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, July 18, 2009

Gage unveils his 'populist' image and will the Audit and Compliance Bureau pull off a swan song exit?

Former Riverside Councilman Art Gage who was trounced by current Ward Three councilman, Rusty Bailey in his reelection bid has tossed in his hat to run for mayor this autumn against perennial mayor, Ron Loveridge who took 25 people for a hike last weekend. No one else has declared yet just these two but there's still time left for those of you out there who are thinking about it. Come on, drop your name in. The more the merrier. Don't all of you sit on your hands and wait for the free-for-all election that will take place in 2012 to throw your hat in. After all, Gage is in a pretty good situation.

Will he win? The odds are very much against him given how Loveridge has thrashed most of his opposition in recent bids but even if he loses, it sets him up with much more of a name recognition the next time around which will be less than three years later to run against a group of politicians who either left office or were voted out and haven't really been seen or heard much from since.

Well, except for former City Councilman Dom Betro who's doing some campaigning in the Press Enterprise "Local Views" section every now and then.

Gage has this Web site which tells readers what he stands for, what he won't and who's endorsing him so far. Some call it 'populist' or that he's portraying the "outsider" but what can a candidate do when running for office against the ultimate insider?

At any rate, it will be an interesting contest to watch, a preview of sorts to what most people believe will be the big mayoral race in 2012.

This part of his stand on the issues was intriguing.


2. Open Government - I will work with the City Council to: (a) eliminate the requirement of having audience guests fill out speaker cards before being permitted to address the council; (b) ensure all important items are discussed in public and; (c) schedule open comments at the beginning of the council meeting to encourage more public involvement and; (d) restore our citizens right to pull items from the consent calendar for discussion. We as elected officials must welcome citizens’ right to participate, and this right has been severely restricted.

He's right about that last sentence. People ask me what "BASS" was, and the answer is, they were council members, Dom Betro, Ed Adison, Steve Adams and Frank Schiavone. One of the moments which strongly defined them was restricting city residents' ability to pull items off of the city council agenda for further discussion by their elected officials.

Now Gage has some things in this background that work in his favor for promoting a more open government. He was the sole vote against the Dom Betro/Steve Adams motion to ban city residents from pulling items from the consent calendar of city council meetings, which was passed in July 2005. But his role as mayor to reverse it would still play out behind the scenes because only the city council can undo what it did to deprive city residents of their ability to really hear vigorous discussion on high-ticket items including many of those umbrellaed under the Riverside Renaissance program and right now, the city council even without ousted Frank Schiavone at its helm doesn't have the votes or frankly, enough interest to even bring it up. There's several schools of thought on whether the right to pull items need to be restored or the city government needs to stop stacking its consent calendar with items which require large expenditures of city money.

So basically, what you have on the "discussion" calendar is largely "receive, review and file" oral or written reports and occasionally an item that fosters much interest in the city's communities. But still most of the money spent is being done so via blanket vote on the consent calendar. This coming after the city council cedes more and more of its financial accountability to the city manager's office, through passing motions to allow that office to authorize more spending without their vote and basically diluting the influence and presence of the Finance Committee during the past several years.

This committee which just a few years ago met twice a month hasn't met once this year. Yet, the year's still a bit young and the "next" meeting has been scheduled for Monday, Aug. 10, 2009 at 2:30 p.m. in the Seventh Floor conference room. If the meeting takes place, there will be plenty of smelling salts available for those who might faint at the mere thought of this committee actually meeting again.

Gage's stance on the Community Police Review Commission, is that he hates it but at least he doesn't pretend that he doesn't. He called it a "piece of trash" or "junk" at an open meeting and once pushed a motion in 2004 to defund it by up to 90% (by saying its funding should be equitable to the Human Relations Commission's annual budget). But hopefully, city council members and one mayor are learning that being anti-CPRC might be bad for your political aspirations. Just ask Schiavone who was knocked out in some neighborhoods by his decision to not only take the lead against undermining the CPRC but announcing his decision to do so on his campaign Web site, just like the DHL scandalous mess knocked him out of contention in other neighborhoods within his ward, not to mention the impact of the Bradley Estates debacle.

The mayor's election over an abbreviated term comes to you this November at the polls.

C'est La Vie, Audit and Compliance Bureau?

“A beautiful sunset that was mistaken for a dawn.”

------Claude Debussy

The future of the Riverside Police Department's audit and compliance bureau hasn't been announced as the tenure of the Strategic Plan set forth by mandate of the stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office nears its end. However, its current head, Lt. Brian Baitx is set to retire and his position will be frozen so that leaves it in the hands of Sgt. Jaybee Brennan who also serves as the department's public information officer and the chief's adjutant. Don't be surprised if they phase the Bureau out by December and don't tell anyone. Hopefully, if they do phase it out, they will have learned from the communications blackout during the 2008 phase out of the Community Policing Services Division, which most people found out had been "decentralized" quite a ways after the fact. That caused more than a little bit of confusion to say the least in the communities.

Communication is key to a healthy, productive and thriving relationship between public agencies and the communities they serve. When the Riverside Police Department embraces that philosophy, it has been served well even during the difficult periods. When it doesn't, is when it experiences problems which often are worse than what started.

Is the Bureau still needed? That's debatable, with many different opinions out there including those arguing with some degree of merit about competing resources. But the vestige of it that remains does serve to audit department functions including staffing ratios so it remains to be seen what will happen to these ratios when their form of oversight (as insulated and top-secret as it might be) is history. And the oh-so-quiet-beneath-our-hats audit of the retention of women police officers some time last year which was so top secret even one of the sergeants didn't seem to know about it when asked.

But then the retention of female officers, a topic which has interested the under-micromanaged Human Resources Board to the point that it wanted to receive a presentation from the department on this very issue.

No can do, said the police chiefs including apparently Russ Leach. That led to a letter being written to the city council for an explanation on why this information can't be made available to them. Yes, there were excuses from it being top-secret even in its general, statistical form, to the department being unable to provide one officer to present the information, to...oh just about anything it seems.

Disappointing but hardly surprising given how quietly the city settled behind closed doors a 2005 defamation of character lawsuit filed by a former female probational police officer at its department. How many lawsuits "go away" in similar fashion within several months of the city being officially served?

Not very many, given how in most cases, the city government through its legal counsel likes to engage in an enormous dose of what some lawyers refer to as "pencil whipping" meaning that they throw so much paperwork against those who sue them in the hopes of overwhelming them physically, psychologically and financially in the hopes that they'll drop the lawsuit.

In related news, Chief Russ Leach did say that as soon as the current Strategic Plan expires, there will be a new five-year plan put in place. Few people appear to know what exactly this latest blue print on departmental operations will be. Hopefully, there will be a public forum announcing it and it won't just be sprung on city residents.

Why is this important?

Communication is key to a healthy, productive and thriving relationship between public agencies and the communities they serve. When the Riverside Police Department embraces that philosophy, it has been served well even during the difficult periods. When it doesn't, is when it experiences problems which often are worse than what started.

Riverside County to close its offices on Fridays due to budget cuts.What it calls the nonessential ones.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside County plans to close its administrative center in downtown Riverside every Friday along with many other offices that provide residents with nonemergency services, county Executive Officer Bill Luna said.

Luna will impose mandatory furloughs on county managers, and he says their reduced hours will result in the closures on Fridays.

Supervisors are set to weigh in on the plan at Tuesday's board meeting.

Starting Aug. 13, the county's 1,500 managers and other nonunion employees will have to take about two days off per month without pay, Luna says in meeting documents.

The furloughs and Friday closures are intended to cut labor and utility expenses for the county, which is struggling with falling tax revenues and other budgetary pressures.

While Luna is authorized to make the decisions, supervisors will vote Tuesday on agenda items outlining the plans.

But times are tough all around. The shiny new Riverside County District Attorney's office building might have to rely on used office furniture. Still the facility will have quite a few perks.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

County employees are set to move into the new building in mid-November, Freeman said.

In October, the county decided to purchase the structure at Orange and 10th streets from developer Moshe Silagi.

The county plans to consolidate there about 600 district attorney's employees currently spread across about a dozen offices in Riverside. Two of the floors will house probation and county counsel offices.

The county's economic situation has worsened since the building's purchase.

The building will still include refinements such as a marble entry that reads, "Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall." A large, full-color marble district attorney seal will adorn the floor of the lobby. The building will feature a victims' memorial wall, Freeman said.

Keenan said Monday that all of these features were included in the negotiated price of the building and do not add any costs.

"Everything was included in the price of the building," he said. "That's the price the county paid when the board authorized it, and nothing we've ever done has added any cost to the building."

Murrieta's city council is filling spots on its commissions. Let's just hoped the process isn't as politicized as it has become in Riverside.

Menifee, the newest city, is still deciding on its police services.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Earlier this month Councilman Scott Mann suggested that the city explore how to go about getting the most cost-effective police protection possible. For fiscal 2009-10, Menifee will pay the county $8.69 million for police protection.

City Manager George Wentz said he and his staff will research the costs and the pros and cons of various law-enforcement scenarios, including:

The city running its own police department

The city contracting police services from a neighboring city, namely Murrieta

Establishing a joint powers authority with other cities to establish a jointly funded and operated police department

Staying with Riverside County Sheriff's Department but being policed by the Southwest substation in French Valley rather than the Perris station

Wentz said city staff members will aim to deliver their law enforcement findings sometime next spring.

"The question is: Are we delivering law enforcement in the most economical and best manner to the community," Wentz said. "Part of the question is, is the span of area managed by Perris too large? If we move the location to the Southwest station, that reduces the load on both offices."

Former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus is is fighting a lawsuit filed against him by the county supervisors.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The former San Bernardino County assessor, who has battled an addiction to illegal drugs, said in an interview that he has been sober for more than 100 days. He appeared upbeat and eager to talk politics -- he thinks Democrats could have a shot at winning the Inland area's 63rd Assembly District next year -- and eager to once again mix things up politically with jabs at county government and the current Board of Supervisors.

Postmus, who has been spending time in northern Idaho where his parents live, said he can't talk about the ongoing criminal investigation by the district attorney's office.

But he's more than happy to discuss the civil lawsuit supervisors filed against him and five others earlier this year. Postmus said he and his lawyer are preparing his response, due sometime in early August.

"I am looking forward to the process of litigating this civil lawsuit," Postmus said. "We are going to order subpoenas and order depositions of many supervisors."

His goal? To show that doing political work on county time was a widespread practice in county government.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein takes on ethics training.


After the final "Retention Check" (and another perfect score), a jolt: "You have spent 0 hours and 14 minutes on this training. This is less than the required 2 hours."

I read this as a threat. They weren't going to give me a certificate. "If you would like to bolster that time, we have supplemental training available."

Supplemental training? Show me a public official who seeks supplemental ethics training and I'll show you an Alaska governor who serves out a full term.

Legislators who approved AB 1234 and the governor (Arnold) who signed it, evidently felt the same way because supplemental training turned out to be an option I respectfully declined. I clicked "Next" one last time, and now have my own Online Proof of Participation Certificate.

I can't understand why so many politicians get into such hot water when it's so darn easy to be ethical.

The heat is on! A Riverside County Superior Court judge allows new upstart city Menifee and older haunt, Perris to slug it out some more in court.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"It's not that a Riverside court would be unfair but it may be uncomfortable," Martyn said by telephone Monday. "We thought it might be better to move it to another county where nobody knows all the players."

The case was put on the back burner almost a year ago as Menifee and Perris tried to settle the dispute. But three months ago Menifee rejected Perris' settlement offer, which proposed that the two cities split the sales tax revenue from a 970-acre area over a 25-year period. About a decade ago, the Local Agency Formation Commission, which can rule on boundary issues, removed the area in question from Perris' sphere of influence and bequeathed it to the still-prospective city of Menifee. The area now straddles the two cities' east-west boundary around Ethanac Road.

In an April letter Menifee officials estimated that Perris' settlement offer, which was approved by county officials before Menifee became a city, would have cost Menifee about $12 million in lost revenue.

"It is a rough number but it's based on past research in this area," Martyn said.

When Menifee rebuffed the proposal, that city's officials essentially told Perris officials "we can't, in this economy, give you what you ask," Martyn said.

Los Angeles and the Department of Justice have finally said goodbye after an eight year long consent decree.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Bratton struck an anticlimactic note Friday, saying that while the decision showed "the department has regained its reputation," the LAPD itself had come to view the decree as outdated and irrelevant. "In the mind of the department, it has been over for a long time," he said. Feess' action does not free the LAPD from making mandated improvements . The judge approved a transitional plan that attorneys for the LAPD and the U.S. Department of Justice proposed to him last month. Under that agreement, the Los Angeles Police Commission, which oversees the LAPD, will assume responsibility from Cherkasky for keeping tabs on the department's efforts to fully implement a handful of still-incomplete or recently finished reforms. If DOJ lawyers are unsatisfied with the commission's oversight, the agreement allows them to object and bring the department back before Feess. One of the outstanding issues is the department's handling of the hundreds of claims of racial profiling levied against officers by minorities each year. As part of the new agreement, the department must press ahead with a plan to outfit all its patrol vehicles with video cameras that will record all traffic and pedestrian stops. In addition, the commission will conduct a series of reports on how police officials investigate and resolve claims of racial profiling. "We're disappointed by the judge's decision. The department has made substantial progress under Chief Bratton, but there's still too much evidence that skin color makes a difference in who is stopped, questioned and arrested by the LAPD," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern California -- the group that had most vocally argued against ending the consent decree.

The creator of a controversial Web site in Philadelphia that led to complaints by Black police officers defended his creation.

(excerpt, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The officer, who uses the screen name "McQ," also wrote that he was not responsible for what registered users post on the site, and said he had never been asked to remove posts or comments.

The site, which began in 2000 and is not affiliated with the Police Department, is a popular forum where officers discuss crime, police news, and gossip, as well as promote local events.

But racially charged news stories often result in controversial and profane comments. A recent post about the day campers who were disinvited from swimming at a suburban pool, for example, described the children as "a bunch of ghetto monkey faces."

On Wednesday, the Guardian Civic League, an association of black police officers, filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the department of allowing its officers to post "blatantly racist . . . and offensive" content on Domelights. Among other claims, the lawsuit alleges that officers moderate the site using the department's computers, thus creating a racially hostile work environment.

The suit seeks unspecified damages, and asks that officers be banned from using the site or posting racially insensitive material.

McQ is identified in his Domelights profile as Fred McQuiggan, which is the name of a sergeant who works at Police Headquarters. He has not returned requests for comment and stated in Thursday's post that he would not comment directly to the media.

Described on the home page as "the voice of the good guys," Domelights "was created specifically to be a forum where ideas of social change could be freely and openly discussed," McQuiggan wrote in his post.

"I categorically REJECT any racist or sexist ideas expressed on the Web site," the post reads. "But I do SUPPORT the right of people on ALL sides of racial issues to EXPRESS THEIR OPINIONS . . . There is no progress gained on social issues when angry people stew in their own juices while remaining silent."

A former Bell Police Department officer charged with sexually assaulting a woman during a stop has finally pled guilty. And what did Bell Department heads have to say about it when he was arrested? They were in total shock of course.

(excerpt, CNN)

After learning the woman, identified as R.H. in court documents, did not have a driver's license with her, Sanchez told her he suspected her of drinking and her car would be towed, Mrozek said.

Sanchez offered to drive R.H. to her job, but instead drove her to the parking lot of an auto repair outlet in Bell, Mrozek said.

Sanchez placed his hand on his gun and forced her to perform sex on him in his patrol car, Mrozek said. Afterward, Sanchez drove R.H. to her work place, Mrozek said.

"Officer Sanchez brutalized a person he had sworn to serve," O'Brien said in the release. "As a result of his criminal conduct, Mr. Sanchez now faces a substantial amount of time in federal prison. His conduct eroded public confidence in law enforcement and cast a pall over his former colleagues who obey the law, proudly working to preserve public safety."

Federal prosecutors charged Sanchez with a civil rights violation, according to the release.

The crime carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison upon sentencing. Sanchez has been held without bond since his arrest in May 2007, Mrozek said. Sanchez's sentencing is scheduled for November 18.

CALPERS takes a huge financial loss.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

The loss at the California Public Employees' Retirement System for the fiscal year ended June 30 is the second in a row for the country's largest fund. A year ago, CalPERS reported an $8.5-billion loss, as the severe recession began to take hold.

The tremendous drop in value is expected to have a direct effect on the amount of money that the state and about 2,000 local governments and school districts must contribute in coming years to pay for pensions and healthcare for 1.6 million government workers, retirees and their families.

As income from the pension investments fall, the governments would have to make up the difference to meet the state's pension and healthcare obligations.

The Community Police Review Commission still hasn't posted its agenda online at its Web site for its meeting to be held on Wednesday, July 22 at 5:30 p.m. Hopefully it's at least posted at City Hall but not sure what they're going to discuss actually or do but it's a given, there will be quite a bit of feuding between those beholden to City Hall and those who aren't.

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