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

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Outages and oversight in Riverside

****UPDATE**** 5.0 earthquake hits Inglewood and so far no injuries reported. In the Inland Empire, it was like one jolt like someone landed on the roof and then a bit of shaking, but more of a rolling nature coming in from the West.

The city's Wi-Fi internet service experienced another outage in at least two separate neighborhoods including the downtown area beginning at 3:39 p.m. according to a city representative and at that time, at least 24 routers had gone down. The system had been experiencing several outages several weeks ago, but the company that the city contracts with to repair the service when it goes down has gotten to the problem and been able to fix it fairly quickly.

The 311 representative said that the Wi Fi routers (access points) are powered by the city's light poles and that notifications are sent via email to the city including the 311 service when the lights go out or the routers go down and beginning at 3:39 p.m. on Sunday and continuing past 4:00 p.m., routers from different neighborhoods began sending their SOS signals out to command central. It's not known at this time how long it will take to restore the service in the city though it's believed that technicians are currently working on the Downtown outage which appears to be centered around where the citrus-named streets intersect the numbered streets which means that it's downtown. The city's 311 representative wouldn't say whether or not it was a citywide outage or localized in several different areas. After trying to access it in one affected area on the trusty laptop, what happens is that you can connect to the server but you receive a "local only" designation after it reads that it's taking longer to connect than usual and then it reads, your connection to the internet has been unsuccessful.

It's not known what's caused the recent series of outages in one neighborhood but they were fixed within 4-6 hours each time, but with this latest more wide-spread outage, it's not known when this service will be back online especially if they have to replace parts.

If you have any questions about the Wi-Fi, Steve Reneker, the city's information officer is very knowledgeable on the subject and very willing to talk about the city's foray into municipal-provided internet service. It's definitely worth your while to learn about Smart Riverside from a person who worked hard on it. It works well a lot of the time. Hopefully, it will be back online soon.


The downtown area outage is currently being fixed since about 4 pm this afternoon. The one that occurred near Allesandro and Arlington/Chicago (and it's not clear they are related though they occurred about the same time frame) will be the next one that will be addressed some time later this evening or early tomorrow morning.

There's still time to send in your ballot for the Riverside city election of 2009. Well actually, one of the city elections of 2009 because there's still the grand old mayor's election which takes place in November 2009 and any city council runoffs that result from the mailin election of June 2. Get your ballot filled out properly, sign it then send it back or drop it at one of the access points. In fact, the City Clerk's office just sent out a mailer to remind you how to properly cast your ballot for this particular election. The mailers are beginning to trickle down to more of a flow than a barrage and the vertigo makes it difficult to look at any of them for very long anyway.

The elections aren't the only event going on in Riverside right now.

As they did in 2006, the Riverside Fire Fighters Association was the first to make concessions in its labor talks with the city, this time agreeing to put off a pay increase in light of the city's budget crisis. The RPOA asked Ward Four city council candidate Paul Davis to analyze the city's preliminary 2008-09 budget last year to evaluate what the city's financial picture would be in terms of whether it was the right negotiation climate to ask for salary increases. He predicted the city would be down about $14 million by November and that was pretty close to the mark as it turned out. It's only got worse since then, as the city's anticipated budget falls while city officials up for reelection tout the $45 million reserve, which if it's being used to prevent further layoffs and cutting of city programs as touted, certainly still isn't set at that amount anymore. Is it being used and if so, how much? And what exactly is it being used for, if this rainy day fund is being dipped into?

How will the other bargaining units respond to this and what will they do? How will it influence their ongoing labor negotiations? It wouldn't be the first time that negotiations involving one labor association crossed over into those involving another one or several. After all, there were several lawsuits filed in the long, hot summer of 2006 over this very issue involving differentials in health benefits between the Riverside Police Officers Association (which at the time was still negotiating) and that of the RFA and the SEIU which both came to an agreement with the city in July 2006. Those lawsuits later settled.

But it's a given that it will be difficult for any labor association to get any meaningful increases in salary this round at the bargaining tables. And it appears that several of them are already being asked or even told to make cuts or sacrifices in their MOUs involving other issues. After all, there are items that are near and dear to them and items that need to be closely watched by others.

For example, one of the items that the supervisory unit of the RPOA wants is a provision in their MOU which is similar to that enjoyed by their detective counterparts since the days of Chief Ken Fortier in the early 1990s. That is that any vacancy created by resignation, termination or retirement is to be filled. The sergeants who saw several members of their class retire in the last year have faced vacancies which have created serious issues with the supervisory ratio that they enjoyed along with lieutenant watch commanders over the officers on the three daily work shifts. The ratio was set by former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer during the stipulated judgment to 7 o 1 which is considered to be the industry standard. And the city council proclaimed their commitment to maintain that standard or better after the dissolution of the judgment in March 2006 when it voted 7-0 to do so during a workshop not long after.

But if you ask different people in the police department including officers, supervisors, management and city management, you will get different answers and no one, certainly not anyone in any leadership positions will provide any meaningful raw data or statistical compilations to back up their figures.

That lack of forthcoming of information which is public and the increased lack of transparency in a police department which appears to be just as micromanaged by City Hall as is the Community Police Review Commission (which is nothing more than a sad shell of what the charter mandates) makes it easier to fudge these numbers to look better than what they are especially when things get critical. After all, no doubt that's what city councils and city management teams did in the 1990s and it worked for a little while and then things fell spectacularly apart in a big way, through a chain of events which will forever define Riverside around the world. One of the biggest problems that the city is facing is that the collective memory of these critical events is disappearing among leadership of the city, both elected and appointed. That's why the city's heading into the direction that it was in the 1990s as it neared its stipulated judgment. That doesn't mean that another similar reform mandate is looming but it is time to take a look at what's going on around you so the city doesn't keep making the same mistakes over and over. It's doubtful that will happen of course.

The members of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association also have to be mindful that they don't incur losses particularly the captains who being closer to the top of the policing hierarchy in the department as entry level management, have to be careful to avoid the attempted micromanagement that almost took place involving three positions in their ranks. Those were one assistant chief position and two deputy chief positions, including two that were being filled at that time that this controversy erupted where City Manager Brad Hudson attempted to turn these three positions into being "at will" meaning terminated at will not merely demoted back to their classified captain's level. This move was somewhat anticipated in a climate where there was a sense that Hudson's office was overly involved in the promotional process at the management level. The series of events surrounding Hudson's attempts to change the classifications of these management positions only fed that and led to a confrontation at City Hall between both sworn police labor associations, community leaders and City Hall.

Several politicians that were supported financially by the RPOA at election time realized that this erupting controversy put everyone in a pickle. I mean, how do you justify City Hall defining whose will that the police management serves at? As then RPOA president, Ken Tutwiler put it at that pivotal city council meeting, this could lead to the promotion of "yes men" or at least the very strong and logical perception that this is what is taking place. Is that what the city management office was trying to do at that time and if so, at whose direction? After all, it's members of the city council who always say that Hudson and his minions in his office are like ships or windup toys, meaning that they are steered into a certain direction by their bosses and can just as easily be redirected sometimes in the opposite road than previously taken. But allegations were raised by two police lieutenants in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that two city council members allegedly made comments to several police lieutenants which implied they had some say in the promotional process of captains as well.

One of the deputy chief positions, that vacated by retired employee and current Palm Springs Chief Dave Dominguez was the first sworn position to be frozen as part of budget cuts. It or its corresponding captain position is probably not going to be filled anytime soon. But the incident involving the attempts to turn "at will" positions back several years ago was very troubling and as it turned out, thwarted because public safety management positions couldn't be converted by Hudson's office in such a fashion. It was City Attorney Gregory Priamos who alerted them that at the 11th hour, instead of at the beginning of this ill-advised process long before it had an opportunity to snowball into that confrontation.

It was interesting that in the face of the crowd of people including city employees that the city presented its usual people to make speeches whenever this happens like Hudson, Priamos or the department head, in this case Police Chief Russ Leach who stand up and insist that there was no problem and that what these hundreds of people had picked up on was not actually there. Is that preferable to admitting that there might have been a reason to be concerned after all? Is substituting a comforting myth for the harder truth really that much better of a strategy in the long run?

Perhaps the lawsuit filed by Lt. Darryl Hurt, former president of the RPAA and Lt. Tim Bacon will answer that question now that it's in the public record and not shielded behind some state law governing police personnel issues like Penal Code 832.7 or perhaps it will be quietly settled at some point and disappear into the fabric of confidentiality from whence it came?

The RPAA seemed to stop its foray into PAC committee involvement with the alleged actions which were listed in Hurt and Bacon's lawsuit, but then steered away from that pattern by endorsing one of the defendants in that lawsuit, Councilman Frank Schiavone in his reelection bid against Davis. How does that bode for that lawsuit and did the union choose between its own members and City Hall?

It remains to be seen what will happen next.

Riverside City Hall said that the Fox Theater is closer to being done.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Most of the restoration and upgrading should be done by early August, Carl Carey, the city's capital improvements manager, said recently.

"It's really going well," he said.

The city has scheduled a Jan. 15 grand-opening gala fundraiser and free public walk-throughs Jan. 16-17, said Councilman Mike Gardner. He promised a big-name artist for the grand-opening performance on Jan. 22, though he said he did not yet know who it would be.

A lot of emails went out about the Riverside County "efficiency summit" which was being put on by the SEIU Local 721, one of the county's labor unions, in the wake of the growing budget crisis both at the county level and elsewhere.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Those are just the start of cost-cutting measures city and county employees came up with at Saturday's "efficiency summit" sponsored by the Service Employees International Union Local 721.

More than 100 union members showed up for the summit and broke up into work groups to brainstorm for two hours, said union member Catherine Eide Nelson.

The employees then met face-to-face with city and county officials -- including Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, Mayor Ron Loveridge and Councilman Andy Melendrez -- to ask them to incorporate some of these ideas to save money and jobs during these tough financial times.

Officials said they were impressed, not just with the ideas, but with the spirit of cooperation expressed by union workers.

"These are great ideas which may help," Ashley said. "I'm going to direct staff to look at these suggestions and report back."

The fallout from the ouster of San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus and the resultant investigative probe continues.

The investigator himself said transparency of government communications was lacking.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"Mr. Postmus and others utilized the Blackberry messenger process, where they could communicate and bypass the county servers," said the Hueston report, released

E-mails and other written electronic communications to and from government officials are records that, in most cases, must be made available to the public under guidelines set by state law. They also can be vital in criminal investigations.

At least two courts have ruled that even when the messages travel through personal equipment and accounts, they are public records.

County officials hired Hueston, a member of the Los Angeles law firm Irell & Manella, to investigate allegations of time-card fraud and other problems under the tenure of Postmus, who resigned from the assessor job in February. Postmus was elected to the assessor position in 2006 after serving on the county Board of Supervisors for six years.

And who is to blame? That's being discussed too.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Supervisor Neil Derry, who was not on the board when supervisors approved the executive staff, said the board shares some blame for voting to create the positions.

Even after the executive staff's creation, the supervisors could have taken action, he said.

"The board had the authority to come in and stop it. They could have cut his staff," Derry said.

The board has the authority to control the budgets of other elected officials, he said.

Eventually, after the arrest last June of Adam Aleman, a top Postmus aide, the board did cut the assessor's executive staff. Aleman, who is a defendant in the county lawsuit, is charged with six felony counts including falsifying evidence and destroying public records.

Two supervisors who voted to approve the expanded assessor staff say they did so because they took Postmus at his word when he said they were needed to modernize the office and improve public outreach.

"As a new elected (official), there is an entitlement to come in and change things and bring about your vision, your overall campaign plan that was accepted by the people," said Supervisor Josie Gonzales.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board once again voices in on the Postmus storyline.


Postmus called the report a "taxpayer-funded hit piece" and continued to portray himself as the victim of a political vendetta. But Hueston's document merely echoes and enlarges on the findings of the county grand jury last year. And the district attorney is also investigating Postmus and his cronies, as well. Apparently, the political conspiracy against Postmus includes pretty much everyone else in the county. In reality, the former assessor has only himself to blame.

But a lawsuit that signals the county will not tolerate corruption would be more effective if the county did not have to send that same message every few years. Postmus' case is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a disturbing pattern of recurrent scandal in San Bernardino County government.

County supervisors can tout the lawsuit as a strong statement against official misconduct. But pursuing restitution from those who abuse county office cannot answer the crucial question: Why does San Bernardino County have to contend with corruption so much more often than other counties do?

It's not that there's more corruption in San Bernardino County, it's just that your newspaper doesn't house its headquarters in that county. A lawyer who has been practicing in Riverside County for years once told me that when it comes to corruption, Riverside County is like its cousin, San Bernardino County, but with layers.

And what are the latest rumors about the economic (and some say, journalistic) health of Riverside's only daily? That the new building it built not long ago may be up for sale and that quite a bit of its retail space is being leased out to outside businesses. That building was allegedly constructed in part through the practice of Eminent Domain for private development.

Pittsburgh had its federal consent decree and now it has its civilian review board but the latter still generates controversy. But then name a city where just the idea of effective and independent civilian oversight isn't controversial and you just can't.

(excerpt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Some community activists in Pittsburgh see that as a major limitation for the seven-member board, which was approved by voters in 1997.

"It really doesn't have any teeth," said Minister Jasiri X, leader of the Muhammad Mosque No. 22 in Wilkinsburg.

At the same time, many Pittsburgh police officers think Ms. Pittinger is too quick to criticize the bureau in public.

"There is no relationship right now," said Officer Dan O'Hara, president of the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1. "I don't feel we have an unbiased executive director."

The Chicago Police Department officers are being reviewed on their professional attitudes.

(excerpt, Chicago Tribune)

The department did away with its evaluation rating system about six years ago after complaints that it was too inconsistent and essentially a "popularity contest," Deputy Supt. of Patrol Daniel Dugan said.

Under the new system, officers will be judged on their accountability and dependability, problem-solving and decision-making, adaptability and responsiveness, communication with others and job knowledge and professional development.

A general order issued recently gave detailed examples. Officers who fail to spot a suspect in a vehicle stop or deal angrily with the public could be tagged with "requires improvement" or "unacceptable" marks. Officers could earn "exceeds expectations" marks for going out of their way to volunteer for extra assignments or for suggesting changes to improve current policies.

Other examples mention officers' attitudes toward department bosses or change -- a tenet sources say was included because of poor morale in the department. Dugan said that though attitude can affect officers' performances, the department is really trying to focus on getting officers to maintain professionalism.

"We're not asking everybody to go out and have a smile on their face every time," Dugan said. "Let's face facts. ... We see the underbelly of life and it has its toll. But we do expect officers to go out there and perform their job."

Considering civilian review is Worcester, Massachusetts and there are different views on that topic.

Is it time to consider a civilian review board, some people ask.

(excerpt, Telegram)

•Lts. Timothy J. O’Connor, Sgts. Michael J. Coakley, Faith A. Roche and Eric A. Boss, and Officers James M. O’Rourke, Paul W. Noone and Darnell McGee — implicated in an alleged overtime scheme that netted them $80,000 to $100,000 in the first six months of 2008.

Lt. O’Connor has since retired and Sgt. Coakley has resigned. The other five officers were transferred out of their units to other assignments. The case is purportedly being investigated by a special prosecutor for the state attorney general’s office.

“We’re talking a handful of people. The vast majority of police officers are following the rules,” Chief Gemme said back then of this case.

•Police Officer John M. Degon, a 14-year police veteran, charged with removing or concealing a motor vehicle to defraud an insurer and conspiracy to file a false motor vehicle insurance claim. The chief said he planned to recommend to city officials that the officer initially be suspended without pay and then terminated.

“We want to reassure the public that 99.9 percent of all the officers come to work every day and do a difficult job with integrity,” Chief Gemme said about this case.

•Police Officer Carlos L. Burgos — indicted on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana.

“We had a police officer involved in an illegal activity and his behavior does not reflect on the hardworking men and women of the Worcester Police Department,” the chief said.

The chief is correct, of course.

While these cases grab headlines, many police officers are providing daily and priceless community services behind the scenes.

Members of the Worcester Police Department gang unit, nominated in 2007 for the Project Safe Neighborhoods National Achievement Award for outstanding juvenile programs, are an example.

Nevertheless, one bad police officer is too many for a department.

A civilian review board might be premature, but given the cases above, someone besides the chief needs to be taking a hard look at this department.

Of course others look at the prospect and say, civilian review board, no way!

(excerpt, Jordon Levy Show blog)


Any organization the size of the Worcester Police Dept. is going to have some bad apples, and surely the police department has some, but as long as the Chief and his department take care to weed them out, we can continue to have the utmost confidence in this department. So in answer to Clive’s question – “Is it time for a civilian witch hunt board?” The answer is an emphatic NO.

The actions of an El Monte Police Department officer caught by a media helicopter's camera will be investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

(excerpt, Whittier Daily News)

The investigation will examine whether the use of force was a violation of the law and also will probe the actions of a second officer who beat the suspect with a plastic flashlight, El Monte police spokesman Lt. Ken Alva said.

Sources in City Hall identified George Fierro as the gun-wielding cop who kicked the surrendering suspect's head. Alva, who would not identify the officer, said he has been reassigned to "non-field-related" duties.

The officer's actions have drawn criticism from several organizations and elected officials, including the American Civil Liberties Union. It called Thursday for his suspension.

"That kick served no law enforcement purpose," said Ramona Ripston, the group's executive director. "It was unlawful punishment, apparently for leading the police on a pursuit."

The findings of the sheriff's investigation will be reported to investigators and prosecutors in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Alva said.

Calls to Fierro went unreturned Thursday. No one answered the door as his West Covina home.

"The El Monte Police Department takes very seriously its responsibility to its citizenry and community," Alva said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. "I know from experience ... these decisions cannot be made in a vacuum."

But then news broke about the background of this particular officer who apparently owns a lining of clothing tailored to gang life.

(excerpt, San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

he police officer who sources inside City Hall say kicked a gang member in the head after a long car chase Wednesday also owns a clothing company that glorifies gang and prison life.

In addition, court records show the officer, George Fierro, has filed a lawsuit against the El Monte Police Department alleging he has been passed over for promotions because he reported suspected criminal behavior by fellow officers.

El Monte police Lt. Chuck Carlson said his department immediately opened an internal affairs investigation into the pursuit.

A New York City Police Department officer got caught picking up drug money.

(excerpt, New York Post)

Shawn Jenkins, 41, a 15-year veteran who was assigned to the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem as a highway safety officer, allegedly was ordered to give the dealer's mother $500,000 of the drug money.

The officer had once been the dealer's bodyguard, according to a federal complaint,

Jenkins was arrested at 3:45 a.m. yesterday at the Washington Heights apartment after a man he thought would be his accomplice turned out to be an informant and caught him on tape Tuesday saying his scheme was on for later that night, the feds said.

Monday, May 18 at 6-8pm There will be a movie shown about the origin of Riverside's Chinatown at the University of California, Riverside at Humanities and Social Sciences Building 1503. A discussion will follow.

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