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, April 13, 2009

Election 2009 and the CPRC: Let the show begin!

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper writes about policing's dirty little secret. And it's not really all that much of a secret if you read the daily newspaper, watch the nightly news or subscribe to various police misconduct and oversight email lists. Just on the lists, every week there are at least three or more incidents where law enforcement officers at every level of government are under investigation for sexual abuse and misconduct and/or arrested and charged for such incidents.

Enough to definitely get a person's attention.

The behavior exhibited by these police officers is often called "Driving while Female" and renowned criminal justice professor and researcher Samuel Walker from the University of Nebraska at Omaha wrote a lot on the subject. It's when women are pulled over by police officers and are given a choice (if it can be called one) of getting a ticket, arrested or going to jail or performing sexual favors on the officer. In his article, Walker provides solutions to addressing what some say is a scourge on policing and others say is intrinsic to sexism and racism within the institutional culture of all law enforcement agencies. They range from increasing supervision of officers, creating and implementing an effective and transparent complaint system and hiring more female police officers.

So what do you make of the risk factors for a police agency with increasing supervisory ratios on its work shifts, a complaint system that's been compromised both inside the police department and the civilian form of oversight in terms of complaint processes and fewer than 10% of its officers are female, what do you get?

That's something that you could ask about nearly every law enforcement agency in this country which grapples with these issues. Each of them if willing to do so faces the challenges of trying to find a way of stopping this behavior from the inside out. It's difficult to figure out how many agencies are in this boat and if so, how deep. These are questions which are asked a lot.

So how prevalent is this serious problem? Stamper tries to come up with one possible response.

(excerpt, Seattle Press-Intelligencer)

Let's assume that "only" one percent of all police officers are sexual predators. Do the math. A force of a thousand cops? That's 10 predators in uniform. The overwhelming majority of whom, by the way, are straight men.

Why would a cop risk his career, his reputation, his freedom? For the same reasons any other man would force himself on a woman: a combination of testosterone and libido, power and entitlement. In other words, he does it because he wants to, and because he can. Maybe he's convinced himself he's irresistible in that sharp, authority-exuding uniform?

No one has been able to calculate a percentage of police officers who might be engaging in this behavior. For one thing, it's difficult to do so because you have to base your calculations of such a percentage on those officers who get caught, get arrested and get convicted. The probability is that not every officer who engages in sexual abuse and misconduct onduty is getting reported, let alone arrested. It can take years such as in the recent case involving a San Bernardino Police Department for an officer to even be subject to an investigation let alone prosecuted.

Former Officer Ronald Allen VanRossum is now doing a lengthy prison sentence in connections with the onduty rapes of 11 women during a two-year period, but some say that his crimes began earlier than 2000.

But if you take Stamper's cited figure of 1%, that represents one out of every hundred police officers. That would mean that the number of officers who are this type of sex offender would be the following for these law enforcement agencies.

New York City Police Department: 400

Los Angeles Police Department: 100

Chicago Police Department: 134

Philadelphia Police Department: 66

Riverside County Sheriff's Department: 38

University of California Police Department: 4

Riverside Police Department: 4

Of course, it's difficult to know for sure whether Stamper's figure of 1% is on the high or low side, in terms of its accuracy. But if it were true, that doesn't exactly make it a small problem when you look at some of the above figures and considering the serious nature of the crimes. And some if not all of the above law enforcement agencies from the largest in the country to some smaller ones locally have produced arrests of their own sworn employees. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department for example has seen at least a half dozen of its field and correctional deputies arrested for sexual abuse and misconduct in the past several years.

In Riverside, the dirty little secret apparently to those who charged him was Officer Robert Forman who was arrested last October and charged with felony counts of oral copulation under the color of authority and sexual battery in connection with alleged incidents involving three different women between February and April 2008.

It wasn't the first time I had ever heard of those types of complaints in connection with an "Officer Forman". A homeless man who used to water plants in the old office building that housed many businesses said several years ago that he had heard similar complaints from homeless women who stayed in Fairmount Park against Forman. It's interesting to find out that about two years later, he was arrested for alleged sexual misconduct against women that he encountered while onduty.

Years ago, the Riverside Police Department had another officer, Eric Hamby who was arrested and charged with sexual assault and misconduct involving different women. He was acquitted at trial but fired from the department. Today, he might be working as a police department in a smaller law enforcement agency in Southern California.

But Stamper comes up with this conclusion:

(excerpt, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

It's not hard to detect patterns in an officer's traffic stops. Who's he stopping, demographically? Where? For what violations? Is he warning rather than citing (or citing when he should be warning)? Does he have a pattern of requesting that charges be dropped?

Are 80 percent of the people he stops young, attractive women?

If there's the slightest suspicion that a police officer is a sexual predator, he should be "set up": Put a decoy in his path and see how he behaves. The union may squawk, they may demand 'reasonable suspicion," even "probable cause," either offering a higher legal standard than my "slightest suspicion." But it's in everyone's interest to weed out cops who think with organs other than their brains.

That police officer in your rearview mirror? He follows you for a block then lights you up, the interior of your car awash in flashing hues of red and blue. You pull over to the curb, shaking. The officer approaches, asks for your driver's license and proof of insurance. He tells you your wheels drifted over the double yellow. If he finds you unimpaired, he sends you on your way, wishing you a good weekend. If you're under the influence, he arrests you--no quid pro quo, no sex traded for freedom. That's the way it's supposed to happen.

With effective citizen pressure and oversight, and strong internal supervision that's the way it will happen.

But will these things happen in many cities and counties including those like Riverside where city governments and police departments are actively trying to weaken civilian oversight.

As for "strong internal supervision", where is that in the Riverside Police Department now that supervisory ratios may no longer be at 7 to 1 as they were mandated during the five-year stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office.
Some have said, they're not where they should be at.

So what are the signs that there might be significant problems with DWF?

Let's take another look at the article, "Driving While Female" that was authored by Walker and Dawn Irlbeck at some of the warning signs of a sexist culture within a law enforcement agency. The article describes the correlative relationship between a sexist police culture and the DWF phenomenon.


(1) employment discrimination against women, including the failure to promote women to supervisory positions;[14]

(2) tolerance of sexual harassment within the department;[15]

(3) a systematic failure to investigate domestic violence incidents where the alleged perpetrator is an officer in the department;[16]

(4) inadequate policies regarding pregnancy and parental leave.[17]

Something to think about, when evaluating different law enforcement agencies and the incidence of DWF.

As you know if you've been reading this site, the full city council is set to discuss the CPRC investigative protocol and it marks an important day in city history. It will be the first time that a city council votes to impose policy changes on one of the city's boards and commissions rather than allow the board or commission to draft its own rules. As you know, the CPRC has tried several times to do just that but has been blocked by either the city manager's office, the city attorney's office and so forth. The Governmental Affairs Committee based its original recommendation to circumvent the city council and push the commission to abide by the Hudson protocol on information provided by an ad hoc committee which conducted its business entirely in secrecy. No one knew where this committee met or when it conducted its business. An ironic development involving an oversight mechanism meant in part to promote public trust in its transparency.

But this is another way that transparency has become a four-letter word at City Hall.

Two city council members objected to the Governmental Affairs Committee's decision not to take the issue to the full city council and it didn't take long at all for the direction of the CPRC protocol to change.

Traditionally, the history of the city has always been including with the CPRC that the boards and commission members draft their own bylaws, policies and procedures. That will not be the case this time as the city council will take it upon itself to do this for the CPRC by likely voting to mandate that the CPRC commissioners revert to their "written protocol" for investigating officer-involved deaths. The only problem is that they have none. Several city council members with political agendas tied to their campaign wallets have taken it upon themselves with help from the city manager's office to erroneously use a provision of the CPRC's policies and procedures called section VIII (B) to serve as that written protocol for these investigations.

However, Councilman Mike Gardner who actually crafted the language for VIII (B) said that it was solely intended to address investigation and review of complaints by the CPRC and police department and had nothing to do with the investigations of officer-involved deaths. And if you look at Section VIII in its entirety and not just one section of it (and these politically agenda driven city council members and their direct staff would prefer you don't), it's pretty clear that several components included in the provision make it impossible for it to be directed at officer-involved death investigations.

There's been rhetoric that the opposition to their mission is being driven by a few political activists but Adams and Schiavone have been less honest about their own politics. The fact that Schiavone is being endorsed again by the RPOA and has received thousands of dollars from them in endorsement money. Adams except for his 2005 bid for reelection has also been endorsed and received thousands of dollars from the RPOA, which patched up its differences with him since it declined to endorse him in 2005. Schiavone also never divulged that for several years, he shared his home with Chief Russ Leach (which is personally their own business, professionally and politically, a bit more tricky to reconcile) and that he and District Attorney Rod Pacheco endorsed each other and/or donated money to each others' political campaigns. Pacheco had been named as a key player in the decision to change the CPRC protocol by Leach during several meetings.

It's amazing that this business could have been conducted the last six or so months with a straight face. Including when differential accounts come of exactly what the smoking gun was in terms of why the CPRC's practice of conducting investigations had to be changed during the past year when in the preceding seven years, there hadn't been a whisper of complaint from any of these players who have decided all at once to put their fingers in the pot. All of them of course minus any sort of political agendas of their own.

But one piece of evidence that points to the presence of a political agenda is that only several years ago, the city defended itself in a lawsuit filed against it by the Riverside Police Officers' Associationby claiming in a motion for summary judgment that the Officer-Involved-Death investigations conducted by the police department weren't even criminal investigations involving officers at all. That contention was backed by the relatively weak language involving the criminal nature of these investigations (in terms of officers involved) present in the police department's policy on investigating officer-involved deaths, called #4.8.

In fact, it was probably the weakness of this language (in a different area of contention than the current one) which played a major role in why the lawsuit was filed in the first place. The RPOA is consistent in its belief that the investigation is criminal involving the officer, the city stated in its defensive argument that it was not and Chief Russ Leach flip-flopped in his own deposition that he gave for the RPOA vs the City of Riverside. It's possible too that the RPOA is taking a page out of the playbook of their counterparts up in Berkeley who recently pretty much shut down independent investigations by the civilian review board there. Does this all come down to the city trying to avoid similar litigation being filed against it here?

Given the utter lack of transparency involving all the players involved (which besides their animosity towards the CPRC is all they have in common), this is a difficult question to answer.

It's difficult to read back over this and even more difficult to write it but the fact is that the interrelationships of all these players makes it difficult to see the changes towards the CPRC's investigative protocol (and likely that's just to start with), as anything but political in nature. What's disturbing is that it took a while for the "political agenda" to even reach the city council for open discussion and debate, even after the Press Enterprise Editorial Board urged the city council to do so on at least two occasions. But this is the agenda that you do see at least. After watching all the micromanagement and politicking involving the CPRC and the interrelationships (not to mention several key conflict of interest issues), it's hard not to see the handling of the CPRC and the CPRC itself as thoroughly compromised at this point. And it's even harder to not see this as the exact reason why so many voters in this city favored an initiative to put the commission in the city's charter.

So what will be on display tomorrow is likely to be a staged performance, which will highlight political alliances on the dais as much as anything else.

Here are the cast of characters:

Mike Gardner: In conversation, he seems to support the 2002-2008 methods of handling officer-involved deaths, but how will be vote? It's split between people thinking he might cast the sole dissenting vote or go along with the crowd.

Andrew Melendrez: He'll ask the substantive questions but he's more interested in a public debate (which is a start) than in the protocol. He'll likely vote for the Hudson directive, pulling a reversal like he did with the Chinatown (part one) issue rather than following through like he did recently with the towing fee Q&A session and sole dissenting vote.

Rusty Bailey: He pretty much belongs to Councilman Frank Schiavone (which is clear looking at his endorsement list even during his first election) and is an easy vote for the Hudson protocol from the councilman who's the best example of a flip-flip on the issue of the CPRC since Adams and former councilman, Art Gage. Some people really expected him to be his own man because of his West Point credentials but that didn't happen.

Frank Schiavone: Leading the charge for the Hudson protocol. Why so, is really a complicated issue for further discussion but he's donated into the campaign of one player, roomed with another for a period of time and promoted the campaigns of some other candidates. His latest feat was getting the newest Ward Four commissioner (who endorsed him in his election and is apparently tight with his political consultant, Brian Floyd) on the commission. The bright side is that at least he's no longer claiming through his site to have "established" the CPRC one year before he was even elected to office.

Chris MacArthur: The man who hopes to succeed Schiavone as leader of the dais? Believed to support the protocol based mainly on his belief in P&P VIII (B). His aide who clearly hates the CPRC based by watching his body language probably does a lot of his thinking for him. He will vote the way his aide tells him to do so unless he's lobbied behind the scenes by another councilman but who would it be? Will he go for the jockeying for position on the dais so early in the same or keep his fund raising capabilities intact?

Nancy Hart: She believes she needs the support of the city council for reelection and wasn't keen after being frozen out after endorsing the wrong supervisory candidate last year. Won't make that mistake again. She co-authored the op-ed piece and then in the press, seemed to know nothing about it or to ask questions that should have been asked when she first read it. If she read it.

Steve Adams: A candidate who doesn't have to worry about reelection because if Ward Seven follows through and runs a strong candidate against him, he's out but he's Schiavone's partner in the meantime including through this latest vote.

It makes you wonder, does it about what happens out of the sight of city residents, say with the Riverside Police Department for example. Since like the CPRC, the transparency of that agency kind of disappeared along with the consent decrees but the opaque curtain that now covers that department hasn't stopped disturbing rumors from slipping out about complaints by employees of some of the crimes they are being asked to investigate to problems elsewhere. Hopefully, there's no serious issues indeed impacting the police department which employs predominantly fairly good police officers and civilian employees.

But this is nothing new, because a lawsuit has already been filed in U.S. District Court by two lieutenants alleging that city council members and city management employees already were exerting influence on the decision making of the police department including how promotions were given out. It also alleged that members of one of the city's bargaining units were warned to "be careful" by city management employees who were trying to find out how many lieutenants and which ones voted to support a lawsuit filed by the Riverside Police Administrators' Association against the city.

If these allegations are indeed proven in court (though it's likely the case won't go to trial which would mean negative publicity), then that's a definite sign of a disturbing practice but by itself not proof of any ongoing pattern and practice of this type of behavior. That would have to come from elsewhere if it's indeed an issue.

The one thing about rumors is that the motives for telling them and spreading them can be disparate and thus consequently be difficult to discern whether they are truth or mythology. Are they true? Are they not? Are they somewhere in between wearing layers which develop the further along the pipeline they go? Hopefully time will tell and the news will be much better than it appears right now. Hopefully, if the allegations of the misuse of police personnel that are floating around like a pervasive flu bug are true, then they are being investigated by the appropriate entities.

Police officers get mixed reviews in Las Cruces, New Mexico. To no one's surprise, there's been discussion of creating civilian oversight and review.

(excerpt, Las Cruces Sun-News)

Dr. Craig Uchida, president of the firm, said the assessment is expected to conclude no later than May 15.

"We want to obtain a ground-level view of how police interact with the public," Uchida said. He asked the audience several questions, including many related to residents' trust of police and how officers respond to various situations, before allowing participants an opportunity to speak on topics of their choosing.

A nearly equal number complimented and criticized the department's response time and officers' attitudes.

One Las Cruces man lightened the mood, recalling a traffic stop. "He asked me, "What's your problem,'" the man said of the officer who pulled him over. "I said the only thing I knew to — "It's you!'"

Dr. Alison Newby, a sociology professor at New Mexico State University, voiced an unfavorable review of the department, stating that in her experience, officers are unprofessional and did not adequately collect evidence for a case.

"It's not that the individuals themselves are bad, but there is tolerance at an institutional level," she said. "Those things are very hard to correct."

Like several others, Newby said she wasn't convinced a review board will solve all the department's problems.

"It all depends on what type of police department LCPD wants to be," she said. "It's a multi-layered issue, but (a review board) might be a good place to start.

The San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board criticizes disturbing trends it found in the arrest patterns involving Latinos by the city's police department.


The department's data show that Latinos represent 70 percent of disturbing-the-peace charges, although they're only one-third of San Jose's population. These numbers cannot readily be explained away. The numbers for resisting arrest or interfering with an officer were especially troubling because they were the primary infraction — not connected to, say, detaining a suspect who had been stopped for a more serious crime.

State law grants police wide latitude in deciding whether to file charges for public disturbance and resisting arrest. This is appropriate to protect the public and officers from potential harm. There is also a "broken windows" theory of community policing, popularized by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York City, that the police can prevent serious crimes by cracking down on lesser infractions. Davis speaks favorably of that approach.

But discretion can lead to abuse. Some officers may target minorities or handcuff anyone who gives them guff. High numbers of resisting-arrest charges, when there was no other crime prompting an arrest, raise the question of whether officers are trying to defuse conflicts or unnecessarily provoking them.

For those with unwarranted misdemeanor charges on their records, the consequences can be harsh. They can be fired from their jobs or find it harder to get one.

Davis attends many neighborhood events and meets regularly with Latino and minority leaders. He seems perplexed by reports of mistrust in the community, but the answer begins with his own department's data.

Science Daily conducted a study that found that police officers who multi-task have lower rates of shooting unarmed people.


Urban police officers participated in the study, completing a test of working memory capacity, and then watched a video of an officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of the officer, during which time negative affect and stress indicators were measured; including elevated heart rates and increased sweating.

Following the video, officers participated in a computer-based simulation where they were required to make split-second decisions whether to shoot or not to shoot someone, based on 80 slides that presented a person holding either a gun or a harmless object like a cell phone, for only a fraction of a second. Officers then pressed either a "shoot" or a "don't shoot" button.

Analyzing the data, the researchers found that lower levels of working memory capacity increased the likelihood of shooting unarmed people among those officers who had higher levels of negative emotionality — a score determined by comparing readings of facial movement and heartbeat rates between a baseline reading and readings taken during the stressful situation.

Officers with a higher working memory capacity seemed to buffer officers against the negative effects of a threat when making shooting decisions.

"An important thing to consider is that some decision making requires controlled processing wherein balanced/accurate decisions require impulse control" Kleider explained. "For some people, this usurps a substantial amount of available working memory capacity to control impulses, and if you are someone with a lower capacity, it's harder to do."

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