****UPDATE**** Det. Scott Impola of the Riverside Police Department arrested after being investigated by the department and Riverside County District Attorney's Domestic Violence Unit.
The latest of three RPD officers arrested and prosecuted this year. More to come...***UPDATE*** Impola appears in court through his counsel and bail for $2,500 is posted. After a chambers conference between the attorneys and the judge, his case is sent to the Domestic Violence Court. He's no longer in custody for the custody issue to be addressed. Bench warrant recalled. ***UPDATE**** The relationship between an earlier arrest of a police officer on a DUI accident charge and how it relates to the CPRC and a potential conflict of interest.
A lot of concern has been expressed about what's been going on with the Riverside Police Department and there's reason to be as rumors of yet another police officer being arrested around Christmas have been flying all over. It remains to be seen as is whether a criminal case will be filed and if so, what the charges will be which officer or officers in the rumors will be the next epicenter of what's going on in the department. But people are getting more than a bit nervous about the police department and whether it can recover from this spate of officer arrests. And not just from the community.
If this is the case that another officer was indeed arrested, it will be the fourth arrest of a police officer employed by this agency since the autumn of 2007 and the third since October 2008. Inside the Riverside County jail facility, sit two former police officers, one awaiting his sentencing on a felony conviction, the other awaiting his preliminary hearing date. Not a good place for the department to be, about 3 1/2 years since it dissolved its stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office.
That would make it the largest cluster of officer arrests since 2003-2004 when four officers were arrested on charges from child molestation to driving under the influence to disturbing the peace. And it has already raised serious questions as it should about what the hell is going on inside the Riverside Police Department especially at the top.
Without knowing the details of each of the arrests, it's difficult to tell exactly what they mean when placed in a larger context. Are they isolated events, an unfortunate random cluster of unrelated events? Or is there some connection between these arrests and serious issues in the Riverside Police Department?
In addition to the mentioned arrests, there might have been yet another arrest and/or citation of a police officer that took place earlier this year and if this was indeed the officer, it would in addition show a very troubling conflict of interest situation involving a certain mechanism in this city besides the police department.
Are these arrests the result of increased accountability in the investigation process when allegations of criminal conduct arise? Well, the answer so far doesn't seem to indicate that given that former probational officer Jose Nazario wasn't arrested or even investigated by the police department but was actually arrested while inside a police facility by investigators from the NCIS, a federal agency. That isn't the case with the October 2009 arrest of former officer, David Reeves, jr. because he was arrested by officers from another law enforcement agency while being caught at the scene of an attempted armed robbery. It was through investigation that he was allegedly tied to other armed robberies and multiple felony charges were ultimately filed against him in those cases.
Here are the last three cases of Riverside Police Department officers who have been arrested for allegedly on or off duty criminal conduct. The term "last three" is being used loosely here because believe it or not, there's actually yet another
possible arrest for a misdemeanor criminal charge that may have taken place some time during the period of time between the arrest of Forman and that of Reeves.
Here's the cast of arrested officers that have been identified so far.
Former Officer Jose Nazario
Nazario served in the United States Marines including at least one tour in Iraq before he was hired by the Riverside Police Department sometime in 2007. He underwent his field training and was cleared to solo as a police officer out in the field. At about the time he had been working with the agency for about a year (although still on probation), he was called into the Orange Street Police Administrative Headquarters purportedly to discuss a performance evaluation. Instead as he bent over to sign it, representatives from the NCIS placed his hands behind his back and handcuffed him. Nazario had been arrested by them and was taken off to federal custody while being investigated for alleged war crimes including murder that took place while he was in Fallujah. Ultimately, Nazario was indicted by a federal criminal grand jury
on manslaughter charges, in connection with the deaths of some alleged Iraqi detainees inside a house. Allegedly, he and two other sergeants had been involved in shooting them in the head while they were in their custody sometime in 2005, though no bodies were ever found or produced.
Two years later, Nazario was indicted by the grand jury and ultimately tried in Riverside's U.S. District Court, the first civilian to be tried through that system on alleged war crimes in at least recent history. He was acquitted and tried to get rehired by the Riverside Police Department in 2008 after having been fired not long after his arrest by the NCIS and before charges were filed against him. Being probational, he had to start the hiring process from scratch and working against him were some comments he made about working as a police officer
. He wasn't aware of it at the time but these comments were taped by the NCIS and the transcripts of the conversation he had with one of his fellow Marine sergeants ended up in the hands of a reporter with the Wall Street Journal
, the newspaper in the United States with the largest circulation of readers.
(excerpt, Wall Street Journal
)During his time in Riverside, Navy investigators arranged a surreptitiously taped phone call between Mr. Nelson and Mr. Nazario, during which Mr. Nazario described his work. Saying his job was much like the television show "Cops," he told Mr. Nelson that he regularly would "beat the s- out of" a criminal, finding "a reason to take him to jail" later, according to a transcript of the conversation.
Not surprising, but these comments whether they were the truth or what some people attributed to "machismo", caused a lot of concern among the public. Why would anyone joke about beating up people and then making up a reason for it after it's been done? After all, the police department had a history of incidents where men were beaten up and thrown in Lake Evans or slapped around a bit while in handcuffs. Actually, it was former Officer Robert Mauger's father who explained to trial attorneys during jury selection in a driving under the influence case that his son had just "slapped him around a little" and the department had made an example out of his son during a summer filled with "examples" including former officers, Philip Graham, Tommie Sykes and Jason McQueen.
Before the videos emerged in the cases of Rodney King and Donovan Jackson outraging the public across the nation, they were two individuals, one a grown man, the other a teenager being charged with arresting arrest or battery of a police officer who looked a little worse for wear to put it mildly. But after the videos? The man who videotaped the King incident actually offered up his video to the LAPD for investigation purposes but they gave him the brush off, perhaps an action they regret in retrospect. He then took it to veteran reporter Warren Wilson at a local network in Los Angeles and the rest became a particularly difficult history lesson for the city and the country.
The police officers themselves ended up being tried and acquitted in state court in both cases while two of the officers in the King cases wound up being tried and convicted in U.S. District Court on civil rights violation charges. In the King case, certain pieces of information on the officers didn't make it into the courtroom in front of the jury.
These included that Officer Theodore Briseno who was painted as a hero for placing his foot on King to spare him from further harm, had allegedly been suspended 44 days for kicking another individual in the head. Lawrence Powell had served at least one suspension of 60 days for breaking a man's arm with a baton and in fact during roll call on the night of the incident, had failed an impromptu baton test and had to undergo remedial baton training only hours before he's shown on a grainy video swinging his baton like a baseball bat. And what of rookie Timothy Wind? He had actually worked for nine years as a law enforcement officer in Kansas and had been suspended for fighting with another officer in a locker room and throwing a battery at his head, knocking him out.
One of the four officers had a father who worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who according to a female colleague wore a twin "S" ring which was a symbol believed to be favored by a group of officers known as the Lynwood Vikings, an alleged neo-Nazi police gang (though they called themselves an intramural softball team) center of a lawsuit and Kotz Commission investigation into the Sheriff's Department into the whole tattoo thing
. After the Vikings contributed to $9 million in settlements against Los Angeles County, they disappeared. But then after them, came a new "group" called the "Regulators"
. And then there was the alleged group out in Riverside County's Sheriff's Department, the Lake Town Bad Boys which allegedly included former deputy Tracy Watson as a member
(excerpt, Los Angeles Weekly
)For Watson, the alleged incident is apparently the latest in a pattern of that predates the videotaped beating. Watson has admitted in a 1997 deposition that while working in Lake Elsinore he belonged to a small clique of deputies who called themselves the Lake Town Bad Boys and wore tattoos of a skeleton cloaked in black and brandishing a gun. In his days as a police officer, Watson faced questions about his use of force in connection with at least four other incidents, including two shootings. In one instance, Watson was disciplined for beating a suspect already under arrest. He was fired from the Riverside Sheriff's Department in August 1996, in the wake of the immigrant beatings, and now runs his own private investigation firm.
Former Riverside Police Department officer, Michael Collins was arrested in 2000 for assaulting an elderly woman in charge of a youth group home for refusing to accept a runaway boy without him being processed first at juvenile hall. Collins aided the investigators of the complaint against him by Breata Simpson by handing over a recording of the entire incident which he had taken voluntarily several years before officers were required to record all contacts they professionally initiated with the public. Collins as in the cases of Graham, Sykes and Mauger was ultimately convicted of a criminal charge, in his case with a plea bargain to trespassing. After him, four police officers were arrested or cited, three of them on misdemeanor charges while former Officer Adam Brown was arrested and ultimately convicted of child molestation.
Nazario did go to the police station moments after his acquittal to try to get his job back, according to his attorneys. Online, one contributor said that phone calls buzzed the police station demanding that he be hired. The police department representative said that he hadn't gotten any phone calls. There was even mention of raining down a protest on City Hall which after being blogged about here, led to some elected officials expressing concern to the police department that a protest might be looming at the 'Hall. Ultimately, Nazario wasn't rehired back by the police department and it makes you wonder why he reapplied for his job back.
Former Officer Robert Forman
Arrested by Riverside Police Department, Oct. 14, 2008
In the case of former officer, Robert Forman, it was because two women approached the department, both multiple times in early 2008 with allegations of sexual assault. The first victim approached an officer and told him and he notified his sergeant but apparently, it didn't go anywhere. Then when Officer Justin Mann came to her apartment about six weeks after her assault by Forman on a domestic violence call she wouldn't let him in the home telling him she was afraid of the Riverside Police Department officers. Not just the officer who broke the law in harming her but all
of the department's officers, meaning any one of them who wore the badge and uniform and carried the gun. Is it fair to the majority of the officers in the department who don't sexually assault women on the job that she felt this fear? Probably not, but fear in people is built a lot on associations and the fact is that anyone in her situation who is victimized by one officer is probably going to be afraid of all of them because of what that officer represented. But anyway, when Mann heard of her allegations, he did the right thing and he did the difficult thing. He reported them.
The second victim also testified that she reported her alleged assault to several officers but it wasn't until she told Sgt. Phil Neglia who responded to supervise an alleged car jacking apprehension that he also did the right thing and called a detective to come and talk to her. He didn't elicit much information from her in order to preserve the sterility of the interview process. Neglia also acted in the appropriate but again, not easy manner to allegations of sexual assault and even though there was not a conviction in that case (and it's not known exactly why because the jury didn't comment), that doesn't make any difference because the allegations themselves should be taken seriously enough to be investigated by the responsible agency and Neglia and Mann both knew it wasn't their place to judge their veracity but to forward them to the appropriate investigators. It's not pleasant having to report fellow officers including those who might have backed them up when they needed it on the job but both officers did it what was expected of them. That kind of followup and follow through in the long run makes it less likely that the entire department will be indicted through the actions of one of its members by any victims or the public.
The third alleged victim (whose case goes back to felony settlement conference for possible retrial on Jan. 11) never reported her alleged sexual battery to the police department. Sexual Assault and Child Abuse investigators, now-Sgt. Julian Hutzler, Det. Michael Barney and Det. Linda Byerly followed up on information they had received during one of the other investigations of allegations made against Forman.
Forman's in Riverside County jail awaiting his evaluation by a doctor in connection with his conviction on a sex offense and his sentencing date on the felony and misdemeanor convictions is set for Jan. 11 although it's not clear whether he'll be sentenced on that date. Attending his trial were representatives from the department's Internal Affairs Division to observe the proceedings in part because if Forman had been acquitted and tried to appeal for reinstatement through arbitration, then the police department would have to defend the firing through an administrative investigation. But the moment that Forman testified on the stand that at least one alleged oral copulation had been consensual, then it was less likely that he could ever be reinstated back to work at least for this police department.
With a felony conviction, returning to the police department is the least of his problems. But the history of Forman is disturbing, given that in defense to numerous policy and procedure violations including the failure to radio in his whereabouts or activities, Forman said that he grew used to working "alone" particularly when assigned to the POPs unit. Forman testified that he was "lazy", was complacent and that he didn't rely on other officers because he worked "alone" so much. But his testimony of policy and procedure violations associated with "working alone" is troubling because it makes you wonder what else he did while "alone". Rumors about him "sexually harassing" women at the local parks downtown go back to at least 2006.
Former Officer David Reeves, Jr. Arrested by Moreno Valley Police Department, Oct. 14, 2009
This officer's face was on the evening news in the form of a mugshot taken after his arrest, his faces showing scratches from the efforts of his alleged victims who struggled with him to do what officers normally do, which is detain a person to be taken into custody. After that when officers from the Moreno Valley Police Department arrived within a minute of the 911 call, Reeves apparently told them what he did for a living. But as it turns out, his career with the police department might have been coming to an end albeit in different circumstances from how it actually turned out. The city might have been pushing him towards a medically induced retirement (albeit not one that was financial) but instead wound up terminating his employment, news that Reeves probably received while inside a jail cell that he hasn't left since his arrest except to appear in court.
Reeves was hired by the police department around 2002, after following the footsteps of his father and uncle who were also employed by the police department. Not long after that, Reeves allegedly fractured two vertebrae in his neck, according to a lawsuit he filed against the city about one week before his arrests. He reinjured his neck in late December and within a month of that, he allegedly was asked to produce medical records on his injuries and after there was some delay, Capt. Michael Blakely from the Personnel Division authorized him to be evaluated for being under the influence of a controlled substance. At some point, he was asked to voluntarily produce a urine sample according to this lawsuit and while he did produce it, it's not clear whether it was voluntary or compelled by the Internal Affairs Division.
Reeve's arrest and what allegedly preceded were discussed at this site
and one individual explained the situation as he or she saw it in greater detail of how his life spiraled downward when he allegedly became heavily addicted to pain medication which had been prescribed to him for his injuries. An addiction that he apparently wouldn't acknowledge or even admit to others including the department's management.
(excerpt)"I would like to add by saying that drug addiction, particularly to pain killers, can and will cause people of all occupations, races, and life statuses to make dumb desperate bad choices. Cops aren't immune to depression, drug/alcohol abuse, suicide ect..especially after we become one. In Daves case, some of these issues came up after he became a cop, after an injury caused by an accident. I, like all of us who knew Dave, was completely shocked by these robberies, and how far over the deep end he went with his addiction. I'm still in shock because I knew Dave before he went downhill. And, yes, I do feel betrayed by what he did because our department, as well as LE in general, is now taking a beating over this.
And this individual who wrote this is absolutely right when talking about law enforcement officers and drug addiction particularly involving some of the most abused drugs which are those that are legally prescribed medications. Addiction to pain killers is a problem in law enforcement because officers often use prescription drugs so they can work through illnesses and through the injuries including those that might come from their work. They can't always take days off to be sick, or to be injured, but are often pressured to keep working either for the overtime or because of staffing shortages. After all, if they don't police the streets, who will? But this creates a problem involving officers and drug addiction. One athletic trainer once said that a good share of his clients were rehab cases involving officers who had been injured and had to get back in working shape to do their job. There's a reason why their retirement age is set at 50 rather than 55 or even 65. Police officers wear out both physically and emotionally sometimes before they even reach retirement age hence the physical disability retirements given out including to one sergeant who was in his early forties who retired with a irreparable rotary cuff injury last year. The average lifespan left to an officer who retires is roughly between five and eight years, unless they pursue another career such as teaching for example to keep them busy. So they die young, sometimes just a few years after they leave their law enforcement careers.
This author's honest about expressing the sense of betrayal and general categorization of officers as being like Reeves that occurs after one of them is arrested when most police officers aren't really allowed to express that feeling in a public place. But he chooses his words well.
And then later the author wrote this.
(excerpt)He actually strongly resembled a heavier version of Napolean Dynamite. He wears glasses, which aren't in the booking photo. Gangsters in Casa Blanca referred to him as Napolean Dynamite. Dave came from a family of Riverside cops. His father was a well respected Sgt. who retired several years back. His uncle is a Motor Sgt. now. He has two brother-in-laws on the department, both well respected. Dave was a police exporer and cadet for RPD before he became a cop. I worked with all three of them, and Dave was a good street cop before his problems overcame him. An off duty accident several years ago caused a lingering neck injury, which got him hooked on pain killers. The department recently began investigating him for the drug addiction, took him off the street and suspended his police powers. The city doctors were most likely going to retire him for his neck injury, but since the accident was off duty, he was not going to get a medical retirement. Dave didn't want to retire, and he began to have huge family/money problems. His addiction overcame him, and he went over the deep end. Dave was a friend of mine, and it's hard to read some of the posts here,,,but I don't blame anyone for their anger or disgust. How can anyone justify these robberies. But, he had alot of friends on the department that were completely shocked and saddened by this, and you can imagine how his family feels. Dave wasn't a "Thug" or a "G", he just snapped..that's the only way I can describe it.
Police officers often scoff at people who express disbelief, shock or deep denial when their family members are arrested for crimes, including families where children or even parents might be "G"s, original or otherwise. But officers like the one above express similar emotions and write similar words when it's a member of their "family" meaning their respective police departments who is wearing the handcuffs and being taken to jail. But why not, that's how many people act in this situation and like they're not immune to drugs, alcoholism, domestic violence or suicide, they're not immune to the feelings that might arise when the officer who they hung with, who backed them up on an arrest or saved their life is arrested and charged with crimes. It's obviously difficult for people to reconcile their family members as committing crimes but it's probably difficult for police officers to watch or hear about the officer who kept them from being beaten up or shot at is now a criminal himself. That's one way a world can be turned upside down. And that's what Reeves did when he got arrested, to his family and his friends, including those who tried to help him. He might have hit "rock bottom" as it's called inside a jail cell but he took a lot of people with him including the officer who wrote those comments.
It's hard for many of us to imagine watching the descent of someone who's responsible for our safety in the workplace, who instead of being the officer, becomes the criminal. Instead of saving lives, he threatens some at gunpoint. Instead of alleviating the fear and pain of victims, he's creating them. No wonder people are shocked and dismayed at his actions. Who wouldn't be?
Reeves is approaching the date of his preliminary hearing on his armed robbery and kidnapping charges and is being represented by attorney Tera Hardin who ironically is employed by the law firm of Community Police Review Commission member, Brian Pearcy and has represented most of the police officers who have been arrested for offduty conduct. Don't be surprised if she winds up representing the officer listed below, the latest employed by the police department to be arrested. Which presents a bit of a thorny situation for the CPRC, to have a commissioner whose law firm has represented officers arrested for offduty conduct. But that's a different blog posting.
And then there's the latest perhaps?
Det. Scott ImpolaArrested on Dec. 24, 2009 by Riverside Police Department
This latest officer who's allegedly been arrested has been tentatively identified but is awaiting confirmation of his identity and if it's this individual that is the officer, then the charges filed against him are indeed pretty disturbing. But they're not exactly charges that are rare in the profession of law enforcement but have happened in many a law enforcement agency. The arraignment is apparently scheduled to be as soon as this upcoming week in the downtown courthouse. It's not clear whether he's still in custody or was released at this point.
There's also another possible arrest of a police officer that took place earlier this year on misdemeanor charges but nothing definitive on this end. Hopefully, this is not the case because this year's been bad enough in more ways than just arrests. The problems involving the RPD are much more complex and thorny.
The arrests of four and possibly even five officers in the Riverside Police Department since the autumn of 2007 has and no doubt will continue to raise questions about what's going on with the police department because those are some pretty common comments among city residents is exactly what is
going on with the police department. And that's human nature when there's a cluster, random or otherwise of police department officers getting arrested for a variety of offenses. It's important to know that the vast majority of police officers don't
get arrested and that those who do constitute a very small percentage of a law enforcement agency or the profession as a whole. But what's important to look at is how the department handles these cases when they do arise. And differentiate between when a spate of arrests are truly isolated incidents unfortunate in their timing or part of an arising disturbing pattern or trend.
For example, if a department has a disproportionate number of officers fired and/or arrested during their probationary period, it might mean that there's problems in the hiring and screening process for officers and officer candidates. Just what happened in one of the major cities in this country: Washington D.C.
Washington, D.C.'s police department recognized a significant spike in arrests during the 1990s, one of several cities to see them after President Bill Clinton put out the message that the nation would hire over 150,000 officers. Now that goal is one that was a worthy one but how worthy also depends largely on how an initiative like that is carried out by law enforcement agencies, small, medium and large. And what some departments did like the one in D.C. is that they scrimped on the hiring process including cutting corners on the all important background checks and screening of each prospective hire. Why, because when you're enlarging your hiring numbers, pesky things like background checks start costing a lot of money. But guess what, save a penny now, pay a pound later as Washington, D.C. and other cities like Los Angeles discovered as well when consequences of their amended hiring practices became apparent. And the arrests began to pile up. The departments and other experts scratched their heads but not for very long.The costs of a hiring binge
of police officers can be considerably more than the money you thought you were saving by taking short cuts. And in D.C. that meant in the 1990s the arrest rate for their officers was 1 in 14
So what was the hiring process used by D.C. during this time period anyway? And how were they training these new hires?
(excerpt, Washington Post
The Post reviewed hundreds of court files and internal department records on training and disciplinary actions and interviewed scores of police officers, prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers.
That investigation revealed a system that in 20 months of haste to meet a congressional deadline brought on board 1,471 officers – 40 percent of the force at the time – in a way that hardly provided the best selection of recruits or adequate training for even the most trusted, committed and hardworking in the classes.
Critical background checks on applicants were cut short, and investigators scrimped on visits to neighborhoods and interviews with former employers. Physical examinations were hurried, and some people who failed to meet minimum requirements were hired anyway. The psychological services unit, which had rejected one in five applicants in other years, rejected just one in 20.
During the peak recruiting time, 1,000 people took the police exam each month, and 60 percent of them passed. An additional 1,500 a month signed up for the police cadet program. The department wound up taking one in four comers, Police Chief Fred Thomas said, far more than the one in 12 hired during the early 1980s, and well above the national police average of one in 10.
Class after class of recruits was rushed through cramped academy classrooms, sometimes with outdated materials, and sent to patrol city streets scared and unprepared. Some rookies did not even know the proper way to handcuff suspects.
They were trained haphazardly as investigators, barely coached on the basics of writing up cases and conducting themselves properly on the witness stand. Prosecutors complain that far too many of them still fall far short in providing the basic police work needed to win a conviction.
Agencies in Alabama, South Carolina and other states got caught hiring officers who were registered sex offenders. A police officer who worked at the same time for two law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin before he had even turned 21 opened fire at a party and killed numerous people including his ex-girlfriend. There was no requirement in Wisconsin at the time of his hiring to do psychological evaluations on applicants. Maywood Police Department in California was a "second chance" agency all the way up to its recent investigation by the State Attorney General's office. It's likely that Maywood's department will be the second placed by the state under a stipulated judgment, following of course the first agency which was Riverside's.
And then there's Drew Peterson, the man whose been indicted for killing his third wife after her body was exhumed for a second autopsy and whose current wife has been messing for two years.
So these are some patterns that can lead to the arrests and/or terminations of probational level officers but in the Riverside Police Department, the majority of officers arrested had at least seven years with the agency. Forman was hired in 1997 and Reeves in 2002. The latest officer may have been one with some years at the agency as well.
In the 1990s, the stories even from former personnel who worked in the city's Human Resources Department were pretty horrific when it came to some of the hires in the city's public safety departments including the police department. Stories of no psychological evaluations, stories of preferential hires for certain candidates including family members and urine samples submitted for drug testing that may or may not have originated from the candidate who turned them in. When he spoke at a public appearance in San Diego, former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer addressed some of these hiring processes used by the police department specifically the lack of psychological evaluations done in the 1990s. But it was not that simple as at least one psychological expert who was hired to do such evaluations grew frustrated when some of the candidates that he deemed to be poor wound up being hired anyway.
And it's true that three of the post 2000 officer arrests did involve officers who had relatives in the command staff including convicted child molester, Adam Brown whose father was former Sgt. Al Brown. One can only hope that their hiring process including background and psychological evaluations were as thorough as anyone else's. The safety of the police officers and the communities they serve are highly dependent on this process being followed closely every single time so that any candidates who might put other officers and the public at risk are weeded out earlier in the process. The best threats to public safety that could be hired by law enforcement agencies are those you never realize because they've been eliminated from hiring consideration long before they could cause any harm. Just ask the New York City Police Department which had one officer who was nearly kicked out for disruptive behavior from his academy training class, a decision which was overturned and he remained in. Currently, he's sitting in jail awaiting his trial on murder charges from allegedly killling his girlfriend because she refused to set a wedding date. Another officer candidate from that agency was undergoing the hiring process while a surveillance video which showed him robbing a liquor store circulated around the department's investigative division and aired on television.
I met a woman whose ex-boyfriend had applied to the police department and he had risen through the process after his father who's prominent in this city recommended to him that he applied. Suffice it to say, he wound up disqualifying himself from the process and it was likely for the betterment of the city's residents because he had serious issues which might have impacted his ability to be a good police officer. And this woman who had dated the gentleman for several years and another ex-girlfriend were never interviewed as part of his background check. Most law enforcement agencies do as part of background investigations interview people that were involved in relationships with the applicant to learn more about the person who wants to be hired by the agency.
Last year, a lateral who was related to people in Riverside categorized as being Important was hired with allegations raised that he was hired without any background check or a less than thorough one and was even paid a signing bonus from a recruitment fund that had been frozen by the city manager's office several months before. He was apparently nicknamed the "political emergency" hire by those who sponsored it.
The stipulated judgment required that the police department amend its hiring process as part of the motto to hire "the best of the best" and then it proceeded to hire quite a few outstanding candidates and a few bad ones. But the problems with the Riverside Police Department stem from greater issues than this one and that is the ongoing complex but very dysfunctional dynamic operating between the police department and the seventh floor at City Hall. And what's going on is truly a travesty because the people in this city and the employees in that department deserve much better than what they are getting in part because no one in any agency anywhere has put as much work into reinventing itself as the residents and employees of the department have in this city. Not to mention the $26 million and increasing money that's been spent on this arduous process. But what is happening in the wake of all this effort and the kind of growth that comes in painstaking fashion? Are decisions being made that honor this or disgrace it?
Now with the truth that the worst cuts for the police department budget wise likely have yet to come, something which was predicted a while back for the city as a whole by those who realized that this upcoming year would be worse financially than the one which preceded it, it's clear that some of these gains have come from sacrifices. But what's going on with the police department, the one which used to have a police chief in charge?
Riverside's had a history of a revolving door for police chiefs including during the volatile years of the 1990s. Sonny Richardson (from inside out), Ken Fortier (from outside in) and Gerry Carroll (see Richardson) and in 2000, it had Carroll, acting chief Michael Smith, Interim Chief Robert Luman and Smith again before current chief, Russ Leach was hired in October 2000 and took the helm of a beleaguered department. Leach had the unenviable task of inheriting a department in tremendous upheaval internally and also in terms of its relationship with the city's residents in the wake of the Tyisha Miller shooting. About six months after he came to Riverside, the stipulated judgment began its five year court-mandated reform process after Lockyer came to town and essentially dragged the city council kicking and screaming (and with one nay vote by a newly elected council member who later regretted that act) into the "consent decree". Always conscious of the city's image, Mayor Ron Loveridge allegedly went up to Sacramento with Leach to meet with Lockyer and begged and pleaded with Lockyer to just not label the enforced reform, a "consent decree". That appeared to be his biggest concern as the story goes.
Call it something else, anything else, Loveridge implored and Lockyer did bend on that note. Of course, if it were not for the recommendations of the Mayor's Use of Force Panel, the police department could have ended up under more tight control from Lockyer's office, something more similar to a conservatorship. That revelation was offered up by former city councilwoman, Maureen Kane when she met with the CPRC in 2004. That panel's work and the creation of the CPRC itself had persuaded Lockyer (who ironically is no fan of civilian oversight mechanisms) that the city had made a good faith effort to reform the department. But Lockyer knew that when the city had done that in the past, the process and any resultant changes never stuck for very long. As it turns out, he knows the city now as clearly as he did back then.
The city's residents wanted the decree and when the officers realized it wasn't necessarily an act of war against them, they buckled down and did the hardest part of it and because of everyone's efforts, there were significant improvements made. The department left the decree with some concern but a lot of hope as well that the hardest days were behind it.
The problem with that, is that the city council placed people at the helm of it who weren't here when the worst of it happened, meaning they have no collective memory of how difficult the situation got and how hard it was to steer on a better course. People like City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, neither of whom were working for Riverside when all this happened. Perhaps if they had been, it might have made some difference in the path they took instead, unfortunately showing off their ignorance along the way any chance they got.
Because now as 2010 approaches, the police department is facing some of the critical problems that it faced back in the 1990s. Supervisory shortages, in its sergeant and lieutenant ranks. Staffing shortages at the officer and civilian position levels. Problems arising with its accountability mechanisms including those which surfaced during the recent criminal trial involving Forman. And then there's the recent spate of arrests and a host of other ills. There's a perception and much confusion everywhere on whether Leach is even able or allowed to do his job and more pessimism about whether he's even able to do anything. Instead, the perception at least is that Hudson and DeSantis in tandem are running the department, and that this became more clear not long after the ink had dried on the dissolution of the stipulated judgment when Hudson and DeSantis failed to carry out instructions from the city council on how to implement the Strategic Plan and instead headed off in some strange direction the result of which was clearly some loss of progress made by the police department in the interim. There apparently is a power struggle between Leach and his boss, Hudson and DeSantis that's been going on.
One would think since City Attorney Gregory Priamos was here during the tumultuous years (albeit as an assistant city attorney to Stan Yamamoto) that he would have some clue about the problems with not learning from history but he has stifled any release of anything more than basic information from the police department or he has provided "information" sources which don't actually include the information requested. Basic things like supervisory staffing ratios, which are very important for the public to know but now it's harder to get even that information, even as the department's soliciting suggestions from the public on how to proceed with its second strategic plan.
But the first obvious suggestion is to pick one chief to run this department, hopefully someone who's had experience running a department and who's up to the task over someone who just wants to play with it like a favorite toy for a while. If the whole issue has to be settled by nerf sticks and anything's possible in River City, then so be it. The police department, both sworn and civilian deserve the best situation and that involves a strong leader, not a team of micro managers engaging in some unhealthy ruling dynamic. Someone who's fair and just, a good listener but someone with vision, and doesn't bend to anyone's will, even to those individuals who sign his paycheck.
And then when that's done, allow the chief of choice to do his job, giving him support when he or she needs it but not micromanaging the job or using the chief as a pawn to carry out some other management plan. Do not use the police department or any of its resources for personal reasons and do not make decisions that impact it negatively because the person who's taken charge doesn't know what they are doing.
It's not only the city management team and city attorney's office (which acts on behalf of preserving the city from civil liability risk) that have engaged in the micromanagement game but several city council members as well including allegedly one former one who once had the police chief as a housemate. One former elected official said that Hudson had promised him two years ago that he wouldn't micromanage the police deparment any longer. One current city council member said that the actions of one former council member had infringed on the process of the second strategic plan. And one current and one former city council member have been accused through a lawsuit of thoroughly manipulating the promotional process inside the department including the one who offered his home to the police chief for a period of time.
Leach is highly intelligent, experienced and political "astute" (but "not involved") and a lot of the improvements in the department do have his name on them. He worked under several chiefs in the Los Angeles Police Department and presided over El Paso's police department after that. He was the third candidate for police chief behind Santa Ana's community policing guru Paul Walters who lately has been trying to become sheriff in Orange County. Walters was just using the process to ink himself a salary hike back home and Smith who was never seriously in the running because the department was going to have an outside chief and that was that.
Leach did make it possible for the paint that was used to etch the name of a police chief at the Orange Street Headquarters could actually have a chance to dry. However, since the dissolution of the stipulated judgment and the loss of important support, his leadership has been whittled away by City Hall until there's not much left and that's a shame. Part of it is that he needs to take a tremendous part of being a leader especially given the environment that is clearly not interested in that but can he do that? After all, he gets paid a hefty annual salary to lead, even as the city manager's office clearly has a vice like hold on the agency and it's getting more clear as time passes that this system of management whatever it is, is likely doing the agency more harm than good.
But what will be done and who will do it? After all, the city manager's office must be getting their marching orders from someone, right? And who employs them anyway? That's right, the city council. And what does the city council think about all this? Does it think anything at all, or are they in the dark by choice as much as their predecessors in the 1990s when the department and City Hall relationship had swung to the other extreme. The city council will chide people as it has in the past that to direct a city manager how to run departments is akin to "administrative interference" which is prohibited by the city's charter. But enforcement of that provision is like enforcement of others in the charter, very selective and sometimes even self-serving. And isn't there some prohibition against city management micromanaging its department heads? If not, the city management is providing a telling lesson of why perhaps there should be.
But the city council is the only force that can keep Hudson and DeSantis (through his boss, Hudson) in their corners and guess who is there to hold its members accountable. The voting public as has been shown by the past several election cycles were incumbents even perhaps some who believed they were entrenched were instead sent packing by voters.
Problems with micromanagement happened in the autumn of 2006 when the implementation of the Strategic Plan fell off its rails. And it happened again, when Strategic Plan 2 was allegedly blocked by City Hall. One moment, it wasn't moving but then soon it was, and hopefully will stay in motion. And if the department goes off its rails again, it's clear now who will be its engineer. It's pretty safe to say at this point that Hudson and DeSantis seem to lack the necessary elements to be all that interested in the continued reform of the police department. After all, if you hit an obstacle and obstacles have been hit, it's usually them. But they are not entirely autonomous. They have bosses too and they are sharing the dais with them at the weekly city council meetings.
But still, how many corners in the department has City Hall penetrated anyway?
The two lieutenants suing the police department are alleging that political retaliation took place against them and retaliation was threatened by a council member or two against other officers who hung with them on the political action committee under the Riverside Police Administrators' Association. That two elected officials, former councilman Frank Schiavone and current city councilman Steve Adams engaged in this behavior and that DeSantis had a "hardon" for them, for their political activities, something that was allegedly reported back to them by another officer. Then the Riverside Police Officers' Association sued the city last August over how it saw the city as blurring the line between informal verbal "counseling" versus "reprimands" and interrogations versus information gathering. That officers who were involved with critical incidents that fell under the purview of being criminally investigated were denied legal counsel because these investigations weren't even criminal investigations (which is in sharp contrast to the very different song and dance City Hall has sold to the CPRC and city residents including those who passed Measure II in 2004) and so the officers didn't need things like Miranda warnings or lawyers. Even though ironically, one police officer mentioned in the lawsuit who did get a lawyer was assigned him that had cross-examined him in a criminal case two years earlier while he had worked as a public defender.
The fractured and fractious Riverside Police Officers' Association just ousted another president, its third incumbent eviction in a row, essentially presidents with very different leadership styles. Elected to serve as president is former Sgt, now Det. Cliff Mason and it's not clear what direction the RPOA is heading towards in the next year. But pertinent issues as outlined by the union's safety and working conditions chair, Det. Kevin Townsend include the living standard and staffing levels of the police officers in the department in these difficult fiscal times. Don't forget the public safety officers, he asked in a recent letter to the Press Enterprise
's Readers' Forum. So what will the first encounter between the RPOA's leadership and the departmental management be like? How will the union respond to City Hall? And what will its strategy be when it comes to the future of the department and its officers?
Allegations were also raised on a Press Enterprise
comment thread that the department punished officers who testified in the Forman trial as well.
Anyway, enough for now but there's much more to come because this is a story with lots of chapters and plenty more to tell. River City's like that after all, the city that keeps on giving even during a season of giving.
Why the San Jacinto political corruption scandal is different
Inland Empire Weekly writes about raids by U.S. Border Patrol at Greyhound Bus Stations
in the Inland Empire, a practice not often used by most regional offices due to the fact that profiling Latinos at these sites often leads to detention and sometimes arrest of legal residents or even citizens
Labels: bad boy watch, consent decrees and other adventures, corruption 101, judicial watch