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, September 29, 2009

Drops in the rain bucket

Actually, not very many rain drops unless you count the five or ten that blew into Riverside a couple days ago and this city won't see much if the El Nino proves to be a bust. Even though one's coming, the prediction is for yet another dry winter in the golden state. Hopefully it won't be like the last one which led to less than two inches of rain during the entire season.

But despite that, there's still plenty going on in Riverside.

Labor Pains Relieved?

Riverside's largest employee union, the SEIU General Unit approved changes to its contract.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Tracie Morales, spokeswoman for SEIU Local 721, said 78.5 percent of ballots cast were in favor of the changes. The union represents about 950 city workers. Morales did not disclose how many voted.

"It was a show of support on behalf of city workers to help the city during this difficult economic time," Morales said.

The city pledged not to lay off any SEIU members through Jan. 15 and offered a $20,000 early retirement package to those who are 50 or older and have at least 15 years of service credit.

Councilman Mike Gardner said about 115 workers would be eligible for early retirement. That could cost the city up to $2.3 million, but it would be covered by savings from no longer having to pay those workers, he said.

The City Council will vote on the contract changes next week.

"I think it's clear that the city needs to save the money, and I'm personally glad to see SEIU members line up with the members of the other associations and back what the city's trying to do," Gardner said.

In return, the SEIU has voted to extend its contract until next June and defer a 2% raise. On the bright side at least when the city keeps laying off people, Management employees including those from the Human Resources Department will have to find different people to blame it on which might create a dilemma for some of them (including any who enjoyed raises themselves even if they had to then defer a 2% raise.).

Hopefully, the SEIU General Unit got the pledge for no layoffs in writing but it makes you wonder if any department heads who may have gotten raises last year were asked to defer those raises in the interest of saving the city money including the department head whose spouse allegedly boasted about the sizable raise (even though that particular department received one of the largest slashes to its budget) to some people who were concerned enough about it to check into what was going on with the ceilings on raises for management and executive employees. What they discovered is that in December 2008, those ceilings had been raised from between 2% to 23% from what they had been less than a year earlier.

That led to a major chain of events including the eventual posting of that list on the city's site and to questions as to why it became so important to raise the ceilings for maximum raises of about 40 management and executive city employees during what clearly was going to be the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Did they want to look after their own before the bottom fell out on everyone else?

Mayoral Race Countdown

The Riverside's mayoral race still has over a month to go and it's not clear whether or not there are any debates left between the candidates besides the two sponsored by the Greater Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women's Voters. Many people say that it's pure folly to run against incumbent Mayor Loveridge who's been in power since 1993 but what's a democratic society without a competitive election process? Two candidates have entered into the fray to challenge for the spot including former city councilman Art Gage who's running on a populist campaign of sorts and local artist and activist Ken Stansbury who's a write-in candidate.

The more vigorous an election is, the better representation it is of democracy and the more interesting it is to follow. Now, this term is the abbreviated one and some say that originally Loveridge didn't plan to run until he decided that he wanted to be the president of the League of Cities in 2010. To do so, he needs to hold an elected municipal position. Gage appears to be more intent on building a reputation for himself and putting himself in the public's mind as a mayoral candidate in preparation for the much anticipated and wide-open election in 2012.

Remember, to vote in this election if you;re registered and if you're not a registered voter, ask yourself why you are not and get your butt out and get registered ASAP.

Is 'Advisory' the New Buzz Word for dilution of powers?

The Human Relations Commission is set to host a meeting of its executive committee at City Hall on Thursday Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. One of the agenda items was an "immigration letter" that the Human Relations Commission had planned to send for policy clarification to both the U.S. Border Patrol and the Riverside Police Department. The HRC had met with Chief Russ Leach for a policy discussion involving the police department but had come up with newer questions and needed to follow up on the policy issues raised during that meeting.

A representative from Mayor Ron Loveridge's office said that since the commission was only "advisory" in nature, any direction on sending the letter would have to come from the city council. Well, the fact is that it's most likely that if the HRC sent such a letter to the city council that the body would do what it did when the CPRC sent a letter for "clarification" on its investigation of officer-involved deaths and that is not respond to it in writing. If they call an elected representative or two, they might get some vague reference to their correspondence as happened when the CPRC contacted then Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Bailey last autumn.

The Human Resources Board also tried sending letters for "clarification" to the city council after being told by City Manager Brad Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos (using Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout as a communication conduit) that some information gathering its members were trying to do in terms of obtaining statistics on the very public filing of lawsuits by city employees was outside the board's purview. Now that has to be the sillier side of the micromanagement that is going on involving a city board or commission or two and maybe Strout is speaking for Hudson and Priamos because neither can come to the Board themselves and provide the rationale behind those comments with a straight face.

Chair Erin House delivered some shocking news at a meeting earlier this year that he had discovered that the city council had apparently voted in 2005 to strip the board of its investigative powers through a majority vote to amend the municipal ordinance. Because the investigative power wasn't included in the language defining the Board in the city's charter, this was an easy action for the city government to take, slightly easier than essentially diluting or even stripping the powers of investigation for a commission which has those powers included in the language defining it in the city's charter.

And now the HRC which was under the city manager's office for years but more recently, has been under the mayor's office. The move took place allegedly after City Manager Brad Hudson removed some key staff from that commission after it wrote a letter to his office asking for statistical information on the ethnic and racial breakdown on employees laid off or "resigning" from City Hall. Not long after that, Loveridge took over the HRC but not too long after that, its director, Yvette Pierre became one of the first full-time city layoffs of the current recession. HRC is trying to function with very little if any real staffing but apparently, it's been struggling with micromanagement and inhouse fighting very much like what's going on with the CPRC.

Now there's no argument that the city's boards and commissions for the most part are advisory in nature but it's interesting how that word's been floating around a lot lately involving three of the city's boards and commissions as a means of diluting their effectiveness and powers and trying to render them ineffective at even gathering information. First the CPRC, then the Human Resources Board and then the Human Relations Commission. Will the list grow under a city management that has never seemed too keen on public participation?

We'll see.

Project Bridge dead?

Project Bridge, the once nationally renowned gang prevention and intervention program appears to have been pretty much killed by the city. No funding has been allocated for outreach to gang members and that responsibility was once going to be foisted on regular staff members from the Park and Recreation staff assigned to different community centers. Nobody's really heard much from it in a while.

The city management and various city council members at different meetings made promises about expanding Project Bridge and focusing as much on prevention as it did on intervention but they didn't promise to kill the program. It had spent several years on life support while being volleyed back and forth between the Park and Recreation and Police Departments. But it seemed to be on an upturn when it hired a new director and some staff for outreach several years ago. Still without much funding, there's not much it can do, which is a sad irony considering the fanfare about it several years ago.

So until further information comes out, there will be a Project Bridge Watch. It's the most lauded program that no one at City Hall or other departments seems to really want in this city.

Rocky Waters?

Speaking of the police department, there's been a lot of murmurs in the East Neighborhood Policing Center of concern about the new area commander, Lt. Vic Williams who was assigned to replace outgoing Area Commander Lt. Larry Gonzalez in mid-July. It was Willliams' second area command assignment in about a year after he had been previously assigned to the North NPC and in fact moved his office from Lincoln Field Operations Station into the new digs in the bus terminal earlier this year, initially not a very happy move for anybody. Lt. Chris Manning replaced him in the North NPC at the same time Williams was transferred to the East to replace Gonzalez.

Apparently, some people were unhappy downtown as well and some say that's why he was transferred to the East NPC but it's hard to say because the North NPC has gone through several area commanders in the past several year and it remains to be seen how long Manning will last in that spot. However, it's unusual to see a commander assigned to an NPC only remain in that position a year rather than the standard 2-3 years assignment. In fact, Gonzalez and Tortes, Williams predecessors, enjoyed long tenures of at least 3 1/2 years while they were area commanders in that NPC or in the Eastside before the existence of NPCs. Both of them proved to be very popular which might make it more difficult for a newcomer assigned to that role but Gonzalez had to come into the position in the wake of Tortes' longtime service as a commander in the Eastside (not to mention being raised there)and he managed to make his own mark there and win a lot of support. So it's not impossible for Williams to do the same but it takes a lot of committed effort and good communication and leadership skills to succeed. And you can't alienate or tick off the organizations in those NPCs because they can be your strongest allies.

There were also rumors that Latino Network and other organizations were unhappy with him when he transferred to the position where he oversees police operations in neighborhoods including the Eastside, University area and Orangecrest because he wasn't returning phone calls. If that's the case, he should remember that it is one of the cardinal rules of being an area commander to return every communication from a resident in your policing center even if you don't have any or much information to answer their questions. But the organizations need to be clear about their expectations of their area commanders as well to avoid any confusion.

Outreach is one of the most important areas of being an area commander, somewhat different than the watch command positions that Williams and Manning have both been assigned to fill in the past. Manning does come from a background of having been assigned to community outreach and served as the department's public information officer for a period of time which should help him.

Williams worked a variety of assignments including a stint in the Internal Affairs Division where he was praised by some as an objective investigator. He was promoted out of that division and placed in field assignments but this is his first assignment in years that put him out in the community rather than inside an office. His current bosses praise his professionalism and said that he does the job expected of him but his stint as a commander has been a bit rocky.

It's too early to say whether it's adjustment pains experienced by both Williams and the neighborhoods in the East NPC to his style of leadership and communication or whether there's evidence of some more serious issues. Area commanders should always remember they work for the residents rather than the other way around and the successful ones are the ones who understand this and practice it. If Williams remembers that and practices it too, there's no reason why he can't be a success.

Under Riverside County's couch, lies some loose change!

After putting employees on furloughs, instituting salary cuts and budget cuts, Riverside County discovered it had $23 million extra in its coffers.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

County Chief Financial Officer Paul McDonnell said he is unsure why county administrators did not know of the unused reserve money before the end of the fiscal year.

"It is a bit of a surprise," he said. "Certainly, it is a question we will be asking this year."

Still, county officials on Tuesday urged caution. Seven county agencies, including the Sheriff's Department, district attorney's office, public health department and animal services department, ended the fiscal year with unexpected shortfalls.

The departments were over budget by a combined $19.4 million.

McDonnell said the county will use money from the larger-than-expected general fund balance to help the departments that exceeded their budgets. In addition, the county will add $13 million to a rainy-day fund, pushing it closer to its target amount.

But then it turned out that the county was still owed money by Riverside as payment for the contracting of animal control services from the county.


The department also did not receive a $1.2 million payment from the city of Riverside for the last six months of the fiscal year. The city contracts with the county for animal control.

Riverside City Councilman Mike Gardner said the late payment stemmed from issues with the way the county bills the city.

Gardner said the county was not providing adequate documentation on what it charged. City officials had to seek more information before sending the checks, he said.

County officials expect the city to soon make its payment, McDonnell said.

"Those issues have been resolved," he said, noting there were some discrepancies in the bills it sent to the city. "We are meeting with the city later this week."

A Grand Terrace councilman facing a conflict of interest charge has plead not guilty.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

After the brief hearing in a San Bernardino courtroom, Miller's attorney said that prosecutors haven't proven the felony conflict-of-interest charge against his client.

Miller's attorney, Richard Ewaniszyk, of Victorville, said outside the courtroom that Margie Miller's publication is the only newspaper authorized to publish legal notices for the city. He said that, in order for Miller to have a legal conflict of interest, the councilman would have had to vote to approve a contract to pay the newspaper. Prosecutors have not produced such a contract, Ewaniszyk said.

He praised the San Bernardino County District Attorney's desire to handle accusations of public malfeasance, but he believes the charge against Miller "is a misunderstanding."

The deputy district attorney handling the case could not be reached for comment.

A disturbance in a Riverside County jail facility and allegations of misconduct are being investigated by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Cindy Diaz said she was especially concerned about what happened because her husband underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2006 and has suffered neurological problems since.

Diaz said that the deputies struck her husband because he did not stand up when ordered, even though he told them he had a medical condition that was making it difficult to comply. She said her husband was hospitalized and that she did not learn what happened until days later when she visited him in jail.

Diaz said she believes her husband should not have been housed in that area of the jail to begin with, adding that he was not actively involved in the disturbance.

Nordstrom said he has reviewed the reports on the disturbance and looked at video and did not find any evidence that anyone had been kicked in the head by deputies or shocked with a Taser.

While the inmates were hit with pepper spray, it did not appear to have occurred after anyone was restrained. Still, Nordstrom would not categorically deny that the events reported by the family in a written complaint occurred, he said, because the incident is still under investigation.

Sheriff's officials declined to allow a reporter to view the videos.

There is a lot of commentary on this lawsuit filed by former Riverside County District Attorney's office employee, Eileen Hunt at the Press Enterprise site including here and here. People who are for and against the plaintiff and others complaining about what's going on inside the D.A.'s office.

And while on the topic, here is the 2008-09 Riverside County Grand Jury report on the District Attorney's office.

Then there's this article about the State Attorney General's office taking over the prosecution on an old triple homicide case because the defendant is a distant cousin of Pacheco.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"We did take over the case because of a potential conflict of interest," Dana Simas, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jerry Brown, said Wednesday.

"The investigation into the 1981 murders led to James Hughes, who is fighting extradition. No criminal complaint has been filed, so it is an ongoing investigation."

In 1981, Fred Alvarez, a tribal leader with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, and two others were fatally shot in his rented Rancho Mirage home. The case has remained unsolved.

But the Riverside County sheriff's cold case unit, under the direction of the attorney general's office, which took over the matter earlier this year, has revisited the investigation.

The attorney general's office issued a triple-murder warrant for Hughes, sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez said.

Inside Riverside wrote that Riverside County's furlough program is a bust.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board announces its endorsements for the San Bernardino City Council election.

Drug charges have been filed against a Tulsa Police Department officer

(excerpt, KJRH News)

Police arrested Officer Travis Ludwig on September 22nd at his Collinsville home. According to police reports, a search warrant was served and cocaine was found in the home.

Police say they recovered undetermined quantities of a white powder, scales and US currency.

Ludwig was booked into the Tulsa County Jail on a charge of possession of a controlled drugs with intent to sell. He posted a $10,000 bond and was released.

The number of officers disciplined in Austin's police department had when the number of supervisors investigating misconduct allegations increased

(Excerpt, Statesman)

Internal affairs detectives had conducted such investigations until July 2008, when Police Chief Art Acevedo decided that the less serious cases — complaints such as profanity, rudeness and inadequate police response — would instead be investigated by an officer's supervisor.

Officials say that the policy change has resulted in a higher percentage of officers getting disciplined and has reduced the number of days such investigations take to conclude.

Police department statistics showed that from July 2007 to July 2008, 69.8 percent of low-level allegations investigated by internal affairs detectives resulted in disciplinary action against officers. That percentage increased to 77.3 percent from July 2008 to July 2009, the first year of the supervisor inquiries.

Meanwhile, the number of days officials spent looking into such complaints went from 44 to 35 days.

During the same period, the number of residents who expressed dissatisfaction about the resolution of their complaints stayed about the same, according to the statistics.

"We obviously wanted to make sure when the cases were completed that they were being investigated appropriately, with appropriate outcomes," said Assistant Police Chief Al Eells, who helped compile the statistics.

Cambridge's Civilian Review Board is facing in the wake of various investigations and reviews of the arrest of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, jr.

(Excerpt, Bay State Banner)

While intense global attention has focused on Cambridge since the July 16 cuffing of the Harvard scholar by Sgt. James Crowley in front of Gates’ home, the standing Cambridge Police Review and Advisory Board has been understaffed, overlooked and ineffective, according to critics.

“I don’t want to make any pre-judgments before the review takes place,” said Simmons, who requested the report as part of a broader look at city-appointed independent bodies. “I will say that we can always improve. While I support Police Commissioner Robert Haas, I will say the police department can do better. I see our civilian review board as an opportunity for greater citizen involvement.”

Harvard Professor S. Allen Counter, who has filed a complaint against a Cambridge police officer with the five-member review board, said he was told the panel was essentially nonfunctional at the time he first attempted to file the complaint.


September 30, 2009

Nykisha Cleveland

Police Complaints Board Proposes Monitoring Citizen
Complaints Involving Police Response to Reports of Hate Crime
(Report also urges measures to address underreporting of hate crime)

(Washington, DC) – The Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing
body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a report to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier recommending that the District undertake certain measures to address the reporting of hate crimes.

In December 2008, the D.C. Council's Committee on Public Safety and
the Judiciary held a hearing to air concerns about a recent rash of hate crimes affecting the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. PCB's report focuses on some of the issues raised at the hearing.

OPC, which is independent of MPD, investigates police misconduct
complaints filed by members of the public against MPD officers but does not handle complaints of citizen-on-citizen hate crime. However, the agency often receives complaints that MPD officers failed to take action in response to reports of crime, including reports of hate crime. OPC refers these "failure to provide police service" complaints to MPD because OPC lacks authority to investigate them.

To improve police response, PCB recommends that MPD and OPC collaborate to develop a system for identifying and tracking complaints that allege sub-par police service in response to reports of hate crime. Collecting and reviewing these data could help identify specific police procedures that are needed in order to ensure effective responses to hate crimes.

PCB also urges the Mayor's Office to begin complying with its legal
obligation under the D.C. Bias-Related Crime Act to collect, compile,
and publish data on the incidence of hate crime in the District and to
report on its findings to the D.C. Council. Annual issuance of this
required report would aid District government officials and community
groups in developing strategies to reduce the occurrence of hate crime.

PCB further proposes that MPD utilize its involvement with community
advisory boards such as the Fair and Inclusive Policing Task Force and
the D.C. Bias Crimes Task Force to develop ways to correct possible
underreporting of hates crimes across all constituencies covered by the District's hate crimes statute.

"There needs to be an immediate response to the public's lack of
confidence in how hate crimes are being pursued in the District,"
said Kurt Vorndran, PCB's chair. "By implementing the
recommendations in the report, District agencies, including MPD, will be better able to identify trends and tailor programs that will reduce both the occurrence of hate crime and the level of police misconduct in Washington."

For additional information or to view PCB's full report and
recommendations, please visit OPC's website at
www.policecomplaint .

Events and meetings

Monday, Oct. 5 at 4 p.m.,
the Human Resources Board meets at City Hall on the Fifth Floor

Eastside Think Tank and Riverside Police Department are sponsoring a community forum with Chief Russ Leach appearing as well as officers and supervisors working in the East Neighborhood Policing Center.

When: Wednesday Oct. 7 at 6-8 p.m.

Where: Zacateca's restaurant banquet room, University Avenue, Eastside.

Snap Shot Gallery

[An abandoned building on Magnolia Street vacated by a business that had to close its doors and be relocated in anticipation of the long-awaited grade separation to be constructed on Magnolia near Merrill street. If you own a business in Riverside, you better make sure to be ready to pack up and move it as many other businesses on both Magnolia and its counterpart Market have found, as those two thoroughfares are pretty much jinked. ]

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older