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

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Riverside Roundup: Meetings, Nazis and Cops in Court


Rumors are emerging of some intrigue surrounding the police department over an alleged incident during the weekend. Is there more to come or is it just a rumor?

Confirmed: Chief Russ Leach crashes vehicle on early Monday morning, Details sketchy but conflicting information about circumstances of accident. But major questions are being asked about what led to the earlier accident and a later traffic stop by Riverside Police Department officers involving Leach inside a damaged vehicle after numerous 911 phone calls came in involving a black vehicle throwing off sparks while it was being driven in Riverside. The vehicle was later stopped by officers after they allegedly tailed it for a period of time. Then the report writing began...

More to come...

UPDATE: Amid growing questions of the accuracy of police reports taken on the accident involving Leach and an alleged attempted coverup by the city and department of what actually happened, the police chief has been placed on medical leave.

Over 130 people came to the Caesar Chavez Center in the Eastside to listen and ask questions to representatives from the Riverside Police Department led by Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel. Attending with Esquivel were Capt. John Carpenter, East NPC area commander, Lt. Vic Williams, Sgt. Jay Greenstein and incoming Riverside Police Officers' Association President Cliff Mason.

Not present were Police Chief Russ Leach who was out in Los Angeles conducting business and of course, no one attended from the Riverside County District Attorney's office. But no one was surprised by that just as they weren't surprised by the inability of this public agency to confirm or deny whether it was planning to send a representative. But then maybe since at least 25% of their prosecutors have quit working there, maybe there's too much of an employee shortage to send someone to attend a meeting to answer some questions about an operation that it led. The first major raid led by the D.A.'s office in a Riverside neighborhood since May 2006, which was one month before current District Attorney Rod Pacheco won his first election.

That left Esquivel to answer all the questions and hear people's concerns from both the Eastside and Casa Blanca even as the councilman who led the meeting tried to contain it.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez who represents the area directed the meeting and Councilwoman Nancy Hart attended as well. Esquivel began the meeting by saying that the raids were a joint operation by different federal and local agencies and that the judicial processes will be bifurcated between the federal justice system and the Riverside County Superior Courts. The investigation by the agencies had gone on for nearly 1 1/2 years and resulted in 23 indictments by federal prosecutors and numerous state charges.

"Every single place that was hit came from a search warrant signed by a judge," Esquivel told the audience.

Allegations were raised that some of the people they were looking for in those residences were deceased, locked up inside juvenile hall facilities or had moved out over a year earlier as was the case of a house hit in Moreno Valley where 10 police officers rushed inside a house only to find an elderly Black man and a four year old granddaughter rather than the Latino man they expected. Still, they pushed the man on the floor and held him at gunpoint in front of the granddaughter who later drew a picture detailing what she had seen.

Another woman said she lived in a house behind one that had been listed on a warrant, yet she had been ordered out of her residence which wasn't covered by a warrant at gunpoint while wearing only a towel.

Others asked why police officers showed up looking for individuals who had been deceased or were currently locked up in juvenile detention centers.

Esquivel said that an operation with 34 different law enforcement agencies and over 600 officers involved "is not going to be without problems".

"Some mistakes have been made," Esquivel said.

The officers who were going into the streets and houses were briefed before hand to take care with people who were "incidental". One of those apparently included the 87 year old man who was allegedly dragged off of a toilet and taken with his pants dragging down at his ankles to another room. Photographs were later taken of his severely bruised arms and after seeing them, the Internal Affairs Division has contacted the family members of this man to do an investigation into the incident.

One of the man's relatives, John Segovia, challenged the District Attorney's accusation that all the allegations of misconduct were lies, by showing photographs. Naturally, there was no one there from that office to see them. And the only thing that can be read into that is that the county's head prosecuting agency doesn't want to be held accountable for any mistakes that might have taken place during an operation that it led especially during an election year. But because it led that operation, it should have been present giving an assessment of both its positives and its negatives and then taken questions from people who are included among the "People" of the county that it provides services for. Pacheco deflects criticism of his leadership by making statements like 99% of Eastside residents are hard working people by refusing to come to the neighborhood to conduct a meeting.

Because from what people said, the elderly gentleman with the bruised arms had been a hard working man his life. Not that it made much difference in his case.

A representative from the Riverside Unified School District said that most of the children went to school that day though some appeared upset at what had happened.

Esquivel said that he and the department were "pleased" by the raids, and they showed up to say so. The D.A.'s office may or may not be pleased but they prefer to say so through press conferences and press releases. One would think if they really believe that they did the right thing, that this office would be able to send a representative to a meeting in the Eastside to do so rather than leave it up to the Riverside Police Department to sit in the hot seat and answer questions about what the D.A.'s office blithely called "lies" the kind apparently told by young children, teenaged girls and elderly men.

Neo-Nazis Returning?

Buoyed by the recent raids of the Eastside, the local Nazis apparently will start holding rallies again to protest against Latinos, oops they mean undocumented immigrants beginning on Feb. 17. Rumor was that the city had issued them with threats of a lawsuit if they ever demonstrated at Indiana and Madison due to them presenting a "clear and present danger" but soon after, they began showing up on the Jewish Sabbath at a local temple and protesting there. Apparently, they've changed their mind because someone's been posting photos of Nazis and announcing upcoming demonstrations for this month.

Criminal Case of Former Riverside Police Department Officer Resolved?

Last Oct. 14, Riverside Police Department Officer David Reeves, jr. was arrested at the scene of an attempted robbery and kidnapping at an auto parts store in Moreno Valley and during the investigation, it was discovered that he had been suspected of committing other robberies of similar stores in Riverside. He had been separated from the department the morning after he had been arrested and has been held in custody in a county jail facility ever since his arrest.

As it turned out, it seems that the department had been in the process of securing an unpaid retirement for Reeves, jr. and that he was ordered by the department's management to undergo evaluation for being under the influence of drugs as it was believed that he had an addiction to pain medication that he had taken for a series of injuries to his neck stemming back to 2003.

He was charged with multiple felony counts with robbery, assault with a deadly weapon to commit great bodily harm, kidnapping and use of a firearm in commission of felonies.

His case had been heading towards a preliminary hearing but now it appears to be heading towards a plea bargain deal of some form. It remains to be seen what that will entail.

But here's the minute record of the latest hearing.


Former Officer Scott Impola who is facing a trio of misdemeanor charges including assault with ability to commit great bodily harm, trespassing and unauthorized use of information from the DMV/CLETS database has been arraigned and has plead not guilty to all charges. His case has been transferred to the domestic violence courtroom for further proceedings. He was arrested in late December 2009 after a six month investigation into an alleged incident where while off-duty, he allegedly requested that a dispatcher provide him information from CLETS about his wife's male friend and then 45 minutes, forced his way through the front door and tried to choke the man where he sat on the sofa.

That same week, another officer, Anthony Fletcher was arrested on charges of lewd conduct with a minor and child molestation and faces six counts in all.

Currently four former police officers (as all have been terminated from employment) are in various stages of having their criminal cases tried by the county justice system. One former officer, Robert Forman may be receiving probation and time served for a felony conviction of oral copulation under the color of authority and misdemeanor petty theft. The Riverside Probation Department was apparently very impressed with the ex-cop and has recommended a sentence of between 120-150 days in county jail. Forman has been in custody for at least six weeks since the jury convicted of him on two counts last December.

Also left hanging is whether or not the District Attorney's office will refile on the felony sexual battery charge after the jury voted 8 to 4 towards conviction after the jury trial.

A recent study stated that police officers are sentenced up to 35% less time than other individuals for crimes they have been convicted of committing. It remains to be seen whether the cases involving local police officers will favor or disagree with that study's results but it certainly seems that if Forman gets probation and even 120-150 days for both convictions, that's a lot less than 35% less than what most people would get for a related offense. Still, it remains to be seen exactly what sentence presiding judge, John Molloy will dish out to the former police officer who incidentally was allegedly investigated for similar misconduct several years ago involving a homeless woman in Fairmount Park. An investigation was done but no criminal charges were filed.

Which of course wasn't the case only several years later.

City Council Stalemate with the CPRC Continues

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board stated, Just fix the CPRC already. Meaning that the city council should undo the vote that it took in early 2009 to postpone the investigations of officer-involved deaths pretty much indefinitely. Oh well not quite, given that the CPRC was finally given the green light by some unknown entity to initiate some form of investigation into the death of Carlos Quinonez and granted that barely passed the vote given that there are members of the commission who don't believe that these investigations should be done at all even though that's not what the information they provided in their interviews before the city council and mayor

The Editorial Board is supporting the position taken by Councilman Mike Gardner, a former CPRC member and chair himself, and I guess wondering if enough city council members will step to the plate and do what was essentially a directive carried out by a current city council member, a former one and several direct employees of the city council last year. The only redeeming thing about that action taken to weaken the already comatose panel is that the voters figured out which councilman had engineered it and this provided part of the incentive to vote this individual out of elected office after two terms served.

But even with Quinonez being "investigated" by the CPRC, three other officer-involved deaths that took place in 2008 and early 2009 have all met and passed the one year anniversary mark and it remains to be seen when if ever those deaths will be investigated or whether or not other city council members will join Gardner in moving to overturn the first vote ever taken by a commission to enact the policies and procedures of a board or commission. At least since it voted to strip the Human Resources Board of its investigative powers back in 2006.

Despite the editorial, most people expect this stalemate to continue especially in light of the news that the city manager's office (which some say runs the city council) action against the Human Resources Board which wanted to interview Development Department head, Deanna Larson in the wake of the massive defections of employees from that department including older women who resign at a time in most people's careers when they are more reluctant to leave a job especially in the current economy. But as one former employee of that department once said, "we are dropping out like flies".

In lieu of the Board interviewing department heads, the city manager's office mandated that Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout does this instead but she's an at will employee of the city manager's office and after watching what happened to her predecessor when he was reluctant to change the educational requirements for a certain assistant management position, one would easily deduce that her interviewing techniques would yield very little useful information.

What does the future hold for public transit systems in the Inland Empire?

A search warrant by the Riverside County District Attorney's office was served at Lake Elsinore's City Hall. The candidates themselves in this illustrious if controversial election are undivided among themselves on the issue.

And speaking of municipal intrigue, two more cast members in the San Jacinto corruption scandal have plead not guilty.

Will Eastvale become a city? The currently unincorporated area and the jury are split on this major decision that might be on a ballot soon.

Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff thinks red light cameras have gotta go.

The San Bernardino County sheriff, one year into the job.

Upcoming Meetings

The Riverside City Council will be holding another meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 3 and 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. This agenda will be discussed though most of it will be voted on without any discussion.

Code enforcement officer Steve Livings' lawsuit will be discussed in closed session.

The public safety committee has recommended the denial of yet another ambulance service for basic life services. The city council has said that if it doesn't become the only city to give one company, American Medical Response, a full monopoly on this service that it might encounter economic hardship. It's nice to know that developers aren't the only source of essentially welfare from the city government.

Finance Committee Watch:

Meeting not scheduled for February

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