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, February 25, 2009

CPRC: Down the Rabbit's Hole, We go....

"I used to think I was a good person."

---Former Atlanta Police Department Officer Gregg Junnier at his sentencing hearing for convictions stemming from his actions in the shooting death of Kathryn Johnston, 92. He was sentenced to six years in federal prison.

"If you've done that before that might have been nice but that day is done."

---CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan talking about the ongoing situation with the RPD casebooks for Officer-involved death cases to be discussed in a future blogging called The Mystery of the Two Casebooks.

The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts,

All on a summer day:

The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts,

And took them quite away!

---Lewis Carroll who had a scheduling conflict and couldn't catch the latest CPRC meeting.

Cause its time, its time in time

With your time and its news is captured

For the queen to use.

Move me on to any black square,

Use me any time you want,

Just remember that the golds

for us to capture all we want, anywhere,

Yea, yea, yea.



Time of Departure: 5:30 p.m.

Terminal: Fifth Floor Conference Room, City Hall

Point of Departure: River City

Destination: Next stop, Wonderland

"Welcome aboard our ship, the S.S. CPRC. This is your captain speaking. Well, captains actually because there's more of us than this flight deck can hold. We just have some instructions to give to you while we prepare for take off. Park your sense at the curb. Strap on your gullibility and keep your eyes faced in the other direction and not on what is happening right in front of you.

Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the show. The operating budget is strictly shoe string and subject to approval by the captains, but we do think we can get some permission to throw some bags of peanuts your way."

"And for your entertainment viewing pleasure, we have the old song and dance."

At this point, there's supposed to be a White Rabbit who's rushing off some place because he's late because he's missed some sort of important date or statutory deadline and when he asked the Wise Owl in bespectacled glasses for the correct deadline, he received three different responses. Unable to process them to figure out which one was correct, he nearly collapsed in a pile of neurosis. All the time, Wise Owl insisted that all of them were the correct time depending on which side of the clock he looked at, the White Rabbit simply ran off down the hall, beads of angst-driven sweat flowing off of him to form a rapidly swelling river, which threatened to sweep the other creatures away.

"I'm late, I'm late...for a very important date," The White Rabbit wailed.

The Cheshire Cat, a cigar-chomping gambler type in more ways than one in this version who scarcely ever left his tree but still ruled all that he could see, showed up at that point with the Mad Hatter who gave up writing up sanitized versions of outrageous tea parties including one which put its guests to sleep from some funny (and very expensive) tea, to serve at the pleasure of the Cat who of course, served at the pleasure of the Court. The Court often seemed preoccupied with its daily croquet matches to do much more than wind up the Cat and send him out across the kingdom to carry out its will until it became his will and the Court, his goodwill ambassadors.

And so Wonderland ran itself until the day that everything changed.

One day, the Cat and his assistant, the Mad Hatter who as usual was chafing on the leash, discovered nine knaves who had planted the wrong colored rose bushes and were trying to rectify the situation by painting what was white, red before the queen and her court arrived for the daily croquet match and witnessed the blasphemy. The poor knaves were so confused in the task they had taken on, that the rose bushes looked like striped peppermint candy after a while and the Cat and the Mad Hatter felt at a loss on how to handle the mess. So after huddling, they decided to banish them outside the kingdom for a while until they figured out first what to do with the knaves, and then how to write it all down so that the Court would be properly entertained and the queen, properly appeased.

But this didn't happen right away, not without difficulty, because the Cat was no more than a polished smile wrapped in brilliant fur and the Mad Hatter was well, mad so there was only so much they could actually plan without being exposed like the poor emperor from another story line. The dormouse to the kingdom had to change the rules just to allow the Mad Hatter into it before being banished to the Island of Lost Gate Keepers himself to be never heard from again after the party had ended.

The two of them in unison said that the right direction was the other way. So all the creatures began swimming up the increasingly swift current to where he had pointed.

When Alice and the creatures first saw the flustered marionette standing alone, they thought they had wandered into the wrong story but as they looked closer, they saw that he fit in with them and was just as confused as anyone else but every time he tried to point them to the right direction, a string would yank him, causing him to point the other direction. It didn't take long for all that tugging to give him a king-sized headache so he walked around in circles for a while then sat down and cried. The Mad Hatter came off and sat him down to explain to him why his head hurt and then he replaced the strings with sturdier ones and the two walked on down the path while the creatures still struggled upstream to where they thought safety lie.

Then the Duchess ran up, wearing a mustache which didn't make sense until you figured out that while sometimes a duchess is really just a duchess, that wasn't the case in this story. The duchess had come home after a long day of listening to the Mad Hatter rattle her with a list of new rules to follow. A baby laid in a crib screaming and flailing its arms and the duchess didn't pay much mind because he was waiting instructions from the Mad Hatter on how to take care of the baby. The baby crawled out of its crib and grabbed some finger paints and started writing a list of things it needed not tomorrow, but right now on the floor but the duchess paid little mind. Until it changed into something else entirely and ran off, wailing that the other babies wouldn't listen to it either. They wanted a new baby to speak for them and threatened to take it to a vote. To find another baby who would not spend his spare time arguing with his twin on whether or not they liked or hated the cook who of course had neither done or said anything to either one of them.

Then the nine wandering knaves walked around day and night, through rain, sleet and blistering sunlight until they realized with horrendous dismay that they had been walking in circles and they were not only back at the peppermint striped bushes which betrayed their transgressions but the queen was coming with her entourage so it was too late to leave. What else was there to do but squabble among themselves while the marionette cried, the Cat plied and the Mad Hatter, went on a rampage cutting up every rose bush in the kingdom into little bitty pieces.

When the queen arrived with her court, the nine knaves all pointed fingers at each other, fingers covered with the tell-tale red paint. So the queen started yelling, "off with your heads" and got that ball rolling. And so it went gathering moss, until Alice who was growing in leaps and bounds stood up, shaking the royal court and saying, "Hey you're just a bunch of cards anyway."

Fade to black.

If this sad story sounds confusing, try sitting through a meeting of the CPRC, because if that ever makes any sense then perhaps the above tale will start making sense as well. Then it's probably time to be a little concerned.

So what happened at this month's non-special meeting?

The monthly general meeting of the Community Police Review Commission in Riverside was indeed not without its fireworks as the power plays which have come to define it not just at the commission level but all the way to the penthouse floor of City Hall were on full display. Even though Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis didn't attend and City Attorney Gregory Priamos left the meeting in the middle, apparently confident his work was done, it still scintillated. And actually that was pretty much the case. Nobody missed a stage direction or a cued line from a very old script.

New commissioner Robert Slawsby who referred to the CPRC as a "public relations tool" in his interview in front of the city council earlier this month took exception to public comment on concerns about the training of new commissioners. He cited a copy of the use of force policy and an hour's worth of training as his offer of what he had received. Which isn't bad but if I were an officer with a complaint filed against me, I might want a little bit more training than that particularly on use of force issues. But maybe I'm the exception and not the rule.

The poor guy has four years. He should pace himself with the scarecrows and catapult.

A lot happened at the general meeting including allegations that DeSantis changed complaint findings and that there apparently was a change of protocol when it comes to not just redacting information from the police department's investigative casebook for Joseph Darnell Hill for public viewing but also for commissioners' eyes as well, courtesy of the police department.

But so much happened in one action-packed meeting so that's fodder for another day, because it became clear what thematic elements truly dominated the affair lasting over four hours and it had more to do with other pressing issues.

These days the most entertaining and illuminating part of the CPRC meetings involve the Policies, Procedure and Bylaws Committee meetings whether they are "special" (meaning no public comment on nonagendized items allowed) or not. Lewis Carroll could write a few sequels to his books about Alice who hung out in some rather strange places with stranger characters, just based on sitting in and bearing witness to what takes place during these exercises as the once-vibrant commission sinks further down the rabbit hole into Riverside's version of Wonderland. As Commissioner Chani Beeman put it, this whole situation has been flipped upside down. Kevin Costner playing a role in the Oliver Stone movie, JFK put it better.

We're through the looking-glass here, people... white is black and black is white.

But the Looking Glass tale comes later. For now, we're in Wonderland and a trial's taking place in a royal courtroom with the characters playing their parts in front of an audience.

Putting a knave of hearts from a deck of regular playing cards on trial for stealing mere tarts? Trivial in comparison with just a typical meeting of this reinstated from the "Island of Lost Committees" when it actually takes place. But if there were a knave of hearts, it would probably be the two commissioners who were on one city councilman's "naughty" list, John Brandriff and Chani Beeman. Although the commission has looked a little less like Survivor Island for a change since it doesn't appear like any of them are trying to get anyone else thrown off at the moment. Thank goodness for small favors!

No Queen of Hearts because that takes a real pro, but some pretty good understudies in the wings should a production of Alice 'n Wonderland ever comes to this city. Nominees will be forthcoming. Must be able to wear a tiara well and carry off emoting some rather corny dialogue in a convincing manner.

Before the meeting even took place, the excitement had already started.

The committee chair, John Brandriff, was called into an office (before the case review meeting which preceded the public meeting) by Manager Kevin Rogan about certain items which were deleted from the agenda "for different reasons", said Brandriff later on through mostly zipped lips. Deep Throat might have wanted to attend it but he was probably scheduled for a briefing session in one of Riverside's emerging downtown garages and couldn't come. And the Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files might have done just as well in a pinch but you'd never find him by following his trail of smoke since they banned tobacco products from all buildings. While great for the lungs of all involved, it cast a damper in what could have been an even more intriguing state of affairs.

Brandriff showed up at the CPRC meeting clearly muzzled and each word that came out of his mouth in explanation just led to admonitions that he wasn't allowed to discuss it unless it was privately done so with Rogan. Only in Riverside can the law that's meant to encourage transparency can be used a different way, a skill some play at but one that really only Priamos has mastered during his tenure as the city's legal counsel.

But anyway, Brandriff apologized for the mundane items left on what was once a crowded agenda saying that they were the ones which were left after the scalpel had been taken to the agenda. But he also told the commission and the incredulous audience that he had asked Rogan to give a brief explanation of what happened. It didn't appear that this happened. Because under the current administration at City Hall, "transparency" is a word you use to shield yourself from being well...transparent.

That flash of movement by the door could have been the White Rabbit.

The issue of Brandriff getting informed about The Case of the Disappearing Agenda Items might not have been agendized but neither was the meeting that preceded it and if a serious issue like this arises and other commissioners are aware that something's up with an agenda, then the commission chair or subcommittee chair should have the opportunity to provide a brief explanation of what happened. If not a discussion, a brief statement.

Rogan defended his position by saying the following.

"I can't agendize any items which contradict the bylaws. I may not discuss them nor will you."

Yet Brandriff who attributed the problem to a "lack of communication" wasn't even allowed to explain what had happened with the items. He didn't try to hold a discussion on the missing items or even elaborate what they were, but there's been a lot of distrust fostered in this commission and among members of a growing populace of city residents about these "behind closed doors" meetings and the outright censorship of meeting agendas by the dynamic duo, meaning Hudson and Priamos since someone who holds their strings gave them a directive to change course probably about a year or so ago.

Beeman said, wait a minute, these items are proposed amendments to bylaws. They might come into conflict But Rogan said he wouldn't forward any recommendation that was illegal, immoral, unethical or in violation. Yet he and other people at City Hall are trying to meld VIII B (which has more holes than Swiss cheese) into something it was never intended to be as if that were instead, its destiny. Interestingly enough, Councilman Mike Gardner was here during that time, serving on the commission, the only truly informed city official and he's the only one not buying hook, line and sinker the reappropriation and reinvention of VIII B.

Pity, he views even discussing this issue involving the CPRC to be too much of a political risk for him to do in public. In that way, he's not any different than his predecessor Dom Betro.

What was interesting about the insistence that policies and procedures couldn't be created in written form for the investigative protocol of officer-involved deaths without officer-involved deaths being included in the bylaws (which serve as a guide for the policies and procedures)is that apparently that applies only to commissioners during their meetings. Clearly, the same doesn't apply to City Manager Brad Hudson and several city council members who tried to impose the use of policy and procedure Section VIII B to govern this investigative protocol for officer-involved deaths even though the bylaws lacked the same language regarding officer-involved death investigations that they don't have now. So if you're on the commission, you can't write let alone enforce a policy on officer-involved deaths until it's mentioned in the bylaws but if you're a member of the dynamic duo or a city official, you can not only write such a policy but enforce one?

Forget that the creation of policies, procedures and bylaws has always been the power and responsibility of the members of the city's boards and commissions and not those outside of it including elected officials. It just goes to show that city officials and their direct employees and so forth can insist that the commissioners follow the rules that they themselves break. And that they won't hesitate to throw whatever roadblock they can in the path of the commission's attempts to write its own bylaws and policies and procedures as is within its purview. Contrast that with the much more quieter period of time in 2001 when the founding commissioners crafted a policy and procedure for investigating citizen complaints but didn't do so for officer-involved death investigations. But that's back when this city had a government in place that actually respected the city residents who served on the city's boards and commissions enough just to let them do their job and to come up with their own bylaws, policies and procedures.

But what is interesting is how the script is constantly in rewrites even as this latest episode of micromanagement by the CPRC plays out. Now, the proper characters are claiming that it was just discovered last summer that the CPRC was operating improperly without written policies for nine years and was in violation of well...some violation. Chair Brian Pearcy in his final meeting in that position for some reason seemed to stump as the ambassador to that latest revision of history in his comments.

Actually no, last June, City Hall was silent and silent for part of July until the death of Martin Pablo when it broke its silence not allowing the CPRC to investigate, not because it lacked written policies but because the city didn't believe that the Pablo death fell within the purview of the city charter's Section 810(d) which outlined the CPRC's power to investigate officer-involved deaths. Far from arguing that it had discovered the smoking gun that nothing existed in writing governing the investigative protocol of officer-involved deaths, it was relying on its own interpretation (or rather reinterpretation) what was in writing to tell the commission it had to wait to initiate an investigation on Pablo until the coroner's report was final.

Well, the CPRC chose the charter over the city manager and city attorney and initiated an investigation. At some point, Hudson issued his directive barring the CPRC from investigating officer-involved deaths until the police department had completed its own investigations and handed the purse strings of the CPRC's investigative budget over to Priamos to mete out as he saw fit. Hudson never mentioned the lack of written policies and procedures but outlined a protocol for the CPRC to follow never mentioning that anything backed it in writing in public.

Then Hudson and several city council members tried to use a policy and procedure (and not even all of it, just one paragraph, VIII B) to front as the policy in place to govern the investigative protocol not realizing (and given their lack of knowledge about the CPRC that's not surprising especially on the part of the elected officials) that it applied only to complaints. How do you know that? Maybe because the words, "complaint" and "complainant" are sprinkled throughout VIII B as is the guideline of investigations being completed within 60 days of when the complaint was filed? But there are those beginning at the highest levels of City Hall and working their way on down the ladder who insist that the officer-involved death protocol can neatly fit into VIII B. Why it's not nearly the neat fit that these individuals claim (and in actuality could cause several potentially serious problems) will be explained in much greater detail in future postings.

If you don't believe it, read the following links below.

Bylaws of the CPRCM

Policies and Procedures of the CPRC (emphasis: Section VIII)

But hold onto your skirts because by the next meeting, there will be an entirely new version of history rewritten blaming the commission for some transgression and this most recent one will be stashed away on the Island of Lost Mythology like its predecessors.

And as a side note to comments made by Rogan at last night's meeting that the public report was "carved away" later on in the investigative process by the CPRC, below is the very first public report released by the CPRC.

Vanpaseuth Phaisouphanh

Phaisouphanh was the first officer-involved death to be reviewed and investigated by the CPRC in 2001 and naturally, was also the subject of the first such public report. It was also the second one to be reviewed. Can anyone name the first case? The answer will be the subject of a future posting.

Public reports were part of the process from the beginning, not an afterthought or a sign that the commission was going astray as implied. In fact, they were drafted in all but two cases. The only times that public reports were not issued was for the fatal shooting of Anastacio Munoz in 2002 and the Volne Lamont Stokes case in 2003. The document online for the Stokes case isn't technically a report but was actually released as an MOU.

Those links will lead you to what they state and it's interesting that none of the city council members or direct city employees have provided copies of the Bylaws or the policies and procedures involving the CPRC at any of the meetings where they've tried to push changes of the investigative protocol on the commission, having already pulled the wool over the eyes of some rather gullible city officials and those who aren't as gullible but who in all likelihood are stirring the dynamic duo including the S.S. Hudson.

The fireworks were on full display throughout.

Ward criticized Rogan by telling those in attendance that he had been told that the prior manager Pedro Payne had been chastised by DeSantis for not having his commissioners under control. Payne was "ripped up one side and down the other" by the seventh floor for his failure to do so.

"He obviously won't have that problem with Kevin," Ward said.

Though Ward was actually referring to an earlier episode during the meeting called the "Mystery of the Two Case books" because for the all the insistence that there could be only one, online or in the vault of the CPRC office, and not actually different ones, as it turns out there are indeed two casebooks. One for the police department and one for the commissioners. Not that this was clearly explained of course, still it was hanging in the air for all to notice.

In the end once the dust cleared, the commissioners voted 4-3 to separate the policies and procedures into separate sections for complaint review and investigations and the investigative protocol for officer-involved deaths even though Commissioner Ken Rotker kept insisting that the city council members that adhered to Section VIII B as their security blanket to support Hudson's protocol simply because they were told to do so by direct employee (who of course clearly didn't explain the rest of VIII to them). Rotker kept asking to hear from both sides of the issue so he could make up his own mind, apparently not realizing he was actually advocating for one of those "sides" over the other. For some reason, even commissioners who are polar opposites roll their eyes at each other when he speaks but then there's commissioners who laugh when people in the audience speak. They laugh at city residents. They laugh with police representatives and don't think that most of the people who attend the meetings see the difference.

The commissioner, Sheri Corral, who could have cast the tying vote had left the building. And the meeting was actually ajourned before the city turned its lights out. If you wanted to see an unsettled person, all you needed to do was look at the expression on Rogan's face when that motion passed. But who can blame him because he's the one who has to explain it to DeSantis the next day. But the meeting ended just before the lights or City Hall's own version of a curtain could close it down.

Kind of a fitting and poetic closure to the meeting actually.

Until next month.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein roasts several Riverside County supervisors over their yen for expensive vehicles paid for by county residents. You go Dan!


But he's only a supervisor. His hands were tied. They weighed him down with a sunroof, Bose speakers and lousy mileage! What could he do? Send his 2009 Yukon back to Purchasing? Demand (obscene word alert) a minivan to squire his staff around rugged Rubidoux?

Marion Ashley didn't fare much better. But he knew it wouldn't do any good to complain.

He just sucked it up after picking out a Toyota Highlander that cost $6,000 more than the basic model. Ashley figured he'd just have to find a way to live with those heated leather seats and big wheels. After all, he is a big wheel! A big dog! With a subwoofer! And a power moon roof (I don't want to know what a supervisor does with a moon roof).

We elect our leaders to be visionaries, but the other supes set their sights appallingly low. Jeff Stone's V8 Dodge Charger gets terrible mileage. But it only cost $37K. If Stone really walked his talk, he'd have ordered the waterless-urinal option. Roy Wilson cruises his sprawling district in a nerdy $35K two-wheel drive Camry hybrid. Bob Buster is a flat-out embarrassment. He couldn't even trade his county-issue 2002 Impala for Tavaglione's $1,000 DVD player. (Not that Tavaglione wants to keep it.)

Times are tough. A lot of county workers will lose their jobs. But the supes won't. Nobody's going to hand them a pink slip. They and their department heads are special. Exceptions to every rule. All the $50K Klubbers are trying to do is drive that point home.

In style.

The former Canyonlake councilman charged with embezzlement plead guilty in Riverside County Superior Court.

The mayor of Riverside County's newest city, Menifee, gave his state of the city address.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Edgerton's speech, delivered to an audience of almost 200, mixed free-wheeling jokes with serious talk about the city's financial state.

For its first year the city expects to have a $20 million budget and run a $5 million surplus, he said. New cities usually are able to save during their start-up period since they can continue relying on county services without having to repay the county for five years.

Edgerton also questioned how the city wants to approach staffing.

"Is it cost-effective to hire our own employees and equipment or will it be better to contract out?" he asked.

Like Supervisor Jeff Stone, who spoke first, Edgerton emphasized the need for the city to snag its share of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.

"If we can catch any money falling from the airplane we're going to do that," said Edgerton.

The recall drive against one of Lake Elsinore's council members continues.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Enelida "Nellie" Caron, an employee at Trevi, a bowling alley, arcade and restaurant complex, was among more than 20 residents who signed a petition accusing Buckley of political corruption and using his office to defraud taxpayers of more than $1.5 million.

Interim City Clerk Carol Cowley informed Caron on Wednesday that she failed to collect the 20 valid signatures to file the notice of intent to circulate a recall petition. Only 17 of the 23 signatures were valid, Cowley said.

Knight said recall organizers would meet the requirement today.

"Had we known we needed 20, we would've brought 50 signatures," Knight said Wednesday.

A successful petition would start the recall process that at some point requires recall proponents to collect the signatures of 20.percent of the city's more-than-16,000 registered voters in 120 days. If they collect enough signatures, the city would set a special election that could cost from $25,000 to $40,000.

Caron told the City Council on Tuesday of the intent to recall the two-term councilman.

Not exactly earth shattering news but the San Bernardino Police Officers' Association has sued the city.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Union attorney Michael McGill said he'll seek a court hearing to argue for an injunction against the cut, scheduled to go into effect Sunday. City Attorney Jim Penman said the hearing is set for Monday.

Meanwhile, the police union discussed Wednesday a proposal to accept a package of budget concessions that could help avert a showdown with the city.

The lawsuit claims the furloughs violate Section 186 of the city charter, which sets a formula for determining officers' pay. Further, the city failed to satisfy a contractual requirement to meet and confer with the union before reducing hours, the lawsuit argues.

In a written response, Mayor Pat Morris notes that officials have sought 10 percent pay cuts from everyone.

"If union leaders prevent the city from stopping the bleeding, we will either continue hell-bent towards fiscal catastrophe or be forced to lay off police officers and compromise our public safety. Nobody wants that result," the mayor wrote.

Hit by a decrease in sales and property taxes, city officials say they must plug a $9 million deficit in their $150 million general fund budget by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The police officers' share of the budget cuts is $3.3 million, Interim City Manager Mark Weinberg said.

The day has finally come when the police officers who murdered Kathryn Johnston, 92 in her own home in Atlanta are sentenced for their crimes. It's called a "botched raid" but it was an illegal raid with an illegally gotten warrant signed from a judge that ended with the woman handcuffed and bleeding to death from six bullet wounds on her floor while narcotics officers frantically looked and then decided to plant drugs in her home.

The former officers were sentenced but not before apologizing for their actions.

(excerpt, CNN)

Smith, Junnier and Tesler pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights resulting in death. Smith and Junnier also pleaded guilty to state charges of voluntary manslaughter and making false statements, and Smith admitted to planting bags of marijuana in Johnston's house after her death.

Tesler was convicted on one state count of making false statements for filling out an affidavit stating that an informant had purchased crack cocaine at Johnston's home in a crime-plagued neighborhood near downtown Atlanta. The informant denied having been to Johnston's home, leading to investigations by local authorities and the FBI, and the breakup and reorganization of the Atlanta police narcotics unit.

Police said Johnston fired at them with an old pistol during the raid, and they shot back in self-defense. Johnston's one shot went through her front door and over the officers' heads; they responded with 39 shots, hitting Johnston five times.

"Her death was the foreseeable culmination of a long-standing conspiracy in which the officers violated their oaths of office," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon-Peter Kelly said, according to CNN affiliate WSB. The officers "regularly swore falsely" to get warrants and make cases, he said.

Federal prosecutors said officers cut corners to make more time for lucrative side jobs providing additional security to businesses, often while on duty and for cash payments.

Johnston's family was not in court Monday. But U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes heard a letter from Johnston's niece during the hearing, and family spokesman Markel Hutchins told WXIA he hopes an FBI report of the case can be used to prompt additional charges at the local level.

"The real culprit in this is the culture within the Atlanta Police Department and the higher-ups that laid the foundation. Why aren't they being held accountable?" Hutchins asked.

The three ex-officers received prison sentences between five and 10 years from the judge. They were ordered to three years of supervision after their release from prison and to split the costs of Johnston's funeral.

(excerpt, CNN)

Jason Smith was sentenced to 10 years in the November 2006 raid that left Kathryn Johnston dead in a hail of bullets. Former officers Greg Junnier and Arthur Tesler were sentenced to six and five years, respectively, said Patrick Crosby, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Georgia.

Investigators determined the raid at Johnston's home was based on falsified paperwork stating that illegal drugs were present. The incident prompted a major overhaul of the Atlanta Police Department's drug unit.

"Officers who think, as these defendants once did, that the ends justify the means or that 'taking shortcuts' and telling lies will not be discovered and punished should realize that they are risking their careers and their liberty." U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said in a written statement.

"Officers who try to obstruct justice when their misconduct faces exposure, rather than cooperating in the investigation, should realize that they will face even more severe punishment."

Budget cuts in San Francisco have impacted the staffing of the Office of Citizen Complaints, the civilian oversight mechanism in that city.

(excerpt, San Francisco Examiner)

In 2007, the agency was the subject of a scathing audit by the Controller’s Office, which found that mismanagement and understaffing rendered it nearly ineffective in resolving complaints. Since then, a change of leadership and mediation program have breathed new life into the agency, advocates say.

To combat a citywide deficit, Mayor Gavin Newsom required all city departments to trim their budgets by 14.5 percent and to plan for an additional 14.5 percent “contingency” reduction. On Feb. 1, director Joyce Hicks eliminated three vacant positions from the Office of Citizen Complaints, which saved $330,000. The additional contingency cut represents a “bloodletting” within the $4.2 million budget, she said, that would require the agency to lay off a staff attorney and an investigator.

The cuts would leave 16 investigators, the minimum allowed by the City Charter. Each would handle an average of 23 cases at any given time. The average caseload in similar agencies is 16 probes per investigator, according to the City Controller’s report.

Potential investigation delays threaten to erode public trust in the agency, one advocate said.

“You’re really playing with public confidence,” said Abel Habtegeorgis, spokesman for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which lobbies for fairness in police practices across the Bay Area. “Residents in the community already don’t have faith anything will get done when they lodge a complaint against a police officer.”

The delay for getting complaints resolved has improved since 2007, but is still imposing. About 60 percent of complaints are resolved in six months, while 75 percent are resolved in nine months, the maximum investigation limit the City Charter allows.

The editorial board of the San Francisco Examiner told the city to go easy on welding that budget ax.


However, there are some instances where the one-size-fits-all departmental ax creates irreplaceable service losses for the public. In such cases there ought to be some sort of transparent review process — or at least a determined effort to maintain key services with other funding sources.

The voter-mandated Office of Citizen Complaints, The City’s main watchdog agency investigating public grievances against police officers, is this sort of special case. The agency was created in 1982 by a City Charter amendment ballot in response to voter demand for an impartial body to investigate all complaints filed against officers.

But by 2007, the agency was targeted with a scathing audit by the Controller’s Office, which found that mismanagement and understaffing made it nearly ineffective. The audit said 40 percent of cases between 2003 and 2006 took longer than 10 months to resolve.

The majority of delayed cases had no work done on them for at least 30 days at a time. And sometimes, the Police Department actually refused to supply information the agency sought, or to follow up on disciplinary recommendations before the one-year statute of limitations.

Happily, the watchdog agency seems to have turned itself around since 2007. With new leadership and a larger staff, case closure is improving. Some 60 percent of complaints are now resolved in six months, and 75 percent are resolved by the nine-month investigation deadline.

The agency’s mediation program is a big success. Its 92 percent officer participation rate is the nation’s highest. Instead of waiting months or even years for a complaint to be resolved in a formal hearing, mediation allows the officer and complaining citizen to negotiate their issues in a neutral setting.

The Department of Justice might look into problems in the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department among the employees there.

Okay, who out there thinks that conducting background checks on prospective law enforcement officers isn't a bad idea? Well, Hallelujah apparently now both the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff's Department are among the converts who think doing so might be necessary.

But Chicago's latest police chief refused a federal judge's order to hand over a list of officers with five or more complaints.

What has happened is that the chief has just guaranteed that there will be a lot more news articles about the trouble and scandal-plagued police department in the future. Because perusual, a bad officer gets more protection from management than a good one.

(excerpt, Windy Citizen)

For one, complaints generally aren’t filed frivolously. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice found that due to fear of retaliation or inaction, only 10 percent of citizens who believe they’ve been abused go on to report the incident.

Second, his contention that the CPD review process adequately investigates citizen complaints is undermined by the data. A 2007 study conducted by University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman found (PDF) that while 80 percent of the entire force received three or fewer complaints between 2001 and 2006, the odds that the few officers charged with abuse would be disciplined was exceedingly low: two per thousand. “A good friend of mine -- and former police officer -- told me that if the department investigated crimes like it did internal complaints, they’d never close a case,” Futterman told us today.

What’s most frustrating about CPD’s secrecy is that accountability is not only important to citizens but to the department’s own employees. Nothing prevents good investigative work like the alienation of entire communities thanks to egregious behavior by a small cadre of officers. “I love good police. It’s a hard job, you’re not going to get rich doing it, and it serves the public,” says Futterman. “But any good police officer knows that accountability is critical to their success.”

In Fresno, city residents packed the mayor's forum on exploring the need for a police auditor's office.

(excerpt, Fresno Bee)

"Chief Dyer, I know that you are a good man," Jones said. "This is wrong."

Dyer was present during most of the presentation and appeared to
listen intently as the complaints were aired. He did not speak about
Swearengin's framework for the auditor, which would be independent of
the Police Department and apolitical.

Under the proposal, the auditor would review department internal
affairs investigations, identify trends and produce an annual report.
The auditor would be an attorney and be assisted by a community
liaison. Goals would include reducing claims against the city and
increasing public confidence in the department.

Gloria Hernandez called for the auditor to investigate all
officer-involved shootings and other serious incidents and said the
auditor should have subpoena power. She also called for the chief of
police to respond to auditor inquiries within five days.

Francine Farber of the League of Women Voters called for the auditor
to publish a semiannual report and reach out to young people about
their rights and responsibilities.

Not all of those attending were in favor of the plan. Bishop John Sims
of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said
a citizens' review committee would be a better method of overseeing
the Police Department. He said an auditor would be on the city's
payroll and could not be objective. Sims added that his plan would be
much less expensive for taxpayers.

Another opponent is former city Council Member Brian Calhoun. "The
annual call for an [auditor] begins anew," he said. "I did not support
it then, and I don't today."

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