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

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Forman jury deliberates; San Jacinto City Council meets after indictments


Former Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman was convicted of one count of felony oral copulation under the color of authority and acquitted of a second count. He also received a hung jury on the felony count of sexual battery. Also resulting in a conviction, was a misdemeanor petty theft charge for stealing $100 as an accomplice to the third victim.

The Press Enterprise offers live blogging of the most happening city council meeting in the Inland Empire, the one in San Jacinto. So pull up a chair to the computer and enjoy!

No verdict so far in the trial of former Riverside Police Department officer Robert Forman. The jury deliberated yesterday since receiving the case. He's been charged with two felony counts of oral copulation under the threat of authority, one count of felony sexual battery and one count of misdemeanor theft. Three of the counts also include an assortment of lessor included charges including simple battery, simple assault, attempted sexual battery and misdemeanor sexual battery in connection with alleged incidents involving three different women who came forward or were approached by investigators during 2008.

There's been discussion of this trial and of the accountability measures that the department's put into place during the period of the stipulated judgment with the state of California, most particularly those involving the issuance and use of the digital audio recorders. Testimony in this case showed that several officers most particularly Forman failed to activate their departmental issued recorders when required under the current policy. That policy states that recorders are to be activated when a police officer initiates a professional contact with a member of the public, whether a traffic or pedestrian encounter. Any officer responding to that call in support of that first officer is also required to activate their recorders. Officers receive copies of the policy to read when they sign for receipt of their devices.

Recordings are to be done and stored on the media disk for downloading into a mainframe in the department and are not to be erased. If an officer fails to activate a recorder when it's required, he or she is to notify a supervisor that this has occurred and then do a report on why this happened.

Officers have been disciplined in the past for failure to activate their recorders and also for deleting them. And supervisors are responsible for ensuring that the recordings are downloaded. One department representative said that the supervisors are doing this so that they can catch any problems early on.

But then you have someone like Forman, who testified on the witness stand that he was "lazy" and either didn't activate his recorder when required or deleted recordings. If Forman testified truthfully (and not to protect himself from suspicions that he did it more recently to cover up possible misconduct), then how long did this activity take place before the department addressed it? That's a question that's come up in discussions and it's not an easy one to answer because the accountability mechanisms tied with what's supposed to be an accountability mechanism for officers to use, is completely internalized. Meaning that if an officer is not complying with the written audio recording policy that only the department would know about it, and if they don't know about it or they aren't checking, then the public has no clue that this is taking place. At least not until a case like Forman's is thrust into a public forum then it comes out through testimony or other means that there was someone dodging the written policy for some period of time.

But even though officers testified or it was discovered that they hadn't activated their department issued recorders, Forman's record whatever it was for recording or not recording proved to be the most disturbing. And even though he testified that he had violated the policy when it suited him during the entire time the recorders had been used by officers in the department, there was no documentation produced that this was indeed the case since most of the attention was placed on the two months, February and April 2008 when at least 50 recordings were either erased or otherwise unaccounted for and the media disk which likely held some or all of the recordings unaccounted for in the latter month has disappeared.

So were the recordings deleted because Forman felt "lazy" or because of what they had recorded? That's one question which will likely never be answered. Nor will the question be answered whether or not the department had discovered that these recordings had been deleted during all these alleged years that Forman said he had been deleting them. The public has been told that the accountability over the recording and downloading system was tight and ensured that any noncompliance with the policy would be noted. The public was just shown one example of a situation where in all liklihood, that didn't happen the way that it should have.

It's most probable that the majority of police officers and supervisors equipped with the recording devices and the policy which governs them do abide by what's required. Other officers record contacts that aren't required by policy to be recorded, including two officers involved in a 2006 fatal officer involved shooting which originated as a dispatch call. Chief Russ Leach has said in the past that at most a half dozen officers are having problems turning on their recording devices. During this trial, there might have been close to that number who either testified or were found to have failed recording at least once including one incident where five officers were present and only two activated their belt recorders. Even though this is a relatively small sample of officers in the department, this is probably an issue that needs some scrutiny certainly in the case of Forman's apparent history which was at least two months or as long as six years depending on whose words you believe.

So the jury's been deliberating both the facts of the case and the laws that must be applied to them. Some of the issues that have arisen are the veracity of the victims and that of the man accused of sexually assaulting them, Forman given that these four individuals and a supporting cast of other assorted witnesses have all testified to their recollections of the incidents or whether or not they even took place as alleged. Questions also have to be answered such as what does the "threatening" portion of the following penal code of two of the charged counts means.

Penal Code 288a(k) is found here.

Any person who commits an act of oral copulation, where the
act is accomplished against the victim's will by threatening to use
the authority of a public official to incarcerate, arrest, or deport
the victim or another, and the victim has a reasonable belief that
the perpetrator is a public official, shall be punished by
imprisonment in the state prison for a period of three, six, or eight

Does "threatening" mean stated words or can it be demonstrated in other ways including that of a uniformed presence. As one victim said in her testimony, Forman had never threatened her with arrest or incarceration if she didn't submit to oral copulation but that he was a police officer and she was a "drug addict". There's been some discussion in the trial and through testimony about the different levels of the police department's use of force policy including the first two levels, "uniformed presence" and "verbalization". As one attorney pointed out in the case of the first victim, when Forman arrived at her apartment in his uniform, the people there all left. Whether it was because of him being a uniformed officer or him issuing them verbal commands to leave depends on which version of events is believed.

With the first victim, there were alleged statements made by officers on the scene of a home invasion robbery in her apartment that she could face arrest. She alleged that Forman had made statements himself earlier and that when he had been in her apartment, he had told her to follow him into the bedroom. There was more corroborating testimony with her case than in the others and when Forman testified to consensual oral sex with her, he pretty much ended any chance he had of returning to the police department in several years even if acquitted of all the charges. But did he do that because he was speaking the truth or because he knew that was the strongest case against him and he didn't want to risk conviction on that charge and a prison sentence?

In the case of the third victim, one of the key issues under the law seems to be whether or not the victim was "restrained" while the alleged sexual battery took place. The defense argued that she was able to leave and did leave after it took place. There was a lessor included charge of sexual battery as a misdemeanor where the "restraint" component is not present.

At any rate, so far deliberations are continuing into the second day in the Forman case.

The CPRC Sets a Record

For one of its shortest meetings ever.

The Community Police Review Commission held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 9 with two commissioners missing and a vacancy so Chair Peter Hubbard tried to propose a meeting because most of the items on the agenda were added by the two missing commissioners. But alas, chairs can't propose motions so Hubbard had to find someone to do it for him. Not hard. So except for some housekeeping, the commission was pretty dark this month.

In closed session, the CPRC finally heard a roster of complaints that were all from this year. It's not clear whether the extensive backlog in complaints has been reduced or even relieved in the past year, although police department representatives have said that this has been the case.

But yes, it was one of the shortest meetings in CPRC history. And people have pretty much stopped attending because why bother considering that the majority of commissioners would rather not have to deal with the public. Unless they are members of the Greater Chambers of Commerce or the Rotary Club or something of that nature. Few of them do community outreach and fewer attend community meetings. Most people in this city including those who live in the neighborhoods which have the highest number of complaints have no idea who they are, or who's serving on the commission and some people still don't even know there's a commission at all, let alone the sorry micromanaged mess that it's become since City Manager Brad Hudson came to town.

But the meeting did look a bit sparse as there were no representatives from the City Attorney's office present.

The Riverside Municipal Museum discussed possible design plans for the renovation of the museum.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

After residents in 2007 panned a proposal for a combined expansion of the downtown library and museum, city officials threw it out and started over. In March, the City Council voted to build a library, retrofit the municipal auditorium and renovate and expand the museum, all at an estimated cost of up to $80 million.

Museum board members said Tuesday they'd like to see a new nature lab, room for events, conference space and the necessary wiring to someday add interactive exhibits. Board member Norton Younglove suggested the coffee shop -- an addition also being considered across the street at the library. And Chairwoman Bonnita Farmer asked about putting solar panels on the roof.

"I think for public buildings that's the way to go, down the road," she said.

Ill Gotten Gain?

The indicted officials in San Jacinto and their campaign war chests. Are people suspicious about them? Yes.

And in related news, the San Jacinto City Council Press Enterprise discusses The DUI checkpoint near downtown on the evening of the Festival of Lights.

The police chief of San Jacinto Community College's police department just needs to resign according to the Press Enterprise Editorial Board.


And Segawa's resignation would give the college police force the chance of a fresh start. The department has been disrupted by turmoil in the last year. Many of the criminal allegations mirror those found in two civil lawsuits filed by five former employees last year. The criminal counts against the chief also damage the college Police Department's credibility.

Yes, people are considered innocent until proven guilty in the U.S. justice system. But top administrative positions at public institutions require meeting a higher standard than "innocent pending trial."

Trying to stay on as police chief while fighting corruption charges can only damage Mt. San Jacinto College. Segawa's position comes with the responsibility to protect the college's interests, and resigning now is the best way to fulfill that duty.

A Los Angeles Police Department officer killed in a motorcycle accident had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. An investigation into a drinking tradition at the training academy has been launched by the department.

Upcoming Meeting

The Ward Four Meeting will be taking place Thursday, Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Orange Terrace Community Center in Orangecrest. The topics to be discussed is the Gless Ranch Center and Public Utilities issues.

It's going to rain for the rest of the week and yes it's the El Nino.

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