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, August 26, 2009

The CPRC bans minority reports

****Breaking News****

The city has laid off two more city employees, both full-time. Losing their jobs were Librarian Alicia Doktor and Purchasing Division Office specialist, J.C. Cortez. Doktor who also serves as a steward for the SEIU General Unit which represents a large group of city employees from a variety of departments was terminated on Aug. 26.

Doktor's firing comes within weeks of two technology interns in the library being laid off and another employee receiving a $15,000 raise. The Board of Library Trustees had just voted the previous day to reduce the hours of operations for the library branches within Riverside in light of the budget situation.

More layoffs are anticipated.

The SEIU is taking it to the streets to talk to people about what's going on with the city, its labor and its finances.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"We're asking them to defer their increases," just as other city employee groups have done, including management, supervisory and executive workers and fire employees, Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout said.

The City Council on Tuesday night approved changes to the fire management employees' contract that defer a 2 percent raise for a year.

Union officials counter that they've proposed other ways to save, such as shifting some workers to four 10-hour workdays, but the city hasn't really considered those ideas.

"What we have not seen is a serious willingness to engage on these cost savings," Steve Matthews, regional director for SEIU Local 721, said Wednesday. "We're troubled that (the 2 percent raise is) where they want to go first."

Councilman Mike Gardner said as the clock ticks on talks with SEIU, the city loses its chance at savings while the potential for layoffs increases.

"I think we'll continue talking to SEIU in hopes of reaching an agreement, we'll continue looking for other places to save, but we're getting to the point where I think we'll continue to see some layoffs," Gardner said.

Off with their heads: The CPRC votes to ban minority opinions

What: CPRC meeting

Where: Fifth floor conference room, City Hall, River City

When: Wednesday, Aug. 26

“Shutting down a minority report is just fundamentally counterproductive to what this commission is set up to do.”

—Commissioner Chani Beeman, CPRC whose minority report on the Joseph Darnell Hill shooting case was banned by the CPRC for inclusion in its public report.

"It’s not a right of the dissenting member. We can accept it or not accept it."

---Commissioner Art Santore who led the charge to ban the minority report by proposing a motion to ban all minority reports.

"Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic. "

----Lewis Carroll

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.

---William Shakesphere

"'cause its time, its time in time With your time and its news is captured For the queen to use."


[Michael Dunn, co-chair of the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability, presents his argument for the inclusion of minority reports to mostly, a brick wall that's called the CPRC.]

[Commissioners Ken Rotker and Robert Slawsby disagree on whether minority reports should be banned. Actually Rotker flip flopped for a while but finally managed to come to an opinion without resorting to tossing a coin.]

At its meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 26, the Community Police Review Commission voted to first ban the inclusion of a minority report written by one of its members as part of the Joseph Darnell Hill case and then to ban them overall, all in the same evening. Why? Because the members have a difficult time with how to handle any opinions which differ from the majority and the solution as they see it is to just shut those dissenting opinions down and don't let the public know that they exist. That, and apparently they have little confidence in their own majority report to stand side to side with a minority report on the Hill case written by Commissioner Chani Beeman. You would have thought the whole world fell apart by how the majority of the commissioners behaved when presented with her minority report.

Maybe as far as the majority of commissioners on the CPRC, it did. Some of them certainly acted like it. And they responded accordingly. After all, a trained seal will perform repetitive behaviors that are rewarded with fish and tend to avoid those that don't result in that reward.

What unfolded was actually some time in the making, and it was as smoothly produced and directed as most Broadway productions or at least off-Broadway. Were these actions as spontaneous as they were presented?

The answer is, probably not.

Act I, Scene I

The CPRC agenda and 11th hour revisions

Most of the action takes place off-stage but with soft organ music playing in the background, the commissioners with CHAIR SHERI CORRAL leading the procession, enter through stage right and take their places, picking up their scripts and awaiting cues from the production director off-stage. STAGE MANAGER enters from stage left.

Over the weekend, the CPRC agenda had been revised to include an agenda item addressing the process of how the commission would author and submit public written reports on among other things, officer-involved death cases. And when that appeared suddenly on the revised agenda that was distributed and posted, it was relatively easy to see something was up. And then there was word that minority reports might become an endangered species in relation to the CPRC. But the CPRC didn't wait until the belated agenda item regarding the format of public reports came up for presentation and discussion, the majority launched its preemptive strike during the agenda item concerning presentation and discussion of the Hill shooting case.

And like a lot of rumors these days, this one was correct. Still, to watch it play out was fascinating, in how quickly and effectively the latest rubber stamp body (having been a juiced up outcome of the passage of Measure GG in 2004) out of City Hall eliminated another form of public process, one of several done under the current leadership of Chair Sheri Corral and vice-chair Peter Hubbard.

But then despite a backlog of citizen complaints filed, the actual meetings of the CPRC have been way down since the two commissioners with the worst attendance records last year were elected to chair and vice-chair the commission. If they opted out of attending meetings last year, it makes sense that if they make the decision about whether or not to conduct them, they'll opt out of as many as they can.

Corral opened up the process to ban minority reports by listing her objections to Beeman's and why she couldn't vote for its inclusion then Hubbard chimed in and then Commissioner Art Santore who essentially "me toos" Corral and Hubbard provided some harmony for the CPRC's own version of the barber's quartet. They all performed so seamlessly and in line, that one wonders if there was some rehearsals of sorts held beforehand where they received their scripts. Perhaps, it truly was all improv but it's doubtful. It's even doubtful that Corral or Hubbard wrote their own lines, which seemed eerily a lot alike leading people to think they had identical speech patterns and syntax.

Some people asked afterward, did the commissioners really say their own words or were they written by someone else? Listen to the chair and vice-chair when they're giving speeches like the ones they gave at the Aug. 26 to pave the way for banning minority reports and listen to their oratory responses the rest of the meeting. It's an interesting exercise in contrasts.

But the strategy which was enacted by City Hall's police commissioners mirrored that used by the same batch of them last year to eliminate an ad hoc committee that had been created to come up with potential bylaws and policies and procedures in relation to the CPRC's handling of officer-involved deaths. Which is why it seemed familiar when it was unveiled for its second time.

Act I, Scene II

We hate them, we hate them, we hate them: A historical perspective on the CPRC and minority reports.

Commissioners having already entered through stage right in the previous scene are still seated around the table. Direction is still taking place off-stage, but the STAGE MANAGER is also the narrator in this production.

Historically, the CPRC has struggled with the inclusion of minority reports in its officer-involved death cases. Meaning that it's both accepted them and banned them since the issue first came up for discussion. It took the micromanagement team at City Hall several years to figure out a strategy to eliminate them completely.

The very first minority report was done by former commissioner, Jim Ward several years involving the officer-involved death case of Terry Rabb, a diabetic who died after going into cardiac arrest after being restrained and handcuffed by two police officers. The commission upon advice by City Attorney Gregory Priamos voted not to include the minority report because they disagreed with its content.

That rationale, as faulty as it is when considering the definition of a minority report, would rear its head ineffectively in the officer-involved death of Lee Deante Brown and much more so in the Hill case with an additional step taken to not just ban that offensive piece of writing but to prevent any other minority reports

City Hall had learned from its missteps and perfected its latest attempt to micromanage the CPRC on Aug. 26.

But first it had to stumble through its attempts through the commission to try to silence Ward's attempts to write a minority report on the Brown case. Through some miracle or more likely gross incompetence on the part of the City Hall micromanagement team, Ward's minority report was actually included in the majority report but the commission wouldn't repeat that mistake again. And the way it saw it, the world fell apart.

Maybe a few people who occupy or occupied the Seventh Floor at City Hall threw a tantrum after realizing the Brown minority report had slipped out of their grasp and made it into the public's eye. By that time, it might have been too late. After all, it's very difficult to unring a bell.

But what's fascinating is that several members of the CPRC at the Aug. 26 meeting admitted that the commission only approved the Brown minority report because its members hadn't even read it! Those admissions do a great deal to reassure the public that commissioners on the CPRC as a whole behave professionally and responsibly. But when they made these admissions, they showed their hand, in that the decision to ban minority reports (both individually and then overall) is based entirely on whether or not these commissioners agree with their content. When the simple fact is this: If they did agree with the content, there wouldn't be a minority report in the first place because the content of a minority report would be included in the commission's majority report. And one commissioner thought he was clever enough to argue for banning minority reports in the hopes of improving transparency over the CPRC. Maybe something so patently ridiculous makes perfect sense to him or maybe he's been tutored by example in how to strategize through the use of reversals in speech. Which essentially is trying to justify the reduction of something, in this case transparency, by arguing that you are actually trying to enhance it. Former City Councilman Frank Schiavone was a pro at using this form of tactics in his actions against the CPRC among other things.

But then what's clear most of all in this latest debacle coming to you courtesy of the Seventh Floor of City Hall, is that it doesn't matter whether or not these commissioners even know or understand the definition of a minority report because it's pretty clear (and the rumors point in this direction) that it wasn't really their decision to make.

If you want to read the only minority report that slipped through the efforts of City Hall and/or the commission to suppress it from the public eye, go here.

Act I, Scene III

Police Chief Russ Leach: Bring them on (the minority reports)!

This scene takes place earlier in time, circa 2004 and consists of a different and more racially and gender diverse group sitting around a table listening to POLICE CHIEF RUSS LEACH who enters from Stage Left. Costumes are reflective of that era.

The characters are self-directed.

Back in the days when the city was managed by someone else and the police chief actually had some autonomy over his department, Leach appeared unchaperoned at a CPRC workshop held at City Hall on March 17, 2004. When asked about how he felt about minority reports, he said that he encouraged commissioners to submit them and not just on officer-involved death cases but for complaints as well, because he wanted to read alternative perspectives on the different cases. He's restated that opinion at various meetings since and it's a very healthy one to share coming from the head of a law enforcement agency, especially one that's been as intensively investigated, reviewed and revised as the Riverside Police Department's been in the past 10 years.

Of course, it's unlikely that Leach would be allowed to attend a CPRC meeting in 2009 and exercise any degree of candor on the issues that he once did and this assessment is based at least partly on how quiet his management representatives and liaison personnel are at meetings they attend involving the CPRC. Even when questioned, they are very circumspect and cautious as if they are concerned about saying too much.

Perhaps the past police department that was police-chief led could handle the existence of minority reports but the current city manager-led one can't cope at all with a hefty supply of smelling salts located nearby.

Act I, Scene IV

'My report is better than your report!'

INT: Cramped conference room, where a group of commissioners remain sitting while receiving direction from off-stage right and with the STAGE MANAGER continuing as narrator. Time has passed so tempers are starting to fray and small fires are breaking out on the terrain but no major conflagrations yet. That perusal would have to wait until "commissioner comments".

The silliest part of the whole decision to ban the minority reports out of existence is the message that it sends to the community and that is that the CPRC's majority is not just afraid of dissenting opinions and those not lockstep with its City Hall-endorsed majority, but that the CPRC's majority is steeped in the belief that their majority reports simply can't stand side to side with the minority report without looking mediocre in comparison.

Face it, if these commissioners were really as confident about the accuracy and professionalism of their analysis through written process, they would welcome the inclusion of a minority report if only to serve the purpose of making theirs look all the more intelligent and insightful and well...correct! The truly confident majority submits its carefully crafted report and then says to the naysayers, bring it on baby! You've got a minority report that you think can compare? Give it to us and we'll include it and show the world that ours is king and your is crap.

But that's not what this supposedly confident majority of commissioners did, is it? No, they did the opposite. They voted to ban the minority report from inclusion in their public report for a variety of inane reasons, the main one being that they disagreed with it as a majority. Well, that's normal because in all cases, minority reports are generated when there's vocal dissent to majority opinion. But what happened in this case, is that you have a majority of commissioners who clearly feel that their own effort is so mediocre that it would be embarrassing to pair it off with a minority report that might actually appear as better than it really is, simply by comparing it to a majority report that stylistically speaking, is pretty mediocre right down to its emotionally generated plea in its closing section.

The only real reason, strategically speaking, to ban a minority report is not because you disagree with it. That's why there is one. Not because you're offended by it, for the same reason. Not in the interest of improving transparency because by banning a minority report, you detract from that. But because you are scared to death of it and of people reading it and comparing it to the majority report and finding that it's the majority of opinion that is wanting. Because after all, how can you see how flawed a majority opinion is unless it's paired with a better argued minority report?

People left with the sense that this is what really led to the suppression of the minority report in the Hill case. After all, the Hill report is the second to be suppressed simply because the majority of the commission disagreed with its content. The only minority report not to be suppressed by the commission was one they never read before voting to include it. If they had, they certainly would have disliked it and you, the city residents visiting this site, would never have been able to read it.

But this batch of City Hall owned and operated commissioners went one step further and they took away the public's ability to read any minority report that could possibly be generated in the future. All because of an inferiority complex, because perhaps the concoction that City Hall has inspired them to generate and circulate is just not that impressive when stacked against the real thing.

Act I, Scene V

The blessings of the City Council?

INT: City Council chambers, with the eight characters in this chorus group entering from stage left after receiving cues from the director off-stage.

Yes, this title is correct, because when all is said and done, the city manager and city attorney's offices are directed by the city council and some of the most extensive micromanagement involving the CPRC has taken place during the past two years, especially in the area of the investigative protocol for officer-involved deaths by the CPRC. And the sad truth is that the city manager's office wouldn't be this aggressive and wanton with its actions to dilute and neuter the CPRC unless the majority of the current city council wasn't perfectly fine with what he and the city attorney's office are doing. By their silence on the issue, that's exactly what they're saying and with the exception of city councilman and former CPRC commissioner, Mike Gardner and Councilman Andrew Melendrez who tried to reinstate the former investigative protocol to the CPRC with a counter proposal to the freight train motion to limit its powers steerheaded from the Seventh Floor of City Hall, all there's been is silence.

The balance to this is that it's difficult for city council members to get reelected if they openly express any direction or involvement in the actions of their direct employees in regards to micromanaging the CPRC. CPRC opponents on the city council, Art Gage and Frank Schiavone lost their reelection bids in part to their views on the CPRC and/or on Schiavone's attempts, comments he made about his involvement in restricting and redefining its investigative protocol on his campaign Web site.

With 2007, comes four council seats up for reelection in the odd-numbered wards. What happens with the CPRC in the meantime, for better or worse, could define part of whether or not they will return to the dais or be told to pack up and go home by the voters. Don't be surprised if you see a sudden change of heart on the parts of several of the incumbents when election year gets closer.

Why is City Hall scared of the post-consent decree police department?

But when you're discussing why it's necessary to ban minority reports (which in most cases are those that disagree with majority findings exonerating police officers in officer-involved death cases), you can't omit the real focus behind a decision to do so which is to protect the police department simply because City Hall believes that it needs to be protected. Or rather, City Hall needs to be protected from the police department, from paying out major settlements in lawsuits filed against it. The rash of lawsuits and settlements ranging from $75,000 to $800,000 on wrongful deaths and between $75,000 paid out and a $500,000 settlement offer on lawsuits outside of the wrongful death category haven't been lost on City Hall and certainly not on the city's insurance carrier (if it still even has one). Not to mention other grievances filed that might turn into lawsuits including one filed by a man who alleged his legs were broken by a police officer welding a baton and a lawsuit filed by a Black LAPD sergeant who alleged he was racially profiled in front of his own home by police officers.

There's no shortage of problems in the police department for it to be addressing them for some time to come, most notably issues arising from the budget cuts impacting it and other city departments. Not to mention serious allegations raised about improper behavior involving two current and former city councilmen, the city manager's office and the police department's promotion of officers at the management level which have been raised in litigation filed by two police lieutenants. Not to mention serious staffing issues including at the supervisory level and complaint investigations that drag out for a year or longer before even reaching resolution, two situations which were problematic in the period of years leading up to the state's consent decree.

While watching the police department representatives, Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa and Personnel Lt. Gary Leach, the police department's new liaison to the CPRC (who actually attended a general meeting for a change) exhibit poker faces for several hours of the CPRC meeting on Aug. 26 and say nary a word, I was reminded of a story I heard a long time ago that took place in a completely different time and place in Riverside's recent history.

Sometime after the shooting of Tyisha Miller by four officers in 1998, there was allegedly a closed session held by the then city council to discuss whether or not the city would settle the lawsuit filed by her family for wrongful death or to take it to trial. A ballistics expert was presenting some information that he had uncovered in his analysis of the case to the city council, some legal folks representing the city and three representatives from the police department. After explaining a serious problem with one evidential item of the crime scene, he explained why the city shouldn't go to trial. After he finished speaking, the police representatives became red in the face and walked out of the meeting. Were they unable to face what the city's own hired expert had laid out for them?

This story has taken on a legendary status. Is it true? Only a very small group of people probably know the answer to that and most of them are probably gone, meaning retired. But if so, it paints an interesting portrait of how the city viewed the police department at the time, albeit behind closed doors even as the public raged outside. And even as the department's been given a huge makeover to the tune of over $22 million spent, it appears that some things haven't changed that much.

At any rate, not long after that meeting the city paid out a $3 million settlement in that case, the largest settlement of its kind in Riverside's recent history. Settlements petered out for a while after the Miller case interestingly enough until about 2007 when the city began settling lawsuit after lawsuit involving four officer-involved deaths that occurred between December 2004 and October 2006.

But it's difficult not to think of an incident like that taken from Riverside's own history book while watching what took place at the Aug. 26 CPRC meeting. So much of Riverside's history, that of the CPRC, that of one of its many parents, the Human Relations Commission that has been tossed about through speech and in writing including in emails from City Hall recently as CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan, most likely under the direction of his boss, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, tries to winnow down the powers of the CPRC in terms of the area of policy and procedure discussion and recommendation. This latest challenge and redefinition of one of the CPRC's charter mandated powers deserves its own separate blog posting and will get one, but this sudden change came about because of conflicting information given out at different meetings by different people including police department personnel about the policy involving what forms of identification the department's officers request from people when trying to verify their nationality.

The moment that conflicting information between the department alleging that it offered people the option of producing a variety of different identification cards and witnesses at several checkpoints in Riverside who alleged that officers asked only for California drivers' licenses came to a forefront, then that's the moment when the CPRC's role in examining the police department's policies and procedures was suddenly greatly reduced despite rather the rather expansive scope of power given to commissioners to address policies and procedures written into the charter and their own bylaws. They kill the process rather than using it to further examine the conflicting information and to come up with some sort of explanation for it and if necessary, a recommendation for a solution.

And that's how the CPRC as run by City Hall addresses conflicting opinions on any issue whether they involve the police department or each other. It places restrictions on the purview of the CPRC to exercise its charter and ordinance mandated powers, even if those restrictions exist only in their own heads. Most of the individuals who are placing these restrictions don't live in Riverside, they haven't spent time here during the majority of the history of the events leading up to the creation and implementation of the CPRC. The only thing they've consistently shown is their desperate need for a primer on what the history actually is. Any lessons they ultimately learn about what really happened will most likely like most lessons be exacted at the price of the city's residents.

But the other side of what's impossible to ignore with the commission's decision to do away with any minority reports goes beyond the commissioners' fear of what minority reports represent and that's the fact that City Hall through the CPRC and other means including new restrictions on obtaining public information from the police department on its operations and policies is showing over and over again that it fears its own police department.

Why would a department reformed and essentially reinvented through a state-mandated consent decree be so scared of minority reports? The interesting thing is that many of the police department's officers don't exactly seem to carry that attitude that there's much reason to be frightened of them. In fact, some of them seem up to the challenge of addressing them and potentially learning. It's City Hall including the micromanagement team on the Seventh Floor who seem the most frightened.

That issue deserves a blog posting or two and they will be forthcoming. But suffice it to say, the same cooks that stir the pot in the kitchen of the police department do like with the CPRC and perhaps they're more interested in keeping the public through the CPRC from finding out how badly they micromanage the police department.

How the vote broke down on banning minority reports:


Sheri Corral, chair

Peter Hubbard, vice-chair

Kenneth Rotker

Art Santore


Chani Beeman

Robert Slawsby

Absent (per usual)

John Brandriff

Brian Pearcy

and a Ward Two vacancy

If you want to read the Hill majority report,this link will get you there.

If you want to read the now banned minority report, this link may or may not work depending on how quickly Rogan is instructed by the city manager's and/or city attorney's offices to take it down. Current odds are about even that this link will disappear within a week.

If it's been suppressed from public view on the city's Web site, thanks to the Press Enterprise, you can find it here. In general, the minority reports tend to be better circulated and more widely read than the commission's majority report. Another reason to ban them, of course but the problem is that banning the written form tends to increase its popularity. After all, who can forget Lady Chatterley's Lover?

Coming Soon:

The CPRC tries to restrict its power to review and make reconmmendations on police department policies and procedures.

Yes, seriously.

Homophobia rears its ugly head on the comment thread about the highest ranking openly gay male in the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.


Gays have NO business in law enforcement. Period. We're so jacked up as a nation, it's sickening. We are NOT obligated to like everybody. That's the great thing about being an American.

In trying to be everything to everybody, we are now nothing to anybody. Political correctness has killed quality of life in the law enforcement profession.

A man talks about having a husband?? Sick. Quite sick indeed.

---"Crazy Horse", a self-described former employee of the Riverside County District Attorney's office. Makes you wonder about how enlightened that agency is on this issue.

"A battle that has been lost long ago, but it won't change the simple basic fact that homosexuality is morally wrong and deviant. But the PCers get to feel soooo good because they're open-minded their brains have leaked out."

---School Monitor

"OC Retired Lawman" provided a different perspective:

I have spent over 25 years in law enforcement, both in San Bernardino and Orange Counties. When I was a young deputy at age 21, I had to watch fellow officers berate, belittle and beat gay men that were stopped and questioned - the only probable cause being a f****t in public. Times have changed for the better. I spent the last 10 years of my career out of the closet with my partner of 22 years. My best friend, who was a sheriff's sergeant for RSO, died in 1996 from HIV and even back then, RSO respected his life and his devotion to his career. I salute Captain Gregory and wish him the best of luck in running the Indio and Blythe jails. Congrats!

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