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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Election 2009 & CPRC: Two councilmen step to the plate

The discussion of the investigative protocol of the Community Police Review Commission lived up to its hype as three city council members jumped on the bandwagon of two councilmen from the Governmental Affairs Committee who were leading the charge to change the way the CPRC did its investigations from 2002-08.

At first, it didn't look like the issue would even make it to the full city council after the Governmental Affairs Committee tried to avoid doing that in its failed motion at its April 8 meeting but after the issue hit the Press Enterprise, maybe minds changed or other city council members pushed for its addition to the agenda themselves.

There was no way against this stacked death of political alliances and free-flowing money that the CPRC would prevail. Still, it was interesting to watch the city council exercise the poorest judgment that it possibly could have done which was to impose policy direction on one of the city's boards and commissions, breaking a long-standing precedent which outdates just about any other long-standing precedent which has been cited involving the CPRC. And that opened the CPRC up for challenges in a whole another arena which recognizes its identity as an administrative agency.

The expressions on Councilman Frank Schiavone's face and that of Steve Adams' were somewhat less than pleased, after two other city council members pretty much took the staged production put on by the city and ran away with it. Adams had to resort to making outrageous accusations against several of the CPRC investigators which he had never made before and Councilman Rusty Bailey (who's flipped flopped on the CPRC just a bit more than freelance journalist Miguel Morales) had to bring back on stage the three musketeers to answer some of Bailey's questions.

This trio consists of the following individuals.

**CPRC Vice-Chair Peter Hubbard who is director of operations of the American Medical Response services which contracts out of City Manager Brad Hudson's office. He made statements during a televised meeting which clearly showed his bias when it comes to officer-involved deaths and his belief that community members are liars. If you want to watch him make these comments himself, Charter Communications will be rerunning the city council meetings on Wednesday, April 15 at 4pm and Saturday, April 18 at 9am.

**CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan who complained about money wasted on investigations when he allegedly pulls in over $150,000 a year working about half-time for the city (due to his hours being limited by a PERS retirement). If this is the case, he's the highest paid executive director/manager who's worked the least hours in the history of the CPRC and Hudson and his adjutant, Tom DeSantis have a history of micromanaging their CPRC managers. Just ask Pedro Payne. Oops, no you can't. But don't begrudge Rogan his salary, he earned every cent of it during this meeting.

**Police Chief Russ Leach who apparently used to share residence with Schiavone apparently with the blessing of City Attorney Gregory Priamos even after a lawsuit was filed alleging that Schiavone told a police lieutenant to distance himself from two other lieutenants if he wanted to be promoted. Apparently, Leach moved out before Schiavone filed his papers.

Hardly the most neutral people there, a trio of city employees (whether directly or through independent contracts) but they did better than a trio of seals at the zoo, performing for their fish doled out by Hudson. Are there any other cities out there which have to deal with the political version of Peyton Place? I get contacted by individuals through the NACOLE list and through the blog about how bizarre the scenario involving the CPRC and all its various players has unfolded. An executive manager who either argues, obstructs or won't return the phone calls of commission members. A police chief who tells community members one thing at one meeting and then not only says the complete opposite at public meetings, but chastises those same individuals. And city council members who have done nothing but go against the will of city residents by undermining the commission while claiming to be its biggest champions without any proven track record of such unless they crib it off someone else. Or in Schiavone's case at least, the (since retracted) claim that he established the commission nearly two years before even taking office.

It's really hard to know how to keep a straight face when responding to the questions both locally and nationally (and in several cases, internationally) that I receive about the CPRC and the history of micromanagement it's faced from various factions at City Hall both before and after the passage of Measure II in 2004. The story of what it has faced from a city council that clearly doesn't want an independent form of oversight is similar to those told in other cities and counties but with its own twist.

It's hard to keep a straight face at the complete lack of basic information that those making these policy decisions about one of the city's commissions have and that those who made this decision haven't even attended one CPRC meeting in its entire history. They've never read an annual report or probably even a monthly one and never attended any discussions by commissioners on officer-involved death investigations. After listening to them talk about the CPRC in general and the investigative protocol in particular, Adams and Schiavone just sound ignorant which isn't great aided by their tendency to misstate what other people did and then argue against those misstatements, otherwise known as using a strawman argument. Maybe they picked up that skill from Rogan.

**Then there's Rod Pacheco (who Adams said he met with last week) who has endorsed Schiavone in this election cycle and apparently the money's flown the other way around as well. Pacheco's not exactly having a smooth ride as D.A. what with nearly 25% of his prosecutors bailing in just two years, a civil and court system in disarray, a plunging conviction rate and his lack of touch with the current recession and its impact on county government.

That's why it's hard to believe that this is anything but political when the players are so intricately intertwined with another. And then there's that great adage that if you want to know the answer to any question including the meaning of life, follow the money. So that's what will be happening in future blog postings involving the CPRC.

Not that there weren't some unintentionally comic moments in the midst of the staged production brought to you courtesy of the city council.

Bailey looked at one point as if he were going to stray from his preordained path by suggesting that the CPRC could initiate its investigation before receiving its case book. The looks of absolute horror that passed over the faces of Adams and Schiavone were classic, but were closely matched by Hart's expression when she wasn't having some sort of side bar during the agenda item with Councilman Chris MacArthur who spent most of his time looking at his legislative aide in the audience, probably for guidance. Neither of them made any comments during the entire item before they cast their votes.

Over 15 people spoke against the Schiavone and Adams action, with one in favor. And despite the fact that they held the minority vote, Gardner and Melendrez were praised for their decision to not go with the crowd. Leaders from the NAACP and the Group spoke out during a discussion which lasted over two hours until the final vote was taken. The police department's command staff besides Leach included Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa, Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel, Capt. John Wallace, Lt Mike Perea, Sgt. Jaybee Brennen as well as Riverside Police Officers' Association President Chris Lanzillo.

None of them spoke. As one said afterward, I don't have to speak because I pay others to speak for me. In a city where city officials insist publicly that they don't barter or sell favors for money, comments like that provide an interesting contrast to their claims. Yet even hint at the relationship between this city council and money, and you're accused of invoking the favorite straw man arguments of "bribes" and "corruption" that are thrust up by elected officials who don't want people scrutinizing too closely how they reach their decisions. But thankfully, the election laws in this great state require that all political candidates submit listings of campaign donations above a certain dollar month over a year's period. Before this election ends its first round, there will be at least one statement released detailing this information on any one of the three individuals on the city council currently running for reelection and their competitors.

Ward Four Candidate Paul Davis who said the bone of contention between him and the RPOA had been his support of the CPRC said that a series of town hall meetings should be held in every ward in the city to discuss the CPRC and what should be done with the investigative protocol.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it," he said.

You would have thought by Schiavone's expression that the words, "t0wn hall" were equivalent to profanity. But then this city council's not particularly keen on public forums. But Davis said that during the meeting he received dozens of texts providing insight on what the television audience saw in the performances on the dais. And he also said that after canvassing the ward for hours each day, he clearly knew what the position of the majority of the ward's voters were on the latest issue involving the CPRC's investigative protocol. And it wasn't with the majority of the city council.

But then again, Ward Four precincts were some of the better show cases for Measure II votes so if that indeed is the case, it wouldn't be surprising.

One other individual who has been canvassing Ward Four for Davis said that he has yet to meet anyone in any neighborhood he's been in who hadn't complained about Schiavone.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Ward Four voters will turn out in force and how they will navigate through the tricky language allegedly written by Schiavone himself governing which mail in ballots will actually be counted. Some people from Ward Four had planned to come and speak but then decided that rather than come down to speak before city council and be patronized to, that their time would be better spent having discussions within their neighborhood in the forth ward about which city council candidate was a better and frankly, more honest proponent of the CPRC.

Schiavone has insisted it's not an issue in his ward but Davis has said through his canvassing that it is a pressing one and that the constituents of the ward have been very vocal in their vision of what the CPRC should represent right down to its investigative protocol. Which is the vision which will play out at election time?

Still, the city council did not play like a monolith this time.

Council members Mike Gardner and Andrew Melendrez expressed views that differed from their colleagues on the dais. As the only councilman with experience serving on the CPRC, Gardner outlined the history of the attempts to draft written protocol and why the section being forced on the CPRC is not a good fit for conducting investigations of officer-involved deaths.

Gardner's motion included the following:

*Investigations are to begin soon after the commission is notified of an officer-involved death

*Do not send investigators to active crime scenes

*The word "involved" doesn't mean "caused".

*Bylaws and policies and procedures should be in a single document.

*CPRC commissioners decide when to investigate a death.

It was more detailed and more thoughtful than what Schiavone and his crew came up with but the votes were probably decided before the meeting had begun, let alone public comment by city residents.

Adams did what one observer called, dealing the big blow for the city council by making it clear in his comments how much the majority of the city council's members disregarded the city residents. He alienated the city council from the residents, one attendee said afterward by his attempts to say that investigators from the Baker Street Group had fabricated witness testimony, an allegation which was never made before by any elected official or city employee. One would think if that were the case, the firm wouldn't still be on retainer which incidentally it is. But Adams allegedly is a lame duck. If he runs in two years for a third term and faces up against a fairly strong candidate, he's out of a job.

But although the city council ultimately voted 5-2 to change this protocol to one adopted through a directive issued by City Manager Brad Hudson, it didn't really succeed in diluting the CPRC much more than it has been already. The bright side of all this, is that some of the community leaders were so disgusted by what they heard, they're taking it back to their groups. And there, the discussion will continue.

Well represented in speaking out in favor of the CPRC's protocol was the "filthy five". Which is why when you visit Craigslist, you'll sometimes see comments about bras, undergarments, breasts and calling them mentally incompetent.

Lanzillo, the RPOA president, told Mary Humboldt afterward that he would pay another $30,000 to Schiavone. That was in response to comments that Humboldt had made about how much money city council members had received by the RPOA during election cycles. Is that for a job well done or are there layers to this situation that haven't been revealed? But then again, you don't know for sure because Melendrez was also endorsed by the RPOA and voted against Schiavone's proposal.

But maybe the RPOA's PAC (which is currently in search of a chair as one quit after nearly 10 years on the board and the other allegedly resigned due to his current duty assignment) should give Schiavone that money. He earned every penny of it.

Lanzillo's also broken his foot in some sort of accident. Here's hoping that he's quickly on the mend. Det. William Rodriguez is facing surgery on his foot, and let's hope it goes well and he returns back to work soon.

Will Inland Empire cities be cutting back on the budgets for their annual festivals? Fortunately, Riverside has eliminated most of its festivals so it doesn't have to worry about cutting back any further.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The council tonight will consider the Economic Development Subcommittee's recommendation to split about $87,000 among the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, the Temecula Valley International Jazz Festival and the Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival.

The June balloon festival asked for $35,000, but is slated to get $29,750. The July jazz festival sought $15,000 but would receive $6,375. The September film and music festival would get $51,000 after asking for $60,000.

Public meetings on the CPRC:

Tuesday, April 21 from 10-12 pm. at the Kansas Avenue SDA church on Kansas and MLK in the Eastside.

Saturday, May 2 from 12-2 pm at the Arlington Library meeting room on Magnolia.

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