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, July 29, 2009

"I don't know this person, do you?" otherwise known as the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meets

Riverside prepares itself for more budget cuts as a result of the state taking money from the coffers of counties and cities to balance its own budget.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The city already has grappled with shrinking revenue, trimming its general fund budget by about $17 million in June and laying off seven employees last week.

"My objective is save as many jobs as we can," said Councilman Mike Gardner during a state budget briefing at Tuesday's night's council meeting . "I'm afraid we'll lose (more) employees."

City officials are still evaluating where to make more cuts, said City Manager Brad Hudson.

City officials are most worried about the state's plan to divert about $1.7 billion in property taxes away from city and county redevelopment agencies this fiscal year, which would cost Riverside an estimated $17 million. Another $4.7 million will be borrowed from the city.

The city now uses the redevelopment funds to fight blight through code enforcement, graffiti removal and the purchases of abandoned or foreclosed homes that often need major repairs.

These foreclosed houses are refurbished and sold to qualified first-time buyers at the city's cost. The city had hoped to acquire hundreds of foreclosed homes.

An interesting letter of opposition against the Community Police Review Commission in the Press Enterprise.

This section was the highlight.


Somebody should advise her that, in cases of deadly force, the courts evaluate an officer's actions based on the circumstances confronting the officer during the incident, not before or after. This is to prevent uninformed persons from passing judgment on the officer's actions months after the fact from the safety of an office.

What does this gentlemen think a trial jury is comprised of? Because he just described one. But actually, it appears that the letter writer is a retired police officer and most law enforcement officers don't like police review commissions. It's kind of like oil and water.

Although one former Riverside County Superior Court judge did once comment on his belief that a Riverside Police Department officer used too much force during his handling of a woman several years ago. That officer was allegedly the recent subject of a claim of damages submitted by an individual for baton injuries. If 10% of the current rumors about him are true, then it's difficult to believe he's being properly supervised, in fact it would be very unlikely.

I wonder if the letter writer would think this judge was as "qualified" to make that assessment as he seems to believe judicial officers are in his letter.

In related news, after reviewing the arrest warrants for the case of former police officer Robert Forman, it was interesting to note that the department's investigators reviewed his recordings from his audio recording device that he like all the department's field division officers received under the stipulated judgment several years ago. According to the warrant, Forman had 30 "missing" recordings for the month of February 2008 which means they were probably recordings which were erased, leaving their tag numbers behind. In April 2008, there were no recordings recovered and when they seized the device as part of a search conducted by the department, they discovered its memory card was missing. So what was erased in February? What wasn't recorded in April?

The department doesn't really audit the recordings downloaded by officers and it doesn't listen to them until a complaint is filed involving that officer or an investigation is conducted internally. So red flags like this get missed until after an investigation is started. Makes you wonder how many other "red flags" there might be that perhaps could be picked up by an Early Warning System of some form. Does that make Forman guilty of any crime? It doesn't in the absence of other evidence but it's a situation that would have been worth looking into if a pattern had been established regarding his use of the audio recorder or rather, his decision not to use it.

Speaking of lawsuits, the city's insurance provider is allegedly a bit ticked because it's settling too many lawsuits and not taking any to trial. Do you seriously believe that after the $1.64 million paid out on the Roger Sutton lawsuit at trial that the city will ever take that chance again?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

But for something that's really interesting, you have to read former Councilman of Years Past Dom Betro's op-ed in the Press Enterprise about private interests sabotaging Riverside Renaissance. You'd think he was running for mayor this time around rather than next time.

He castigates the same staff that he defended while councilman and he talks about "sweetheart deals" without recognizing the irony as an elected official who had one hand out getting campaign donations from major developers like Mark Rubin and the other having the redevelopment agency (read the city council) serving as middle-men in land acquisition by taking it through eminent domain largely from business men and women of color and handing it to these developers. He labels the "Davids" who fought City Hall which was trying to take their land almost as if they had as much power to weld as developers with inside tracks to our city council politicians which is pretty interesting. But if you notice, it's the elected officials who are most closely tied with developers like Rubin and Doug Jacobs who have problems getting reelected.


The mall moves ahead, but with a new twist of rewarding downtown property owners who have not improved their properties, with more-than-appraised-value purchases of their unimproved properties, and additional city spending for façade improvements not done by the owners. Most property is going for 50 cents on the dollar, but not when it comes to these sweetheart deals.

The downtown fire station and Convention Center continue to be placed on the back burner, even though now is the time to act on these "shovel-ready" projects, and provide more reasons for people to come downtown. Conversely, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on new parking machines and raising parking ticket fees are out of touch with the current realities facing downtown.

Myopic approach

Currently, the Fox Theatre holds the most promise to deliver enhanced and sustained public benefit downtown. It is sad to see a myopic and uninformed approach to this venue. The Fox needs a public purpose to it, preferably in the form of a nonprofit foundation that provides education, theater time, and public use in a significant manner. A model to be considered is the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which competes with higher-profile Manhattan theaters by inviting the public in rather than trying to keep it out.

The Fox public purpose can be extended and turned into an economic engine, by utilizing the adjacent land for a black box theater for community theater groups, a home for the arts and cultural organizations, and street front retail stores. The city can support such complementary uses by reallocating the transit occupancy tax from hotels and the millions targeted to build parking structures. The result will be a leveraging effect, bringing people and disposable income to downtown, generating business for store owners and sales tax revenue for the city. Such a strategic approach will support city arts and culture aspirations in real, financial, historic and innovative ways.

But if you want another look at the relationships between developers, the money and city council officials, you can check out Master of their Eminent Domain. And Betro doesn't tell you that most of these properties were purchased before land values plunged and were paid for at least partially out of the city's sewer fund which appeared to be the city's credit card for a while.

For all its fanfare, Riverside Renaissance must be a tougher sell to city residents than elected officials think because look how many city council members either got voted out or narrowly avoided that by a handful of votes who were the strongest most vocal supporters of the Renaissance. Betro, Councilman Art Gage (now a populist, better late than never) and Frank Schiavone, all handed pink slips by the city's voters since Renaissance's inception and Councilman Steve Adams narrowly won his reelection bid by about 15 votes to a candidate who raised very little money but a lot of questions about the Renaissance program. And a lot of people do have questions about the program including how it will be paid for and how much their children and grandchildren will really have to pay for it.

And if you can recall, when people told the city council that a private endowment was needed for the Fox Theater to have the best chance of being viable as a performing arts center, the reception from council members including Betro wasn't nearly as warm as Betro seems to be stating in the final paragraphs of his thesis on why the city needs him back on the dais. But then he wouldn't be the first elected official to reinvent himself after getting off the dais and preparing to recharge his political career. Sometimes, revelations of different ways to look at issues do come out of the sky like lightning bolts but then again, if you're running against the ultimate insider like Ron Loveridge, you need to portray yourself as an outsider.

"It's not your application; it's who you know or more important, who knows you."

"Do you know this person?" "No I don't, do you?" "Yes I do and..." are some of the pet phrases you hear a lot if you ever attend a Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting in relation to the screening and selection of applicants to either appoint or interview for appointment for the city's boards and commissions. While applicants might fill out applications and even include resumes and recommendations, it's not what you did, it's who you know at City Hall and how you know them that most often determines whether or not a person is interviewed. As unfortunate as it might be to say this, unless you're tied in with City Hall in a good way, it's probably a waste of time to apply. That's a shame because there are quite a few people who take the time to fill out an application and write about what they can bring, and why they want to volunteer their energy and time and many of these applications are pretty much ignored because they might not be close to City Hall.

Mayor Ron Loveridge who's the one common denominator since the committee started screening applications for the CPRC in 2000 and he sets the tone by asking other council members whether or not they know an applicant or not. What's unfortunate is that sometimes it's not clear whether or not the committee members have bothered to read any of the applications submitted. But then when the main criteria is whether you know them or not, or they've been on prior boards and commissions or not, who needs an application?

The applicants to be interviewed for the CPRC are as follows:

Amy Aldana: Urban planner, County of Riverside, resident of Riverside for six months, Riverside Neighborhood Partnership board member.

Wants to serve: "to help build stronger neighborhoods and promote positive relationships between residents and City Hall."

Christopher Lorenz: United States Department of Agriculture investigator, former military and probational officer

Wants to serve: "I want to be able to use my experience for the good of the city I live in."

Barbara E. Marmor: Deputy prosecutor, Riverside County District Attorney's office until 2007.

Wants to serve: "I would like to continue to serve my community and use my background in a useful way. I am lucky to be able to serve as a volunteer."

Joe. R. Vazquez: Employed by Vazquez Security Services, Former investigator with the Federal Public Defenders office, former U.S. Marine Corps.

Wants to serve: "I believe my knowledge and experience will be an asset to the commission and the City of Riverside."

Dan W. Waldo: N/A

Jesus M. Carlos: N/A

Lisa A. Golden (pending ward residency confirmation): Teacher, Riverside Unified School District, Fundraiser for organizations including the American Diabetes Association

Wants to serve: "I feel that ensuring citizen's complaints receive a fair and objective investigation and hearing is vital to continuing public confidence and satisfaction with the Riverside Police Department's policies and practices. These hearings must reflect the needs of all Riverside residents."

Garth Newberry: N/A

The one applicant that pretty much set Loveridge off in the negative category was Richard Chavez who served on the Riverside County Grand Jury and the Mayor's Commission on Aging. The other three council members including his third cousin by marriage, Andrew Melendrez were pretty placid in the wake of his comments.

Already the favorite to ultimately be appointed is Lorenz because he seemed to be the most familiar name to the committee members and that' s usually how it goes.

The mayor and other committee members were asked by several city residents who attended as to what they looked for in a prospective commissioner. Several of them seemed taken aback, even shocked at being asked this question. Loveridge initially tried to deflect it by saying that they all might have different criteria from each other as if that were a bad thing. In a dynamic where everyone has to be on the same page on an issue or be shut out of discussion as has occurred at some meetings and even on the council dais itself, maybe it's a horrible thing.

Anyway, once pinned down to answer this question, the committee members gave the following responses.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez: "Someone who is going to be objective, understand importance of commission. What it means to community.

Fair and objective relate well to other commissioners. Team player. Working within the commission.

Councilman Rusty Bailey: Echoes Melendrez. People skills, objectivity interest in the important work that commissioners do. Could be from another state, country and bring perspective from that to Riverside.

Councilman Steve Adams: objectivity, impartiality, no agenda, life experience

Mayor Ron Loveridge: No prejudices, professional experience, life experience

Notice the words, "objective" and "objectivity" are commonly used in their responses. However, if you look at the composition of the commission now, there's very little of that on it. Appointing for example a high-ranking employee at a major company that contracts with the city to serve on that commission clearly shows that "objectivity" is among the least of the city council's priorities when appointing commissioners.

It will be so in this latest case as well when all is said and done.

Some more discussion about the CPRC needing its own independent counsel. Currently, it is using the city attorney, Gregory Priamos who has two priorities in his job that lead all others. The first is to protect the city council and mayor. The second is to reduce the city's risk of civil liability. Both of these priorities could and probably have conflicted with the mission of the CPRC but then again, since City Hall's priority appears to be to dilute and render that commission unaffective which it has done very well, then it probably makes sense to have a legal counsel represent it in a total conflict of interest.

Budget cuts in Sacramento will result in changes of how the court systems function including the addition of a closure date.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Both counties have too few judges to serve populations that exploded in the past 15 years. A workload study used by the Judicial Council says Riverside County should have 142 judges and commissioners. It has 76. San Bernardino County needs 147, but has 84.

On Wednesday, the Judicial Council voted to cut from its budget a signed $71 million bill that would have funded 50 new judicial positions. Riverside County courts were in line to get nine judges and San Bernardino County courts were to get eight of the judgeships, according to a Judicial Council projection.

Administrators for both courts said Wednesday they would try to avoid layoffs and negotiate furloughs to keep public impact minimal.

"We have actually been preparing the court for a really bad two or three years of budgets," Riverside County Court Executive Officer Sherri R. Carter said .

She said staff reductions such as dropping some management positions had eliminated about 70 jobs. "We are hopeful that we will not have any additional layoffs," she said.

Riverside County courts have also instituted new fees, such as charging for court documents once available for free on the Internet and establishing a fax fee for attorneys to file documents at remote courts.

Riverside County courts currently have about 1,100 workers, down from 1,200 late last year.

Carter said while some workers may take voluntary furloughs on court closure days, others may choose to work the nonpublic day and catch up on filing and other clerical and paperwork backlogs.

"There is so much work I am worried that if we have one more day off a month we are going to drown and never catch up," Carter said. "We have huge backlogs and we really need to try and at least maintain where we are."

The police chief at Mt. San Jacinto Valley College District is under investigation and being placed on leave.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The college made reference to the status of Chief Kevin Segawa in a written statement announcing the hiring of an acting chief "while an investigation involving the current police chief is being conducted."

Asked when Segawa was placed on leave and about the nature of the investigation, college spokeswoman Karin Marriott said she could not comment because it was a personnel matter.

Terry Meadows started as acting chief Monday, Marriott said by phone. Meadows is a retired Riverside County Sheriff's Department lieutenant who worked in Temecula.

Segawa and the college were named as defendants in two recent lawsuits. Three former probationary police officers and one volunteer reserve officer claimed they were threatened with termination after witnessing what they considered inappropriate conduct by fellow officers, including Segawa.

Two of the probationary officers were fired, and the other two officers resigned. Their suit alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract and defamation was recently thrown out; a rehearing is scheduled for next month.

Another police chief, who heads the San Bernardino Police Department wants to promote a better image.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Along with rebuilding the department's morale, Kilmer said he hopes the changes give residents -- including those in high-crime neighborhoods who don't trust law enforcement -- a better understanding of police operations.

On the city's Westside, a 2007 clash between residents and officers at a candlelight vigil prompted residents to file lawsuits and request a federal mediator. Subsequent police shootings increased tensions.

At the same time, public disputes between officers and past police administrations eroded the department's image.

"The trust level in some neighborhoods can be built," said Kilmer, who has made time to meet each of his nearly 500 employees and many community leaders. "We need to treat people with respect and with an open ear, and that starts from the inside. Then, when there's a significant trauma, like an officer-involved shooting, we're not going to be playing catch up."

No special election for Menifee.

From San Francisco:


Last week marked the 25th anniversary of two significant events for civilian oversight in San Francisco (and possibly for the entire oversight profession).

In July 1984, the newly-formed Office of Citizen Complaints monitored the numerous political demonstrations that took place during the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. This may have been the first instance of oversight agency investigators officially monitoring police actions at crowd control events.

The San Francisco police officers assigned to crowd control duties at the convention wore helmets with their star numbers prominently displayed in large, easy to read numerals, the result of the first policy recommendation from the Office of Citizen Complaints that was adopted by the police department. This policy recommendation identified the problem of complainants being unable to accurately identify officers wearing helmets and proposed the size, color and placement of star numbers on helmets, backed by the opinion of a human factors expert on visual recognition.

I would be curious to know whether either of these represented firsts in civilian oversight. Does anyone know whether any other oversight agencies conducted crowd control monitoring at that time, and whether other police departments had any similar policies about the star numbers on helmets?

It was my privilege to create and lead the OCC crowd control monitoring operation at the convention and to write the OCC policy recommendation described above and to shepherd its adoption through the police department. I don't know whether either of these represented firsts, but they are two of the things I am proudest of in my 30-year professional career.

Jayson Wechter
San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints 1983 – 84; 1998 - present

And from Cambridge:

Cambridge -
The following is a press release from City Manager Bob Healy:

Recently, Cambridge has become a city that many people around the country are associating with July 16, 2009. A day when a police sergeant and a professor met in an unfortunate set of circumstances that did not have a desirable outcome.

I am committed to making sure that our city is not defined by that day. Today is the day to move forward. The mayor, Commissioner Haas and I are pleased to announce that the city has taken significant steps toward that end.

Last Thursday, the commissioner announced that a group of nationally recognized experts would be organized to help us determine what lessons can be learned from that incident. Since then, we have asked Robert Wasserman and Chuck Wexler to convene a committee to facilitate an analysis and develop recommendations that the department can use as guidance in the future.

The mission of this committee is larger than a mere investigation into the events of July 16. While it is important for the committee to understand those events, this committee will not be conducting an internal investigation, nor will it make any official judgments on the actions of officers in the department. Rather, the committee will identify lessons to be taken from the circumstances surrounding the incident and how those lessons can be applied to the policies, practices, and training programs of the Cambridge Police Department. It will examine the organization of the Cambridge Police Department, its current policies, and its relationships with all parts of the Cambridge community.

The scope of the committee's work will include:

a.. Identifying learning points about the interaction between residents and the police by examining departmental policies and training, approaches to conflict resolution, and strategies to defuse difficult situations.
b.. Gauging the spectrum of views and concerns held by the public as well as officers, through focus group meetings with a diverse segment of the larger Cambridge community and officers representing a wide range of ranks and assignments.
c.. Identifying areas where the department can enhance its operations to handle similar incidents in the future in the best possible way.
d.. Assessing how issues of race and perceptions can impact on daily encounters between the police and community members.
e.. Producing findings and presenting best practices to the Cambridge Police Department and the entire law enforcement community.
Bob Wasserman is chairman of the Strategic Policy Partnership and has worked extensively with the federal government and many local law enforcement agencies on issues of police strategy, diversity and management. I have known Bob for some years, as he has assisted many government executives to address complex issues facing policing an urban community. He is a nationally recognized leader in organizational issues and has national respect.

I have asked Chuck Wexler, the executive director of PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) to chair this committee. Chuck is no stranger to Cambridge; I have known him for 20 years and Chuck has worked with me and the city of Cambridge over that time. Chuck is a native of Boston who earned his bachelor's degree at Boston University and a doctorate at MIT. I expect that he will be with us later in the week for further announcements.

PERF has a reputation for providing honest assessments of police departments, for "calling it like they see it." For those of you who may not be familiar with this organization, PERF is think tank in Washington, D.C., that is dedicated to advancing professionalism in policing across the United States. I encourage you to go to the PERF Web site and check out their work.

I have confidence that with their leadership, this committee will help us emerge as a stronger community. Individuals have already been identified to serve on this committee and I look forward to announcing them later this week.

Hate groups are on the rise in the Inland Empire. But these aren't hate groups, these are just gangs. If you look up the legal requirements to be defined as one, they all qualify, yet White Supremacist gangs are hardly ever called that. They are always called "groups" even while committing violent crimes to further their gang and adopting symbols and tattoos identifying themselves as members of that gang. And these "groups" that are apprehended usually turn out to be much more armed with guns and other weapons than your usual social club but oh, they're just collectors. They operate so successfully because no one's really looking for them, especially a few years ago though more aggressive investigations have been done since.

One of the Nazi gangs was recruiting here before getting flagged. And if you read the comments for this article, it's not surprising that these gangs proliferate so well in the Inland Empire.

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