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

Micromanagement 101: The CPRC and the RPD

Riverside will be posting armed guards at the downtown bus terminal. This is in addition to the armed police officers who are now stationed in two divisions in the old bus terminal. Of course, one division felt that they were being put there to be "body guards" for the other division next door so maybe putting in armed guards will help alleviate that a bit.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside Transit Agency's board of directors will discuss a staff-supported plan to continue using Barry's Security Services guards during operating hours at the bus system terminal off Mission Inn Avenue in downtown Riverside.

The two-year contract includes an additional three years if both the bus system and Barry's agree. Over five years, the bus system will pay almost $434,000.

The company was chosen for a test project in September and will continue on if the board approves. Bus system spokesman Brad Weaver said officials are pleased with the guards, adding their presence seems to have reduced complaints by riders who use the station.

"One of the key reasons for the improvement is the fact that Barry's uniformed officers are present at the station during all hours of operation," Weaver said. "Our agreement with the Riverside Police Department, on the other hand, provided security for just five total hours per day."

Weaver said the agency didn't have data comparing the number of complaints before and after guards were placed at the station but said reports from drivers indicated the guards were improving the station's perception.

Though he has not received much feedback on the bus system's security contract, Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner said hiring the firm made sense.

"My understanding is that they felt they could provide many more hours of security," Gardner said, citing the hourly cost difference between private security and paying officers overtime rates.

In the meantime, downtown business owners are complaining that the city's renovation under the Riverside Renaissance is hurting their businesses.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Wilma Burton, owner of Citrus Punch Designs Inc. at 3738 Main St., said sales have hit the skids since the end of January, when the backhoes began tearing up the block between University and Mission Inn avenues.

"I don't know if any of us will still be open when the project is finished in November," she said.

Shoppers and diners must tiptoe around gaping pits ringed with yellow caution tape while construction workers in hard hats and Bobcats excavate two pedestrian malls from University Avenue to Sixth Street.

The triple whammy of sluggish summer sales, the brutal economy and choking dust is "killing everyone," said Vivian Moreno, owner of the BioKorium Day Spa & Salon at 3615 Main St. She said massages and facials have dropped 50 percent in the last six months.

The city is replacing a century-old water main and installing new conduits for an electrical system, irrigation and communication cables, said Councilman Mike Gardner, whose ward includes downtown.

Each block will have signature landscaping while remaining compatible with the City Hall block, he said.

Lake Elsinore will be shutting down its City Hall part of the week as will Banning.

The Community Police Review Commission continued on its dysfunctional way, and had few high points taking place during its June regular meeting even from an entertainment perspective. It's kind of interesting watching CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan wearing all these different hats. A former law enforcement captain from Pomona. A lawyer. The manager of the CPRC and now the unofficial handler for CPRC Chair Sheri Corral who seems to regularly rely on him for counsel on how to proceed with well, chairing the meeting. It didn't appear that she could make more than a decision or two on how to proceed without having to take Rogan into a sidebar.

The meeting was held up for some time while Vice-Chair Peter Hubbard, the commissioner who's professionally tied with a company which has a lucrative public safety contract with the city manager's office had wandered out of the room to chat with two representatives from the Internal Affairs Division and Commissioner Art Santore was dispatched to go look for him. It's always interesting how some commissioners can be late like Hubbard or Santore or Kenneth Rotker and the whole meeting is at a standstill until they arrive yet if other commissioners like Beeman or John Brandriff are delayed, the meeting begins without them. This double standard of conduct by the chair of this commission readily puts on display for the viewing audience, the deep chasm that exists between the commission members who were political appointments and those who are not. I mean there's someone difference between a commissioner who applies to the panel because they want to make a difference and one who gets on essentially because he's political consultant's Brian Floyd's close friend or who directs a company which is in contract with the city.

Once the meeting got started, Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa who didn't appear in the best of moods provided a briefing on the "progress" of the police departments own investigations into the four most recent officer-involved deaths that the CPRC has been forbidden from investigating itself for an unspecified limit of time. What seemed odd was that DeLaRosa didn't mention the names of any of the individuals who were killed by police except for Marlon Acevedo, but instead mentioned the dates that the fatal incidents took place (although he erred with the date for Carlos Quinonez). Did he remember the names of the other three individuals? Perhaps, but he didn't mention them.

This is the current status of the last four officer-involved deaths:

Sept. 1: Carlos Quinonez, is at the District Attorney's office since March

Sept 11: Fernando Luis Sanchez, is at the District Attorney's office since May

Oct. 31: Marlon Acevedo, DeLaRosa gave a brief summary on this case but didn't give its investigative status. Does anyone wonder why?

Jan. 17, 2009: Russell Hyatt, the department has almost completed its investigation.

Also visiting the CPRC meeting in closed session were two sergeants from Internal Affairs, Pat McCarthy and Marcus Smail to build a better relationship between their division and the CPRC. McCarthy did say to his knowledge that no complaint against an officer ever filed while he was an officer ever violated any statutory deadlines and that the division was dealing well with its caseload.

It's highly unlikely at this point that the CPRC will ever do any of its own investigations of any of these incidents. Even if its members wanted to follow the city charter, they probably won't be allowed to because it wouldn't be surprising at all if when the first one of these deaths comes to the CPRC probably some time in 2010 at the rate things are going that Hudson and DeSantis or perhaps City Attorney Priamos will manipulate the strings of Rogan and another directive will be issued barring any investigations by the CPRC. The case with the highest probability of something of that nature happening will be the Acevedo case, the one that DeLaRosa didn't provide a status for during his briefing.

The commission spent most of its time arguing among itself, in front of a new audience of people, while handing off most of the responsibilities that its members are supposed to be doing such as providing analysis for their own rationales for reaching findings on officer-involved deaths to Rogan to do for them. Well, Rogan works for Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who's probably got him on as short of a leash as he and Hudson have on Chief Russ Leach, who's still recuperating on a three month leave for back surgery from an onduty injury that he won't disclose.

The lowpoint of decorum at the meeting took place when Corral told Commissioner Chani Beeman to "shut up", an action for which she did apologize later. But newcomers from the city's communities who attended this latest meeting were appalled at commissioners treating each other that way as they were when Corral vetoed a proposal to create an ad hoc committee to address an issue and refused to provide a reason why. One possible reason why is because perhaps she can only comment on what she's been briefed about beforehand and perhaps her handlers haven't told her how to respond to inquiries for creating ad hoc committees yet and she's still awaiting instruction on that. If she were truly as independent as she claimed to be, she could have easily provided an explanation as to why she didn't want any ad hoc committees created.

Santore spoke up and said, "we work better as a unit" as an explanation for Corral, a comment just about everyone in the audience thought was an attempt at humor.

Very little of substance really happened at the meeting because the commissioners spent most of their time arguing about fundamental topics like "analysis" and "draft" and really seemed reluctant to do any business except hand it off to Rogan to do for them. Far from the days of when commissioners were actually engaged in what they were doing, most of this bunch just sits there and appears to be going through the rote so that they can get on out of there. That is at least, until words like "draft" and "analysis" trip them up and they argue about those terms for 30 minutes or longer.

Then someone brought up going to the police department's MILO shoot or don't shoot training which is helpful. But what was interesting is that someone actually polled the commissioners on how many of them had attended the training, but no one ever polls the commissioners on whether or not they've attended a community meeting. The truth is, there's room for both polls to be taken of commissioners, or there would be if this was a healthy functioning body which it hasn't been for a long time.

It would be nice to say something positive about what's happened to this commission but it wouldn't be honest. It's turned into the "shiny public relations tool" that newest Commissioner Robert Slawsby believed it should be in his interview with the city council, the only problem being is that many city residents don't buy into that version of it. In fact, so many voters in Ward Four told former Councilman Frank Schiavone exactly what they thought of his version of the CPRC by voting for his opposition.

Still, City Hall has turned the commission into its own political machine for at least the short-term future.

Speaking of political machines...

Watching the deterioration of the CPRC underneath the micromanagement of two city manager employees who actually know next to nothing about civilian oversight issues is kind of like watching the same thing happen to the Riverside Police Department. After reading the lawsuits filed by Lt. Tim Bacon and Lt. Darryl Hurt which were posted on yesterday, you have to ask yourself if their allegations are true, how in the hell was City Hall ever allowed to get to the point of where it was micromanaging a police department to that extent where promotions were being made outside of City Hall not inside of it and these apparently include promotions at its highest levels. What kind of city council does this city have that would turn its eyes away from this type of behavior or even worse as in two alleged examples, participate or even direct it?

Anyone who participated or allowed these alleged activities to take place involving the department belongs in front of the city's white-washed ethics process or the county grand jury to explain why fundamental and organizational decisions were taken out of the hands of the police department's chief and put in the hands of his bosses at City Hall and perhaps even several of their bosses. And if retaliatory actions including the old tried and true use of the department's Internal Affairs Division as a battering ram (as also noted in lawsuits filed by former officers Rene Rodriguez, Christine Keers and current officer Roger Sutton in the 1990s.) against officers not liked by City Hall, then that's an issue that the city council needs to answer for as well. But it seems like anytime any elected official works up the nerve to ask their own direct employee any kind of question, up pops another marquee sign with the names of the elected officials in highlights for some Riverside Renaissance. Hudson's a smart man. He knows the best tool of deflection and rerouting is through an elected official's ego and more often than not, it appears to work.

But instead of launching an investigation into the allegations raised by the two lieutenants, the city is spending tax money defending itself and allegedly the public as well when if these allegations are true, what the city residents need to be defended against is a police department micromanaged by two city management employees who have no clue what they're really doing. What they are doing is making a mess and creating a police department that is experiencing problems stemming from their attempts to play police chief.

And let's take a look at Leach's position. What is it that he does exactly or is allowed to do by his bosses? First of all, a police chief usually gets to pick his closest management staff to work with, alongside him in a department. Did he pick his own management staff or did Hudson and DeSantis? Allegations like those raised in the aforementioned lawsuit do raise these kind of questions.

Did he have any say in the hiring of a relative of one of the Riverside County supervisors who may or may not have undergone a full background check? Because the ability to hire is supposed to be a role and a responsibility of a police chief, right?

But it's also supposed to be the role and responsibility of the police chief to promote and is he being given that power in the police department? That's one of the focuses of the lawsuits filed by Bacon and Hurt. Will it be up to a judge or jury to answer those questions, or two judges and two juries because the case has been bifurcated into two different court systems right now.

Who's making the promotions in the police department right now? The police chief, or the city manager's office? And was it true that two city council members played roles or believed that they did so in the police department's promotion process? And is it true what was allegedly said, about the police department's captain positions going not to the best candidate but to the one that City Hall likes best?

These and many more questions remain to be asked and answered.

Police Department Capt. Mike Blakely won a civic award for making over his yard.

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchins warns of budget cuts ahead.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Hutchens said investigators will be lost, emergency call dispatchers eliminated, crime lab positions slashed and an entire floor of the women's jail sealed off.

"To think that we can possibly absorb all of those cuts without an impact to the public is not going to happen," Hutchens said Wednesday. "You can keep it going for so long, but there comes a point where things fall off the plate when you don't have enough personnel."

That point may come this year, Hutchens said, when the public begins to feel the effect of up to 50 positions slated for elimination.

The sheriff said investigators are on the chopping block, which foreshadows slower follow-up on crimes, a point of concern in homicides -- which have the best shot of being solved within the first 48 hours. Hutchens said about five forensic scientists will be laid off, slowing down analyses of lab submissions. Currently, there is no backlog for sexual assault cases, but Hutchens warned that could change next year.

The department probably will seal off an entire floor of the Women's Central Jail, and other county lockups, which mostly house male prisoners, will have to absorb female inmates.

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