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 05, 2009

Eminent Domain is here, the CPRC gets a breather and yes, rain is wet

"A black killer in Texas 20 years ago had a fairer hearing before he was lynched than the Ridgeline Ordinance."

---Former Canyonlake City Councilman John Zaitz in an email to elected officials that led to protests that he had included racist and homophobic comments in emails.

****** UPDATE*******

San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus resigns.

An issue arose during the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting after Riverside Police Department Chief Russ Leach dropped a bomb when he blamed the members or one specifically unnamed member of the Community Police Review Commission for authorizing the posting of autopsy photos in one of the officer-involved deaths on the internet. He said it was the most despicable act and used it as an argument against the commission launching its own parallel investigation into officer-involved deaths.

Some of the commissioners in attendance were surprised at his words because apparently no one from the police department had addressed the commission on what had happened in a similar fashion. And Councilman Frank Schiavone prevented Commissioner John Brandriff from speaking in that meeting to provide an account of that incident, but then Schiavone has shown that he would rather the commissioners be seen and not heard.

Perhaps if someone had been allowed to speak, they would have realized what had actually happened. The way Leach painted it was that one particular commissioner was advocating specifically for the photos to be posted when in actuality, several commissioners simply asked that the police department's own investigative case book become accessible for the public when it became a public document. The commissioners said that either the members of the public should be able to check the book out and read it in the CPRC office or access it online at the commission's Web site. So they decided in unison as a body to direct the staff of the CPRC office to do such. Not one person specifically mentioned the autopsy photos either from the CPRC staff or the commission and maybe that's where the problem started in that a discussion didn't take place on that issue.

The police department is not responsible for posting the autopsy photos online because it didn't even know that this decision had been made. The commissioners had only asked to increase accessibility to the case book and asked their staff to facilitate that and the staff did that by posting the case book. Once the commissioners became aware that family members of the deceased person were upset by the photos, they authorized the casebook to be removed from the Web site and sent it off to the CPRC and the police department for redaction. And when the commission posted the case book for the Joseph Darnell Hill case, the police department had redacted material including autopsy photos.

Commissions aren't the only entities that post autopsy or crime scene photos of murdered individuals online. It's pretty clear how many crime scene photos from major police departments make it into books and online different sites especially those involved with high profile murder cases. Most of these cases have gone to trial and it might be within policy to do this but it doesn't make it less jarring. I had to do a research paper on a serial murder case in Los Angeles that took place during the 1970s and one of the source materials, a book about it had photos of naked women lying dead on hill sides, any one of whom could have been the daughter of a family friend. So the issue that Leach speaks to is not just restricted to civilian review boards.

But the larger issues here are that commissioners and one commissioner were slammed for something that they didn't do and did any of them know that Leach or the police department felt this way? Did they know that this issue would arise at the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting?

Considering that I had one high-ranking city employee tell individuals at a meeting held in early 2007 that I was trying to "instigate something" or was "almost criminal" (whatever that means) for reading a public record which was the Lee Deante Brown case book, I find it interesting that the attitude towards posting the case book and making it accessible has become an accepted practice as it should be. Both the commission and police department are to be given credit for facilitating this process.

But what Leach said at the public meeting could have just as easily been said through a phone call to the CPRC or an appearance at their meeting saying that he was concerned by what had happened with the posting of those photos rather than using it to drop a bomb at the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting months later to help sell the investigative protocol of his employer. It was something that they should have sat down and talked over first. But did that take place or was this the first time that any of the commissioners had heard about it?

Leach lamented what he said was the loss of communication with the CPRC since the early days when Bill Howe chaired it and it's true that he definitely seemed more invested in enhancing that communication back then. But communication is a two-way street, in any relationship between two people and even two entities like the commission and the police department. He could facilitate that development or redevelopment in different ways, such as presenting an annual report to the commission on a topic that is relevant to both of them or inviting them to special events. If Leach wants to rebuild his relationship with the commission and it with him, it begins one step at a time and if either waits for the other to do it, it won't get done.

The Governmental Affairs Committee meeting as reported played to a full house for nearly two hours. Two of the committee members had signed (with a third council member who later contradicted herself in the daily newspaper) onto an opinion piece only last summer touting the Hudson Directive to bar the commission from initiating any investigations into officer-involved death until both the police department and City Attorney Greg Priamos provided their blessing.

A six-page report trumpeted the Hudson protocol which was to hybridize the Community Police Review Commission even further by injecting the dose of Long Beach's commission which he felt was sorely missing from the provision in the charter which governs the commission's investigations of officer-involved deaths. It's probable that the two city council members who have long been backed by the Riverside Police Officers' Association in part due to their not so friendly stance on civilian review were hoping to ride that horse all the way to a future city council meeting and thought that the committee level would be the way to start.

The meeting started with a scolding from Schiavone about how "miscommunication" had led to "controversy" when actually it was pretty obvious to many people who have been following civilian oversight, the CPRC and its up and down struggle in this city for eight years what was going on. No one in that room and many people outside of it don't need elected officials telling them what is going on with civilian review in Riverside. Many of them get it. It's the city council and its direct employees who don't get it. If an elected body violates a long-established precedent of allowing the CPRC to set its own bylaws, policies and procedures without interference from City Hall, then it's puzzling that they think no one is paying attention and believe that any questioning to that amounts to "controversy".

Then the audience had a survey of California oversight mechanisms which conduct parallel investigations change into a survey of California oversight mechanisms which conduct parallel criminal investigations with a deft slight of hand. Parallel criminal investigations do exist for officer-involved shootings and/or deaths but are not commonly associated with civilian review mechanisms. Parallel criminal investigations in these cases involve having city or county police agencies and/or prosecutor's offices conduct an investigation and then having federal or state law enforcement agencies conducting a separate investigation.

Then several committee members seem to label themselves as "police advocates" and it's interesting how they never advertise themselves at meetings like this as being "community advocates". Some people in the audience turned to each other and said, they were police advocates too. If there's a rule book attached with having that title, they didn't know it.

The surprise of the meeting was Public Safety Committee Chair Andrew Melendrez who delivered what he had promised the previous day and that was a lively conversation. He asked questions about logistics which appeared to put the other two members off guard and that spearheaded the vote to send the issue of investigation protocol to a committee consisting of Leach, CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan, more city staff and community members. Chair Frank Schiavone came up with this committee deal and despite tripping over the Brown Act a few times, instituted it. Maybe the committee members aren't sure where the rest of the city council lies on this issue. Maybe it's becauses it's election year. Maybe their hearts are in the right place. The truth will tell.

It remains to be seen where this process will go.

Eminent Domain is rearing its head in downtown Riverside.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Dhalla bought some of the property next to the Fox in the 1980s and leased the space to antique stores. He also owns or co-owns three parcels that the Redevelopment Agency wants for the garage.

The City Council, acting as the agency board, in November authorized the use of eminent domain to acquire the property but asked city officials to try to negotiate a deal with Dhalla before filing a court case.

An appraisal for the agency valued the property at almost $3.2 million. Dhalla paid for his own appraisal. There is a difference of more than $1 million, said Councilman Mike Gardner, whose ward includes downtown.

"My objective is to reach an amicable agreement with the doctor," Gardner said.

Dhalla backed Gardner in his successful 2007 campaign to unseat Councilman Dom Betro.

Dhalla said he believes there is plenty of parking space for the Fox, either in existing garages or on land other than his where a garage could be built.

But Dhalla said he is still trying to reach an agreement and thinks he can if the city is reasonable.

"I think it will be resolved," he said.

Both Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff and Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said no to 10% budget cuts.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

But county supervisors and County Executive Officer Bill Luna say all departments must slash their spending in order to balance a stretched but shrinking county budget. They say Pacheco and Sniff can accomplish their share of cuts without risking residents' safety.

Luna reviewed reports from all department heads stating how they will cut their county spending 10 percent next year.

Sniff said he could only do it by scaling back on deputies patrolling unincorporated Riverside County.

Pacheco did not present a plan to spend less next year than this year. Instead, he asked the county for almost $7 million more.

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Keenan said the department is still looking to make cuts but that it will be difficult.

"Is there some victim you want us to tell that we shouldn't prosecute their case? That's what we do," Keenan said. "Everything in our office supports that mission of trying to keep this community safe by providing justice. What crime don't you want us to prosecute?"

Another question is what do you tell crime victims when you've lost about 20% of your legal work force through attrition including some of your most experienced attorneys and can't adequately prosecute cases?

More protests against the raids of a day laborer area in Casa Blanca in Riverside took place at the Border Patrol Station in Riverside in the wake of allegations by agents there that they were required to fulfill quotas or face punishment by their supervisors.

If you missed Mayor Ron Loveridge's state of the city address at the Riverside Convention Center last month, here is part of his speech.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein takes on Border Patrol and the Riverside County District Attorney's office.

He commented on the depletion currently taking place in the D.A.'s office since Rod Pacheco took over the top position. The office has also seen its conviction rates for felonies taken to trial (which is nearly every felony these days) go into a free fall.


Item de News: More than 60 prosecutors (out of a staff of 250 lawyers) have parted company with RivCo DA's office since Cuddles took over in 2007.
Impressive stat. With defense lawyers piling up so many not-guilty verdicts, look for the DA Rod Pacheco to downplay his conviction rate and start touting his attrition rate.

DA ADD -- I was a little worried about the thinning ranks in the DA's office (would there be anyone left to fill that new $126 million palace?) until I read the P-E account of the choreographed arrival of the extradited Joseph Duncan, accused killer of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez back in 1997.

"The news conference Friday was attended by several of Pacheco's staff members, including two public information officers, a staff writer/photographer, audio-visual experts and a legislative aide."

Not to mention a huge rostrum displaying the DA's name in big block letters. (The letters on the roof of his building will have to be much bigger.)

Bernstein's colleague, Cassie MacDuff wrote about the new sheriff in town in San Bernardino County and the old one who's left the building.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Make no mistake, Penrod could make the tough decisions, giving free rein to investigations of his friend Tidwell over hundreds of weapons missing from the property room and of Tidwell's sons in a jailhouse bail-bond scheme.

His tenure wasn't without controversy: He endured criticism for receiving a $21,000-a-year stipend for heading a "security" office that had no staff or budget.

His retirement mid-term enabled county supervisors to appoint the successor he recommended, Assistant Sheriff Rod Hoops.

Such maneuvers deprive voters of the free elections intended to winnow the best leaders. On the other hand, they avoid putting people like Assessor Bill Postmus in office.

Hoops takes the reins at a challenging time, when the tanking economy makes initiatives like the ones Penrod spearheaded unlikely.

But Hoops has promised to continue Penrod's legacy and try to avoid layoffs. I wish him the best of luck.

Another columnist muses about the situation involving that county's assessor, Bill Postmus.

As for labor leaders, they want Postmus gone.

To win an election in last year's Moreno Valley city council race, challengers had to outspend the incumbents.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Jesse Molina and Robin Hastings spent about four times more than incumbents in their run for the Moreno Valley City Council last year, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Molina, who won the 1st District seat, outspent incumbent Charles White $43,724 to $10,995.

Hastings, who won the 3rd Council District seat, spent $102,790 last year, while incumbent Frank West spent $25,906. Hastings reported having $69,286 in unpaid bills submitted by various vendors, but said she is disputing some of those expenses.

A former Canyonlake city official is upset because people are upset with him for sending racist and homophobic emails to other elected officials.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

When asked about his e-mail, Zaitz said the comment about gays was meant as a joke, and the lynching reference was to illustrate the unfairness of the proceedings.

"I don't think what happened in Texas is any different than what is happening here," Zaitz said. "There is no innocent or guilty, right or wrong; they just have to stop Goat Hill."

The Goetz Hill development is known among locals as Goat Hill.

"The (gay) remark was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, similar to if I were to say that I am a guy and don't understand ambiance," he added. "It was a personal thing, I thought, between three people."

The shooting of a young man by Chino Police Department officers has sparked controversy and criticism against the department.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"He was never told to stop, never told to get on the ground, just shot," said Algorri, adding that he plans to file a claim against the city, likely next week.

The 23-year-old Balandran and a friend went to the McDonalds on Central Avenue after inline skating at a Chino skate park, Algorri said.

After going through the drive-through, they were sitting in their car eating when they heard gunshots, saw a shootout at the neighboring Papa Johns and tried to get away, Algorri said.

The two got out of the car and were headed away from the shooting when they encountered two police officers coming around the corner of the McDonalds.

Balandran was shot and later pronounced dead at the scene. His friend, whose name has not been released, was handcuffed but later released.

"They made a mistake, a tragic mistake," Algorri said

Civilian oversight in the United States was discussed in many places today besides Riverside.

In Eugene, a review committee has urged the city government there to pass an ordinance ensuring that the independent police auditor's office is adequately funded.

(excerpt, Eugene Register-Guard)

It’s a worst-case scenario for Eugene police oversight advocates: A hostile city manager or City Council shrinks the budget of the police auditor, making it difficult for the auditor to monitor complaint investigations against police officers.

To prevent that, a proposed ordinance requiring the auditor’s office to get a sufficient budget to “carry out all duties” dictated by the city charter should be sent to the City Council, an advisory group indicated Thursday.

The idea was one of two tentatively endorsed by the police auditor ordinance review committee appointed by Mayor Kitty Piercy and the council.

“The intent here is to prevent the city manager from woefully underfunding the auditor’s office,” said City Councilor Alan Zelenka, a committee member.

Good luck with that endeavor if that office is occupied with anyone like Hudson. The city council in Riverside had tried to cut the CPRC's budget in 2004 after Councilman Art Gage, a known foe of the CPRC, made a motion to cut its budget by up to 80% during budget reconciliation hearings. That motion was seconded by Councilman Steve Adams and threatened with a veto by Mayor Ron Loveridge who had never issued a veto during his entire mayoral career. Any hopes the then GASS quartet had of defunding the CPRC in one swift vote died because there was no fifth vote on the dais at that time to back up Gage's motion.

Schiavone tried to portray himself as the savior of the CPRC during that episode but did he and the two remaining quartet members really decline to support Gage due to their consciences or because they knew that it would never pass? That question has in a sense been answered during the past several months.

Fresno is pressing onward again to adopt a form of civilian oversight over its police department.

(excerpt, ABC Local)

Former mayor Alan Autry pushed the idea four times while he was in
office, but it fell short in city council. Now, the faces on council
have changed, and three members who fought the auditor are gone.

There's a new mayor too, and Ashley Swearengin says she's in favor of
a police auditor. But with a tough budget already looming, she's not
focusing on it right now -- and when she does, she may find just as
much resistance as the former mayor faced.

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