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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

RPD: "We are a family..."

“Don’t talk to blogs. Don’t talk to the press. We are a family.”

---RPD to RPD

I have received many comments and have had many conversations with individuals who live in this city. Many of them registered voters, out in the communities of Riverside about what’s transpired in this city since the early morning after Super Bowl Sunday and people appear to be much more astute than those at City Hall appear to give them credit for being. People are talking about what's been taking place on their front porches, in super markets and health clubs. In shopping malls and churches and universities. Not to mention in different cities from all over. All of them wondering what happened to Riverside and the RPD in the past week.

No one appears to want an inhouse investigation paid for by their tax dollars that they will never be told its outcome. An investigation of an alleged cover up followed by a cover up to the tune of thousands of dollars, of which how much exactly hasn’t been passed along to those who will be paying for it. What’s the value of that except to provide a civics lesson on why civilians in Riverside voted overwhelmingly at the polls in 2004 to put civilian oversight of the police department in the city’s charter? Many when asked what they wanted to see in civilian oversight said they wanted to expand its powers to investigate well, police cover ups. Many of them frankly want a changing of the guard in City Hall, something to keep in mind for those planning on running for reelection anytime soon.

And it’s hard to really surgically excise the word, “cover up” out of the equation in the minds of many Riversiders right now. More problematic for the police department is that many people have put a bulk of the anger and blame on the street level police officers who have a much more difficult job to do but those individuals who had a handle in this mess are really to blame for that, because they made the decisions they made with no concern about the people who would pay for them. But the only way to remedy that is an independent and transparent investigation of the entire affair, not to mention the incredibly destructive dynamic that apparently contributed greatly to it, one that’s been entrenched in one way or another inside the city and the police department for some years. If William Shakespeare were alive today, maybe he would fully appreciate it. It makes for great staged drama but the police department will never be able to “move forward” as long as it exists and is the standard set for behavior. It will remain exactly where it is now mired in what could be a scandalous mess which could taint it for some time to come.

It's a shame that the city had so little respect for the hard work done during the stipulated judgment period by both community residents and police officers that it squandered most of those gains away and it's coming full circle in some respects. The lawsuits are piling up. The city residents heavily distrust it. The staffing levels are falling including at the supervisory levels, a situation only partly alleviated by the recent promotions. The incoming chief whoever he or she is has to inherit all of this in the pattern of Leach who faced the same challenges before he went down the road to create them for his predecessor. Not to mention inheriting the position of being placed in the dysfunctional micromanagement style operated out of City Hall over the police department.

Almost everyone I’ve talked to in different areas of the city want an independent probe of what happened that morning when former Chief Russ Leach crashed his car and then was stopped three miles away from that scene, and more importantly, its aftermath. Many people have called for the investigations to be expanded to include others that are outside the purview of the department’s internal affairs division and its “sweeping” investigation. Many are concerned that it will be a “sweeping” investigation in the sense of being swept right beneath the rug. After all, one reason to call for a “sweeping” inhouse investigation is in the hopes of offsetting any prospective probes from other agencies including law enforcement agencies outside of Riverside. Because if you're potentially at fault for the latest crisis or critical incident, then you want to keep any potential outside probes at bay by saying, see we've got our problems under control here and no need for you to look over our shoulders.

After all, that's what they tell the public most of the time it comes looking for more information on how the city's spending its money. Because it wasn't urgent to hire outside counsel behind closed doors without taking it to a public forum like a city council meeting for the legislative body to discuss, debate and vote on whether to take that step or not and if so, who to hire. It's one thing to do the independent investigation that's truly needed. It's another to pay for a white wash and call it independent and transparent (which the city did originally) only to say later, sorry but it's probably confidential and we can never tell you its outcome which Hudson did in a recent Press Enterprise article.

Many don’t want it left in the hands of those who might have questions themselves to answer in relation to the events which are the focus of different probes by different agencies. Many have made it clear that they will be paying close attention to what’s being done or not being done by City Hall and those in both the odd and even numbered wards will remember it long enough for it to help them decide which candidates to support or not during the upcoming election cycles. What people really want is what they’re not getting which is a voice from the government that will say that it will not participate in a tax payer funded white wash of an incident that threatens to send the police department where it was just after the Tyisha Miller shooting in 1998. If this doesn’t happen, then the city is in for a very interesting election cycle next year, judging by the sentiment being expressed in the wards that will be up for grabs beginning at the June 2011 mail in first round election.

There's been concern about whether the department needs to be looked at in terms of functioning as an independent law enforcement agency by an outside agency, and if so which one. If it needs a bit of a house cleaning or whether the new chief should come from outside the department or from its inner ranks. On the last one, the public poll in the city so far is about 99% towards picking someone from the outside. RPOA president, Cliff Mason said that current asst. chief, John De La Rosa has "unwavering support" from his membership and current RPAA president, Ed Blevins hasn't had much to say about the issue on behalf of his union yet. But it would be nice to believe them but a part of me and other people think it's almost akin to Oz saying to Dorothy and her friends to not look by the curtain. Comments like that almost invariably generate even greater curiosity towards what's going on in the place where no one wants anyone to look. Does the RPD have unwavering support for De La Rosa? That's a question only it can answer as members of a labor force.

The Los Angeles Times stated in this article that Leach had four whiskeys while at the Club 215. Then he left the club without appearing to be intoxicated or driving erratically according to the club's attorney. Which is similar to what the attorney told the Press Enterprise and it's really kind of interesting that the lawyer for the owners of Club 215, the strip club off of the highway with the same name have come forward to clarify the situation in that Leach wasn't intoxicated when he left the club. That might or might not be true as it might turn out but what's also clear is that the owners of Club 215 might be in a bit of a pickle if left to explain why they allowed Leach to leave one hour before his car wreck if he was intoxicated if that's the case. Establishments that sell alcohol have been known to lose liquor licenses and other conditional permits for similar cases and there have been cases in fatal vehicle crashes where businesses or people who have supplied the driver with alcohol have been under civil and criminal scrutiny.

But the CHP did say it's wrapping its investigation up by next week. So it will be interesting to see what happens then. The city's own white wash job is very early on in its process and even though City Manager Brad Hudson behind closed doors went and hired himself a Best, Best and Krieger attorney, former Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask to provide "independent oversight", the public will pay for this investigation but will never know its outcome pursuant to state laws prohibiting it from being privy to the outcomes and processes involved with peace officer investigations.

What will most likely happen is that the investigation will be focusing on the two patrol officers and the two immediate supervisors. Missing will be the cast at the police department who is somewhat higher in the structural ladder and key employees at City Hall, who should be facing questions about how much they knew about any prior similar problems involving Leach during his tenure with the RPD. Internal Affairs sergeants and even its lieutenant head can't investigate those who outrank them. So what if someone somewhat lower said during a compelled aministrative investigation that someone a step or so higher than them told them to do something or more accurately do nothing, then what would be done in those circumstances? That part hasn't been explained by Hudson or anyone else to the city's residents who will be paying for this "sweeping" investigation. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.

Coming soon: The First Post-Leach Promotions (when not being in the top five is more than enough the higher you go)-----> "It's all about who you know..." or is it about how you stack up and should women even bother applying at all?

Coming Soon: RPD: A Police Department or a Chess Board?

"One town very like another
When your heads over your pieces, Brother
It's a drag. It's a bore. It's really such a pity
to be looking at the board, not looking at the city."

---Murray Head, "One Night in Bangkok"

Coming soon: In Search of: A Brand New Chief or Puppet?

And the one thing you won't see....

The Hudson Report: What Happened to the RPD on My Watch.

Budget cuts at the Los Angeles Police Department impact its staffing.

Simple Simons which suffered a serious fire on its premises will be hosting a fundraiser to help the employees who work there but can't return until the place is fixed up. The date is Feb. 25 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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