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

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Day Everyone Ate Cake in River City

Jim Garrison: David, I find your story simply not believable.

David Ferrie: Really? What part?


El Nino's in the Building

El Nino has finally arrived, bringing potentially what's known as a "Pineapple Express", which means that even after the state sees 8-10 inches of rain this week from the Jet Stream dropping down and slamming California with a series of powerful storms, there could be a little break and then even more, warmer storms tapping into the warmer waters that typically accompany an El Nino.

Current forecasts predict that this will be Southern California's worse series of rain storms since 1998. The worst of the trio is expected to hit an already rain soaked state on Wednesday. So stay safe everyone.

It's official now, the Press Enterprise has published this story about the arrest and charges of child molestation filed against Riverside Police Department Officer Anthony Fletcher, a development which was posted here last week. Fletcher was arrested on Christmas Eve and posted bail money. It's likely that neither he nor Det. Scott Impola will remain employed with the department much longer if they're not gone already. Another way that the department's vacancy rate for its police officers is growing, even as the department is expected to get "hammered" by the most recent round of budgetary cuts.

Fletcher is the fifth officer to have been arrested while employed with the department since October 2008 and the third officer facing felony charges. His arraignment is in the Riverside County Superior Court system next week, on three felony and three misdemeanor charges. He joins a list of officers who have been arrested in the past year or so which includes former officers, Robert Forman, David Reeves, jr., Scott Impola and current Officer Jeffrey Adcox.

News like this isn't great to read because in an agency with just less than 400 officers, this puts the rate of arrests at about 1 in 80 officers or 12.5/1000 officers which is much higher than the national average. But still, these arrests come within a larger population of officers who aren't being arrested and are working very hard to do their jobs in fiscally difficult times. But some have said that the spate of arrests is impacting morale as it's causing questions to be asked by city residents. But it's hard for people to ignore the recent string of arrests and prosecutions (and in one case conviction of an officer the second time around) and people generally are not doing that. What's not as easily seen is that the police department's being stripped of most of its resources, a situation it faced in the 1990s which if you remember didn't turn out very well. And this is an issue that serves attention from city residents.

Are these arrests in the Riverside Police Department (and it's hoped by most people that Fletcher's is the last one) truly isolated tragic events or are the current management issues with how City Hall handles its governance over city departments like those involved with public safety coming home to roost? And with the strange dynamic going on between City Hall and the police department and the depletion of the supervisory ranks to attrition and promotional freezes, are any red flags being put out by officers who get arrested or in trouble attracting any attention or are they only being discovered when the damage has been done to everyone? Are the checks and balances that are in place including the Early Warning System really doing their job, at monitoring officers who are experiencing problems and protecting both the public and the work force?

After all, what if Officer Robert Forman had been an Early Warning System officer, if that were the case, how effective was that system when it was monitoring him and his behavior? Having heard a disturbing account several years ago by a gentleman of misconduct that Forman allegedly had been involved sometime during 2005-07, he would have been in my early warning system. But at any rate, his sentencing may be held later this month, although another rescheduled date is anticipated and the probation report's recommending between 120-160 days for the felony count of oral copulation under the color of authority and misdemeanor theft counts. It's conceivable that Forman, now a convicted felon and sex offender, could be out there sweeping streets on county detail with other people who've been convicted of misdemeanor offenses. If so, it would be the second time that Forman's apparently avoided serious accountability by the process for his behavior during his 11 career as a Riverside Police Department officer. I wonder if the officers who supported Forman during his trial including those who testified for him know that.

But the police department is left to grapple with issues stemming from this complex and ugly case and the process, most of which has been completed. Although there will be a decision that will have to be made whether or not Forman will be retried in Riverside County Superior Court on the felony sexual battery charge on which the trial jury deadlocked on its verdict and Judge John Molloy declared a mistrial. Testimony at the trial revealed issues with the usage and downloading, not to mention the monitoring, of the department's audio recording devices that all field officers and their supervisors are required to carry and activate when they initiate professional contacts with the public. Forman himself testified to erasing over 50 recordings and failing to turn on his device when required by policy. What was he erasing anyway? And why? I mean, the real reason, not that he was "lazy" (even while a former trainee testified how meticulous and exacting Forman was) and complacent, and apparently spent a lot of time doing his own thing without much supervision, according to his testimony.

The department has to grapple with the fact that several of its male officers, most likely led by Forman, engaged in behavior where they played with and joked about one of the victim's lingerie right in front of her and a female trainee. At a location where according to testimony, three sergeants were in attendance including one who testified at the trial but who apparently wasn't in the apartment at the time.

And the fact that four different versions of those events surrounding the lingerie incident, not to mention conflicting versions of other events were provided by several of the department's officers. Not to mention the fact that several of them were impeached under cross examination and in one case, the defense attorney, Mark Johnson, was left having to essentially cast doubt on his own investigator's report writing skills when trying to rehabilitate the testimony of one officer who testified about an alleged contact that he had with one alleged victim that somehow wound up in the investigator's report as something completely different. Which was odd because what he said could have constituted a financial motive held by that victim and certainly important enough to have been detailed verbatim in that report.

Whereas most of the department's officers who testified at the trial were professional in their demeanor and were credible in how they testified and what they said under oath, their behavior in a difficult situation (and that might have not just been in a professional sense) just provided a more distinct contrast to the several who had more problems in this area keeping their own accounts straight.

There needs to be a greater dialogue and certainly better reporting to the community how the department addresses its "problem" officers through the early warning system, through supervisory accountability and through training including in addressing some of the most difficult and most painful cases of misconduct in the police department for the other officers. There needs to be an environment where officers can report concerns about other officers who they know are doing wrong or who they don't feel safe working with, without fear of retaliation for doing so.

The arrests aren't truly happening in isolation because the world isn't running well around these handful of arrests, but there are other serious issues impacting the police department as well only four years after it dissolved a stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office. Partly due to the budget cuts which have slammed the city including the police department. Partly because of the decisions being made about the department which are short-termed and don't really seem to be thinking about the long-term consequences of these budget cuts.

The cuts have already heavily impacted the department's staffing levels, from officer positions to civilian positions to supervisory level positions.

When it comes to the supervisory ratios in the police department, there are different figures raised. The official number (by what's left of the Audit and Compliance Bureau) is 5.5. Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis quoted a figure of 4.5 to 1 in response to the 6.0 to 1 figure cited by consultant Joe Brann in an audit he presented to the city council in June 2008. The city manager's office when asked to provide evidence of that 4.5 to 1 ratio in a California Public Records Act request instead blew it off on the City Attorney Gregory Priamos which must have irritated him because he seems really fond of Hudson and the information provided by Priamos' response to the CPRA request didn't include any pertinent information.

Another individual said that the ratios are way off, actually two people said that it's also become a numbers game because although the "supervisor" definition used to apply only to field sergeants, it was later amended to include watch commanders even though they don't regularly supervise in the field and thus shouldn't really be counted. And another said that the whole thing was not what the city was presenting it to be.

Supervisory Vacancies


Paul Villanueva: retirement (2008)

Brian Baitx: Retirement (2009---Audit and Compliance Bureau)

Robert Meier: Retirement (2009--Centralized Investigations)

Ken Raya: Retirement (2009--Special Operations/PACT, Youth Court, K9)

Rick Tedesco: Retirement (2009--Special Operations/Traffic)


Leon Phillips: Promotion (2008)

Kevin Stanton: Retirement (2008)

Lisa Williams: Assignment to head Communications Bureau (2008)

Don Tauli: Retirement (2009)

Patrick Watters: Retirement (2009)

Duane Beckman: Retirement (2009)

Cliff Mason: Demoted to detective (2009)

Anticipated number of sergeant retirements (2010): 4+

Frank Orta: (July 2010)

Paul De Jong: (2010)

Strategic Plan Survey Process Continues for Several More Weeks

There's also this article about the Strategic Plan public forum and the discussions that took place which hopefully will result in suggestions being incorporated into the Plan. It's a very important process and the forum was very well attended and well organized and managed. Many people who participated in the two focus groups led by Sgt. Jaybee Brennan and Lt. Mike Perea provided great input to a Strategic Plan that is being crafted by the remaining members of the depleted Audit and Compliance Bureau which consists of Brennan and two administrative analysts who attended the public forum. Several forums have been held including one with members of the Greater Chamber of Commerce and more will be held including one with city employees in the upcoming weeks. The plan that's generated from the input from all these forums and this online survey will be used to create a draft of the Plan which will be going to city council possibly as soon as March.

This former Strategic Plan which was mandated by the stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office had many elements that were implemented during the five years it was enforced. However, most of those improvements have all that disappeared. Two programs which were supposed to be expanded citywide, PACT and Project Bridge, have both been disbanded and most of the community policing elements of the Plan are pretty much wiped out. And it's been said that the Plan itself is already looking to be edited by factions at City Hall, until it's going to be left with a blueprint that is acceptable to some individuals on the Seventh Floor. It's really doubtful that the city management is going to allow a Strategic Plan to even reach the city council that really has substantive input from the city's residents, you know those people who make it possible for the city to fund all of its departments including those involving public safety.

Although the strategic plan is definitely needed to provide a road map into a very uncertain future and the department has made an effort, it's hard to really be that confident in its implementation even if a great one is the final product because if you look at the plan that just expired last month, most of the goals and objectives that were set to be accomplished including those that actually were, no longer exist. So it remains to be seen whether or not that last Strategic Plan made any lasting impression before getting too excited about the final product of this latest round. In order to succeed, it needs to be supported by the city and the department, but it also needs the resources and the city managed to strip the last plan down to barely nothing quickly enough. Will they begin with this one before it even gets to the city council in March?

There's actually some really good stuff (even truly great elements) already included in the plan that's being diligently worked on by police employees and it will remain to be seen exactly how far these parts of the Strategic Plan proceed in the process. Will the city allow even this content to remain uncensored long enough for the city council and the public to even see it? That remains to be seen, but I'll know some of what's missing if I don't see it in the final product or even the next draft so it needs to be remain in the plan.

Fox Theater Opens

Some of Riverside's well to do population attended the opening of Riverside's Fox Theater. The rest of us are reading about it.

There was an eyebrow raised by having to provide police officers for security in this financially strapped city where it's becoming more difficult to have police officers in the neighborhoods. There was some contractual issue about whether or not the officers would be paid over time and what exact hours they would work but that apparently got straightened out before the gala.

But while Riverside's other half wined and dined and oohed and aaahed at the renovation which I'm sure was very impressive, many city employees are wondering whether or not they will get pink slips in the upcoming weeks. There was a lot of stirring going on at City Hall towards the end of the week, just as there was as much concern earlier in the week whether the SEIU's moratorium on layoffs with the city would pass by with layoffs or quietly with the city's job force intact to work another day. But some folks said that no, there won't be any layoffs on Fox Night because it wouldn't look good if the power circles in Riverside partied and socialized on the heels of rolling layoffs, pink slips and city employees joining the ranks of those who have been laid off during the recession.

So it remains to be seen what lies ahead in this city, but the consensus is among those who are watching including those who are wondering if they will survive the latest round of budget cuts, is that layoffs of some form are coming. And the city council will meet in upcoming weeks to vote upon whether or not it will float a $25 million loan to yet another development project downtown, even as the city's departments are strapped for funds. Where at least half of one of the police officers' labor associations (not the big one) aren't getting their step increases for the positions they currently hold.

But hey, those who aren't on the layoff lists got to have one hell of a party for the rest of the city to read about in the newspaper the next day.

More Fan Mail

Here's another fan letter and this one's kind of funny and maybe it's from someone's sock puppet. It's amazing how some people will work their favorite topics, being bras, marital partners and sex toys into a discussion about politics. Because they can't actually respond to the topic that's being discussed that they themselves introduced?

Again, what does that have to with the issues of politics? I mean, I know you like to talk about breasts and lingerie and how every uppity woman needs "it" without clarifying what "it" is exactly, but seriously what does that have to do with politics or civic issues? I tell you, some of this "fan" mail is just ridiculous.


Gravity has its realities uhh Mary... Are in love with that guy Morelos is that why you write long postings that nobody finished reading. As I told you before , get a husband, a Dog or a Vibrator. Leave these postings for more important things. Is like you work for Gardner "the Punk"

If I ever do put together a list of the top 20 greatest hits from "fan mail" like this, this one just might make the countdown. No, I don't work for Gardner but I know who you worked for during the last election cycle. But I agree, "the postings" should be left for truly important things (at least to this individual) which are lingerie, sex toys and such. To each his own, I guess. But it might finish behind this lovely gem.

Please stop even acknowledging Mary. Haven't you learned by now that she thrives on derrogatory remarks about her? Mary will post, few will read. When you read her crap, swat the buzz swarming overhead and move on. Someone so ill informed is dangerous. Her garbage is best simply ignored. For the most part she just wants to be in the "in" crowd so bad she creates drama where it doesn't exist. She aches to be vital. Unfortunately for her, that'll never happen.

Actually, no I don't "thrive" on derogatory comments and never have but what I do know is that the more of them I see, the more important it is to write on particular topics that get these very nice, polite and well-presented folks a purpose to show up on Craigslist whining about them and writing all sorts of nasty things all intended to discourage blogging on these particular issues because they don't want you, the reader to see anything here and I have to say that the vast majority of people I hear from who do say they read this blog support it and I'm grateful for that and for the readership by many people from different corners who care what's going on in this city and not just the "in crowd" because this blog's most definitely not for the "in crowd", certainly not this anonymous scribbler's version of an "in crowd". What I have learned is that there's many people in this city who want it to be a better city and who care what's going on and are concerned about some of the decision making coming out of City Hall that is detrimental to our city's departments ability to provide the basic services for this city's residents. And if this anonymous person thinks that what's happening to our city in light of the budget cuts is "drama where it doesn't exist" then it's no wonder their political candidate got voted out of office.

What people like this person will never understand is that most people don't care a whit if they're in the "in" crowd or "right" group because frankly most of us outgrew that behavior including the need to conform, when we finished junior high. Being a member of the "in crowd" might have been more imperative when you were worried about fitting in with the "jocks", the "brainiacs" or the "preppies" rather than when you hit adulthood.

What people care about is that they have access to their city's resources, that the city's work force is not being forced to do more with less than the resources they need to provide city services.

Frankly, I find the expenditure of all that energy odd considering that after all, no one reads this blog because according to this anonymous individual, no one reads this blog including you. Which I suppose is another way of saying that you, the reader don't count and don't matter. You were what, compared to a "buzzard" by this individual? Does this person sound like someone who really cares about the city?

In a twisted way, these anonymous whingers serve as a litmus test of sorts of what future postings need to be written about. So what has them wigged out, the writing on the police department or City Hall or both?

Eh, whatever. At least this one has a grasp on putting together a half way decent metaphor.

As for any "in crowd"? No thanks, I think I'll pass. After all, if these anonymous individuals are not exactly a walking advertisement for any good reason why anyone would really want to be a member of an "in crowd". I've always made it clear to anyone who's part of any "in crowd" that's older than high school, this site's just not the place for you to visit. There are other sites that are probably much more to your liking.

The one that this person belongs to or represents, I don't really think that the whole "in crowd" is my cup of tea. They don't sound like a very nice bunch if this whinger is their media field rep and I'll think I'll gladly pass on this whole "in crowd" business. If this person's its ambassador, it just doesn't sound like they have very much fun.

Did local officials diss one of their own?

An interesting item came in about a certain high-profile business, The Michael Williams Company that does fund raising for political candidates, most often incumbents in local and county races in the Inland Empire. This company allegedly strung a certain local politician in Riverside for months before saying that it couldn't take him on as a client because it was already getting some heat from other clients who threatened to cut loose if this local politician was accepted as a client.

The Michael Williams Company who kind of showed up out of no where and has a snazzy Web site states that he works for this list of folks and if it's true that current Riverside's Ward Four Councilman Paul Davis has been shunned by Williams because other clients of his threatened to walk, then well, it would have to be one or more people listed on the aforementioned client list. But if this is what's been going on, it's really silly, not so much by Williams because of course, he won't have much of a client base if they pick up their marbles and go home. But by the politicians who would be threatening to boycott Williams if he took on Davis as a client.

And any local politician that is treated by other local politicians in such a childish and petty fashion (and after all, there aren't any local politicians who behave like that, right?), then that person should take it as a compliment and a litmus test that they're an independent in a political environment of very little independent thinking let alone civic leadership, because this is a city manager/city council run government system.

And don't worry, Williams might or might not be "all that" but as great a fund raiser as he might think he is, he doesn't get candidates elected to office, the voters do. It's those candidates who walk the wards and wear out the shoe leather who have been winning election in particularly competitive wards.

Uh oh, has Brad Hudson been job hunting again? It's been rumored that he had his eye on that CEO job in yonder county which was instead handed off to a management employee in Ontario. Oh well, better luck next time, Brad!

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams Watch

It's pretty early in his tenure as mayor pro tem which is what, all of one week old but it was already necessary to activate the Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams (who was last year's recipient of the Golden Tongue of Wrath Award) Watch. There had been some discussion among speculators about how long it would take Adams to either 1) rant from the dais as the mayor pro tem or 2) call the police officers to "escort" or evict people from the chambers.

I put down five minutes and I'm not sure whether or not he even lasted that long before sure enough, a speaker was evicted from the council chambers by police officers. There apparently was no oral command ahead of time but apparently something was worked out ahead of time and apparently, Adams was at the helm of the afternoon session of the council meeting as mayor pro tem because the real mayor, Ron Loveridge often skips the afternoon sessions because after all, he has better things to occupy his time. But the utilization of police officer either for public safety reasons or as personal bouncers is the domain of whoever is chairing the city council meeting at the time and if that was Adams, then it was Adams' directive. Having been on the receiving end of one of his rants from the dais when I was being absolutely civil, it's not a pretty experience, it's purpose is to discourage Adams' critics from returning to speak at public meetings. It's amazing that a man like Adams who boasts of his 15+ years with the police department doesn't have the communication skills to address someone who disagrees with him.

But the interesting thing is when you talk with residents of Ward Seven who say that they don't really know what Adams is doing because they don't actually see him in the ward very much. In fact, many ward residents say that he doesn't spend much time in his ward. At any rate, that seat is up for grabs in 2011 and it will be great to see if anyone lines up to take on a guy who only won reelection by 13 votes last time.

Columnist Dan Bernstein of the Press Enterprise discusses the slogan which adorns the new Rod Pacheco building in downtown Riverside.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

It could be lawyer lingo for "Hazardous Area. Enter At Your Own Risk."

Or an obscure law of physics: As felony filings go up, the heavens are more likely to come down. Or:

"God has given him (the DA) a sign that something evil's going to happen," ventured Victorville's Justin Wien, 29, when I conducted a survey at the Galleria.

"Let there be justice even though the world's going come to an end," said Ramona Branson, 44, of Riverside.

"It's bashing religion," concluded Riversider Yana Strelchik, 20.

"He thinks justice is more important than anything else," said Virginia DeBry, 67, of Norco. "I'm not real religious, but that's not what I would have picked."

"Do what you have to do," explained Gary Brooks, 53, of Hemet.

Cuddles seems to have anticipated the confusion. Posted on a wall near the Grand Entrance is a detailed explanation. It might be the longest footnote ever affixed to any public building.

Actually, this might not be well known but this saying really came from Kevin Costner's mouth when he played New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison in Oliver Stone's JFK. He was standing on the steps of the great hall of justice (which is relative in the Big Easy but that's a different story) and proclaiming it at another character.

I never took Pacheco or "Cuddles" as he's often called, for a Stone fan.

San Bernardino County Assessor's Office Scandal Goes to Court

One of the key players in the San Bernardino County Assessor's Office scandal started his preliminary hearing.

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