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 07, 2009

Ratios and rationalization

The Riverside City Council met to receive reports and to vote on submitting grant proposals to access federal stimulus money which would then be used to fill vacant positions including inside the police department and to create new programs and purchase new equipment through grant money. Both proposals passed the votes of the city council, one through the consent calendar and the other on the discussion calendar.

One grant would bring almost $5 million to the city to fund 15 police officer positions for three years and the city would have to keep these officers employed for at least one more year. A list of labor requirements are included with the literature on the grant money which will be dispensed by the Department of Justice's COPS office which issued similar stimulus money in the 1990s.

This stimulus funding if obtained would not create new positions in Riverside but would be used to unfreeze 15 positions in the department's patrol division. It's not clear whether 1-2 positions currently frozen (not long after being promised) in the traffic division will be impacted by the grant funding as well.

The number of vacancies for sworn officers is at least 19, not including supervisory positions which are currently frozen. Even more civilian positions are frozen and it's likely that there will be more freezes inside that division in the upcoming months. Overall, the vacancy rate for the police department is about 10.1% , according to a presentation that was given to the Human Resources Board by the Human Resources Department on April 6.

Of great concern is the impact that reopening the hiring for 15 police officer vacancies will have on the ratio of officers to supervisors which apparently "isn't what it should be", However, it's hard to know for sure what is going on because the city and department refuse to provide documentation of the department's supervisory ratios. A CPRA request for this information was made in 2008 to the city and police departments for documentation of differing supervisory ratios provided by the police department through an audit performed by consultant Joe Brann and off the cuff by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis.

At a June 2008 city council meeting, DeSantis provided a figure of 4.5 officers to one supervisor while Brann's was in the 6-7 to 1 range. However, the police department in response provided a copy of Brann's PowerPoint presentation for an audit he gave the city council in June 2008 which didn't actually include the ratio in it. The city manager's office demurred in responding to the request for documentation of DeSantis' ratio and handed that off to City Attorney Greg Priamos who again, provided a link to the city's preliminary 2008-09 annual budget which didn't provide any documentation of his cited ratio. So two different city departments were unable to provide any accurate documentation of the officer to supervisory ratios in the police department.

Why does any of this matter?

Under its stipulated judgment with the state attorney general's office in 2001, the department was required to set and maintain a ratio of seven officers to one supervisor. Former Attorney General Bill Lockyer had found in his investigation that the department's patrol officers had inadequate supervision. So he sought to remedy that problem by including a mandated reform in the judgment requiring the 7 to 1 ratio or better.

Even after the stipulated judgment was dissolved in Riverside County Superior Court in 2006, the city council voted in a special workshop in late March to keep key components of the judgment in place including the supervisory ratios, believing that it was an important means of maintaining accountability in the police department. The city appeared to believe that too at least until March 2006.

But as we all know, the police department went into a tail spin of sorts after the dissolution of the judgment that month and the S.S. Hudson went aground in his efforts to not do what the city council had ordered him to do. It took considerable effort to stir that ship back on course and even then, it took the police department some months to get back on track in its implementation of the strategic plan.

An audit conducted of the police department in early 2007 showed that the progression in implementing the strategic plan was uneven among the department's management employees. That situation turned itself around three months later according to another audit. But two others came with caveats attached that attention needed to be paid to staffing issues including the assignment of sergeants as watch commanders on patrol shifts and the supervisory ratios. And that was before the city started freezing positions.

The department began freezing officer vacancies early last year. Even as officer levels fell, supervisory ratios became lower until the department began moving some of its field sergeants out of patrol and into other divisions and more supervisors retired. The latest transfer being Sgt. Cliff Mason who was moved out of the field division into investigations. This shifting of supervisors out of the patrol division apparently caused the supervisory ratio to inch up again up to 7 to 1 and some say even higher than that. If that's the case, then perhaps it's time to take the issue of staffing and supervisory ratios to the public safety committee for further disclosure and discussion. It's not that surprising that problems like this take place. It's to be expected when you hand off the police department to the city manager's office to run or perhaps more accurately, pull the strings.

The sergeants are in a bit of a pickle because unlike the detectives, there is no MOU in place that states that vacancies at this level must be filled. The detectives have had something like that in place since the days of former chief, Ken Fortier, but the sergeants are lacking in having a similar provision in their labor agreements. One thing that as a bargaining unit, they are hoping to change, although it will be a challenge in the current economic climate and in terms of dealing with a city manager's office that's not exactly union friendly. Contract negotiations which haven't officially kicked off yet were going to concentrate on MOU issues given that the chances of getting salary increases isn't very high for any of the city's bargaining units.

The Riverside Police Officers' Association asked Paul Davis to analyze the city's preliminary budget to forecast the city's financial status about six months down the road and he predicted a sizable deficit or reduction in its anticipated finances, something which came to pass.

Still, at least three sergeant positions remain vacant even with recent promotions which might have actually not contributed much to improving ratios on patrol shifts.

So what will the department will do to accommodate the reopening of up to 15 officer positions (and this is likely only if the city receives stimulus funding) in terms of maintaining or at this point, improving on its supervisory ratios? It hasn't said, the city manager's office hasn't said and the city council hasn't said. But it does need to be discussed so that the ratios don't increase further.

The stimulus funding offers opportunities to deal with shortages, but it carries caveats as well which need more discussion so the city can avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.

Public comment period proved to be rather interesting. Ward Four candidate, Paul Davis spoke on how he would "restore the voice" of people to City Hall and not be involved in a situation similar to that which led to the expulsion of four city residents in March 2007 after they walked down to the podium to answer a question Councilman Frank Schiavone directly asked them about the use of eminent domain on residential properties. When several including Letitia Pepper and Yolanda Garland did just that, he soon ordered them removed from the meeting by the police officers.

One of them Marjorie Von Pohle, 89, refused to leave and told the two officers who walked up to her that they would have to carry her out of the chambers. Several members of the Riverside Police Officers' Association Board attended a community meeting two days later praising the actions taken by a deputy chief to defuse the situation. They also told people there that the city manager had called detectives around the city asking them to do a case involving these four individuals and none of them did. Allegedly, a phone call was also placed to the office of the Riverside County District Attorney's office which took no action either. These comments greatly concerned people attending the meeting who feel that police officers shouldn't be ordered to act as bouncers for elected officials and that detectives shouldn't be asked to do investigations because elected officials are upset with what they said at the podium.

Schiavone pushed his speaker button about two minutes into Davis' comments and tried to respond but the mayor shushed him. Migual Morales then came up and commented on how "rookies" and "failed trainees" shouldn't run for city council. Three city council members in the middle giggled after Morales was done speaking and someone said, they heard Councilwoman Nancy Hart say, "Touche". But then behavior like that's not surprising considering that just about everyone on the dais has endorsed Schiavone even before he filed his papers to run.

At any rate, the meeting clocked on at a little on the long side of just under 2 1/2 hours.

Other actions were taken by the city council, mostly on the consent calendar.

The Governmental Affairs Committee is meeting at 3 p.m. to apply "policy direction" to some entity upon accepting recommendations from an ad hoc committee created by DeSantis, chaired by Asst. Police Chief John DeLaRosa which met entirely in secret. Why? Because that's how City Hall does business when it comes to policy decisions involving the Community Police Review Commission which is a body built on promoting accountability and more transparency. Because they didn't want the public to witness what took place behind closed doors.

So if you want to watch the Governmental Affairs Committee consisting of two council members who don't like the CPRC and one who campaigned that he did but then flip-flopped not long after being elected ram rod the Hudson directive through, then you're going to be in the right place if you're in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room at City Hall.

Here's a Web site set up focusing on a recall effort against a Lake Elsinore city councilman.

It looks like Riverside County Executive officer, Bill Luna might not be getting his bonus after all, after the embarrassing episode was publicly exposed where he was trying to up his retirement fund while county departments (minus the District Attorney's office) are taking 10% cuts in their budget.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Luna withdrew a proposal to boost his retirement fund after news of it appeared in The Press-Enterprise on Tuesday.

"I am concerned that it's become a distraction to the much more important issues contained in the agenda today," he told supervisors.

Supervisors Bob Buster and Marion Ashley criticized the item's placement in the middle of an 88-page resolution outlining potential budget cuts. They asked the executive office to present future proposed increases more clearly to the public and supervisors.

Several supervisors also announced Tuesday they plan to have their staffers give up their personal county cars in order to save the county money. Supervisors John Tavaglione and Marion Ashley said they plan to relinquish their cars, which the county purchased for more than $50,000 each last year. Both said they will instead take the $550 monthly car stipend and mileage reimbursement that the county offers some employees in lieu of a vehicle.

Tuesday's actions followed reports from county Assessor Larry Ward and Chief Financial Officer Paul McDonnell describing the county's worsening financial straits.

Luna and county department heads had been preparing for a never-before-seen 5 percent drop in the county's taxable property values predicted for next fiscal year. The county now faces a likely 10 percent drop, Ward said.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein weighs in on Luna.

The former Los Angeles Police Department officer who torched his car and lied about it to get insurance money will be spending a year in jail.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Anthony Razo, 49, avoided eye contact with some of his former Los Angeles Police Department colleagues as he pleaded guilty in Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Norm Shapiro's courtroom. Razo was immediately sentenced to a year in jail and three years' probation.

As part of a plea agreement, Razo, a 14-year LAPD veteran, admitted that he made up the story that two young Latino males with shaved heads had attacked him outside his City Terrace home, grabbed his department-issued handgun and shot him in the shoulder. Razo told the judge that he was alone when he was wounded and that the men did not exist.

Under the plea deal, Razo agreed to return $5,400 that his fellow officers raised after the Jan. 31 shooting incident to help him pay his medical bills.

Razo also admitted that he intentionally torched his 2005 BMW 745Li and falsely reported that the car was stolen Jan. 4. He then filed fraudulent claims against his auto and homeowners insurance policies.

Also out of the LAPD, more details have emerged in the arrest of an officer near Houston for sexual assault.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The affidavit says that when she went into the closet, Filipovich allegedly pushed himself against her and pinned her.

Filipovich asked if "she liked it" and the woman said no and resisted as he slid his hands underneath her shirt and pants, according to the court document.

Again, involving the LAPD, a deadline coming up in terms of litigation involving the May Day incident of 2007.

May Day 2007 Litigation deadline 2009-05-27

May Day 2007 Class Member Fund

On March 13, 2009, the federal court judge in the May 1st 2007 class
action litigation case
gave preliminary approval to a major
settlement agreement. The Court will consider giving final approval
to the settlement at a hearing on June 22, 2009. As a part of this
settlement process, the City has set aside a Class Fund of $250,000
for individuals to come forward and file claims for damages.

If anyone was present on May 1, 2007 in or around the MacArthur Park
area (which includes the UCLA Downtown Labor Center) at any point
between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and was subjected to the
LAPD?s use of force, dispersal order, or other unlawful police
activity arising from the LAPD?s response to the march and rally,
that person may be entitled to money as a CLASS MEMBER. The fund will
be divided equally among those who file claims, up to a maximum of
$1,000 person.

All claims must be postmarked no later than May 27, 2009. Claim forms
are available at www.miwonvcityofla. com .

Thanks to the unidentified individuals at Craigslist who keep plugging my blog in a manner of speaking. It's been great advertising for attracting new visitors and it's free. This time, the free advertising comes courtesy of Mr. "O". Which is interesting because Mr. "O" claimed he didn't even read my site.

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