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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The commission that could; the commission that wouldn't

*****UPDATE: Riverside Police Department Officer David Reeves arrested in Moreno Valley for alleged armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom. More details to come including why this isn't such a huge shock. ********

UPDATE: Sonja Bjelland was laid off by the Press Enterprise? Is this newspaper following one bad decision with another until it compiles a huge list of them?Italic

You know, sometimes the communities no matter which ones they are, do know their officers for better or worse. Reeves' arrest took place exactly on the first anniversary of the 2008 arrest of former officer, Riverside Police Department Robert Forman for sexual abuse. And the Press Enterprise is down to its last few experienced reporters.

One commission in Riverside, and it's not the Community Police Review Commission has stepped forward on addressing relations between the community and the police department. It's actually the Human Relations Commission which is carrying out one of the CPRC's most important responsibilities which is to serve as an adviser to the city government on community/police relations. In this case, it's tackling the leading role in addressing the controversial raids that took place involving both (and separately) the Riverside Police Department and the U.S. Border Patrol which is currently being sued by some of its agents in the Riverside office for requiring monthly quotas for both arrests and detentions. For months, there really wasn't much communication between the police department and people concerned about some raids in Casa Blanca near Indiana and Madison in January this year.

The HRC first got involved when it received reports of people who were concerned about the police department's involvement in the situation which seemed to stem from a joint meeting held between the police department and Border Patrol last year. It held several meetings of its own so city residents including people living in the Eastside as well as Casa Blanca could air their concerns and questions about what they felt was an abrupt change in policy and process.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The discussion came after federal immigration agents arrested several people near Madison Street and Indiana Avenue in February. Since then, members of Justice for Immigrants Inland Empire Coalition and residents of Riverside, Moreno Valley and San Bernardino have attended several of the commission meetings questioning the department's role in the federal actions, according to the letter.

Commissioner Omar Zaki said his group, which was established by the city, sent the letter because it wants to make sure there is a level of cooperation between the department and residents. The letter did not request specific action.

"The primary focus is really an issue of public safety, and we want to make sure residents of the city are not in fear of calling law enforcement," he said

Councilman Andy Melendrez said there was a misunderstanding of the Police Department's role in the federal effort. The police officers knew about the raids in case they were needed to handle crime such as carrying a weapon, but they do not stop people to check their immigration status.

Why in January did the Riverside Police Department detain Latinos in Casa Blanca and then take them to the station to be processed for immigration status separately from a raid done by Riverside's Border Patrol office earlier the same morning?

These individuals detained included a number of undocumented and documented immigrants and one citizen who was given a ride home by the police department according to a statement Central Neighborhood Policing Center Commander Bruce Loftus gave outside of Magnolia Policing Station during a demonstration that month. None of these individuals were stopped for anything more serious than a misdemeanor (and those cited by police didn't include any involving weapon possession) which excludes weapon possession and brandishing which are felonies. And if the police department is only there to help Border Patrol in case where there are or may be weapons then why did the police department conduct its own separate operation after Border Patrol had already done its own?

But then there's been a number of explanations provided by the department, besides the one cited by Melendrez including that the police had only called Border Patrol to assist with determining residency status and in providing bilingual translation. The police department's management needs to clarify its position to the public whatever it is and be more forthcoming about the relationship it has with Border Patrol including a meeting held between the two agencies last autumn two months before the January raids. That is one definitive way to build community and police relations.

And there's been a lot of talk about that.

Chief Russ Leach in a meeting with an ad hoc committee formed by the HRC to address the immigration issue said that he wanted to improve relations between the neighborhood of Casa Blanca and the police department. That's always an important step to take because there's this perception that the police department is stepping away from its commitment to maintain its reform process and that's not helped by the failure of the city to and implement an action plan to put into place when the department's current compass to lead its way is set to expire with nothing to follow it. And why is that? Because that's the way the Seventh Floor wants it to be and that begins with the city manager's office and since that office is the tail wagging the dog, the city council has made it clear by doing or saying nothing on this issue that this is what it wants to. Well not that it so much wants it but because this body currently lacks the collective leadership to take a stand, it's kind of saying it doesn't want it by default.

Thank goodness, the HRC stepped up to the plate to try to find clarification on this policy issue involving the police department's involvement in immigration enforcement. It's too bad that the commission that was encharged with this power and responsibility through the voters who put it in the city charter didn't do the job that it's assigned to do.

After holding some public meetings where community members aired their concerns on this issue, the Human Relations Commission wrote this letter to the mayor and city council asking for clarification on the policy involving the detention of individuals to determine residency status. They took the initiative that they've exercised during their history which stretches back to the formation of the HRC in the 1960s to address this issue. Even though their outstanding director was one of the first casualties of the budget cuts being laid off last December from the Mayor's office.

However, one other commission did not carry out the duties assigned to it under the city's charter concerning this matter.

That was the CPRC which was also asked to address this issue but when one commissioner tried to get the RPD policy on detaining individuals to determine residency status, she was informed by Rogan that she couldn't even put it on the agenda, with the reasoning that the CPRC's involvement would interfere with the efforts being put out by the HRC. That's really like awesome and all that, but perhaps Rogan needs to take another (or even first?) look at the language about the CPRC's role in community and police relations in the city's charter. That language was put there by the majority of the city's voters in the November 2004 election.

But why isn't the CPRC involved in this issue involving community and police relations? After all, its role and responsibility in this area is spelled out in the City Charter

(excerpt, Section 810 (a))

To advise the mayor and city council on all community/police relations issues

So what part of that sentence do the commission and its manager, Kevin Rogan not understand? Okay, everyone knows Rogan's bosses City Manager Brad Hudson and his assistant, Tom DeSantis don't get this part at all. If they did, they would let the police department including its chief move forward with the new Strategic Plan which was to pick up where the old one left off when it sunsets in December. As you know, the old plan which lasted five years was mandated by former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and even when the stipulated judgment was dissolved, the signatures dissolving it had barely dried before Hudson and DeSantis tried to derail a game plan passed by the city council in March 2006 to ensure that the Strategic Plan continued to move forward even without the Attorney General's office looking over the department's shoulder.

Which of course should fill anyone in this city with a strong positive feeling that Hudson, DeSantis or even City Attorney Gregory Priamos for that matter are fully on board with ensuring that the police department is heading in the right direction. Except they're throwing off a bunch of signs that they are not and certainly since they have eight direct employers who sit on the dais at city council meetings, it's likely either they're getting direction from their employers to behave in that way or their actions regarding the police department are being ignored by elected officials.

And we also know that this current commission is chock filled with members who identify more strongly with factions at City Hall than they do the communities in Riverside. They've made it abundantly clear to people who attend meetings that the only show that they're going to see is how dysfunctional the commission has become. Most recently, its members appeared more consumed with knocking each other off the stage than in getting anything done. The majority viewpoint led by Soon-to-be-Chair Peter Hubbard and Art Santore seem more intent on not just stamping out any minority voices but in trying to back door votes to put people in a position where they might have to resign from the commission.

They made that abundantly clear when even after they knew they would lose Commissioner John Brandriff for sure and possibly endanger the statuses of Chani Beeman and Brian Pearcy, they kept pushing it. Hubbard stuck his nose in the air and finally sensed that perhaps this wasn't the time or place to keep pushing that agenda. But even after he was perfectly willing to step away from it, Santore kept pushing the issue. It's gotten to the point where the commissioners value each other so little that one faction seems so intent in ensuring that the only perspective and voice that gets heard is its voice. The last foray into knocking each other down so disgusted two community members that they walked out in the middle with others following. The newest commissioner who's replacing Jim Ward and had yet to be sworn in, left about halfway through perhaps rethinking what he would be getting himself into when he becomes the eighth member of the most dysfunctional commission in the city.

The CPRC appears so intent on rubber stamping City Hall's agenda and in beating each other up as individual members that addressing any community/police relations issue as mandated in the city's charter is clearly beyond it. But some city council members are starting to get more active in monitoring what's going on with the commission including most particularly, the length of time it takes the commission and police department to investigate, process and review complaints filed by the public.

And then there's the other charter power that the CPRC has refused to exercise in this issue which has of course also been duly picked up by the HRC.

(excerpt, Section 810 (h))

Review and advise the Riverside Police Department in matters pertaining to police policies and practices.

This power was exercised by the HRC which was addressing a policy and practice involving the Riverside Police Department and how the communities perceived it. At the same time this was going on, the people who pull the strings of the CPRC were trying to limit its purview over policy review and recommendations by saying that this could only take place regarding policies which were directly connected to specific complaints filed with the commission. But if you read the charter, you'll notice there's no language which narrows policy review and the power of the commission to "advise" the police department on policy and practice except perhaps in the mind of the city manager's office. But the CPRC dropped the ball on this issue by once again opting out of performing its charter mandated duty. Fortunately, the HRC guided only by municipal ordinance is getting the job done.

And what does the CPRC? Try to throw each other off the island and buy themselves nifty shirts. Which they paid for with their own money but apparently have to return toDeSantis when they leave and can only wear them when he sees fit. At least some of the commissioners like Chani Beeman, John Brandriff and even Brian Pearcy when he shows up try to do their job under the city charter but alas, they're currently a minority among those who seem to be constantly waiting for their handlers to instruct them on what to do next to dilute the effectiveness of the CPRC.

Coming up, there will be a prime example of how not to foster good community and police relations in technicolor which unfortunately took place in Eastside not too long ago. For every two steps forward, one step backward or how the saying goes. And so is the same with the Riverside Police Department.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

This study has been MIA since 2007

Leach did say that he pledged to do a study of whether or not the police department was disparately arresting and detaining Latinos in comparison to other racial groups. That's going to be mirroring studies done in other cities including San Jose. But you have to wonder. The city manager's office provided $50,000 for the police department several years ago to do a traffic pretext study for 2006-08 and after the raw data was collected, it was sent to a professor at California Baptist University for analysis in the form of a written report. Yet to this date, no such report covering that time period has ever been released to the public.

So what happened to that pretext traffic study report? Will it ever see the light of day and if not, why?

The Press Enterprise covered the city council's recent sailing regatta which raised money to help fund the city's sailing program and several charities. They didn't send a reporter to the event but someone wrote on the event anyway.


Davis said his victory was beginner's luck. Finishing after him were Councilmen Mike Gardner, Chris Mac Arthur, Steve Adams, Andy Melendrez and Rusty Bailey.

Davis, whose charity is Meals on Wheels, also credited Lanny Coon's instruction the day before the race.

"I did exactly what Lanny told me to do," said Davis, who represents Ward 4.

Coon, 71, of Riverside, was in the sailing business his entire career. He retired earlier this year and has been working to jump-start the sailing program.

He first became involved with sabots on Lake Evans in 1959, when he took a summer job with the city as a college sophomore. His assignment was to launch a youth sailing program. He got local service clubs to help with lessons and a few dozen students to participate. The program was a success, he said.

A certificate of recall is expected to be handed to Lake Elsinore's City Hall involving the recall of one of its councilmen.

The economic recovery in the Inland Empire could take years.

The number of cars issued to employees of Riverside County has been decreasing lately. Many of those being returned are from the District Attorney's office.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Last week, the county Economic Development Agency, which manages facilities, made 80 additional parking spaces available in a downtown county garage for the investigators' cars, agency spokesman Tom Freeman said. Investigators can pick up their county cars there each day and leave them there safely each night, he said.

Now, three take-home cars remain in the department, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Keenan said Tuesday. District attorney's employees on call for homicide cases use those vehicles, so they can reach crime scenes as quickly as possible, he said.

The district attorney's office is one of several departments to reduce their use of take-home vehicles, said county spokeswoman Lys Mendez.

The reductions come after the countywide audit found that one in five -- or 1,055 of the county's 5,300 cars and trucks -- were driven home by employees. The county pays to fuel and maintain all its vehicles. It was paying an average of $4,435 annually for each employee with a take-home car to commute to and from work, the report said.

The audit said the district attorney's office was providing take-home cars to more than 100 employees who did not require them to do their jobs.

Which Inland Empire city has the gang intervention and prevention program which is the darling of the League of Cities? It's not Riverside which has let its once nationally renowned program, Project Bridge, go fallow, it's San Bernardino.

If Mayor Ron Loveridge wins reelection, he's selling the promise that he'll be appointed or elected the president of the League of Cities but he'll be presiding over the honoring of what's happening in San Bernardino rather than Riverside.

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