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, February 09, 2010

One Vehicle Accident; Too Many Questions



---signed at by "Embarrassed" on a thread loaded with comments questioning what's been going on at the RPD.


So if we ever get pulled over by Riverside PD and they ask "are you on parole or probation?" Can we respond by asking "are you?" LOL.

---"Guest" at

Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach has allegedly been placed on medical leave again after being in a car accident, an incident that almost immediately led to many questions being asked about how this incident was handled by the department and the city. The kind of questions you don't really want to hear being raised in a process that purports to honor accountability and transparency involving public employees. It's not clear who will run the department in his apparent absence but then again, factions of City Hall have apparently been running the agency for a while already and the department hasn't been the better for it unfortunately. The department has been suffering from issues arising from leadership problems for a while now as detailed on this blog.

In fact, the department is not in very good shape at all, just under four years after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment with the office of former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer. And on an early Monday morning, the department took another step downward in the direction it's been heading in for quite a while, with officers getting arrested and charged, supervisory levels in serious decline and issues involving whether or not it's being properly managed including by its command staff. And now there's been allegations of an incident involving criminal conduct at the top of the level of command. Not to mention allegations of the police department and city engaging or trying to at least, in a coverup involving that incident. But you can't cover up what's wrong for very long and that apparently became clear here in that there are questions that clearly need answers. No lie lives forever, as Martin Luther King, jr. once said. And if you let it sit there unaddressed, it will fester and destroy what's good in the city and the department because so many people will know it to be a lie and will be impacted in a negative way from it.

And the ripple effect of it will grow the further out it travels even as it unravels in the process. And if anyone did anything wrong with how this incident was handled, it will eventually come to light no matter how much anyone tries to keep that from happening. That's how it often is and that's how it will probably be again if the city's not being forthcoming about this incident. The city is keeping very mum on the situation and that just feeds doubts and concerns and adds to the questions.

News emerged early this week that Leach was involved in a vehicle accident which left his city issued car, a black Chrysler 300 severely damaged, with scratched paint along its left side and two wheels completely missing, leaving only severely damaged wheel rims in their place. It was difficult to understand how such a vehicle could have been driven in that condition for any period of time and that someone in a car in that condition wouldn't have pulled it over immediately. But driven it apparently was, until Riverside Police Department officers conducting a traffic stop pulled the vehicle over and found out it was their own employer sitting inside of it. Not exactly the easiest situation for police officers to find themselves in while working their shift.

This incident allegedly took place on early Monday morning between midnight and 3 a.m. somewhere on Central and hours after Super Bowl Sunday when ironically the police department like many other local law enforcement agencies had set up DUI checkpoints to catch drunk drivers who perhaps celebrated the annual football championship game with too much liquor. People had been calling the dispatchers reporting a black car driving through Orangecrest with sparks flying off of it and that it was driving on its rims. Police officers tailed it for a while before pulling it over at Arlington and Rutland, several miles from where the accident took place. And then this is where the reports began to be written and the questions to begin about exactly what happened that morning. Maybe if the agency had been forthcoming about what had happened, then the situation wouldn't have been quite as bad as it turned out to be down the road.

Reports began to be written and allegations began to arise that certain details were left out of these reports including whether or not Leach had been intoxicated when officers pulled him over during the traffic stop. Then people became upset when news of this accident spread that the reports submitted by the officers were not completely accurate allegedly upon order of the watch commander on duty during either that swing or graveyard shift period. Meaning that they didn't tell the whole truth, just parts of it that they were allowed to tell and that allegations arose quickly that the watch commander had given the officers the instructions of what to write and most importantly what not to write in the reports upon orders he received from someone else higher up on the food chain. These allegations have been raised and need to be investigated as well by a body or entity that is not at a position of being at a conflict of interest.

And if parts of the incident were truly omitted, what parts and by whose order? Was this truly just an accident or was it an accident stemming from a DUI incident? And if it was an accident, why are there so many allegations of a coverup? These allegations because they have arisen need to be addressed openly through an investigative process rather than swept under the rug in the interest of public relations and trying to reduce the city's civic liability. Will that happen? Early signs indicate that it won't happen that way, until a leader comes forward from a position of power and starts asking questions. Until the elected leaders remember who they represent, the voters, not the city's interests including and especially if those interests conflict with the well being of the city's residents and city employees. It's past time to see if on the dais, there truly exists a leader.

It's up to the city now to determine what the facts are involving one of its employees and what happened in this increasingly unsettling situation where questions are rising faster than anyone can or is willing to answer them. Only there lies the dilemma especially if it's true that a certain employee of the city government was being less than honest when receiving inquiries about what happened. And an elected body has to ask itself if that's the case, why it would be employing an individual who is believed to be less than 100% honest with them about a critical incident involving a public employee, a department head.

And given how fast rumors are spreading including that officers were told how to write their reports on the incident, this situation needs to be addressed not tomorrow but now. Was this an accident or did it stem from any criminal conduct including driving under the influence and failure to report an accident? And were any attempts made or orders given in the department or City Hall to be less than honest with the facts? City Attorney Gregory Priamos has apparently denied that alcohol was involved in the crash.

Then the concerns and questions continued all the way up to the upper floors at City Hall concerning whether or not a certain direct employee of the city council was honest in his reporting of the incident. If that's the case, then that needs to be explained as well, and the city government needs to take a serious look at this if it's possible that one of its own employees is being less than forthcoming with the truth.

The residents of this city deserve to know the truth of what happened and so do the 600 men and women who work for the police department including its 400 police officers. The police department is at crisis and has been for some time without any addressing of the multitude of issues that have impacted it and have threatened to derail all the improvements that went into making it a better department during the past 10 years. And if anyone was forced to write anything that was less than the truth about the accident upon concerns or threats of losing their jobs including the watch commander on duty that night then that needs to be addressed and a form of redress needs to be given.

There's not much that's worse than taking a profession like law enforcement where truth and veracity is paramount above all else and subverting it by forcing officers to lie in writing or otherwise. In the wake of ongoing investigations impacting at least three officers who testified in the criminal trial of former Officer Robert Forman and are facing scrutiny to determine if they gave false statements or testimony, it doesn't seem as if this situation is much different and it deserves the same level of scrutiny. But things like this happen because people aren't paying attention, not enough of them, to what is really going on with an agency that's plagued with serious issues like this one has become, even as 10 years were spent reforming it to the tune of over $26 million. Many city residents worked very hard and so did many police officers and civilian employees but were this hard work and what it accomplished even respected by department management, the police chief and City Hall? Those are questions that need answers among the stack of them raised by this and other disturbing incidents. The RPD is in crisis but does anyone even care? How about the cast of characters who were instrumental in ensuring that it reached the crisis level?

Yes people do but those who care most can't talk about it anymore than those officers were allegedly allowed to write accurate reports of what happened in that accident. If you talk about it, you might get fired or punished in the work place. That's how law enforcement works and that's part of why it has so many problems. But the public isn't constrained in how it responds to situations like this one which demand addressing. So the public must speak for those who can't and set about determining what's broken and there's definitely some things broken in this department and its dysfunctional dynamic with City Hall and then fix them. Before it really becomes too late.

Maybe the watch commander who was allegedly forced to give that order to them cares but couldn't do anything about it on threat of his job. Some people from all different corners believe that the police department needs a thorough cleaning at this point. Others wonder why the pressing problems caused by the budget and short-sighted decision making at City Hall including an increasing shortage of supervision go unaddressed. There's room for all of these issues to be examined and dealt with by anyone who cares about their police department and anyone who works in it. But so far, no leadership from the city to address these issues in a meaningful way.

Was this a DUI accident rather than just a fender bender? If so, then why was it treated differently than those involving Officers Melissa Brazil and Jeffrey Adcox who both were charged with DUI in relation to vehicle crashes, were convicted and did their sentences? Why then, if it's true that Leach was under the influence and did crash his car and then leave the scene of an accident, was it handled differently than what is faced by his own officers who drink and drive? All of them fortunate not to kill themselves or anyone else while doing it. But that's luck more than anything and that kind of luck often runs out. This incident could have easily ended much worse like that involving another DUI accident involving a city employee did not too long ago and any individual in a situation like that needs to confront it head on not run away from it.

Apparently, the accident investigation has been handed off to the CHP's inland branch for further inquiry amid concerns that the department has totally compromised itself on this inquiry. Perhaps because they have no vested interest in the case and there's much less of a conflict of interest involved, then they will be able to do a thorough investigation. And maybe the county grand jury needs to take a good look at this incident to determine whether or what improprieties occurred. To determine what exactly did take place that early Monday morning and its aftermath, because of all the concerns, questions and rumors flying around.

If officers were indeed forced by anyone to lie to cover up this incident, then they need a venue to tell the truth where they won't be retaliated. Because this took place in this department and this city, it needs to be addressed.

But there's work to do here in Riverside involving the current state of the police department. But who's willing to do it, if few people are even willing to admit to it out loud? It's time for the leaders at all levels, government and community, start demanding answers to the many questions coming out of the police department and start taking action to address its problems. if they really value law enforcement, the department's employees, the community and all that these things stand for, they will do no less than that.

The Press Enterprise article is here.

Excerpts from that broken linked article are here.

Los Angeles Times blog wrote about it here.

Press Enterprise columnist, Dan Bernstein writes about the accident and the situation involving the Michael Williams Company decision not to accept Councilman Paul Davis as a client because of too much heat among other clients who threatened to walk. An issue covered in this blog recently.

CBS News provided this coverage.



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