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, September 21, 2009

Audits and Audacity

****Updated: Rally against Hate planned in Riverside. Details below.****

Cops and Parks returns

The Riverside Public Safety Committee met at City Hall to receive a presentation on the revival of an old program that used to be jointly operated by the Riverside Police Department and the Parks and Recreation Department. Attending for the city were Capt. John Carpenter who oversees the North and East Neighborhood Policing Centers and Ralph Nunez who directs the Park and Recreation Department along with Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, City Clerk Colleen Nicol and Frank Arreola who works as a legislative aide for Councilman Steve Adams.

Chair Chris MacArthur brought the meeting to order and Councilwoman Nancy Hart explained that Councilman Rusty Bailey had wanted to substitute in for her and she nixed that offer, telling him he could come to the meeting as long as he sat on the sidelines and remained quiet. The state's Brown Act requires that there be less than a quorum of elected officials participating in the discussion and voting process in subcommittee meetings to avoid having them engage in the dreaded "serial" meetings.

Carpenter introduced the program that's called Operation Safe Parks by saying that it had been reinitiated by North NPC Commander Chris Manning who was unable to attend the meeting. It was an expansion of the program that had been instituted at Myra Linn Park years ago after gang violence and robberies took place at the park. Nunez said that 13 city parks were targeted by the program including all the parks with community centers. He added that many of the parks that had "issues" including Fairmount Park had greatly improved.

"The Homeless issue [in Fairmount] is almost nonexistent." Nunez said.

He also said there were some issues with the newly opened Andulka Park involving street vendors and use of the park after hours but that the neighbors in the surrounding area had been very supportive. Hunt Skate Park which posed its own challenges had them addressed by increasing patrols and the use of surveillance cameras, strategies being used in other parks as well.

Carpenter said that the key component was getting the neighborhoods in the areas involved in the process. The department used its POPs officers to act as liaisons with the park staff at each of the parks. Additional officers would be used after hours and different officers would adopt a particular park.

The department's goals were to raise the involvement of city and community partnerships, decrease the calls for police service and to increase the use of the parks by city residents.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez discussed the skate park created in the Eastside, which is part of his ward.

"The police monitor it well," Melendrez said, "The kids monitor themselves very well."

Esquivel who oversees the field operations and investigations departments in the police department said that there had been some issues at Hunt Park and that they had sent in officers including members of the department's METRO team to make arrests.

Nunez told the committee that the budget cuts by the city including the loss of part-time employees in his department had forced it to work with full-time employees who didn't work weekends when many special activities were held at parks.

Carpenter had also said that there were covert operations done by units in the department's special investigations division but that they were usually initiated after complaints. The department has to decide which resource best serves to solve a particular issue, and that might be patrol officers, POPs officers or creating special programs.

The department's Vice unit also did work at some parks on a monthly basis and submits monthly reports and records of visits to supervisors outlining the work that the unit performs. The Vice unit also monitors Web sites and Craigslist for any issues that it needs to focus on.

Esquivel also announced the creation of a new account at YouTube that the police department created to post videos of its most wanted criminal suspects.

RPD's Most Wanted

This issue might be going to the full city council for discussion. Melendrez wanted the committee to do this but other sentiments seemed to be mixed, believing it was just a "receive and file" report to the committee. In the interest of transparency and allowing full public participation in the process, it really should go to an evening session of the full city council, given how many city residents care about the parks and how an election or two have been decided at least partially on the backs of concerns about city parks.

An update on the Riverside Police Department's crisis intervention for the mentally ill. A program being impacted by budget cuts on services for the mentally ill at the county level.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Sometimes the officer already has a rapport with the person. Sometimes Carlos does. Both have to recognize when to alternate with the person and how to handle each situation with the resources at hand.

The two have ridden together about four times. Medina said Carlos can be a major help. If someone doesn't meet the criteria to be hospitalized but hasn't committed a crime, Carlos can offer more options, Medina said.

"Our hands are tied as far as we can go because we handle the law enforcement end," he said.

Carlos has built a rapport with officers and now receives e-mails with questions. He hopes to build that into a system where officers on other shifts refer individuals to him whom he can then check back with during his four day shifts a week.

Carlos is collecting information on his interactions, but it's not yet clear whether officers have reduced the time they deal with mental crises.

"It's really hard to say with one person we're going to make a huge dent in the numbers," Marquez said.

The economy isn't helping. Marquez said she hopes more cuts to county coffers won't affect the program. But reductions to mental health budgets have led to a shortage of outpatient services, and the county can no longer provide services to indigents, Marquez said.

"Those are clearly going to overwhelm his ability to keep people out of hospitals or out of jail," she said.

The department instituted training in 2007 which later became POST certified and was given to the department's patrol division and civilian staff including dispatchers over an 18 month period. It began to implement the second phase of its program after it received grant funding which was to create a mobile unit response team similar to those utilized by the SMART unit in the Los Angeles Police Department and similar ones used by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and San Diego County.

Originally, four positions were instituted by Riverside County which faced severe budget cuts involving its mental health resources earlier this fiscal year so Riverside is utilizing one social worker. When the budget picture improves especially at the county (as it's too much to hope for at the state level), hopefully more social workers can be hired.

Fortunately, the program has a lot of support in the department even if it took the city months to get on board with creating a crisis intervention program. Even those who aren't sure whether or not they support it, offer constructive criticism of it and others have embraced it more fully, including those who have used force in the past involving the mentally ill and that's definitely a positive sign to see. It helps to have more tools to work with.

A building downtown has been to the national registry for historic buildings.

The Third Mayoral Candidate

Another challenger has emerged to take on current mayor, Ron Loveridge and challenger, former councilman Art Gage in the November election as a write-in candidate. Ken Stansbury who attended the mayor's ball last weekend was asked about his decision to throw his hat in the ring by people in attendance. Word gets around fast in River City. You'd be amazed how quickly some times.

Stansbury was a part of the organization called Riversiders for Property Rights who tried to circulate a petition for signatures to put a ballot initiative to the voters to decide whether or not Eminent Domain could be used by the city council and/or Redevelopment Agency (aka as the city council) to seize land for private development. Soon enough the city got wind of it and filed what's known as a SLAPP suit against him and the organization. Soon Stansbury had to fight the city in court on his own, a David against a pack of Goliaths. And when the city wages battles involving Eminent Domain and redevelopment land acquisition, it doesn't just parade out local legal talent. No, it actually brings in experts on these legal issues from Best, Best and Krieger all the way from Sacramento. So it's a verifiable army of legal eagles that show up in court at times.

The city muscled (and spent) its way and won at the appellate level and the state supreme court turned its back on this critical issue but what the city's residents learned was the extremes that at least one city government will go to prevent city residents from operating one of the rights that comes with living under a democratic republic which is to not only vote on issues that impact their lives (and the people who make those decisions), but the right in the State of California and all its cities and counties to participate in the ballot initiative process. And it paved the way for similar challenges which will surely come as the issue of Eminent Domain as well as the right to a Constitutional process of redress continue to be serious topics of debate.

This issue should have been left to the voters to decide but it's clear by the city's actions and money spent essentially threatening people to drop their initiative drive or pay huge legal bills that it believed it knew how the vote would have gone and had to thwart the democratic process. And if the city doesn't want to leave an issue up to the voters who might turn on it, it tries to circumvent their will through the courts as it did this time while putting on a show of claiming it was doing Stansbury and the Riversiders for Property Rights a favor by threatening to bankrupt them out of existence with its legal bills if they didn't cave. How really twisted is that?

It's good and healthy for democracy to open up elections to more than just the private clubs that too often they've become (and that's certainly true the higher you go) to get some new blood to participate in the election process. After all, Stansbury is still standing and most of the city council members who had love affairs with Eminent Domain were sent home by the voters with pink slips.

The CPRC takes on complaint investigation time lines?

What: The Community Police Review Commission

Where: Fifth Floor conference room, City Hall

When: Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m.

The thoroughly mismanaged and micromanaged CPRC will attempt to take on a discussion of the ongoing problem of how long it's been taking for the complaints filed with it and the CPRC to be investigated, reviewed and disposed. Even though this is an issue that has been blogged about here extensively, it's not clear how the CPRC came to the decision to look into the matter which has pervaded the complaint process of both the police department and the police commission for several years. Was it that Commissioner Chani Beeman was finally able to sneak an agenda item past the formidable trio who run the gate keeping process over CPRC meeting agendas at City Hall? Or was it someone else who actually decided that the commission was going to actually take on an issue of slightly more substance than what kind of emblems to put on their new CPRC shirts?

Who put on the agenda will determine how seriously it will be taken by the commissioners given that there are several on there who will vote against a motion by someone simply based on who that person is and whether or not they are a member of the majority alliance of commissioners. It's like watching a grade school class sometimes but a more accurate reflection is that you're looking into a laboratory of what can happen when you give people a little power to weld. Some of them let it go to their heads.

If you look at the monthly reports, you'll see that the average time it takes complaints to get to the CPRC has grown with averages of over 300 days popping off. And then because the CPRC has shed its monthly schedule down to one meeting, the time it takes to process and review complaints has also extended into the three digit period. Add these two averages together and a month or so ago, it was taking an average of 405 days to completely process a category 2 complaint.

The police department has been tackling this issue for several years including making the decision to transfer Lt. Mike Cook to Internal Affairs last autumn. He became the full-time division head earlier this year after Lt. Steve Johnson went on leave and was transferred to the watch command. The division currently staffs five sergeants including two with either prior stints or at least three years spent assigned to it.

A department representative said that the situation is improving and that the averages should decline with upcoming investigations, saying that the current complaints taking a lot of time to complete are not the norm. If that's the case, then as the CPRC issues monthly reports, the averages on the police department's end for both category 1 and 2 complaints should decrease.

The representative did raise some critical points about the confusion that might arise with the handling of complaints that even involving minor allegations, can be quite lengthy and then after those thick files go to the CPRC for review and deliberation, decisions are made on allegations within five minutes. And this person has a point. If you look at the agendas, you might see 8-10 complaints scheduled for a 90 minute period which if that's the schedule the commission keeps, it reeks of rubber stamping rather than the carefully thought out deliberation that every complaint deserves. It sounds like some sort of assembly line.

After all, if you want to bring a rubber stamp to the process, it can always be at the level of the city manager's office which agrees with the police department about 99% of the time. But the commission might have been created by City Hall to be a rubber stamp, if not the populace of Riverside who voted to put it in the city's charter. After all, even Mayor Ron Loveridge, the only remnant on the dais of those who served on the city council when the ordinance to create the CPRC was passed in 2000, believes civilian review in general and the commission specifically are a "symbolic gesture". The current majority of the city council views the CPRC along similar lines as something to be seen but definitely not heard from, like a child supervised by the "baby sitters" at City Hall of course most of whom would probably love to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Hopefully that will be the case, that the police department can fix its problems in complaint investigation and review but it won't do that much good if the CPRC is adding to the problem on its own end by first, its election of a chair and vice-chair who in 2008 had the worst attendance records and by its decision not to hold meetings on the second Wednesday of the month. So will there be a thoughtful discussion by a panel where the majority is steeped in the interest of pleasing City Hall? That remains to be seen.

In related business, Brian Pearcy the chair of the downtown parking commission will be presenting that body's annual report. Now that's really nice and everything and I'm sure it's great to be chair and have that responsibility but Pearcy needs to start attending evening sessions again (along with Commissioner John Brandriff). Something he's not done in the past couple of months. He's an intelligent guy who brings a lot to the process and yes, Brian it's a snake pit that you're stepping into at those general meetings but you can handle yourself well and you were appointed to a second term with the expectation that you would be serving that term. So come back and serve out your time.

Furloughs at Pacheco's office?

Over 200 deputy prosecutors in the Riverside County District Attorney's office are facing pay cuts and furloughs after contract negotiations broke down.

The union and county remained at an impasse on Sept. 21.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The county says union concessions are needed to help offset sharply reduced revenues and to protect services and jobs until the economy recovers.

But Michael Hestrin, president of the Deputy District Attorneys Association, said Monday that the county is seeking both pay cuts and eventual layoffs from the union, a strategy he says jeopardizes residents' safety.

Deputy district attorneys were willing to accept the proposed cuts to pay and benefits, but sought a no-layoff provision in the contract. The county refused, he said.

"It's a sad day when public safety suffers at the expense of bureaucrats attempting to balance the County's budget on the backs of its Prosecutors and law enforcement officers," Hestrin said in a prepared statement.

Michael Jeandron, spokesman for the district attorney's office, said the department will remain effective and efficient despite the challenges brought about by the economic downturn.

Ashley said the county could not afford to continue to honor the more generous provisions of the expired contract.

"If we were to go too long, it was just going to be too costly and have too much impact on our budget," Ashley said.

Inland Empire Weekly provides the update that the Riverside County District Attorney's office did not on the outcome of its review into a controversial officer-involved shooting by an off-duty LAPD officer in Corona last year.

Riverside County supervisor Marion Ashley is the target of the latest recall effort by Inland Empire voters.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Recall supporters say Ashley inappropriately fast-tracked the project, resulting in a "gross failure of the public trust," according to the notice of intent.

Ashley said the project has gone through all the proper approvals, and those opposed to the project have had opportunities to voice their concerns.

Ann Weston, a Procinctu critic, describes herself as the recall coordinator. She includes her contact information on the recall news release and owns a Web site,, supporting the effort.

On Friday, Weston, who does not live in Ashley's district, said she is not part of the committee. But in her view, she said, voters need to be aware of the issues surrounding Ashley.

Ashley represents the county's 5th District, which includes Moreno Valley, Banning, Beaumont and Perris.

And coming to Riverside County is the IRS to do an audit.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"It's the county's duty to make sure people report their true earnings," said Morris, who is not involved in the Riverside County audit. "The county is treated no different by the IRS than any other business. You can't provide personal benefits to employees and not have them pay taxes on it."

Morris said the IRS could potentially find that employees owe the federal government money. The agency could also require the county to retool its policies to further prevent employees from using work cars and electronics for their personal benefit without reporting it.

Morris said he doubts the IRS would seek much more than $100,000 or so per year in back taxes from the entire county, even in a grim scenario. However, it could be challenging if the county tried to recoup that money from its employees, he said.

Supervisor Bob Buster agreed.

"In the worst case, you could have a retroactive mess, where the water has already left the dam, and you are trying to collect from employees who in some cases have already left," he said Friday.

The county has roughly 20,000 employees.

Buster said he had not been told about the audit but felt it could be helpful for the county in the long run.

A new political chapter of California Women Lead is forming in Riverside County an area dearth of women leadership. The effort is being started by the only woman on Riverside's Planning Commission. The League of Women's Voters has already given the fledgling organization a thumbs up. It will be holding a meeting at the Seventh Floor of City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m. If you are attending the CPRC meeting and experience an extreme bout of nausea, you can always mosey up a couple floors to see just who shows up at the latest meeting of a new organization trying to change the political landscape in Riverside.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The arrival of California Women Lead in the area is the next step for political involvement, said Joan Donahue, president of the League of Women Voters of Northwest Riverside County.

Her organization will be 90 years old next year, formed six months before the 19th amendment to the Constitution secured national women's suffrage. The league educated women to get them to participate in voting.

"Now they are ready to step forward and take political leadership ... to step up and say 'I can lead in this issue,' " Donahue said.

"That's where California Women Lead comes in," Donahue said. "They say, 'here is how you apply for a board or a commission or here's how you would form an exploratory committee.' "

While the League of Women Voters does not make endorsements of politicians or political parties, it does take stances on policy issues, Donahue said. California Women Lead is nonpartisan on issues as well as candidates and parties.

Lock-Dawson, 44, of Riverside, is a member of the Riverside Planning Commission and owns PLD Consulting, specializing in land use and government.

She is the only woman on the planning commission. There is one Riverside City councilwoman and no woman on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. About 40 percent of local elected officials in the county are women, she said.

"I have three daughters," Lock-Dawson said. "I think it is important for them to see role models. I think they will have a different world."

The firestorm in Temecula over the proposed banning of instruction on a young adult book highlights the annual event of National Banned Books Week.

In Sims Horseracing, Proud Sheila came in fourth, in her turf debut a vast improvement on her first race. Didn't overtrain this time and so far, no equipment changes needed. The newly acquired four-year-old gelding, Barroom Hero will be making his racing debut under new ownership on the turf in several weeks.

Rally Against Hate

What: An anti-Nazi Peace Rally

Where: Riverside City Hall

When: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m.

Why: A group of neo-Nazis are planning a demonstration at an unknown time and location in Riverside. There's been attempts on Inland Empire Craigslist by the national organization of Nazis to recruit in Riverside and the Inland Empire, most likely to try to form a chapter. After all, when it comes to hate groups and White Supremacists, unfortunately, the Inland Empire is the magnet of California.

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