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

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Will the police department ever be returned to Chief Leach?

The incoming Ward Four Councilman Paul Davis had some interesting remarks to make about the present and future status of the Community Police Review Commission in the The Truth Publication Blog.


The CPRC and the Police Department are micromanaged by the City Manager Brad Hudson and his Assistant Tom DeSantis. I fully support Chief Russ Leach, but he has to run the Department without interferences. He's an excellent Chief, and I am kindly informing you that the relations between the Police Department and this Councilman will be better than those with the previous one."

That on its face is a puzzling statement given that both labor associations which include police officers as their members endorsed his rival, incumbent Frank Schiavone but it appears that both endorsement processes may have had their share of ripples and controversies and in the case of the Riverside Police Officers' Association, resignation from both its Political Action Committee and its board of directors. That doesn't sound like business as usual and indicates that there might have been some serious divisions between those who supported Davis and those who supported Schiavone. The president, Chris Lanzillo, said that because he was in that position he didn't participate in the endorsement process but while members like Det. Rita Cobb, Det. Brian Smith, Sgt. Pat McCarthy and Scott Borngrebe were believed to have cast endorsement votes for Schiavone, others like Det. William Rodriguez supported Davis. Some people said that the vote was split, others said the committee wasn't unanimous except the day the vote took place. Lots of confusion about a process which left some feeling that it needed to be changed, an interesting place to be considering the RPOA has its own elections in November.

Some members and former members believed that the PAC voted more through its emotions than it logistics. That was something which had plagued them in the 2007 elections as well where they were 0 for 4. They were 2 to 3 this time by backing incumbents but miscalculated in the Ward Four election, where they had a lot of division in their own ranks.

The situation involving the Riverside Police Administrators' Association is somewhat different. Some of its members view its dynamics as being less conflicted or turbulent than the much larger RPOA but because its members are higher in rank including at the management level, they may be more prone to micromanagement efforts by City Hall. This time around, something really odd happened with the RPaA. Initially, its president Bob Williams (himself a former and quite dynamic RPOA president in the early 1990s) said that the RPAA would remain neutral in this election and not do endorsements as it had during the 2007 elections. Perhaps a commentary on the stormy waters that the RPAA traveled during its endorsement process.

The endorsement process of that prior election had led to allegations by then president, Lt. Darryl Hurt and Lt. Tim Bacon that they were denied due process in the promotion process because they didn't endorse Ward Seven Councilman Steve Adams in his reelection bid. They alleged that both Adams and Schiavone (who at the time shared a house with Leach) made retaliatory comments that if they didn't endorse Adams or if other lieutenant hung out with those trouble makers, then they wouldn't be promoted. This led to allegations that someone besides Leach was way too influential in determining how promotions were done in the police department especially at the management level. To what extent that's been done is not clear, but someone joked that if they didn't back Schiavone and he won, they probably wouldn't get promoted for a position which was not ons at the management level. So there appears to be at least a strong perception existing that the police department's promotional process has become politicized thorugh the department's micromanagement by City Hall.

That led to a damage claim and lawsuit filed by Hurt and Bacon which is currently in the U.S. District Court and just completed a major hearing. So after the lawsuit, one would have thought the RPAA would be a bit shy about participating in endorsing in the 2009 city elections but by its end, its PAC had decided to endorse Schiavone, even though two of its members were currently suing him alleging political retaliation.

These two outcomes from the labor sectors provided insight into the politicization of the police department to the point where the participation in that system may be necessary for individual and group survival. And why would that be unless there were some outside micromanagement of the police chief by external forces at City Hall?

And all you people out there who are reading, raise your hands if you think the micromanagement by City Hall of the police department has made it a better agency? In upcoming blog postings, there will be some analysis and explanations including examples of why it has not done so. But clearly some must think it's a great thing because they endorsed the councilman who may just have been the one at the mast of S.S. Hudson while it has been going on. Hopefully, if this is the case, a changing of the guard will undo a lot of what has been done to the department in the past few years due to micromanagement by City Hall.

Rumors have ranged from "political emergency hire" without background checks to detectives being asked to "interview" or "investigate" meritless complaints initiated by the campaign of one person who ran for office in 2009, to promotions being traded for endorsements. Whether or not any or all of these are true remains to be investigated but an environment exists during the past several years that is tailor made for fears and perceptions to turn into rumors and that's only a possible explanation if the stories are not true. If they are, then that's a serious problem.

Many people have been watching what's been going on with the police department during the past several years especially after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office. They watched as the city council and mayor waxed enthusiastically of continuing the reforms of the stipulated judgment even after its dissolution and patted themselves on the back for their job well done. They then made promises during a March 26 workshop that they then directed Hudson, their servant to carry out. Only summer came, their minds wandered and Hudson dropped the ball. In fact, he tried to pull a fast one on several council members by reducing the terms of the strategic plan that he was instructed to carry out and then offer a police practices consultant a much lower quote in hopes that the consultant would turn it down and then Hudson would run back to City Hall claiming that the consultant was asking for an unreasonable sum of money and they couldn't afford him. But at some point Hudson realized he had to follow through on his direct orders because he then tried to get a high ranking deputy state attorney general to "lean" on the consultant to get him to accept the lower offer. Suffice it to say, the state employee didn't do this and likely passed the word to the consultant.

At the time, he was probably carrying out the agenda of a city official though it's not clear which one. Three years now, it's become more clearer who likely was involved in that fiasco at City Hall.

Anyway, fiasco or not, it all ended well because Hudson got caught (which became clear after a series of interesting phone calls were made after I had blogged on it a while), and a lesson was learned by this blogger that it only takes one, maybe two city officials to give the S.S. Hudson a big heave ho from its course and turn it back on its correct course. Still, even doing that it took a while for the barge to budge and carry out the orders of his own direct (if not very authoritatively inclined) employees, the city council.

It might have worked because the community leaders were slow to act when the promises made by the city council not to mention the police department itself quickly went aground. Those actions or lack of actions didn't go unnoticed up in Sacramento. And it might have interested Hudson and DeSantis if they had known who played the most instrumental role in undoing their (in)actions that summer regarding the continued reform and strategic planning in the police department. But then people can't do these things publicly from the city ranks when any act of defiance against micromanagement no matter how small is met with something akin to a political "off with your heads". "Heads" perhaps having a more literal meeting as heads of city departments.

This episode , which mercifully didn't have Hudson or DeSantis running around exercising such histrionics perhaps because they were too busy alienating the city's labor unions, proved to be disturbing on its own merits and looking back even more disturbing because it was the setting of a trend. A trend where the police chief began to vanish. Vanish from public meetings, at City Hall, community centers, parks, libraries and from inside the department as well. If you ask an officer when's the last time he saw the police chief, you might get a blank stare, a furrowing of the brow as they try to remember and if they do, it was a while ago. Many officers support the police chief and wished he were more visible, in the community and in the department so that there were more of a feeling that he was aware of what they were doing and supported them.

The department as of June 2009 appears not only managed but micromanaged and the one thing it's currently not, is led. And being a leader is much different than being a manager. When Leach came in 2000, he appeared intelligent, politically astute (and enough so not to be involved) and had great ideas for working in a department with no where to head but upward. And since it was under the state's consent decree within six months into his reign, he had much support there to bolster him and protect him from any attempts by City Hall to micromanage but at that time, the dynamic personalities interested in doing so didn't exist. That would come later on with the personalities who hired Hudson and those on the city council who gave Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos free reign to micromanage the police department. Leach continued to vanish with other management personnel especially Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa stepping in for him, including at the top-secret ad hoc committee regarding the CPRC's investigative protocol that was concocted by Schiavone, Adams, DeSantis and Leach.

Oh, he appeared occasionally at meetings when Hudson and DeSantis needed him to terrorize people into believing that the CPRC's investigators were jeopardizing "criminal" investigations of officer-involved deaths (which is very ironic considering the city didn't believe these investigations were "criminal" in nature as recently as 2006, according to court documents). But he usually winds up contradicting statements on the same issue that he made to people in the community and when one of the community members are arguing against points made by Leach or one of his handlers, Leach can usually be seen in the audience somewhere nodding his head in agreement with the community members.

But given the relative absense of Leach, many people have speculated on who is really running the police department and the answers so far haven't been pretty. There have been more officer-involved deaths. There has been a tremendous backlog of complaints and internal investigations in the Internal Affairs Division, there's questons about how much budget money the department's getting for training its officers and about its Early Warning System. Not to mention its staffing levels on the civilian and sworn sides as well as supervisory staffing ratios which apparently are no longer averaging at 7 to 1.

These issues will be explored further in future bloggings as we examine the Riverside Police Deparment's foray into micromanagement.

Here are also some interesting online discussions from where there's discussion of the dynamics of leadership in the police department.

This one deals with the drama surrounding the firing of probational police officer Jose Nazario back in 2007. Most of the discussion is being done by "TheInlandEmpire" whose identity won't be disclosed here. He initially said he was sure that Nazario would be return to the fold of the department because of a promise the chief made him if he were acquitted but then talks about the city manager's influence in the process.

The Chief told RPOA reps a while ago that he would hire him back right away if he was aquitted of these charges. As soon as the verdicts were read, Nazario walked right over to the Orange Street Station (across the street from the federal courthouse) and spoke to a Captain and Lt., who knew he was coming because phone calls were being made like crazy. The Chief opted to leave before Nazario got there (that wasn't a good sign)...but Nazario was warmly welcomed be the Capt. and Lt. He was told to re-apply and they would expidite and update his background to get him back on. As of yesterday, the City Manager (closed door session) indicated he wasn't just going to "create" another position for Nazario, and said it was up to the Chief if he wanted to re-hire him. He wasn't very welcoming to the idea of Nazario coming back. That's nonsense, because we all know the City Manager is the Chief's boss and tells him what to do. So far, I haven't heard what the Chief is going to do (or is told to do!)

The sad thing is, Nazario was on probation, and they don't have to hire him back. I'e been reading alot of comments (blogs) made about his aquittal in the L.A. Times, and there is alot of people voicing that he should have been found guilty (alot the other way too), "Shame on Larson" and pointing out that Larson was a Bush appointee ect..ect..ect.. I have a funny feeling his may get too political for Riverside P.D. I hope I'm wrong.

In this dicussion when it's clear that Nazario wouldn't get hired after all, this comment appeared from the same individual in the police department.


It's all political now. The Chief of RPD is a retired Marine, and he would probably love to give Nazario his job back..but unfortunately he's only a political pawn for the city manager. He doesn't really run the show at RPD. Good luck Jose. Hang in there!!

So what does the rules of City Hall say? Is Leach supposed to "run the show"? Does he indeed?

If you look at this city's organizational chart you will find that the Leach is beneath Hudson with a solid line connecting the two men but there's also a broken line joining Leach with DeSantis. But that line's not broken at all, in fact it's more like a leash. And there's been enough disturbing issues coming out of the micromanaged department with a chief who some call a "political pawn" or even "puppet" of the city manager and even Schiavone himself. After all, if he and Leach lived together, didn't either think that these problems or at least perceptions would become an issue? It's almost impossible for them not to become issues.

Davis discusses the dual micromanagement of the CPRC as well and the politicization of that process including the selection of commissioners to serve on the body. This process has led to highly questionable appointments like that of current vice-chair Peter Hubbard who is the regional director of American Medical Response, an ambulance company that has a public safety contract with Hudson's office. The dual and parallel micromanagement of the department and CPRC will be fodder for a future column.

An officer involved shooting involving Riverside Police Department officers.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Police say the driver of a car tried to ram them and officers responded by shooting at the car. No officers were injured in the incident on Washington Street at the railroad tracks east of Indiana Avenue

Officers then caught the two suspects after they crashed their car through a lowered railroad crossing gate, then smashed into a light pole, said Riverside police Lt. Brian Baitx.

Both men were taken by ambulance to Riverside Community Hospital, but it's unclear if they were hit by police gunfire or suffered injuries in the crash, he said. Their names were not released.

"We don't know anything about the suspects at this time," Baitx said, adding that once they are released from the hospital they would be taken to the department's investigations division at its Magnolia Station.

A lawsuit filed by a community organization to preserve historic buildings downtown was ruled against by a judge.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In a June 4 decision, which the foundation received Thursday, Riverside County Superior Judge Mac R. Fisher said the city had properly followed the rules.

"The evidence shows that (the) city considered a number of reports analyzing the impact on cultural resources" and "considered a reasonable range of alternatives," Fisher wrote in his decision.

Councilman Mike Gardener and Mayor Ron Loveridge both said they are open to preserving the Spanish-style façade of the Stalder Building, which faces Mission Inn Avenue.

The façade, built in 1926, was designed by Henry Jekel, an important Riverside architect of the time, said Vince Moses, former the director of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum and historical preservation consultant.

The façade joined three buildings -- an 1896 fire station, a circa-1900 livery stable and a 1904 garage -- and complemented the style of the Mission Inn.

Gardner and Loveridge said Fox Plaza should to be redesigned because the six-story building with residences upstairs isn't feasible in today's economy and, with the Fox Theater just across the street, would be too imposing.

The preservation group welcomed the city's willingness to rethink the Stalder façade.

"That goes a long way in the direction we were trying to go through the (court) hearing, and we are looking forward to the conversation continuing," said David Leonard, Old Riverside Foundation president.

A Los Angeles Police Department detective facing capital murder charges for a killing back in 1986 said that her gun had been stolen. Now police investigators believe the lost gun was the murder weapon used.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The overlooked theft report represents another missed opportunity by the original detectives who failed to link Lazarus to the crime 23 years ago. Lazarus had had a romantic relationship with Rasmussen's husband before their marriage and allegedly had threatened the victim shortly before the killing.

Lazarus, 49, was charged this week with premeditated murder. Prosecutors said they would decide later whether to seek the death penalty. Her arrest stunned LAPD colleagues who have found it hard to accept that one among them could have harbored such a secret for so long.

Lazarus' attorney, Mark Pachowicz, said he had not yet received any information from prosecutors regarding the allegedly stolen gun and expressed frustration over learning about it from reporters. He declined to comment further.

Oh, and for those law enforcement agencies who due to budget cuts or other reasons like nepotism or performance of political favors feel tempted to take shortcuts in the background checks of officer applicants or circumvent them altogether, read this story first.

An applicant for an officer position with the California Highway Patrol wound up being arrested himself on child pornography charges.

(excerpt,Los Angeles Times)

CHP officials, working in conjunction with the FBI on a multiagency task force, immediately launched an investigation of Christian Hernandez after he made the disclosure while applying to the agency in October, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

Hernandez also admitted having viewed illicit photos of a minor within a month of filling out the application, Eimiller said.

CHP investigators performed a consent search of the home where Hernandez was living and found child pornography on a computer he was using, including sexually explicit photos of a 5-year-old girl. The photos appeared to have been taken in the bedroom of the home where Hernandez now lives, Eimiller said.

The fate of civilian review in Fort Myers, Florida.

(excerpt, News-Press)

Push for a police review board stems from a desire for greater police transparency, an outcome Chief Doug Baker says he supports. In April, council approved a review board model that granted a city-appointed panel authority to review completed internal investigations of officer misconduct or policy issues using already-available public records. The board doesn’t have the authority to conduct its own investigations or issue subpoenas that would compel someone to testify or produce evidence.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union and Citizens for a Better Fort Myers Government have been working to educate voters on a proposal for a board that would be elected and hold investigatory and subpoena powers. It’s on the ballot for November, and it would review department policies and conduct independent investigations of police misconduct.

In the end, according to guidelines of each, both boards have only the power of recommendation, which they could make to either or both the police chief and city manager. The recommendations aren’t binding, and neither board could discipline an officer — that job lies solely with the police department and chief.

A deadline is being extended in Palo Alto for the creation of a police advisory group.

(excerpt, San Jose Mercury)

Members can come from anywhere in the greater Palo Alto area, including Stanford, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, according to a statement by Interim Police Chief Dennis Burns and Palo Alto Human Relations Commission Chair Daryl Savage.

"The chief is seeking open-minded individuals who can communicate effectively, and who are committed to the mission and objectives of the group," the statement said. "High school and college students are welcome. Group members must be trustworthy and free of any felony criminal history."

Meanwhile in New Orleans, over 40 people have applied for the position of police monitor.

(excerpt, NOLA)

Interim Inspector General Len Odom, who has the final say in hiring, said applicants so far have "very broad-based, varied backgrounds," including several with law degrees and many with extensive law enforcement experience in local, state and federal agencies.

Applicants also hail "from sea to shining sea," he said, with submissions arriving from Florida, California, New York, Texas, Illinois and "all points in between." A handful of candidates from the New Orleans area also are in the mix, he said.

Odom said he has asked each member of a seven-person search committee to cull the entries by Friday and choose his or her top choices; the postmark deadline for applications is Sunday. Top picks will be discussed before interview invitations go out to two or three finalists, hopefully by mid-June, he said.

When the committee settles on finalists, "we will take their life apart," Odom said, conducting a criminal background check, psychological evaluation, urinalysis and a "suitability interview" to pinpoint personality traits.

Besides Odom, the search panel includes Police Superintendent Warren Riley, Chief Administrative Office Brenda Hatfield, Ethics Review Board Chairman Kevin Wildes, Councilman James Carter and two representatives from the police and prison watchdog group Safe Streets Strong Communities.

The New York Times tackles the issue of the danger of "friendly" fire in the wake of a killing of an off-duty Black New York City Police Department officer by a white officer.


The New York New YorkPolice Department says such “friendly fire” killings are rare, and it could not provide accurate statistics on how often they happen. But a provisional list provided by the department of fatalities caused by mistaken identity offers some sense the problem. Of the five officers mistakenly killed by colleagues since the 1970s, three were black and one was Hispanic.

Christopher Cooper, a member of the National Black Police Association and a sociologist, lawyer and former police officer who studies this problem, says that incidents in which African-Americans are wounded or beaten up by colleagues occur about twice a year nationally.

In addition to the toll on the victims and their families, such incidents inflame racial tensions and undermine faith in law enforcement in poor and minority communities.

To fight this problem, police departments need to do a much better job of preparing officers to work in an environment where colleagues come in all colors and ethnicities — and of raising awareness about how even unconscious racial stereotypes affect how they see the world.

A sheriff in Florida got caught money laundering.

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