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 19, 2010

City Manager Brad Hudson on VIP treatment: "It will not be tolerated."

"The public will never know anything about that investigation, any discipline that may or may not be given. By law, none of that can be disclosed."

---Riverside City Manager and de facto police chief, Brad Hudson about the city's ongoing "sweeping" investigation. Mind you, this was after he originally said the investigation was being done in the interest of transparency.

Riverside's White Wash Probe Continues

The latest news from the media on the situation involving the car accident of former Riverside Chief Russ Leach is that suddenly city officials come out of the woodwork and say they weren't called that morning. The electeds are not allowed to talk about it or else they could face being charged with misdemeanor violations having likely been warned by their legal authority. City Attorney Gregory Priamos just loves performing that duty of admonition as he has in the past. And apparently, one of the accident's witnesses might have been told not to say anything even to investigators in a less polite fashion than the elected officials. But maybe if that's the case, it's just how this city works.

But while they remain quiet at City Hall, the rest of Riverside's been talking about all this intrigue for over a week now just about everywhere. Mostly about the double standard afforded people like Leach compared to the rest of the city's residents. As this situation unfolds, it's hard to keep those comments from being made because it's hard to argue against them if there's even one case where someone like the chief received preferential treatment. Makes city residents wonder about the ones they don't know about.

It could definitely be true at least this time that Hudson and his assistant city managers were left in the dark about the incident for a few hours which should provide a few clues there about who made that decision. However, I've already received comments about an interesting statement made in the article by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who said that the usual scenario in this situation was that his office would be notified if major incidents involving city employees erupted as they have in the past. That comments led to some interesting questions but first, this is what was stated in the article.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Police department policy says the city manager should be notified when a high-profile person is involved in a serious incident, though De Santis said he typically gets those calls.

"It would have been usual for me to get a call," he said. In this case, "It was unusual that I didn't."

Meaning what exactly? And what incidents were these? Because there hasn't been many announcements to the city's residents since DeSantis or Hudson have been employed of "serious" incidents involving the high-profile people and the police department. And why does it matter if the person is "high profile" or not if police officers including supervisors and management personnel are supposed to enforce the laws the same for everyone? In the article, DeSantis didn't elaborate what "high profile" means. Does it mean you don't get handcuffed and forced to sit on the curb while they search your car or that you don't get handcuffed and put in the back seat of a squad car after you flunk a sobriety test or are positive for DUI? Does it mean instead you get a ride home and not even a citation in your pocket for any legal violations while it's all swept under the rug? And what's the definition of "high profile" anyway? What people fit in this elite category?

He needs to provide some clarity on this issue since he's so helpfully opened the door on the topic of "high profile" traffic stops, because about 99% of Riversiders right now believe there's a double standard by the city and the police department on how it handles criminal offenses including DUI stops and he's just added fuel to that fire. What if the RPD conducts another DUI checkpoint and motorists from this city just laugh in their faces and ask to be treated like Leach was treated when he was driving a damaged car riding on two rims not even knowing where he was at? How can that be addressed by the city or department with any credibility right now? And it's the higher ups both in the department and at City Hall's fault if they created a double tier system for "high profile" people like the chief getting preferential treatment and everyone else being told, you violated the law, tough luck. What a can of worms this city's created for itself by apparently having at least two separate standards, one for the police chief and one for people who are not the police chief. That's something that an independent probe devoid of city influences might show. This white wash sponsored by Hudson? Probably not, and it's not like the city residents who are going to be funding this investigation would ever know the truth anyway.

And who steps in for DeSantis when there's a call coming in about a major incident involving him, like the 911 phone call made by a woman named Celia Valenzuela reporting an altercation with him in Hemet in July 2006? DeSantis' explanation of the process in practice appeared to cause more confusion than anything else especially pertaining to this particular case and one would think that wouldn't happen with an individual with a background in disseminating public information as he did for Riverside County.

It’s also not clear why DeSantis includes Councilman Steve Adams on the list of people to be notified in case there’s a major incident. DeSantis really should be able to present the information more clearly on this issue given that he himself was once one of those “major incidents” involving a city employee which had to be reported back to city management. This took place during his altercation with a woman in the parking lot. Was Adams singled out because he was the mayor pro tem at that time given that Mayor Ron Loveridge at some point in this situation was up in Sacramento? If that’s the case, why not just call Adams by that title?

Also the exact employment status of Leach has changed from medical leave to medical retirement to resignation and now he's back to being on medical leave while negotiating his medical retirement.

Hudson also makes a statement about the handling of such cases.


"If special treatment was given to any city official or any VIP, we will address that through the administrative process," Hudson said. "It will not be tolerated."

The funny thing is if that were true, if the city and department had such a zero tolerance policy in place, this incident would have been handled appropriately. Meaning among other things that the police department would have handed it over to the CHP or another designated outside law enforcement agency right after it happened, not over 24 hours later.

But Hudson can start by answering this question, not that he ever will. When it became known that the police chief, a city employee, crashed his Chrysler 300, a city owned vehicle, then he must have been tested for drugs and/or alcohol intoxication, pursuant to city policy. Did that happen? If it never did, then Hudson himself has some explaining to do especially if he's making statements like the one above. Because if Leach was never tested by the city, it would seem that Hudson would have to explain why he didn't follow his own standard set of behavior to not give anyone preferential treatment. And it seems that Hudson himself would have to be investigated for that reason.

What it sounds like is that Hudson and DeSantis are breaking their silence on the issue after probably facing some heat and trying to distance themselves from any allegations that they might have known of similar problems with Leach in the past. Because that's what many people are wondering in terms of how much these two men knew about Leach and any possible DUI stops he had in the past involving either this police department or other law enforcement agencies.

It’s very difficult to have any confidence and faith in this “sweeping” probe when those involved with it especially in decision making positions are already circling their wagons around themselves if not each other because it might get to a point where it is each person for himself. Because this is the point in the process when those involved at the upper echelon will start distancing themselves from each other which appears to be precisely what they are doing. They have to because as de facto police chief, Hudson is the final arbiter on this so-called “sweeping” investigation and as a result of that, has to distance himself from any past knowledge he might have had of any prior contacts between Leach and police officers under the definition of traffic stops. After all, how else can you make the final findings on a “sweeping” investigation if you yourself need to be answering some questions? You really can’t do that so in a public relations move, you have to publicly distance yourself from a problematic subordinate employee and lift up your hands and say, we had no idea what was going on with him either. We are just as much in the dark as anyone else. And then hope that enough people believe it. Right now, I wouldn't count on that happening.

The troubling aspect of that “sweeping” probe is that there are individuals in leadership roles within it that themselves might have questions to answer. Acting Chief John De La Rosa might be in that situation depending on whether or not the question is answered in terms of whether or not he was involved in the handling of the traffic stop at Arlington and Rutland in any way. Actually he might have been in that situation because he really can’t be asked anything about that by the internal Affairs Division (which is conducting the sweeping probe) which can’t investigate employees higher in rank than its investigators who are sergeants. In such cases, the Personnel Captain, which is Mike Blakely, would be assigned to conduct any investigation. But what happens if the probe were to (in theory, as in reality this wouldn’t happen) lead outside the police department? The police department’s internal affairs division has no jurisdiction there because it’s purview is only within the police department.

It is interesting how Hudson tosses the community a bone in response to his announcement that it will never know the truth about what happened on Feb. 8 by saying that the Community Police Review Commission will engage in policy review and recommendation. The commission he's essentially turned into a ruinous mess in less time than it took the then leadership to destroy its predecessor, LEPAC.

But then it’s interesting how there’s this public relations tour going on in the community and inside the police department telling people that the department is a family that needs to come together and support its command structure. The fact that this is taking place at all should tell you something about what’s really taking place inside the department if people who work there and people in the community need to be told how to think. But there’s a simple solution to all this that the people engaging in this public relations campaign can provide that could put this to rest. Instead of putting on this campaign all over the place, why not walk down to the CHP investigative headquarters and say, “Hi I’m so and so from the RPD and I understand you have one of our police reports that needs to be reviewed and signed by one of us. And guess what, I’m your guy, just hand over the pen and I’ll do it.” One of these folks who aver that the traffic stop was conducting properly needs to put action to their words by signing off on Sgt. Frank Orta’s report on Leach’s accident and subsequent traffic stop and taking responsibility for it being an accurate and truthful representation of how it was done properly and professionally.

I doubt you’ll find a single person inside the police department in the position of supervision or management who will do that. Why would they now, when they wouldn’t even take that step before this situation with Leach came to light?

Per usual, plenty of written comments were left in response to this article including the following. There's probably been at least 800 written comments left on the newpaper's Web site since the first article about the accident. And very few of them have been positive.

(excerpts, Press Enterprise)

O.K., I can't believe they are even saying they weren't notified. I bet the phone logs will prove that they were! Brad Hudson and his lap dog, Tom DeSantis, are and were fully aware. You know, this isn't unexpected. Leach got preferential treatment from his command staff and luckily the officers who pulled him over were relived of the burden of being asked to cover this up by the command staff members that showed up. This starts with the Lieutenant who was out there and goes all the way to City Hall making stops along the way.The reason why they are just now saying they weren't notified is because they couldn't figure out what to do and think this will work to distance themselves from this and make somebody else the scape goat. That's how Brad and Tom work! Sorry guys! Your dirty!

For a long time now, the Chief has rewarded unquestionable loyalty and has made promotions mostly based on loyalty and not ability. So now you have a command staff that is jut like Leach. And don't dare question or show disloyalty or you walk around with a target on your back. You get passed over for promotions even though you are much more qualified than the leg climber that shows unquestionable loyalty! I feel bad for the good people that were promoted because they unfairly get lumped in with all the rest.

For instance, if you're a poor performer and pick up the Captains kid from his house and take him to school so he doesn't get bullied then you get special treatment. And if your Sergeant tries to document your poor performance in an evaluation then, because you took care of his kid, the Captain steps in and squashes it. Then that Captain advocates for you to get your lazy, unqualified a!! promoted. Isn't that a great system we have? The citizens of Riverside deserve quality promotions and there are plenty of people working for RPD that fit nicely.

It seems that the Consent Decree addressed the officers and never touched the command staff. They got off scott free and were never held accountable for their actions. As a result, its been business as usual. The Assistant Chief has been covering for the Chief for years. Half the time the Chief wouldn't even show up for work! Looks like the Assistant Chief and his command staff have failed the citizens of Riverside and the good men and women of the Department again. You should see the faces of the command staff now that they have to worry about a new Chief coming in and running their ineffective and incompetent butts out of town! Absolutely hilarious!

The bottom line: Fire the lying City Manager and his lying lap dog then clean out the RPD command staff, from the top down, and replace them with honest LEADERS that LEAD by example and you fix this department. Plain and simple!

---"Dirty Leadership"

If I ever get caught drinking and driving in Riverside, after crashing my vehicle and leaving the scene of the accident, I expect to be given the same treatment, no breath test, no ticket, no charges filed and a free ride home.


Word is the mayor is throwing the chief a retirement party at the mayors home. Only a very selected few will be invited. The invites have already gone out will post additional info when it becomes avaliable.


Phone" Ring...Ring...
Hudson Hello?
Leach: Look I'm not taking the fall on this by myself!
Hudson: Look Russ , calm down! we're working out a solution
Leach: I'd better get my medical or I'll open this investigation up I took..
Hudson: Russ I said calm took your meds right?
Leach: Da*m that these folks are looking to crucify me!!!
Hudson I know, I know..If that newspaper would just back off I'll make another phone call overthere i have friends there that can...
Leach: Too late the sh*t has hit the fan!
Hudson: I told you to stay the he!! out of that club. I knew your drinking would get the best of you...
Leach: well Im know but you guys gotta help me here..remember you owe me...
Hudson: Ok..Ok..we're gonna release a statement that'll settle all this we knew nothing and we're not able to share anything with the public so...
Leach good...good...gimme another shot I need it...
Hudson: Ok well as long as you're not driving...


More of these comments to come in future days and weeks for sure as this controversy doesn't seem to be dying down as quickly as the city would like.

The Former Chief Speaks

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein writes this column about his recent conversation with Leach. Leach explains what happened at that traffic stop, at least the way he saw it.


Leach said the CHP found out about his night at Club 215 when "I brought it up. They never brought it up. I started remembering." He said he watched the Super Bowl at home with his girlfriend, left Club 215 alone and couldn't explain how he wound up in the area where he crashed and got stopped.

As for the accident, Leach says, "bouncing off a fire hydrant or light pole didn't happen." Damage to the car (he says he'll pay for it) "is consistent with me hitting a curb." When he was stopped, Leach said, "There was absolutely no interference" on his part. He says the CHP has tapes of the stop.

Leach, who has said prescription meds disoriented him, "probably" told officers "I had been drinking." But "was I driving drunk that night? Absolutely not." The investigations will show "the officers did their jobs." Yet, Leach lamented that he wasn't stopped by another agency (CHP), which would have given him a sobriety test. This suggests that, for whatever reason, RPD officers didn't do their jobs.

"I made a huge mistake," said this "pretty good speaker" who now consults GQ for advice about how (and how not) to apologize in public.

The problem with his statements about him just hitting a curb is that the damage done to his car tells a different story as there's damage to different parts of it including the front fender, left side and two missing wheels. That's a lot of damage from just bumping against a curb.

[One of Leach's cars which was in the accident currently being investigated, showing the damage from running into a curb.]

Still Waiting...

As you can see above, there is something missing from this report written by Sgt. Frank Orta and that's a reviewer's signature and date. But there's still some time! For those who outrank him that truly believe this is the legitimate way to conduct this type of police situation, just head on over to the CHP office pronto and lend your John Hancock to this report saying that you've reviewed it, you find it acceptable and thus take responsibility for it. Don't push each other out of the way getting there to do the honors first! Be courteous to each other and proceed in an orderly fashion but it needs a signature!

Cassie MacDuff with the Press Enterprise continues writing on San Bernardino's ongoing corruption problems.

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