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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The CPRC's report goes biennial and other exciting developments

The Riverside Community Police Review Commission is only meeting once this month because the chair and vice-chair don't feel like there's any pressing business for it to deal with even as the average time it takes the commission to review and issue findings on complaints has increased to about 90 days as detailed here. Tack that on to the 200-476 days it takes the complaints on average to reach the CPRC after being investigated by the police department and that seems to indicate some sort of backlog in the system that shuffling around personnel in the department's Internal Affairs Division hasn't fixed.

But it's not like the commission's had much time to actually work on the annual report or even time enough to delegate the entire task to staff (much as it has done with most of its workload these days), what with the decision to cut meetings down to a minimum. After all, if you have fewer meetings, you don't have to worry about having to deal with those pesky community residents who show up at meetings in greater numbers than they had in the past. Cutting down public comment to three minutes and greatly reducing the scope of what is under the commission's purview to receive comments on didn't chase people away. So why not cut back on monthly meetings?

Even though there are "special" agenda items which would easily qualify for discussion outside the general meeting not to mention the caseload which still includes quite a few complaints dated from 2008.

But if you have the two commissioners with the worst attendance records in 2008 at its helm, reducing the number of commission meetings actually makes more sense. And this is a bunch of people who really don't seem to be interested in the work they're doing, which makes sense considering the bulk of those serving on the commission were politically appointed. The majority of them seem more interested in what the commission can do for them.

One of the long overdue items of business that the CPRC still has to accomplish is to complete and issue its annual report or in this case, biennial report. Unfortunately, that time line that the CPRC is currently operating under for producing a report is not what the City Charter states.

(excerpt, Article 810 (i) )

Prepare and submit an annual report to the Mayor and City Council on commission activities

Yet, the commission despite having probably the highest paid part-time manager in its entire history hasn't been able to accomplish this charter mandate during the past several years. Just another sign of the lack of qualifications by the city manager's office to do anything but micromanage yet another city department. Because the deterioration of the commission in the past two years isn't just a reflection on its manager but on his bosses because the majority of his inadequate performance as its manager is probably because of the direction he's receiving from higher up in the food chain.

But occasionally miracles do happen even in the midst of micromanagement and one has hit the commission and that is that it's finally coming out with its latest albeit biennial report. Just like the explanation for the reduction in meetings is that it's never been routine to have two meetings each month (a contention not backed up by the minute records available here), the excuse will probably be the next time they repeat this exercise, well, it's not like it was usual for us to even put out reports annually.

Currently, the "annual" report is in its latest draft form and provides different statistical information and descriptive narratives on different issues from "police/community" relations to "Policy Recommendations".

What's interesting about the section detailing police/community relations (besides Rogan's decision to put the two entities in reverse alphabetical order). What's interesting is how one-sided the narrative is which shouldn't be surprising given that it was authored by a former Pomona Police Department captain, Kevin Rogan. Included in his narrative are methods and strategies for how commissioners can better know the "landscape" (an interesting substitution for "culture" if there ever was one) of the Riverside Police Department. Rogan doesn't mention any activities or strategies that police officers can participate in to better understand the role of commissioners, though he admits that few police officers have contact with commissioners and vice versa. But that's not surprising considering the few outreach opportunities that were created and implemented from commissioners to police officers particularly newer ones (which incidentally were implemented while Pedro Payne was manager) were scrapped by City Hall which then turned around and accused the commission of favoring the city's residents by attending community meetings.

That led to Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis sending a multi-page memo to Payne banning him from attending community meetings. For anyone who has any doubts about the extent of the micromanagement of an executive manager of the CPRC by the city manager's office, that memo will clear them more quickly than well, you can spell "memo".

Rogan also doesn't mention anything about how commissioners can learn to better relate with the communities in the city. In fact, there's this assumption that because commissioners are city represents, that they can do this simply by being on the commission even though one-third of all commissioners are from one ward, seven out of eight commissioners are White and there are no commissioners from Arlanza, Casa Blanca or the Eastside where many of the complaints arise from including many that are never filed with the CPRC or the department.

And quite a few of them including vice-chair Peter Hubbard, who is the regional director of American Medical Response, have ties to City Hall or the council members who "appointed" them. Are Chair Sheri Corral and Hubbard making the rounds of community meetings since they've been elected? Not exactly. In fact, if anyone ever saw Hubbard attend a meeting as a commissioner in Casa Blanca or the Eastside, they'd probably pass out with shock. In fact, most of the commissioners like Kenneth Rotker mention how much police training they have received but are silent on how many community meetings they've attended. Not that the training Rotker has received isn't very useful and important, but attending community meetings would provide a balance to his education as a commissioner. But then again, Rotker said in a general meeting that he answered to the city council, a comment that apparently shocked then Chair Brian Pearcy into commenting on it.

It's interesting if rather unfortunate to watch city residents come to meetings for the first time and then leave with the feeling that the commission represents City Hall rather than any communities. Some ask, who the commissioners work for, the community or City Hall? One person asked if they were paid by the city to serve on the body.

The draft report is filled with interesting statistics. Some of which are very illuminating.

Although the number of complaints and allegations sharply increased particularly in 2008 (where it jumped from 39 to 76 for complaints and 83 to 177 for allegations)

The commission hasn't sustained on a single Category I allegation since at least 2006. The overall sustain rate for 2007 was 8.43% and in 2008, 2.26%.

Some interesting statistics abound on page. 31 which address officers who receive multiple allegations and complaints during 2007 and 2008.

Number of sworn officers:

2007: 405

2008: 405

Number of cases reviewed:

2007: 39

2008: 76

Number of allegations reviewed:

2007: 83

2008: 177

Number of officers with multiple allegations:

2007: 6

2008: 23

Percent of police force (percentage of use of force allegations):

2007: 1%

2008: 6%

Number of officers with at least one sustained allegation:

2007: 7

2008: 4

Number of officers with five or more allegations (though it's not clear how many complaints they've received which is more important for tracking):

2007: 0

2008: 4 ( wonder who the fourth guy is)

How long does it take the complaints to get to the CPRC?

2007 (average for both categories): 219.2

2008: 197.2

Goals for investigation completion, according to RPD policy #4.12 (text found in index of most annual reports)

Category I: 60 days

Category 2: 30 days

These delays in investigations involving citizen complaints have been an ongoing issue with the police department including its internal affairs division for the past several years. Last autumn, Chief Russ Leach transferred Lt. Mike Cook to the Internal Affairs Division to help reduce the backlog. In March 2009, Cook was assigned to lead that division. The division was allegedly investigating a higher number of internally generated investigations which impacted its ability to timely investigate citizen complaints. But as a result, both complainants and officers have to wait months or longer for a complaint process to be completed. It's problems like these delays among others which led to concerns in the 1990s that the complaint process wasn't in compliance with state laws including PC 832.5.

Still, according to the Internal Affairs Division (which recently sent representatives to speak to the CPRC), there's been no complaints or problems with investigation and/or review of complaints colliding with any state laws governing the complaint process including most likely Government Code 3304 (d) which sets a statutory limit on how much time can pass after misconduct is suspected before an officer can't be legally disciplined for any sustained misconduct. G.C. 3304(d) allows about eight exceptions which allow time to be waived in some investigations. These include ongoing civil litigation, criminal investigations, multiple agency investigations (i.e. federal or state), multiple officer involvement and the incapacitation of involved officers and witnesses (but apparently not investigators as noted in the 1998-99 investigation of Officer Roger Sutton's canine incident). It's not clear how many complaints that are delayed are impacted by these waivers but probably not that many of them unless it's complaints with multiple officers involved, which would probably comprise most of the complaints with time lines waived.

But the Internal Affairs Division apparently didn't have much time to investigate during the latter part of 2008 because it was too busy relocating, as part of budget cuts faced by the police department.

In December 2008, the Internal Affairs Division was forced out of its comfy digs in some rented office space near the Riverside Plaza. It was relocated to the downtown bus terminal parcel and wound up being a neighbor to Greyhound Bus Lines. The general services division of the city which was supposed to help fix the building up to accommodate both the Internal Affairs Division and the incoming North Neighborhood Precinct Center received only two weeks prior notice from the city manager's office about the moves and consequently, the building was not properly prepared to house the Internal Affairs Division which encountered many problems with lack of signage (which led to confusion for Greyhound bus passengers) and equipment problems for at least a month. And employees working in both divisions likely were not thrilled to be placed in facilities that hadn't been prepared for the moves ahead of time as one would fully expect with competent management at City Hall.

The Internal Affairs employees fretted about close proximity of their witnesses (including police officers) to uniformed officers working in a field division and the field division likely wondered if they were functioning as security guards for the Internal Affairs Division. Business continued in front and around the terminal space as if the two police divisions weren't there. And neither of the two lieutenants originally assigned to the bus terminal stayed in their respective assignments very long. But people in most new situations eventually adjust to change and it doesn't remain as much an issue. But perhaps the police department needs to adopt a strategy of addressing its own investigation and review backlog that's similar to that done by the special task force assigned to deal with the backlog afflicting the Riverside County Superior Court system. The task force adopted a two-prong approach, which was to both reduce the current backlog and then to identify root causes for the problems which led to it and come up with solutions for those problems to prevent future backlogs.

As stated, there are plenty of statistics to ponder over in this latest draft of the CPRC's biennial report, enough to keep any reader busy for a while.

Page 16 of the draft shows how cases are disposed which is very interesting. Whether they are reviewed, are reclassified as "inquiries" (questions about policy and procedure) or never reach either stage.

The most interesting statistics on the chart document the huge increase in cases that are "administratively closed" which are complaints that were lodged but never filed or reviewed by the commission. From 2003-2006, the percentage hovered fairly consistently around 15%. However, in 2007, it jumped to 30% before decreasing in 2008 to 21%.

Rogan and the commission did away with the "patterns and trends" section, instead entertaining readers with a rather duplicitous revision of the events that took place last year involving the change in investigative protocol for officer-involved deaths.

Some unintentional humor:

This item from page 29, which is titled, "Did you know..." which says that you can read the results of cases online at the CPRC's Web site by clicking the link for "findings". The only problem is that the "findings" haven't been updated since July 23, 2008 as you can see by reading here.

The city council is asking for more input on its proposed expansion and renovation of both the downtown museum and library.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"Library fans felt the museum got too much of (the space), museum fans felt the library got too much of it," Gardner said Wednesday in a phone interview. "Each felt their facilities were of equal importance."

A task force concluded that separate library and museum expansions would best meet the facilities' and the public's needs, and the council concurred earlier this year.

Council members have asked that the community be involved in the design process, which may help them to avoid the displeasure heaped on the joint facility.

"It will certainly involve multiple designs, probably multiple models, some way for the community to participate not only in the design of those (facilities) but also in the evaluation of what's best for our community," City Manager Brad Hudson told the council Tuesday.

The plans so far call for a new 100,000-square-foot library on the current site and a two- or three-story museum expansion of 18,000 to 27,000 square feet.

With draft designs, public vetting and final drawings still to be done, Gardner said he doesn't expect construction to start before 2012. In the meantime, work to make the museum earthquake-safe and fix its leaky roof will be fast-tracked, along with similar safety improvements to the municipal auditorium.

"We're really pleased that they're going to go ahead with the retrofit. It's long, long overdue and it's a grave concern that someone could actually be hurt" if an earthquake or other disaster caused the museum building to fail, said Bonnita Farmer, the chairwoman of the museum's board of directors.

One anonymous commenter asked the question which wasn't answered by the article.


When is this public input meeting going to take place?

The article not surprisingly attracted quite a few comments especially about the museum which has lost about half of its employee staffing in just the past several years with two more employees laid off several weeks ago.


Are they kidding?? The City can't even keep their current Museum staff now they're planning on building a new facility? Who, exactly, will staff said facility? The City needs to work on the current issues with the current Museum, not build a new one.

anthrodiva 8 hours ago wrote:

The library fired low level employees and is subsisting, badly, on the efforts of volunteers. The museum, smallest department, took the biggest cuts to payroll to an already understaffed instititution. They are now running on EIGHT full time employees! How can the City Council possibly justify going ahead with these plans when the pressing need is for employement?

Rediculous. Repair the existing museum and library. We don't need to waste money on "pretty" new buildings just because the goon in charge doesn't like the one that's already there. Such stupidity and waste while services and staff are laid off is beyond the pale.

School Monitor 9 hours ago wrote:

Whoozincharg: I agree. No more taxes. Riverside's elites want to be the "city of arts and innovation" but with higher and higher taxes, innovation will cease.

whoozincharg 10 hours ago wrote:

Save time on that public input meeting.

Voters need to recall or vote out any councilperson who approves any project requiring an increase in parcel taxes or bond assessments.

Riverside is ground zero for a housing depression that is far from over. Imposing more taxpayer debt is obscene. Amazing that anyone even proposes it, unless they are completely out of touch with reality.

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein praises Riverside for coming up with a client to occupy office space downtown. A state senator will be moving there and paying a sweet deal of $1 for rent a year.


Seems like forever since the "City of Arts & Innovation" evicted a bunch of tax-payin' retailers from that downtown Stalder Building to clear the way (still waiting...) for Fox Plaza.

But things are changing. The city bagged a tenant! Not retail. Not at (abandoned) Stalder. But less than a block away, 120 square feet of prime, city-owned office space soon will be occupied by the state senator who represents these parts (Can you name him?)

And the city's going to rake in $1 per year!

Now, the last poll I saw said a whopping 17 percent of Californians approve of the way the Legislature does business. And the state's still angling to close that budget gap by raiding billions from local governments. Riverside's suing to keep $17 million out of state clutches.

But Riverside gives a dollar deal to a legislator -- whose official handle is "R-Rancho Cucamonga"?

Wait! Read what R-Rancho said about the Big Raid: "Taking from local government is just as bad as doing tax increases."

This senator voted against the billion-dollars raid; the city voted for the one-dollar rent. And R-Rancho keeps a Riverside office.

Who is this man? Bob Dutton. He's no local government pirate, but he's definitely a buccayear.

Now if you've received the same offer, to park your business downtown for a steal at $1 a year, raise your hand.

The Riverside County Office of Administration in downtown Riverside will close its doors on Fridays in response to budget cuts.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The county urges residents to check listings of closures on its Web site or call the county's 211 information hot line before seeking services on a Friday.

Belinda Marquez, with Catholic Charities San Bernardino/Riverside, said her organization and other nonprofit groups may end up flooded with calls from residents in need. Catholic Charities helps poor residents apply for food, shelter and other public assistance and also supplies its own help to those in need.

"The impact that this is going to have on the community is enormous," said Marquez, director for community and emergency services. "When services are going to be closed for three days in a row, Friday Saturday and Sunday, people are going to be very anxious."

Smith said the county will close certain offices and clinics only twice a month and stagger the closures. For example, the Riverside office for the Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, may be closed one Friday, but the Banning WIC office would remain open that day, he said.

Whether or not to hold city-wide elections will be on Wildomar's ballot. It appears that the city council and voters might be on opposite sides of the fence on this issue faced by the new city.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Wildomar voters on Nov. 3 will decide if they will select their City Council members in citywide elections or one of two forms that will split the city into five districts of 6,000 residents each.

Measure I, which the council supports, calls for citywide elections. Measure J is for "by district" voting, where voters in their respective districts would cast votes for their district representative. Measure K is for "from district" voting, where voters citywide could cast a vote for a councilmember in each district.

The ballot argument in favor of Measure I includes seven bullet points stressing that voters will have a chance to choose all of their elected officials in a citywide election system, not just their district representative, and that citywide elected officials will focus on the needs of the entire community, not just the needs of one-fifth of the city.

The council in its argument against Measures J and K said that voters should not be limited to voting for one member of the five-member council, and that the city of 31,000 is too small to justify district elections.

Nearly 57 percent of voters chose district voting 18 months ago, when voters also chose for Wildomar to incorporate. Citywide election supporters have long held that they weren't informed of the implications of the choices, as no argument in support of the citywide election system appeared on the ballot. Also, voters approved district elections without a district map.

A former Norco mayor files a lawsuit against the city he once led.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Koziel alleges his civil rights were violated, he was falsely arrested and the defendants inflicted emotional distress on him and targeted his business, according to the lawsuit. He says the city was motivated by a long-standing dislike for him and because the city wanted his property for redevelopment.

City officials on Wednesday called the lawsuit meritless, saying they have no interest in redeveloping the area on Hamner Avenue and Sixth Street where Koziel's business sits.

"There's not any current plan to do any kind of redevelopment project on that corner," said Interim City Manager Beth Groves.

Koziel's restaurant, Maverick Steakhouse, has been under scrutiny by city officials for several years because of law enforcement issues, including a December 2005 shooting that wounded a firefighter. In 2007, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control penalized the bar, Koziel and Norco, describing the business as a law-enforcement and public safety problem. Koziel's license was once suspended for offenses that included selling alcohol to a minor, according to department records. And some residents have claimed that drug deals, violence and drunken driving stem from the Maverick.

San Bernardino County Fire Department Chief Pat Dennen's employment status is unknown as he and a deputy fire chief are under investigation for inappropriate use of equipment.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The supervisors made no official announcement about any punishment, but multiple county sources said Wednesday that Dennen is on a 10-day unpaid administrative leave.

"I think the county would like to be able to disclose more but feels that it can't," Wert said by telephone.

Details about the events that led to the disciplinary action remained limited. The amount of information the county has disclosed has raised questions about whether officials followed the state's open meetings and public records laws.

Open government advocates said the county should disclose more.

Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, a watchdog group, said he doesn't mind officials holding a closed session to discuss personnel matters.

But when the action involves a high-level official, the public should know what action is taken, Stern said.

"That acts as a deterrent for future employees doing the same thing," he said. "This is not a private company. This is the public's money and the public has a right to know."

The board of supervisors of the fire department employees.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Supervisor Josie Gonzales said she and Board Chairman Gary Ovitt met Thursday and decided to refer the issue to the district attorney's public integrity unit, which investigates allegations of government wrongdoing.

"We believed this was a very important move that needed to be done immediately," she said.

The supervisors met in closed session Tuesday to determine whether to discipline Fire Chief Pat Dennen for aiding Deputy Chief Dan Wurl in using a county trailer to move his belongings from Running Springs to Yucaipa in July.

Supervisors provided no details about any punishment but multiple county sources said Dennen was put on 10-day unpaid administrative leave. Wurl is on duty and was at work on Wednesday, county spokesman David Wert said.

The human resources inquiry also found that both officials collected over $1,100 a month in personal car allowances yet drove county vehicles, a violation of county policy, the sources said.

Gonzales and a spokesman for Ovitt both said the referral was a matter of normal practice. Neither indicates whether they believe criminal charges are warranted.

"I think these allegations, these charges are serious," said Ovitt spokesman Burt Southard. "I think Gary doesn't want to leave any stone unturned in terms of getting to the bottom of it, what is the totality of the situation."

Another former county employee, Bill Postmus who used to be the assessor, filed a complaint against the county.

More on Postmus' claim against the county here.

And it just never ends. Three more San Bernardino County administrators have been placed on administrative leave.

A Los Angeles Police Department detective involved in a recent onduty shooting had a prior onduty shooting that took place 10 years ago that cost the city $2 million.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

As is standard when officers are involved in shootings, Nolte and Walthers have been removed from field duty pending the outcome of an initial review of the incident by police command staff, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said. The review is scheduled for today.

Nolte, who Beck described as "highly regarded and seasoned," came under scrutiny after a 1997 shooting. Nolte was leading a drug raid on a motel in Gardena when he encountered a suspected cocaine dealer. Saying later that the suspect had pointed a shotgun at him, Nolte said he acted "in immediate defense of his life" and fired twice. The suspect was shot in the hands.

The civilian panel that oversees the LAPD cleared Nolte of any wrongdoing. Four years later, however, evidence not seen by the panel surfaced in a civil trial and showed that the suspect had his hands in the air when Nolte fired. The suspect wasn't aiming a weapon at the officer, the jury found, but instead had been trying to surrender. The city paid the suspect $2 million in damages.

"I do not believe that any officer could reasonably have believed that this shooting was justified," said U.S. District Court Judge Nora Manella, who presided at the trial.

The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into the Orange County jails, after allegations of abuse by correctional deputies against inmates began to emerge in the public eye.

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