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 12, 2009

TGIF: San Bernardino's war of words and professional sports in Riverside?

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein celebrates the arrival of beach volleyball to Riverside! Not that many people seem to be all that excited about it but that could change in the upcoming days when the reality of a professional sport coming to town sinks in.


Riverside's foray into professional sports hasn't been all that successful. Baseball teams with outrageous names like "Red Wave" and boring names like Pilots have come and left. The Raiders ran a training camp there during the summers when they were still the Los Angeles Raiders. The frequent second-stage smog alerts that hit like clockwork during the summers of the 1980s just about killed them.

The national rugby team, the Eagles, played a rousing test match (during a training camp in town) in the mid-1990s against then World Cup champions, the Australian Wallabies in front of thousands of adoring fans (impressive considering at the nearby baseball stadium about 30 people appeared to watch the national past time) including a loud contingent of Kiwis from Huntington Beach who cheered the Eagles on against their main rivals. The Aussies and Kiwis have quite the rivalry between their rugby teams and they've played against each other at the World Cup at least once in 1991 but for the most part, it's friendly.

Passing by a crowded pub of rowdy fans watching that World Cup match on the way to boarding an airliner for 14 hours, I noticed that the game hadn't actually started yet. What was taking place was the pre-game ceremony when the two teams lined up to be introduced before starting play but people were still pretty excited. Fortunately, the plane took off and left before the All Blacks were defeated. Just in time as it turned out because the Kiwis took that loss pretty hard for a group of people who are pretty easy-going.

The 104 degree heat and jet lag was a great equalizer with the Eagles only down by five points by the end of the match, in contrast to the dozens of points they usually lost by when matched against the Wallabies. The Wallabies didn't seem to mind their narrow victory and went off to celebrate with their American hosts. As it turned out, they were pretty good dart players even with a couple pints in them. There was talk about inviting the New Zealand All Blacks next time but it turned out to be just that, talk. Rugby never took root in the city either.

Rugby for those who haven't heard of it is a combination of soccer, gridiron football and basketball and its players are prone to injuries especially neck injuries during scrumming. During the Wallabies match, the medics wrapped gauze around legs, arms and bleeding heads and then sent the injured back out to play. Except for the occasional player taken out on a stretcher.

Riverside never had an ice hockey team, but then there's barely any ice rinks in the city. If you dress up little mice in mini-uniforms with micro-equipment and pucks, the little rink in the downtown pedestrian mall might work but for the professional sport involving humans, it's a wash out.

The city once sponsored an elite 5k running race with an impressive cast of national class runners including Mary Decker-Slaney who won the women's race. But the highlight was running in to then elite runner Libby Johnson and trading tempo running tips in front of the Universalist-Unitarian Church after the races were done. Road running even for fun runners dried up in Riverside during the 1990s even as it continued to thrive in Orange County. In 1990, Riverside hosted one running race nearly every weekend. Now? About two running races every year, mostly due to the city council's habit of denying permits at the 11th hour of race dates and the increased cost of police officers providing traffic control beginning in 1993.

Mission Inn was always a lot of fun for runners to participate in, in part because it was local. A place to gather and warm up together pre-race to catch up on what was going on in people's lives in and outside of running. It was a time to compare and contrast treatments for plantar fasciitis and to vote on what was the best stretch for hip flexors or that ilio-tibial thing. Not that people weren't serious when they lined up on the starting line while Mayor Ron Loveridge or some other politician blasted the fog horn to send the runners on their way. Riverside once had a vibrant running community including several clubs which have gone by the wayside, though the Lopers recently made a foray into the city by starting another group in Riverside.

My favorite year was when I spent two miles clipping off 5:30 minute miles with two other women including a Masters (over 40) runner who ran in her daughter's memory after the promising cross-country star with the UCLA scholarship was killed in a car crash and a former Olympic marathoner for Mexico who ran in the inaugural event for women at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. The Master runner opened up 50 yards on me and took the lead of the race after the second mile and the marathoner who was a teammate of mine said, are you going to let her go. I decided not and surged for the rest of the race until I passed her with 200 meters to go and then just sprinted. I finished first, nearly fell over my feet stopping in the chute, encountered someone who wanted to take a photo, drank some strange yogurt concoction I had never seen before and then promptly threw up while my picture was being taken. That was called the "bear" and is what happens when you run anaerobic for longer than about 30 seconds. Nothing about 12-15 repetitions of 200 meters with 100 meter recovery job won't cure.

Then I changed my running shoes and lined up two blocks away to run the 10 k.

Today, the Mission Inn run still exists and attracts thousands of runners of different ages who tackle different distances. It draws attention to Riverside but the elite race didn't last and it's one of perhaps two or three running races held in Riverside during the entire year. Instead of being the culmination of the Riverside road racing season, it is the road racing season.

The races brought money to Riverside, including that from Orange County without having to pay off developers with subsidized land to build now-empty condos which will be lucky if they're used as rental space. Not just the breakfast spots but many runners stayed around to shop as well after their races were completed and finisher medals collected. But Riverside killed road racing faster than it killed its annual festivals and most of both categories of events that could bring revenue to this city are gone.

So with Riverside's crash and burn history with professional sports, will beach volleyball hit a chord and break that trend? That remains to be seen whether this is for real or merely a publicity stunt.

As for Mission Inn, it's coming back next November and if you have a yen to run it, you should probably not wait until the last moment to prepare. A good, sensible training program will get you to the finish line. If you undertrain, you might not make it to the finish line. If you overtrain, you probably won't make it to the starting line. And don't skimp on shoes. No hoofs no horse, is the motto in that sport. For humans, it's very important to find good footwear to be able to run without suffering overuse injuries.

I'm thinking of trying The Mission Inn thing this year as my 18 month bout of the dreaded and dreadful plantar fasciitis is mercifully abating and I've started running again for the first time in a long time. Not very fast but you have to start somewhere.

Once told he had only six weeks to live after being diagnosed with advanced colon cancer, Rev. Jerry Louder continues to battle the disease while preaching from the pulpit.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

He returned to the pulpit but didn't have the vocal stamina to speak at normal volume. Lately he has regained his full voice, he said.

"The sermons are shorter" than they used to be, which has boosted church attendance, he joked.

Louder said he has enjoyed the break from chemotherapy but his doctors want him to undergo another round soon as a precaution.

He'll take it, he said, considering doctors once told him he had only six weeks to live.

As president of the United States Pastors Association, which serves 96,000 black pastors nationwide in more than 40 denominations, he would have liked to attend the Barack Obama's inauguration. His health prevented it, so he watched on television, he said.

Louder headed the Riverside Clergy Association for years before taking the national post in 1996.

Inland Empire Weekly published this article on the controversy regarding the immigration raids in Riverside amid news that Border Patrol agents filed complaints that they were ordered to achieve monthly quotas or face discipline.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department assistant chief who's facing animal cruelty charges in Riverside County has taken legal action against the owners of the dog he's charged with abusing.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In a counter-lawsuit Johnson's attorneys filed Wednesday, Johnson seeks reimbursement for legal fees and damages for physical and mental pain, and alleges that the Tooles let Karley loose in his yard.

On Nov. 3, Johnson has said, he saw the dog running loose, took her from the neighbor who caught her, and tried to bring her back to the Tooles' house.

Johnson has said Karley latched onto his thumb, and he had to beat her into submission with a 12-pound rock until she let go and ran off.

Following a six-week investigation into whether he was acting maliciously or in self-defense, as he claims, Johnson was charged by Riverside County prosecutors with one count of felony animal cruelty. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Feb. 20.

In the cross-complaint, Johnson said the dog bit his leg and through the tip of his thumb, breaking a bone in his hand that caused permanent nerve damage.

"Mr. Johnson wants to be made whole," said his attorney, John Sweeney. "For all the pain the Toole family caused him visited back upon them. Everything they're trying to get from Glynn will not prevail."

The executive committee chairwoman of Community Alliance for Riverside's Economy and Environment wrote an article where she stated her opinion that March Air Reserve Base should not be developed for private aviation in the wake of the problems and ultimate departure of DHL Express.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

We need more good high-paying jobs closer to home to relieve pressure on our crowded transportation systems, improve our quality of life and community participation, and make our regional economy more diverse so we can be resilient in times like these. Few people commuting to neighboring counties will be helped by $8- to $10-per-hour warehouse jobs.

Now is the time to create sustainable "green" technology, manufacturing and service jobs in industries including solar, wind, water and energy efficiency.

These critical industries are mainstays of the federal recovery package being finalized in Congress. We have the competitive advantage of a large, capable workforce that grew exponentially during the housing boom, as well as abundant wind and sunshine and the need to adapt to survive energy and water shortages.

We have a tremendous opportunity to stop shipping U.S. jobs overseas and return manufacturing jobs to America.

Providing good-paying local jobs to local residents needs to be a higher propriety than transferring more of our hard-earned tax dollars to the politically connected elite owners of March Global Port.

March should be reserved for military use only.

DHL has left the building or actually the area having ended its operations on Jan. 31. An action which allowed thousands of residents of different Riverside neighborhoods in its flightpath to put their ear plugs down.

The battle's heating up in the San Bernardino Police Department after the police union rejected a 10% cut. Now furloughs are being threatened in response by City Hall.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"A city in perpetual budget crisis is not in anyone's interest," Interim City Manager Mark Weinberg wrote in a Wednesday afternoon news release. "With the union leadership's rejection, we must look at furloughs in the police department to achieve the 10 percent reduction and avoid additional officer layoffs."

In response, union President Rich Lawhead pointed out that about 150 officers applied with other agencies at a union-sponsored job fair Wednesday.

"He probably won't have to furlough cops," Lawhead said. "If 150 cops leave the city, that's about 15 million bucks."

The number of officers Lawhead cited represents half the department's sworn personnel.

But does beleaguered Police Chief Mike Billdt have a plan under wraps for now to avoid layoffs?

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

Billdt's "comment is that he has taken his plan over to the city manager and that it will be presented to the council, and that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on it until the council has seen it," Capt. Scott Paterson said.

"Hopefully, we will be able to mitigate layoffs," Paterson added.

Officials cited Billdt's new plan as the reason a closed-door budget committee meeting was canceled Wednesday night.

"We convened the meeting, only for me to report to the Budget Ad Hoc Committee members that just 90 minutes earlier I received a report from the police chief which could have significant impact on my budget recommendations, and that I needed more time to digest it," interim City Manager Mark Weinberg wrote in an e-mail.

The City Council's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday. Weinberg said that in compliance with the Brown Act, he may meet with one or more council members before the meeting.

The police union responded to the mayor's comments about their comments.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

"It is unfortunate that Mayor Pat Morris and Chief Michael Billdt continue to misrepresent the position of the Association when it comes to the city's current fiscal problems and the drastic steps the city has proposed to balance the budget by sacrificing public safety. What the Mayor and his team call 'minimal impacts' to the department are in reality eliminating 49 officers, forcing an additional 22 officer to take a demotion or face termination, and a mandatory 10 percent cut in our salaries. These proposed budget 'solutions' will risk the gains we have made in reducing crime in our city.

While Mayor Morris and Chief Billdt try to portray this issue as one of the city versus the Association's leadership, what they fail to understand is that more than 200 members of the Association uniformly expressed that they are tired of the broken promises by our city's elected officials.

The Association's members do not consider reducing our ranks and destroying the morale of our department a 'minimal impact.' These cuts will not only have a major impact on the people that protect our city, but on our residents as well. These are our concerns, and our focus has been on protecting these jobs and continuing to provide top-notch service to our community.

These comments not surprisingly attracted a lot of comments on the discussion thread beneath the posted article.


westsider said:

Quit your crying! What do you expect! SBPD officers and Fire take up 70% of the citys general fund. You should also face lay offs like the rest of the city employees. Get some of your supervisors out on patrol instead of at coffe shops. I think Rich lawhead is an out of control Union President. Remember you also are a civil servant like the rest of the city employees. Your union gets raises every year and is based on surounding comunities which means a COLA every year. While the rest of the city employees just stand by and get scraps if any! Yes your jobs are important but so are the jobs of other city employees. Quit being such Primadonnas and feel the pain like the rest of us. You have no respect for anyone but your greedy selves. Maybe the Mayor should contact the San Bernardino county sheriffs dept to see if there is a cost savings in hiring them. Why not the city contracts out other city work. Maybe we wont have to deal SBPD!!!!!!!!!
February 11, 2009 7:42 PM

San Bernardino Police Officer said:

Let the Sheriff take over San Bernardino "westsider"! One the Sheriff has the intestinal fortitude to stand up for his troops, won't hug a thugs mama on TV cause he got arrested,and won't have to answer to this liberal Mayor, who has destroyed this community!
February 11, 2009 8:12 PM

Wobbles said:

Let's see you "quit your crying" when you need help and nobody comes because the cops and firefighters that manage not to get laid off are stretched too thin to come help you. Less people menas the same workload and demands but less people to do anything about them.

Hopefully the crooks will have some layoffs, because the "Primadonnas" you take for granted may not be able to get there fast enough for to keep you from having to "feel the pain" from some crook.

Better hope that crook doesn't make you "feel the pain" so bad you need a paramedic, because the fire department will be getting cut too so maybe some of those "Primadonnas" won't get there in time to stop the bleeding or give you CPR either.Not to mention the fact that even if there are still enough folks at the fire department left with jobs, none of them is gonna roll in to save you until one of those "Primadonna" cops shows up and tells them it's safe enough for them to roll in.And seeing as there'll be fewer of them, it's a coin toss as to whether you'll still be alive at that point.

Better your city than mine is all I can say.
February 11, 2009 8:23 PM

The latest "no confidence vote" involving the police union against Billdt tallied at 189-1.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Sgt. Richard Lawhead said in a telephone interview after the vote that the membership believes Billdt has not done everything he can to support officers, particularly in the face of looming layoffs.

This is the second time the chief has faced a no-confidence vote. In September, the union overwhelmingly approved such a measure after union leaders accused Billdt of abusing his power to help favorites and retaliate against enemies.
Story continues below

Union leaders hoped a no-confidence vote would influence the City Council to remove Billdt from the job, Lawhead said. But he added that September's vote didn't have that effect, and he doubted Tuesday's vote would either.

Billdt did not return a call for comment.

On Tuesday, the membership also voted that they had no confidence in several other members of the department's leadership, Lawhead said.

"We think there is a lot of mismanagement in the department right now," Lawhead said.

The "no-confidence" votes seem to be an annual get together in San Bernardino these days.

What's as bad that if any of these parties want to blow off some steam by going to a book store to peruse the titles in San Bernardino proper, they might be out of luck.

Smoother labor relations in San Bernardino County after both the sheriff's department deputies and District Attorney's office's investigators sealed the deal with the county.

Riverside County has new legal counsel.

Former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus is going to court next month but hasn't been charged.

And will the scandal end his political career?

So how is Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca's reality show stacking up?

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The series will focus on the technology unit's efforts to use high-tech equipment to catch criminals and keep the public safe.

Baca says he is an unabashed fan of pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of law enforcement.

"The sheriff believes the more the public sees, the more public will understand the challenges that law enforcement faces every day," said Steve Whitmore, a sheriff's spokesman. "Transparency isn't just a buzzword. You need to show people what is going on."

Some civilian oversight experts, however, say these shows are not designed to educate the public and can have negative consequences.

"These shows are entertainment and they are going to look for the most sensational incidents and events and ignore the more mundane parts of policing," said Sam Walker, a professor emeritus at University of Nebraska Omaha and a law enforcement expert. "They distort policing." Walker said the sheriff's project seems like more of the same because he suspects it will exaggerate the role technology plays in good police work.

Los Angeles Police Commission Inspector General Andre Birotte Jr. said the risks for a police agency associated with so-called police reality shows outweigh the benefits. He said there are issues of privacy for suspects and others, liability concerns and potential problems with how officers are portrayed.

"Typically, these shows are not documentaries," he said. "They are oftentimes designed to be sensational with a plot-driven story line created by producers rather than the actual participants."

Shocking allegations have come out of the fire department in New York City after a woman attributed the death of her husband during training to racism.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Jamel Sears, who collapsed Nov. 10 at the Fire Academy, died after he was subjected to a more strenuous physical regimen than FDNY hopefuls - most of them white - had undergone in the past, lawyer Ken Thompson said.

Sears' widow, Sherita, filed a notice of claim Feb. 6 informing the city and the FDNY she plans to bring a $10 million wrongful death suit.

"This was the largest class of blacks and Latinos in Fire Department history," Thompson said. "Why did the department decide for the first time to implement this particular training?

"We're saying we believe there was a racial motivation there."

Sears, 33, was part of the class that began at the academy in July 2008. The group included the most minorities in the FDNY's history, with more than one-third of the 297 members either black, Hispanic, Asian or female.

The 30th annual Black History Parade and Expo is taking place in Riverside. It starts at 10 a.m. and runs down Magnolia from RCC to near City Hall.

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