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, March 05, 2009

Last chance to file to run for city council today!

Today's the filing deadline at Riverside City Hall if you intended to run for office in the even-numbered wards in a mail-in election that takes place in June. If you still haven't gotten your papers filed with the city clerk and you really want to run, better get a move on.

If there are multiple candidates and none of them receive more than 50% of the vote, then the next round is in November. That doesn't appear that it's going to be quite the issue that it was in the last city election two years ago, given that two of the wards appear to have only one candidate in them.

There's not been much written in here about the election lately because unless a candidate announces they're running, there's a great deal of uncertainty about who's actually running until after the deadline passes for filing papers. Even down to the final hour ticking off the clock until the process is closed as several candidates have taken out papers and still have some time to return them.

The two candidates who formerly declared were Ahmad Smith who will run against Ward Two incumbent, Andrew Melendrez and Paul Davis, who will run against Ward Four councilman, Frank Schiavone.

More information on the challengers in both wards are below.

Smith for City Council

Twitter with Smith

Davis for City Council

Ward Six might have multiple candidates running against Councilwoman Nancy Hart but some might be filing while others might have decided not to run. Previous candidates Ann Alfaro and Penny Mayer might be back.

David Martin took out nomination papers in Ward Four and it's not clear whether this is the Martin that works for the Riverside Police Department as an officer who lateraled in several years ago from Long Beach's police department and was the subject of some discussion by anonymous individuals during the Riverside Police Officers' Association election in 2005. If he does run, let's hope that Officer Richard Aceves' discussion with him about Muslims back after 9-11 (which he explained here) made a lasting impression.

Several former employees from the city's fire department who were thinking about running including Dave Austin perhaps had second thoughts.

Looking at the candidates so far (and this is very much subject to change), it looks like the most contentious council race will be in Ward Four and expect some serious fund raising and even more serious spending to be done in this election contest. Davis spent the last few months before the filing deadline appearing at many events which is important to be able to meet people, hear about issues and gain name recognition, something that so far Smith is struggling with a bit in Ward Two as many voters in that area aren't yet sure who he is and unless they can access his Web site, what he represents.

Ward Four is the city's largest population wise, currently being at least three times larger in the number of city residents living within its boundaries which consequently, will cause its area size and its composition when the ward lines are redrawn after the 2010 census. It's also got the highest voter participation except for the dismal turnout in the runoff elections for city council four years ago. The blame was actually cast if you can believe it by some individuals on the city not sticking to mail-in ballots only. But many Ward Four residents stayed home because they couldn't decide who to vote for in the runoff.

I attended the community/police summit meeting at the beautiful and spacious Orange Terrace Center and yes, it's a great facility, but it's far larger than many of the older community centers in this city which while great for Orangecrest, kind of sends a message that some areas in Ward Four are more special than others and that some communities deserve the best and others, well don't. But seriously, Ward Four has many different neighborhoods and for those running for political office really need to remember that. This may be the ward where that's the most important thing to keep in mind. That can be daunting, because in terms of physical size and number of households, Ward Four is formidable campaigning territory indeed.

In contrast, Ward Six for example has lower voter turnout and campaign fund raising and spending tends to be lower in that area. Hart has had an easier time of it because since she defeated incumbent Terry Thompson eight years ago, she hasn't faced a heavily financed challenger. Even though she might face up to three challengers, unless one or more of them lobby a serious challenge, her election will be done by early summer.

It's interesting how these elections appear to already be in contrast to those two years ago where several wards fielded larger and more financially heeled candidates. All four of the contests went to the election finals in November (and two took longer than that to decide) and all four fielded at least one candidate and in one case, two that came in with incredibly strong campaign chests.

You don't see that and you probably won't this time around although the anti-incumbent sentiment which defined the election in 2007 (and led to the ouster of two councilmen and nearly a third) is still prevalent. It could be that the current recession and its tripled effect on the Inland Empire and Riverside has thinned out the fields and kept some strong candidates from running this time around. That might impact voter turnout as well.

And it's likely that the real impact of the economy both nationally and locally won't hit Riverside's governmental coffers until later this year after the election is over. It's anticipated that the city's financial picture in the next fiscal year will be considerably less rosy than it is now compared to other cities, many of which are taking their blows now to get them over with and trying to shore up for the next couple of years that minimally are necessary to ride out of the recession that started in the Inland Empire with the housing bust.

With over 650,000 jobs lost, President Barack Obama addressed the graduates at the police academy in Columbus, Ohio. The 27 officers were laid off several months ago due to budget cuts but were rehired after the department received funding to pay their salaries for one year courtesy of the recently passed stimulus package.

The Riverside Police Department seems a bit wary of that stimulus money for sound reasons, being that the money to pay the salaries won't be provided long enough for the region to come out of a recession that will impact it for a longer period of time than it will most of the rest of the country. Hiring new officers and getting 1-2 years of salaries subsidized might mean laying off or furloughing those same officers within a few years if the city's general fund still isn't solvent enough to continue paying for those positions.

Defense Attorneys in Riverside County including the Public Defender's office have been notified that a laboratory technician for Bio-Tox Laboratories has admitted to lying in hundreds of cases out of state. Aaron Layton who was also a registered sex offender was involved in the handling of thousands of cases within the county.

Bio-Tox is standing by its man despite the fact that under his own admission, he's committed the cardinal sin of expert witnesses. He's a liar.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The district attorney's office notified Bio-Tox on Jan. 21 that prosecutors would not be able to use the results of any test Layton conducted or use him as a future witness, but did not indicate the reason.

District attorney's officials said Bio-Tox was not aware of the investigation into Layton or his background until the lab was subpoenaed Feb. 19.

The statement from Bio-Tox expressed confidence in Layton's work in Riverside County.

"Our work experience with Mr. Layton was that he was reliable and knowledgeable of his work," Stangarone said. "While we are deeply disappointed by this discovery, his history from years ago does not match the type of employee he has (been) while at Bio-Tox."

Riverside County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Elaina Bentley said prosecutors conduct background checks on people who may affect the outcome of a case if there is a question about their credibility.

District attorney's spokesman John Hall said his office has to rely on agencies that employ expert witnesses to ensure they are credible.

Perris has barred its own employees from speaking to the media.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City department heads have been instructed to direct all media requests to the city's public information officer, Joe Vargo.

The change comes after an article published in The Press-Enterprise last Saturday outlined how the city allowed an unpermitted utility to continue operating for nearly a year without penalty or fine.

Following an interview and public records request from The Press-Enterprise last month the city discussed the matter again with utility company Henkels & McCoy and resolved that by March 31 the company must vacate premises across from the Perris Valley Airport on Goetz Road.

In an e-mail response to questions about the new media restrictions Vargo said "no one incident prompted this arrangement."

"The City of Perris has for the first time hired a public information officer to work with the media and who has been designated the first point of contact for media calls," Vargo wrote.

Vargo was hired as the public information officer in September.

And what's the biggest irony in this story? Before working as the public information officer for Perris, Vargo worked as a reporter for the Press Enterprise.

In San Bernardino, City Hall and the San Bernardino Police Officers' Association have had a meeting of the minds and entered into a contract.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

In a Wednesday night vote, 195 members of the Police Officers' Association approved a concessions packet that avoids layoffs and furloughs yet provides the city its requested $3.3 million from the union.

"We continued to work through this until we could find a happy medium. I'm very proud of our members and their generosity to help the city," said union Vice President Travis Walker. "I'm glad we can get on dealing with the bigger issues, like what led to this fiscal crisis."

Mayor Pat Morris said he is "delighted" with the agreement and grateful that both sides remained focused on budget issues.

Under the agreement, officers lose their uniform allowance and will begin paying $400 of their own monthly medical benefits.

In return, police will accrue an additional week of vacation time and bank an extra four hours in time off per week. Their contract, which was set to expire in December, has also been extended for another year.

"I'm very grateful for the memberships' approval of the contract extension, which includes the concessions," said interim City Manager Mark Weinberg. "I think it validates their claim that they were sincere about wanting to contribute to resolving the city's financial crisis."

Union leaders have said all along that officers are willing to make sacrifices to improve the financial status of San Bernardino, but lambasted city officials for not being upfront about the exact savings they sought.

"They kept changing it up on us. If they had actually come to us and bargained with us instead of trying to force what they wanted down our throats..." said union President Rich Lawhead. "This goes to prove that the cops all along wanted to give.

In San Bernardino, the city attorney is advising the government that it can access special use funds to alleviate its budget woes. Mayor Pat Morris is freaking about a bit but City Attorney Jim Penman insists it's doable.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City Attorney Jim Penman acknowledged that Prop. 218, approved by California voters in 1996, prohibits San Bernardino officials from using funds for refuse, sewer and water utilities to pay general city expenses.

But a legal study by one of Penman's senior deputies shows that City Hall might have some latitude to borrow against those funds, he said.

As an example, Penman said officials might be able to borrow against the $18 million reserve in a sewer fund for up to two years interest free, provided they can show a source to repay the money.

Mayor Pat Morris called the plan "fiscal insanity."

"The basic rule is, when you're in a hole, stop digging," he said. "Look at our condition. There is no way in God's green world we could repay such an obligation."

Could the chief of the Chicago Police Department be jailed for contempt of court? A federal judge threatened him with that for refusing to turn over the names of police officers, by his own admission thousands of them, with five or more complaints against them.

Ironic, considering that Chief Jody Weis stumped himself as intending to reform a scandal-ridden department where officers beat patrons in bars, coerce people into false confessions and have been involved in scandals involving torturing people. The sad thing on top of this is that few people in Chicago view this department as anything but a den of corruption and an embarrassment.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman ordered Weis to be in court Monday if he does not intend to turn over the lists by 8:45 a.m. that day. Weis and the city could face fines -- and he could even be jailed -- if he fails to comply with the order.

"We are very heartened by Judge Gettleman's strong reaction to Weis and the city's continuing lawless conduct and his finding that their conduct is directly contemptuous of the federal court," said Flint Taylor, one of the lawyers seeking the lists.

"We expected, based on the circumstances, this was a possible outcome," responded Jennifer Hoyle, spokeswoman for the city's Law Department. "We are working with Supt. Weis and the Police Department to determine how we will respond."

In St. Petersburg, Florida one officer is accused of assaulting another one. The alleged assault didn't come as a complete shock because the officer's temper had been a source of concern by his colleagues for a while.

(excerpt, St. Peterburg Times)

Sgt. Ron Kempienski, 56, is accused of assaulting officer Darin Oakes on Jan. 23 at the Department of Veterans Affairs Bay Pines campus, home of the nation's fourth-busiest veterans hospital.

The VA would not release details of the incident or what the altercation may have been about. The St. Petersburg Times confirmed the incident with Pinellas prosecutors, who were called by the VA.

Oakes, 43, who declined to comment on Monday, is out on disability leave because of minor injuries he reported sustaining in the assault, which did not involve a weapon.

Kempienski has not been charged criminally, said Pinellas prosecutor Robert Bruce.

Bruce said on Monday he was told the VA first wanted to investigate allegations itself before making a decision on whether charges should be filed.

John Pickens, a regional VA spokesman, said a special Bay Pines administrative board will soon convene to take testimony and investigate "a number of allegations involving various police officers" at Bay Pines.

Another videotaped incident in New Orleans is raising questions. A couple videotaped what they said was a beating of a handcuffed man. Police reports said that the man had pulled out a gun and then ran.


The couple who shot the video said they don't know what preceded the man's capture, but say they saw police hit the man at least 20 times. They believe he was in handcuffs during the beating.

Six police vehicles eventually arrived, they said. And at one point, the couple claim, officers positioned the man in the street and a police vehicle sped up beside the man, its door swinging open and slamming into the man's body.

"He kept yelling, 'Please don't hit me anymore,' " said Handyside, who is 26. "But they kept hitting him in the back of the head. They beat the hell out of that guy. You could hear the hits."

The beating lasted five minutes and the man was placed in the back of a police car, the couple said.

The officers gathered around and chatted. Kiser said an officer yelled into the car minutes later: "You want another five minutes?"

"Then they stood in a circle and had a casual conversation, like they were at a bar, like they were in high school," Kiser said. "We were surprised at the language they were using."

Kiser put the video on his computer and wrote about the incident on his Web log. Kiser said he had not filed a formal complaint with police because he thought it ineffective to complain about the police to the police. The couple said they don't know the officers, nor the suspect, but felt the beating they witnessed was way out of bounds.

"They were unprofessional, swearing every other word, taunting the guy," Kiser said, adding that some officers mocked the man's screams.

What happens when the CHP and the U.S. Marines get together and run a DUI checkpoint.

The 10 foods you either love or hate
which can't overshadow the 10 top foods of the 1980s.

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