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

Monday, March 02, 2009

The trials and travails of boards and commissions continues

The Human Resources Board of Riverside met at City Hall and was to discuss the letter it was sending to the city council regarding actions taken by the dynamic duo to block their receipt of statistical information involving lawsuits filed against the city by its employees. It's a head scratcher why the duo would even try to block the board from accessing statistics which are based on information in the public record but then again, this is Riverside. And Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout reported back several months ago that the duo determined that the request made by the board for this information was not within the purview of the board. That statement should sound familiar if you've been to meetings of the Community Police Review Commission where the dynamic duo has also made its presence felt and known in recent months and years.

Still, the members of the Human Resources Board remained determined to press on with their efforts to circumvent the efforts of the dynamic duo to block them from receiving the data and to do what the CPRC had done before it, which was to take their concerns to the city council. Even though they know that like the CPRC, it's entirely probable that they too could receive in response, a "received, reviewed and filed" form letter in dismissive fashion, they have been making the effort to have Chair Erin House and member, Rosetta Runnels draft the letter and bring it back to the entire board at their public meetings for reviews, responses and revisions. At last month's meeting, House was asked to make substantive changes to the current draft of the letter and to bring it back.

But the letter never made it out of the Human Resources Department or to that department and then back to the board members so it was tabled until next month for further discussion because members of the board including Runnels hadn't seen the latest draft.

The Riverside Police Department was to have presented information on the attrition and retention levels of its female officers in comparison to their male counterparts to the board after it learned that the department's audit and compliance bureau was conducting a related internal audit. However, the board's efforts to obtain a presentation on this issue was blocked, by City Attorney Gregory Priamos (according to Strout, who's the missive sender for both Hudson and Priamos apparently) who said that the board wasn't privy to information from internal audits due to the enforcement of police personnel privacy laws. The board took this as a sign that it wasn't to receive any information from any source from the department about its situation involving its female officers. However, House decided to try to contact Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel to ask him if the board could receive a presentation on this pressing issue at a future meeting. But no presentation date has been set yet.

Why the retention of female officers is what it is (and has been for years) most likely has been and remains a complex issue with many areas that need further examination and looking at several "areas" meaning both geographical and substantive. Why do the women get hired and then quit or "fail to make probation/meet standards"? Even some of the women who've been hired and done quite well have quit after about 2-3 years. Is it because to prove themselves and to get through the program women are given extra tests to pass or fail that men are not? Is it because even "passing" these these tests doesn't change anything because if it did, then these tests wouldn't exist in the first place?

These questions are asked because they appear in some form or another in many law enforcement agencies which struggle with the same issues that the police department in Riverside does.

That was a problem with several other law enforcement agencies, with cultures not particularly friendly and welcome to women where women have been given "pro quo" tests. Unfortunately, these tests are so part and parcel of many law enforcement agencies which grapple with sexism within their ranks including those where multi-million dollar lawsuits have been settled with cities and counties that when female officer retention is poor, it is one item on a list of them that needs to be investigated. But it hardly ever is, because it's almost as if it is, then the act of investigation will cause it to exist.

Which is why in other agencies with similarly low success rates with retaining women as officers, it must be asked as well. Presumably it has been investigated as part of any closer examination into what's going on with any law enforcement agency's female officers. Has it been asked and examined in the Riverside Police Department as well?

As stated earlier, if so, it should have been done first.

The department including the police chief have said that attrition rates are higher for female officers and retention rates, lower. This has been an ongoing situation for at least the past eight years. Even when higher rates of women were hired by the agency because of more energetic recruitment, the retention rates remain low. Hopefully, some of these issues will be presented to the Human Resources Board by the police department at some point.

The Human Resources Board also held its chair and vice-chair elections and reelected Erin House and Ellie Bennett respectively with no other nominations submitted.

The CPRC will be holding its own elections during its first meeting this month. Nominations to fill both the chair and vice-chair positions were submitted at its Feb. 25 meeting.

Submitting nominations for the chair position are John Brandriff and Sheri Corral. Nominations for the vice-chair are Peter Hubbard and Jim Ward. The candidates will be allowed to issue brief statements about themselves and the votes won't be secret ballot but the public will be able to know who voted for who. As if we couldn't figure that out ahead of time! The election results will be posted here as soon as the votes are counted.

The chair and vice-chair upon election will inherit the difficult situation thrust upon them by factions of City Hall which last year, issued a directive from City Manager Brad Hudson's office to change the protocol for the CPRC's investigation of officer-involved deaths which it had followed since its investigation into the fatal shooting of Anastacio Munoz in 2002. Hudson's directive as it became called, also forbade the CPRC from using any of its investigative budget to launch investigations not cleared by Priamos first.

The commission became divided by whether or not to follow its former protocol or to adopt the Hudson directive. Still, the majority of commissioners present at several meetings voted to initiate independent investigations into the officer-involved deaths of Carlos Quinonez, Martin Sanchez and Marlon Oliver Acevedo. Investigations which were never launched after Manager Kevin Rogan said he would not call the investigators on retainer by the commission to initiate these investigations.

Those investigations and the death of Russell Franklin Hyatt (in which no investigation was formerly initiated by the CPRC by vote) are now trailing up to six months from the dates they happened with no investigations conducted.

It's unlikely this status quo that the City Hall has in place will change especially given that the Governmental Affairs Committee took no formal action at its last meeting except to suggest that a meeting be set up from city employees and community members to discuss terminology which most likely was intended for city employees to tell community members how these words including "investigate" were to be defined. Which is ironic since it's City Hall which seems to be the most confused about not only how investigations are defined involving the CPRC but how the officer-involved death and/or shooting investigations are defined including the department's own parallel investigations into these critical incidents.

It's not likely that the Governmental Affairs Committee will take any action. Two out of three of the members of the standing committee for the discussion of the CPRC's investigative protocol which took place on Feb. 4's meeting are up for reelection this year. It's more than likely that there won't be any decision on protocol and that the Governmental Affairs Committee will simply through inaction allow the Hudson directive-turned-protocol remain in place and thus the political candidates, Council Members Frank Schiavone and Andrew Melendrez won't have to be concerned that the CPRC issues will impact their reelection campaigns.

The odds that this instructional or clarification meeting will be called between city employees and community members are only slightly lower than those set that the Governmental Affairs Committee will on public record, take responsibility for sending a recommendation to the city council on the CPRC.

In the meantime, the CPRC is through its Policies, Procedures and Bylaws Committee is beginning the process of drafting its own written guidelines. It's doing so because it's been led to believe that the issue of investigative protocol stems back to the June 2008 lightning storm of realization that there was actually no written protocol in place (which makes little sense since city council members including Schiavone were promoting Policies and Procedures Section VIII B as the written protocol beginning in August) governing the CPRC's investigative protocol for incustody deaths. All this writing of history and rewriting of it by the city to fit each new explanation as to why it's so critical to micromanage the CPRC, it just gives you a headache trying to keep up with all the Teflon throwing going on.

Odds are highly in favor that forces within City Hall will (and indeed already have) tried to impede the action of the CPRC's creation of its investigative protocol. Odds are also high that these actions will continue.

Let's just hope that the fervor over the rampage of crime scenes purportedly done by CPRC investigators is given a rest for at least a little while. If not, there are plenty of further examples in pop culture to help illuminate this hysteria that has seized some players at the 'Hall.

The Riverside Unified School District is scaling back its spending.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

District administrators on Monday recommended the reduction of more than 80 jobs in district offices, the adult education program and alternative schools. The school board reviewed the proposal into the late evening on Monday.

The proposal would eliminate management positions in the human resources, education alternatives, instructional services and facilities offices. The proposed district-level cutbacks also include the loss of staff development specialists, math coaches, maintenance workers and clerical staff.

"These will have direct and significant impacts and will change the way we serve and support schools around our city," Deputy Superintendent Mike Fine told the board.

District administrators have not given final recommendations for how many teachers could lose their jobs. Fine said the administration will ask the board to vote Monday to determine how many teacher layoff notices must go out to meet a March 15 deadline set by state law.

Is a cooperative relationship between U.S. Border Patrol and local law enforcement agencies fostering distrust towards both?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside police conducted a Jan. 29 sweep of an area where laborers wait for work after they received complaints from residents about the workers, said Riverside police Lt. Bruce Loftus. Police called Border Patrol to identify 12 men who did not have identification cards, and 11 were detained on immigration charges.

Velez said the Border Patrol always provided some help for law-enforcement agencies and hiring of additional agents in recent years allows the agency to assist more often.

Loftus said that in the past, the Border Patrol had typically spurned police requests for help with identity verification and translation, saying agents were unavailable.

That changed in November when Ramon Chavez, the head of the Riverside Border Patrol office, held a meeting with senior Riverside police officials to offer assistance, Loftus said.

Loftus said he has told Chavez that if Border Patrol agents translate for victims, they should not ask about victims' immigration status. Chavez agreed not to do so, he said.

But Velez said that in the absence of such a request, Border Patrol agents ask victims about immigration status if the agents suspect they are illegal immigrants.

"We have a duty to do so," he said. "We have an authority and mandate from Congress to implement and enforce immigration laws."

Velez said he does not know how many crime victims have been asked their immigration status and what happened to those who were identified as illegal immigrants.

The mayor of Beaumont is stumping for his city's stimulus plan.

The judge has spoken in San Bernardino County Superior Court, refusing to stop the implementing of furloughs of police officers by San Bernardino. The San Bernardino Police Officers' Association had filed a lawsuit to stop this practice that was initiated in response to the city's budget crisis. The same day, that city's governing body voted to keep Chief Michael Billdt and his assistant chief in power.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

The court decision happened first. Judge W. Robert Fawke denied the Police Officers Association attempt to block council-approved furloughs during a morning court hearing.

"I don't see that I actually have the power to step in and take over the legislative process under these particular circumstances," Fawke said in San Bernardino Superior Court.

The legislative process was at play later in the day when the council voted in favor of a plan that would allow Police Chief Michael Billdt and assistant chief Mitch Kimball to stay with the city as contractors.

Billdt and Kimball had technically put in for retirement before the meeting, during which Capt. Ernie Lemos was serving as acting chief.

Seventh Ward Councilwoman Wendy McCammack opposed the decision to keep Billdt aboard as an hourly employee, and suggested that if Lemos is qualified to run the department for a couple days, he can run the organization for a couple weeks or months.

Billdt and Kimball did not speak at the meeting, but interim City Manager Mark Weinberg said the department would be better served by keeping Billdt, who has experience as chief.

The vote was 4-2 to rehire Billdt as a contractor. McCammack and 1st Ward Councilwoman Esther Estrada voted against keeping the chief and Kimball.

Some of the opposition to Billdt's and Kimball's rehiring as contract employees called it "double dipping".

In San Bernardino's Ward Four city council race, there are a number of candidates to consider before voting.

A top-ranking police officer in the Los Angeles Police Department hierarchy has died at the age of 53. He was also the agency's second highest ranking Black officer.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Otto Garner, who played a central role in helping diversify the LAPD, improve the agency’s ties to minority communities and stem crime in South L.A., died unexpectedly at home early Sunday. He was 53 and had spent nearly 32 years in an LAPD uniform.

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department has not determined the cause of death, although people close to Garner said they believed it to be heart failure.

Police Chief William J. Bratton praised Garner’s service, highlighting his work as commander in charge of recruitment at the start of the department’s ongoing push to increase its ranks, as well as his efforts since taking over the LAPD’s South Bureau a year ago. Garner largely will be remembered, Bratton said, for his success in improving the relationship between officers and the black and Latino communities they serve, which for decades had been strained by distrust and fear.

After holding an array of positions in the department, including command posts in the Foothill area of the San Fernando Valley and on the city’s Westside, the assignment to South Bureau marked a return to the streets where Garner had grown up.

“He grew up at a time when the department he loved so much wasn’t loved in these neighborhoods,” Bratton said. “He committed his professional life to changing that.”

Also in Los Angeles, the city's department nears its goal of 10,000 officers.

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