Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Eastside, RPD to Meet on last week's raids with D.A. Rod Pacheco expected to not show

Over 30 residents of the Eastside and Casa Blanca showed up at the Feb. 2 city council meeting to criticize the raids that took place in the early morning hours of Jan. 27 in the Eastside and other Riverside County cities that were done by a "multi-agency operation" called Operation Promise.

Rita Nieto, of the Eastside Think Tank said that she was concerned that the police agencies had done a "high-risk" operation without concern about the students who were about to go to school or were on their way to school that morning. She wanted the city to investigate an incident where officers entered a residence even though the person they were seeking on the warrant had been deceased for over a year. She said that the agencies had called the raids, "Operation Promise".

"What's the promise," Nieto said, "That they'll be back?"

Rosa Gonzalez said she was concerned to see the police driving down the Eastside street in tanks and officers pointing automatic rifles at students for walking down the street. She said she was disappointed in the "militia tactics" and how they had treated the elderly man who was left with bruised arms.

"What they did to the gentleman is an abuse of our elderly," she said.

Rose Marie Gonzalez said that District Attorney Rod Pacheco had said that 99% of the Eastside were hard working people.

"They really need to come into our community," she said, "Come to the Eastside."

Mary Munoz said that a young Black student had been told at gunpoint by officers to go into a stranger's house. When he told officers he didn't know those people, they told him it didn't matter. Fortunately, the family, who was Latino, told him to come in the house to be safe. Ironic, given how much the animosity between not just Black and Latino gang members has been built up by the D.A.'s office, that the Latino family was concerned about the Black student and keeping safe.

"We are not what the D.A. says we are," Munoz said.

Munoz said that she thought they had been looking for drugs but apparently none were found anywhere. She said that children were scared, families were scared by the raids. And that counseling hadn't been offered to the students.

"This isn't Vietnam. This isn't Iraq," Munoz said.

Community Leader Christina Duran said she had been walking her daughter to school when she saw a lot of police cars and realized something was going on in the Eastside.

"It was extremely traumatizing to see students not able to go to school," Duran said.

She said parents were upset that they couldn't pass through police barricades near Longfellow Elementary School to get their kids to school. Other parents were upset because the raids took place after they had sent their kids to school and they had no way of finding out whether or not their children were safe. She spoke about the elderly man in handcuffs who was trying to use a cane to hold himself up.

While Duran spoke at the podium, DeSantis and Priamos were engaged in some banter, not paying attention to what was being said, even as Duran told about a woman who opened the door and when this woman asked for the warrant, the police officers said she could see it later. Inside that residence, was a 46 year old developmentally disabled man with the mental age of a six year old who was detained by police officers.

DeSantis took a break from some clearly light hearted bantering with City Attorney Gregory Priamos while Eastside residents addressed the city council, spoke for the city and department saying that he wanted to make it clear to the viewing audience that this operation was orchestrated by the Riverside County District Attorney's office.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez who didn't attend a community meeting that attracted over 40 people earlier that week did thank people for coming out and for calling his office. He did say that he would be holding a forum at Bobby Bonds Park on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. Police Chief Russ Leach and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel are scheduled to attend.

The Press Enterprise wrote about the Eastside response here.

John Hall, who speaks for the Riverside County District Attorney's office made some interesting comments in response.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

John Hall, a spokesman for Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, said Wednesday the operation was handled appropriately to deal with gang members with weapons, some of whom have murder convictions.

He said allegations of people being threatened or injured in the operation "are false."

"We're doing what we need to do to protect this community from gang members that are victimizing members of this community," he said.

Hall said he did not have complete information on the warrants and couldn't speak to residents' charges that they were flawed. He was unable to confirm whether someone from Pacheco's office would attend today's meeting.

So Mr. Hall is claiming every allegation made is false without having all the information that was presented on the warrants or having any knowledge of them. His comments have already stirred up a response and per usual, the District Attorney's office will stoke the fires of conflict and then leave it to the city of Riverside and the police department to deal with an operation that was under the county's command. The city and the police department might be in the position where it's a necessary thing for them to listen to questions and answer them but so is the Riverside County's District Attorney's office and only one of those parties is coming to a public forum to do so.

It seems to me that if District Attorney Rod Pacheco who incidentally is up for reelection in several months can take the time to listen to the members of the 99% of the Eastside that he has said are "hard working law abiding individuals" and address their concerns and questions instead of behaving as good leaders don't do, which is to pass the buck to subordinates of your own operation. But Pacecho has yet to show any ability to do so in his entire term as this county's top prosecutor. In fact he has yet to actually set foot in the Eastside to address the Latino leadership on any issue, yet he's saying that the vast majority of them are hard working individuals when he doesn't even know most of them. It's not like he's made the effort to do so, even though they are part of the "People" that he represents. He refused to even meet with members of the Eastside Think tank including those with law enforcement backgrounds without submitting them to background checks.

Because face it, if any agency has an operation that it plans and carries out for the right reasons, in the right way, then the leaders of that agency would feel confident enough and certainly comfortable enough to participate in a community meeting or forum. Confronting people even their critics shouldn't be anything to be avoided or ignored. Why, because you know if you have done what was the appropriate and responsible action, then you understand that participating in the community's breakdown of that action and the raising of issues, concerns, problems and questions is no threat to you or your standing in your law enforcement agency or governmental body.

But while Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel are attending the meeting (though it remains to be seen exactly what their approach will be including their direction from their bosses at City Hall) along with Councilman Andrew Melendrez who represents the Eastside, it's a pretty safe bet that the D.A.'s office especially Pacheco will be no shows. This office lacks even the fortitude to confirm or deny whether they'll be attending because they never say yes or no, they just leave an empty chair at the forums and meetings they attend which is how people know that yes, once again they didn't have the fortitude to attend.

This is because they don't really believe that 99% of the Eastside is law abiding and hard-working, they believe it's those who don't say anything. Because if they truly believed what they said at the press conference about the demographics for the Eastside, they'd be at that meeting and listening to people. A representative from every law enforcement and/or prosecuting agency would be attending that meeting, but let's see who actually will show up. But it does make you wonder if the D.A.'s office is really as confident as it sounds about the raids last week because they can't even tell a reporter if they're attending or not.

It will take time to see how or whether the "lies" that Hall said to the press, again without having read up on the material involved in the case are shown for actually being lied, or show up inside a federal courtroom in front of a jury to make that decision instead as litigation is anticipated to arise from the raids.

Here's one of those "lies" that Hall is talking about. The 87 year old man who allegedly in front of a multitude of witnesses was handcuffed by police officers and wound up with severely bruised arms. As these photographs are slowly making their way to different venues from coast to coast, people said that the man had been leaning on his cane and suffering from severe arthritis, when the police detained him.

87 year old man bruised after being detained in raids

Update: Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel: Internal Affairs is Investigating

[Man in his late eighties who's a retired worker and suffers from severe arthritis who was handcuffed by police officers during the raids on the Eastside.]

[The man displays his arms which were bruised after he was handcuffed and detained in the Eastside.]

This man was actually on the toilet when police officers grabbed him and took him in the living room with his pants hanging down around his ankles and one slipper off.

The reaction to these photos has been visceral and immediate as people have recoiled at the sight of them. But clearly Hall hasn't seen them. Nor has Hall likely talked to the elderly African-American man in Moreno Valley who was inside his house with his grand daughter who's all of four years old when 10 officers entered the residence, tracking in mud and tearing up blinds and looking for an "Alejandro" who incidentally hadn't lived there in over a year. The police said that they had received the address from the county probation department which is kind of scary that an agency like that could make a mistake. For one thing, because this could cause the police to break into a residence mistaking innocent people for those they are looking for. It's also alarming because if this individual is a dangerous criminal, then he's been out of their supervision during the time they were under the mistaken impression that he still lived there.

Another resident said that police officers entered into another house looking for a man who as it turned out was deceased, while another was locked up in a juvenile detention center. If this is true, then these agencies need to evaluate how they obtain information and can check and double check its accuracy during the lengthy (some say this operation took 18 months of investigation)process of planning and launching raids on neighborhoods where the criminal targets may or may not be there, amid thousands of innocent people who might just share a racial identity with them. Multiple allegations have been coming in all week of children getting guns pointed at them by officers, some who arrived in tanks and one Black student being ordered at gunpoint by officers to take shelter in the house of a Latino family he didn't know. Telling this to the officers apparently had no effect, because after all, he could have been sent into a house of a child molester but fortunately in his case, the family urged him to come in and he would be safe. Ironic in a community painted as being filled with tension between its Black and Latino residents.

Allegations of young teenaged girls being forced out of residences only wearing underwear. Of young women being detained inside cages inside police vehicles while homes were being searched.

Someone on the command staff once asked me why even after the efforts made by the police department to build bridges with some of the communities it's had strained relations in the past, there's been little to no real sustained progress in this process. One of the possible answers might be is that the police department does make serious efforts and even some inroads in this area. But then through a single action, it brings to mind the adage, two steps forward, one big one behind. It tells community members to work with it to reduce crime and guess what, many Eastsiders did do this and guess what, crime rates fell because of the hard work and partnership between residents and police officers. But now guess what, many of these same allies are angry and upset and yes, feeling more than a bit betrayed by the police department sending tanks and officers dressed more like soldiers into their neighborhoods in the morning when they are sending or have sent their children to school.

And then to see two of the most vulnerable segments of any neighborhood, its children and elderly treated as criminals. A man leaning on his cane while being handcuffed by police officers who most likely were not even assigned regularly to his neighborhood and perhaps weren't even working in his city.

The little four year old who watched the police officers point their weapons at her grandfather lying on the ground even while they were looking for "Alejandro" loves like most children to draw pictures including things that she has seen or experienced in her young life. But after the police had left, she drew a picture of an officer pointing a gun at her grandfather. This girl was certainly no criminal, and neither was her grandfather. He's a relative of a woman who works at one of the Eastside's most prominent churches. But how do you think this little girl is going to grow up viewing police officers? Will she view them as individuals who would give their lives to serve and protect her, or as someone to fear as a threat to the life and safety of her and her loved ones?

Why is the D.A.'s Focus on East Side Riva and Not At All on 1200 Bloc Crips?

[The 1200 Bloc Crips, the Eastside gang that the District Attorney's office doesn't see, engage in some crossing out of rival gangs in their graffiti on a traffic pole near Town Gate Plaza in the Eastside.]

Someone from the department said that the police had done 45 arrests and home searches that same day involving members of 1200 Block but Pacheco never mentioned that in his press conference, nor did the federal investigators. This individual said that likely was because the ESR gang had an injunction against it and focusing on the arrest statistics of ESR made better press and sound bytes by Pacheco's office, This person had more of a trace of bitterness in their voice when saying this which means that maybe even those participating in the raids last week had questions at least about their focus. And the near absence in mention, certainly by Pacheco's office about the Eastside's other gangs. Because after all, if you're involved in taking enforcement action against all of Eastside's gangs, the focus of the D.A.'s office on only the one that can get it the best press is going to be frustrating. Not to mention living in a neighborhood where you serve as political fodder to an elected official who is supposed to be representing you. Italic

Thanks to Pacheco, the Eastside's children now have more than the gangs to fear. Walking to school, having left their parents and they are the "liars" that are making allegations of having guns pointed at them as are those who said they witnessed it. Maybe it's worth investigating perhaps, but any agency that brands complainants "liars" before even doing that, isn't going to be able to do so. In fact, those statements place the D.A.'s office in even a greater conflict of interest situation.

Better press perhaps for Pacheco especially given that he's up for reelection in several months with no opposition announced so far but is it the truth, then there needs to be some serious questions as to why the focus of the D.A.'s efforts have all been on the ESR gang even as members of the 1200 Bloc were apparently brazen enough to commit a double homicide of two Latino teenagers including a North High School honor student last year. The murders have led to no arrests even though police said they know who did it but that they can't find any witnesses willing to testify against the killers in court.

Yet, this problem doesn't seem to be prohibiting the District Attorney's office from arresting and prosecuting ESR gang members for fatal or nonfatal shootings of African-Americans and even in one case the killing of a dog. There are serious concerns about intimidation of witnesses in most gang killings and there have been many cases where people watch killings take place and don't see a thing because of that. But it seems that the D.A.'s office has resources to protect witnesses in its Victim-Witness unit including relocation of witnesses. Are those resources being made available to only those who testify against ESR gang members or are they also available to those who witness crimes by 1200 Bloc Crips or Georgia Street Mafia?

The Riverside Police Department including its gang unit know that these other gangs exist and have been involved in enforcement activity against them. So why is the D.A.'s office essentially ignoring these other gangs and focusing on only talking about ESR?

There needs to be an accounting on whether the D.A.'s office is focusing on one gang and giving the other one essentially a free pass to commit crimes. If the police department including its gang unit are addressing crimes by both groups which appears to be the case, it seems to me that the D.A.'s office would be doing its part in also focusing its efforts on both of them instead doing as this person said, which was using the ESR efforts to potentially be trying to get good press for itself. The police department should come to the meeting armed with statistics and back up material on the arrests and home searches of ESR and 1200 Bloc Crips and if the D.A.'s office sends a representative, it should do like as well with its prosecution rates involving both gangs. And by the way, provide an update into the December 2008 double homicide of the two Latino men killed while attending a party in the Eastside. If they can't answer any of these inquiries publicly, they can always issue a press release, saying they are of course, unavailable for comment.

The above individual said that the statistics from the department are available but wasn't sure if the area commander had the guts to show them.

Earth To Andy Melendrez:

Project Bridge is Dead

It was interesting to listen to Councilman Andrew Melendrez who represents the Eastside speak about accessing Project Bridge, the city's only gang intervention and prevention program as a resource. Apparently he hasn't yet got the memo that Project Bridge no longer exists. Why? Because it hasn't received any funding for some time. It's let go all of its gang intervention workers and is handing off their responsibilities to Park and Recreation employees at the local community centers without providing any training to them to do this very specialized outreach work. Even the director the city hired several years ago to lead the organization no longer is in that position but was transferred to a youth center project.

The city manager's office sold the people a bill of goods when it claimed to be interested in expanding Project Bridge and making it "better than ever". Well guess what? There are words and then there are outcomes and the outcome is, that the city killed Project Bridge even as other cities have seen their gang violence rates decline when combining enforcement with intervention and prevention programs. But the city really needs to get around to issuing a press release informing the city that Project Bridge has died.

A much more quieter raid by the Riverside County District Attorney's office, this time tied at a recall effort in Lake Elsinore.

Coming Soon:

Look, Don't Touch

Coming soon is the unknown tale of how sitting on this patch of grass outside of City Hall can land you a pricey citation despite the fact that there's no signage in the vicinity warning of this pending citation nor are there any barriers between the grassy knoll which traditionally has been a place for city residents to sit without threat of citation. When did the city make this decision to declare sitting here a citation and why is there no signage?

More to come...

Also Coming Soon:

The Human Resources Board Vs City Manager Brad Hudson

News is coming in that City Manager Brad Hudson and his office are nixing plans by the Human Resources Board to interview the city's department heads, by saying that the board can't do this and then assigning Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout to do this instead. Even though doing this is within the purview of the Board. Hudson had no direct control over the Human Resources Board because it's to report only to the city council and mayor.

The issue of interviewing department heads came after members of the Board expressed concern with the massive defections in the city's Development department and wanted to have a meeting with its new head, Deanna Larsen.

More to come....

Coming Soon:

Will Former Officer Robert Forman Get Probation?

With former Riverside Police Department officer, Robert Forman getting sentenced in upcoming weeks, it remains to be seen whether he'll actually receive only probation or maybe even time served. The Riverside County Probation Department has recommended a jail sentence between 120-150 days. Considering his history, that's very interesting, but there's more to come including a discussion about the so-called "Forman Tape", in the upcoming series, Sex, Lies and Audiotape.

Supervisory Ratios and Sergeant Watch Commanders:

Questions and Concerns Arise
Align Left

Concerns are being raised about whether the supervisory ratios have risen and an incident arose when someone called the police department to talk to a lieutenant and was told there weren't any. The city has made these statistics on both of these areas much harder to get than they were during the five year period the department and city were under the state consent decree under former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

And since the police department no longer gives updates or reports including information on the supervisory ratios and the usage of sergeant watch commanders, it's not clear whether or how much this situation has changed in the past several years. But remember, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis believes that the police department is "completely staffed".

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older