Yakutis, the city's housing and neighborhoods manager, said the plan is to sell the house to a family with a moderate income.

The price will be based on an appraisal after the renovation is done, she said.

In Riverside County, a family of four earning up to $74,400 a year is considered moderate-income, she said.

The family will have to take out a mortgage but the agency expects to provide some kind of financial assistance, Yakutis said.

The family cannot rent out the house and if it sells the house, the family must pay back any loan the agency provided plus 10 percent of any equity earned through appreciation.

The recession has hit local museums hard including Riverside's art museum.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The museum had reduced its original budget for 2008-2009 from $840,564 to $551,524, a 34 percent cut.

To deal with the reduced funds, interim Executive Director M.J. Abraham imposed a hiring freeze, eliminated overtime and contracted out some of the museum's work. She also slashed the number of exhibits for next year from 38 to somewhere between 15 and 20.

"That is an enormous amount," she said. "Our focus is on making (the exhibits) bigger and better, but narrow down the number."

Even the museum's restaurant is hurting. A year and a half ago, a new company took over the atrium dining area. Saffron, a restaurant and catering company that specializes in serving historic venues, invested $180,000 in remodeling and upgrading the museum's kitchen and dining area.

Co-owner Linda Rouyer said business had fallen so sharply the restaurant was unable to make its rent. Rather than close up shop, she negotiated with the museum.

"We went to them and told them, 'We've invested this much in this. We need to renegotiate this for a temporary time period,' " she said. "They reduced it slightly."

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein continues his coverage of the backlog that's grinding down the Riverside County Superior Court system.

Speaking of which, another article on Rod Pacecho's application of the death penalty on criminal cases has led to this discussion on that issue.

Columnist Cassie MacDuff asks whether the Colton city government censored one of its critics or whether his words were erased by a technical gaffe.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The glitch with the Grossich comments exposed that the city had no procedures to archive past meetings or even check regularly on hard-drive capacity. From now on, Fuzane will archive past meetings every six months to free up hard-drive capacity, Derleth said.

But those aren't Colton's only computer problems.

On Saturday night, as Derleth and DeAlwis e-mailed about the missing comments for a report for Tuesday's council meeting, a power surge caused the city's equipment to crash, DeAlwis said.

And during my meeting with Fuzane and DeAlwis, the entire array of hard drive, DVD recorder and video equipment lost power.

Councilwoman Deirdre Bennett worried that so much time was spent on the missing comments.

But Parrish and Derleth said when someone suggests a First Amendment violation, the city needs to take it seriously.

Derleth, DeAlwis and Parrish each said it was unfortunate Grossich's comments were the ones that disappeared. They understood that it seemed suspicious.

Grossich still is trying to find a technical expert who can tell him if the explanation is plausible. But he said, "I'm not an unreasonable person. If it's just an unfortunate coincidence, leave it at that."

Hope it never happens again.

Temecula's looking at making more cuts in its budget.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The city has already cut 75 positions to close the shortfall, City Manager Shawn Nelson said Friday. All the jobs were part-time and without benefits, he said.

The City Council will consider almost $5.4 million in cuts and other adjustments during its 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

Every February, the council looks at the budget to see whether revenues and expenses are matching projections. Adjustments are made to keep the budget in line.

Last year, the council cut $2.46million after revenue fell $2.33 million short of projections.

Nelson called this year's adjustments the most challenging in his 18 ½ years in Temecula government.

He said the average Temecula resident shouldn't see a reduction in services. The city will not have to dip into its reserves this time, Nelson said.

But Redlands is spending money faster than it can reduce it budget.

The San Bernardino City Council voted to institute furloughs on its police officers. Now they might face a lawsuit.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"We've tried our best to reach a negotiated agreement," Mayor Pat Morris said. "This decision has the highest merit of the bad choices put before us."

Morris said city leaders, struggling to fill a $9 million budget gap on their $150 million general fund by the end of the fiscal year, had to cut their biggest expense, employee pay and benefits.

The furloughs, Morris said, avoid layoffs in the Police Department, a top priority in a crime-plagued city.

Council members voted 4-1 to impose the time off without pay, with Esther Estrada absent and Wendy McCammack dissenting.

The union's attorney says furloughs would violate the union's contract and Section 186 of the city charter, which sets a formula for determining officers' pay.

Police union President Rich Lawhead said the union will sue.

McCammack said Interim City Manager Mark Weinberg had overlooked millions of dollars in other funding sources. Weinberg disputed that.

Several questions have arisen from this debate that's been going on for quite a while now.

So is a lawsuit against the furloughs eminent?

Will the two sides be back at the discussion table?

Measure Z revenues which were designated by voters for public safety have fallen short of what was expected.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

In Nov. 2006, San Bernardino voters approved the Measure Z sales tax increase in order to pay for more police. For much of 2008, the stated plan was to finish the planned hires by June 30 of this year.

The economic downturn means that the promise will be delayed at best. City officials say that 34 officers were hired with Measure Z dollars, but there's not enough money to recruit the final six.

The previously expected force size with Measure Z in place was 356 officers.

Billdt said after the council voted Thursday that other budget cuts mean the Police Department will have funding for 334 officers approved at the close of the fiscal year.

But McCammack said the furloughs, by taking cops off the street, will amount to the Police Department's effective strength being reduced to 303 officers.

According to current projections, Measure Z is expected to bring in about $6.5 million, a figure that is about $500,000 short of what city officials anticipated when the current budget was crafted.

The San Bernardino Homicide Watch blog at the Press Enterprise Web site writes about the furloughs and the lawsuit which might result.

When it comes to mandating ethical standards, San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry should practice what he preaches according to the Press Enterprise Editorial Board.

But that's hardly unique for this county's politicians as the incident regarding the $12,765 oversight shows.

A former San Bernardino County Sheriff's department deputy is going on trial on sexual assault charges. Some people think these types of crimes by law enforcement officers are blogged about too much. Of course, some of us think they occur too much including in the Inland Empire.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

Matthew Linderman, who was assigned to handle retail theft crimes in the High Desert, faces 28 counts, which include kidnapping, extortion, sexual battery, soliciting a bribe and soliciting a lewd act, involving women he encountered from 2005 to 2007.

After listening to testimony from case investigators, Judge Larry Allen determined sufficient evidence existed to move forward with the case against Linderman at a hearing Thursday in Victorville Superior Court.

In one case, Linderman arrested a woman after she allegedly stole products from a store at the Victor Valley Mall in July 2007.

Linderman put the handcuffed woman in the back of his cruiser, explained that he does favors and said he could reduce her offense to a misdemeanor, Sgt. Rod MacDonald testified the woman later told detectives.

"She said that Linderman asked for a 'Girls Gone Wild,'" MacDonald said, referring to the videotapes of young women who bared their breasts.

When the victim refused, Linderman took her to the sheriff's substation inside the mall, where she eventually removed her shirt. The defendant took photos and then touched her inappropriately, according to court testimony.

"She said she felt violated at that point," said MacDonald, adding that she was scared and intimidated by the possibility of going to jail.

The Stark County Sheriff's Department has filed a defamation lawsuit against a television station that covered a disturbing incident where a woman was stripped in county jail by male and female deputies. The YouTube video which is included in the posting includes surveillance video taken of the incident. Hopefully, when this lawsuit goes to trial, the department can explain why it violated its own policy involving officers not being allowed to perform strip searches or remove the clothes of people of the opposite gender to the jury.

Another woman came forward, one of five to report similar allegations about the jail.

The University of California, Riverside hired a new professor in its Media and Cultural Studies Department and that's Andrea Smith who was formerly from Michigan and was denied tenure there, a decision which led to protests and teach-ins which included some of UC Riverside's faculty.

Smith is one of the founders of INCITE! which among other issues addresses those pertaining to law enforcement in communities.

Welcome to Riverside, Andrea! And thanks to those who at UCR and other places including Michigan who stood behind her in her tenure fight.


Tuesday, Feb. 24

In the courtroom: 8:30 a.m.

Judge Waters will be hearing the request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in Department 10, at 8:30, in the Old Downtown Riverside Courthouse. A restraining order is supposed to stop any activity on the archaeological site until essential legal issues are resolved. Community members who want to show their support for the request to stop construction activities may attend the hearing. Courtroom behavior and appropriate dress are required. Participants will probably not be permitted to speak, but support is noticed by the court. The Courthouse occupies the block surrounded by Orange and Lemon Streets and 10th and 11th Streets – security check at the door.

In front of Riverside City Hall: 5:45-6:30 p.m.

A demonstration will begin as City employees and officials leave the building. Bring signs and other visual aides to express your feelings about the destruction of the Chinatown site and the failure of the elected city officials to protect our cultural heritage. Bring as many people as you can, tell the city bureaucracy that they have failed us, and that they need to take responsibility for restoring what can still be saved – including the reputation of our city in the international arena. In front of City Hall on Main St. near 10th Street.

At the City Council Meeting: beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Members of the public can make a 3 minute statement to the council. Anyone who has something to say about the destruction of Chinatown is encouraged to do so. Sign up for the speakers list by filling out a card near the entrance to the building. People who wish to bear silent witness at the meeting are also encouraged to attend. City Coucil Chambers are near the intersection of 10th and Main Streets.

For more information contact: Jean Wong, (951) 328-1239; Dr. Margie and Kevin Akin, (951) 787-0318; Deborah Wong, (951) 333-8121.

Other upcoming Meetings:

Monday, Feb. 23 at 4:30 p.m.
The Board of Library Trustees meets at the main library downtown.

The agenda includes this agenda report in which the big ticket item is the city manager's report on the library expansion and renovation project to the city council.

Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 3:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Public hearing at 7 p.m. Riverside City Council meets. The agenda for the meeting is here. The public hearing addresses #16 which includes the following text.

16. Options to enhance Library, Museum, and Municipal Auditorium facilities - Mayor Loveridge and Mayor Pro Tempore Melendrez recommend continuance to March 10, 2009 (All Wards)

There is no hyperlink to back up material on the hearing available on the online version of the meeting agenda.

Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 5:30 p.m. The Community Police Review Commission meets and among other things on this agenda discusses the late-to-the-point-of-being-delinquent annual report that was the subject of the previous blogging. There's some interesting trends noted in the statistics for 2007-08 which will be discussed in future postings. One of which is the commission's percentage of sustained allegations in 2008, which stood at 2.2% which is probably one of the lowest figures of its kind in the country. In fact, it's probably lower than those generated by the internal affairs divisions of most law enforcement agencies.

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