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, May 12, 2009

Hand me the envelope please: The decision on the Joseph Darnell Hill shooting

The Community Police Review Commission in Riverside may vote tonight on whether the shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill was within policy. Not much suspense there, expect an 8-0 vote with some policy recommendations thrown in which when sent to City Manager Brad Hudson and whoever's acting police chief in the Riverside Police Department these days will probably throw them in the circular file where they'll join the policy recommendations for the shootings of Lee Deante Brown and Douglas Steven Cloud. The department hasn't even been willing to really respond to requests by the CPRC about the status of past officer-involved shooting deaths when it comes to policy and/or training recommendations.

In fact, the only way you'll get a productive discussion that's thorough and useful out of it is if commissioners Chani Beeman and John Brandriff show up but expect Beeman to be carrying most of the weight for trying to make this process working in a way that bares some small semblance to what the charter's direction is in cases like this one. You know the same charter that was to serve as some sort of refuge for the CPRC, according to the 60% of the voting population that put it there in November 2004. You would think that would have sent a loud statement to City Hall and for a while, it did but then City Hall led by two city council members and some direct and indirect employees went ahead and did what they wanted anyway. That's what the city's been watching during the past year or so. It's been watching a faction at City Hall with its own varying list of special interests go against the will of the voters and trying to pull a reversal by painting those who want to honor the charter's language on the CPRC as a group of small political activists with agendas.

Councilman Frank Schiavone at his campaign Web site used this same tactic.

(excerpt, Schiavone for city council)

Frank Schiavone supports the role the Community Police Review Commission was established to fulfill and will fight all attempts by political activists to misuse the powers of the Commission to interfere in criminal investigations.

If you go out and talk to people about the CPRC and City Hall's recent efforts to undermine it, you'll find out that what Schiavone calls "political activists" are really the public in this city. It's the public that he's proud of fighting against in order to please the special interest groups who really want the CPRC to just go away. Who are they? Check out his campaign contribution statements and this endorsement list.

Because again, the former investigative protocol involving the CPRC's investigations of officer-involved deaths went unchanged from 2002-08 and no one including Schiavone complained about it.

Here's the status of the past three shootings:

Lee Deante Brown:

Shooting within policy: Yes

Policy and/or training recommendations: Yes

Lawsuit settlement: @$250,000

Douglas Steven Cloud:

Shooting within policy: Yes

Policy and/or training recommendations: Yes

Lawsuit settlement: $800,000

Joseph Darnell Hill:

Shooting within policy:

Policy and/or training recommendations:

Lawsuit settlement: No lawsuit filed

Again, any vigorous discussion will come out of Beeman and maybe Brandriff but both will still vote the shooting as within policy. The rest of the commissioners, they have their respective marching orders and will continue to do what they're told or as much as their respective conflict of interests allow them to do.

The Riverside City Council did hold its meeting and an outgoing Press Enterprise reporter Doug Haberman did cover it. In related news, the Riverside Firefighters Association did agree to its new labor contract. That's not surprising as this association usually is the first of the city's bargaining units to complete this task. They did maintain staffing levels at their stations which is very critical.


The council approved a new contract with the Riverside City Firefighters union, under which the city will defer for one year, until July 1, 2010, a 2 percent pay raise that was scheduled to take effect this coming July 1.

The new contract extends the existing contract for one year, through June 2011.

The new contract guarantees that staffing at fire stations will not change through June 2011.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein critiques the newly opened Andulka Park.


Marty Montigel, tennis director of nearby, privately owned Riverside Tennis Center, sees nothing wrong with his public competitor charging for tennis. Otherwise, he says, "there's no monitoring" leaving courts vulnerable to dreaded skateboarders. Montigel breezily rattles off a list of city parks where tennis players can bang the ball around for nuttin'.

All that said, Loeb, the Andulka tennis guy, says, "We'd certainly entertain the idea of coming up with programs for underprivileged kids." A bit vague, but if there's a demand for this, don't you almost dare the electeds to ignore it?

I visited Andulka twice on Monday, the second time in early evening. Based on what I saw -- a carpet o' kids, basketball teens, a dad barbecuing for the family -- it's just a shame this park didn't open decades ago.

And half of it isn't open. A sign explains: "The grass needs more time to establish before it can handle the heavy traffic of a new park. Your new grass should be ready for play soon (end of June)."

Till then, the city offers an activity that seems tailor-made for Riversiders like me: Visit Andulka Park. Watch the grass grow. (It's free!)

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has decided to sue former Assessor Bill Postmus and five of his employees for misconduct after the investigative report turned up bad deeds much worse than were expected

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

After reviewing the report, the board voted Tuesday to sue Postmus along with five other former employees of the assessor's office -- James Erwin, Adam Aleman, Rex Gutierrez, Michael Richman and Gregory Eyler.

"As a taxpayer and as a public official, I find the activities detailed in the report deeply disturbing," said board Chairman Gary Ovitt. "There is certainly enough information in this report to compel the Board of Supervisors to pursue legal action against these individuals and seek damages for the taxpayers."

Three of those named in the suit have been arrested and are out on bail. Postmus resigned in February, shortly after being arrested on drug charges the month before. His former deputy, Aleman, has been charged with six felonies, and former assistant assessor Erwin is facing 10 felony counts, most for allegedly failing to properly report gifts received while in office.Of those mentioned in the report, only Erwin could be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I testified before a grand jury, went to the district attorney and laid out all of this a long time ago," Erwin said. "I tried to do something about it, and now I feel like I am being retaliated against for being a whistle-blower."

More on the Postmus situation in the aftermath of the report is here.

Three cities in San Bernardino County are all looking for city managers.

Metrolink is delaying the development of its new line through Perris.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"We want to respond to the concerns of the community," Standiford said. "This project is going to happen, but we want to make sure this happens in the right way."

Officials said Tuesday they could not estimate what the environmental impact report and additional construction along the rail line will add to the project's estimated $168.8 million cost, but said some increases are inevitable.

Further study and added construction will also likely delay trains running the route north from Perris, north to downtown Riverside, because federally required approval of the project will take longer.

Standiford said preliminary engineering of the project will continue as the environmental report is compiled, but the analysis and changes could put off trains running the route for three or four months. Officials previously expected service to start in late 2011.

"Yeah, I could see this shifting to the early part of 2012," he said.

The Orange County District Attorney's office says that there's plenty of evidence that the "code of silence" is alive and well in that county's Sheriff's Department.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

District attorney spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder said "inconsistencies" in the testimonies of Hibbs' fellow deputies prevented the case from succeeding and alluded to a "code of silence" between the lawmen.Her comments sparked outrage from Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, which demanded Schroeder's immediate resignation.

On Tuesday, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas made his case, saying several deputies at the scene "softened" their version of events between the time they testified before a grand jury in 2008 and when they took the stand in the assault trial.

"The deputy sheriffs in this case were not truthful," he said, referring to the events on Sept 13, 2007, when Hibbs fired a Taser at Ignacio Lares, a convicted felon with outstanding warrants. Lares was handcuffed in the back seat of a squad car at the time.District attorney officials said that none of the deputies at the scene reported the use of the Taser in the squad car during their initial write-ups of the incident. It was not until deputies allegedly began making jokes at the station house -- "What's your name? Clack, clack" -- that the event was investigated by the Sheriff's Department, which took the case to the district attorney.

The D.A. is withstanding the incredible pressure on him after his controversial comments.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

But during a Tuesday morning press conference, Rackauckas said those comments only relate to the case of Deputy Christopher Hibbs and not the entire department.

"It was meant to apply to this case and not suggest any department-wide policy," he said.

Last month, department spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder ignited a firestorm of acrimony from law enforcement unions across the state and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens after she repeated prosecutors' closing trial statements to reporters, noting that the Hibbs prosecution was hurt because deputies stuck by a code of silence.

That prompted a direct rebuke from Hutchens, who said there is no such thing in her department. More than a half-dozen police unions from across the state also wrote Rackauckas calling on him to begin an investigation into the statements made by Schroeder. Most of the letters echo the comment written by San Jose Police Officers' Association President Robert Lopez that allegations of a code of silence among police "strike at the very chord of law enforcement's credibility in and out of the courtroom."

"I think I understand what they are saying," said Rackauckas as he reiterated, "we're talking about this case."

In a separate interview, Hutchens said Schroeder's comments were offensive because they gave the impression that law enforcement agencies tolerate and accept lying in court proceedings. After the press conference, she accepted Rackauckas' explanation, saying, "for me this is over."

Prosecutors don't have a case against former Bolingbrook Police Department Sgt. Drew Peterson recently indicted for the murder of former wife, Kathleen Savio. At least that's what one of his defense attorneys is saying. He also told Peterson to stop cracking jokes about his arrest and indictment at least in public.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

Joel Brodsky -- who was en route to New York when Peterson was arrested last week -- stepped off a plane at O'Hare Airport on Sunday and lambasted Glasgow as an overzealous prosecutor who has hitched a weak case to circumstantial evidence.

The ex-Bolingbrook police officer maintains his "total, complete innocence in Kathy Savio's death," Brodsky said.

He vowed a fight to slash Peterson's $20 million bond. With his roots in the community, it should have been less than $1 million, Brodsky said.

The case is "not just hearsay, but double hearsay," Brodsky said.

He was referring to statements purportedly made by Savio, Peterson's third wife, about his threats, and comments allegedly made by Stacy, his missing fourth wife, to a pastor.

Peterson has been cracking wise since his arrest about jailhouse food and "bling" (handcuffs.)

It's a defense mechanism, Brodsky said.

"Drew does not think this situation he's in is funny," he said. "His comments certainly don't help. ... I've discussed that with Drew."

In the meantime, his lawyer's trying to get his bail reduced.

Behind the Blue Wall, a blog addressing domestic violence involving law enforcement personnel addresses the Peterson case extensively here.

Riverside's Mission Inn is planning another tour of its catacombs.

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