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 18, 2009

Freezes and furloughs and that sweep by Oceanside

"It's a rarity for a police union to go along with something like this. We have a lot of officers who see the bigger picture. A lot of cities have old school Jimmy Hoffa-style unions and that doesn't always work. Pointing fingers at each other in hard times doesn't solve any problems."

---Redlands Police Union president Derik Ohlson on the furloughs

Another earthquake hit the Inland Empire but fortunately a fairly small one.

As stated in earlier postings, the Riverside Police Department moved several of its divisions into space at the downtown bus terminal which was vacated by the fire department's administrative headquarters. It began moving these divisions in December into a building which lacked signage and had other problems both inside and outside. The first division to move in was the Internal Affairs Division which vacated its office digs near the Riverside Plaza just before its lease expired and headed on downtown, leaving the city's General Services Division with only two weeks notice that this move was taking place.

This division spent its first month in a building with no signage indicating that the police department was even there. In fact, people apparently mistook the division for the Greyhound Bus Service. Hopefully what was going on in the interior of the building was better than how the exterior looked.

It was a pretty sad state of affairs and sent the message loud and clear that the police department, City Manager Brad Hudson or both thought the division was unimportant enough in terms of its function to justify being housed in a building appearing barely more than one step above habitable. Only three years out of the consent decree that focused largely on the operations of this division, how sad is that?

Not that difficult budget times don't foster difficult choices but did the move show city management at its best?

Various city employees provided different theories as to not only why the Internal Affairs Division had no signage but why it shouldn't have any signage. One of the explanations for the latter was that it was a private division. However, even though it had no signage, it included in its front lobby decor, pamphlets about the police department's complaint process. And why have pamphlets if you aren't directing some of your responsibilities towards outreach? Even though the door was locked.

So there's a police facility that houses the department's Internal Affairs Division and now its NPC for the North area and its doors are locked. That's a head scratcher.

It's moments like this where you have to wonder where most of these people were during the five-year and $22 million consent decree with Lockyer's office. Out to lunch? Must have been a very long multi-course one. But it's perplexing that so little planning could go into major moves involving two of the police department's divisions even considering the budget crunch. Hasn't anyone in the city manager's office had any experience handling the logistics of moving divisions around inside a law enforcement agency? Have any of them even had any experience with law enforcement agencies before coming to Riverside?

Eventually signs were placed on the front of the occupied space stating that it was a police department facility and housed the Internal Affairs Division and the new North Neighborhood Policing Center. They look good but why did it take so long to achieve the task of placing signs on a department facility?

Not long after, the NPC division of one sergeant and a team of officers began moving into the rather small space putting them in cozy proximity to the Internal Affairs Division which had spent about five years being geographically isolated from any other police divisions, a result of the recommendation of former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer to take such an action. This makes you wonder if there's not enough separation between the division that performs the department's administrative investigations and reviews and those it investigates. Everyone from department management to City Hall has been very assuring in their assertion that appropriate separation will be accomplished but no one has really explained what this separation will entail.

And that's something important that's missing given the extremely close proximity between the Internal Affairs Division and of the field operation division's policing facilities. One of the selling points of putting a NPC downtown at the terminal was because the squad cars used by officers assigned or working there would provide a visible deterrent to crime. However, they might also provide a visual deterrent to going to the Internal Affairs Division to be interviewed, whether you're a civilian or an officer.

Now, the opinions that exist about the usefulness of any Internal Affairs Division vary. Few trust it, fewer like it and it's hard to find anyone to staff it without providing incentives including career advancement because it can't be a popular assignment. These are issues which for better or worse have been grappled at by many a law enforcement agency across the country.

There's still a cement sign that reads "Riverside Fire Department" in the parking area in between the terminal building and Mission Inn Avenue. But the General Services division representatives said that those types of signs can take over a month to construct.

Even with three sergeant promotions within the police department, their numbers are still down by at least three. The promotions haven't been publicly announced as they have been in the past but they've been taking place as the department has grappled with staffing issues and hiring/promotional freezes at the officer and supervisory levels not to mention a large group of vacancies remaining in its civilian division. But no furloughs or layoffs being mentioned yet. If the police department faces serious issues financially, it will probably be the next fiscal year rather than this one.

At the Black History Parade and Expo, both the Riverside Police Department and Riverside County Sheriff's Department were missing in action in terms of running booths which include recruitment. The California Highway Patrol which is still hiring attracted some attention from people attending the event. The creation of new law enforcement officer positions was included in a stimulus package passed by Congress but the details of that part of it haven't been really explained since, not to mention what kind of impact any new positions would have on city and county law enforcement agencies.

But some of the sergeant positions and one lieutenant position in the Riverside Police Department have thawed since last July 1.

The sergeant positions which were filled are the following:

Randy Eggleston

Terry Meyer

John Romo

The ones vacant are the following:

Kevin Stanton

Leon Phillips

Lisa Williams (who moved to a newly created post in Communications)

The detectives promoted to sergeant positions were Dan Warren, Chad Milby and Julian Hutzler. All three of them shared a trait in common in that they all had lateraled out of the Oceanside Police Department several years ago and joined the Riverside Police Department. That led to some interesting and different reactions from different people to the fact that officers lateraling from Oceanside were 3 for 3 in this autumn's round of promotions. Previous blog postings outlined some reasons why Oceanside's officers might have an edge during a time when promotions are more scarce. Several of the laterals had applied to Riverside as detectives but lost that ranking when they transferred (even as they gathered higher pay as Riverside's officers were making more than Oceanside's sergeants, according to North County Times.) but they kept their experience. At least one of Oceanside's laterals has a Masters Degree. So it appears that they are bringing it into the process of promotions.

It's interesting to see what the impact of these promotions will be on future sergeant promotions when more positions become unfrozen which will happen sooner or later. What kind of response will it garner from applicants that are homegrown and those who lateraled from other departments and how will it impact how the process is viewed? How will the Oceanside pool of officers continue to impact the police department as a whole? Judging by the attention they've received and their associated identity of being lateral officers from a particular agency (which has apparently stuck with them for better or worse), they do appear to have made some degree of impact on the organization.

Riverside being a typical post-consent decree agency (not that there are many of those) is a very young department. Turmoil and consent decrees often cause more experienced officers to retire (or be retired) or lateral out and newer, less experienced officers are brought in to replace them. A dearth of experienced officers in different divisions often provides excellent opportunities for laterals who are brought into the agency to "age" it. This was an integral part of attempts to rebuild a police department like Riverside's which saw what some say, was a 80% turnover in a relatively short period of time. But laterals are only as good as the process is at recruiting, screening and scrutinizing their backgrounds especially for signs of bad behavior at their former agencies (which may be only too happy to get rid of them). There's no short cuts with this process that aren't going to come back and bite the agency back later. So laterals can be great, they can be bad but as a class, they are definitely a double-edged sword.

Police Chief Russ Leach has said often that Riverside's patrol officers are on average, 24 years old with about 2-2 1/2 years experience in the field. A huge proportion of the patrol division has less than two years experience including probational officers and that creates dilemmas when trying to fill slots in divisions which require more experienced officers including the Metro/SWAT and field training divisions. Laterals from Rialto and Oceanside filled some of those positions as well. Will this change if the department ever gets in the position where it's aging? Some people who've been paying close attention expressed doubts that this would happen within one generation and it's doubtful that the police department will reach the mean age of officers that it registered in the 1990s which was set in the early 30s.

Two other sworn positions, that of a deputy chief and a lieutenant remain vacant. It appears they will remain vacant for quite a while.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein weighs in on Chinatown. He speculates about whether developer, Doug Jacobs violated the municipal code with the city government's blessing.


"I pulled all my permits on Friday and we're ready to go," Doug Jacobs, who's building medical offices atop Riverside's old Chinatown site, told The P-E. "We're doing everything with the City Council's approval."

He said that Saturday, Day One of a long weekend of bulldozing squeezed in before a court hearing on whether to stop the earthmovers in their tracks. The earth continued to move Sunday, under the watchful eye of the RPD. Monday, cops finally cited Jacobs' crew for violating the muni code, which outlaws too much noise on a Sunday or federal holidays. Councilman Mike Gardner: "It was a conscious violation." (Sounds like "the City Council's approval" to me!) Tuesday, all earth moving was suspended until a Feb. 24 court hearing.

Archeological teams or anthropologists supposedly observed the weekend excavation, but maybe they just got in the way. Without them -- and this weeklong halt -- those dozers could have made it all the way to...China.

San Bernardino has approved most of its budget amid a sea of controversy and turmoil.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City Treasurer David Kennedy urged council members to act fast. Currently, City Hall is exceeding its income by $50,000 a day, $1.5 million per month.

"Moving things from fund to fund or borrowing money is not a solution," Kennedy said. "The only way we can do it is spending less or raising more revenue."

Members of the city police union, the only labor group to reject Weinberg's call for pay and benefit reductions, rebuked Mayor Pat Morris and his chief of staff for publicly questioning their empathy for other city employees and their grasp of the crisis.

One speaker, Officer Richard Everett, recited a list of ways in which city employees help their community, from filling potholes to rescuing accident victims.

"You've called on us time and again," he said. "We're calling on you now. Don't trash us."

Layoff projections have changed repeatedly in recent weeks. On Feb. 2, Weinberg set possible layoffs at as high as 130 against the city's total work force of 1,300. On Friday, he proposed holding seven positions vacant, with 60 employees to be laid off. And on Monday, the number rose again, to as many as 96 job cuts.

Redlands might be doing the furlough thing. And in a move that shocked many, the police union volunteered for the furloughs.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Most surprising of all, officials said, was that the police union asked to take part in the deal.

"I have worked for seven cities, and I have never seen the police volunteer for furloughs," Martinez said. "There was not the typical whining about how the bad guys are going to show up and take over or how the sky was going to fall."

The police union overwhelming agreed to take 66 hours of furlough by June 30, and the firefighters union accepted a similar plan last month.

"I have no doubt there are people in my business who are watching and wondering if we were naïve, that maybe we should have dug in our heels," said Police Chief Jim Bueermann. "We could have played the public safety card, but these are different times, and we are not an island."

Bueermann said two of his men were confronted by police officers from other cities.

"They berated them for setting an inappropriate precedent," he said. "They were aggressively critical of our position and said it would make it harder for police everywhere."

More questions are being asked about the salary and perks provided for an aide working for one of the San Bernardino County supervisors.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Jim Erwin, now the top aide to Supervisor Neil Derry, worked as a consultant to Colonies Partners from July through December 2006.

The developer eventually received a $102 million settlement from the county for its lawsuit over flood-control issues at its project in Upland.

Erwin received the watch Jan. 29, 2007, shortly after he began working for the San Bernardino County assessor's office.

He didn't report it at the time, but disclosed it as income last week in a revision to a statement of economic interests he originally submitted to San Bernardino County officials April 1, 2008, county records show.

Erwin was required by the state ethics code to report all income and gifts received in the 12 months before he took the assistant assessor job.

Erwin held the job for less than a year, departing after a disagreement with Assessor Bill Postmus, who resigned last week amid allegations of drug addiction and political misconduct.

Erwin acknowledged making a mistake and said he is likely to be fined for the omission by the Fair Political Practices Commission, a state watchdog agency that polices the ethics of public officials.

"I expect at some point some FPPC action," Erwin said.

More transparency through recording city meetings might help resolve a sticky situation that San Jacinto's government has with its subcommittees, according to the Press Enterprise Editorial Board.


San Jacinto might serve that interest, and avoid the quorum conundrum, by recording the meetings for later perusal -- by Di Memmo or others who wish to watch. That move would sidestep legal questions while bolstering public scrutiny of government.

The council could spend more time debating who can attend subcommittee meetings, certainly. But surely the city has more pressing issues at hand than perpetuating this quarrel.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League is suing the city over the controversial helmet issue.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court named Chief William J. Bratton as a co-defendant and seeks a temporary restraining order against the city from taking any measures that would discourage officers from using safety gear when dealing with crowds during protests and demonstrations.

It also demands that the Los Angeles Police Department comply with applicable safety rules in future situations.

“The LAPD's own emergency operations guide clearly states: ‘Do not assign officers without helmets, vests and batons to crowd control missions,'" union President Paul Weber said in a statement. “We firmly believe the law is on our side –- helmets and face shields should be worn in large protest situations to prevent injury to officers and to help manage large groups of people who want to exercise their 1st Amendment rights."

The legal action grew out of a Jan. 10 incident in which an officer was hit over the head with a sign during a protest over the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Officials with the Los Angeles Police Protective League say on-scene commanders decided officers should not immediately wear riot helmets out of concern the gear might escalate passions among the demonstrators.

More Atlanta Police Department officers in trouble with the law. Two of them are accused of sexually assaulting a woman.

A police sergeant was suspended in Albany, in connection with the arrest of another officer for driving under the influence.

(excerpt, Albany Times-Union)

The suspension of Sgt. P.J. McKenna comes as the department's internal affairs investigation is ongoing into the controversial circumstances of the Jan. 11 arrest of Detective George McNally on charges of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.

Dispatch records obtained by the Times Union last month raise questions about whether police may have delayed the arrest or abandoned their pursuit of McNally, who allegedly crashed his pick-up truck into a car on New Scotland Avenue that evening and drove off. An off-duty Schenectady officer witnessed the crash and gave chase in his Grand Cherokee as he called a police dispatcher and followed McNally across Albany into Bethlehem.

The police harassment case in Rutherford will have its day in court.

(excerpt, South Bergenite)

An internal affairs investigation, which was commenced after Grappone reported the incident to the Rutherford Police Department on Oct. 23, has temporarily been suspended while the harassment charge is dealt with.

"There’s a harassment complaint pending," said Captain George Egbert. "Once that's over, we proceed."

According to Grappone, nine other Rutherford officers showed up at the probable cause hearing in January.

"I could hear the collective moan of displeasure from the cops when the judge OK’d it for trial," said Grappone. "I think their showing up in court actually worked against them as the judge spoke of intimidation tactics."

The whole matter began on Oct. 23, according to Grappone, when he pulled up to the intersection of Donaldson and Mortimer avenues only to find the intersection blocked by an on-duty officer in his police car speaking to Nunziato, who was off-duty and standing outside the vehicle. Grappone says he flashed his high beams to inform them he wanted to pass through. Nunziato and the officer moved to the side to let him pass and as Grappone drove by he says he heard Nunziato shout a threat at him.

This led to a verbal dispute between Grappone and Nunzato until the on-duty officer told Nunziato to leave and told Grappone to pull over. Afterwards, Grappone says he immediately went to the police station to file a complaint.

Grappone subsequently took out an advertisement in the South Bergenite to generate interest in a protest he staged on Nov. 8 in Lincoln Park. The protest was eventually rained out and fewer than half a dozen people attended. He said he received phone calls from people who supported him, but who didn’t wish to attend a public protest.

Just when you thought racism was lessening in this country or at least hoped. This cartoon ran in the New York Post here.

It's caused controversy for the use of a monkey getting shot by police officers. Because monkeys and apes are often images used to depict African-Americans including Barack Obama and because Black men like Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Irvin Landrum and Sean Bell have been shot and killed by police. Because African-Americans in Rialto and other cities complained about police officers calling them "gorillas". Because former Lt. Stacy Koon of the Los Angeles Police Department used to communicate on his mobile data terminal about "Gorillas in the Mist".

And so forth.

What was the Post's response? Lighten up, it's supposed to be funny.

From Feministe:

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