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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Mayor's Plans to Speak while the City Plans more Cuts

"I believe for at least the next 12 to 18 months the city is going to be in good shape and not have to do any major layoffs.

"We're doing everything we can to protect the essential services that we need to provide, especially public safety."

----- Riverside's Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams who apparently hasn't been paying much attention to what's been going on with "public safety" on his watch. Riverside Police Department is down 8 sergeants, five lieutenants and has no PACT Team but Adams still has a legislative aide that makes more money a year than he does. Unlike the officers getting promoted in the police department (when that happens), Adams also isn't making less than what his position dictates.

[The flooded stream that crosses over (rather than under Arroyo) when it rains. The city has made attempts in the past to address this problem which causes the water to overflow onto this thoroughfare. One car was abandoned close to the flooded stream and it's a danger to pedestrians including school children from the Eastside who have no clear direct path to take to go to and from school because the golf course lies between the school and the Eastside. Councilman Andrew Melendrez did say yesterday, that he would investigate this issue impacting his ward's residents. ]

[The source of the problem which leads to the stream that runs through the Victoria County Club's golf course, flooding Arroyo every time it rains. This is actually day 2 after the recent rains and with more powerful storms on the way, this road will probably wash out again and take 3-4 days to dry out. This is an ongoing problem for years yet it continues as much unabated as the water that overflows onto the street.]

Rain came to Riverside, the first and second storms to hit the region after the strengthening of the El Nino weather pattern. Casualties were several streets in Riverside, some trees and the city's Wi Fi system which AT&T is looking at.

At least two outages of the Wi Fi network have been reported in the past day or so and AT&T is looking into any remaining issues. Any outages can be reported through the city's 311 system. Just ask for Tina.

[The pop up that indicates that there's an outage somewhere in the city's Wi Fi system. Currently, AT&T's network and operations committee is addressing isolated outages in Riverside, from the storms that have swept through the region courtesy of El Nino.]

City: "Minor" layoffs Expected

The city'apparently responded to the issue of employee layoffs that have been buzzed about around the city for several weeks. That issue was blogged about here and soon after, community members told me that the issue had come up in various meetings out in the city. There was buzzing going on inside the 'Hall as well, particularly the end of last week and discussion that the city might be circulating a petition to condemn the seizure of more city money by the state to balance its own coffers. It's very well and good that the city responded in this fashion to reassure the masses that layoffs will be "minor" but what they need to do is to do a better job reassuring the masses inside the city if this is the case and it's really too early to tell. After all, similar reassurances were issued in prior recessions which saw large-scale layoffs. At any rate, it's good that the city has put this stance on the record where all can see their stance on this issue and refer back to it if necessary down the uncertain economic road. And I for one will be checking back later as this process plays out. I'm not going to forget what the city put on the record. I'm still not sure what a "minor" layoff means but let's hope the city doesn't start laying people off again.

But it's interesting because when I wrote labor articles for the Black Voice News, it wasn't uncommon for "counter" stories to be published soon after by the Press Enterprise and San Bernardino Sun. Hopefully, this story's more accurate than the others put out by the mainstream press in response for the cities have been, but the key is to watch the municipality over time and sees what it does when the memories of earlier statements it has made start to fade. Summer's usually the time when the most interesting things happen because there' s the least attention being paid then.

The most thanks go to Councilman Steve Adams who as the city's current mayor pro tem has taken a break from mouthing off at the dais and evicting people from city council meetings while he's mayor pro tem to provide some reassurance that the city is looking after its employees and is concerned about providing all the basic services including public safety. I disagree with Adams' statements on both counts very strongly, including every time the city pays for another consultant or another "study" that it receives and then packs away in mothballs. Now you can't tell Adams that you disagree with him on anything because his face will turn bright red, he twists in his chair and he'll rant about how insulted he is and then the verbal barrage of personal insults that have nothing to do with what is actually said will come out.

After witnessing that, it's really no surprised that Adams is being sued for threatening police officers with retaliation if they didn't endorse him or work on his campaign. But I still have the freedom to express my opinion unlike those who are more directly impacted by the budget cuts to the police department who can't really express that the police department is heading into some big trouble ahead. But then there are indications including higher numbers of claims for damages, lawsuits, settlements and inhouse grievances that make it clear it's already there. It's a real shame because no police agency has worked harder to set itself in the right path and no community had worked harder as well but that doesn't matter much when it comes up against short-sighted decision making at City Hall.

Some of the politicians believe that saying these things means I'm insulting the police department which is the "best in the [insert word]". No actually, this is the truth and some people on the dais clearly don't want to hear it. Adams for one thing is planning to run for a third term and given that he only won the last election by 13 votes, news like this certainly isn't going to help his chances. But what's insulting is that this situation is following the path that it has taken once again after this city was struck by tragedy and a decade of introspection and a $26 million and growing reform process, that is in danger of having all its gains reversed by poor decision making and budget cuts.

Then there are five officers arrested in a 14 month period and these arrests and in most cases, firings will impact the agency further both in producing more vacancies at the officer level because Det. Scott Impola's vacancy has to be filled under an early 1990s MOU that states that all detective vacancies are to be filled. The repercussions of some of these firings on the state of morale in the agency will become apparent in the weeks and months ahead particularly if more officers are arrested which unfortunately can't be ruled out at any time.

Are Police Officers Being Used as Election Props?

But it's getting more and more clear that the serious issues involving the police department aren't really being addressed. The people who are running the agency including those in City Hall who control its financial resources down to the last dime and who apparently aren't above utilizing resources for their own purposes including the practice of pushing for more deployments of officers in city council wards when certain incumbent councilmen come up for reelection. Never mind, that other areas of the city might be under served by already strapped resources while these individuals are running for office on "tough on crime" platforms and feel that having more officers visible in their wards will increase the number of votes they will receive at the polls. But in actuality, the effectiveness of this tactic is questionable as two of these elected officials who allegedly engaged in this action were reelected to office and two were not.

This issue will be addressed more in depth in future blog postings.

That reminds me of several conversations that I've had in the past several weeks about the demise of the police department's police and correction team known as PACT, as well as Project Bridge. The concerns are with the high number of parolees set to be released due to state budget balancing that there's no longer a team of officers to monitor them and also direct them to resources designed to help lower recidivism which PACT actually did. It's interesting because people like Adams like to pound from the dais or whenever a microphone is in vicinity about addressing parolees yet the city has just erased its most effective tool for doing all of that including providing other avenues for parolees who wanted to improve their lives.

The latter is an important part to reducing recidivism along with the former. In other words, they'll say the words especially when they're up for reelection but then you wake up and PACT is gone. Project Bridge is also gone only several years after City Manager Brad Hudson fired its key personnel (and that actually stems from a labor complaint filed by one outreach worker about a hostile working environment) while telling the city government and concerned city residents that this program was not going down and out but would be better than ever! Of course we all found out how much truth there were in Hudson's declarations especially since Project Bridge was in trouble long before the recession started.

The situation with the police department's absolutely at the critical level with eight positions vacant and frozen (and no step increases for those already promoted) and at least four more sergeant retirements expected this year. There's really no way to say that the city is doing all it can to preserve public safety as they call it and allow this serious problem to continue unabated for much longer. What I find difficult to believe is that Adams and other individuals can make speeches about how everything is being done regarding this situation when unlike some city employees who have been promoted, Adams is making the salary that his position dictates and while the number of sergeants declines, officer vacancies continue to grow (and the six new positions currently in the academy will be mostly set back by just the known officer terminations) and programs are cut, the city council still has legislative aides and staff support, and there are still three assistant city managers performing the jobs that formerly one assistant city manager and the budget director used to do. The city's argument will be that it's grown, it needs all these positions to be filled, but the police department grew even more so during the past decade and it' still losing positions.

What's happening now is a lessor example (so far) of what happened in the 1990s when severe budget cuts decimated the police department's employee roster including with its supervisors. Like now, the department's officers that it did hire were hired not long before the recession began and thus were very young and experienced. Those officers were placed on shifts mostly nights and holidays where the experience levels were much less than during the earlier shifts. That of course became a recipe for disaster that the city still hasn't fully recovered from even as it continues to travel on down the same worn road. The city manager's office most namely Hudson and Asst. City Manager Brad Hudson have taken it upon themselves to play a larger role at managing the police department than their predecessors and the penalties of that behavior have only begun to be seen. And a key issue is that if you have four or five hands in the RPD's direction (and that's a conservative estimate at this point) it's very difficult to hold one person accountable for the price paid for the probable outcome of its current direction.

They began doing this very soon after Hudson's hiring in 2005 and increased their efforts in earnest not long after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office in 2006. It didn't take long for Hudson to divert from the instructions given to him by the city council after the dissolution on implementation of the Strategic Plan. And although those efforts by Hudson and DeSantis were ultimately thwarted by the city council and the plan was back on track by the autumn of 2006 (though not with some damage to the department when its management failed to evenly progress forward with some personnel in that area regressing).

The Mayor's going to make a speech

Mayor Ron Loveridge be giving his State of the City address before the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Jan. 21, focusing most of his attention and words on the Riverside Renaissance and the recession. In other words, it sounds like the same speech from last year. A lot of people pay for lunch and tables and listen to a bunch of speeches including the keynote annual address by Loveridge. It's not the most thrilling way to spend an hour because the real issues never really come up in the speeches. Riverside Renaissance is a popular topic but what's never included in the mayor's speeches is the ultimate cost of this ambitious five-year plan on the current and future generations of city residents. He will balance that against the recession which has hit the country but there's a lot of area in between which it's not clear will be covered in his speech. There's just too much in his annual addresses that well, goes unaddressed that it's hard to put too much stock into what's being said, when in reality, the actions being taken are often much different.

And yet the world continues to spin on its axis.

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