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 28, 2009

Mid-week odds and ends

It's interesting to see how much discussion and focus has been placed on the Community Police Review Commission in recent weeks at various debates, forums and meetings attended by candidates, both incumbents and challengers, running for seats in three different wards represented by the Riverside City Council. But there you have it especially in the fourth ward which features two candidates who have turned what began as a rather quiet Election 2009 into the marquee event. And blogging about this election has been such a thrill, I can't even tell you. Thanks for the support from those who read this blog and have expressed it.

There's been a barrage of nastiness at Craigslist coming from one particular camp in this particular city election. Isn't it interesting how eight candidates can be running for office but the supporters of only one have resorted to such nasty rhetoric at Craigslist even being nasty to the Riverside resident who helped set up the site so that city residents and others could post about events and issues in Riverside city and county, not to mention elsewhere. Talk about not being a good house guest!

But similar nastiness surrounded the District One county supervisor race last year and like this year, for the most part, came from again, one particular camp. Oh was it the same camp? Well, surely that's a coincidence and nothing more. Yes indeed. But the barrage of negative karmic comments expressed at Craiglist have centered on the CPRC as of late and it's been a little while since I've been harassed for supporting that panel. Which means of course that the CPRC has grabbed attention in this election thanks to the shenanigans which have taken place at City Hall surrounding the nine-year-old commission since last summer. An interesting development in Election 2009, but one that had been in the making for months prior to when any of the candidates filed their papers declaring their intent to run for office.

Accusations were launched on Craigslist that candidate, Paul Davis is a johnny-come-lately when it comes to caring about the CPRC. Part of that perception might have resulted because he wasn't running for office backed by a police labor union which endorsed him in large part because he opposed the CPRC. That was where Schiavone was sitting in 2001, mere months after the CPRC had begun receiving and reviewing complaints after being created through ordinance in the spring of 2000. Maybe Schiavone was more well-known for being associated with the CPRC but that was in part because he received law enforcement endorsement money given out at the time to candidates who opposed the CPRC. Schiavone's had his issues where he's come through but the CPRC isn't one of them and it never has been.

Dr. Samuel Walker, from the University of Nebraska, Omaha told me once that in California, police unions had lost more battles to weaken civilian oversight than they had won so they turned towards the political process of municipal elections to fight their battles there. He said that about six months before those elected officials who opposed civilian oversight constituted a majority on the city council.

Also, at least one city police officer apparently recommended to Davis a couple of years ago that he apply to the CPRC when an opening came up for a Ward Four-specific appointment. Ultimately, that position was filled by Linda Soubirous who had run against District One Supervisor Bob Buster four years before Schiavone did.

But when members of one particular political camp anonymously of course aren't using Craigslist as their litter box of choice, it's a great place to find out what public forums are taking place on which issue, when and where the candidate forums are being held, when, where and by who in this city. This enables voters in the three wards up for grabs to seek out forums where their ward's candidates are appearing and to learn more about them and their stances on the various issues impacting the specific wards as well as the city in general.

Inland Empire Craigslist

The ballots which are mail-in are due at their destination on June 2 and consequently need to be mailed enough days ahead of time to get to their destination by that date. Some people have been told that it's enough to have their return ballot postmarked on June 2 but this is not the case at all. If anyone's telling you that, either they don't know the right information or they are willfully misleading you.

They're due to be mailed out to registered voters by May 4 and so it's important to fill them out and send them in and remember that you have to pay the postage which is set to increase by two cents on May 11 from $0.42 to $0.44 so make sure you're paying the correct postage while mailing out your very important completed ballot.

The above applies to voters in Wards Two, Four and Six. When you get your ballots, cast your vote as soon as possible and place the right postage to send it back. Your vote's your voice so exercise it.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors are squaring off against the labor unions by pushing them to exchange salary cuts for threats of layoffs. Threatening layoffs is not exactly an unheard of tactic used to push unions into taking concessions during contract negotiations even during years of plenty, but the ongoing recession and its impact on the budgets of local governments is playing a major role in this latest skirmish between the board and the county's bargaining units. Will there be layoffs in the county's public safety departments? That remains to be seen but after seeing the drama that played out in San Bernardino within the past couple of months, it's difficult to predict exactly what will happen and how much bloodletting there will be in the county's workforce which has seen some already, not to mention a 10% cut which is being implemented by most county departments save one.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The board has agreed to allow county CEO Bill Luna to cut retirement contributions in half, plus impose furloughs up to 120 hours and reduce annual leave buy-downs. Luna has projected that those actions would constitute a 10 percent reduction in personnel costs. He has challenged the county's unions to take similar steps to save employee jobs.

"I think we need to show them we mean business," Wilson said. "We're moving toward a tunnel of disaster."

At least two unions say they aren't prepared to make any deals.

"We understand there's a crisis," said Fred Lowe, business manager of Local 777 of the Laborers' International Union of North America. "But we want to do anything we can to protect our members."

Riverside County is negotiating with at least three of six unions that represent about 15,000 of its roughly 20,000 employees. The supervisors have been pressing unions for cooperation to reduce costs and prevent layoffs.

As an alternative to cuts or union concessions, Luna has proposed that supervisors lay off about 1,000 employees during the next budget year, which starts July 1.

News from the fronts of the contract negotiations between Riverside's City Manager Brad Hudson and the city's own bargaining units isn't much better at the moment. It's still fairly early in the season but most of the unions are already looking at potential salary freezes and losing provisions in their former MOUs which are set to expire soon by the end of the fiscal year. Will they be threatened with layoffs if they don't concede? On the bright side for the bargaining units will be that this provides them the opportunity to discover if the city's reserve is really as flush as being said to the tune of $45 million, or not. A good guess would be, probably not.

Two items on the wish list for the city's two police unions. One, being the unfreezing of sworn positions from entry level to the classified position of captain and the other being that the sergeants (and eventually officers) obtain a similar MOU currently enjoyed by detectives since about 1993 which enables any vacant detective position to be promptly filled. The sergeants in particular, wish they had that same mechanism in place as their numbers have decreased through retirements and the officer/supervisor ratios have allegedly increased above 7 to 1 in the field division in recent weeks or months.

At least one union, the Riverside Police Officers' Association asked candidate, Paul Davis last year to do an audit of the preliminary financial budget passed by the city last June and he predicted a shortfall of about $14 million within six months which did come to pass and the picture has worsened since then due to less than anticipated property and sales tax revenue. But the police union might be facing salary freezes for its members from the city, instead of any form of pay hikes. And this may have changed sentiment in some of its members towards the incumbents currently on the dais as a result. How much so if that's the case remains to be seen in the weeks ahead.

If you recall, the RPOA and the Riverside Police Administrators' Association both endorsed incumbents across the board in this city council race, which was particularly interesting in the case of the RPAA because this unit had initially taken a neutral stance to avoid favoritism but then decided first to contact political candidates for interviews and then to endorse the incumbents including Councilman Frank Schiavone who is currently included as a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by two members of the RPAA including its past president. The lawsuit alleged retaliation against the two lieutenants and potentially a third for participating in labor union activities including the endorsement of city council candidates during Election 2007.

Members of past RPOA and RPAA bargaining teams have said that labor negotiations can be very intense and prolonged trying the wills of those on both sides. During the particularly arduous labor negotiations of the summer of 2006, both police association filed litigation against the city alleging different violations of fair labor practices. Both lawsuits were ultimately settled.

It doesn't like this round of labor talks will be any smoother even as the city sails through rougher waters all around.

The investigative report focusing on former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus just might be made public after all after some hemming and hawing by the supervisors in that scandal plagued county.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The results of the probe by attorney John C. Hueston were presented to the board in a closed-door meeting that lasted nearly four hours Tuesday.

Board Chairman Gary Ovitt said the supervisors read the report and the board is considering litigation based on information in it. Reading from a statement, Ovitt said the board would not comment on the contents of the report or the potential litigation.

On May 12, the board will decide whether to begin legal action and will make the report public, Ovitt said.

"The board appreciates the public's interest in this report and the public's patience, which is why the board is pleased that the report's release is now imminent," he said.

A member of Murrieta's Planning Commission resigns. What's kind of alarming is that this is the second resignation from the Planning Commission in recent days. If they're not careful, they might start looking like the CPRC in Riverside.

The preliminary hearing began for an assistant fire chief from Los Angeles County's fire department charged with animal cruelty in connection with the death of a dog.

Trolley service is coming to Temecula but at least one line is shutting down in Riverside. So don't get too attached to the downtown trolleys.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein's report on the alleged smackdown between Riverside District Attorney Rod Pacheco and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach has attracted a host of comments about Pacheco's office. It's a rare article about the D.A. that doesn't include pages and pages of commentary from the anonymous peanut gallery.

Subpoena power spreads to Columbia, Missouri where there's been efforts to create a civilian mechanism for some time.

(excerpt, Columbia Daily Tribune)

City attorney Fred Boeckmann completed the new draft of the ordinance yesterday. He said he does not think the panel would issue subpoenas often. The subpoena power would apply primarily to people or documents outside the department because another provision in the ordinance would require police officers to cooperate fully with the review board or face discipline, including possible dismissal.

“I don’t imagine it would be something that would be used a whole lot,” Boeckmann said, adding that the city’s Personnel Advisory Board has similar authority. “It could come in handy sometimes.”

Rex Campbell, a co-chair of the Citizen Oversight Committee that unanimously recommended civilian review of the police department last year, said the committee did not include a recommendation about subpoena power because there was just a one-vote difference among the members in favor of not allowing it. “It was a contentious issue among the committee,” Campbell said.

Another member of the oversight committee, Columbia attorney David Tyson Smith, said he was surprised the subpoena issue was included. He said he favors allowing the review board to issue subpoenas and is pleased with the draft overall. “So far, it complies with the spirit of the recommendation of the oversight review committee,” Smith said.

Two New York City Police Department officers have been indicted for raping an intoxicated woman.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Officer Kenneth Moreno, 41, a 17-year NYPD veteran, raped the woman in her E. 13th St. apartment while his partner, Franklin Mata, 27, acted as a lookout and misled radio dispatchers, prosecutors said.

"(Mata) knew his partner was having sex with a semiconscious woman," Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.

The cops pleaded not guilty after surrendering at the lower Manhattan court house.

They face up to 25 years in prison on rape, burglary and official misconduct charges in the Dec. 7 incident.

Investigators say the woman's blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, making her unable to legally consent to sex.

Riverside County prepares for Swine flu but so far fortunately hasn't seen any definitive cases of the virus. Some experts believe that the pandemic will be lukewarm in the spring, stop during the summer months (as this season is not conducive to the spread of influenza viruses) and pick up in the autumn. If the virus spends the summer time meeting up with other viruses and exchanging DNA at the viral equivalent of a single's bar, then the situation would be much worse than it appears now. After all, the Spanish flu didn't look like much in April of 1918 but hit the world with a vengeance after spending its summer months recombining avian DNA with that belonging to human flu viruses. But then it's difficult to ever predict the course of a flu virus.

But before whatever happens, happens, the scientists will have to come up with a new name for the virus, H1N1, because it's probably not true Swine Flu which isn't communicable between people, just porcine and humans. This virus, the first of its kind, is a marriage or merger between viral DNA belonging to birds, humans and pigs. Meaning it's a virus that's been around so it might be premature to be certain it started in Mexico.

Wanted: Faux home owners

Some people sent me the link to the YouTube video some anonymous person made depicting or parodying myself, The Riverside Press Club person, Michael Morales and former CPRC commissioner, Jim Ward. And what was in Ward's hand? Some said an alcohol flask. I seriously hope not. But the clay figures are kind of creative and somebody put some work into it.

The individual claimed that they used audio for a recent meeting but if so, it wasn't from one all that recent or likely, even the same meeting.

I remain blissfully ignorant on this video because alas, the audio component of my computer has been knocked out and it's hard to read the faces of claymation figures to figure out what's being said.

Given that nearly 19% of Riverside's population is Deaf or hard of hearing due to the presence of one of the two state schools for the Deaf in Riverside, the video should have been presented in closed-caption form so as not to be exclusive to hearing folks. Something to keep in mind when producing future "audio" videos.

Still, I was a bit puzzled at why I turned out looking like Skipper. But what's important is that it does say is that the CPRC is becoming a campaign issue which is very nice to know, given what's been going on in the past year.

Ward's actually no stranger to being being parodied as it's called if that's what happened in this video.

He was once allegedly made fun of via video by over a dozen Riverside Police Department officers attending a training session in 2004 and when one attendee complained, she was allegedly told by current Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa (who was apparently the highest ranking officer overseeing that three-day course) that he couldn't say anything about it. Hopefully, this video was at least nice where he's concerned because he did put seven years working tirelessly at least 30-40 hours a month to try to get the commission both to work effectively and to be responsive to the community.

Then again, a female volunteer was allegedly told the same thing by her supervisor when she tried to file a complaint of a racially hostile environment in the police department in 2007 after one person she was partnered with asked a male officer at a coffee place if he wanted to hear an "African-American" joke. So maybe the party line, is just to say that nothing can be done about any of this.

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