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

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Raining at the RPD: Arrests, DUIs and Cash Settlements

***UPDATE*** Two more claims for damages filed against the city in relation to two of the RPD's criminal cases involving former Officer Robert Forman, convicted of oral copulation under the color of authority and Det. Scott Impola who faces three misdemeanor charges including assault and unauthorized disclosure of information.

The following accounts are brought to you and all of them happened in the Riverside Police Department while it's been in its current management by City Hall. I get asked every day especially lately what's going on with the Riverside Police Department and these days, I'm scratching my head. Not at the majority of the employees who are doing their jobs in a good and professional manner but what's going on at the top of the food chain? Are the "best of the best" getting the top notch management that they deserve? And as always, who is really running the show?

I have to ask because I've been getting this question all the time.

People in the community are expressing their concern and not in the nasty way some corners might guess. But they are concerned about the agency that's entrusted to enforce the law and protect and serve them. Over time if there are ongoing episodes and problems, then that trust will erode. Inside the law enforcement agency itself, a similar trend will start becoming apparent between the bulk of the agency's employees and their management if that's not the case already. Most employees want to come to the job, do their work and then leave it but if there's issues there, that becomes increasingly difficult and people begin to ask themselves and each other what is going on.

If they see something they see as unjust in the work place, they may start filing more lawsuits internally and the city has seen that with both the Riverside Police Officers' Association and two former leaders of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association filing lawsuits in the past year or so. These lawsuits bring up important issues and have reported violations in various processes which if they are going on, it's very difficult to believe that this agency's doing what it needs to do. And if City Hall factions are over-involving themselves in the promotional process of police employees and using them to retaliate against employees, then that needs to be brought to a halt.

It's really hard to be surprised with what is going on though some of it is quite shocking when it comes to light. But it's disheartening because of all the important work that's been done by community members and by most of the civilian and sworn members of the police department in an environment which face it, hasn't always been easy what with the attempted stalling and downright shutdowns and derailings of two of the department's long-term strategic plans. the police department is paying the consequences of current direction and policies aimed at it from outside City Hall because it's not clear from inside of it who is really running the show.

If you have leaders in the police department, wouldn't you want them at community meetings, city sponsored meetings including city council meetings and wouldn't you want them to attend roll call sessions and training sessions in the police department, so that they maintain that important connection with city residents, city officials and police employees that is vital not only to a healthy agency but to its relationship with its other two partners? But is that going on at all?

You see area commanders visible which is very important and sometimes their sergeants which is also. You see deputy chiefs and nearly always the assistant chief and they play an important role too, but missing in action too often, is Chief Russ Leach who needs to be much more visible in the community and at meetings. He's the appointed leader of the police department and this is an important part of that role. But the impression is that he's practically invisible because his reins are being held by someone else. However, it's important to put him front and center on police related meetings because if you want people in the city to not be concerned about a rudderless or micromanaged police department, this is one way to do it.

News of the latest arrest not to mention rumors of the department facing millions more in budget cuts next year as the city's finances continue to look bleak, may put the upcoming new year off to a not so great start.

If you have any concerns about this issue, perhaps you should direct them to the committee of police chiefs at City Hall. Beginning with City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis. Not to mention the eight city officials who oversee them.

The Arrest Warrant

The Press Enterprise wrote this article about the arrest of Riverside Police Department Det. Scott Impola on charges of assault with a weapon able to commit great bodily injury, trespassing and unauthorized disclosure of information, stemming from an alleged incident last June. Hired in 1993, Impola was promoted to the position of detective in 2003 and was assigned to investigate crimes of violence against people including attempted murders. Now he stands charged with three misdemeanors including assault from an incident that took place about six months ago.

Per usual, there's many comments that have been left by readers in relation to the article which detailed the alleged criminal offenses which led to the veteran officer's arrest on $5,000. Many saying don't rush to judgment, others saying that he should have been facing a felony and the police department or DA is favoring them. Some saying he'll face harsher punishment. Others saying he'll get a slap on the wrist. People claiming they know one, more or all of the parties saying the story presented the facts and others saying it missed a few.

And quite a few people wondering what's going on with the Riverside Police Department in the face of the recent arrests of Impola and David Reeves, Jr., as well as the trial and conviction of former officer, Robert Forman a few weeks ago.

The original arresting charge at some point was actually a felony. It's not clear whether Impola was ever arrested or taken into custody at an earlier point, including the day of the incident last June. All that's stated on the warrant is that he waited for police officers to arrive and invoked his Miranda rights.

On Dec. 17, an arrest warrant was made out by Adrian Soler from the Riverside County District Attorney's Office Bureau of Investigation, Family Protection Section/Domestic Violence Unit and it was signed by presiding judge, Edward D. Webster. It relates the following series of events as part of Soler's declaration in support of the arrest warrant.

At about 9:45 p.m. Impola was observed standing on the front porch of his wife's house looking through the front living room window. At the time, his wife and Garcia were on the living room couch. She got up to confront Impola on the front porch as they had been separated for at least a year and lived in separate residences. After talking to him, she went back inside the house and closed the door. Seconds later, Impola knocked on the door telling her he wanted to speak with her and when she opened the door, he forced his way inside by pushing the door which forced his wife backward while he pushed past her. Impola approached Garcia on the couch and then lunged at him then pinned him down. He choked Garcia with his hand while he pummeled him in the head with his fist.

Garcia blocked most of Impola's blows and the two men struggled on he living room floor after Garcia pushed him off. Eventually Impola let go of Garcia, got up and then waited outside for the police to arrive. The Riverside Police Department arrived and he invoked his Miranda rights, not making a statement. Paramedics then treated Garcia for contusions to the forehead, scratch marks to his neck and cheek and swollen eyes. He sustained a bruise to his nose and spat up blood. His injuries were photographed by the police department.

Case Being Handled as Domestic Violence

As stated in the previous posting, these criminal charges as shocking as they might be aren't exactly rare among law enforcement officers. Domestic Violence for example is reported at rates among law enforcement officers that are four times greater than the general population.

Diane Wetendorf, a nationally renowned expert on police officer related domestic violence discusses the different types of abuse including the use of surveillance and the access to informational databases including the DMV that officers enjoy to find out information on people.

(excerpt, Abuse of Power)

If your batterer is convinced that you are having an affair or doing anything else he doesn't know about, he might use his police training and equipment to keep you under surveillance. If he's a patrol officer or a detective he has a lot of freedom, mobility and flexibility while he's on duty. He may randomly stop by your home or workplace just to say hello. He or his buddies might follow you or frequently drive past your house. They can run the license plates of your visitors to find out whom you're with and to get information about them. They can follow you in their squad cars, sit in their unmarked cars outside your home for hours, or use binoculars to watch you from a distance.

Impola is scheduled to be arraigned in Riverside County Superior Court on Dec. 29 and has already hired an attorney who refused to comment for the Press Enterprise article. Some people said that there's questions that remain to be answered including how Impola was allowed to run a license plate of a vehicle while allegedly off-duty at the time.

Behind the Blue Wall serves as a valuable database of cases both past and present of law enforcement related domestic violence. It monitors most of the past and present cases of law enforcement related domestic violence in the country.

But questions remain to be asked about this troubling case. If Impola was having so many problems, was the department aware of them? And why was an "off-duty" officer able to radio in to the dispatch unit to get DMV information on a license plate anyway? Was this a one-time things, or was it more frequent than that?

Lincoln Field Operations Station, Destination of Court Summons

As news of the arrest of Impola hits the city, another arrest or citation of a Riverside Police Department officer this year has come to light, this one apparently involving Officer Jeffrey Adcox who was apparently involved in a vehicle crash on March 1, 2009 while off-duty. When California Highway Patrol officers arrived at the scene, Adcox was tested for being under the influence while driving and was found to be under the influence. His criminal complaint which was filed on April 27, 2009 and sent out to the Lincoln Field Operations Station, a police owned and operated facility, on May 6, 2009 reads as follows:

Count 1:

That the above named defendant committed a violation of Vehicle Code section 23152 subdivision (a), a misdemeanor in that on or about March 1, 2009, in the County of Riverside, State of California, he did willfully and unlawfully drive a vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug and under their combined influence.

It is further alleged that in the commission of the violation of Vehicle Code section 23152 or 23153 the said defendant did have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 and more, within the meaning of Vehicle Code section 23578.

Count 2:

That the above named defendant committed a violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (b), a misdemeanor, in that on or about March 1, 2009, in the County of Riverside, State of California, he did willfully and unlawfully drive a vehicle while having 0.08 percent and more, by weight, of alcohol in his blood and 0.08 grams and more of alcohol per 210 liters of his breath.

It is further alleged that in the commission of the violation of Vehicle Code 23152 or 23153 the said defendant did have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 and more, by weight, within the meaning of the Vehicle Code section 23578.

With that, Adcox became the second police officer since 2004 to be facing DUI related charges within two years of being involved in a fatal onduty shooting, in his case the 2006 shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill. Which makes you wonder if the police department is monitoring and/or allowing access to any psychological counseling or assistance for officers who are involved in and/or traumatized by onduty shootings. It's also well known that there are police officers who go drinking after getting off from their work shifts to alleviate job stress or "wind down" particularly after graveyard shifts as was apparently the practice of other department officers charged with DUIs but aren't officers supposed to know better than anyone how dangerous this practice is? If they do this, they need to follow their own very good advice they give to others which is to designate a sober driver.

After all, most of us don't look at the bodies of people killed in drunk driving accidents whether innocent victims or drivers who might not even have known what happened in their final seconds. A Riverside Police Department officer, Claire Connelly became a victim herself of a drunk driver while killed onduty in 1998. Having been an alcoholic herself when she was younger, Connelly probably knew the pitfalls and took the initiative to address her addiction and lead a successful life in law enforcement until ironically, someone else's decision to drink and drive ended that life. Not to mention that former officer, Philip Graham went into Carlos O'Brien one night while drunk and engaged in a violent physical assault against a bouncer and other individuals. He was ultimately charged with felony assault and prosecuted for that as well as the infamous Lake Evans incident, the latter coming to light because of the former incident.

They are also encharged with evaluating and arresting drunk drivers including at the many checkpoints that have been conducted by police agencies in the Inland Empire including the Riverside Police Department. But binge drinking and even alcoholism are serious problems in the policing profession. One retired police chief once said that he had a K9 officer who reported to work drunk after having driven from another city to his workplace. It was only when other officers began to be concerned perhaps for others' safety and their own that this officer was reported to the chief, evaluated and sent to rehab for treatment. Sometimes that's what it takes is to be reported by one's peers because a drunk police officer is clearly not one who is exercising or able to exercise good judgment let alone split decision making in the field and thus is a danger to himself and everyone else. The employees who reported him may have saved some lives by doing so.

But what ultimately matters in Adcox's case is how he addresses it. He might have to do it even as people might defend him saying to give him a break because after all he's taken many a DUI driver off of the street who could have killed someone. That's probably true but he could have easily taken a life including his own, given that his citation had "accident" checked off by the CHP officer and it doesn't matter what people say, it matters that he takes the responsibility and initiative to learn from a lesson that could have been fatal and to not engage in this practice again.

Adcox was cited and the address information included on his citation was the same that appeared on Impola's arrest warrant and that was the address of Lincoln Field Operations Station. Not unusual for police officers who prefer to keep their personal information off of court documents for good reason. Though ironically, Impola didn't have any regard for the personal information of the man that he attacked, allegedly violating departmental procedure by using the DMV database via a dispatcher (who's probably not feeling happy right now to be used like that) who gave him information based on a license plate number. And it came out during Forman's trial that he had accessed information from a departmental database on one of his alleged victims after he allegedly sexually battered her in his squad car, about a week after that incident.

He plead guilty to count two while the first count was dismissed. The sentence he received included three years of summary probation, 15 days remanded into the custody of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and an additional 15 days spent under electronic monitoring. He had to complete a first offender drunk driving program as well as pay a fine of $1,582.

The Relationship Between Adcox's Case and the CPRC?

Adcox hired as his defense attorney Tera A. Harden who represented him during his entire case. Harden spent some years working with well-known attorney Virginia Blumenthal and had represented at least three Riverside Police Department officers charged with misdemeanor offenses from 2004-05. After that, she moved on and now works with a law firm owned by Brian Pearcy, a member of the Community Police Review Commission, according to this information at the California State Bar's Web site. While working for Pearcy, she is currently serving as legal counsel for former Officer David Reeves, jr. as he faces felony armed robbery and kidnapping charges after being arrested at the scene of one of those robberies while off-duty.

According to court records, Harden represented and appeared in court for Adcox from early May to early August when he accepted a plea bargain on his case.

The Written Record on the CPRC and Hill

On May 13, 2009, the CPRC issued a public vote on the Hill shooting, determining it to be within departmental policy. According to this minute record Pearcy was absent and didn't cast a vote.

At the July 22, 2009 meeting, the CPRC voted on holding the decision on the report and to evaluate the inclusions of a minority report for the Hill shooting case. According to this minute order, Pearcy left the meeting early and didn't participate in the vote. Due to his absences during these critical points in the process, it is not clear whether or not the involvement of Pearcy's law firm and its business relationship with Adcox was ever presented to the other commissioners or to the general public.

At an Aug. 26 meeting, Pearcy was again absent when the commission voted on the inclusion of material contributed by Commissioner Chani Beeman (which was a minority report) and Commissioner Brian Slawsby (which wasn't clear at that point) into the majority report.

So Pearcy wasn't even in attendance when most of the votes on the Hill case took place. However, it's not clear because the minutes haven't been released yet on the October or November meetings as to whether or not he participated in any closed session vote involving the Hill case that the commission would have done after reviewing the administrative review submitted by the police department's internal affairs division.

But with the community's distrust of the CPRC growing in the light of micromanagement by the city and ridiculous appointments involving high ranking employees of companies which contract out of the city management's office, it's clear that it doesn't help matters when a law firm owned by one commissioner is representing officers who are the subjects of cases being investigated and reviewed by the CPRC. But it's doubtful that at this point, this news will really surprise anyone, except maybe City Hall. The entity which seems to think that actual community members serving on the CPRC constitutes a conflict of interest, prohibiting them from service.

More Rain Drops?

Speaking of the CPRC, it delivered findings in two separate cases in August 2008 that sustained allegations of criminal conduct. It's not clear what the outcome of these cases were given that they are personnel information and thus confidential under state law.

LAPD Sgt. Wayne Guillary Settles His Lawsuit Against the RPD

A year ago, Sgt. Wayne Guillary from the Los Angeles Police Department alleged that he had been racially profiled and held at gunpoint on his own property by Riverside Police Department officers. Chief Russ Leach who used to work with Guillary in the LAPD showed up in Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein columns calling him a liar and opportunist.

But now again the city's government and legal counsel has spoken, and another $175,000 to settle litigation has been paid out. And the terms include that the city has admitted no wrong doing and that Guillary can't talk about the case for two years. Silence after all, can be bought, even with tax payer money. Settlement talks had been going on for some time and it's not clear whether or not there's been any action in a similarly reported incident involving an off-duty African-American law enforcement officer from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department or whether or not that individual also filed a lawsuit.

It's the city's practice to settle cases involving the police department for sometimes huge amounts of cash and then say it denies responsibility. Well that's all well and good, until you realize that this denial of responsibility is so prevalent when it comes to other issues involving the police department including the currently high vacancy rates in both the civilian and sworn divisions as well as the reality that the police department might see its largest budgetary shortfall this upcoming year. It's part of a larger pattern and practice at City Hall which will be discussed along with the Guillary settlement in a future posting. And it's not about protecting or serving the public or even the police department, it's about protecting the city from even larger loss of civil liability as the city tries to have it both ways. It places the police department and other city departments in a state of micromanagement or mismanagement and then turns around and pays off cash for any problems that result.

The sad thing is that folks, there's plenty more of this type of thing to come. In situations like this, it's pretty much a given. After all, look what's happened so far. But the question is, does anyone care?

Dissing the Councilman

Some anonymous individuals are discussing Councilman Mike Gardner here and saying he's failed as a council member while reposting the same photos of failed businesses. But dude, the businesses which are shut down are actually located primarily in Ward Two, which isn't represented by Gardner. In fact, none of them were actually in the ward represented by Gardner and several of the businesses failed while former councilman, Dom Betro was in office. That's been noted by some people posting in responses, along with general comments about the failure of businesses in Riverside and whether they can be attributed to individual council members, the city council as a legislative body or the economy.

Is Riverside a very good climate for small businesses? Not really and not just because of the economy. The Greater Chamber of Commerce and its satellite, the Riverside Downtown Partnership are very supportive of certain businesses and they both pretty much run the downtown scene. Certainly not those that were owned by Asian-Americans, Latinos and African-Americans (because the barber shops and beauty shops went first) including immigrants downtown because they took the official position supporting their ouster even though their tax revenue (which is at least 2% to the RDP) renovated the pedestrian mall making those businesses look less "blighted" back before the mall was stripped down to its core and remade again during the past couple of years. This action by the RDP led to many businesses including those now gone outside the pedestrian mall (because the membership extends out to Brockton) feeling that they were subject to taxation without representation.

There's plenty of issues to discuss about the state of businesses in Riverside and whether or not the city is friendly to businesses or only certain kinds of businesses. But it's difficult to lay the situation at the door of an individual councilman including one who probably puts more hours than City Hall than other elected officials including one two-term councilman who says that he does but doesn't want to remove language from the city's ethics code to hold him accountable for all that "work time".

Bomb Threats Close Court House

The Riverside County Superior Court in Riverside was the target of bomb threats and thus shut down for two hours. And having been in there when it's been evacuated due to power outages, it's not pretty when hundreds of people try to go down the stairwell even when everyone's behaving. But everyone got out, and thankfully, there were no explosives found.

The City of Riverside has been doing public outreach to reassure the public that the drinking water is indeed safe after the city placed second on a list of the worst water that was created after cities across the country with 250,000 people or more were tested by an environmental organization.

Should We Drink the Water: The County Supplier Responds

Now Riverside County which placed fourth on that same list is reaching out to the public.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

If the public is confused or concerned about the safety of our water supply, the reasons are many and understandable ("Inland agencies dispute report," Dec. 15). There are numerous annual "report cards" from water providers that detail good news about our supplies. Yet there also are occasional reports from activist groups or media analyses that paint a different picture of more contaminants, less regulation and a growing health risk for an unsuspecting public.

Each of us has to make a decision about the water that comes out of our taps: Is it safe to drink?

The short answer, for the 19 million customers of the state-of-the-art treatment facilities of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is an unqualified yes. To ensure that is always the answer, on an average day Metropolitan performs more than 800 tests of Southern California's primary water supply for the district's six-county service area. That is more than 300,000 tests a year.

But technology, admittedly, is a double-edged sword. While there are increasingly effective ways to test and treat raw water supplies, there also are methods to detect a few drops of a contaminant in a reservoir the size of Pasadena's Rose Bowl. Advances in detection create new questions about regulation (and can make it difficult to discern fear from fact). How many of the ultra-minute ingredients in the water need regulation? And precisely where is the threshold between health and harm?

Where will those "bullet" trains go? The train wars begin.

Police fatalities were their lowest since 1959 and this year capped the decade with the lowest deaths. One major concern remains domestic disturbance calls.

Police are again warning people to not act stupid and not shoot their firearms in the air while celebrating New Years. Remember, folks gravity. What goes up comes back down often at the same velocity.

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