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, June 07, 2009

Councilman Frank Schiavone resigns!

UPDATE: Yolanda Garland, one of Riverside's most feared activists and "gadflies" passed away last week after being ill. Riverside won't be the same without her but she's helped make it a better place.

Riverside Councilman Frank Schiavone has resigned from serving in his office, during what would have been the final two weeks of his term, As a result, for the duration of that time, Ward Four has no legislative representation on the dais or at City Hall. How do you spell, "poor sport"?

I guess if you lose an election, it's time to pick up your toys and go home and to hell with all your constituents even the ones who voted for you. It's difficult to recall another example of an elected official losing a reelection bid who behaved in the same way. Has it ever happened? If so, it's been a rare event because most losing council members do finish out their terms, in fact the better ones serve their last days on the dais as if they were reelected. Not so, Schiavone who apparently has left the building in the aftermath of his loss at the ballot box last week.

Even former Councilman Dom Betro finished out his term when he was ousted by Mike Gardner by about seven votes. Deposed Councilman Art Gage who lost mightly to Rusty Bailey finished out his final days in office.

So, in the interim two weeks between Schiavone's resignation and Davis' inauguration, perhaps this blog can serve as the legislative representative for the fourth ward, because after all someone has to do it and our current councilman has ran off in a pout rather than stayed behind to fulfill his responsibility. Ward Four needs an elected representative so perhaps someone who's a registered voter living in that ward can go on down to City Hall and sit in an office that our money paid for and carry out the very important work of representing the largest ward in the city. Why not? Somebody's got to do the job.

So whoever wants to do it, just get on down to City Hall and represent the fourth ward.

Yes, Schiavone lost the election to challenger Paul Davis amid a pretty contentious campaign that took place over about three months but he should have remained in office until his term is completed. Davis as his successor is legally bound to wait about 15 days after the certification of his election which means he'll be sworn in at the June 23 city council meeting. Instead, he resigned and left the ward he purported to care about without legislative representation for two weeks until Davis is sworn in to replace him. Maybe letter writers like the following who sent this letter to the Press Enterprise Readers Forum were right.


In "Davis stuns Schiavone" (June 3), Ward 4 incumbent Frank Schiavone said of the low voter turnout "It's a sad commentary and a sad day when this many people don't care." To which I say, maybe the citizenry has decided it's tired of electing public officials it really doesn't know. Maybe voters aren't going to show up to elect, or in his case re-elect, a person when the only knowledge they have of him is his name on campaign signs.

Ward 6 winner Nancy Hart said of the low turnout, "It would have just taken a minute to put the ballot in the mail." Maybe it wasn't the time it takes to drop the ballot in the mailbox that bothered voters but rather the persons listed on the ballot.

Greg Garrison


The Press Enterprise analyzes soon-to-be former Councilman Frank Schiavone's loss in the election. Two issues that got him into political trouble in two different neighborhoods were the DHL mess and his leading the charge to micromanage the Community Police Review Commission.


In 2004, so many people were concerned about air cargo at March that a fire marshal stopped a public hearing because they overfilled an auditorium. The rescheduled meeting drew hundreds and continued well past midnight.

Orangecrest residents felt Schiavone let them down, Barrett-Fischer said.

Schiavone won re-election the next year. But Orangecrest residents' animosity toward him grew when the nighttime flights began in 2006, neighborhood homeowner Theresa Birkett said.

Schiavone worked to reduce the number of night flights, "but in the residents' eyes, it was too late," she said.

Real estate broker Collette Lee said Schiavone was misled about the flight paths by proponents of the air cargo operation. "Frank is a man of integrity," she said.

Police Commission

Former Councilman Dom Betro said that Schiavone stuck to his convictions by refusing to say no to hundreds of jobs the cargo center was expected to bring.

"He did what he thought would be best for the economic status of the area, and he paid a political price," Betro said.

Schiavone faced a different issue in Casa Blanca, a predominantly Hispanic area where community leaders have complained for decades about what they see as heavy-handed policing.

Schiavone, a former reserve police officer, lost ground there when he voted in April to limit the investigative authority of the city's Community Police Review Commission, said Paul Chavez, chairman of the Casa Blanca Community Action Group.

Skills and knowledge

The 4-2 council vote affirmed a staff directive that stalls the commission's investigations of fatal officer-involved shootings and other officer-involved deaths until the police complete their own investigations, a process that usually take longer than six months.

Schiavone strongly supported the limitation.

"This is not a crime scene investigation," he said of the commission's role. "This is police review."

And with that line, Schiavone unleashed with the help of Chief Russ Leach the biggest strawman argument used in that entire messy episode where entire chapters of the history of the CPRC had to be written not to mention the city's charter to promote the changes of the investigative protocol used by the CPRC to investigate officer-involved deaths.

Now with the CPRC's main opponent of the picture, it remains to be seen what will happen with the CPRC. Some council members like Mike Gardner who proposed a motion to reinstate the CPRC's ability to independently investigate officer-involved deaths say that the issue isn't done yet. Others like Andrew Melendrez said that the city council would have to be "reconfigured" before the issue could come back and on June 2, that took place. So what's a city council to do now, given that Schiavone's successor, Paul Davis has said that he opposed the action taken by the city council.

Promotional Watch: Is it true that there might be some upper level positions in the department that are currently frozen which might be thawed? And if so, who will they go to? Watch and see if this rumor's actually true.

Not every San Bernardino County official has been caught up in the recent scandal involving the Assessor's office.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt says he knew little of what was going on in the assessor's office, even though he worked closely with Postmus for six years as his chief of staff while Postmus was a supervisor from 2000 to 2006.

The two met in 1993, when Mitzelfelt was working for a state legislator in the High Desert and hired Postmus as an intern. They went on to work together in government, on other campaigns and in Republican Party politics in the years before Postmus was elected 1st District supervisor in 2000 and Mitzelfelt became his chief of staff.

When Postmus left the Board of Supervisors to become assessor in January 2007, he lobbied hard for Mitzelfelt's appointment to replace him.

But as Postmus came under scrutiny for allegations of running a political machine out of the assessor's office, Mitzelfelt sought to distance himself from his former boss. Postmus resigned in February after an arrest on drug allegations. He has not been charged.

"Over time, our relationship became more professional and less of a friendship and it became more and more distant as time went on," Mitzelfelt said during an interview last week.

In an e-mail response, Postmus offered praise for Mitzelfelt's work as supervisor, but added that the two had remained closer than his former aide suggests. He said Mitzelfelt knows it's in his best interest to distance himself from his former boss.

Another lawsuit filed against Mt. San Jacinto Community College District Police Department.

The Los Angles Police Department made an arrest in a murder case that nearly 25 years old and it turned out to be one of their own.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The dramatic break in the decades-old case sent shock waves through the tight-knit LAPD community, marking one of the few times in the department's history that one of its own officers has been accused of murder.

"It's painful," LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said. "But murder is also very painful."

Calling it an apparent "crime of passion," Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said Lazarus allegedly beat and fatally shot Sherri Rae Rasmussen, a 29-year-old hospital nursing director, two years after joining the department.

Three months after they were married, Rasmussen's husband returned to their Van Nuys condominium on the evening of Feb. 24, 1986, to discover his wife's badly beaten body on the floor in the living room. She had been shot several times, Beck said.

Days after the slaying, two men robbed another woman in the area at gunpoint. Homicide detectives suspected that the pair had also killed Rasmussen when she came upon them burglarizing her home, according to news reports from the time. Rasmussen's parents, newspapers reported, offered a $10,000 reward for the men's capture.

Will Taser use be a form of DNA collection?

(excerpt, Buffalo News)

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza decided that the DNA sample obtained Sept. 29 from Ryan S. Smith of Niagara Falls — which ties him to a shooting and a gas station robbery— is legally valid and can be used at his trial.

Smith was handcuffed and sitting on the floor of Niagara Falls Police Headquarters when he was zapped with the 50,000- volt electronic stun gun after he insisted he would not give a DNA sample.

He already had given a sample, a swab of the inside of his cheek, without protest the previous month. But police sent it to the wrong lab, where it was opened and spoiled. Prosecutors who had obtained a court order for the first sample went back to Sperrazza, who signed another order without consulting the defense.

Defense lawyer Patrick M. Balkin denounced the ruling in an interview with The Buffalo News.

“They have now given the Niagara Falls police discretion to Taser anybody anytime they think it’s reasonable,” he asserted. “Her decision says you can enforce a court order by force. If you extrapolate that, we no longer have to have child support hearings; you can just Taser the parent.

Police abuse in New Jersey has led to protests.

(excerpt, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The state police, who have had a presence in Camden since the 1990s, have periodically been criticized for using more force than city officers. Some have said that they do not understand the neighborhoods well enough to distinguish between law-abiding residents and criminals.

Those concerns came up again in April after a Pemberton Township man died in Camden shortly after being handcuffed and arrested on drug charges by state troopers.

The man, 32-year-old Jorge Rivera, stuffed a bag of suspected narcotics into his mouth and choked, police said. An autopsy confirmed that he died from choking on the bag, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Family members, however, contend that officers beat and stomped Rivera to death.

"We are always concerned when residents raise issues regarding police conduct," said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, which oversees the state police in Camden.

"Camden is one of the most violent cities in the country," Aseltine said. "The greatest concern for Camden residents remains the number of innocent people victimized by gang- and drug-related violence. That is why the state police are needed."

The ACLU has focused its attention on how police agencies in that state conduct complaint investigations.

The New York City Police Department officers are undergoing training to prevent accidental shootings of each other.

(excerpt, New York Times)

The sessions are taught to recruits and repeated periodically for officers. On Monday, as a result of the shooting, officers will begin receiving refresher training earlier than originally planned this year. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly ordered that it receive priority over other planned subjects, including courtroom testimony.

In addition, the department is studying Thursday’s shooting and consulting outside experts to see how its drills might be modified. The goal, some officers said, is for the lessons learned in training to override instinct on the street.

“We will tailor some of our scenarios to simulate the actual occurrence of what happened in Officer Edwards’s shooting,” said Capt. Anthony Maida of the firearms and tactics section.

“When they hear behind them, ‘Police don’t move,’ it’s a natural reaction for anybody to want to turn around. I believe what was probably going on in Officer Edwards’s mind is, ‘Hey, great, the cavalry is behind me.’ He probably was tempted to turn around and tell them: ‘Hey I am a police officer. This guy was just trying to break into my car.’ ”

But in tense, fast-moving crime situations there are no guarantees. Officers are charged up with adrenaline and stress. Hearing can be impaired. There are often civilians around, maybe crowds, or people hanging out of windows.

“That is absolutely the worst-case scenario,” said Officer Darren D’Auteuil, a firearms instructor. “And while we train for it, while we try to prepare — you can do all the training in the world and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

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