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

Friday, March 06, 2009

Election 2009: The gates have opened and they're off!

In Riverside, the deadline for filing to run for city council in the even numbered wards has passed and the candidates for better or worse have been listed. Which means the city's now past the "put up or shut up" phase of Election 2009 and is heading on down the campaign trail.

Here is a breakdown of the city council races:

In Ward Two, it looked for a brief spell like Councilman Andrew Melendrez would be facing off against two lessor known Democrats including Ahmad Smith which made this political contest ripe for a Republican to crash and that's what had happened the previous two cycles. Was it going to happen again? Now, we know the answer to that question.

Ruben Rasso's name was batted around a bit but his camp was fairly quiet which is par for the course until the final weeks or even the final hours before the filing deadline. Now it's official, he has tossed his name in the ring for another attempt to win the council seat which has elevated this contest up to the top of the list for its competitiveness. Mainly because the reason that he's not sitting on the dais right now is that he's been a lousy runoff candidate. If someone reminds him that the election doesn't necessarily end when he leads the first round, he could pull off a victory but this time it looks tougher because Melendrez is more popular now than he was when he first ran in 2005. He's probably the most popular city council member on the dais. Some even think he could be a future mayor especially considering that the voters at the ballot box abbreviated the next mayoral term. But you need to be cautious when flirting with that dream, as two former councilmen could tell you what happens when you start running for mayor as if your reelection to a council seat is a done deal. If you engage in such folly, you often receive a pink slip from the voters instead.

Not known is how the change in the election schedule including the addition of the mail-in only preliminary round and the lengthy period of time between that round and any runoff elections will impact the Ward Two race.

In Ward Four, it's down to two candidates. Incumbent Frank Schiavone and challenger, Paul Davis. Davis has already been campaigning and getting out in his ward including at events for several months now and Schiavone's been raising a ton of money and has the advantage of being able to campaign off of city council votes. Schiavone's proven his vulnerability by failing to win a single precinct in his ward during his ill-fated run for supervisor just last year but he's been busy since then trying to mend his bridges in several key areas of his ward. The only problem is that he's focusing his campaign efforts in the areas of the ward he favors and neglecting other key portions, something not lost on the residents living in those latter areas.

In Ward Six, Ann Alfaro is back along with challenger Bill Scherer but it's likely that the election for incumbent Nancy Hart will be a short one.

Even if the city council elections are all decided by June, there's still another election to look forward to this November and that's the mayor's race. The filing deadline for that contest is still months away so it's a bit premature to name candidates though former councilman, Art Gage has been thinking about it but is waiting to see how many candidates express an interest in running before making any formal decisions. There's still plenty of time for any prospective candidates to decide whether or not to run so they can preside over city council meetings, travel and cut ribbons.

And before the ink even dried on the final list of candidates, one politician's camp began its campaign here.

If you look online, you can find the citation for the lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Wayne Guillary here. It's filed against the City of Riverside, Chief Russ Leach and Officer Carlos Vazquez. The filing date was Jan. 28, 2009.

Someone's tracked down the links to Measure C and Measure R, the growth-control initiatives passed by votes several decades ago.

A lot's been going on in the political arena in Canyonlake as of late but now one of the councilmen may be cited for hosting a male exotic dancer show at his restaurant. Never a dull moment in this quiet little berg.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

A letter dated Friday from City Manager Lori Moss -- penned by City Attorney Elizabeth Martyn -- to Martin Gibson rebukes Gibson for the performance by Seduction: The Exotic Men of Magic.

Gibson said Friday he came into his restaurant, Pepe's Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, from outside, one and a half hours into the two-hour show. He said the act "had gotten a little further than I wanted." He said he gave the performers three minutes to "clean up" the act or threatened to shut it down. The ABC representative then halted the performance.

An undercover deputy from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department monitoring the event confirmed that performers "simulated sex acts, displayed their buttocks and touched and fondled patrons and themselves." That violated an agreement between Gibson and the city, signed the day before the performance, that forbids such activities, the letter states.

"The city worked with you in good faith to allow your event to go forward based upon your representations and because ... the city works hard to support and encourage all of its businesses," the letter states. "It now appears that your representations to the city and in the newspaper were false.

The fallout from the revelation that one of the Bio-Tox laboratory technicians had admitted lying hundreds of times while testifying in trials out of state continues with a Riverside County Superior Court judge ordering the District Attorney's office to notify defense attorneys of cases handled by them where this employee testified.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board praised both the city of San Bernardino and the San Bernardino Police Officers' Association for coming to agreement on the department's budget.


Police officers, however, this week approved a package of concessions worth $3.3 million to the city. That step offers significant progress toward closing the budget gap, and removes any need for furloughs. So the council is scheduled to vote on rescinding the furloughs on Monday.

Budget shortfalls can provoke tense times at city halls, as saving money often means trimming employment. But San Bernardino is better off with a plan that cuts spending while preserving the city's police protection -- even if getting that result meant traveling a rocky road.

San Bernardino has begun the process of laying off 55 of its employees but it could take months.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Tom Ramsey, supervising labor relations representative for the city's general employee union, said it's a very tense and painful process. The union, with 569 members, represents city workers who are not management executives, police officers or firefighters. Many are clerical employees.

"You'll get people who have known each other for years having to decide whether to bump their friends," Ramsey said. City employees declined to be interviewed.

On Feb. 19, at a meeting where the City Council formally declared a financial emergency, some did speak. City officials are citing the emergency to eliminate a $9 million deficit in their $150 million general fund budget by June 30.

Darren Hall, a plan checker on the layoff list, took the council to task for the 14 jobs cut in the development services department.

"Why not make it even across the board? We are the largest revenue-generating department in City Hall, and just to let you know, if you cut those positions, you're going to stop progress," he said.

A grand jury is expected to convene in the case of a New York City Police Department officer accused of raping a woman. There's also conflicting accounts of whether one of the officers turned in the other.

Did he or didn't he? It depends on who you talk to.

(excerpt, New York Times)

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said on Wednesday that the officers remained on desk duty

Officials said that neither officer had given a formal account of what occurred — to either the Police Department’s internal investigators or to prosecutors in the district attorney’s office.

Following policy in such matters, police investigators have not compelled the officers involved in the encounter with the woman to answer questions, to prevent any possible defense claim of coercion should either of them eventually go to trial.

Asked about a report that Officer Mata had turned on his partner and had told investigators about what he saw, Mr. Browne said: “I can’t vouch for any other reporting. I would double-check everything you are reading.”

Edward J. Mandery, a lawyer for Officer Mata, said, “My client has not admitted to investigators that his partner raped somebody and he has not admitted he shamefully stood by. He denies committing a crime or participating in a crime.” He added: “It is our position that a rape is a crime and he did not participate in a crime or see a crime.”

Mr. Mandery declined to comment on whether Officer Mata spoke to anyone else about what had occurred since Dec. 7.

In Philadelphia, a woman filed a lawsuit claiming that she was groped by a narcotics officer during a raid.

(excerpt, Philadelphia Daily News)

The lawsuit echoes a Feb. 23 Daily News article detailing Gonzalez's allegation that a cop groped her while other officers stomped around on the second floor.

Filed in federal court on behalf of Gonzalez, the lawsuit claims that an officer named "Tom" pushed down her jeans, exposing the crack of her buttocks, then lifted her shirt and bra, forcibly touching and rubbing her breasts. She feared he'd rape her, the lawsuit claims.

The suit names Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and eight other cops, including two with the first name "Thomas," who participated in the raid at Gonzalez's house on Thayer Street, near Jasper.

The suit seeks more than $600,000 in damages and attorneys fees. It is the first civil lawsuit filed in the wake of a series of Daily News articles, beginning last month, that raised questions about Cujdik's relationship with his longtime informant, Ventura Martinez.

In an exclusive interview, Martinez alleged that Cujdik sometimes lied on search-warrant applications to gain access to suspected drug homes. The allegations prompted federal and local authorities to form a task force to investigate.

Investigators with the FBI, the police Internal Affairs Bureau and the District Attorney's Office are scrutinizing hundreds of criminal cases involving Cujdik and the officers he worked with on the Narcotics Field Unit.

A flurry of activity nationwide involving civilian oversight.

The Chesapeake Police Department needs more oversight.

(excerpt, Virginian-Pilot)

Such boards don't supplant the need for internal affairs staffs. They do, however, give citizens the assurance that an independent body is reviewing a department's actions. In the past, the Chesapeake branch of the NAACP sought establishment of such a board.

Of course, if a department is generally open and transparent with residents, there's little need for such bodies. Police Chief Kelvin Wright, on the job less than a year, has communicated with residents and the media much more than his predecessor did.

Wright, however, has declined to say much about what the completed internal probe found in the Shivers case. He said through a spokesman last week the investigation looked at "the actions of our personnel, in which case privacy rights attach."

Can't names be redacted, if that's a concern? Couldn't an executive summary be released? The department executes dozens of drug raids each year successfully. It's critical for the public to know exactly what went wrong in the Frederick case.

The department said last year that besides equipping special investigations section officers with more protective tactical vests, there would be no changes to policy.

That's a response, but not a satisfying one. Nor will it reduce the cries to set up a police oversight board in Chesapeake.

After 10 years, mixed views expressed about the civilian review board in Las Vegas.Some feel that there needs to be an additional audit committee to view past investigations where complaints arose of investigators failing to interview all witnesses and asking leading questions which shouldn't be all too unfamiliar to the members of the CPRC in Riverside who expressed similar concerns in their annual reports.

(excerpt, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association has advised its members to not cooperate with board inquiries, and the state Supreme Court in 2006 reaffirmed the board's authority to subpoena officers after the union challenged the board's power in District Court and lost.

"I don't know that it (the Citizen Review Board) does any harm, but, in my opinion, it certainly doesn't do any good," said Detective Chris Collins, executive director of the association. "Just because you don't like the outcome of a (internal affairs) complaint doesn't mean the case was not adjudicated properly. I don't think you should get a second bite of the apple at the Citizen Review Board."

While the Las Vegas population has skyrocketed, and police department staffing has increased more than in any previous decade, the number of complaints filed with the review board has hovered between 80 and 120 a year.

Year after year, the review board has seen only 10 percent to 15 percent of the complaints filed with the Internal Affairs Bureau, which means the people filing the complaints are not also filing them with the review board.

"Either people don't know who we are, so they are not filing complaints with us, or Metro officers are doing a great job and there is nothing to complain about," said Beckman, the only administrator in the board's history. "My concern is that the Citizen Review Board cannot determine if there are patterns of misconduct, like we saw with the pattern of unlawful searches and of detaining people during traffic stops, because we are seeing only a tenth of the complaints being filed with internal affairs."

Beckman last month embarked on a bold proposal, not seen in many departments across the country, which could open up to outside scrutiny past internal police investigations and help the board identify such patterns of misconduct.

Beckman is proposing that the review board establish an "audit board," consisting of a handful of board members, to randomly review past internal investigations.

The intent would not be to reopen past probes, revisit findings or revise disciplinary measures already doled out. Names of officers or their accusers would not be released, she said. Instead, the audit board would review random investigations to see how they were handled, identify problematic patterns in investigations and make recommendations for improving department oversight of officer misconduct.

For instance, Beckman said, the board might review whether all witnesses were interviewed, or whether investigators asked officers leading questions, as the review board found last year after a jogger complained that an officer harassed him during a traffic-safety stop.

The disparity in the number of complaints concerns review board members and supporters, especially considering research has shown that the public is more comfortable lodging police complaints with a civilian panel than with the police department itself.

"If there is something amiss, it should be looked into," said Dick Geyer, a six-year member who was one of the first appointed to the review board. "The review board should be aware of what's being filed with internal affairs. If the board is only seeing 10 (percent) to 15 percent of the complaints, I don't feel it is fulfilling its mission to investigate these internal affairs complaints in a thorough manner."

In North Carolina, a state bill is being introduced that could bring more transparency to police actions. It's being introduced by a legislator from Charlotte which has faced problems with its police department. But it has some opposition.

(excerpt, Charlotte Observer)

Sen. Ed Jones, a former state trooper and police chief from Enfield, questioned the need for the legislation and worries that it would increase the SBI's work load.

“I don't know if we're treading on something here where we don't have the resources to do it,” said Jones, a Democrat.

Alexander is a freshman legislator, which means he wields limited influence. While any House member can introduce legislation, it advances only if legislative leaders get behind it. In the 2007-08 session, for example, nearly 5,000 bills were introduced, but fewer than 900, about 17 percent, passed. But Alexander does have some support. Two other Mecklenburg House members, Rep. Tricia Cotham and Rep. Nick Mackey, both Democrats, signed on as co-sponsors to Alexander's bill. Sen. Dan Clodfelter, also a Charlotte Democrat, said he'll push the bill in the Senate.

House Speaker Joe Hackney, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said Alexander's bill would go through the appropriate committees.

“It'll get a good, fair workout,” Hackney said.

Still, the Beaufort Observer supports it.


Yes, we respect the privacy rights of those who might be involved in such investigations. But when you balance that interest against the interest the public has in knowing whether "the system" is working the way it should we believe the public's right to know trumps the privacy right of commissioners or police officers.

This is a good bill and it should be passed without delay. But we would contend that the bill should be expanded beyond investigations of fatalities caused by police action. We believe any time a public official or public employee does something that warrants an investigation that the results of that investigation should be made public.

The various reports we frequently read from around the state and nation about teachers who are accused of improper behavior with students being allowed to "resign" but not prosecuted is sufficient justification in and of itself for this public policy to be changed. If a public official or employee is indeed innocent we trust that the facts brought out in the investigation will show that and that if there is reasonable doubt the public is wise enough to decide for themselves. If they are not we may as well do away with public trials and the jury system and return to the medieval Star Chamber system of justice. In many ways that is precisely what we have these days.

If you wish to read more about how this bill originated a story in Saturday's Charlotte Observer shows this.

Progress Illinois writes about the city of Chicago backpeddling from its refusal to obey a federal judge's order to turn over a list of its officers who have five or more complaints. They city's agreed but with a caveat attached.

Upcoming Meetings:

Tuesday, March 10 at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at City Hall: City Council/Redevelopment Agency meeting. Here is the agenda. The meeting doesn't appear to be a very lengthy one but it includes this public hearing at 7 p.m. on the expansion and renovation process for both the downtown library and museum. If you've been following along, there's been a lot of twisting and turning on this process by the city. One of the more recent additions is included on page 1 which states that a "community-based effort" is to be launched to the voters to contribute $55 million to this process of making Riverside the "Arts and Culture Capital[sic] of Inland Southern California". Remember when people asked how much that adoption of that title (before anything had actually been done) was going to cost people and the city said, "oh, nothing"? It remains to be seen how voters will respond to such a ballot measure in the midst of a recession.

Wednesday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, Fifth Floor Conference room: CPRC special meeting with this agenda. The information on the investigation into the shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill which will be discussed for the purpose of drafting a public report is here. Of course as you know the Hill case unfortunately as become a landmark case because it's likely to be the last officer-involved death investigated by the CPRC for quite a while, possibly years unless you really believe that the four cases that will show up a year or so from now before them will actually be investigated. Most people know how useless it is to initiate investigations six months, a year or longer after a criticial incident and those in power who act like they don't know or believe this to be the case really do know as well.

Why it's important for the CPRC to initiate these investigations will be the subject of future postings here pertaining to several cases that it has investigated including that of the 2005 incustody death of Terry Rabb.

However, it is important to attend the earlier 4 p.m. "closed session" for case review meeting because that's when they're holding the elections for the officers of the commission. As stated, Commissioners John Brandriff and Sheri Corral are running for chair and Peter Hubbard and Jim Ward for vice-chair.

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