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 20, 2010

The RPD Promotes Six...and the Hudson Probe Continues...And what of the Chessmen?

"Never Play Checkers When the Game is Chess."


In the midst of the tremendous upheaval of former Riverside Chief Russ Leach's accident and the resultant white wash probe, the Riverside Police Department has announced six promotions including four in supervisory positions done earlier this week which went to in effect on Friday. The promotions of the one lieutenant and three sergeants were done to partly alleviate the continued dwindling number of filled supervisor positions as people retire or get demoted and the positions remain vacant under an ongoing promotional freeze that's been at place regarding supervisory and management positions since late 2008. The only promotions which have been done since 2008 are those involving the detective rank pursuant to an early 1990s MOU agreement between the Riverside Police Officers' Association and the city. If that MOU hadn't been in place, it's likely that the detectives division would resemble what the other divisions look like right now.

The issue of the depletion of the supervisory ranks and resultant vacancies has been covered extensively in this blog for some time and in fact, there has been and will continue to be a "Supervisory Watch" here to serve as a reminder that there are still too many vacancies particularly at the sergeant level. The unfreezing of the positions began earlier this month when City Manager Brad Hudson either agreed to meet with or was ordered to meet with representatives from the Riverside Police Officers' Association. Hudson didn't want these promotions to go through until his hand was forced one way or another to get that job done and so four positions were thawed to be filled. Acting Chief John De La Rosa who made the promotions has told people that he had the positions unfrozen as has RPOA President Cliff Mason after negotiating with Hudson, but at any rate the positions were finally filled.

Below are the vacancy lists as they were before this week. As you can see, the sergeant vacancy rate would have approached close to 25% at the end of the year and the lieutenant's vacancy rate was roughly at 25%.

Vacancies (before promotions):


Paul Villanueva

Robert Meier

Brian Baitx

Rick Tedesco

Ken Raya


Kevin Stanton or Terry Meyer (medical retirement)

Duane Beckman

Patrick Watters

Don Tauli

Leon Phillips (promoted to lieutenant)

Lisa Williams (transferred to new position in Communications Bureau)

Cliff Mason: (now a detective)

Also vacant:

Two classified level captain positions:

Dave Dominguez (deputy chief)

Mark Boyer (captain)

The lieutenant promotion means that the traffic division will get a supervisor, filling a vacancy that's been in place since the last traffic lieutenant retired late last year. The sergeant positions will fill a current vacancy in the department's Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit and some patrol supervisor positions. It's an important step to try to stem the serious problem of high vacancy rates at the supervisory level even as more retirements are on the horizon for this year. The department's Internal Affairs Division is down five sergeants to four (even as in the past it struggled with its investigation loads) and the Vice/Intelligence Unit may still be without a sergeant. But all the patrol positions are currently filled.

How many anticipated retirements for sergeants this year? Five (including one on medical disability and these aren't always easy to forecast) and that number as stated could easily grow as the year's still young and some of last year's retirements at different ranks were unanticipated. As stated in this blog many a time, it's important to be mindful of the past, including crises that erupted in part due to a dearth of supervision in the ranks, especially inside the very young and relatively inexperienced patrol division. That was part of what led to the department being under a stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office in 2001.

The average patrol officer in the department is about 24 years old and with only several years of experience. The department recently unfroze six patrol positions and filled them, with those new hires currently in the training academy. Perhaps hoping that this agency gets itself straightened up including at the top before they graduate. What kind of department does the city want to create to meet these upcoming graduates? That's the question that hasn't even been addressed let alone answered by the department's leadership or City Hall.

Coming to Work for a Problematic Law Enforcement Agency...

But if there's a white wash probe instead of a truly independent investigation that comes from outside Riverside's rather peculiar power structure that permeates both City Hall and its satellite, the police department, that unfortunately won't happen any time soon. You can't put a new house on a rotten foundation without it toppling over as well and this dysfunctional dynamic with the police department's leadership and the city management, the city attorney's office while tossing an elected official or two in there just isn't working. Just look around you but don't get hit by one of those falling walls.

The key in home rehabilitation or police department rehabilitation is to find out what parts of its structural foundation are rotten and which ones are not. Then you strip out the rotted wood and replace it with new, sturdy and much healthier wood when rebuilding your foundation and eventually, your new house...or police department. Then you can move forward, and not backward. It's well and good for civic leaders to say that we all have to be careful not to take a step backward with city residents' responses but the fact is, the department itself took a step backward and the question is, what is the city going to do about it?

The Hudson probe is not designed to look at the quality of the foundation. It's simply being done at great tax payer expense (for those who think a Best, Best and Krieger attorney comes cheaply and by the way...did Hudson ever say what it would cost?) to polish the walls and cover its windows. After all, Hudson is in charge of a probe of what really went down and why during the accident, traffic stop and subsequent noninvestigation but what if it's he who has to answer some questions? Beginning with whether or not he ordered Leach to be tested for drugs or alcohol which would be in accordance with a city policy which requires that to be done for any city employee who damages a city owned vehicle in an accident.

Did Hudson adhere to that policy and have Leach tested, or did he pass, thus contributing to any cover up? Until he can answer that question with yes, I had Leach tested, he has no credibility being in charge of any investigation except perhaps to those who have to please him to keep their jobs or maybe some keynote community leaders who will probably want to be on any "community" committee involved in the selection of the next police chief and know the best way to do that is to keep quiet. But who puts a person in charge of an investigation when he's on the list of individuals who have questions to answer? The person at the top of the pyramid of course.

And perhaps he and De La Rosa could do the CHP a favor and go over to their regional office and sign Sgt. Frank Orta's report on the incident thus affirming its validity as an appropriate and professional response to the situation. That should have been De La Rosa's first action taken as acting chief if he believes that there's no problem with what happened. But then neither he or anyone else put a signature on it before the firestorm began and to this date, it still doesn't include one. And why it doesn't is yet another question that needs to be answered.

The majority of employees at the police department and the city's residents are left paying for the actions of a much smaller number of decision makers who have been busy as bees since either at the time of the initial traffic stop at Arlington and Rutland or when city issued phone calls likely started being ringing all over town as people might have been asking for or receiving directions on Operation: High Profile Stop (in deference to Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis' comments in the earlier article). The city neglected or decided not to include the CAD incident report connected with the actual traffic stop involving Leach even as they turned over that involving his earlier accident at Hillside and Central. It might not matter much if most of the communication between involved parties took place through cellular technology, not through police radios and mobile data terminals which the CAD report is highly dependent on.

Leach did say the traffic stop was taped but didn't specify what he meant, in terms of whether it was through audio recording devices carried by patrol officers or through dash cameras which should have been activated. Hopefully, soon those will be released to the public in the interest of full disclosure of what happened if Leach is correct that it was taped.

And that's the rub because unless the city does the transparent action of releasing the information on these recordings not to mention on who called who (which is public information on city issued phones and phone accounts) then unfortunately, this whole "sweeping" probe is a farce. Because among its other problems, it will be taking public information and making it confidential under the guise of an investigation. This is being done solely to number one, reduce the city's financial liability (which must always come first) and two, to keep the city residents including those whose tax dollars provide monies to the city's general fund in the dark as long as possibly. They really hope that the public stays in the dark forever if possible. But as long as that happens, the police department's future path remains less than positive. People will soon simmer down and let the police department and city go on their merry ways but when the next shoe drops, they'll be back and more angry. And then what? The city will return to polishing those walls and covering those windows again.

So here they were, the promotions that took place in the midst of the great turmoil hitting the department and city. But whose promotions were they as that's a question which often gets asked? It appears that at this point that De La Rosa made the decisions. However, it's always hard to be sure given that Hudson has said the charter gives him the absolute power to hire, fire and promote and in fact, he apparently promoted two police officers in 2007 to higher positions.



Andy Flores


Michael Barney

Ben Shafer

Chris Wagner


Don Nelson

Dan Koehler

The promotion list is interesting and in fact, includes one officer, Shafer, who was terminated by the police department around 2000 for professional misconduct but was reinstated through the arbitration process several years ago. Also on the promotional list for sergeant which included roughly 15 names were two white women including a female detective and an African-American detective.

What's interesting too is when you look at the top five positions in the lieutenants list which included about 13 names. This is how they apparently break down by race and gender.

1) White female

2) White male

3) White female

4) Black male

5) White female

6) Hispanic male (promoted)

With three females in the top five, it's a little hard to complain that there's "low numbers" of them applying for promotion and given that there's about five female sergeants now, 60% of them are in the top five on this list. But at any rate, the department did fill these positions and there will be more discussion of them later on. There's been allegations online and elsewhere that the promotional process is somewhat...flawed and that it's based not on what you do but who you know and what have you done lately. That kind of thing. Is that the case? Well, I guess we shall see. But some corporate cultures work along those lines, is that the case for law enforcement as well?

I'm so and so, I did this and I'm wearing this Team tee-shirt so what are my chances? Let's hope it's a bit more in depth than that. It would be really disappointing to learn that the department consisted of little more than fiefdoms within it, struggling to control it rather than was a law enforcement agency that is operating the way that it's supposed to be operated. But clearly something's not working well because there's been five officers arrested and charged for crimes since October 2008 and then there's the very important one who leads them who was not even cited for leaving the scene of an accident. That's not prone to happening in a vacuum.

While all this is going down and about, Hudson's trying to put together a hiring process within 30 days to hire another puppet...oops chief to run the department. Because it doesn't seem that Hudson's interested in hiring truly independent department heads and he seems perfectly content to allow himself and his assistant, DeSantis run the police department and boy, have we seen how well that's worked lately! And this current probe of his which will be going on for months or longer was designed to actually circumvent the authority of the new police chief, allowing Hudson to keep his foothold on the department.

There will be plenty written here about the recruitment and hiring of a new chief and what that individual will face when he or she arrives to take command. Okay, so it's only during that honeymoon before Hudson and DeSantis likely lay down the law but it will still be interesting to watch unfold. Who will the chief be? Inhouse or outside? Within the lines or out of bounds? And how will the Chessmen respond and move their pieces?

What a Difference One Year Makes

This chart reflects the hierarchical structure of the police department in 2008-09 and a lot has changed since then, including the loss of two lieutenants in the Special Operations Division last year. The position of the traffic lieutenant will be filled through the latest promotion. But as you can see, a lot has changed in part due to attrition rates costing some of the mid-level supervision not being filled with new personnel.

A Riverside County Superior Court Judge ordered the release of search warrants connected with the probe into a recall effort in Lake Elsinore.

Corona lays off 31 employees as part of another round of budget cuts.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The Riverside City Council will be meeting to have its weekly meeting, this week headed by Mayor Ron Loveridge and not Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams which means fewer pyrotechnics and temper tantrums are expected. There are several items of keen interest on the agenda that day.

In closed session, there will be an update and discussion of the WCAB involving former Police Lt. Robert Meier who retired last autumn.

Then there's item 1a which addresses the certificates of participation in connection with the construction of a hotel downtown which is devoid of any written backup material at least online but has been continued until the meeting on March 2.

Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. What's left of the Community Police Review Commission will meet and argue over this agenda. Its highlight is that the commission apparently will be taking some loooooong overdue training in civility and communication training. Most of the other items are holdovers from last month or months ago because there's so much arguing that they never get to them on the agenda at their marathon meetings. It will be interesting to see whether the civility and communications training is a sincere effort to not be so hostile to the public or if it is simply going to be a tactic to flagellate the commission's minority viewpoints. The commission's got to get it together in time for when two years down the road, they're asked to issue policy recommendations or review any from the Hudson report, which is his white washed probe that he's engaged in doing right now.

City Council Committees not holding meetings in February included the following:

Finance Committee (Nancy Hart, Chair)

Governmental Affairs Committee (Andrew Melendrez)---Hasn't met yet in 2010.

A little election trivia

How many rumored mayoral candidates for 2012?


(including several city council members bailing midterm)

Current rumored list includes:

Andrew Melendrez
Art Gage
Rusty Bailey
Ed Adksison

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