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

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Introduction to board and commission micromanagement: Let the games begin

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn't take one more step.

I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

---Don McLean, "America Pie"

The day the music died...

(Feb. 3, 1959-Feb. 3, 2009)

The city council in Riverside interviewed a select group of city residents to fill vacancies on both the Board of Public Utilities and the Community Police Review Commission. First the city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge went through the arduous process of interviewing and selecting a Ward Five specific member for the Board of Public Utilities and decided on Gustavo Segura. That no doubt won't be good news for former CPRC commissioner Jack Brewer who had been lobbying for the position for a while.

The city council couldn't come to a consensus on the citywide vacancy for this board so they postponed it to fight it out another day and moved on to the increasingly politicized CPRC after lunch.

Only two candidates showed up for their interviews. Riverside County administrative manager Robert Garafalo and ESPN associate director, Robert Slawsby. Neither of them seemed to really know much about the CPRC. In fact, one of them, Garafalo said that he believed that Riverside had a civilian review board for about 15 years.

Wrong. Many community members who could never get an interview before the city council know it was created through ordinance in 2000. Some of the city council members actually seemed to know this which makes it hard to understand why they nodded their heads in agreement with Garafalo's assertion that it's been around since the 20th Century. Maybe the reason there's so much rewriting of the CPRC's history is because not everyone on the dais knows about the real history.

Garafalo begin his interview earlier than the scheduled time on the agenda. He didn't seem to know very much about the CPRC but talked about similar review mechanisms in different places in Florida so he had some clue about what civilian oversight was about. He believed it should function as a single unit and that the opinion of it probably changes over time.

Some of the elected officials said they just about fell out of their chairs when they found out he worked with former county supervisor Tom Mullin. Not exactly in those words but close and it's a head scratcher to think about why they would be so surprised given that he did work for Riverside County where guess what? Word has it the supervisors work there too.

The interview process stayed exciting when they parted ways with Garafalo and brought in Slawsby who works for ESPN which elicited the obligatory talk about NCAA basketball. In fact, Slawsby had just flown in from Waco, Texas to this interview after covering a basketball game. Given his propensity for traveling around the country for his job, he did say that the time commitment for serving on a board or commission (in general) and perhaps the CPRC (in particular) would be the biggest problem. And no one bothered to tell him that he would be putting in a minimum of 30-40 hours a month. Too busy being excited about having a real live ESPN employee in their midst.

For a while, it appeared indeed that the electeds seemed more enamored that he worked for ESPN than in his qualifications as a CPRC commissioner.

But he did bring some City Hall connections as well.

While he lived in Ward Three, Slawsby ran for city council in 2003, a race which was ultimately won by Art Gage. He also served on the Charter Review Committee several years ago.

They actually did ask him some questions about civilian oversight and the commission in Riverside. It's hard to watch this part of the interviews because it's painfully clear that not all the elected officials are up to speed about the CPRC as outlined in the city's charter. Like Garafalo, he'd been appointed to different commissions including the Airport Commission which is along the lines of the CPRC turning into an "insider's" club with prior commission experience being more important than actual knowledge about the CPRC.

Slawsby said that his work in sports journalism made him objective and unbiased. He added that the commission was "complaint driven" (borrowing from someone's words) which it's not but then some of the city council members are still grasping with understanding that fact.

Someone asked Slawsby how he would work towards getting police officers to like the commission. He laughed.

"I don't think you'll ever be able to do it," he said.

He added that the police were so to "policing us" that the role reversal was somewhat wierd for them and considered the commission a "public relations tool". No wonder the members of the Governmental Affairs Committee swooned and voted as a unit to pick him.

The voting was hilarious if somewhat scary to watch. Eight elected officials (including one with a Phd in Political Science) could not figure out after all this time, how to vote by paper ballot. Some voted twice. Some forgot to put which ward they represented. Maybe they forgot what ward they represented. Three rounds were necessary before they could effectively count the votes for the first round.

When the dust settled and the confusion abated, the vote was 4-4 with the following elected officials casting the following votes.

Mike Gardner: Garafalo

Andrew Melendrez: Garafalo

Rusty Bailey: Slawsby

Frank Schiavone: Slawsby

Chris MacArthur: Slawsby

Nancy Hart: Garafalo

Steve Adams: Slawsby

Ron Loveridge: Garafalo

With an even numbered governmental body there's always the possibility of a tie which totally happened. So the city council and mayor were left with the dilemma of having to vote again. But how to break the tie? Schiavone said it's my ward and I vote for Slawsby. Hart then said, "I have to problem at all." Then Schiavone said, "There's your vote." To make it all official, they went through the motions of trying to cast more paper ballots and this time, they had shown that they mastered that skill at last.

Mike Gardner: Garafalo

Andrew Melendrez: Garafalo

Rusty Bailey: Slawsby

Frank Schiavone: Slawsby

Chris MacArthur: Slawsby

Nancy Hart: Slawsby

Steve Adams: Slawsby

Ron Loveridge: Garafalo

So essentially despite all the bells and whistles of trying to make it seem like the CPRC was being done through an interview and voting process, it still all comes down to a city council member appointment. So that is how the city council appointed in a new commissioner whose version of the CPRC resembled LEPAC (review polices and make recommendations is main function) than what's in the city's charter. But perhaps that's how the city council wants it.

The appointment of the new commissioner came about 24 hours before the Governmental Affairs Committee will likely adopt Hudson's Long Beach template approach to how the CPRC conducts its investigations of officer-involved deaths. The meeting will be the first stage of the latest round of micromanagement of the CPRC by Hudson, City Attorney Gregory Priamos and several city council members, with the next stage likely to come when the Governmental Affairs Committee tries to push the Hudson protocol to the full city council which pretty much follows the dictate of its direct employees who of course most likely are following the directive of one or two city officials on the dais. So essentially you have several city council members dictating and others submitting to that direction with two direct employees as conduits to that process.

Hudson wrote a six-page wrote rife with inaccuracies and revisionist history. You can't blame him for that because neither he, nor executive manager, Kevin Rogan nor Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis were in the vicinity let alone City Hall when any of this history was unfolding. Still as one observer pointed out today, it's their responsibility to learn the history through responsible research methods and to not misstate it because this person said that he or she hadn't been here when it played out but was aware of it because of doing the research to find out what actually did happen.

That research wasn't done here. The most in depth research done on the report was to dig up some article about the disgraced governor or Illinois which has nothing to do with the issue at all. As someone said, you throw a lot of [insert word of choice] just to see what will stick.

This latest episode does provide an accurate historical repeat event. It provides a blast from the past back when the city council tried to weaken the CPRC's predecessor, the Law Enforcement Police Advisory Committee (LEPAC) which is the model that several city council members wish to mold the CPRC into (city charter be damned) while neglecting the police department. Toss in a budget crisis even worse than that which produced sizable budget cuts and you very well might have what community leader Mary Figueroa called the "perfect storm".

The Press Enterprise writes about the upcoming Governmental Affairs Committee meeting here.

News that the city council had apparently amended an ordinance in 2006 which stripped the Human Resources Board of its investigative powers (or so it thought, as the wording is gone but the powers are included in an "others" clause) has created a bit of a shock wave. The board just found out three years after the fact that this had happened. At first Chair Erin House said that he had received a new amended charter and that he thought the charter had been amended as an offshoot of the Charter Committee Review Process in 2004. But that committee never made any recommendations to change the function of the Human Resources Board and the changes were made one year after the new charter amendments passed in the November 2004 election went into effect.

So at that point, Deputy Human Resource Director Jeremy Hammond piped up after the meeting and said it was done through the municipal ordinance. House said he's going to do his own research to find out what happened.

The Human Resources Board has been making increased efforts to tackle some more information gathering about the state of the city's labor force in recent months. But standing in its path (as has been the case of the CPRC) are the dynamic duo of micro managers, Hudson and Priamos. They denied the board access to statistics on lawsuits filed against the city by employees stating that to ask for this information (which is public right down to the individual lawsuits by the way), puts the board in the position of acting outside of its purview. Sounds familiar? The CPRC had been listening to the same song and dance for months now. Like the CPRC, the Human Resources Board is taking the issue to the city council.

One individual upon hearing of the chain of events said that the reason why the city doesn't want the Human Resources Board to view even the general statistics is because of the sheer number of labor-related lawsuits that are and have been filed against the city especially since the hiring of both Hudson and DeSantis several years ago. Lawsuits that no doubt if they are as numerous as claimed have all been viewed by the city council (through Priamos) as being "meritless" and "frivolous" as were other lawsuits filed before them which were quickly and quietly settled even after the claims that preceded them were rubber stamped, denied.

It will be interesting to watch and see how quickly and quietly they are settled by the same city.

At one point and more than once, the racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by police officer, Roger Sutton was viewed the same way, but a $1.64 million jury verdict in 2005 might not have made a liar out of the city but it helped put those words, "frivolous" and "without merit" or better yet, "completely without merit" in doubt.

And speaking of lawsuits, was the one filed by Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Wayne Guillary who sued the city alleging he was racially profiled by the Riverside Police Department, the only one of its kind in the works? Was he the only off-duty Black law enforcement officer to raise these allegations in Riverside?

Ward Six city council candidates, Nancy Hart and Ann Alfaro discussed another candidate named James Perry during a break in the interview schedule to fill spots on the city's boards and commissions, with Hart saying, "Hmm, never heard of him." Alfaro who ran against Hart four years ago is throwing her hat in the ring. And not much is known yet about Perry.

More rumors that the city's laying off more people that aren't being counted and that many of them are men and women of color. But officially only one full-time employee, a senior librarian was laid off this week. The city is trying to see if it can move the business/reference desk person to another position in the city. It's hard to be fully comfortable and confident with the city's rosy picture of the layoff when you consider that only some employees are counted among those layoffs while at the same time these same city officials are including freezes, part-time employee layoffs, contract employee layoffs along with full-time employees in the totals for cities like Corona.

San Bernardino County swore in its new sheriff, Rod Hoops.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Hoops thanked Penrod, who supported him for the top job.

"He promoted me four times," Hoops said. "So Sheriff, thank you."

Hoops said a few words afterward, beginning his tenure as Sheriff on a humorous note.

Gesturing to his mother, Hoops joked "My Mom was 17 when I was born. Thanks for keeping me."

Hoops said his most pressing priority would be budget cuts. County authorities are expected to ask for 8 percent across-the-board cuts for all county departments. Hoops said he would seek to keep deputies on the street and find savings in other areas of his department. County authorities have said public safety would be spared cuts, but Hoops wants to be prepared.

"I don't think that any department is going to be exempt," he said.

Hoops discusses the budget crisis.

This might be difficult to believe but votes from last November's election are still being counted in Riverside County.

A fire department employee in Temecula has filed a harassment lawsuit.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The lawsuit accuses Buckley of creating a hostile work environment based on Beauchamp's sex and age. Buckley would belittle Beauchamp to the point where she cried daily, the lawsuit alleges.

"(Buckley) would scream and yell at plaintiff and call her stupid, telling her that she couldn't do anything right," the lawsuit reads. "He told her to get on her hands and knees and clean the scuff marks off of the floor and to clean the (urine) off the bathroom floors."

The lawsuit also alleges Buckley had a personal relationship with another woman and "he would yell and scream at plaintiff for telling his wife (when she called) that he was not there, because plaintiff refused to lie."

Buckley was eventually removed as Beauchamp's supervisor, but he continued to demean her by calling her new boss and telling him her work was "all wrong," the lawsuit alleges.

Corona says bye bye to its police helicopter.

About 130 jobs will be cut by the city of San Bernardino. No one will be spared including 29 police officers and 10 fire fighters.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Because senior city employees have the right to "bump" employees with less time on the payroll, Weinberg said he doesn't yet have a breakdown on how many vacant positions will go unfilled and how many people will lose their jobs. Weinberg said he'll present a list at the Feb. 16 Council meeting.

Rather than cut public safety hours, Weinberg is seeking a 10 percent pay and benefits concession from the police and firefighter unions.

If they balk, Weinberg said he'll have to request "dozens" of additional job cuts.

Riverside County's board of supervisors voted to sue the state of California for millions of dollars being withheld to pay for state-mandated programs. But the supervisors also voted to take some of the most vulnerable residents of the county, including the disabled, mentally ill and poor families and seniors hostage as well.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Supervisors also voted to take legal action to relieve the county of the responsibility to provide those state-mandated services, such as welfare, assistance for disabled people and mental health services, if the state does not fund them.

"The action was taken despite grave concerns about the effect on the programs that serve the county's most needy and vulnerable residents," county counsel Pamela Walls said at Tuesday's supervisors' meeting in Riverside. "However, the county cannot bear the overwhelming costs of taking on responsibility for programs that the state is obligated to fund."

Supervisors voted 4-0 during closed session to authorize Walls to file or join existing lawsuits on behalf of the county.

Supervisor Roy Wilson was not present for the vote.

As part of its reform effort, Maywood's police department is preparing criminal cases against some of its worst officers in a department which hired officers who had been fired, failed to make probation or even prosecuted while working elsewhere.

The latest case involves an officer accused of four sexual assaults.

More naughty behavior by Orange County Sheriff Department officials who sent derisive text messages during a marathon meeting of the board of supervisors.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens decided to review and tighten the department's policy on the permits given out under former Sheriff Michael S. Carona. At the Nov. 18 meeting, hundreds of permit advocates showed up to oppose the review in a meeting that lasted about eight hours.

"We are locked in mortal battle. . . . It is ugly. We will survive, however," wrote Asst. Sheriff Mike Hillmann on his BlackBerry at 1:17 p.m. as he sat in the audience.

In another message, sheriff's spokesman Damon Micalizzi wrote, "Is that Elton John?" in reference to one of the speakers who wore a bow tie and tinted glasses.

At 4:59 p.m. Hillman wrote: "I may just take myself as hostage for 'good cause.' Then I intend to revoke my sanity. Following this I believe we should consume a glass of wine."

"Good plan," wrote Undersheriff John Scott.

"I hope Janet has a pet she can call a friend," Hillman wrote back, referencing Supervisor Janet Nguyen. At 6:44 p.m., Hillman wrote to an FBI agent: "No end in sight. This has been unbelievable. Am ready to stick a pencil in my eye."

Supervisor Chris Norby said Tuesday that the transcripts reflect a "contempt and cynicism toward the whole democratic process."

"We had a six-hour public hearing with a lot of people there, and a lot of them took time off of work at their own expense," Norby said. "They should be heard with respect, not belittled behind their back at taxpayer expense."

The county also voted in an amended budget which would lay off more than 200 county employees by next year.

In the trouble-plagued Minneapolis Police Department, another officer has been suspended for being all wrapped up in yes, a corruption scandal.

(excerpt, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Lt. Lee Edwards, 51, began the suspension this week, but the length of the disciplinary action was not disclosed. The department's Internal Affairs Unit found that Edwards violated codes of conduct and ethics in dealing with a high-ranking member of the Gangster Disciples street gang. He faced six Internal Affairs allegations; four of them were sustained in a report completed last summer.

Edwards was the main target in an FBI probe of police corruption as alleged by Taylor Trump, the gang member. Trump, a convicted drug dealer who is awaiting sentencing on federal mortgage fraud and drug charges, told authorities in June 2007 that he had knowledge of at least six Minneapolis officers who gave him information to protect his criminal enterprises.

Edwards, a former commander in the Homicide Unit and inspector in the Fourth Precinct on the city's North Side, was taped by the FBI conversing with Trump and providing him with the license plate number of a city-owned vehicle.

The Internal Affairs report stated, "Edwards should know that a vehicle listing to the City of Minneapolis Equipment Division is likely to be an unmarked squad and that revealing this information to a known gang member and drug dealer could result in physical harm or death to an undercover police officer."

The feds let him off the hook but the lieutenant is still facing ethics violations.

A story coming out of Miami is about what happens When an Internal Affairs Division gets too cozy with the police officers it investigates, only in this case it means that literally. One department's Internal Affairs commander wanted to get lucky with a female officer so he started spilling information about investigations to impress her.

(excerpt, Miami New Times)

The sordid saga involving Pichardo and Rifkin
began in February 2008 when she and her estranged ex-husband, Richard Pichardo, a former chief of the county police's Cutler Ridge district who retired in April last year, were having problems. According to court documents, the ex-beaus filed for restraining orders against one another last February 19 and 20. In addition, the Pichardos were being investigated by the Professional Compliance Bureau on several matters, including domestic violence and fraud.

Shortly after the IA investigation into her began, Pichardo received a phone call from Rifkin inviting her to lunch, according to the FDLE's report, which was released to Miami New Times today. Pichardo and Rifkin had two meetings, one at Café Italia and another at Las Delicias Peruanas, both located on Hollywood Boulevard. The encounters took place this past March 23 and July 13.

During their first encounter, Rifkin -- without being asked -- brought up the two cases against Pichardo's ex-hubby. One involved allegations of domestic violence against Richard by his current wife. The other inquiry was into allegations he was using steroids. Pichardo alleges Rifkin informed her that internal affairs was consulting with doctors to determine what the steroids "were intended to be used for." According to Pichardo's interview with FDLE, "Rifkin walked her to her car and hugged her really tight, squeezing her breasts."

When they met at the Peruvian seafood joint over the summer, Rifkin gave Pichardo a copy of an email Richard sent to Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega, Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker, and County Manager George Burgess. Rifkin also divulged that Richard was under investigation for allegedly forging a signature on a quit-claim deed. Pichardo claims she never asked Rifkin to give her the intel on her ex-hubby.

After the last meeting, Pichardo said, "It became clear what his intentions were as he became more aggressive with his text messages," including one this past July 30 asking her to take a day off "so he could come over and rub her neck and feet."

Over in Hawaii, a police sergeant was fired for sexual assault.

Fort Myers, Florida may be getting its civilian review board at last. The city council is preparing to draft its ordinance.

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