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

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Awards and Aversions

"Money is the string with which a sardonic destiny directs the motions of its puppets."

W. Somerset Maugham

In the wake of the elections involving the Community Police Review Commission last week, several commissioners who voted for and against the winners expressed concern afterward about the process and not just its outcome. One of them (and this one surprised me) said that it was important for the community members to help serve as the "conscience" to the commission and to remain involved in it as it twisted and turned its way from its founding, to various political attacks from different factions, to its near dissolution through attempts to defund it, to the passage of Measure II to the latest chapter of its current micromanagement by the dynamic duo and those who direct them.

This individual admitted that the election was pretty much a done deal set up with City Hall probably a while ago. And that became clear when members walked into the conference room to begin the meeting and realized that the commission was about to engage in its first teleconference vote in its history. During previous elections, the commissioners were told to cast a vote, they had to show up just like the members of the city's other boards and commissions are told. If you didn't make it there whatever the reason, tough luck.

Not to mention that no teleconference calls were allowed during the CPRC election two years ago which resulted in a tie during its initial round. But then perhaps if that had been allowed, the commissioner who is City Hall's worst nightmare would have been elected chair. The person who missed that meeting certainly didn't show up through any teleconference calls.

But all this intrigue and precedent setting micromanaging behavior aside, why is the community being asked to serve as a "conscience" for the CPRC? Why do its members who can't speak up want the communities to push for the things that they themselves barely have the fortitude to even discuss at meetings? Why do they need this "encouragement" to hold any discussions on police/community issues? The city's charter gives them this power under the first article under Section 810 which is to report to the city council and mayor on all community/police issues, something which it's not just disinterested in doing but something at this point it's incapable of doing. But it's not just the power to do this, it's also the responsibility, something the commission has conveniently forgotten.

It doesn't help that only items which make the dynamic duo and their handlers happy can be placed on a meeting agenda, but still, it seems that asking someone from the community to address issues that the commissioners are unable to take the initiative to address in their current micromanaged state as part of a puppet show that only performs four times a month at most including matinee performances. It doesn't help that there are commissioners who have participated in little or no community outreach in the past two years. It doesn't help that the commission is chaired and vice-chaired by commissioners who until just before the election didn't even have the best of attendance records at commission meetings. The new duo made it clear to the rest of the commission that they would lay out how the body would be run, which is a head scratcher considering that one of them went nearly six months without even attending a meeting and the other missed two meetings in which he placed an agenda item to reduce the time allowed to city residents for public comment.

If not for his less than stellar attendance record, then perhaps the amount of time allotted to public comments would be less than it currently is.

One of the first things that the new regime apparently did before elected (besides make their post-election speeches) was to dictate that there would no longer be any public comment on nonagendized items during "special" meetings. Although its omission from the agenda even before the election was called an "oversight on my part" by CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan who's used those words before, it's pretty clear that it provided some clues as to how the election would play out.

Does it not have one either collectively and through its members? After watching last week's elections play out as a staged event, maybe that's not a bad question to ask. But the news was met by many people expressing very little surprise and knowing that if community does have concerns that it wishes to bring to the CPRC, it's probably best to wait a year until a new set of officers is picked.

Because when angry and frustrated residents of Arlanza attended a meeting, did commissioners go up and say hi to them or welcome them to the meeting or encourage them to express their opinions during public comment so they would listen? No, afterward there was a persistent rumor that went around that several commissioners (and others) took to packing concealed guns at the public meetings not long after that one last autumn. Even if this is true, there are reasons to do so outside of the CPRC which is a different situation than carrying one specifically because of serving on the CPRC. There is also a process that people have to go through to be approved for a permit though one wonders if it's been bent slightly for city employees including one who received a permit for Riverside though he didn't live there, one which was later revoked when the daily newspaper came looking around for the permit applications.

It seems similar though not to the same level of interest as a similar examination of the issue of bringing concealed weapons to meetings that arose involving several city council members and two city employees several years ago, an issue covered by the Press Enterprise in this article and in this column by Dan Bernstein.

At least Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis's application did admit that his decision to carry a concealed weapon had to do with attending some community meetings.

(excerpt, Bernstein, Press Enterprise)

Tom DeSantis is the only member of the armed posse whose application has been exposed to public light. Why does Tom want to pack a heater?

"Self-protection associated with professional duties which require presence in high-crime areas of the city, as well as attendance at hostile and potentially hostile community meetings in high-crime areas." No wonder the city manager is paying Tom DeSantis $157K. The man signed up for hazardous duty!

Of course then there was this incident discussed at length on a discussion forum of people who are interested in the procedures and some say politics of the concealed and carry weapons (CCW) process.

But if it is indeed true about the commissioners starting to carry concealed weapons after the autumn meeting, this would be a bit ironic coming from a commission that back in the day used to complain that few people attended their meetings and how it wished more people would do so. Maybe when they complained about anemic attendance, they didn't mean community members, they meant members of the Chambers of Commerce. But it's hard to persuade people who attend one meeting to come back. Problems have ranged from people sitting in the city council chambers being unable to hear what's being said by commissioners because the microphones don't always work properly to just noticing that there's a dynamic which seems to suggest for the most part that the commissioners and police representatives (meaning one or more members of the command staff) joke and talk with each other but neither really make efforts to interact with community members who show up especially those attending a meeting for the first time. In fact, the only commissioners who cross this line are those who are most likely to receive letters of admonition and chastisement from Councilman Frank Schiavone.

Still coming soon, the CPRC drinking game.

An organization which honors women is giving out these awards including one to former Riverside Police Department employee Cherie Curzon, who is married to retired Capt. Pete Curzon. Cherie Curzon worked in the communications bureau back in the day when it was supervised by a civilian employee. Not long after a group of dispatchers and their bargaining unit, the SEIU called for an investigation of the dispatcher division (even appearing to speak during public comment during city council meetings) she was transferred out and replaced for the duration of the investigation.

Curzon is now serving as the police chief in Astoria, Oregon. This article talks about Curzon starting his first days on the job in August 2008.

(excerpt, The Daily Astorian)

It was a long search - two previous recruitment rounds failed to fill the position - but City Manager Paul Benoit is convinced the wait was worth it. He considers Curzon ideally suited to take the helm of the Astoria Police Department.

"I was looking for someone who would bring fresh experience to the department, someone who had a broad level of experience, committed to lifelong learning and always looking to improve," Benoit said. "My commitment all along has been to find the absolute best chief for Astoria, and I think I've done that."

Curzon has broad experience in all phases of police work, from managing complex criminal investigations to being project manager for a new police aviation facility. He is especially skilled and experienced in community policing and problem-oriented policing.

Curzon also has excellent academic credentials, including a master's degree in business administration from Pepperdine University and graduate work at Harvard's Senior Management Institute for Police.

According to the article, Curzon was vetted very stringently during the hiring and selection process. But they seem to put his ethical standard at the very top of the list of why they liked him.


Benoit decided to cut to the chase and concentrate on Curzon rather than go through the whole process of picking several finalists from the third round of applicants. He enlisted the services of a retired police chief from Milwaukie to conduct a background check. The investigator spent about a week doing phone interviews, then flew to Riverside. There he talked to people who had worked for Curzon and people he had reported to. He also interviewed Curzon's wife extensively.

The investigator was especially impressed by the ethical standard Curzon had maintained while serving in Riverside, Benoit said.

"He came back with a stellar report, two thumbs up. He really was who he represented himself to be on his résumé," Benoit said. "His subordinates spoke really highly of his style, the way he motivated employees and the way he corrected employees when their behavior was not what he was looking for."

What's just as interesting is if you read the comment section to check out what some of his former colleagues have to say about him while he worked in Riverside. He spent over 20 years there and previously in the Riverside County Sheriff's Department but retired in around March 2005, a decision which surprised some people at least those outside of the department. Before he retired from Riverside, he spent some time directing the municipal airport for some reason and gave presentations on the airport's operations during at least one city council subcommittee meeting.

But his retirement was surprising given that many management employees retire at the end of the calendar year and for some reason, his retirement came earlier than that.

Even retired Lt. Ron Orrantia commented on his former colleague.


I am a retired Lieutenant from the Riverside Police Department. I was the SWAT Commander until I retired. I worked with Pete and for him for nearly 28 years. You are getting a great Chief of Police. I wish I could work for him again! Congratualtions to Pete!

Ron Orrantia

One of his first crises to deal with was an officer arrested and charged with 10 counts of official misconduct. That happened two months after he took over the position.

Oooh some feathers are flying in the Press Enterprise and other places involving this opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times and written by Riverside's best known author, Susan Strait which many felt portrayed the city in a less than flattering light.


Here in the Inland Empire, we joke that our people are canaries but we don't die.

Our foreclosure rate was the highest in the country for many months; Riverside County's unemployment rate is 12.2%. But we do recession better than many places. We have experience. In the 1980s, we lost Kaiser Steel and many other manufacturers; from 1992-94, the unemployment rate for the Riverside-San Bernardino metro area averaged 10%, with an astonishing 12.1% in July 1992.

But this feels different. More desperate. Last year, after the price of copper skyrocketed, metal theft was rampant; thieves stole catalytic converters from parked cars, brass plaques from headstones and monuments, faucets and bushings from fire hydrants, copper wire from schools and parks. Thieves strip foreclosed homes, identifying them by "Bank Owned" signs in the dead lawns. Water heaters, copper pipes, electrical equipment -- all torn from walls and floors, homes destroyed.

I haven't slept well for about a year. For a while, I woke up at night to check on my daughter's Honda, which was broken into repeatedly. We knew it was a prime target. But recently it was stolen from in front of her friend's house, in the 15 minutes she left it to go inside. On Presidents Day, my ex-husband and I drove to a towing yard in San Bernardino near the Colton border to retrieve what was left of the car when police found it. The guy who brought it to me shook his head.

Stripped. Everything gone but the fast-food trash the thieves had strewn on the floor. "I'll call the salvage guy for new door panels and seats," my ex-husband said. Then he rolled his eyes. "He only takes cash, but my tax refund's gonna be an IOU, right?"

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein struck first with his Return to Sender.


Take those dancing rooftop rats. That's what you get in the "City of Trees." Rats! Raccoons, too. A friend who lives near Straight just told my wife about raccoons who took up residence in her gigantic avocado tree. What a mess they made! But an economic indicator? A telltale sign of "disappearing" Riverside? More like a telltale sign of, well, lots of critters.

Same with these metal thefts. People steal copper tubing and catalytic converters when this material is in demand. We're reading postcards from the recession because nothing is in demand. Yet, Straight sprinkled a pinch of metal theft into her stew, and I'm sure Times readers slurped it up. After all, Susan Straight darned near nabbed that National Book Award!

I cruised her street. There may be, as she wrote, six empty homes. But the street -- and others in the 'hood -- looks mostly well kept and inviting. I've seen Perris subdivisions that made me gasp. There are gaspers in MoVal and Fontana, too. She made Riverside sound like Detroit. (I've seen Detroit. It's not.)

Straight played a key role in last month's UCR Writer's Week because the theme -- "sense of place" -- is on display in her Louisiana-based novels. Maybe she confused Riverside with some bayou. Or maybe she really believes what she served up to a readership inclined to believe the worst about Riverside (aren't those flatheads 909?).

Either way, I've got to hand it to her. Nobody writes better fiction.

Then there's this opinion piece. I guess that Straight won't be hired as the public information officer for Riverside anytime soon (even as it had laid off or transferred most of the people it had in these positions). Hopefully, her critics know that she wasn't responsible for the cartoon which was an editor's decision. I had mixed feelings about her article as she cited some frightening statistics and then tried to personalize the numbers by explaining what was happening around her.

Straight also did describe different ways that people on her street did come together as neighbors to deal with some issues arising out of the recession and its impact on Riverside and the Inland Empire which occupies its epicenter.

Still, when I look at the Woods Streets area which I guess is where she resides, I think this neighborhood (which was once labeled "special" by former Councilman Chuck Beaty when it complained about a homeless day shelter ran by All Saints Church) is fairly nice but most concerned with keeping signs of poverty including homeless shelters (when it successfully vetoed one which would be within one mile of its borders) and apartment residents passing through from a place with no place to buy food and other necessities to Kawa Market which though a long-time fixture was a casualty of a number of customers being from the wrong crowd.

The political battles between supporters of both Ward Four city council candidates in Riverside are beginning to pick up on Craigslist. Of course, these are the supporters who don't have names.

There is this.


I'm tracking down more details but apparently Paul Davis' campaign is getting help from a couple of Schiavone campaign confidants.

And that



Doubt it - name names or fold you fool!

"I'm tracking down more details but apparently Paul Davis' campaign is getting help from a couple of Schiavone campaign confidants. "

"confidants" wow what a mysterious word for such a plain, frumpy man.

I'll be back at cha bud - but I gotta get some zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz's

And then this.


Paul Davis is going to need that help seeing that Frank is sooo much more experienced and qualified for the position.

So the allegation is that Councilman Frank Schiavone has some moles in his own political campaign? Double agents? Yes, there are several people in the Schiavone camp as part of larger groups of supporters who might be sitting on the fence in terms of whether or not they like Schiavone better than Davis but jumping ship, let alone engaging in subterfuge?

Will names be named by people who can't name their own names? Stay tuned for further intrigue in the politics section of Craigslist. Election 2009 after all, is still young.

Still things are quieter in Riverside than they are elsewhere. The attempts to recall a Lake Elsinore councilman get nasty.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

A campaign to recall Lake Elsinore Councilman Thomas Buckley has all the earmarks of the latter, political analysts say: a recall proponent with deep pockets versus a two-term councilman, both who claim widespread community support; and allegations of corruption versus claims of personal vengeance.

"This has all the makings of a real nasty brouhaha," said Max Neiman, the associate director of the Public Policy Institute of California, a San Francisco-based nonpartisan policy think tank. "If it gets to an election, it could get fairly intense."

The newly formed group Elsinore Voters Against Corruption, spearheaded by Trevi Entertainment Center owner Michel Knight, is behind the campaign to recall Buckley, who they allege is corrupt.

Among the allegations the group has lodged against Buckley is that he steered the Redevelopment Agency's $4.1 million purchase of a piece of property from one of his campaign supporters, who bought the property a year earlier for $2.5 million.

Now that San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus has resigned, the talk has turned to who will replace him.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Assistant Assessor Dennis Draeger has been running the office since the resignation.

Unlike a vacancy on the board of supervisors, state and county laws set no deadline for naming a replacement.

"Our office hasn't seen an urgency because of our confidence in Dennis Draeger and his ability to run that department," Kirk said.

Supervisor Paul Biane said he believes it's time to begin the search. In a memo to Ovitt Thursday, he requested that the board discuss the issue at Tuesday's meeting.

"We're a month in now and I think it's time to start taking a look at what the process will be and move forward," Biane said.

He said he favored an application process similar to one proposed for the appointment of the sheriff in January. In that case, the board scrapped those plans after a majority of supervisors expressed support for then-Assistant Sheriff Rod Hoops and named him to the post without interviewing others.

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