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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

CPRC: Smokes, mirrors and a lot of dancing

Sorry this blog posting is short but unfortunately, there was a huge power outage in part of the city late Thursday night caused by a truck that ran off the street and struck a brick and metal gated wall and a transformer which powered a huge section of a neighborhood and so the lights went out.

The car then apparently drove away and was being pursued at some point by the Riverside Police Department. It should be hard to miss because it's the truck that's missing part of its fender, which was left behind at the scene. Utility workers armed with flashlights and maps looked at the shorn off transformer box and said that it was a loss but the utility emergency division was trying to reroute power and they successfully did that to a large portion of the blackened area within an hour of that decision.

But one good sign is the changing of some of the major traffic signals to not be reliant on main power sources to operate which had been the case in the past.

The Riverside NAACP dinner was held and attended by hundreds of people as awards were given out in different categories at the Riverside Convention Center. Included in attendance were Mayor Ron Loveridge who gave an address and Council members Mike Gardner, Andrew Melendrez, Chris MacArthur and Nancy Hart as well as a contingent from the Riverside Police Department, the Riverside County District Attorney's office and the Riverside Police Officers' Association (which purchased a lifetime membership). More on the event here.

Feb. 12, 2009 was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the NAACP.

Some people have been asking for more information about the CPRC meetings. They are on the second and fourth Wednesdays each month at 5:30 p.m. If you can't attend, you can listen to the meetings on the Web site and these recordings are usually updated to the site within one week. It's useful to people who can't attend because the meetings begin earlier in the evening schedule but are often quite lengthy.

Some non-monetary side wagers were made about how much worse the situation will get as the commission tries to move towards writing its own policies, procedures and bylaws most particularly on the issue of the investigative protocol of officer-involved deaths. Several votes involving the inclusion of "officer-involved deaths" in the bylaws (which have to undergo two readings) and creating separate sections for complaints and officer-involved deaths in Section VIII of the policies and procedures took place last night and already the micromanagement coming down from what one commissioner called the "Seventh Floor" was apparent.

Don't be surprised if it becomes much more so in the weeks and months ahead. The only question will be how creative will this behavior become and how utterly ridiculous and which particular parts of it will be referred to the Hall of Shame. And it will indeed be ironic after the latest round of revisionism going around about how the CPRC has been horribly out of step due to a lack of written practices on the investigation of officer-involved deaths for its entire tenure which of course is a sudden reversal on the earlier position that it actually had a written policy, Section VIII B which governed both complaints and death cases.

The mayor and city council members actually touted VIII B as the written policy just several months ago and since it's not likely they all independently did their own research it's likely that they were instructed on this by Hudson's office. Which is strange because you would have think that at some point, City Attorney Gregory Priamos would have swooped up from the fifth floor and informed his direct employers (and Hudson) that even if this were the policy in effect, that it was negated by the fact that officer-involved deaths weren't mentioned in the governing bylaws, which is the latest cause celebre among those city employees who attended the meeting earlier this week. That in order to have policies and procedures for officer-involved deaths, they had to be included in the bylaws first.

Of course now the period of time when the city officials were acting on this is now being rewritten all the way back to June 2008 as being about something entirely different was that there was this realization in the administration of City Hall that there was no written policy even though during the month, June, when the lightning bolt of realization apparently hit Hudson and his minions, you could have heard a pin drop on the issue at the 'Hall.

As stated earlier, there were no pronouncements out of City Hall about any problems until after the death of Martin Pablo on July 10. And there was no mention in the attempts to prohibit that investigation about any lack of written protocol involving officer-involved deaths during that time. In fact, there wasn't any directive to wait on the investigations of all officer-involved deaths until the police department was done with its own investigation at that time. There was only such a prohibition on that particular death because as some said, it wasn't an "obvious" example of a death covered by what was in writing, Charter Section 810(d) but the city wanted to wait until it received an autopsy report from the Riverside County Sheriff's/Coroner's office. So now while they city claims there's nothing in writing, it was actually using something in writing (known as the city's charter) to justify its position.

The CPRC actually did investigate on a preliminary level and wasn't denied the funds by Priamos office to do so. It backed the department's position on the death that it was from natural causes which could hardly cause the considerable harm that some have alleged. In fact, it placed the department in a better position on that case with many city residents. Yet now we're supposed to believe that all the way back to this discovery in June of anything in writing about the investigative protocol was the major focus behind the Hudson directive. What the protocol did was to change the deaths from being done soon after notification of the death but to after the police department was completed with its own investigation, which was then backed purportedly by Section VIII B which of course, didn't have the language in the bylaws to back it that any policy and procedures so desparately needs now. And around and around the city goes and where it will stop, no one knows.

Then there was the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting where this policy was proposed and promoted by Hudson in the absence of the rest of Section VIII which outlines the criteria in part for what qualifies under that portion of the policies and procedures by the use of words keying in to the complaints not the officer-involved deaths. Then he's promoting a policy as being the one to use for the investigative protocol with no mention either from him or a city attorney representative about the issue of changing the bylaws. So as we discovered, either everyone's truly ignorant including in some cases as they claim to be, or there's a different standard for enforcing and writing (as if that purview goes outside of the commission which is a whole another posting) for commissioners as opposed to the employees at City Hall.

See, that's what happens when people try to rewrite history under false pretences intended to confuse and mislead people is that it's very difficult to go back and remember let alone rewrite all of the past history especially since except for Priamos, none of these players were here when it actually unfolded. The great thing about the truth is that you don't actually have to remember it. Some of the historians at City Hall should try it some time.

What's disappointing is the city council members who are backing (or in at least two cases, fronting) the protocol released by City Manager Brad Hudson at the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting in February particularly the policies and procedures Section VIII B. It's interesting how Hudson included only that section of the policies and procedures in part because by removing it from the rest of VIII, you also remove most of its context and since it's too difficult for the elected officials to go back and read the entire section, they aren't reading all the references to "complaints" and "complainant" in that section. And they certainly aren't reading Section VIII G regarding the investigative report whether done by the police department or the CPRC being completed within 60 calendar days of the filing of the complaint. If "complaint" were transposed to mean the date of the officer-involved death. Not that this can even be done for the average complaint, not even close to the backlogged and overwhelmed Internal Affairs Division of the police department having more than it can handle even though at least 70% of complaints (and nearly all Category 2 complaints) received are farmed out to the department's field supervisors. It's unlikely however that any city officials except possibly Councilman Mike Gardner even knows that VIII G exists at all.

It would be refreshing if the city government would actually know much more about the CPRC than it clearly does before pushing mandates on its direct employees (who seem if possible to know less or are certainly selective on what parts they use to educate their employers) but that's not likely to happen as they continue to operate out of either ignorance (which is their choice) or out of an animosity towards the CPRC despite the passage of Measure II in every single precinct in every single ward in the November 2004 election.

In Riverside County, the administration offered early retirements to ease the budget crisis and 400 people have taken.

One of those retiring is the clerk of the board of supervisors.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Romero, 61, whose duties include publicizing the board's agendas, processing supervisors' directives and administering the property-tax appeals process, said she will leave her post at the end of March.

"It's going to be a real loss without Nancy," Supervisor Roy Wilson said. "She's been our backbone in making sure the board functions very effectively."

Board Chairman Jeff Stone asked County Executive Officer Bill Luna on Tuesday to report back on how the county will seek a replacement for Romero.

About 400 county employees have accepted the county's early-retirement package, said county spokesman Ray Smith. The county began offering the incentives this year in order to take higher-paid, longtime employees off the payroll and help reduce need for countywide layoffs and cuts to services.

Robin Zimpfer, the head of the county's Economic Development Agency, announced earlier this month that she will also retire at the end of March.

Former County Counsel Joe Rank retired at the end of last year. His second-in-command, Pamela Walls, was appointed his permanent successor this week.

In San Bernardino just days after the police union threatened a lawsuit, the fire fighters' union accused the city of using a "bait and switch" strategy against them.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"In short, (Interim City Manager) Mark Weinberg now believes that our concession is not great enough and even though he acknowledges that this was his proposal, he still wants to change several terms of the agreement," union President Scott Moss said in a written statement.

"We remain hopeful, however, that the City Council will see that 'bait and switch' tactics in matters of wage cut agreements are a very serious matter," he wrote.

Weinberg denied any bad faith.

In talks to resolve a $9 million deficit in the city's $150 million general fund budget by the end of June, union members agreed to log four hours of unpaid leave per week in a vacation bank.

But city policy requires that anytime a firefighter misses work, he must be replaced by another firefighter. The union contract stipulates that the replacement must be paid overtime, with no limit on time-and-a-half pay.

Some people in San Bernardino thought they were losing a police chief and they were but guess what they're getting instead. The outgoing chief coming back as a consultant! So is his outgoing assistant chief! Both got no-confidence votes from the police union! Both are going to be making about 10% less than they are now. Not that the city of Riverside's not hired outgoing employees back as consultants as happened with Asst. City Manager of Finance Paul Sundeen and the former human resources directer, Art Alcaraz, who resigned in the wake of controversy about whether or not the city manager's office was asking him to alter the job requirements for management positions to not requiring a master's degree which if true, was most helpful for one particular incoming management employee.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Police union President Rich Lawhead noted that, in addition to their new city contracts, both executives will receive pensions.

"(City officials) just asked us for $3.3 million in concessions, and now they're going to allow the administration of the Police Department to double dip," he said.

Weinberg said cities often employ retirees.

A lawsuit challenging the pensions of Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies was dismissed.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The case is being watched by counties and municipalities throughout the state, in part because the law enforcement benefits at stake are identical to those in all but two of California's 58 counties.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors filed the lawsuit last year, seeking to repeal part of their pension agreement with sheriff's deputies, saying the county could not afford the expense.

If the county ultimately prevails, the county says it could save as much as $187 million in the coming decades. But it has come at a cost already, driving a wedge between county bureaucrats and one of the county's most politically powerful unions.

At the heart of the legal dispute is the structure of a labor contract between the sheriff's union and the county that has been adopted by government agencies throughout the state for police, teachers and other public employees. The 2001 contract increased pensions by one-third and granted the benefit retroactively.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors, led by Supervisor John Moorlach, filed the suit arguing that the retroactive portion of the agreement was unconstitutional and should be repealed because it violated a state prohibition on pay for work already performed. The supervisors also argued that the benefit exceeded the county's debt limit.

Moorlach has estimated that the county could save $187 million over the next 30 years if the lawsuit is ultimately successful, helping to reduce an enormous debt in its pension fund.

Civilian oversight in California in the wake of Copley.

(excerpt, Indybay Media)

Nevertheless — while that Police Bill of Rights layed out specific procedures for officer discipline and provided for extra protections for police officers not afforded other public employees — citizens' police review boards such as those in Oakland and San Francisco have been investigating cases of police misconduct since the 1980s, holding open hearings separate from those of the police agencies' own internal affairs units. Rashidah Grinag, of Oakland's PUEBLO (People United for a Better Life in Oakland), reported to the Berekely Daily Planet that police agency attorneys "didn’t mind having public disciplinary hearings in the past, but recently, members of the press and defense attorneys have begun to show up to monitor them. So they were saying they didn’t mind having the public hearings, so long as the public didn’t notice them. Now that the public is noticing them, they want them stopped. There’s a lot of irony in that."

In 2006, the state Supreme Court handed down a decision in Copley Press Inc. vs. Superior Court of San Diego, based in part on the Police Officers Bill of Rights, which ushered in the current, near-complete lockdown on police disciplinary records in California. Hence, the non-public hearings regarding the murders of Casper Banjo and others — the public simply has no legal right to know. Hence, the current lack of accountability as evidenced by a recent report to the Oakland Citizens' Police Review Board by the OPD which listed 45 officer-involved shootings in the last five years and not a single one of those officers disciplined in any way.

Police watchdog groups and state legislators attempted in 2007 to break through the wall of silence by supporting AB1648, by Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and SB1019, by State Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). The proposed legislation would have re-opened police disciplinary hearings and related files. After several months of back and forth in committees of the California legislature, the move for greater transparency ultimately failed when Assembly Public Safety Committee members such as Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) and Chair Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim) refused to even allow the Senate's version, SB1019, to come to a vote.

Police union representatives had exerted increasing pressure on the legislature, asserting that transparency would endanger the safety of officers. The Fog City Journal noted: "This assertion [of police endangerment] — repeated by dozens of police union reps — was completely unchallenged by even a single member of the committee, including Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. Not a single Assembly member pointed out the obvious: that in the over 30 years of public oversight in California, there is not a single example of a police officer being physically harmed because of the public release of information about misconduct complaints and discipline." BeyondChron added that several police unions "threatened to scuttle term limit reform — a wholly unrelated matter [but of great interest to legislators] — if SB 1019 passes."

And so we find ourselves where we are today...

At least 15 Broward County Sheriff's Department deputies are off the streets being investigated for steroid abuse.

(excerpt, Sun-Sentinel)

Agency policy allows deputies to take steroids and similar muscle-building drugs if they are prescribed by a licensed physician. That could protect the deputies no matter what their drug test results show in 10 days or so, an agency spokesman said.

Jim Leljedal, the spokesman, stressed it's too early to say whether the deputies even took the drugs, let alone whether they did so under doctor's orders.

"There's probably nothing we could do if that's the case," Leljedal said. "The policy indicates that if there is a legitimate doctor -patient relationship, and they were prescribed in that situation, then they would be allowed."

Leljedal provided few specifics and would not name those involved, saying the case is under review by the Internal Affairs unit. He did say that 15 deputies and one civilian employee were shifted to office assignments last Friday after a lengthy investigation into reported steroid use, but would not comment on what prompted the inquiry.

A veteran police officer in Alameda has been busted on a narcotics charge.

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