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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tis the season in River City

"Yes Rusty, we should look at all city commissioners to see if there is a conflict of interest, just as we should do for any member on the city council or other publicly elected officers."

---"Black Riversider" in response to Councilman Rusty Bailey's latest foray into hyperbole during the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting last week.

Testimony is scheduled to continue in the ongoing criminal trial involving former Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman. I've received some interesting responses to the coverage of the trial in this blog and the trial itself. Unfortunately, the Press Enterprise which used to cover keynote trial proceedings more vigorously hasn't been able to do so most likely due to its depleted staff, given how many of its most experienced staff reporters, editors and photographers have been given first buyouts and then pink slips in the past two years. Name a senior reporter you've grown familiar with reading and odds are, that person's gone. So the coverage of trials like everything else hasn't been quite what it used to be. But it's not entirely fair to blame a newspaper for failing to cover its beats adequately if that's clearly not the objective of those who make the operational and personnel decisions.

The Los Angeles Times has been cited by some as the newspaper of the Inland Empire. Oh really? The office space the newspaper used to house its former Inland Empire bureau is rented to a law firm at the moment and there's no longer even an Inland Empire section under the "local news" category on its Web site. Besides, the Press Enterprise never did quite go as far to marry editorial and news content with advertising like the Times did, even placing advertisements on its front page right on A-1.

Still, it's been interesting hearing comments about opinions about the testimony of various witnesses including officers and one comment from an individual who said that Forman was only the tip of the iceberg in the police department. Hmmm, that's not very good news if that's true, because an iceberg by nature is only 10% visible and the rest, not. There's certainly issues that have risen in this trial involving the police department that warrant further examination from supervisory accountability, to the integrity of the audio recording downloading process (to keep track on whether anything's actually being downloaded at all) and the Early Warning System. Not to mention behavior by some male police officers at crime scenes where they are present, certainly in the presence of women's clothing. Because when they are wearing that uniform and that badge, they represent over 300 police officers at varying ranks and assignments who weren't even there. After apologizing to the victim for what they've done with her clothes, they should apologize to those 300 + people they work alongside.

Someone I asked about the lingerie incident remarked that since it took place in the presence of a woman who lived in the apartment and at least one female officer, it could be an isolated event or cultural over spill from issues faced by the police department pertaining to gender. After all, if the male officers who participated in that unfortunate activity did so in the presence in the women, both officers and civilians, then what would that say about what's going on inside the agency? In a department where male officer attrition is at 29% and female officer, 44%, that's an interesting quandary.

Someone asked if Forman is going to testify and that question should probably be directed to his defense attorney, Mark Johnson but it's unusual for police officers on trial to testify in cases. They usually rely on the cross-examination of the prosecution's own witnesses and presentation of their own character witnesses in lieu of having the officer involved testify.

Riverside's in its winter season and soon to begin another holiday break but there will be several meetings that will be held this month including those involving the city council, which is set to meet on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at both 3 and 5:30 p.m. This agenda details what will be discussed as well as what won't.

Mayor elect Ron Loveridge will be receiving the oath of office for like, the trillionth time.

In closed session, among other thing the council and Loveridge will be briefed on a claim filed against it by Charter Communications. Here is the report but the laser fiche appears to be down or running very slowly so you might have to wait until Monday to read it. The city is working on fixing it if it hasn't completed that already.

Also there might be a city council member substitution while the Transportation Committee discusses a key issue in the fourth ward involving the Overlook road quagmire.

Fumbling the Ball:

CPRC and Ethics Complaints (round 2)

On the wake of the last ethics complaint involving Community Police Review Commission Chair Peter Hubbard, comes the second involving a CPRC commissioner, this time Chani Beeman. The complaint was filed against her by outgoing Chair Sheri Corral around the time she resigned. The allegations were that Beeman was rude during the meetings to other commissioners, which is kind of funny on a commission where that kind of behavior is all relative.

However, the city has once again violated this resolution when it comes to the processing of ethics complaints involving members of the city's boards and commissions. According to the language, complaints involving these individuals are supposed to be sent to the chairs of the boards and commissions for resolution at that level. If the board or commission can't resolve the complaint there, it is then forwarded to the city clerk's office which then forwards it to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee for a hearing date. However, the city government has once again bypassed the process it's supposed to follow just as it did ethics complaints against city officials and has sent it straight to the committee.

Not only that, the subject of the complaint, Beeman apparently learned of the hearing date for that complaint through reading this article in the Press Enterprise, never having been notified directly by the city when the complaint against her would be heard. The city government needs to provide two explanations in a public venue as to why first, it's violating its own written resolution on handling ethics complaints involving board and commission members and two, why it's failing to provide proper notification in writing to individuals who are subjects of ethics complaints. You shouldn't have to read about when a complaint is going to be heard and ultimately decided upon that involves you through the Press Enterprise.

It's nothing new that city officials have been treating members of this particular beleaguered commission rather heavy handed ever since they voted last year essentially establishing policy and procedure for the commission's handling of investigations (which it no longer does) of officer-involved deaths. But then again, Beeman doesn't work for the city, either as an employee or an employee of an independent contractor so that's apparently adequate reason for her to be subjected to a different procedure than was American Medical Response director/management employee Peter Hubbard.

But then there are those who have faith in the creation and implementation of an ethics code and complaint process and there are those of us who don't, especially since it's being handed off to the city government to handle. So far, the city government's track record just isn't that great, given that only two complaints out of about six filed have even made it to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee which puts on quite a good (and very entertaining) show especially when City Attorney Gregory Priamos throws out a good ad lib now and then but what's been put on display are good lessons on why Riverside will never have an effective process until the deciding body is an independent panel of city residents.

Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely and other members of the Group have offered up great recommendations of changes to this process which so far have been met with a mixed reception, particularly one that advocates giving the city residents the choice of having their complaints heard by a panel of retired judicial officers.

Watching the city council and mayor stumble so badly over the whole ethics issue particularly the ethics complaint process in the wake of the erupting scandal in San Jacinto is an interesting study, not so much in contrasts but some might say, before and after. The cities and counties that tend to be torn apart by similar scandals are those where the leaders have difficulty grasping let alone implementing truly meaningful ethics codes and complaint processes. But in the wake of the Bradley Estates debacle, the lawsuits filed by two Riverside Police Department lieutenants, questions about the city's economic health, relationships between key development donors and elected officials (including those no longer in office), it's not surprising to see a group of apparently intelligent well-versed elected officials completely mangle an ethics process. So much so, they completely disregard the written resolution which outlines the procedure in fairly specific language that it voted to pass not too long ago.

But fortunately the solution to this situation is very facile. Follow the written resolution and there should really be no further least with following the appropriate procedure. Then it will be like, woot!

Oh my goodness, here's an update. One city councilman on the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee has responded by agreeing that the appropriate process wasn't followed and that "changes" will be made to follow the "appropriate procedure". Hopefully that pertains to the above complaint which as stated above wasn't handled appropriately and in fact, the way it was handled was a violation of the written procedure for handling ethics complaints involving board and commission members.

Finance Committee Watch

A meeting has been scheduled for Monday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. but of course if you have been following this ongoing situation, you know that just because a meeting is scheduled to take place doesn't mean it will. Canceling scheduled meetings even tentatively scheduled ones, is just treated as the most normal thing and defended adamantly included by Finance Committee Chair Councilwoman Nancy Hart in a speech she made during the time set aside at city council meetings for comments by elected officials. At that same meeting, she defended the decisions made to cancel every meeting that had been scheduled before November this year.

The Finance Committee met last month for the first time since Dec. 8, 2008 and was attended by city residents and pretty much led by Asst. City Manager/Financial CEO/Treasurer Paul Sundeen. It is also tentatively scheduled to meet sometime in January 2010 to discuss the most recent audit done on the city's budget by an outside accounting firm. Will that meeting ever take place? Will it be canceled in the 11th hour? Will Sundeen chair it?

Stay tuned and find out!

Happy Birthday Temecula

One of Riverside County's cities hits a milestone birthday but what will happen next?


Ayres and the Man who Allegedly Owned Him

Why did one developer load the coffers of one of San Jacinto's now indicted councilmen? Actually the developer got indicted too and it appears that if the indicted councilman, Jim Ayres had won his election to serve in the hallowed walls of the State Assembly up north, he would have been in the developer's pocket.

The sad thing is that the Inland Empire is ripe for this form of old-fashioned mutual back-scratching corruption because of the heavy presence of development firms in this region, given the rapid growth of both commercial and residential development in what was once the fastest growing region of the United States. Look at the political campaign statements filed by many a candidate for a government position and you'll see in many, lists of contributors who are developers, usually from Orange County or other places outside the Inland Empire. After all, its the residents of cities like Riverside who are supposed to shop locally, not the politicians.

In other words, don't look under the surface of other spots in the region because it's likely that you won't like what you find.

A former Los Angeles Police Department officer was arrested for committing burglary at a church.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Charles Mottern, 45, of Irvine, was Tasered after he allegedly tried to flee from Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies, who were investigating reports of property stolen from the church, according to authorities quoted by the station.

Mottern had been working at the church since August 2008 as a security guard, sheriff's officials say. Church officials reportedly noticed that items began disappearing, including cameras, computers and radios after Mottern had been hired.

Last Thursday, security guards at the church interrupted a burglary in progress and saw a suspect flee in a black BMW.

In Maywood, California where the police department is being pressured by the State Attorney General's office to reform its practices, an elected official has resigned in protest of the indecision over renewing a police contract with neighboring Cudahy. The Maywood city government is known for its infinite wisdom, having appointed two interim police chiefs for the beleaguered police department, both of them having criminal records and/or having been fired from the department. Only after Deputy Attorney General Lou Verdugo (who had authored Riverside's very own consent decree in 2001) threatened to file a lawsuit against the city, did they kick the second one out and reappoint a new one, who actually didn't have a criminal record.

The Mission Inn: A look back

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older