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

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When the CPRC and the communities of Riverside part ways

"You don't need public comment. You can just blog about it."

---CPRC Commissioner Art Santore while introducing a motion to place further restrictions on public comment at the CPRC in front of a class of 20 students who got a lesson on how the commission "serves" community and then some.


What's written here might have a detrimental effect on the length of time the CPRC's commissioners give to the public to address them at future meetings.

The Community Police Review Commission in Riverside had another meeting which lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours. Over 30 people attended including members of a Community Relations class from the Riverside Community College's Moreno Valley campus. It was really exciting to see young people come to a meeting and witness it, although the commission pretty much embarrassed itself in the process of conducting a meeting and left these students with a strong impression of the panel which wasn't positive. Though it might be considered a miracle that it actually conducted a meeting at all given the two recent cancellations since a new chair and vice-chair were elected so thank goodness for small blessings.

After all, when a new chair and vice-chair are elected and the first thing they do is put the commission on sabbatical for a month, that causes concerns to be raised given that their respective attendance records weren't all that great last year.

The meeting was so fascinating that when it becomes available online, a link to its recording will be posted here. It also presented a lesson plan of sorts to the students who were enrolled in an Administrative of Justice course. Traditionally, the curricula for this class have included presentations on the CPRC and occasionally, the students have sat in on the meetings themselves. They sat, they watched and listened and they left with a definitive impression of the CPRC as being a mechanism that might have the word "community" included in its name but definitely didn't appear to represent or serve communities in Riverside. That's a shame because that's not indicative of its history, just its present during the past year or so.

Reactions from the students after they left the meeting were less than positive at what they witnessed. Some questioned why the racial composition of the class was nearly all White (and the racial diversity between the commission and the audience was a contrast in studies). Some asked why the commission was so hostile to community members if it was created for community. It's likely there will be plenty of discussions about the dynamics of the meeting they witnessed at their next class session. It was certainly interesting to hear that these students didn't miss one thing that took place at the meeting that they witnessed. Some of them wanted to become empowered to take the commission back to the communities. I did tell some of them to listen to older recordings from about two years ago of CPRC meetings and they could see the difference between then when the commission was functioning much better and now, when it's a sea of dysfunction. Recordings taken of meetings held before the latest wave of micromanagement began by the fifth and seventh floors of City Hall.

Some observations made by these students which I'll pass along. What's interesting is that it didn't appear to take these students long to read the commission so well. Not that the hostility among commissioners doesn't illuminate to community members like a neon sign but the commissioners don't seem to know or care how these visiting students saw them. Now, if you brought a group of police officers in to the commission meeting and these students would have really witnessed a study in contrasts in terms of how commissioners view law enforcement officers compared to how they view and treat community. But although a delegation of officers was present at the closed session, none stayed for the public meeting.

What's also interesting is that these students asked questions which others who have attended meetings have asked for years. And these are questions that the CPRC couldn't answer for them even if it wanted to do so. The views they provided on related issues reflected those expressed by community members at earlier meetings.

1) Why is there a lack of racial diversity on the CPRC? Why is it less reflective of the community than even the police department? How do they pick commissioners?

2) Why is it taking placed in such a cramped room with not enough seating? Why are commissioners' backs facing community members?

3) Why are the commissioners so hostile towards people addressing them or hostile in allowing enough public comment?

4) Doesn't the CPRC remember that the people put them there and they represent the people?

5) Why is the Latino looking guy acting so hostile?

6) What can be done to fix the commission and bring it back to the people?

I've been thinking about these and other questions asked by the students especially item #6 which is how can all the damage that's been done to the CPRC particularly in the last couple of years be fixed? That will be the subject of future blog postings because there is an answer to that question and it comes from ideas presented by different people who have watched the CPRC stumble and pretty much sputter along not by accident or bad luck but by design through actions taken by individuals at City Hall who saw Measure II pass in 2004 and decided not to respect the will of the voters.

The presence of students provides tremendous outreach opportunities and if the commission's not doing hardly any community outreach, then it's left for the public to do so. And the CPRC commissioners did a somewhat less than brilliant job in "outreach" at their meeting when the majority of its members made it abundantly clear to the visiting class that they don't value public attendance and participation as anything less than a nuisance. That's what the students took with them when they left about two hours after the meeting started.

Here are a couple of dynamics which the commission put on display last night.

Community participation drags down meetings
otherwise known as The Blog Made Me Do It

I spoke with the instructor who is actually a former law enforcement officer at length and some of the students including several who asked for the address for this blog. They couldn't figure out why the content on one local blog could catalyze the CPRC to impart limitations on public comment. I guess they can read it and find out for themselves. But yes, one commissioner actually blamed this blog as the impetus for limiting public comment.

But Commissioner Art Santore made it clear and on the public record that his decision to promote an item to reduce public comment was fostered from a pique with this blog of all things. How bizarre. But anyway, it was interesting to hold discussions out in the hallway involving these issues while commissioners spent 30-40 minutes going at it.

But first, Santore introduced his item when prompted by Chair Sheri Corral and immediately dragged my name into it, and then my blog. Well actually, first Corral wanted to receive public comment on an item before it was even introduced by its sponsor. Which makes little sense because how can the public comment on an agenda item when it doesn't even have any understanding of what it is? Soon it became apparent that not only was the public confused but so were commissioners. It appeared that the only ones not confused were Santore and his handlers. So Santore was pushed to handle the arduous task of actually having to outline his agenda item before public comment rather than after, which he surely must have preferred doing.

There are logical reasons for trying to limit public comment but Santore for some reason seemed to want to make it clear that it was the blog which drove him. Why mention it at all? Some commissioners spoke on the motion before public comment was taken and others wanted to vote on the one proposed and seconded by Santore and Ken Rotker respectively before even allowing the public to comment on it. This led one commissioner to scratch their head and say, why have public comment then? The question's clearly answered by the fact that state law forces the commission probably kicking and dragging its feet along the way to have to listen to what the public has to say. But beyond that, it's probably a rhetorical question.

He decided that having me or anyone else participate in public discussion on any item on the agenda that I chose was dragging the meetings too long and that I didn't need any public comment time because I could always blog about it. It's interesting how a commissioner could blame the fact that he didn't like the blog for pushing for reductions in public participation by city residents.

What's ironic is that even though there's been greater public participation by community members, the commissioners decided that their participation dragged the meetings out too long, ignoring the fact that over 98% of the time spent meeting for 4-6 hours a stint still involves commissioner discussion, commissioner fighting, commissioner and manager fighting and all the intensive micromanagement that's been going on at meetings which among other things does consume quite a bit of time. But the commissioners have apparently viewed that increased public participation by city residents which has taken place in the last six months mostly at the meetings taking place in the Fifth Floor conference room as a negative drag on their time.

Then Santore decided that the commissioners should pick and choose who would be allowed to speak beyond three minutes. City Attorney Gregory Priamos said they had to be very careful doing down that road due to equal protection issues. There's something called the 14th Amendment after all to consider.

Someone in the audience said that if they had the discretion to lengthen public comment for particular individuals, they would just lengthen it just for people they agreed with or liked wouldn't they?

Santore essentially blamed the public for the reasons why the commission has fallen behind in fulfilling just about every Charter-mandated responsibility during the past year. Essentially I and through extension this blog was blamed for the commission being delinquent in performing the tasks below in a timely fashion.

1) Being a year behind in issuing its annual report, as mandated by the city charter

2) Falling behind in performing any meaningful outreach in the past year or so

3) Being 100 days or more behind on reviewing and issuing advisory findings on citizen complaints

4) Being two years behind in reviewing and issuing a public report on the Joseph Darnell Hill shooting case

5) Apparently, one public commenter is to blame for the CPRC meetings averaging 4-5 hours but seriously, 98% of all the discussion is still done by commissioners.

First of all, it would be more logical to assume that one reason why the commission's falling further and further behind in performing its charter-mandated responsibilities is due to the failure of the city manager's office to hire and employ a full-time manager to oversee it. The commission had already fallen behind in some of its charter-mandated responsibilities including its review and deliberation of personnel complaints when its previous manager, Pedro Payne (who was full-time) was essentially forced to retire by City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis. The city should either have a full-time manager or have the current half-time manager that it has and pay him a salary more appropriate for a half-time employee. But Payne despite his lack of law enforcement in his background did manage to keep the CPRC running more or less on schedule and perform the charter-mandated functions of the commission. About 18 months into the reign of his successor, Kevin Rogan, a retired Pomona Police Department captain, and it seems like the CPRC has made very little progress in most of these areas at all.

The area where this stands out markedly is in the area of community outreach. If you'll recall, the CPRC first struggled in this area when Asst. City Manager sent Payne a four-page memo banning him from attending community meetings lest people think the commission was biased against the police. But Payne had also initiated outreach opportunities including orientation meetings with newly hired officers as well as met with three members of the Riverside Police Officers' Association during his tenure as manager of the CPRC. Then after Payne was gone, outreach floundered during the brief interim stint done in the management position by Administrative Analyst Mario Lara. But if you compare and contrast the monthly reports available online from this year compared with those from say, 2005 or so, you'll see the tremendous differences in outreach efforts made back then to the minuscule now. But then now, you've had commissioners complain that they're too busy to do community outreach.

Second of all, the vast majority of discussion is actually done by commissioners, not the public at all. So if they're backlogged on nearly all of their charter-mandated responsibilities, they need to look at the 98% of the discussion that's taking place rather than punishing community members for their failure to perform their charter-mandated responsibilities in a timely fashion. They stumble over basic parliamentarian procedure or if they're motivated (or instructed) to push an item through, they just ignore it.

Interestingly enough, the last two public meetings that were to be held by the CPRC were actually canceled. The first due to lack of quorum and the second, because Chair Sheri Corral decided that they were caught up and no business needed to be conducted to move the commission forward. So was I or any other community member responsible for them deciding not to hold a public meeting because the chair apparently decided there was no business to be conducted? So they believe several weeks that they were all caught up and had no pressing business to even justify scheduling a meeting, but now suddenly, the commission was so far behind that when faced with looking for items to throw out of their leaking boat, they jettisoned public participation first by reducing it?

Public participation as stated earlier had increased greatly at CPRC meeting during the past several months and it was unfortunate that the CPRC's members viewed that increased participation as a nuisance, as comments that dragged the commission meetings out and pushed the commission further behind in its abilities to perform its charter-related functions. So public comment increases and the first thing the CPRC thinks to do is to reduce public participation?

They tried to soften their actions by allowing extra time for the relatives of the deceased individuals whose deaths were currently being reviewed by the CPRC which is a thoughtful gesture but even when Leslie Braden whose brother is Hill was given extra time, they still didn't really listen to her. So their intention was to give these individuals more quantity of time but not back it with quality of time?

But Braden's vowed to be at every meeting where there's discussion of any officer-involved death including the four cases which have been in limbo for up to eight months with no progress reports being given to the commission by Rogan or even his bosses. But then again, it's not like the commissioners are even asking for progress reports as they have in the past. Why don't they? Because frankly Scarlett, they don't give a damn.

Who is the CPRC's legal counsel?

There's been a lot of discussion about whether or not the CPRC needs an independent counsel and the opinions vary. Many people feel that because Priamos represents the city's interests including when it's sued over its police department that it's a conflict of interest situation. Others feel that he can do both jobs. But another issue that's arisen lately is whether or not Priamos is the only person offering the CPRC legal advice.

During meetings, it seems to be a toss up between Priamos and Rogan who's got a law degree. Rogan will often offer his legal opinion and then it might or may not agree with that provided by Priamos as Commissioner John Brandriff discovered when he tried to get Rogan to schedule an agenda item for a past meeting which addressed the secret meetings held by the Governmental Affairs Committee's ad hoc committee which was set up to be a very stacked committee which met behind closed doors to allegedly discuss investigative protocols used by the state's forms of civilian oversight. Rogan vetoed Brandriff's agenda item and so Brandriff went to Priamos who said that he didn't see a problem with putting it on the agenda.

This has led to some rather heated confrontation between Rogan, Brandiff and others over who's to give the legal opinions. Brandriff said over one issue at the most recent meeting that he would prefer to hear the opinion of Priamos over Rogan and in this case, Priamos' legal interpretation conflicted with that offered by Rogan which has happened more than once. Maybe the way to solve it is to give Rogan and Priamos nerf sticks and they can joust during the beginning of a meeting and that can decide who will be the CPRC's legal counsel. Maybe a better solution is just if the city manager and/or Councilman Frank Schiavone and Steve Adams just sit down with their direct and indirect employees and outline more clearly what their roles are in terms of this panel. If these individuals can engage in such complex and extensive micromanagement of the CPRC, surely they can handle this task with aplomb.

I can do public outreach but I want my CPRC tee-shirt!

Yes, it's true the discussion over the CPRC's tee-shirts financed during this difficult budgetary time took precedence, though not to the same degree that a discussion on the CPRC's magnetic letter openers took several years ago. One commissioner, Ken Rotker said he's cool with doing public outreach at the annual neighborhood conference on May 30 at Cal Baptist University but he wanted to be wearing his CPRC shirt. But before that issue turned into a crisis, the revelation slipped out that for the first time, the CPRC failed to rangle itself a booth at the popular event.

Some commissioners like Brandriff said that it was a great outreach opportunity for outreach but somehow the ball was dropped in reserving the CPRC its annual booth. Another community outreach opportunity missed by the commission which hasn't done any meaningful outreach in nearly two years. It recently struggled to approve even a rudimentary outreach package mostly spearheaded by Outreach Chair Chani Beeman but has so far failed to put it to work for them.

And no, sending the manager to meetings solely to rebut comments by community members doesn't really count, especially in comparison with the much better work product put out at meetings by Payne and even his predecessor, Don Williams.

Who actually chairs the public meetings?

Under the written language governing the CPRC, it's the chair of the CPRC or in the absence of the chair, the vice-chair or chair pro tem. However, I was reminded of how this often doesn't work when it was Rogan who told a member of the public that they had exceeded their time limit for speaking instead of the chair or vice-chair. So he's manager of the CPRC and defacto chair as well? Well, considering his very full-time (and then some) paycheck for a very part-time (and then some) position, maybe it's time to start adding on more responsibilities including a de facto chair position.

This also applies to the subcommittee meetings as during one of them that was chaired by Brandriff, his control of the meeting was usurped by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who as far as anyone can tell including in the written record has never actually been appointed to the CPRC as a commissioner.

There's much more to say about the latest CPRC meeting which will be addressed in future postings but writing about it here might be a huge problem. Who knows? This posting could be used as an excuse to reduce public comment next month to one minute in duration by a commissioner who's hoping that the truth about how they conduct business is restricted to only those in attendance.

The Riverside Police Administrators' Association has endorsed Councilman Andrew Melendrez in the Ward Two contest, according to comments Melendrez made at the League of Women Voters' forum in downtown. This means that the leadership had changed its stance of remaining neutral during this election cycle.

Ward Two city council candidate Ruben Rasso profiled here. He and the other two candidates, Andrew Melendrez and Ahmad Smith participated in a public forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In their comments, Rasso and Smith both promised to be extremely responsive to citizens.

Rasso said he would return all phone calls and e-mails.

"Your concern will be a top priority to me, not trying to please business or developers," he said.

Smith said he would make it a point to regularly explain to residents what he and the council are doing and why.

"I think our council members do a poor job" of this, he said.

Melendrez said there are 14 active neighborhood groups in the ward He said he works closely with all of them on local issues and would be happy to help residents start their own groups if they so desire.

Former Moreno Valley Police Department deputy David Kushner testified for the defense in his ongoing trial on sexual assault charges.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

One of the women previously testified that Kushner stopped her as she walking barefoot to her parent's house in July 2002. The woman, who was wanted on an Idaho warrant, said she performed oral sex on Kushner in his pickup and then several days later they went to dinner and a Riverside motel to have sex.

The Press-Enterprise does not routinely identify possible victims of sexual crimes.

Kushner said he met the woman at a Moreno Valley nightclub, Bahama Mama's, several nights before while off duty. He said he saw her on the street and ran a background check in order to appear to be working in front of his supervisors.

Kushner said he didn't arrest her because the warrants were from out of state. He testified that he picked her up in his pickup after work that night and took her to dinner and the motel."

"She wanted to talk to me," Kushner said. "I was interested in her."

In another case, Kushner denied punching another woman in the stomach and taking her to a field and molesting her.

What's going on with the inland's libraries? How does the recession and resultant budget cuts by cities and counties impact different library systems?

Lots of response on the controversial resignation of the brand new police auditor in San Jose.

The San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board chimes in by alleging that the city botched the appointment process.


The independent police auditor handles complaints against the police, monitors police-involved shooting deaths and recommends changes in policies and procedures. Many residents are reluctant to come forward with grievances, so the auditor must inspire their confidence.

San Jose police have come under intense scrutiny in recent months since Mercury News analyses have revealed disproportionately high numbers of arrests, particularly among Latinos, for judgment calls: public drunkenness, unruly behavior and resisting arrest. The police also are facing criticism for charging high numbers of juveniles with misdemeanors. The independent police auditor could play a vital role in recommending reforms to cut down on unnecessary arrests — but only if he or she has impeccable credibility

Reed and the council didn't renew the contract of the previous police auditor, Barbara Attard, whom they viewed as too confrontational. She had sought more investigative authority and had criticized the police for dismissing too many complaints. Community activists naturally were watching this appointment to be certain the mayor and council lived up to their commitment to find a strong, independent replacement.

Reed and his colleagues failed that test last week. Constantin's resignation gives them a second chance.

Then the city council voted its wish to remove the mayor from the appointment process.

(excerpt, San Jose Mercury News)

Their memo blasted Reed's four-month, $30,000-plus process, which resulted in the pick of a highly regarded city auditor for the post but failed to disclose to either an advisory community panel or the public that Chris Constantin had a potential conflict of interest — his brother is a San Jose police officer.

The relationship was revealed in the Mercury News just days after Constantin was hired for the $169,000-a-year job.

"Removing this function from a political office at a time of controversy and intense public scrutiny is a sensible way to move forward and to begin to regain the public's trust,'' says the memo written by Councilwoman Nora Campos.

The proposal — which could be voted on as early as the next full council meeting May 5 — seeks to strip Reed from quarterbacking the process and hands most of it to the city attorney's office and the council itself. It would start the hiring process for a new auditor from scratch with a nationwide candidate search, include more community leaders on an advisory panel to interview the candidates, and let council members and the panel in on background checks and potential conflicts of interests.

The five toughest cities to get by in the nation.


1. Providence, R.I.

(Providence-Fall River-Warwick, R.I.-Mass., metro area)
Population: 1.6 million
Cost of Living Index: 122
Median Income: $54,064
February 2009 Unemployment Rate: 11.6%

2. Los Angeles, Calif.

(Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif., metro area)
Population: 12.9 million
Cost of Living Index: 148
Median Income: $56,680
February 2009 Unemployment Rate: 10.2%

3. Riverside, Calif.

(Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., metro area)
Population: 4.1 million
Cost of Living Index: 120
Median Income: $54,991
February 2009 Unemployment Rate: 12.2%

4. Tampa, Fla.

(Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla., metro area)
Population: 2.7 million
Cost of Living Index: 96
Median Income: $45,243
February 2009 Unemployment Rate: 10.2%

5. Buffalo, N.Y.

(Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., metro area)
Population: 1.1 million
Cost of Living Index: 96
Median Income: $44,747
February 2009 Unemployment Rate: 9.6%

Election Forum Trivia:

Ward Two Candidate Forum:

Would you help the CPRC?

Ahmad Smith: No

Andrew Melendrez: Yes

Ruben Rasso: No

Save our Chinatown is the site for what's been going on with this pressing issue in Riverside.

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