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, April 02, 2009

Election 2009: Stimulus and subterfuge

Here's a schedule on candidate forums for the Riverside City Council election and it focuses mainly on the one sponsored by the Latino Network and the Group on Saturday, April 4 from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at Bordwell Park in the Eastside. Each ward gets covered for about an hour and the event is staggered to include all the wards up for reelection. It's not clear if all the candidates have committed themselves to attending this event as they did the recent forum for the Greater Chamber of Commerce.

So far the election has been fairly quiet, at least in two of the wards up for grabs. However, it's been quite boisterous in the fourth ward with lawsuits being filed and interesting debates taking place so far at the public forums. But alas, Schiavone has opted to be a no-show at the forum on Saturday even though he participated in that offered up by the Greater Chamber of Commerce. So I guess that means to see how he stands on the issues, you have to pay money because apparently, he doesn't provide similar opportunities to nonpaying audiences including voters. It will still be a good forum without him.

Speaking of forums, the Group is also sponsoring another community forum in early May to address the topic of accountability, in light of recent actions taken by City Hall against the Community Police Review Commission.

Speaking of elections, there's another city council meeting this week at both 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7.

The agenda includes this item on the city accessing funding from the recent recovery act passed by Congress. But the really key item on the agenda is this one involving the city's attempt to access some of the stimulus funding being allotted out by the Department of Justice's COPS office to cities in order create new law enforcement positions. Councilmen Andrew Melendrez and Frank Schiavone who chair the Public Safety and Governmental Affairs Committees respectively have urged the city to apply for about $4,961,460 to bring 15 police positions to Riverside's police department. While it's clear that the Public Safety Committee's got jurisdiction on this issue, it's not as clear that Governmental Affairs does because issues involving budgets and funding usually involve the Finance Committee (which has pretty much disappeared).

It's a huge ticket item to be on the consent calendar, not because it's a bad item at all but it needs further scrutiny and discussion to ensure that it's done right. And my opinion on this is based partly with discussions with an individual working in the department's Personnel division. One of the main issues is of course, ensuring that funding continues for these new (actually old) positions when the grant funding is spent so that newly hired officers aren't then quietly laid off.

Now if you have been keeping track, you will remember that several years ago, the city promised through a vote to create up to 45 new police officer positions however, not all of them were ever filled. In fact, at least 19 of them including two traffic officer positions were never filled at all. The report for this agenda item does admit that the positions being funded are vacancies.

The requirements for the grant do contain several interesting provisions such that if any form of discrimination takes place involving the applicants, copies of it must be forwarded to the Office of the Civil Rights Division. Also, it contains several provisions dealing with issues that arose during the passage of a similar stimulus package in the 1990s which resulted in some agencies using the funding they received to hire officers later arrested and convicted of criminal actions. Still, the standards are quite minimal at the federal level and accountability needs to be enforced to avoid the past problems with stimulus packages.

And if there's a retention amendment in the money awarded, it's for a retention period of at least 12 months after the expiration of the grant. That was the case in Columbus, Ohio where about 25 new officers (who had been laid off while in academy) were rehired under the stimulus money to much fanfare, however their salaries were only guaranteed for a 12 month period. It will be interesting to check in next year and see if they still work for the Columbus Police Department.

So what will Riverside do when it comes to paying for these new retentions? That question must be addressed which is difficult to do in a consent calendar item. This was the biggest concern expressed by the Personnel Division representative that I spoke with, that officers who were hired under this grant wouldn't be laid off after a year or two if the city was still struggling to regain its footing coming out of a recession which has focused much of its wrath on the Inland Empire. Consequently meaning that it's possible that the Inland Empire might take more time to come out of it than other areas of the country as part of the national economic downturn targeted by the stimulus packages. So it's important that the city will commit a funding source for these positions several years down the road when it might still be economically depressed from the collapse of the housing market (and the massive ripple effect) on which much of the tax base was built.

Another great concern is that if the city hires more officers or even fills its vacancies, will the supervisory level be such that the ratio of officers to supervisors remains at 7 to 1 or lower? Currently, the department has struggled with having sergeants and lieutenants retire and then having their positions frozen due to budget reasons. Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis said in June 2008 when the city was down three supervisory positions that the department was "fully staffed" but with a total of two lieutenant positions and at least six sergeant positions frozen last year and only one lieutenant and three sergeant positions being filled, it's not clear whether or not the staffing ratios will continue to be maintained with the refilling of 15 positions. So this is another critical issue that needs to be addressed, in that adequate supervision including proper ratios of newly hired officers and the rest of the field and traffic divisions is maintained.

The city definitely needs the 15 positions which it should have filled ages ago, but to "create" the positions and then fill them, then a year or so later, lay them off isn't really a solution considering that it takes 2-3 years investment to produce a police officer who's grown into the job. And the supervisory ratios shouldn't be tossed by the wayside, meaning that if these positions are filled, then some of the sergeant positions which remain frozen should be thawed and filled as well.


When Governmental Affairs Committee check mates the city council

What: Governmental Affairs Committee meeting

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 3 p.m.

Where: Mayor's Ceremonial Room, seventh floor at City Hall

Why: So the CPRC's protocol on officer-involved deaths won't go to the full city council for discussion, deliberation and a public vote.

***Top Secret Meetings at City Hall of a special ad hoc committee chaired by the assistant police chief and information provided by the CPRC executive manager who makes a full-time pay check working very part-time hours. Was the public notified and even allowed to watch in the interest of accountability and transparency? Of course not.

***Governmental Affairs tries to become a committee that's not advisory to the full city council but enforcing policy directly on one of the city's boards and commissions.

***How the committee was stacked including the inclusion of a "community" member who once was under contract to do a study under the mayor's office for a board

***First they're banned, then they're invited...Even though at its initial Governmental Affairs Committee meeting, commissioners were banned from the ad-hoc committee, the city manager's office changed its mind when its own people were voted into the positions. Ironically, the current chair and vice-chair had time to participate in two half-day meetings of this ad hoc committee yet they've had to cancel two out of two CPRC meetings held since they took office.

Stay tuned!

Oh and speaking of the CPRC meeting, Chair Sheri Corral and Vice-Chair Peter Hubbard issued their second order since they were installed in their positions by canceling the second CPRC meeting in a row. Some people wonder if this commission will ever hold another meeting again. Either the two are reverting back to their earlier attendance records before the elections took place or they've phoned home on April 1 to their server for their orders to keep the commission in limbo until the city council can install its next puppet commissioner.

More publicity for the Riverside guide to downtown.

Like most stories on Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, the latest has elicited many comments in response. And not all of them positive.

(excerpts, Press Enterprise)

Hey Pacheco,
How about pleading out more cases rather than adhering to your system of justice. As stated previously, if you are not willing to cut deals, why shouldn't people take their cases to trial if they have nothing to lose? There are plenty of DA's who are tough on crime and are willing to plea bargain. Don't you remember the phrase "judicial economy"? No one would expect a child killer to get deals, but how about non-violent offenders?
How about not over charging either? It seems like you can't have it both ways Mr. Pacheco.

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semperfilawyer 1 day ago wrote:

Pacheco is nothing more than a common demagogue -- a politician who seeks to hold political power by appealing to the emotions and fears of the public, through the use of rhetoric and propaganda.

Read the definition of demagogy on Wikipedia (` Ask yourself if this fits Pacheco?

Pacheco routinely incorporates the unsavory methods of a demagouge into his swaggering threats.

He is especially good at creating "false dilemmas" (The Board is either for 'public safety' or they are against it.). Pacheco also is an expert at using "demonization & scapegoating" (If the Board doesn't give me the money I want, and crime goes up, the voting public will blame the Board, not me)

Pacheco wraps himself in self-righteousness and threatens the Board with political retribution if they dare to cross him. He does it all with a patronizing, yet sinister grin.

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the mind of he who possesses it." (William Pitt, 1789-1806)

It will be up to the Board to overcome Pacheco's tyrannical tactics. Do they have political guts to pull it off? Let's wait and see.

Public safety lies with the first responders. Firemen, policemen and deputy sheriffs are the ones on the front lines protecting us. The D.A.'s office is important, but pales in comparison to these other agencies. He already received a new mulitmillion dollar building he refuses to share. He hired additional deputy d.a.s when everyone else had to cut back. Now he says his agency is the most imporant in the county? Not only should they not cut back, but receive more? If he was a man of honor, he would take his cut backs and recomend more for the first responders. His fear tactics are becoming very tiresome. Just as he has no solution other than to blame others for the court backlog, he has no solution to the budget problem. If he had any ability to have case management skills, there wouldn't be the tremendous criminal court back up we see today. With his disdain for freedom of the press and any judges who disagree with him, the problem will not get better until he is gone.

This is not about public safety. This is about power and control. And this amounts to another "in your face" response by the DA. Pacheco didn't get his budget in on time, and not only did he not comply with the required 10% reduction (met by every other dept), but he put in for an increase. What is his problem? Does he lack the management skills that other department heads seem to possess? Given the turnover in his department, the overcharging, the court backlog, the failure to cut deals when appropriate -- all point to someone who is a lousy manager of the DA's office. Or perhaps he just doesn't give a darn?! I guess you don't have to when you are above the rules.

Mr. Luna has said that all county depts will have to share the pain of these economic times. I hope the Board will hold Pacheco's feet to the fire. Otherwise, he will just continue to spiral out of control, and everyone else will have to suffer as a result.

Columnist Dan Bernstein also discusses the Pacheco budget incident.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Cuddles actually might have helped himself by explaining in his cover letter to the supes that, geez fellas, it's a little tough to cut my budget when the cost of (YOUR GUESS HERE) is going through the roof.

Yes, janitorial services.

"Janitorial services have recently increased to alarming levels," he wrote. They're expected to top$1.2 million next year when the DA moves into his new building. That's up 58.4 percent compared to janitorial services a year ago.

"Since we were mandated to stop contracting in 2007, the cost for janitorial service has increased by 521 percent from $66,397 to $412,130 in our Main Street building alone without a change in service."

The DA didn't itemize, so it's hard to say what costs more: Mopping up after acquittals or deodorizing stinky cases.

San Bernardino County wants the investigative report on former Assessor Bill Postmus to go public.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

District attorney spokeswoman Susan Mickey said investigators are concerned that release of the report could affect witness testimony during a trial, if and when charges are brought.

"We want to protect a fair trial," she said.

Supervisor Neil Derry, whose office was caught up in the assessor's scandal when his chief of staff was arrested, said withholding the report would give the impression of a cover up. The full report needs to be released, he said.

"It would be even more embarrassing if we didn't release the information to the public," Derry said. "The public paid for the investigation."

The Board of Supervisors in late January hired John C. Hueston, an attorney with the Newport Beach law firm of Irell & Manella LLP, with the goal of building a case to remove then-assessor Bill Postmus.

Two weeks later Postmus quit, but the investigation is continuing. County Counsel Ruth Stringer, who has been handling communications with Hueston, characterized the report as half to three-quarters finished.

A jury awarded $2.3 million to a female Los Angeles Police Department officer who alleged she was sexually harassed and the stress led to a miscarriage.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Officer Melissa Borck, 45, said she suffered discrimination and abuse while she was at the Los Angeles Police Department's Valley Traffic Division in 1996, and was retaliated against for reporting the harassment to Internal Affairs. The unanimous jury verdict comes a decade after Borck first filed the lawsuit in April, 1999. A mistrial was declared after her first trial in 2007 because of juror misconduct.

Attorneys for the city contended that Borck failed to file the appropriate claims in time. A city attorney spokesman said Wednesday that city lawyers would evaluate all options, including appeal.

The harassment began soon after Borck transferred to the Valley Traffic Division, her attorney argued in court papers. A fellow officer pushed her head to his groin and said, "I thought you'd never ask." Male officers ordered female officers to pick up dry cleaning, lunch or coffee for them, the attorney alleged.

When Borck became pregnant, male colleagues commented on the size of her breasts and asked if she would breast-feed them, according to the documents.

Borck gave birth to a stillborn baby 19 weeks into her pregnancy in November 1996.

A beating and a coverup. That's what allegedly happened in Baltimore. Now two officers and a sergeant face federal indictments.

A jury will decide the outcome of the case of the Philadelphia Police Department officer who robbed drug dealers.

(excerpt, Philadelphia Daily News)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathy Stark said evidence presented during the weeklong trial was "simply overwhelming" that the ex-cop, Malik Snell, 36, robbed a South Philadelphia drug kingpin, Ricardo McKendrick, Jr., of $40,000 on Dec. 14, 2007.

Snell was dressed in full uniform and his badge was covered with the crepe for a fallen officer when he pulled McKendrick over on a street in South Philadelphia in a Dodge Intrepid that had been rigged to look like a police undercover car.

Stark said Snell's cell-phone records showed that there were numerous calls to and from the same phone number just before and after the robbery, and that Snell's cell phone pinged off three cell towers in proximity to the robbery scene. (Snell testified Friday that he didn't remember whose cell phone he called on the morning shortly before he allegedly robbed McKendrick. Sources said it was prepaid number.)

The prosecutor suggested Snell's "mystery friend" was somebody who "had reason to know where McKendrick was and that he was carrying $40,000 in drug proceeds.

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