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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When history comes knocking a second time...

Someone doesn't want you to read about this blog on Craigslist or visit it from there

Occasionally this site is linked by people posting on Inland Empire Craigslist as a site to visit for more information on civic issues pertaining to Riverside and excerpts of this site are posted there. But the postings never remain on Craigslist for very long because some person or persons believe that it's their duty to flag these posts as violating the site's rules (when they're not) so that they will be automatically removed and no one can read them whether they would choose to do so or not. Meaning that these individuals don't trust the individuals who frequent the politics section at Craigslist enough to make that decision for themselves whether or not to read about or visit this site via Craigslist. They believe they must make the decision for Craigslist's readers for them.

It's likely that if there were as many people in "we" or "us" as these anonymous individuals claim who agree with them, then the postings would not be flagged for removal by this individual or individuals. There wouldn't be any need to do so because they wouldn't be worried about anyone reading them or visiting the blog via Craigslist. But the posts get flagged and are often removed within a short period of time because these individuals who do so don't want people to read this blog.

Sometimes, these postings referring or linking to my site are only up for several hours before disappearing. And in the past, an anonymous individual or two have bragged on Craiglist about their itchy fingers and their desire to remove all things, "Five Before Midnight" or "FBM Mary" as I'm often called from Craigslist. Though I find that single-minded obsessive behavior more than a bit disturbing, it does provide some information. At least it's toned down since the fervor of the first half of 2009 when Riverside was in the throes of a city council election. But it gives some clue about which civic issues need more attention. Call these erasures "red flags" if you will.

The latest postings which had to be erased off from Craigslist included information on what's going on with the Metropolitan Museum, Greyhound Bus Lines and the Community Police Review Commission. All topics which were at the forefront of the public conscience this year particularly during the even-numbered ward elections. And most telling, is that the posting referred to the roles played by different players in the micromanagement of the CPRC including an individual who had a handful of rabid supporters hanging out at Craigslist and writing nasty comments about anyone critical of their political candidate of choice. Even the death of one local activist didn't stop them from celebrating her death and hoping that other local activists they listed would die too.

It's a good bet that the individuals who are engaging in this behavior are probably the ones who rant once or twice weekly about how I'm using Craigslist to promote my site even though the vast majority of postings there are on national issues. These flagging and removals probably also serve as a great and useful litmus test to determine which topics these individuals believe are the most offensive and consequently, which topics probably need more attention on the blog. And at least they have a regular ritual of behavior that they can feel proud about, which is trying to keep people from reading one perspective about what's going on in Riverside.

The more I blog about the city of Riverside and its various departments, the more I find that is going on that probably needs to come to the public's attention during an era where it seems like city residents are being kept in the dark more than ever. The city government's taken actions tracing back all the way to 2005 to restrict public participation or make it more difficult for individuals to know what their elected government is doing, let alone being able to participate in the process.

Some examples:

*In July 2005, the majority of the city council voted 6-1 to restrict the public from removing items from the consent calendar for discussion.

*The sharp reduction in the number of times most city council committees especially the Governmental Affairs and Finance Committees meet and discuss city business in an open forum before sending it to the full city council. The Finance Committee which used to be bimonthly has yet to meet this year. Here is the agenda of its last meeting in December 2008.

*Several key votes by the city council to remove financial accountability by not requiring the city manager's office to send items for vote involving interfund transfers.

* The use of speaker cards which the mayor or mayor pro tem can then shuffle into any order that he or she likes, rather than putting them in chronological order. He's used that successfully to stack his side of a particular issue.

*The overloading of high-ticket items on the consent calendar (where they can only be pulled by city council or staff for discussion) and the inclusion of mainly "receive, review and file" oral and written reports on the "discussion" calendar. Sometimes, potentially ethically sticky items like the custodial contract get pulled by elected officials or removed from the final posted agendas like the "at will" police management positions but not all the time.

*The assignment of the city attorney's office to approve (rather than just advise) all California Public Records Act requests rather than city department heads as it was in the past. Even the city manager's office can't approve the public information act's request. This has greatly impacted the ability of the public to learn about city departments and if the National Day Laborer Center actually believes that Chief Russ Leach wrote that nonresponse to its CPRA request on arrest data and not Priamos, then there's some beach property for sale in Idaho. Recent CPRA requests last year done of the CPRC and the city manager's department on the issue of the CPRC's budget and the city manager's office and police department's response on the supervisory levels and ratios of the police department were both authored by Priamos. And Priamos was 0 for 3 in providing information that actually responded to the request, as asked.

History Lesson: The police department revisits the 1990s

If you want to read a study about the police department during the 1990s, read this report issued at the close of that decade by the Urban Institute. It provides a lot of analysis and information about what was going on in the police department during this troubled decade and features interviews with department employees as well as City Hall figureheads. Its time line appears to end about six months before the fatal officer-involved shooting of Tyisha Miller and doesn't give much hint of the tremendous upheaval to come but some of the issues that were addressed in the study should sound familiar.

Aug. 18, 2009 (the second month of the current fiscal year)

In these fiscally difficult times, it's very important that city residents know what's going on in the city government and how the money is being spent including that in the city's general fund. It's important for people to know about the layoffs and the freezing of positions across the city. Some departments have lost up to one-third or even one half (such as the museum) of their work force. Even the public safety departments have faced civilian and sworn freezes, promotion standstills (which have catalyzed more retirements at mid-level) and the freezing of salaries and bonus/step up pay.

The police department for example will be hit by more retirements at its mid-level and these positions probably won't be filled including those vacated by an already gone Lt. Brian Baitx who led the Audit and Compliance Bureau and Lt. Rick Tedesco who heads the important traffic division and will apparently be departing later this year. Ironically, he was transferred to Traffic after the retirement of his predecessor, Lt. Ken Carpenter last summer. Carpenter's position was filled by Tedesco (after a stint supervising other Special Operation units) and the lieutenant vacancy was filled several weeks later by the promotion of Sgt. Leon Phillips. No more lieutenant vacancies have been filled since then and it's not likely that any will be filled in the near future. In fact, for the most part, promotions will be in deep freeze until the city's revenue prospects improve.

Filling lieutenant vacancies creates a dilemma. Fill a lieutenant vacancy and you create one at the sergeant's level and that rank has taken some of the hardest hits by retirements and the promotional freezes. Fill the two captain's vacancies (including a deputy chief position) and you create vacancies at the lieutenant level. Capt. Mark Boyer headed the Investigations position before his sudden retirement in July, yet his assignment apparently wasn't filled and neither was the rank vacancy which resulted from his departure. Sometimes with captain vacancies, the management assigns two captains who are assigned elsewhere to split their time with managing the division with the vacancy. This happened when Capt. Jim Cannon retired several years ago while assigned to the Field Operations Division.

The sergeant picture is heading in a similar direction, given that there could be as many as 7-8 sergeant vacancies in the next year which is about 12-13% of the entire division. The number of sergeants nearly doubled during the period the department was being renovated and essentially rebuilt under a five-year stipulated judgment with the state. Sergeant positions were added to ensure that the officer to supervisory ratio would average 7 to 1 per work shift (as required under the decree) and to increase the staff of investigators in the department's Internal Affairs Division, which was one of the focus points of the Judgment. But retirements and freezing of sergeant positions has taken a toll on the supervisory levels which allegedly range from DeSantis' June 2008 figure of 4.5 which isn't likely especially now and between 6-7 or anywhere in between. The department through the city attorney's office didn't release information on staffing ratios during a CPRA request submitted in 2008. But given that the number of sergeants' vacancies have increased, even considering the reduction in officer level positions, it's unlikely that supervisory ratios are anywhere near the figure cited by DeSantis.

The freezing of officer level positions (in combination with the filling of detective vacancies) has artificially lowered the supervisory ratio but not as much as expected due to the lateraling of sergeant positions to newly created assignments like Communications Bureau Manager or supplemented as in several other divisions.

Three sergeant vacancies were filled which kept the vacancy rate from being in the double digits. All three of the officers promoted were sent to the field division but the retirements at the sergeant level continued.

Only detective vacancies are currently being filled in part because of a long-standing MOU that's been around since the days of former chief, Ken Fortier. And as quite a few detectives have retired, their positions have been filled as was the case with Det. Bill Barnes who retired and was replaced through the promotion of Officer Chad Collopy just several weeks ago. But what that does, is it creates more vacancies at the officer level which impacts the department's patrol division.

So what does the immediate future hold?

The department is hedging on whether or not it will fill Baitx' assignment vacancy and it probably won't due to the stress already placed on the watch command staff caused by the lieutenant shortage, not to mention the upcoming vacancy in the Traffic Division. Any lateral assignments of lieutenants to fill vacant assignments would put more strain on the Field Operations division's ability to have lieutenant watch commanders which have filled more shifts than in past years due to it being cheaper to staff the command assignments with lieutenants than sergeants (which oversaw about 17% of all command shifts annually pre-recession). Being flat-salaried employees, the department's lieutenants have turned into the more affordable work horses and in 2008, lieutenants were working double shifts at least part of the time. Meaning that an area commander could be assigned to at least a partial watch command within the same day or a lieutenant could be juggling two assignments. Some worked about 25-30 hours within a two day period.

It's unlikely that the situation improved in 2009. If you're a lieutenant towards the end of your qualification period for a 3% at 50 retirement, there's little incentive to stay given the lack of upward movement and being pressed to work longer hours to accommodate shortages because you aren't paid any overtime. So what may happen is that the promotional freezes may increase retirements which will then aggravate the situation which the freezes are already causing. And then there's always the potential for burnout so don't be surprised to see a stress leave or two.

Police practices consultant Joe Brann who performed audits for the police department post-consent decree warned the city council and management office in June 2008 that shortages in the department's staffing at the supervisory level could create more job burnout and other problems and several lieutenants in recent years took stress leaves including one who retired last year on a stress retirement. The city council didn't really respond to that and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis sitting in the big chair tapdanced around the issue. He said that the department was fully staffed then and no doubt, he's saying the same thing now. And he and his boss, Hudson are probably running it so maybe that's how they truly see it.

So what's in the future for the assignment vacancies created through retirements?

If the Audit and Compliance Bureau isn't phased out all together (along with the five-year Strategic Plan mandated by then Attorney General Bill Lockyer which "sets" in December), one of the two sergeants will probably head it. Perhaps it will be the one who's already filling two other assignments in the chief's office.

The fate of the Traffic Division vacancy remains unclear. It's always been presented by the department's management as being one of the agency's most important given that as several have said, the complaints from city residents are "traffic, traffic and traffic" which is probably pretty accurate but a decision will have to be made on who will head it in a climate where every available resource is being sent to the patrol division so that the department can respond to calls for service. Traffic is currently housed under the Special Operations Division of the police department. Will its leadership be:

1) handed off to a traffic sergeant or sergeants(s) with supervision by Capt. John Wallace who heads that division? This has been done in the past with temporary vacancies in the Field Operations Division though under the current triage system, that division is considered higher priority by the department's management.

2) Will it be consolidated by one or both of the other Special Operations subdivisions which are headed by Lt. Larry Gonzalez (who replaced Gary Leach in July) who oversees the Metro/SWAT Teams and the Aviation unit and Lt. Ken Raya who is in charge of the K9 unit as well as the PACT Team, Community Services (which was largely disbanded or decentralized last year depending on how you view it) and several other units.

3) Will Chief Leach will be placed in charge of it. Don't laugh at a police chief being put in charge of a division. It's rumored that he's offered to do watch command stints in lieu of relieving some very tired lieutenants along with members of his command staff. That would be interesting to see albeit as a short-term measure not a long-term solution to a growing problem.

One assignment was filled even before the retirement led to a vacancy being created.

Another lieutenant, Bob Meier who is retiring in September was assigned as a supervisor in Investigations but his position was filled by Lt. Mike Perea during the mid-July reorganization of the police department which saw quite a bit of mid-level lateral movement but not any longitudinal movement. A trend that might continue in the months to come.

In many ways, the Riverside Police Department is better off than others including several agencies in the Inland Empire like Hemet and San Bernardino Police Department which have seen layoffs, furloughs, labor strife and severe budget cuts. But the issues of Riverside's department are not ones that can be ignored for long. Several police agencies received COPS stimulus money which Riverside did not, but Riverside has received state and federal money through several grants, mostly for equipment but a DUI grant could provide funding for a traffic sergeant position.

To be continued...

Here's the Riverside Police Department's Organization Chart albeit one that's about a year old and somewhat out of date although the department's infrastructure is essentially the same. What's useful about the chart is that it provides a scope of the assignments occupied by lieutenants and when you factor in that some of those names going back to Lt. Paul Villanueva who retired last year are no longer there or going to be there in a few months, it gives you some of the idea of the scope of the issues that might arise from a lieutenant shortage.

The layoffs of two more museum employees impacting an already hard hit department in the City of Arts and Innovation (tm) were protested by a crowd of city residents including museum volunteers at a recent city council meeting. More layoffs are anticipated in the months ahead as Riverside heads through another fiscal year. And layoffs (and staff and/or budget cuts of 25% or more) in several city departments with people at the helms who received impressive pay raises in 2008, before the publication of a certain list of maximum raises of about 40 city employees including many in upper management positions.

Last week at the Coffee Depot in downtown Riverside, I was interviewed by two nice gentlemen, Ralph and Tim who are doing podcasts(which is kind of like audio blogging or the transfer of an audio broadcast to digital formatting) at their site i.e. with Ralph and Tim on the city of Riverside. They've done shows on everything from the Brewery to the Mt. Rubidoux fireworks show to the city's Wi Fi network. It was a lot of fun being interviewed as part of their show on Riverside's bloggers.

The Group also meets at the Coffee Depot on the first and third Thursday every month at 7:30 a.m. and though it's currently on summer break, it will resume its meetings in September.

While many employees in Riverside County get huge pay cuts and the administrative headquarters has to close on Fridays, over 100 employees in the Riverside County District Attorney's office get to keep their take home vehicles. But does it want to in in the face of an audit done by the county that says this practice costs the currently cash-strapped county hundreds of thousands of dollars a year?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Now, District Attorney Rod Pacheco's office plans to do away with all but three of the 187 take-home cars reported in audit documents. Assistant District Attorney Kelly Keenan said Monday the office began cutting back on overnight car use even before the audit.

Auditor-Controller Robert Byrd's report, released last month, found that about one in five county cars was a take-home car. That's 1,055 out of the county's 5,300 cars and trucks. The county pays to purchase, fuel and maintain all county cars and covers commuting costs when cars are driven home.

County policy has long permitted employees to bring home county vehicles only if it saves the county money or if the employees need the cars to respond to emergencies on a routine basis. Department heads and the county executive office must approve each take-home car request.

Auditors found the district attorney allowed take-home cars for 26 employees who had not responded to any emergency calls in at least one year. The office assigned take-home cars to another 88 people who had handled fewer than a dozen emergency calls in a year's time, not enough to be considered routine, the audit said.

Not surprisingly, this article attracted a lot of anonymous comments.


Do none of these civil servants have their own private vehicle? Why can't they be expected to do just as the rest of the "ordinary" people their own vehicle to work (even in the middle of the night, or when it is not convenient) and then take a deduction for business mileage on their federal and state income tax forms?

Oh, come on!!! Photographs add 50 to 60's not like motion pictures, which only add 10 pounds....don't ya know

Who was suppose to keep the DA in check this whole time? What were they doing?

I can certainly see where every da investigator as well as every major crimes felony prosecutor could be justified in having a take home county vehicle. as peace officers the da investigators are on the job 24-7 and it would make them much more efficient to go from the house directly wherever they need to go. this is also not an uncommon practice in law enforcement. the major felony prosecutors are also in the same boat, whether it's being work up at 2 am to go to a murder scene or respond to an officer involved shooting, time is of the essence.

I used to rail against the inefficiency and hubris of RivCo electeds but why bother? The Grand Jury says the PR executives at the DA are a waste of money: nothing gets done. An audit says there is an excessive amount of take home vehicles in the DAs office: it is 'efficient' and nothing gets done. Then RivCo Supe Stone hands his sister a check for $190,000 to 'volunteer'...........

At CPS being approved to take home a car is not the same as actually doing it. Each use is evaluated on a per-use basis, has to be approved by management, and justified. It's a rarity, and used for emergency staffers who do respond in the middle of the night and cannot safely get to an office to take out a car when they would be all alone. The DA seems to be handling them out to anyone, and not staff who need them. But it's CPS that took 9 hours of furloughs every pay period and lost all their raises this year. Buster said fairness was required. Where would that be?

I wonder how much extra taxpayers have paid to feed chubby. He looks like he ate one of his deputy DAs.

Waste is waste except when it is in Riverside. Then, it is necessary to promote efficiency.

Somewhere, the Skunk and Polly the Parrot are cavorting to get a spin piece down the PE pipes.

The California State Attorney's office will join in on the posse that's set to investigate and prosecute corrupt politicians in San Bernardino County.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Attorney General Jerry Brown expressed confidence in Ramos and the cases his office is investigating.

"We think it's an important prosecution and investigation," he said in a phone interview. "It's my job as the chief law enforcement officer to see that the laws are fairly enforced, and that's what my deputies will be present to accomplish."

Ramos made the decision on Aug. 4 to seek the help of state prosecutors and officially made the request by letter on Aug. 11.

He and Brown discussed the investigation, and on Friday the attorney's general office agreed to be involved. Hackleman said the district attorney's office has been closely consulting with the attorney general's office since the beginning of the year.

It was during one of those conversations that they broached the subject of joining together, Hackleman said. "It accomplishes a couple things," he said. "One, this case is getting bigger and we could sure use their help. They also have a lot of expertise in this area, public corruption, that we think will be a benefit to us."

But even this news hasn't broken the county's silence on its probe into two of its high-ranking fire department employees including the fire chief.

Meanwhile, San Bernardino's city council passes its annual budget.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The council voted 4-3, with Esther Estrada, Chas Kelley and Wendy McCammack dissenting, to approve City Manager Charles McNeely's budget-balancing plan, which cuts nearly $4 million from the amount he had estimated officials would need to borrow in economic development funds to balance the budget.

Estrada said the Economic Development Agency can't afford even the reduced loan of about $1.3 million.

She noted that the new advance would come on top of more than $5 million that the agency already picks up each year in what normally would be city costs, from paying off a library construction bond to covering security costs at the beleaguered Carousel Mall.

Estrada noted that five of San Bernardino's 11 development areas are running deficits, for a cumulative shortfall of $10.4 million. Emil Marzullo, the agency's interim director, said covering the deficit will leave about $10 million in agency reserves.

Estrada said the borrowing could soon leave the agency without the resources to promote economic development.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board which has been scolding San Bernardino County over its corruption scandals has turned its focus to Riverside County in its battle to unseal a search warrant in a criminal case. And once again, the case of the sealed warrant involves a politician, this time one from San Jacinto.


But state law clearly provides that search warrants are public records -- and for a compelling reason: Openness allows the public to gauge the performance of prosecutors, police and the courts, and helps check abuses. While the courts do recognize that secrecy is occasionally necessary, the justification for shielding warrants from scrutiny must be specific and on the record. The prosecutor's argument is too vague to meet that test.

And the standard for keeping documents concealed should be especially strict when elected officials are involved. Making warrant details public might not suit the DA's preferences, but voters and residents have a strong interest in knowing why prosecutors would search the offices of an elected official. Claims of official misconduct require extra openness to deter any suspicions of coverups or special treatment of well-connected politicians.

There is no need to let such questions linger in the public mind. Revealing the details of these warrants would satisfy the public's need to know. Keeping them confidential serves no greater purpose than the prosecutor's convenience.

Huge changes coming to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

A probational officer with the San Diego Police Department was placed on administrative leave after she showed up drunk at a restaurant and brandished her gun. She was only cited and released for public intoxication which just goes to show that if you want to brandish a firearm off duty you better choose your profession well.

And those who are not in law enforcement who think they'd be treated the same way that she was if they brandished a gun, raise your hand.

For those who just got to have the latest technology, the need to have it might be hardwired in your brain.

Uh Oh! Microsoft banned from selling its Word products. For real!

And if that isn't bad enough news for the computer technology company. Its new operating system, Microsoft 7 has a "fatal flaw" which could cause it to go kaboom, meaning it might crash computers. The more you hear about "7", the less of a hassle Microsoft's problem child, Vista seems. The comments were kind of funny, many of them no doubt from Mac users.

Karl Mansoor author of the excellent police accountability blog, "Blue Must be True" writes about being perceived as an "anti-cop" blogger.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older