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, June 24, 2009

Just how many cooks are there in the RPD's kitchen?

Captain is no longer a position based on merit-It is a political position and City Hall will have a great deal to do with the next selection."

---comment allegedly made by a high-ranking Riverside Police Department representative according to Tim Bacon/Darryl Hurt v the City of Riverside

Part of an ongoing series of Who's minding the department:

It's interesting if somewhat disturbing to watch the metamorphosing of the Riverside Police Department during the past few years ever since City Manager Brad Hudson and his sidekick, Tom DeSantis came to town. If you compare and contrast the police department before and after their hirings, you'll see two different agencies.

One run by a police chief. Another ran by a police chief with his strings getting pulled by a consortium of individuals at City Hall.

Though to give credit where it's due, it's not like the micromanagement of the police department began the moment the two men set foot in the door at City Hall. No, they waited, they waited until the State Attorney General's office had dissolved its stipulated judgment with the city first and then they took off on their courses, apparently with at least the blessings of a council member or two. Certainly, no one on the city council ever tried to rein in their energies and apparently none has tried so far to date.

But several individuals in the police department tried to respond through a variety of different channels.

Not too long ago, two lieutenants, Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt, filed first grievances and then lawsuits in U.S. District Court to address issues of micromanagement which impacted them as individuals, as part of the leadership of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association and as a department as a whole. But it took them both a while to get there.

That lawsuit which was ultimately filed was recently bifurcated in U.S. District Court which essentially means that it was split into two parts. One section of it will continue to be litigated in federal court while the other will be sent to state court, which means Riverside County Superior Court's civil division. In what will now be two judicial venues, the allegations and issues that have been raised in these lawsuits will be discussed, debated, heard and ultimately decided one way or the other and what will likely be discovered along the way is the extent of the micromanagement which has taken place in our city's police department by factions at City Hall.

If you look at the chronology of dates on the respective lawsuits, you see that spring and summer of 2006 appeared to be in part, a major epicenter of when the lion share of the allegations began. This is not a coincidence. During this same period, quite a bit of tussling between Hudson and the police department's management was taking place. If you recall in late March 2006, the city council passed 7-0 a proposed plan on how to proceed with the police department post-consent decree.

For those who witnessed that workshop, they'll remember that the city council approved a plan to hire a consultant to audit the department's progress in implementing its strategic plan quarterly and the department would remain committed both to implementing the plan and various components of the stipulated judgment including maintaining the officer to supervisor ratios and lieutenants as watch commanders. But at the same time that the RPAA apparently struggled with attempts by Hudson and DeSantis to reclassify positions within the department, Hudson also was not carrying out the orders of the city council to secure a two year contact with the consultant.

In fact, he was apparently trying to reduce the terms of what the city council had ordered him to do and "lowball" the consultant in hopes that he would refuse the contract and Hudson could go back to the city council to say the consultant cost too much money. Hudson even tried to lean on a deputy state attorney general to get him to get the consultant to take less money but the deputy state attorney general wasn't having any of that.

These issues are being brought up because they parallel what Hudson and DeSantis were doing with the issues involving reclassification of positions in the RPAA to make them "at will" even though they must have known or should have known that this could not be done. And it seems that on both of these issues that Hudson and DeSantis mucked up during one brief summer period that the city council sat by and watched, either blissfully unaware of what the city management team was up to doing or not caring, as long as the city manager's office kept putting marquee signs all over the city with the names of elected officials prominently displayed advertising Riverside Renaissance projects. But it's not surprising that so much activity involving Hudson and by extension, DeSantis's increased involvement in the police department took place in spring and summer of 2006, which was mere months after the ending of the relationship between the city and the state over the reforming of the police department.

Was all this involvement by design or by opportunity or both? Those questions and potential answers will be addressed in future postings.

Both lawsuits contain many of the same allegations impacting both officers such as retaliatory actions and comments made against them. After reading these lawsuits, you just want them to not be true. Because if they are, then the police department is in such a deep stage of micromanagement, it will be hard to pull it out of it. In fact, it appears to be back to adopting similar patterns of behavior it showed in the 1990s if you read litigation filed during that time period, with a few extra twists thrown in.

According to the lawsuit filed by Lt. Tim Bacon, it all began when the city engaged in "numerous and unlawful actions" in attempts to both union bust the Riverside Police Administrators' Association by trying to enter into "at will" relationships with individual members of the RPAA including on one noteworthy occasion, two deputy chiefs and an assistant chief in the spring of 2007. The city began to advertise for openings in the department in trade magazines outside of the department and engaged in practices of favoritism which showed that there was favoritism being shown by City Hall to the point where the chief's promotional decisions were being usurped or overruled by others.

Bacon became concerned about what was going on around him so he became more actively involved with then RPAA President Darryl Hurt to address and remedy these outstanding issues. The RPAA leadership including Bacon would often help its brother association, the Riverside Police Officers' Association in garnering community support for many of the issues that bargaining unit faced.

What is "at will" and at whose will?

On or around May 19, 2006, Bacon and Hurt learned that the city had placed an agenda item for a meeting to change the classification of certain RPAA employees without having a "meet and confer" with the RPAA leadership. The mission of the city's endeavor was to create "at will" positions within the RPAA's membership.

On May 23, 2006, Bacon and Hurt met with Chief Russ Leach, and Councilmen Art Gage and Frank Schiavone to discuss these issues that had arisen. A huge crowd of police officers and community leaders showed up at a council meeting to protest this proposed action.

But according to the lawsuit, Bacon soon learned that there was backlash looming after a high-ranking department member told him that City Hall blamed him for the large community turnout at the city council meeting.

At about that time, Bacon received information from within the police department that Leach opposed the "at will" contracts but had little say in the matter or anything in the department because the department was currently being micromanaged by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis upon direction or at least knowledge by City Manager Brad Hudson.

On June 29, 2006, the RPAA voted unanimously to sue the city for breach of contract on its MOU. But according to the lawsuit, Hudson and DeSantis didn't take that action very well and asked high-ranking police department employees to give them the names of everyone who voted for the lawsuit. Hudson and DeSantis indicated to high-ranking members of the department's management team that the RPAA including Hurt and Bacon should "be careful" because Hudson and DeSantis were "revengeful" and "retaliatory".

On July 18, 2006, the RPAA sued the city and after the city lost at the demurrer stage, it gave a "best and final" offer to the association which was rejected. Hudson and DeSantis demanded to know which members of the RPAA voted against the offer.

On Aug. 31, 2006, Hudson and DeSantis began making comments that they didn't like certain members of the RPAA.

In March 2007, Bacon joined the Political Action Committee of the RPAA to become more actively involved in addressing these labor issues.

That month, the city made another attempt to convert RPAA positions into "at will" positions, this time those of two deputy chiefs and an assistant chief. Crowds of people showed up at the March 27, 2007 meeting and the city discovered that it was unable to perform this action.

"Leach has no control over the department"

Between July 2006 and at least through May 2008, high ranking management personnel of the police department had allegedly informed members of the RPAA and the RPOA that Leach had no control over the police department and that most decisions regarding promotions, organizing the department and personnel changes were being made by City Hall.

At the March 27, 2007, organized efforts by Bacon, Hurt and others were made to get people down to the city council meeting to object to the illegal "at will" contracts. They also contacted Gage and Schiavone about what was going on. As a result of the outcry, the contract proposals were removed from the agenda and several management employees were promoted to those positions without being "at will".

The RPAA and RPOA members did express concerns at those meetings that further attempts to convert police positions to being "at will" would be attempted and members of City Hall began taking notes of who was speaking out.

Election 2007 also took place and both the RPAA and RPOA did not choose to endorse Steve Adams in his reelection for the Ward Seven council seat. In fact, Bacon and other members of these associations campaigned actively against a candidate who opposed Adams.

During that time, Bacon alleged that elected officials began making negative and derogatory comments about him and Hurt. He alleged that Schiavone told another department officer that if he wanted to get promoted he should distance himself from Bacon. Schiavone also inferred and expressed to officers that he would be retaliating against Bacon.

Adams allegedly told another officer that he would never get promoted because of his participation in activities involving a candidate running against Adams. Adams also allegedly told another officer that because that officer didn't back him for council and actively campaigned against him, he would "never fuckin get promoted."

On numerous occasions, Leach, Hudson and DeSantis indicated that Bacon would never be promoted due to his political and labor activities.

And what of those concealed weapons permits?

As a result of information and a followup investigation into the situation involving the issuance of concealed weapons permits by Hudson and DeSantis by Leach, Bacon discovered that Leach might have acquiesced to improper demands by those two men. The State Attorney General and District Attorney's office examined the city's actions. Although the source of the information to these investigative agencies was never relieved, the defendants of this lawsuit believed that Bacon was its source.

High ranking police personnel warned community members and activists that Bacon should be "careful of doing political stuff at the police department".

Around May 2007, a high ranking department representative informed Bacon that he was a "company man" and that he had information that the city was going to pay him back. The RPAA should not be involved in politics and that Bacon "should cease

In October 2007, Bacon and Hurt were told that they wouldn't be promoted because of their positions and ranks within the RPAA and that the "Captain is no longer a position based on merit-It is a political position and City Hall will have a great deal to do with the next selection."

On May 2008, high-ranking members of the police management team were told to "find something" on Bacon to lead to his arrest and/or termination.

January 2008, Bacon was passed over for a promotion for captain and a second captain's position [and now a third] have been left vacant.


DeSantis has ordered high-ranking police managers to take actions against Bacon which have adversely affected his reputation, career development and work schedule choices.

Since August 2005, Leach has been very limited in whom he can promote.

Hudson and DeSantis instituted a hiring freeze to adversely impact Leach's ability to promote including that of Bacon.

Leach has abdicated his responsibilities to ensure that hiring decisions be done equitably and lawfully.

Hudson, DeSantis, Schiavone and Adams have in fact directed, manipulated or made promotional decisions in the police department in violation of city rules, MOUs. As such, they are the defacto policy makers inside the police department.

Allegations of Retaliation:

When Hurt announced intent to file a grievance around Feb. 1, 2008, a few hours later he was transferred to the watch commander position and notified about the transfer through a department-wide issued email.

Some of Hurt's own legal action parallels events told in Bacon's lawsuit so much of what was written there applied to him as well.

But he also listed other allegations in his own lawsuit.

On Jan. 20, 2006, a former captain told Hurt that an internal affairs investigation had been opened against him which was entirely inappropriate and that the captain said he was just following orders.

On March 28, 2006, Hurt met with Hudson and DeSantis and told them he was the new RPAA president and informally tried to resolve MOU issues involving the RPAA. But Hudson and DeSantis weren't receptive so Hurt became meeting with Mayor Ron Loveridge and city council members about these same MOU concerns. They told him that they would speak to Hudson in an attempt to resolve the disputed issues as expeditiously as possible.

On Aug. 4, 2007, a high-ranking member of the department indicated that DeSantis "still had a hardon for plaintiff" because of his political activities.

In January 2008, a high-ranking member of the police department indicated that City Hall believed that Hurt and Bacon were responsible for the release of information on the concealed weapon permit situation involving Hudson and DeSantis (and his permit was later revoked due to not being a city resident).

On May 2008, high-ranking members of the police management team were told to "find something" on Hurt to lead to his arrest and/or termination.

January 2008, Hurt was passed over for a promotion for captain and a second captain's position [and now a third] have been left vacant.

Like Bacon, Hurt filed a grievance with the city and within a short period of time, was notified that he was going to be transferred to the watch command via a department-wide email.

So there you have two lawsuits filed which make very serious allegations of misconduct and retaliation from a cast of characters at City Hall. It also paints a picture of the police department with a puppet chief at its head and his strings being pulled by various individuals at City Hall who appear reminiscent of Machiavelli's Prince than city employees. And if that's the case, then no wonder there are issues taking place within the agency. And the strange thing is, that the city's tax dollars are being used to defend those who are alleged to engage in those activities yet there's been no information provided by the city as to whether or not it has launched any investigation into these serious allegations. Its immediate reaction is to label these allegations "frivolous" because those accused include elected officials and high-ranking direct employees of the city council. And then the city council with the straight face expects us to believe in the integrity of our so-called (yet voter-mandated) ethics code and complaint system.

If law enforcement agencies are incapable of investigating their own misconduct allegations, then so are cities, when it comes to addressing allegations involving their own employees. And as police departments including this city's have histories of retaliating against employees who do complain (including through initiating investigations through Internal Affairs), this city has the same problem. After all, one popular anecdote that circulates is that when Hudson met with a group of people in one department, he told them that he would answer any of their questions. Well, one person asked about the classification of department job positions and not only did she not get an answer, she allegedly received a two-week vacation from work courtesy of City Hall.

If that's how questions are handled by the city manager's office, then it's no surprise that rumors of departmental micromanagement are so pervasive at City Hall.

What the police department needs is a strong police chief, but that's not what it currently has and with Leach out on some form of medical leave for back surgery, people are asking if a retirement of some form is lurking in his future and if so, what would happen. But if that's not in the future plans, then what kind of police chief will Leach be or more accurately, be allowed to be without going the way of other mouthy "at will" employees?

Is the police chief happy with his reduction in status to being a political plaything for the current city management team? I doubt it. Does he have much say in the matter? As an "at will" employee, probably not because if you're "at will", you can be fired or pushed to "resign" just for opening your mouth.

But he needs to return to its helm and run the department, good or bad so at least he can be held accountable for its successes and failures instead of a team of people hidden behind a curtain at the "Emerald City" (borrowed from a city official's statement though I'm sure this wasn't what she had in mind) who really don't know what they're doing anyway except making a mess with the integrity of the city's police department and City Hall.

What the police department can't continue to have is Hudson and DeSantis micromanaging or running the police department from City Hall. If that is indeed what's going on, hopefully some day because of these lawsuits they will have to explain their actions in civil court, which won't be the private behind-the-closed-doors-environment that they most likely prefer but it will have to be in a public forum. And hopefully in that same public forum or similar, the former and current members of the city council can explain why if this was what was going on, why did they allow it to continue?

This situation is ongoing and sure to continue in the months ahead...

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