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

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Forman Trial: When being a bad apple is your best defense

"guns (like lifted trucks, fast boats, airplanes, and german cars) are not penis substitutes. They are extremely effective TOOLS that men use to entice women into spreading their legs. What is your problem with waving a gun around if chicks dig it ??? Heck, simply using a pair of handcuffs to make that wonderful “ratcheting sound” is often enough to leave a wet puddle on the ground directly below a short skirt.

Use your tools, friend. I am confident that there are dozens of female subjects on the “U” who will respond to your offer of malt liquor and greasy, deep fried fast food. On second thought, why not get yourself a “good payin’ Clintonesque job” so that you can improve your “tools?”???)

Increase the number and quality of your “tools” and even you, the common urban savage, will increase your “slugging percentage.” "

---"anonymous" comment left on this blog in a comment thread in June 2006.

The trial involving a former Riverside Police Department officer charged with various sexual assault offenses including oral copulation under the color of authority culminated when Robert Forman, the man on trial testified in his defense on the witness stand. Currently, he is answering questions asked by his own attorney and has yet to face cross-examination. But the picture he's painting whether truth or fiction is admittedly, very disturbing. And this blog attracted a large amount of traffic yesterday and last night including one unidentified person who was not happy with the coverage of this trial here and left this little note online. It's not in iambic but it's still expressive in a manner of speaking.

(excerpt, Inland Empire Craiglist)

And then there's the one who apparently has nothing better to do than sit at a trial of an accused officer, giving play by play by day, relishing every minute and chomping at the bit to find something to confirm their belief.

Still, those who hate this blog and the coverage of the subject matter of this trial have been remarkably restrained in their unsigned commentary so far but if they want to show their support of the defendant, there are better ways to do that and perhaps some individuals are doing just that.

What can you say about unsigned comments on Craigslist? Eh, not everyone wants people to notice that there's a trial going on involving a former Riverside Police Department officer involved in misconduct. Relishing every minute? Hardly, it's seriously a sad state of affairs and there's very little to be happy about here. Fortunately, most of the feedback I've received from this blog has been positive.

Either Forman was a bad cop or a very bad cop. He finished his testimony by saying that he had been a good police officer right after he painted a portrait that showed him in a not so good light. Whether he did it because he was as he said, taking the opportunity to tell the truth or to try to save himself from being convicted of serious felonies, only he and the three women know for sure.

But the question still remains what is the truth? Is it what he's saying under oath, or is that the lesser evil between fiction and what really happened between him and the three women?

So far, Forman has said he didn't activate his digital audio recording device because he was "lazy" and he deleted recordings for years, also due to laziness. He violated numerous policies like the ones pertaining to the use of informants because he had done so in the past. And there were times when no one seemed to know where he was, while he was working with one of those times while returning to a woman's apartment where in his version of his event, she had given him a blow job voluntarily. When you put his testimony together so far, he's painting himself as a "bad apple" officer, or what's often referred to as a "rogue". Albeit one who has apparently by his own admission been operating what some people call, "within the grey" for years apparently without much interference from the police department that employed him for 12 years until it fired him last November.

Look at him as a cautionary example of what a police officer can become when they become "lazy" is what his testimony appeared to be saying on one level. But if anyone was lazy in connection with him and his trail of misconduct, it wasn't him. Whether or not it was the agency that was supposed to protect the public from officers who aren't there to serve and protect, will be something that the city's residents will never know, given how shrouded all but the criminal case will be from the public eye. Just as they might not know if there are any more of either brand of Forman that's been produced through testimony at this trial inside the police department.

So what we have here based on his testimony appears to be Forman playing the role of some biblical Adam who's fallen from grace and of course, if you have Adam, there must be an Eve in this story somewhere and that role was played in Forman's testimony by the alleged victim who had the strongest case against him regarding criminal conduct. The woman whose apartment had been the scene of officers responding to a home invasion burglary. In Forman's testimony, she wasn't the victim at all, but the temptress which would cause him to fall from grace. Delilah, to his Samson. The woman behind the man whose career is now in tatters. A cautionary lesson to be learned by other police officers who might be tempted to cross that line.

But what doesn't make sense about this particular scenario is that if Forman had decided to engage in a sexual act with a wanton woman at the spur of the moment, then why did he testify earlier that he had intended to only leave the Orange Street Station to pick up a bite to eat at the neighborhood Del Taco (on 14th and Brockton) and then deviated from that plan? Why did he decide he had "time to kill" and head off in another direction that's kind of in a direction that's different than the one he would have taken to return to Orange Street Station to supervise his trainee while she was writing the police report. Why did he ignore the mantra that has no doubt been endlessly drilled into his head about officer safety first, and not get on the radio to tell the dispatcher or fellow police officers where he was going? After all, this woman could have intended him to come back to her apartment for an ambush or to cause him harm or even kill him. And if anything bad had happened to him, the rest of the police department including all its active duty police officers wouldn't know where he was to back him up. So even though Forman testified about how "lazy" he was, it doesn't seem likely that he would have intended to go to the woman's house to perform a professional duty. The point seems to be that his intention for his department not to know where he was and where he was going was tantamount, not his safety.

And that's one major problem with his version of events is that if he had really intended to do what he testified he was going to do and clear unwanted people from this woman's house, he would have probably informed the dispatcher where he was going for his own safety and probably would have called for backup if he really believed that the unwanted people had returned and might cause problems. After all, this was a professional contact, right? Officers risk their lives but when possible, they take stringent precautions first.

Certainly in a department like the Riverside Police Department where officers are surely drilled about the dangers of being ambushed given that two pairs of police officers were killed about a decade apart in ambush situations, with the former being referred to as the "ambush murders". To the point where for a period of time the police department was reluctant to send its officers out to respond to anonymous party calls.

The fact that he drove to her apartment without telling anyone where he was going speaks to something else. It makes you wonder that even if it were true that this encounter had been consensual as far as both parties were concerned, whether it was Forman who had thought about it first rather than the woman.

So what did Forman actually say about the three criminal cases filed against him?

During his direct testimony, Forman denied the criminal charges associated with the second and third victims in the case although they appeared to spend quite a bit of time in his squad car during the evenings in question. As stated above, he had oral sex performed on him by the first victim but that it had been consensual because she had expressed some sexual fantasy about having sex with a police officer. Of course, this happened just after they had come into her house on a call and tossed it up which their job required them to do under those circumstances. And not long after, several male officers had played and joked with a pair of her underwear in front of her which is most definitely not part of the job description of being a police officer.

Forman testifies as if the stage were set up for the major seduction of a police officer by a woman right there an hour or so after he and two other officers had left her apartment. Especially since the sexist horseplay involving these male officers including possibly two field training officers had taken place in front of both the alleged victim and a female police department officer who was also a trainee, neither of them appeared to appreciate it. A trainee who later that year "failed probation" or "washed out" and no longer works there said it was immature. Not exactly the only female trainee to have witnessed such sexual horseplay by field training officers and then later on, failed probation or left. There's more than one way that a trainee may be found to not be "officer material" in a law enforcement agency.

Someone who read the blog postings on this trial in another state asked me if the department had implemented any type of gender bias training which actually came up in a discussion with someone from another police oversight group in another state. I didn't know the answer to that because the development of cultural sensitivity training has been more geared towards ethic and racial identities rather than those involving gender and how it intersects with other identifying factors. I would hope that the officers would be trained to handle themselves with women both inside and outside the department in a professional manner. There certainly are a lot of police officers in the department who do, including male officers but how many of them don't and have engaged in conduct similar to that which took place in the victim's apartment?

Still, Forman in his direct testimony created this setting where he goes to the woman's apartment of course without telling the police department or any other police officers where he's heading and then naturally follows her into the bedroom where she dims the blinds and then expresses her fantasy. The light fades to black and the music plays and she will...gets her fantasy fulfilled and he will have done her this huge favor. It's not an act of sexual assault under the color of authority, it's almost like an act of charity on his part.

But this is a much different story than that related by the victim both to statements she provided for investigators and her testimony on the witness stand. Two other individuals testified that the victim had been upset within minutes of Forman's departure after this alleged fulfillment of a fantasy and had thought she fit the description of an assortment of derogatory terms for women and hadn't even wanted to stay inside her apartment after the fact. A drug counselor who was helping her testified that she had told him about it and he advised her to go to the police to report it. She apparently didn't tell any of these people whether it was minutes after Forman left the apartment or during the hours and weeks that followed, that she had just fulfilled her sexual fantasy. She was likely telling one man who testified at the trial how awful it made her feel before Forman even returned to the police station where his trainee, Edwards was dutifully writing the police report for the home invasion call incident.

But Forman's essentially labeled the three female accusers as liars. He denied ever having any physical contact with two of the victims and essentially said the third asked for it, even seduced him for it. And if these victims are the ones telling the truth, it's difficult to know which is worse, to be branded a liar or a temptress who asked for it. But for all the talk about the lack of physical evidence including traces of DNA left behind to link to Forman, in the end it didn't matter because Forman's sexual contact with the first victim didn't leave any DNA traces or seminal fluid and that was the alleged crime scene that he had the least control over after the fact.

Is Forman telling the truth, or are he and his lawyer trying to keep him out of spending time in state prison if he does get convicted of any or all of the charges. Forman has two strikes against him before he would even go to prison. He's a former police officer and he's been associated with crimes against women, two factors which would make any time spent in prison more difficult for him. In fact, he would have to spend his entire prison stint housed in isolation. The point being that he's testifying to behavior which could forever end his career in law enforcement and cause emotional and financial havoc for his family. Not to mention tarnish the police department and betray his friends including those who testified on his behalf and had testified in most cases to what they had believed was true. And those who themselves might be facing more scrutiny by the department's Internal Affairs Division than they would ever have wanted. There's some sense that the aftershocks of this event that Forman precipitated have only just begun to be felt by those around him still employed by the police department.

It's not been pretty for the department as officers testified to the lingerie incident, documentation and testimony showed that the audio recording policy wasn't always followed and that Forman testified that he himself deleted recordings or failed to activate his recorder for years and it's not clear whether the department initiated any action involving him in response for this huge missing time concerning his recordings which were supposed to capture all of his self-initiated contacts. When his lawyer asked him if doing this made him look bad, Forman admitted that yes, it did.

But is Forman turning his testimony into a confessional of his misconduct as a "bad apple" because it's the painful truth or is it because the truth holds greater consequences for him and in fact, would be more painful for his family, the police department and his friends? The consensus among many people following the case in different corners was that the first victim's case was stronger than the other two and consequently would be much more difficult to explain away. His only real defense was to say that it was not sexual assault under the color of authority but a consensual act between two willing parties. So if it's the truth, it's colliding with the only fiction that can possibly prevent him from going to prison and it will be interesting to see what the jury decides.

As stated above, he denied involvement in the other two cases though both victims spent time riding around the University Avenue corridor in his vehicle according to his testimony. He testified that the second victim had introduced him to the third one who then walked over and made small talk with him before mentioning a rape. He then took his notebook out and she gave information. Only then he testified that as he arrived, the third victim was getting out of a silver compact car where sat a Black man that she had just stolen money from. So she's just stolen $100 from this man, walked away from his car and walked towards a police officer she had never met (and before he was told he was "cool" by the second victim) and then engages in small talk. You'd think that a woman who ripped off an angry man and saw a squad car would head off in the opposite direction as quickly as possibly having just committed theft not to mention prostitution not wanting to get arrested by the officer or assaulted by the man.

Then Forman relates more testimony about how he took this rape report but then it's never clear what the angry man in the car is doing during the entire time she's talking with the police officer.

He never gets out of the car and tells the officer she stole his money and since he was soliciting for prostitution with the money, that might make him more reticent with his anger. Except for the fact that after the third victim gets in Forman's squad car to go look for the second victim, the man follows them in his car and then confronts them angrily at another location which requires backup officers. Forman was concerned enough about being followed that he did several U-turns with his squad car probably to ascertain that he was being followed. The man was certainly upset enough to follow Forman's squad car, confront him and the woman not to mention talking with the backup officers who arrived.

And it's not clear whether the back up officers ever knew that the man had followed Forman and the woman rather than that Forman had been responding to an altercation between the woman and the angry man.

But Forman still faces finishing his direct testimony and then being cross-examined by the prosecution, so in other words, there's still a lot of information that will be provided for the jury which is left with the task of trying to determine whether Forman sexually assaulted three women while he was working as a police officer at the time. Or if he was merely a bad apple who had believed he was a good officer who hadn't gone that far.

Police Officers Don't Get High

When asked if he was high, Forman at one point said something like, It's ridiculous to think I'd be high. I'm a police officer. I'm not sure how aware he is of the irony of that statement given the recent arrest of another (now) former Riverside Police Department officer, David Reeves, Jr. who apparently had a serious drug addiction that the department had confronted him on at some point before his armed robbery spree, even allegedly offering him a stint in rehab which he didn't take. In reality, drug addiction is a serious problem for law enforcement officers, whether the drugs are obtained legally or illegally.

Police officers and drug addiction.

(excerpt, New York Times)

Asked in a police interview whether he had ever taken illegal drugs, he said he replied, ''Of course not.'' A background check failed to turn up anything derogatory and he was directed to report to the Police Academy in January 1984.

Throughout his six months of training, he said, he drank excessively and smoked pot and sometimes, angel dust. Once, he said, he and three classmates who were out drinking decided to get some cocaine. He said they drove to Queens where they purchased a gram for about $100 and snorted it in their car, ducking at one point in panic when a police car passed.

Soon, he said, he was spending almost $500 a week - nearly all his pay - on drugs, mainly for weekend partying. He tried to engineer three-day weekends, he said, to give the cocaine a better chance to be eliminated from his body in case he was asked to take a urine test. But he said he never was.

Even the thrill of graduating from the academy in June 1984, he said, did not prevent him from ducking out afterward to a drug-selling area near 46th Street and 48th Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens, where he bought cocaine, freebasing it in a friend's house.

Police officers do indeed get high and have used drugs in many different law enforcement agencies and several have had to deal with multiple officers getting caught using drugs at once. Whether it's using steroids to buff up because officers are concerned that they can't physically handle muscular men who have been lifting weights in prison or using pain medications like in the case of Reeves, or using methamphetamine or other stimulants to help them perform their jobs during difficult shifts like graveyard, drug use is a problem faced by many departments to varying degrees. It's not clear through the testimony if Forman used drugs like speed or was high on duty and if he was ever tested for drug use beyond random testing, only the police department would know that. One victim alleged he had been high while working. Several police officers testified that he hadn't appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

But officers are not infallible to drug addiction. If they think they are, they need to take a look at Reeves who's sitting in a jail cell on felony charges and ask themselves that question again.

Legislating Ethics

Scandal plagued San Bernardino County experienced a bit of levity when its board of supervisors passed a law prohibiting the use of elected office for personal gain. Nice gesture, but these actions never really have much teeth. Just look at the ethics code and complaint process in Riverside, where the city council and mayor really have yet to even show city residents they understand and will consistently follow their own written resolution governing the process.

In related or unrelated news, the county is also seeking a top administrative officer.

Speaking of ethics, San Bernardino City Attorney Jim Penman got dinged by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Chief Indictment

The Mt. San Jacinto Community College police chief has been charged with multiple felonies.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The charges against Kevin Harold Segawa include bribery, perjury and misappropriation of public funds. Segawa, 39, surrendered to DA's investigators at 2 p.m. today.

Also charged was Morgan Allen McComas, 40, owner of Pirot's Towing in San Jacinto. McComas, who also surrendered this afternoon, is charged with one count of offering a bribe to a public officer and two counts of being an aider and abettor in the misappropriation of public funds.

The 13-month investigation found that Segawa received various gifts, loans and benefits while college police chief as part of a business relationship with McComas, the district attorney's office said.

College officials said they were notified of the charges by the district attorney's office this morning. Segawa has been police chief there since 2005.

"We take this matter seriously and will take the appropriate action based on the law and District policy," Irma Ramos, college vice president of human resources, said in a college news release.

Another black eye and tragedy averted for Metrolink Trains as yet another engineer runs a red light.

[Two cats waiting adoption at the City Hall animal fair.]

[People congregate to look at the dogs and cats up for adoption at City Hall's animal fair.]

Upcoming Meetings

Monday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. Human Resource Board meets at City Hall's Fifth floor conference room

Tuesday, Dec. 8 in afternoon and evening sessions, the city council meets at Riverside's City Hall.

Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. the Community Police Review Commission meets at City Hall's Fifth Floor conference room to do battle once again amongst itself.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older