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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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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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another Day, Another RPD officer arrested?

****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.


"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.


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 Impola

Arrested 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.

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