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 30, 2009

RPD: One lawsuit settled; Two more Claims for Damages Filed

Just as the city settled the lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Wayne Guillary against it for about $175,000 worth of change, two other claims have been filed against it in relation to the police department. Both of these claims were filed by individuals who were classified as the victims in cases where the Riverside County District Attorney's office filed criminal charges against police officers in October 2008 and December 2009.

Both of these claims are placed on the closed session agenda for this upcoming city council meeting and no doubt, the city's legal counsel will make a public statement on behalf of the city if asked that the claims are "frivolous" even though one a former officer was recently convicted of committing a serious crime against the plaintiff on one of the grievances. If City Attorney Gregory Priamos or any member of the elected body he represents first and foremost can come up with how an act of sexual assault by a police officer under the color of authority or the conviction of that officer for that criminal offense can be viewed as a "frivolous" concern, then it will be interesting to hear or read any explanation provided by this individual or elected body in defense of any such assertion.

One of those filing a claim is Kathryn Boesen, the woman that a jury convicted former officer, Robert Forman of forcing into oral copulation under threat of arrest last month in Riverside County Superior Court after a nearly month long trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday, Jan. 11 at the old courthouse in downtown Riverside for that crime as well as for his conviction on a misdemeanor theft charge. In addition, he will begin his trial readiness conference process for a felony sexual battery charge that the jury reached a deadlock on during that same trial.

While Boesen testified, her lawyer sat in the audience, something noted by Forman's attorney, Mark Johnson in his closing argument at the end of the trial. Prosecutor Elan Zekster countered in his rebuttal by saying that if that happened to a person, they probably would want to sue.

The second case involves Garcia who one week before the alleged assault against him was charged with felony drunk driving accident with injuries which some of Impola's online supporters are using to justify the behavior of Impola towards him which led to the misdemeanor charges that he's facing now. Since the alleged assault took place while Impola was apparently off-duty, normally one would think that the city couldn't be sued except for the fact that there's an allegation that Impola while off the clock got on the phone or radio and asked the dispatcher for information on what turned out to be Garcia's license plate and a city employee who worked in that division provided that information for him about 45 minutes before he allegedly pushed his way into his wife's house to assault Garcia. If this is what happened (and such an action would lead a detailed electronic trail), then yes, the city is now facing a degree of civil liability in relation to this incident and will probably pay out a financial settlement down the line.

The claims that have been filed in these cases will almost certainly be denied but will the city pay off on the lawsuits that arise from them down the road? You'd better believe it, based on the city's track record. It's probably a given that any insurance carrier the city uses in cases like this already knows it. Civil attorneys all the way out to Los Angeles County know it. And most of the city's residents have already figured out the outcome. And as long as the police department continues in its current state of mismanagement under its team of Seventh Floor City Hall chiefs, unfortunately there will probably be more claims to come.

Coming up is an series of in depth blog postings on how well the department has managed under this system of outside management and the time periods to be discussed will be between the years 2001-2005, 2005-2009 (with particular emphasis on the post consent decree era).

The past few blog postings have been difficult to write and haven't been pleasant reading but there are serious issues impacting the Riverside Police Department that need to be addressed including its current management system particularly the involvement of parties outside of it that reside inside City Hall. The police department has been through the gauntlet of sorts in the past decade and a lot of work had been accomplished by its employees and city residents yet in the past few years particularly the period of time since the post consent decree, questionable practices by City Hall have been alleged through litigation filed by one police union and the former leadership of the other and it's a very sad time indeed if these allegations are indeed speak the truth about the pattern and practices taking place, practices which will undo a lot of this hard effort to make it a better place.

Musical Chairs Between City Departments

Speaking of the police department, there was a qualified individual working in a highly specialized and very important position within one of the department's units (which is understaffed and overworked for the job that it performs for this city). This person was either left or was removed and was ultimately replaced by a nonspecialized employee from another city department who can't do the job for six months until his background screening has been completed. Does this sound like responsible decision making or good management? And can a department head even authorize transfers of city employees in and out of his own department and to and from a department that's overseen by another management head? So who is really making these types of decisions about city departments including the police department?

It's the Economy, Silly

I've been following some involved if somewhat bizarre diatribe taking place on Craigslist involving some individual venting their pique at Riverside's Councilman Mike Gardner for all these businesses failing, empty lots multiplying and sign blockages taking place in unidentified parts of Riverside. This person implores Gardner to resign or actually to "resing"[sic]

In fact, it's hard to guess what part of Riverside is being photographed until you recognized that as far as the businesses are concerned, most of them occupy a single block in an area of the city not represented by Gardner but by his dais mate, Councilman Andrew Melendrez.

And this is not to put Melendrez on the spot because the issues of businesses failing to thrive and being shut down or relocated particularly during this time period in the city, region and nation's history has multiple causes. The ongoing economic crisis and recession which has hit the Inland Empire harder than most other areas of the country due to its rapid growth and its heavy reliance on the housing construction industry which has virtually collapsed on itself.

Actually, all of those photos come from a single block on the northern side of University Avenue which is just west of Chicago Avenue. Chicago is the dividing line between the Eastside and University Area and this portion of the several mile long University Avenue corridor is in the second ward.

Here are some photos of the same properties taken from different angles and zoomed out a little bit to put them into the context of the areas which they occupy.

[This is a picture of the building on the left which is the old University Cafe and has been posted anonymously as being in the first ward but as you can see, it's right next to one of the landmarks of the University Corridor at its Chicago intersection which is the dividing line between the University Area and the Eastside and is within the boundaries of Ward Two. And where's the new University Cafe, not too far away actually.]

[Photo taken of another one of the closed businesses that's been misrepresented as being in the first ward. This one is on University close to Chicago and if you click the photo, you'll see that there's an "Eastside" neighborhood sign in front of it. Again, this business is in the portion of the University corridor in the Eastside neighborhood in Ward Two.]

[The University Cafe at its new home near University and Iowa. As you can see, it's still in town. Hardly a dump or a vacant lot, is it?]

But as some have said on that site, it's interesting that this not so anonymous commenter is trying to *prove* that Gardner's driving properties out of his ward by posting pictures of closed businesses and spaces up for lease taken from the University corridor which is actually in Melendrez's ward.

Inland Empire Weekly writes this article the latest in a series about a reporter's observations about the drug dealers who operate next door to him in Riverside.

The Neo Nazis Resurface

In the meantime, Riverside's Neo Nazi brigade has been protesting as it calls it a Jewish synagogue in town. They have allegedly been threatened with legal action if they hold another rally for presenting a "clear and present" danger as it's called.

Fox Theater Opens

Riverside's wealthier patrons now have a new entertainment venue and the long awaited opening of the Fox Theater in downtown will kick off with a "fund raiser" for the well to do population of the city. But even if they attract people with a lot of cash, the "profit" margin of the fund raising event will be pretty low. Far short of the $5 million or so that they will need. The key to keeping cultural institutions alive is to not be relying on public dollars, that is very true. But in order to ensure private donors, the work to attract those kind of dollars should begin several years before the opening and operation of that cultural institution.

Here's a prediction. If the Fox Theater caters mostly to the elite, most of the customers will probably actually be commuting in from Orange County to check out the shows, rather than coming in from down the street, a few blocks away or across the city. If the Fox Theater can pick up the long-term endowments that are enjoyed by other cultural institutions then hopefully ticket prices can be subsidized so that a wider span of Riverside's population can enjoy entertainment at the theater.

Riverside's going to be deep in recession until probably 2013, due to the fact that it's the epicenter for both the economic and housing market crises. And too often, the city government and its arms, the Riverside Downtown Partnership and the Greater Chamber of Commerce in Riverside send a message that downtown is only for those with a lot of cash rather than families particularly younger families. After all, remember all the events that used to take place downtown? Compared to now?

A theater can also provide educational opportunities for children including students through programs that allow children to be exposed to cultural events including plays, musicals and operas at their local venue as well as offer classes in the disciplines associated with the performing arts. Yes, there are two dueling "performing arts" institutions that might eventually be built downtown but the educational institutions, UCR and RCC, seem to clamp down on community access to their facilities in direct inverse correlation to the financial aid they get with tax payer money including from city coffers. In fact, UCR is actually the most subsidized campus in the UC system and has closed off most of its facilities to the public, in contrast to their open use of the past. So don't really count on either "performing arts" institution that will likely have public money as part of their funding to really provide anything useful to anyone outside their respective campus populations.

But alas, what's not mentioned in the article about the gala is the city's "other" fund raising efforts for the Metro Riverside which is what runs the new Fox Theater and an announcement in tiny print in the Press Enterprise that states that the city council will vote at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12 on whether or not the city will float a $25 million loan from its coffers to this Metro Riverside.

Never mind the millions the city already put into the project and the financial state of the city which will see further budget cuts in all areas, including the Riverside Police Department (which is anticipated to see a huge shortfall this upcoming year) this upcoming year. The exact funding source of this rather generous loan isn't known at this time but is the city in a position to be playing loaning institution with its own current financial state being potentially worse this year than it was last year?

Magnolia's Grade Separation Construction Begins

More details available on the Magnolia Avenue grade separation project, except whether or not there will be any changes made in accessibility of this main thoroughfare to drivers and pedestrians while this major construction project is being done over the next 18 months.

San Jacinto Corruption Watch

Meanwhile in scandal plagued San Jancinto, three of the elected officials who have been indicted by the Riverside County District Attorney's office on corruption charges have filed written responses to recall petitions taken out against them. Not surprisingly all three are asking voters to reject the recall petitions emphasizing their contributions to the city, not the financial contributions they received from some of the other indicted individuals including developers.

Just down the street, the police chief at Mt. San Jacinto Community College District Police Department has plead not guilty to corruption charges he is facing in connection with a lot of allegations of inappropriate conduct made by current and former employees of that department.

And some more commentary on why voting isn't enough to avoid political scandals like the one rocking San Jacinto right now and possibly others brewing elsewhere.

Is it really all that easy or useful to recall political officials in the Inland Empire?

Are women taking over mayoral positions in Inland Empire cities?

Why few statewide candidates come from inside the Inland Empire.

Upcoming Meetings

Tueday, Jan. 5 at 1 p.m. The Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee will be meeting to discuss upcoming board and commission appointments.

This report provides more information on the process for this year.

Tuesday, Jan. 5 at 3 and 6:30 p.m. The Riverside City Council will meet and discuss this agenda at City Hall.

On the closed session part of the lawsuit are the following claims for damages and/or lawsuits filed involving the Riverside Police Department. They are as discussed above related to two criminal cases, one completed, one just getting started.

Katherine Boesin vs the City of Riverside which is in connection to the recent conviction of former Officer Robert Forman for forcing her to orally copulate him onduty to avoid going to jail.

The second, is Michael E. Garcia vs the City of Riverside in connection with the recent arrest of Det. Scott Impola for allegedly assaulting him after having run his license plate through dispatcher in violation of departmental policy and receiving allegedly unauthorized information from a city employee.

Thursday, Jan. 7 at 7 a.m. at Coffee Depot, The Group will have its first meeting of the year. The agenda and any special guests are to be announced.

Monday, Jan. 11 at 2:30 p.m. The Finance Committee is tentatively scheduled to meet at this date at a location to be announced. Chair Nancy Hart and Asst. City Manager Paul Sundeen said that the city's budget and annual audit performed by an outside firm would be presented and discussed on this date.

Happy Holidays!

It's hoped that everyone had a happy and safe holiday season! This blog's been visited by many interesting people in the past weeks, including governmental agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice, the California Treasurer's office and the State Department of Justice/State Attorney General's office as well as a variety of educational institutions both locally and across the country.

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