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, October 06, 2009

Eastside hosts a community policing forum as the Strategic Plan prepares to sunset


---A Phoenix Police Department officer heard on a 911 tape after he shot a home owner six times mistaking him for the burglar.

[Riverside Police Department Chief Russ Leach addresses an audience at a community policing forum held at Zacateca's restaurant in the Eastside.]

Over 30 people attended a community policing forum sponsored by the Eastside Think Tank held at Zacateca's restaurant in the evening. Community members and officers mingled and talked to each other before and after brief comments were made and the officers representing the field operations, special operations and special investigations divisions were introduced.

Chief Russ Leach introduced the dozen officers who attended and felt it was important for them to interact with community members.

"Behind a badge there are real-life people," Leach said.

Leach introduced the East Neighborhood Precinct Center's new area commander, Lt. Vic Williams whose stint in the assignment had gotten off to the rocky start since he was transferred from the North NPC based in downtown Riverside.

"You're in wonderful hands with Vic Williams," Leach said.

Williams told the audience he had been working with the department for 19 years since he lateraled from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He had worked just about every assignment he could have possibly worked in the agency.

"I have a big job ahead of me but so do you," Williams said.

He told the audience that the crime in the Eastside was down by 19%. A number which ironically hurt the police department's ability to obtain stimulus funding from the DOJ's COPS office earlier this year. The city had applied for money to take 15 positions off the ice leaving 10 still unfilled but the news that came back wasn't good. The city wasn't going to receive a dime.

That's not really all that surprising because if you look at the agencies that did receive stimulus money, agencies that laid off officers (like Hemet) and/or either furloughed or planned to furlough officers (like San Bernardino and Redlands) received money as did sheriff departments including Riverside County's who were trying to fill staffing positions in their corrections division. The police department froze many positions including those at the supervisory and management level, most of which remain empty.

City Manager Brad Hudson told the Human Resources Board at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 5 that following the order of city council members, he had unfrozen police officer positions and the department was hiring again. What happened was that six positions in the patrol division had been taken off ice and within two or three days, the agency received at least 80 applicants, a scenario that has played out at any other law enforcement agency hiring across the country.

But after that period, the rest of the frozen positions remained just that, frozen.

The Riverside Police Department By the Numbers

(October 2009)

The recession and resultant budget cuts have hit the police department hard as they've hit other city departments. Currently its total personnel vacancy rate is about 10% and the vacancies are around 35 in the sworn division including four lieutenants and up to eight sergeants by the end of the year. Officers retired as did detectives and in the police department, detective vacancies are filled with what else, officers.

The department has experienced the loss of much of its experienced officers including supervisors in the past year or so due to the lack of upward movement and a lot of experienced officers being close to the retirement age of 50 and/or 30 years (in accordance with the CalPers 3% at 50).

There was some speculation that two lieutenant positions and four sergeant positions might be opening up soon but there's no certainty as there hasn't been any supervisory promotions in months and budget cuts still definite the current and future economic picture. Most of the promotions that have been done involved detective positions because of an MOU that has existed between the detectives and city management since about the early 1990s. In Riverside, it's not easy to find out information from the police department or City Hall on the staffing figures involving supervisors through the CPRA channels. Why? Because every CPRA request to any department in the city gets directed to the office of City Attorney Gregory Priamos and since that practice has become formalized, there's very little information that trickles out of the police department involving the issues that currently define it for better or worse.

The closest any CPRA request got on the officer/supervisor information was a copy of a PowerPoint presentation of an audit performed by a consultant hired by the city which didn't include the numerical figures for the then current officer/supervisor ratio. In fact, it didn't include any information at all. Either Priamos submitted it as a response to the CPRA request without checking first to see if the relevant information was even on it or his office was being disingenuous.

It is critical that information like this including documentation of how the statistics on the officer/supervisor ratios are calculated be released as the public information that it clearly is. Why the city is withholding or providing the wrong source of information on an issue that impacts public safety of city residents in this city and police officers in the department, well there are clearly many reasons behind that, none of them are good reasons for doing anything but shielding the operations of a public agency including its staffing levels from the city residents whose monies provide the city's funding for its total annual budget including the police department.

The department is a very young department given that the 80% turnover that took place beginning after 2000 and the hiring of mostly young officers in their early 20s has been most prevalent as a result. Despite the department's attempts to bring in an influx of older, more experienced laterals, that demographic of the average officer being about 23 years old and with 2-3 years experience never really changed much.

Consequently, proper supervision by experienced sergeants and lieutenants becomes much more critical. Under the stipulated judgment, the department had nearly doubled its number of sergeants to satisfy mandates involving the officer to supervisor ratio on patrol shifts and increased staffing in several divisions including the Internal Affairs Division. The number of lieutenants also increased sharply due to the mandate for 24 hour watch commanders which meant having lieutenants staffing every shift.

The percentages of patrol shifts led by lieutenants actually hovered at about 83-85% during most of the latter years of the five-year period of the stipulated judgment and a year or so after the judgment's dissolution in March 2006. Then it began to decrease because the financial crunch led to cuts in personnel overtime. Since lieutenants earn flat salaries under the Riverside Police Administrators' Association's MOU with the city, they aren't eligible for over time like sergeants (who while staffing watch commands earn as much as top-level lieutenants) so they became the department's work horses in a sense.

Consequently, the lieutenants were in some cases working double assignments in one day, or in some cases up to 30 hours over a two day period in the latter part of 2008 and possibly for a longer period than that. Brann had warned the city council and city management that the staffing conditions in the police department might put supervisors including lieutenants in a position where they might face increased burnout during an audit he gave to the body in 2008. The city's response? That was the last audit Brann would ever give despite having six months left on his contract with the city manager's office. See, audits are perfectly fine as long as all the news is good. But in the meantime, the issues that Brann did raise in that area came to pass and the command staff apparently had to find a way to relieve some of the work done by their watch commanders. Because after all, even watch commanders aren't machines.

In fact, not too long ago, members of the command staff apparently had discussions about serving as relief watch commanders while the lieutenants were on their vacations (which due to the shortage of lieutenants weren't always easy to schedule). Even the chief would serve in this capacity. It's not known for sure by the public if it actually came to this, but can you imagine all the work including the long-range strategic planning that doesn't get done if the management is manning the watch commands?

I was talking to someone at the mayor's candidate forum at the All Saints Church after it was over who knew a lot about city politics and we discussed the staffing shortages at the police department. This person made this statement in response, one simple sentence. That's what you get when you put the assistant city manager in charge of it. That statements sticks with you after the forum is done and everyone's gone home. Is that really what it's come to, three years after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment? That a former public information officer with the county who is now the assistant city manager is pretty much at the helm of the police department?

The question's been asked how would the assistant city manager know about the number of officers needed to go out into the field or do investigations. How would the assistant city manager know how many supervisors are needed to provide the appropriate supervision and training of the officers in patrol? What is the answer to those questions?

Speaking of which, here is the police department by the numbers under the city management's watch. Not a survey of who's there but who's not or might not be there after year.

Lieutenant vacancies:

Kenneth Carpenter, Traffic (vacancy filled by Leon Phillips)

Pete Villaneuva, field operations

Rick Tedesco, Special Operations-Traffic

Ken Raya, Special Operations, K9/Youth Court and other programs

Bob Meier: Investigations (postion, not vacancy filled by Mike Perea)

Brian Baitx, Audit and Compliance Panel

Sergeant vacancies:

Randy Eggleston, (vacancy filled by Dan Warren)

Kevin Stanton, (vacancy filled by Chad Milby)

Leon Phillips, (vacancy opened when Phillips promoted)

Lisa Williams, (vacancy opened when Williams transferred to new position in Communications)

Terry Mayer, (disability retirement)

Johnny Romo (vacancy filled by Julian Hutzler)

Don Tauli, (stayed an extra year)

Patrick Waters

Duane Beckman

*Frank Orta (Not vacant, transferred to graveyard, may retire in July)

*Frank Patino (Not vacant)

**Another vacancy

*These two sergeants transferred to graveyard shifts which provides them with an extra $500 a month in shift differential pay which is not uncommon before retirement.

**Possibly another vacancy in Special Operations

Patrol officer vacancies: 19-25

Civilian employee vacancies: At least 34 including many in customer service positions and the reporting process

Retirements aren't uncommon during periods where a section of the department is reaching the age where they become eligible for retirement and also when upward advancement isn't taking place and not anticipated to take place for an indefinite period of time. At this place and time, that impacted a lot of supervisors so much so that the police department is having to shuffle its organizational infrastructure around again, including inside its Special Operations Division.

Lt. Larry Gonzalez who served as the area commander of the East NPC since January 2006 left that position during a fairly large reshuffling of lieutenants in mid-July. He moved on to head the Aviation and SWAT units in the Special Operations division which usually includes two other lieutenants who each oversee various programs and units umbrellaed beneath them. Lt. Rick Tedesco was assigned to overseeing the Traffic Division and Lt. Ken Raya, several divisions including the Police and Corrections Team (PACT) and K9. But among those retiring by the end of the year were both Tedesco and Raya, which left Gonzalez the only lieutenant assigned to the entire Special Operations Division, one he had only been assigned to less than six months. As it stands now, Gonzalez will inherit a few programs including PACT while Youth Court and several others will go elsewhere with whoever handles the Traffic Division. The K9 division may return back to its earlier home in the Field Operations Division. `

The loss of lieutenants is felt very keenly, not the least of which is in the patrol division but the audit and compliance panel lost its lieutenant when Baitx retired earlier this year and other divisions lost their lieutenants. As for the loss of sergeants, there's been a variety of different statistics provided from various people about the current officer/supervisor ratio that rank from the rosy 4.5 to 1 ratio provided by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis (to counter consultant Joe Brann's figure of 6 to 1) in June 2008. The number from the audit and compliance panel as of a few months ago was between the 5-6 to 1 range.

But the patrol division isn't the only one affected as the department's moved sergeants into that divisions from both central and special investigations. The Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Division has lost its sergeant and now shares one with the Homicide Unit which traditionally is fairly large and very busy. In Special Investigations, the vice (with two detectives, one officer) and the gang (six detectives) units share a sergeant, which naturally forces a greater reliance on the officers assigned to those units to be more autonomous and for members of that unit to be experienced in their positions. With more retirements surely to come in the next year, the department is pretty much strapped to the point where it can't continue going in the direction it's supposed to go if there are further positions frozen. A fact which seems to be lost only on those left to make those decisions at City Hall.

It's hard to say what the future will hold for the police department but if you look at the last time that staffing levels dropped at the entry level and the supervisory ranks, what followed didn't portend well for the agency and wound up playing a large role in costing the city $22 million and five years spent under state oversight.

To Be Continued....including City Hall's commitment to community policing.

The Mystery of the Missing Finance Committee:

The City Responds!

Holy hijinks!

An interesting development happened at the city council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6 just as its action-packed evening session was dying down. When the city council members were giving their final comments, both Asst. City Manager/Finance CEO Paul Sundeen and Councilwoman Nancy Hart both spoke up and defended the decision not to hold any Finance Committee meetings at City Hall during the entire calendar year so far, in what was equivalent to a public service announcement.

The fate of the Finance Committee has been blogged about here on this site in recent weeks both here and here.

Sundeen who once was set to retire, then came back on a consulting basis and then came back, told the city council and the viewing audience that the city management would simply forward items to the entire city council for discussion and vote if they were ready to go. Hart backed his words and added that just because a meeting might be shown as scheduled on the city's Web site doesn't mean that it is obligated to actually take place. A prudent thing to do instead would be to not post tentative meeting dates for committee meetings because doing so particularly involving committees that apparently no longer meet just confuses city residents.

But it's pretty clear that what these individuals are also saying is that this might be the first year in recent history when the Finance Committee won't meet. And that likely, the posted meeting date here won't take place. That would be the one on this date:

(excerpt, city's site)

Monday, november 9, 2009


My guess is that this meeting like the others will probably be canceled pretty far ahead of time and another future date will replace it on the Web site. The city might as well do the city residents a favor and just not post tentative meeting dates on its site because you know in the real world, when people read that committees are set to meet on a certain date and time in the future, they usually do wind up believing that these meetings will actually take place. That's just how things normally work in most of the municipal environments that operate in a normal fashion. But it's certainly not the case in Riverside.

However, what was really disturbing is when you look closer at what Hart was really saying and what she's essentially saying is that when it comes to scheduling meetings, she'll wait until the city manager's office tells her when they're needed. And that reminds me of something that former councilman and current mayoral candidate, Art Gage brought up during the candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women's Voters not too long ago. He criticized the current mayor and pretty much the city council indirectly for allowing the city administration to run the city council and essentially City Hall. Hart's comments at the city council meeting about what she felt her role as a committee chair and secondarily as a city councilwoman entailed, only provided fodder for Gage's assertion.

Even though she's chair of the Finance Committee and as chair, is supposed to be the one who decides when this committee should meet, she seems to be operating under the leadership style that she's not the one who is equipped to make that decision. I received emails and other contacts from individuals not long after the meeting ended where they were pretty shocked with what message Hart was getting across. Because it seems like she's waiting for instruction from the city's administration on what to do rather than providing that instruction herself as both a city council representative and as a member of the legislative body which serves as the city manager's direct employer. That's pretty much her pattern and practice, to wait for instruction (not just advice) on the direct employers which on several occasions, she's described as hers like in the case of City Attorney Gregory Priamos.

But what is completely lost on the elected officials who support Hart's position is that one of the most important functions of the committee is that it brought key financial issues to public attention to be discussed in a public forum and where the public could sit in and offer input at these committee meetings much earlier than they would otherwise be made known to the public. Why? Because issues get worked on at City Hall then they go to subcommittees and get worked on some more in order to formulate advisory recommendations to the full city council which might receive them within two weeks, two months or whenever these committee recommendations were scheduled to go to the full city council.

As it stands now, they get worked on and go straight to the city council and the public at most gets the required 72 hour notice before that session of the city council. It leaves the impression to many city residents that the financial decisions are made behind closed doors on the Seventh Floor of City Hall and then rushed to city council on the consent calendar which if you recall, members of the public have been barred from pulling items from since July 2005.

That's quite a shocking development when you look at the meeting dates which are on the city's Web site here (just click any year, then click "agendas" or "minutes" and you'll get a list of meeting dates for that year)as having taken place from 2001-2008 here. There's no category for 2009 under the committee on this page because the Finance Committee hasn't met or really been scheduled to meet all year.

Now this is very compelling stuff to be sure and does illuminate the situation a little bit but it still doesn't explain why a committee that used to meet twice monthly hasn't met since late last year. It just makes it clear that the city for whatever reason felt it had to have Sundeen and Hart explain the current situation involving the missing committee.

It's interesting how this all plays out given the outcome of the 2009 city council elections. In those elections which took place earlier this year, there was one highly competitive city council race where both candidates, incumbent Frank Schiavone and challenger, Paul Davis were fairly evenly matched when compared to the other council races. It was the first election involving the city council to take place while the city was in its current recession and facing tremendous financial challenges to its annual budget. This situation actually greatly impacted how the election in the fourth ward played out, given that Davis' background was in finance and that he ran on a platform which included as one of its planks, financial accountability at the municipal level. The need to focus on this area was defined by the recession but the point really hit home during the emergence of the very troubling situation involving the Bradley Estates and particularly the roles in that matter played by Schiavone, Priamos and the city council members who voted to approve the Bradley Estates settlements (which were combined with other settled cases involving Friends of the Hills). It even emerged earlier in the 2007 elections when elected officials began to realize that all this spending on Riverside Renaissance wasn't automatically getting them reelected.

But one thing that people can be certain of is that the issue of financial accountability will continue to play a prominant role in upcoming city council elections in 2011 and probably 2013 because it's anticipated that Riverside and the Inland Empire won't really see an economic turnaround until then (and this talk about the "end" of the recession overall is probably a tad bit premature as the stock market is not the best indicator of the economic health as its upward movement is still based on short-term gains). And the candidates who win the elections will probably be those who either focus their platform on this and/or bring the best records to the process in this area.

Blast from the Past

Speaking of assistant city manager's, Riverside once boasted a star in this woman who worked under Former City Manager George Carvalho. She left the city not long before the city council voted 4-3 to fire Carvalho in the summer of 2004, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall. She moved onto to be chief administrator in Huntington Park and currently, Colorado Springs. Since then, the bar has slipped a little bit.

A Riverside County Superior Court presiding judge plans to unseal the search warrants in a criminal case involving a San Jacinto councilman. The Press Enterprise had gone to court to get the warrants unsealed.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The district attorney's legal counsel has previously argued in court papers that the interest in protecting the investigation outweighed the public interest in disclosing the contents of the warrants, and that the sealing protected the rights and privacy of individuals served.

"We are pleased that the court records will be made available to the public ... in unredacted form," Alonzo Wickers IV, the newspaper's attorney, said outside court Tuesday.

District attorney's spokesman John Hall declined to comment on the judge's ruling.

An interesting article on inland churches and the internet. What was also noteworthy were statistics included in the article about blogs including the fact that there are over 27 million of them that are updated at least once a month.

Colton's former city manager has left the building for a new job but did he leave some nasty surprises behind?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Admirably, Miller brought that and the overspending on the contracts for psychologist Bill Mathis and public relations consultant CV Strategies to the council's attention. And he took responsibility.

Miller, who has the energy and build of a football coach, believes in taking the bull by the horns. If the city stubs its toe, he says, it should admit it publicly.

"I'm not just the city manager, I'm the police chief. I have a standard I have to uphold," he told me in an interview in his office on Tuesday morning.

What's this? Ethics in Colton government? How refreshing.

The council brought him in to get more control and oversight of the bureaucracy, and to instill confidence in city government, he said. That will take a culture change.

He's ousting the bunker mentality and directing department heads to meet with community groups -- even Colton First, the perpetual thorn in Parrish's and Mayor Kelly Chastain's sides.

The Phoenix Police Department is being sued after one of its police officers shot a home owner believing he was a burglar.

(excerpt, ABC-News)

Even after realizing their mistake, Arambula said he was treated roughly, being dragged out of the house and transported briefly on the hood of a police car.

Now Arambula, 35, who survived but faces a lifetime of pain, is suing the city of Phoenix and the officers who responded to his house that night.

The lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Court, alleges that Phoenix Police Officer Brian Lilly and his on-scene supervisor, Sgt. Sean Coutts, quickly conspired to cover up the mistake, not realizing that 911 was still recording Arambula's call for help.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older