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, February 12, 2010

City Hall Authorizes White Wash of RPD Behind Closed Doors

Simple Simon's, the downtown restaurant suffers major fire in the early morning hours on Friday.

" retrospect, I probably should have retired last summer."

---Former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach to Press Enterprise reporter

"Disposition/Recommendation: -File-"

---Excerpt report written by RPD Sgt. Frank Orta on the "traffic collision" at the end of the six page report.

Investigate Former Chief Russ Leach

Investigate the RPD management for involvement in this incident or any past incidents

Investigate City Manager Brad Hudson

Investigate City Attorney Gregory Priamos

Hire an outside police chief that's not a puppet of the city manager's office or any elected officials

Hire an independent investigator from outside the city to conduct probe and conduct public hearing for any decisions made of hiring an independent contractor to investigate any aspect of the RPD. The city manager has already hired an independent contractor tied to the city's outside firm behind closed doors and without a public discussion and vote on the contract. This can be done now or later by a governmental investigatory body or two, as that is what will likely happen at some point.

Hire an independent investigator to investigate any allegations raised in any labor grievance or lawsuit filed by any RPD employee alleging preferential treatment and/or retaliation

Ask State Attorney General's office to make prosecutory decisions in this case

Do Not Scapegoat Officers Jeremy Miller and Gerald Linhart but grant them full whistle blower status, under federal and state laws and city policies and procedures in exchange for full disclosure of this incident. The RPOA shall provide them with legal counsel, either criminal or labor, who will represent them, not the union or the department.

Human Resources Board should review and make recommendation on any departmental policies and procedures involving potential criminal investigations of management personnel in the RPD and how they are handled by the department including threats of job loss. The city nor any of its employees will fully cooperate with this effort and not obstruct or derail or prohibit it.

I don't expect a single recommendation to be carried out at this time because the city's too busy engaging in more white wash. I know if I just wait long enough, they will all or most of them will be implemented given enough time and enough of business as usual by the city. That's what history has taught me about living in River City. It's just too bad that the lessons of history were lost on most of those in positions of power in this city. But some day perhaps they will sink in.

Welcome to the Twitter visitors from Injustice News.

Yesterday, Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach medically retired from the position he held for nearly 10 years. In the front page photo online, a younger Leach is shown sitting next to retired Asst. Chief Mike Smith at some meeting which must have taken place during the early part of his tenure. Back when he was hired, he was hired after a lengthy selection process to lead the police department through and out of some of its darkest days, beginning in the period after the 1998 fatal officer-involved shooting of Tyisha Miller and the 2001 imposition of the state consent decree with former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office. But in the end, Leach left the department in the same state that it had been when he arrived.

Many things about the department have changed in the past 10 years ago, but it's come back full circle to an agency in upheaval with allegations of mismanagement and with a city filled with infuriated residents who are demanding federal, state and any investigations as long as it's outside the purview of the city including City Hall. City residents are upset enough that those city council members in the odd-numbered wards should consider themselves fortunate that the election is next year and not this one. There's still time for those up for election to do the right thing and act as leaders while pushing for accountability and also insuring transparency. If not, then it's not assured that they'll be voted back into office.

The newspaper article announced that the Internal Affairs Division would do a sweeping investigation of the affair and report it directly to City Manager Brad Hudson and that former Riverside County District Attorney and current Best, Best and Krieger lawyer, Grover Trask would provide "independent oversight", a decision made in an awful hurry behind some folks behind closed doors at City Hall. "On the Q T and very hush, hush" as Danny DeVito's character in the film. L.A. Confidential might have put it. Riversiders might just call it "business as usual" from a city government which hasn't wanted to be truly accountable to its true employers, the city's residents for quite some time now. And now in the face of the consequences for that mindset, it's proving so far it hasn't learned a thing.

Per usual, the article is followed by dozens and soon to be no doubt hundreds of more comments on what people think of these decisions not to mention the many comments on the article about former Officer Robert Forman's wrist slap. Most people seem to look at this and read "white wash" and they're absolutely right. Handing off the investigation to the Internal Affairs Division is viewed by most people, like having the fox guarding the hen house, given that it's becoming apparent that this latest incident involving Leach's crash is the latest of a series of alleged coverups of prior incidents if half of what's been appearing in the comments thread is to be believed. It seems that the joke's been on the city's residents that there were situations going on of impropriety that weren't handled properly as they would with the average person.

The fact that the city has announced that the department will be investigating itself three days after the initial incident speaks volumes because that should have been done day one and announced then if it was going to go that route. Although given that the highest ranking sworn employee in Internal Affairs is a lieutenant, it is clear that the purview of this division only pertains to officers of that rank or lower and if the investigation leads up the ladder, then what? There'll be no one in Internal Affairs to investigate those employees because police officers don't generally conduct administrative investigations of employees who outrank them.

It's not just a matter of whether those who investigate will be able to do so, it's if they would be allowed to do so. You know like those officers should have been able to do with the original incident involving Leach. But regardless of whether the police department can actually self-investigate, the perception is strongly held that it can't given that the text book example of serious problems with that has come to light.

If police officers distrust the Internal Affairs Process and in some agencies they do, then it's still not nearly as much as many civilians do. And handing it off to the more than de facto police chief, Brad Hudson is just irresponsible, given that the full role of employees of City Hall in this mess which apparently began long before Leach injured his back is not determined. Why hand over an investigation to someone who needs to be investigated himself?

Even the distrust for the department to investigate officer-involved deaths has grown because many people are thinking if they cover up a controversial incident like Leach's accident based on orders given, then what's going to be a different about a controversial officer-involved death? And it's lost on few people how quickly the city is pushing for this "independent review" by an outside investigator even before the criminal investigation has been completed. Wait a minute here, what about Trask trampling on what's left of any potential crime scene and contaminating any witnesses or part of the process? The situation needs an investigation but by someone who's not from Riverside, given that it's not clear how widely spread this latest mess will be by the time it's done.

Some of these comments on these threads have stated that officers from the department who had pulled over Leach on prior occasions had seen the watch commander on duty come to pick him up upon order of the department's assistant chief even when Leach had allegedly been intoxicated, beginning long before his back injury. Others allege that this was a regular thing and it does seem after reading the so-called police reports online that there's a huge disconnect with Sgt. Frank Orta's contention that he had a motorist who was his boss who had a wrecked car being driven on rims and no memory of what happened and yet he failed to follow through with investigating that at all let alone thoroughly as he would likely have done if it was the average motorist swerving across a wide street, crashing and then driving for several miles over a period of time that might have spanned nearly three hours. The designation of possible drinking was checked off but no sobriety tests were conducted even though the vehicle was reported by a passerby as being a possible DUI.

Was Leach evaluated for intoxication? Apparently not. It's not clear that he was even evaluated for any head injuries which could cause memory loss. It's not even how he left the scene of the traffic stop. But what's clear is that there's a complete omission of any efforts by officers to discover why their police chief had nearly complete memory loss and talked about driving in fields and dirt roads with no knowledge of where they were when finally stepped. Not to mention any knowledge about the damage to his car beyond some comments made about a flat tire. There's no mention of any use of any prescription medication that could have impaired Leach in the report either.

Riverside Police Officers' Association President Cliff Mason seems to believe that this is extremely professional behavior by all involved, including the supervisors like Orta who crafted this rather marginal report, which clearly was written to disregard any investigation of a police chief driving under the influence of a substance, crashing his car and leaving the scene of an accident and driving for three miles before being pulled over. Yet the public is supposed to buy into that argument that this is professional conduct by a Riverside Police Department officer? An RPD sergeant? I think if there weren't going to be a white wash then Mason might be "disappointed" and "shocked" by an investigation's outcome.

It seems that if Mason is trying to call this type of behavior and report writing highly professional, then he's seriously underselling his own membership by lowering the standards substantially regarding adherence to professional protocol and that treating the police chief differently by not even investigating his state in this situation is an ordinary thing. But they could very well be very professional officers who have histories of arresting and/or citing people who are under the influence while driving. But they might also be officers who were told that they had to write reports a certain way to keep their jobs. If the officers (whose reports either weren't written or included in the "traffic collision" report) were told by the sergeant who was told by the watch commander who was told by someone higher up to omit any information regarding alcohol and drug evaluation in someone who's a suspected DUI and has suffered major damage to their vehicle with no alleged memory how, then Mason as an elected advocate for any officers in that situation should be first in line asking questions about whether there was any improper behavior by supervisors and/or management personnel.

The only violations mentioned on the report are failure to safely turn and remain on the right side of the road, given that the diagram and vehicle damage shows that he obviously veered across all the lanes of Central and hit a fire hydrant and light pole on the opposite side of the street. In fact, there's more information in the report about the state of the black Chryler 300 than that of the man behind the wheel. And unlike in most cases, no statements have been submitted by either Officer Jeremy Miller or Grant Linhart. Only one report submitted the previous day (well, according to the date on the report anyway) by the sergeant. And who signed off on his report, to oversee it?

Reading these comments it seems like a curious combination between the code of silence with the classic enabling patterns that appear in alcoholics and drug addictions if that's indeed Leach's problem as many have speculated. One person complained that it shouldn't go to Internal Affairs because one of the investigators is a "drinking buddy" of Leach's not to mention city council members, both current and former, city employees and the police chief having drinking parties at the Sire's restaurant. It's like some dam's broken and some sort of free for all is taking place and the rest of the city's residents are asking, have they really been in the dark all this time? A curious mixture of inhouse allegations and demands for the FBI and State Attorney General's office to investigate (been there, done that, back to square one again in terms of community trust) the department and City Hall.

Are these allegations true, are they not true? Are they being investigated and if so, will it be the same people who should have done it before it didn't, including the current head of the Riverside Police Department Chief (and City Manager) Brad Hudson. The same man being sued by police lieutenants for manipulating the promotional process and using it as a retaliatory tool not to mention engaging in union busting practices. If Hudson is in charge of the investigation, the public will never know the truth about what happened, for one thing City Attorney Gregory Priamos who shares the administration of the city with Hudson would never allow it. And the city and department needs to remember who pays for both entities, with tax dollars. When most of us were busy "shopping Riverside" (while people like Mayor Ron Loveridge buy their campaign materials in Orange County, filled with people who call us "dirt people"), we had no idea our money would be used to employ people who allegedly have been engaging in dysfunctional practices. I think that's behind some of the level of shock that people are expressing from one end of the city to the other.

City's Response

**Pin Drop**

In the wake of the news of the accident and Leach's subsequent retirement, you could have heard a pin drop, though Councilman Mike Gardner did ultimately comment and said that there might be questions raised by the reports that were filed by the officers regarding the incident. Two other council members, Chris MacArthur and Andrew Melendrez (who allegedly has an inlaw involved in this case) have declined comment but it's time for other leaders to be exactly that, leaders. Hopefully, this section of this ongoing saga will be filled out with more response from the city's leadership in the upcoming days.

But first they'll have to break a pattern that's entrenched in this city's way of doing business and it's not clear that this will happen anytime soon.

Wi Fi Update

AT&T technicians are out repairing a multitude of outages impacting mainly the equipment that broadcasts internet signals from the ISP to the Bell 200 nodes. This has led to limited connectivity broadcasting in nodes that are completely down and intermittant service in others.

During the recent rains, the boxes holding the equipment flooded, causing the equipment to fail. In addition, a glitch hit the network some time yesterday afternoon impacting users ability to log into either the ATT FREE or ATT METROFI, but for some reason the only page that can be accessed is Riverside's city site as well as the previously downed page on ATTFREE that tells you have successfully logged in. My guess is that while working on restoring this particular page, the gateway connecting the server to the internet was inadvertently impacted blocking access to all sites except the one which was the city of Riverside that was the one that was recently being hyperlinked and instructed to redirect and load on this reinstated page, which because of dead hyperlinks appears to have been a work in progress and not fully servicable.

Hopefully, this will be fixed soon as this could enable many users to reconnect with the service. As for those in many of the areas where outages have hit, repair time estimates are between 3-4 days.

The recent rains have severely impacted the city's Wi Fi system, leading to outages that strangely occur after the rains actually end and then increase in number in the 1-2 days that follow these storms.

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