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

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mayor Ron Loveridge Directs Human Relations Commission to Deal with Nazi Problem

Snapshot of a Commission

Human Relations Commission

When: Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m.

Where: Mayor's Ceremonial Room at City Hall

What: Neo Nazi and anti-Nazi rallies

The Human Relations Commission met on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. to address what has become the problem with a group of Neo Nazis demonstrating in Riverside in recent months. The Nazis are actually a chapter of the National Socialist Movement that is based out of Detroit, Michigan and numbers about several hundred members in the United States. If you can't read through the Web site, the renowned source, Wikipedia published this article summarizing them. The Riverside chapter is actually the so-called state headquarters and was started in 2005 during times apparently much quieter than they are now because the city hadn't seen or heard much from these Nazis until earlier this autumn.

These are what the so-called Nazis look like. They may or may not shave their heads. They wear tee-shirts where the American flag has been hybridized by the swastika. Ironic, considering how many Americans died fighting the Nazis in Europe. They're not raising their arms for a deodorant commercial but to invoke the Heil Hitler sign that the Nazis in Germany did when they were in the presence of people higher up in the pecking order than they were in the structural hierarchy. They basically despise anyone who's not a White Christian Anglo-Saxon straight person and think that they don't have a right to live in the United States even as citizens.

The Nazis are directed by their 25 point plan which is here but you're kind of limited to being able to only access it through the European languages. The Swahili or Hindi or Mandarin Chinese versions of the plan aren't available yet and there's no date yet announced when versions of the Nazi platform will be included online in those and other languages.

No Nazis attended the HRC meeting, but about two dozen concerned residents and members and leaders of community organizations and various groups against hate appeared offering input on the recent rallies and offering action plans. People criticized the counter demonstrators who until there were counter rallies against the Nazis to criticize, didn't have much to say about the issue at all.

They tried to present themselves as the voice of reason when that voice might have been quite helpful at about 10:05 a.m. on the day of the October protest at Madison and Railroad Street when a group of people ran across the street to attack the Nazis and the fistfight started. It was interesting because the Brown Berets who said that they were supposed to offer security at the rally blamed the police for conspiring to cause a riot and they said they had video proof of this happening at least 12 times without mentioning that there's also video posted everywhere from one end of the internet to the other of a group of them including the guy who spoke at the meeting rushing across a thinly drawn police line and over a couple of steel barricades to attack the Nazis within five minutes of their arrival. It's like a bar fight where the bouncers rather than preventing it or stopping it actually start it. It was interesting to watch their leader say that his organization was the only thing stopping violence from breaking out in Casa Blanca at the October rally.

But here are some snapshots taken of the meeting. They're not great because people don't keep their bodies and arms still when discussing controversial issues. But I have to say that Chair Gladys Walker ran a tight ship by keeping the meeting moving while respecting the right for the public to be heard. It's such an interestingly and rather marked contrast to the somewhat more dysfunctional and intensely micromanaged Community Police Review Commission which resembles a free for all brawl more than it does this commission when it conducts its monthly meetings. Someone said as they left that it's really nice to have a commission where it's apparent that its members respect each other.

Maybe it's just a coincidence or maybe it's because the HRC runs out of the Mayor's office not the city manager's office and the HRC has a parliamentarian at its meetings not a pair of city attorneys and a manager who wears like three different hats.

[Hate crime expert, Brian Levin from the California State University, San Bernardino addresses the Human Relations Commission at a special meeting.]

[Members of the Human Relations Commission including Chair Gladys Walker discuss the recent Neo-Nazi demonstrations in Riverside.]

Some commissioners spoke before they took public comment and some waited until afterward. Guest Speaker, Brian Levin, a former NYPD police officer who is now a nationally recognized expert on hate crimes provided information on the latest batch of Neo Nazis to hit Riverside. He also provided a history of the national organization of the NSM (which was founded by some Nazis 35 years ago) which he said historically had been the "laughing stock" of the Nazi movement in this country. Today, it's the largest by default because most of the others had splintered off as their leaders got arrested for crimes and some of the organizations themselves had imploded. He said that the Nazis' strategy is to go into polarized areas and to try to foment a violent response to them so that they can either claim to be victims of violence or sue the cities for not protecting them. The NSM chapters have been having these demonstrations at day laborer sites all over the country to prepare for their national rally which will be held in Phoenix, Arizona this month.

Levin mentioned that there were 928 hate groups in the country and it's the splintering of groups, the increased hatred of Latinos in the country masked as hatred of undocumented immigrants, the election of a biracial president and the Islamaphobia that have contributed to the increase in organizations. The hate groups have also formed alliances with biker criminal gangs.

Damon Castillo, who was once hired by the city to evaluate the HRC, was critical of the counter demonstrations and said that these were fiscally difficult times for the city and the demonstration last month cost the city $51,000 so the city couldn't afford to pay for any more of them. Others countered by saying that there were contingents from out of town including a troupe of anarchists in Claremont who were planning to protest anytime, anywhere the Neo Nazis did. That's what is going to happen whether you like it or not, one speaker said.

The commissioners made some comments of their own at different parts of the hour long meeting.

Commissioner Beth Skinner said that giving the Neo Nazis minimal attention was best. As long as they feel unwelcome and unwanted, then that was the message that should be sent.

Viet Tran, also on the HRC, said that the thought of the Nazis gaining a foothold in the city bothered him.

"Hate is not welcome in this city," Tran said.

Chair Gladys Walker said she didn't want to give the movement any credibility.

"It's about us, not about them" Walker said.

Commissioner Lorraine Saint said she wanted to make a positive situation out of a negative one and city residents who attended had good suggestions from having tolerance conferences to multi-cultural festivals, to reaching out to high school students and young adults who are vulnerable to recruitment by hate organizations. The commission agreed to create another ad hoc committee to address the Neo Nazis situation.

All of this came about because Mayor Ron Loveridge convened one of his Multi-Cultural Forum meetings last week and expressed his concern that something be done about this situation immediately. The city didn't demand any action be taken when the Nazis announced that they were going to protest in September. The city didn't demand action after the first rally and counter demonstrations (although Loveridge did condemn the Nazis during comments at a city council meeting). Not even when the Nazis announced they were going to return to Indiana and Madison in Casa Blanca to protest in October. No, it wasn't until the second counter demonstration put Riverside on news channels and in stories published through the Associated Press wire that showed Riverside on a map with a swastika imposed over it that something had to be done. Because of that, it's not really clear what Loveridge and others at the 'Hall are upset with more, the Nazis (which they clearly don't like) or the counter demonstrators namely because the confrontation between the two entities is what brings in the media to cover a part of Riverside that City Hall might not want prospective companies trying to do business with Riverside during an economic downturn to see.

Although it's clearly the Nazis that has got City Hall upset, the powers that be in Riverside have never been fond of street demonstrations which of course, make it more difficult to sell Riverside as an economic entity, a "most livable" city and so forth. And that's become more important because it's clear that the recession which is said to be ending elsewhere is still entrenched in Riverside and the rest of the Inland Empire and that the tax revenue in Riverside is still in decline (as the city again readjusts its budget). Still, the move towards utilizing the HRC is much better than the city's decision to hire a public relations firm after the fatal officer-involved shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998.

But the commission didn't really address the strong anti-Latino sentiment (and this group experienced the greatest hate increase in hate crimes including citizens) that is what drives the Neo Nazis to believe that Riverside's fertile recruiting ground for their brand of hate. Mix that in with the high unemployment rate of at least (officially) 15% and the housing crash in Riverside and it's not surprising that a bunch of Neo Nazis has suddenly reared its collective head after staying below the radar for four years.

Day After Election, City Announces Potential Layoffs

Not long after Riverside City Hall settled a labor dispute with its largest union, the SEIU General Unit, it's released news that more employee layoffs might be looming due to a projected $4 million decline in revenue. Which is worse than what the county and state are facing, according to the article. It's interesting that this news waited until the day after the mayoral election to slip out. No actually, it's called playing politics to ensure that another incumbent doesn't get penalized while running for office with an untimely piece of unfortunate civic news.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Just after winning re-election Tuesday, Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge acknowledged the looming deficit and said the council will have to decide whether to make cuts or spend reserves. Councilmen Paul Davis and Mike Gardner said in separate phone interviews Wednesday that layoffs may be necessary, and Gardner said the council may get a budget update and begin addressing the deficit as soon as December. So far this fiscal year the city has only made small job cuts, and Gardner cautioned that it's too early to say if there will be more. "Layoffs are certainly on the table. I'm just not sure they'll be part of the solution," he said. Any layoffs likely wouldn't happen until after Jan. 15. The council last month agreed with the city's largest employee union not to cut union jobs until then. Davis said he expects the gap to be closed with a combination of layoffs and spending general fund reserves. While Loveridge said Tuesday the city has continued to provide residents "first-rate services" even as the budget has been trimmed, Davis said he's worried about cutting staff to the point that services suffer.

It's interesting that in a city where layoffs are taking place, its infrastructure still remains quite management heavy, including having management in positions where there's no one to manage. Which makes a lot of sense naturally. For one thing, does the city manager's office really need four assistant managers, especially since every city manager until Brad Hudson had to make do with just one assistant city manager, whether it be Larry Paulson under John Holmes, Penny Culbreath-Graft under George Carvalho or even interim, Jim Smith under interim Tom Evans.

But under Hudson? Four assistant city managers. In these difficult economic times when employees much lower than the management level are facing more layoffs (and some management positions in other city departments have been frozen) can the city really afford to keep all four of them in these positions, since two of them were directors or lower level management not too many years ago.

Still Counting Ballots In Mayoral Race

More on Riverside's mayoral including what's up with those write in votes that haven't been counted yet even though the results of the election have been announced.

Meanwhile, the city council election in Norco continues on as one of the candidates refuses to concede in a tightly contested race.

Let's Get Ready To Rumble:

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office Vs The Sheriff's Department

A feud broken out between two of Riverside County's public safety departments which has led to investigators from the Riverside County District Attorney's office boycotting the Ben Clark Training Center, which is run by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff said he doesn't object to the district attorney having a special activities unit. He said he "stays clear of meddling" in other departments' business. But Sniff added he was "somewhat puzzled as to the need for a SWAT team or SWAT training within any district attorney's office.

"Very specially trained units are much more closely tied to law enforcement agencies, with 'uniformed first responder' responsibilities within the criminal justice system," Sniff said.

Horst said the unit does not carry out the more familiar SWAT activities -- no armored vehicles, hostage negotiators or helicopters.

But, Horst said, basic SWAT training is proper for the roles his office does take on. He said it also fits guidelines suggested by the California attorney general's office and police training standards.

"I think it is safe to say this bureau has taken a more pro-active role in public safety," Horst said.

Election by Appointment Continues in Riverside County

Riverside County supervisors appointed a sheriff now one of them has been appointed as well as Sacramento selects the latest new supervisor. Who else but John Benoit

(excerpt, Inside Riverside)

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has once again shown his disregard and utter contempt for the people of Riverside County by appointing a member of the do-nothing State Legislature to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. If you thought the budget was bad before, just wait for John Benoit to put his years of experience on the State Budget to work on the County's Budget.

Fortunately Benoit will have to face election to the seat next June. He will likely face former Republican State Senator Jim Battin. That will likely be one of the costliest and nastiest races in the history of Riverside County.

The power struggle between Atlanta's police commission and that city's police department continues onward.

(excerpt, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Chief Richard Pennington said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday that APD is “currently developing a standard operating procedure that will define procedures between the Atlanta Citizen’s Review Board and Atlanta Police personnel

His office did not respond when asked via e-mail if officers could be disciplined if they decline to answer the board’s questions.

Meanwhile, the police union said its lawyers would continue advising members to decline to answer the board’s questions. The union contends their answers to the board could be used to bring criminal charges.

“We still strongly believe they [the Citizen Review Board] shouldn’t be doing these investigations,” said Sgt. Scott Kreher, president local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.

He said there are many other agencies better equipped to do these kinds of inquiries — APD, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, to name a few.

“That may not be the sentiment of the people of the city of Atlanta,” said Cristina Beamud, executive director for the board. “The people of Atlanta, through their elected representatives, have required that an oversight board be established so that citizens can review the investigations that are conducted into these types of allegations.”

But the commission urges the chief of the police department to keep his promise. Doesn't going to look like it's going to happen. But then again, this city's police department was investigated by multiple agencies after the murder of Kathryn Johnston by narcotics officers employed there and at least one investigating party told the world he found evidence of corruption.

Another Los Angeles Police Department officer has been indicted, this one for illegal importing guns

(excerpt, Contra Costa Times)

Johnny Augustus Baltazar, 50, who was placed on administrative leave by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) last year, is named in an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury October 23. Baltazar is charged with one count of unlawful interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court Monday afternoon.

The indictment is the culmination of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that began when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted and seized the weapons at Los Angeles International Airport.

According to the indictment, Baltazar sought to ship a container packed with firearms and ammunition to Belize. The weapons included eight .40-caliber handguns and two 9 mm handguns along with more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition.

Investigators believe the weapons were intended for use by officers with a Belize-based company called Elite Security which is owned by the defendant. The defendant did not have the required licenses to export the firearms.

A police officer currently sitting in jail in Missouri talks about the pressure to steal money seized by the police from drug dealers.

(excerpt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Liston was the lead officer, the one responsible for writing the report and logging the evidence. And for turning in the cash.

"I had no intention of taking it," he said in a recent interview after being sentenced to federal prison for doing just that.

Liston said that for weeks, he had been under increasing pressure from one of his partners, Officer Bobby Lee Garrett.

Welcome Home

My cousin Bruce is on his way home from his year-long deployment as an individual reserve in Bagdad, Iraq.

Two Financial meetings in Riverside's City Hall

Friday, Nov. 6, 2009:
The Investment Committee meets on the Seventh Floor at City Hall at 2 p.m. and the much anticipated Finance Committee meeting will take place after that at 2:30 p.m.

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