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

Monday, August 10, 2009

They're laid off; I get a raise and a police chief takes control

Library layoffs

Two part-time technical interns were laid off at the libraries in Riverside on Aug. 11, due to ongoing budget cuts. One day before that, the person working as the assistant library director became the library director and received a $15,000 salary increase.

Not long after two public works employees were laid off with the alleged fiancee of one of them claiming at the Press Enterprise's Web site that the director of that department had also received a generous raise not long before. The police chief signed a new contract in December for five-years of service. Was that contract at the same salary or did he get an increase? Police officers in his agency are looking at salary freezes, bonus/step up pay revocations (including for SWAT and Motor) and there were discussions to also eliminate shift differential pay. If it's true that department heads are getting or have gotten salary hikes in these difficult times while employees in their department have salaries and positions are frozen, or worse are laid off, what kind of message does that send?

Incidentally, if the police chief and his boss, the city manager both were authorized to receive the maximum salary raises currently allowable, guess which one would get the higher salary? The police chief would actually be higher paid than his boss.

Anyway, the libraries had already been hard hit by losing dozens of part-time pages last year and huge chunks of their budget. Renaissance projects to renovate them have been put on holding pattern (except for preliminary design phases) while other projects march forward.

Ironically, how did the fuss about the maximum salary increases set for about 40 executive and management employees begin? After a department head in the city received a large raise last year even as that person's department's budget shrunk by nearly one-third due to budget cuts caused by a decline in tax revenues.

[The building which houses both the Internal Affairs Division and the North Neighborhood Policing Center Station, about two doors down from Greyhound]

I'm back and it's mine.

Part of an ongoing series of Who's minding the department:

As reported earlier, Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach is back from his medical leave spent having spinal surgery and has announced to his department that he's back, beginning with a meeting held with his higher ups several weeks ago. He told them that the department is his department to run and that it will be at least in his charge until his current contract expires in 2013. He also said he would be instituting some changes that hopefully would help with some of the problems. It's very telling that a police chief would even have to make comments like that when the overriding assumption should be that any police chief should be in charge of his police department rather than City Hall performing that task. After all, some things shouldn't have to be said, but apparently in this case, a statement needed to be made and apparently that was done.

Now people are waiting to see what happens next.

But there's been a struggle of some sorts between Leach and factions at City Hall for several years now that even included the city council experiencing problems (not that it noticed) in getting the city manager's office to carry out its instructions on how the city would implement a plan to keep the department continuing on a forward path at implementing its Strategic Plan after its stipulated agreement was dissolved in March 2006. It culminated in the March 2007 city council meeting where members of the Riverside Police Officers' Association and the Riverside Police Administrators' Association congregated at a city council meeting to confront the city council and city manager about a proposal which had been withdrawn from the final meeting agenda (but had been placed by Administrative Analyst Jeremy Hammond on an earlier "tentative" one) to turn two deputy chief and one assistant chief positions into being "at will". Allegedly two of the more recently promoted management employees accepted these new terms as conditions of promotion but a third one who already held his rank flat out refused, believing that the city manager's office would use the classification change to terminate his employment.

Some controversy had arisen when the promotions of two of these employees were allegedly made when Leach wasn't even in town at the time. After he returned, members of the unions hoped that he would take up the issue with Hudson but it didn't happen. Instead, Leach like the city manager, city attorney and various city council members stood up one by one before the gathered audience of union members and community leaders and almost tried to make it seem as if they were all worked up about nothing. But fortunately, for the police associations, they had laid a fairly good paper trail.

Perhaps Leach's comments at the recent command staff meeting were done to dispel any innuendo that Leach's back surgery leave was paving the way for a medical retirement but it was clear at his meeting before his employees that he wanted to assure attendees and through the water cooler, everyone in the department that he wasn't heading down that path. Perhaps his comments were made to try to instill confidence in the employees under his direction that he was truly the leader of the police department and not City Hall. But his employees are waiting for action to prove that he's truly down with them.

This incident taking place at a command staff meeting might be the harbinger of more interesting developments in the drafting of yet another chapter in the book that details the power struggle allegedly taking place between Leach and several factions at City Hall over the police department that's taken place since City Manager Brad Hudson and his adjutant, Tom DeSantis came to town. Toss this group of individuals in with City Attorney Gregory Priamos and perhaps several council members and you have a lot of cooks in a crowded kitchen at the Riverside Police Department.

Police chiefs are usually appointed by a city council and/or city manager's office to lead police departments. But if they're like Leach an "at will" employee, they can also be fired and shown the door without being provided with any explanation. Meaning that if they step outside the parameters assigned to them by their bosses, they can be out a job and a salary that in Leach's case is in the high 200,000s. And after watching how the Hudson and DeSantis team have micromanaged the management employees connected to the CPRC, it's fairly clear that the two men keep a tight rein on their department heads. One former CPRC manager, Pedro Payne "resigned" not long after being ejected from a meeting by DeSantis over what else? Investigative protocol as it turned out.

Payne's "resignation" which was really anything but, sent a strong message about how the city manager's office intended to handle its department heads. How much autonomy do they really have, is a question often asked. But the number one question that's asked is who's managing the S.S. Hudson? If it's true that his office is micromanaging city department like the CPRC and the police department, then who's at the wheel?

Changing of the Guard?

Leach's alleged comments proclaiming that the department is his to run are interesting coming in the wake of some changes that were made in the city council during the past election. As everyone knows by now, Councilman Frank Schiavone who represented the fourth ward lost his reelection bid to challenger, Paul Davis. While Schiavone was in office, some speculated that he and Councilman Steve Adams directed Hudson and Priamos to institute sudden changes to the Community Police Review Commission regarding its investigative protocol for officer-involved deaths. The co-authoring of an op-ed article in the Press Enterprise fueled the concerns and the rumors that the two councilmen, one a former police officer were instrumental in trying to dilute the CPRC's effectiveness at implementing its charter-mandated power in relation to officer-involved deaths.

A third city council member, Nancy Hart just hitched on for the ride and didn't seem to have really read what she was signing onto because afterward, she expressed perplexion at the timing of the moves to change the CPRC protocol. Perhaps the trade off for her was an endorsement from Schiavone when she ran for office. After all, some political watch dogs say that he played an instrumental role in her getting elected to the dais in the first place, and that she had learned what it was like to offend him after she chose to endorse Bob Buster in the county supervisor race in 2008 and not Schiavone. Some people close to her campaign said the period that followed was the loneliest of her political career.

But Schiavone appeared to take the lead in that effort involving the CPRC, a move that might have reaped huge costs to him politically. And he used the Governmental Affairs Committee as his tool to accomplish it, just as he tried to use the committee the previous year to push a change in municipal election procedure to hold one-time mailin plurality elections, not long after learning he had only averaged a vote of 38% in Ward Four precincts when he ran for supervisor. Mercifully, that attempt was shot down when his proposal to do so met up with the city council and over a dozen angry speakers.

In fact, Schiavone strongly implied that he played some major role in the change of that protocol on his campaign Web site, a move which cost him votes in some critical precincts. His comments about his role involving the CPRC led that issue to being one of several that doomed his chances at serving a third term on the dais as several neighborhoods which had strongly supported him in the past swung towards Davis because they were also strong supporters of the CPRC.

Even the endorsement process for Schiavone vs Davis was difficult inside the Riverside Police Officers' Association which represents the department's officers, detectives and sergeants. Within the Political Action Committee, there were members who endorsed Schiavone and those who were actively involved in Davis' campaign. When the dust cleared, Schiavone received the PAC endorsement but not without some cost and controversy over the process, leading to the resignation of at least one long-time member. But both candidates had their supporters and detractors from inside the police department.

Even after Schiavone was endorsed, the freezing of officers' salaries and the denial of bonus and step-up pay for 80 police officers (which was followed by the loss of shift differential pay) allegedly led to some second thoughts about the endorsement as did concerns about the emergence of the Bradley Estates situation. That was when Schiavone became the first developer in recent history to have the city pay his legal bills in relation to a lawsuit over a project and he just happened to be a councilman. And that was according to Priamos' recollection.

Schiavone even shared his residence at one time with Leach though Leach moved out before Schiavone filed his campaign papers.

Some say that the police department also experienced quite a degree of micromanagement by some of the same suspects, impacting it in different ways. After all, several city council members have compared Hudson to a ship or even a wind up doll when it comes to serving the wishes of his direct employers, the city council and being able to change direction in how he's performing his job on a dime. So that if he were involved in any micromanagement of a city department, he had received direction from somewhere above. But if Leach is being given back the department to lead, then does that mean that there's been a change in instructions given to his boss?

So if Hudson and DeSantis are taking their hands off of one of their favorite toys (and its toys), where is the change in direction coming from?

One city council member met with Leach not too long ago while he was still on leave and allegedly Leach had expressed his wishes to have more autonomy over his police department. Was his wish granted? It seems to appear that way if Leach is able to express his intent towards claiming autonomy during a meeting with his command staff. However, is it for show or is he telling it as it is? That's what has to be scrutinized in the weeks and months ahead so that the more definitive answer may be known.


Lt. Brian Baitx, who led the audit and compliance bureau retired earlier this month. His position has been frozen. His position in the Bureau may or may not be filled but it appears to be just as likely that Sgt. Jaybee Brennan, an officer with three hats already will be placed in charge of it.

Lt. Bob Meier: He retires in September and is currently assigned to the Investigations. His lieutenants position likely will be frozen but Lt. Mike Perea will take over his duties in the Investigations division.

Det. Bill Barnes: He was retired and since an early 1990s MOU ensures the filling of detective vacancies, Officer Chad Collopy was promoted to replace him.

But what's coming down the road for both lieutenants and sergeants who are already facing shortages will just serve to make the situation more difficult to deal with in terms of maintaining close to 7 to 1 ratios between officers and supervisors, as well as ensuring that lieutenants serve as watch commanders on work shifts, without having to dip at the sergeant well too often.

Future retirements:

Lt. Rick Tedesco (December)

Sgt. Patrick Watters (medical injury)

Sgt. Don Tauli (December)

Sgt. Duane Beckman

Positions frozen:

Captains: 2

Lieutenants: 3 (unless the department decides to fill one of the four vacancies after December)

Sergeants: 3-4 (with at least three more retirements anticipated by December)

Officers: 19 (with about 11 new officers currently completing field training)

Civilians: At least 38

About 10% of the positions in the department, civilian and sworn, are currently frozen.

So if the retirements all go through (and one anticipated sergeant retirement got scrapped for another year) then the vacancy picture at the supervisory level could look like this:

Captain: 2

Lieutenant: 4

Sergeants: 6-7

Riverside Police Department Brian Money won a power lifting competition.

Money will be appearing at the Friday Morning Club's meeting on Friday, Aug. 21 at 10 a.m. at the Janet Goeske Center to speak on fraud prevention.

Riverside City Council voted to merge several of its redevelopment zones.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

A few residents raised concerns that money from their neighborhood would go to projects in another part of town, and others objected because of philosophical disagreements with how redevelopment agencies operate.

"We were told that redevelopment-generated funds would be spent in the area where they were generated," said Erin Snyder, vice president of the Northside Improvement Association. "We still have a number of needed major projects on the Northside."

She pointed out that residents were told their area could generate as much as $400 million over the life of the redevelopment zone, but so far only $11 million has been spent there.

Councilman Mike Gardner tried to reassure residents that redevelopment funds will be spent equitably, and he asked for the creation of an advisory committee that would include representatives of all the neighborhoods in the merged Downtown/Airport and Hunter Park/Northside areas. The council will vote on that proposal later.

"You have my pledge that I will not support taking all the money from one area and spending it in another," said Gardner, who represents most of the merged areas.

More city council actions

Another man dies while being tased while in the custody of Riverside County Sheriff Department employees.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Residents in the 28700 block of Alessandro Boulevard had reported to Moreno Valley police at 11:45 a.m. that the man was banging on doors and was walking in the middle of the road, the release stated.

Arriving officers reported the man became physically combative and they used the Taser as they tried to place him under arrest, according to the release. He was handcuffed and suffered a seizure. He was taken by ambulance to Riverside County Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

The wife of San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos speaks out. The topic of choice are the sexual harassment allegations raised against her husband.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In a letter addressed to friends and supporters Saturday, Gretchen Ramos said allegations raised in a complaint last week that Mike Ramos sexually harassed and retaliated against a female subordinate are part of an attack against him.

"Let me be clear, my husband of 28 years has never harassed any employee," she stated.

District attorney spokeswoman Susan Mickey confirmed Sunday that the letter was from Gretchen Ramos.

The woman, whose name was not released, contacted Supervisor Neil Derry last week, claiming she had an affair with Ramos and was now being retaliated against. His office referred her to the Human Resources Department.

The district attorney denied the allegations in a statement Friday and confirmed that a human resources complaint had been filed against him. He called the complaint part of a "well-organized and well-funded effort" by those his office is investigating and prosecuting.

Five former assessor's employees, including former Assessor Bill Postmus and former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, have been charged as part of the investigation.

In her letter, Gretchen Ramos accuses Erwin of being behind the attacks against her husband and Supervisor Neil Derry of helping him. Erwin is Derry's former chief of staff but resigned following his arrest in March.

"In an effort to have jurisdiction over his case transferred to the attorney general, Erwin has been attempting to brand my husband as a womanizer who has sexually harassed a female employee," Gretchen Ramos said.

The latest San Bernardino County individuals to be investigated for wrongdoing are two fireman accused of using an anti-terrorism trailer to move personal belongings.

The city of San Bernardino is planning to rebalance its budget books.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The biggest of the accounting changes would divert $500,000 in street maintenance costs to a fund underwritten by Measure I, a half-cent sales tax that county voters approved in 1989 to pay for transportation projects. Likewise, $200,000 for patrol car leases would come from fees charged to developers to offset the costs of providing services to their projects.

Council members questioned some of the shifts, asking whether the services or equipment could properly be charged to the outside accounts. Councilwoman Esther Estrada asked whether a city cultural development fund could properly pay for some library expenses, as McNeely proposes.

But Emil Marzullo, acting Economic Development Agency head, said the $1.3 million loan McNeely now is requesting would be much easier for the agency to furnish than the $5.4 million the city manager predicted he would need in June. State legislators also are seeking to levy redevelopment agency funds statewide.

In their only formal action, council members voted 4-2 to reject Councilman Chas Kelley's proposal to increase the loan to fill eight vacant firefighter slots.

A Washington Post columnist writes about D.C. and its higher rate of disorderly conduct arrests, including a case where a guy had $25 removed from his person by an officer who then said he was using that money to pay the guy's bail and that was as good as an admission of guilt.

(excerpt, Colbert. I. King)

A 2003 board study found that D.C. police made far more "disorderly conduct" arrests per capita than cops in other large cities. Sometimes, the board reported, it appeared that the arrests were retaliation for rude behavior by residents during their encounters with the police.

That's a serious error. Disorderly conduct laws apply to a breach of the public's -- not a cop's -- peace.

As the Office of Citizen Complaint Review (its name in 2003 when this ruling was made) noted, echoing the D.C. Court of Appeals, and courts in other jurisdictions such as Massachusetts, a "police officer is expected to have a greater tolerance for verbal assaults . . . and because the police are especially trained to resist provocation, we expect them to remain peaceful in the face of verbal abuse that might provoke or offend the ordinary citizen."

Too many citizens don't know that. They often choose to post and forfeit collateral to end the arrest and avoid having to appear in court, even though the arrest may be improper. True, no conviction. But the arrest stays on the books.

Since the 2003 report, the D.C. police department has modified its arrest procedures for disorderly conduct to make the collateral forfeiture process clearer. It has also provided more training about the law and arrest procedures, and it has stressed that officers must follow the law.

Residents are arrested in D.C. for disorderly conduct in large numbers: nearly 5,000 in 2007, more than 4,200 in 2008 and 4,469 this year as of Aug. 5. Many are probably arrested for good reasons: noise violations, blocking public spaces, etc.

But, as in the Gates arrest, some busts never make it to court.

In response to my request, the D.C. Attorney General's office, which prosecutes disorderly conduct cases in the District, provided data on disorderly conduct charges that were presented for prosecution (or "papered") and those that were dropped (or "no-papered") from fiscal 2007 to 2009 to date. It turns out that the juvenile-offenders section of the office papered 118 cases in that period, while 237 were dropped. (Fifty-six of the cases that went to court were dismissed either for insufficient evidence or as part of a plea.)

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