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 26, 2010

City Manager Brad Hudson to Host Community Forums on Hunt for New Chief

Help Wanted: New RPD Chief or Puppet?

Part 1: Brad Hudson's Invitation to City Residents

The city of Riverside issued this press release alerting city residents of three community forums that will be held by the city to solicit input from the residents on selecting the new police chief. City Manager Brad Hudson who doesn't seem to be a huge fan of public participation in governmental process will be moderating as the ringleader in any discussions or solicitation of input coming from city residents on what they hope to see in the next police chief. It's such a rarity to even hear of Hudson leaving his office at City Hall to come out to community meetings including one in the Eastside though wasn't that why he packed a gun while working as the city manager? In case he had to attend contentious meetings as city manager? Oh wait, no that was one of his assistant city managers.

His assistant, Tom DeSantis stated in his concealed and carry weapon permit application, that he needed his gun to take to some community meetings.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"Self-protection associated with professional duties which require presence in high-crime areas of the city, as well as attendance at hostile and potentially hostile community meetings in high-crime areas." No wonder the city manager is paying Tom DeSantis $157K. The man signed up for hazardous duty!

Of course the only time that most city residents have heard or read about DeSantis' gun was not when he was calling 911 to say that he had cornered someone at one of these "hostile or potentially hostile community meetings" and was holding them at gunpoint but when a woman called 911 on him during an altercation at a parking lot in Hemet. DeSantis had originally received his conceal and carry weapon permit from Leach despite the fact that he wasn't a resident in Riverside and apparently he didn't qualify to receive one from Leach as a nonresident because his permit had to be revoked and the process whipped off to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to get him a new one. More than a few heads shook at wondering how DeSantis could have "accidentally" received a CCW permit from the wrong jurisdiction due to issues with his residency. Apparently it all got smoothed out because bureaucratic red tape parts like the Red Sea for some individuals when necessary, if not for mere mortals.

But then this is Riverside and in light of this gun permit controversy that took place when both men first rode into town, it's a bit hard to picture them attending community meetings let alone moderating them. It should prove to be quite an interesting sight.

Watching Hudson moderate public forums will be very interesting to say the least, given that he wasn't exactly hired in 2005 for his community friendly skills. In fact, he's in the past tried to ban at least one of his management personnel from attending community meetings even on that employee's own time.

Anyway, this is what Hudson had to say in the city's press release on the process.

"Our next police chief will work closely with the community, its police officers and city leaders as co-producers of public safety and to realize the vision of the department's updated Strategic Plan. RPD's commitment to Community Policing makes it one of the top police agencies in California. The opportunity to lead it will be extremely appealing to highly qualified law enforcement professionals."

It's hard to know where to start with what's wrong with a statement like this one that Hudson has put out for the world to see involving his hunt for Leach's replacement. First of all, he stated that "our next police chief" will work closely with the community. That's interesting considering how invisible Leach became during his last several years as police chief. The community barely ever saw him, once the stipulated judgment was dissolved between the city and the State Attorney General's office. In fact, some called him the "invisible man" due to his dearth of public appearances. So in the face of this, it's very difficult to take Hudson at his word that he's interested in hiring a chief that's out and about in the communities of Riverside. After all, the more a department head circulates out in the public with the residents of the city that they serve, the less easy it becomes to control them. And control appears to be rather big with Hudson.

Since Hudson came aboard to work for the city in 2005 and especially by later 2006, the appearances of Leach dwindled down to a sporadic cameo appearance perhaps every few months when Hudson needed the chief to say a few words to promote his agenda, whether it be changing the investigative protocol of the CPRC which he did by directive in the summer of 2008 or a city council meeting here and there. It seemed that for the most part people in the city saw Leach when he was needed as a prop by Hudson for some purpose or another. A long way from the very active and engaging chief he had been when first hired by the city in 2000 during one of the most difficult periods in the city and police department's histories. He himself said that he felt that he could do the most work during the years that the stipulated judgment was in place but problems in his police department involving him, the dynamic in City Hall and the department began before the stipulated judgment was dissolved.

But for the most part, the communities haven't seen the former police chief in the past several years up to the point where he went on medical leave to hammer out a medical disability retirement.

It didn't appear that police officers and other employees in the department saw Leach very often in the past couple of years or so either as the department appears to be run mostly by its upper management as well as some pretty heavy involvement from Hudson and DeSantis including almost all of its budgetary allocations which had to be approved by DeSantis. There were several time periods in the past 10 years which set the department on the path that it is today, the same path which contributed greatly to what happened in the aftermath of Leach's accident and traffic stop. Those time periods will be discussed further in future blog postings including why they contributed to the dysfunctional state of the police department that exists just a few days shy of the fourth anniversary of its dissolution from the state.

But Leach's invisibility came up time and time again at community forums and meetings especially those he canceled out at the last minute. Hudson appears to be trying to distance himself from the chief that he helped create under his watch by contrasting how this new chief will be different from his predecessor almost as if alluding to negative qualities in Leach including those put on display in the early morning hours of Feb. 8.

And yet Hudson was the direct manager over Leach so if Hudson had wanted Leach to appear more in public or inside his police department, then he could certainly have ordered Leach to do just that. But as we know, that clearly didn't happen. What people saw instead at community meetings in the past several months were either deputy chief, Pete Esquivel and/or Asst. Chief John De La Rosa representing the police department including at civic meetings. In fact, in his final week, Leach canceled out of a community forum held in the Eastside on the police raids on the neighborhood and earlier, he had opted out of a community forum at the Magnolia Police Station involving the upcoming Strategic Plan. None of the command staff that appeared in his stead at these and other meetings where he had been missing seemed fazed by his absence.

So it's a bit odd to read such a statement as coming from Hudson, the same city manager who once forbade a former manager of the Community Police Review Commission from attending community meetings lest he appear too biased. It's very hard to buy into this message being sent by Hudson that he wants a community friendly police chief when it doesn't appear that was part of Hudson's program with Leach.

But it's the statements about his commitment to the upcoming strategic plan that really were fascinating given his track record of (cough) support (cough) of either the original strategic plan or its replacement. The fact being that he was not a really big fan of either strategic plan, which he showed not long after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment in 2006. At a workshop the city council held in late March 2006, the legislative body voted 7-0 to implement a strategy to ensure that the goals and the objectives of the strategic plan were carried out as well as quarterly audits on the department's progress. During the summer probably when most of the city council had its thoughts elsewhere, Hudson either on his own or after receiving amended instructions from a minority of council members didn't adhere to the directive issued him by the city council on the hiring of a police practices consultant. In fact, he seemed intent on running it aground and then reporting back to his bosses that he couldn't carry out its directive the way it had directed. It appeared that this was the plan, but as it turned out, it's not exactly what happened.

Specifically, Hudson apparently altered the plans in hopes of failing to hire the consultant so that he could go back to the city council and tell it that he was unable to hammer out a contract with the consultant, Joe Brann. He even allegedly tried to get Deputy State Attorney General Lou Verdugo involved at some point to help him get Brann to agree to a reduced contract that differed greatly from the council's directive by using his position but Verdugo apparently didn't do what Hudson wanted him to do.

When autumn arrived, enough of the city council discovered that their directive had been stalled at some point like a rudderless ship and steered the SS Hudson back on track.

Fast forward to early 2009 when the department began to develop a Strategic Plan to replace the original one when it expired at the end of that year. Discussion began about community input but then suddenly throughout the summer and early autumn, things became quiet. Never a good sign when it comes to long-range planning in the police department.

Last autumn, it turned out that this newer strategic plan had veered off into never, never, no way land due to influences at City Hall. After a couple of council members inquired as to the fate of the grounded plan, it suddenly got back on track again and was then taken out by the police department for public comment. Hopefully it hasn't stalled once again but is continuing to move forward.

The questions aren't bad but there's one that's clearly missing. Here it is.

5) Do you want a police chief that's micromanaged by Hudson or any element of City Hall? Do you want a police chief or a puppet?

Somehow, I don't think that this line of questioning will be included on any survey and with Hudson controlling the community forums as deftly as he controls City Hall and its departments, there probably won't be a forum for discussing the pressing issues that have arisen from having a police department micromanaged by City Hall.

The city's retained the recruitment firm of Roberts Consulting Group which is expected given that it's a popular choice of Mayor Ron Loveridge who hooked up with Hudson to conduct the broad search for a new police chief.

One CPRC Commissioner Examines Parallel Investigations

Community Police Review Commission member John Brandriff wrote this op-ed piece that was published in the Press Enterprise and begins it by saying he doesn't represent the commission on this issue. That's most definitely the truth given that the majority of the current makeup of the commission aligns itself with the directives it receives from City Hall, both official and unofficial. But it's nice to see one of the member's step forward to write on the issue in a fashion that the majority of that body can't grasp as beholden as it remains to City Hall. Brandriff raises excellent points as he presents his case for restoring parallel investigations of officer-involved deaths to the CPRC. It's ironic that in light of the ongoing situation involving former Chief Russ Leach and the resultant "independent" probe being orchestrated by Hudson that it's the department that's compromised one of its criminal investigations by not conducting one of its former head, rather than the CPRC which to this date has never compromised (or received any complaints from anyone alleging this) a single officer-involved death case that's landed in its purview.

The Governmental Affairs Committee will be meeting this week as its chair, Councilman Andrew Melendrez will propose an amended directive to take to the full city council which will state that the CPRC shall begin its investigations 30 days after the department begins its own criminal probe. It remains to be seen whether Melendrez will have the support and votes of the other committee members, Councilmen Rusty Bailey and Steve Adams but with an election year approaching, both might be so moved. After all, after former councilman Frank Schiavone took credit for imposing the current restrictions on the investigations by the CPRC, he saw votes slip away in some neighborhoods because of that issue, enough votes to help ensure his defeat.

It's pretty safe to say that none of the city council including the two council members up for reelection serving on the Governmental Affairs Committee want to follow in Schiavone's footsteps.

This Just In!!

RPD Officer Arrests Drunk Driver Whose Car Has Flat Tires

Who: Officer Anthony Watkins (hired by the RPD in December 2005 from the California Highway Patrol)

Where: Alessandro near Mission Grove, NPC East

When: Feb. 28, at 0230 (2:30 a.m.)

Supervisor: Sgt. Christian Dinco

Watch Commander: Lt. Leon Phillips

Officer Anthony Watkins responded to the area of Mission Grove south of Alessandro reference a report of an accident where a driver drove over the center median and flattened both his tires. The vehicle came to rest in the #2 lane on Mission Grove. Officer Watkins found the car at rest in the middle of the road without anyone inside. He saw a subject, later determined to be the driver, standing by some apartments attempting to make a phone call. When the subject saw the officers he began to run through the complex. Officer Watkins gave chase and caught the subject before he got too far. The subject submitted to arrest without incident and was arrested for 23152 CVC DUI.

(above summary written by Dinco)

So this incidentally began as a person reporting to the police department that they witnessed either an accident and/or a vehicle driving around with flattened or missing tires. The department sends an officer or two to respond and they find or pull over the vehicle and the motorist is either in the car or some place nearby. In this case, he was on a cell phone and took off running when he saw Watkins approach. Soon enough, he was submitting to arrest for DUI without incident after having been evaluated for being under the influence. Just like another similar incident involving Officers Grant Linhart and another officer with a motorist who had been reported by a concerned witness as driving around on three flattened tires. Just as in the above case, Linhart and the other officer conducted a DUI investigation and arrested the individual on a DUI charge and took him off to Robert Presley Detention Center to be booked.

Very much unlike the incident involving former Chief Russ Leach who crashed his car on Central and Hillside and drove on two rims on the left side of his vehicle which threw up enough sparks to elicit 911 calls reporting it. Leach was stopped by Linhart and Jeremy Miller who realized that he wasn't an ordinary citizen but their boss. Leach's car was heavily damaged and that Leach had little memory of what had happened, of crashing his car or any knowledge about how damage it had suffered. He repeated statements of driving on a dirt road and field and of needing to change his tire. Instead of doing what happened in the incidents mentioned above, Linhart and Miller contacted their supervisor, Sgt. Frank Orta, himself a court recognized DUI expert. Orta took over the scene according to the very much partial CAD incident report handed over to the Press Enterprise by the city as part of Orta's report. Orta mentioned in his report that Leach had been drinking and had suffered apparent disorientation and memory loss but didn't appear to conduct any investigation as to why this was the case

Two major causes of such disorientation and memory loss or "black outs" would be alcohol and/or drug intoxication and head injuries, including the type of epidermal hematoma, otherwise known as "talk and die syndrome" that killed actress Natasha Richardson. Yet there's no indication in Orta's report that Leach had been evaluated for DUI or a head injury by anyone including any medical personnel that could done that type of evaluation. Instead, they investigated the collision without doing a DUI evaluation almost as if the black Chrysler 300 had driven itself and then wrote up its wild ride as a "traffic collision" report to be "filed".

Some say that the traffic stop conducted involving Leach was done professionally by "extremely professional" officers. First however, you have to separate "professional behavior" from "extremely professional officers" because the two points might diverge in situations where otherwise professional officers are not allowed to perform their duties professionally because to do that collides with other interests. Linhart proved in his deft handling of a DUI arrest involving the driver of a vehicle with three flattened tires within several weeks of the Leach incident that he knows how to conduct a professional traffic stop complete with DUI investigation and potential arrest. Also working that shift were his supervisory, Orta and Phillips who served as the watch commander. All three behaving professionally in their capacities.

But what happened to the behavior of the involved officers (on the scene not to mention any elsewhere) in relation to the incident involving Leach has still not been satisfactorily answered by the city. It's pretty clear already that the Hudson Probe will do little to nothing to answer these questions as well, certainly as long as it remains shrouded in secrecy. And it's pretty clear that there are elements in the department and City Hall that would like to keep it that way. Just as it's likely in both places, that individuals didn't want the city's residents to know that the police chief had even gotten in an accident.

That's what raises problems with the Hudson Probe because the people in charge of it might have known more about past alleged incidents involving Leach's contact with his own police department as well as possibly other law enforcement agencies while driving, might be the ones making the final dispositions on the case. But the main reason why Hudson pushed for his "sweeping" inhouse investigation which will be overseen by his choice of "independent oversight" was likely to offset similar and less easily controlled probes by outside agencies including the county grand jury. But since the final results won't be disseminated to the public, that allows for plenty of sweep, sweep, sweeping under the rug and it places the troubled police department in a holding pattern in terms of its less than stellar image among city residents now. Without that level of accountability, it's going to be difficult for the department to move forward in a better direction. It will always be waiting for that next shoe to fall.

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein writes about the $25 million certificates of participation to be voted on by the city council this week in connection with the construction of a new hotel downtown.

Riverside County Superior Court's backlog might not be as severe as it was in previous years according to a recent study.

The Riverside County Public Defender's office is trying to change the way it handles death penalty cases.

Walking across any downtown street even with a light, even with a crosswalk is taking your life in your hands. Yesterday, Riverside Police Department officers 31 law-breaking motorists in two hours for failing to stop at a crosswalk in proper fashion or at all.

Public Meetings

Monday, March 1 at 4 p.m. The Human Resources Board meets at City Hall in the fifth floor conference room to discuss this agenda. City Manager Brad Hudson will be giving a presentation and hopefully explaining why he's blocking the Board's attempts to interview Development Department head Deanna Larsen over the massive exodus of her employees. Another highlight will be Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout's discussion of the six recent employee layoffs, most or all of them being from the SEIU.

Tuesday, March 2 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., City Council meeting held at City Hall to discuss this agenda. This item and that item have to do with the $25 million certificates of participation to Metro Riverside will be discussed at the afternoon session. In the evening, the discussion will center on the neighborhood governance and the the multi modal transit center.

Wednesday March 3 at 4 p.m. at City Hall, Governmental Affair Committee will be holding a meeting to discuss the CPRC's investigative protocol for officer-involved death investigations.

Police Chief Community Forums

Thursday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Caesar Chavez Community Center, Eastside

Wednesday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Orange Terrace Community Center, Orangecrest

Thursday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at La Sierra Senior Center, La Sierra

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