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 16, 2010

Why was Corruption Able to Flourish in Riverside?

Update: Motorcycle officer injured in car accident near 1oth street in Riverside ***

Not too long ago, I was told by a Riverside Police Department officer that if I continued to sit on the grassy knoll outside of City Hall, I would be looking at a citation. Someone at City Hall told me later on that there was an ordinance in the books prohibiting sitting on the grass by City Hall but couldn't believe it was being enforced. There's no sign actually telling people it's not allowed and most people didn't seem to know they were breaking the ordinance while sitting on that grass. I found it curious too, only because it just goes to show that when it comes to City Hall, there's more concern about appearances like what grass looks like outside of it than what's reality, what can't be easily seen and in fact, might be hidden from view to the city residents. And that anytime there's something that needs to be seen by city residents, it seems more hidden than ever even in the light of this city's history in the consequences that it has paid for this type of behavior.

Hence the distrust when something blows up like what happened last week and that which has been lighting the comments threads at the Press Enterprise Web site since the accident came to light. Some of the targets are probably accurate, being the police chief, a police employee or two, some individuals at City Hall. But some of the targets are also very wrong, being the majority of the police department's officers. But as unfair as that is, it can't be any other way as long as there's a cloak of secrecy around this so-called transparent process being instituted by City Hall to address this situation. You don't want people crying that there's a coverup going on, then don't cover up the investigation into those allegations. Don't put people in charge of them from the city's ranks who might have some explaining to do about their own actions and words. People always get a little concerned when they believe that the brooms have come out and the sweeping's begun.

The fact that yes, there was a car accident by former Chief Russ Leach, who left the scene and was pulled over three miles distant by two patrol officers who never submitted written reports. One of the sergeants, Frank Orta, they called did but the report failed to say whether a field sobriety test was done and there's scant mention of drugs, alcohol or even prescription medication even though the 300 Chrsyler with sparks flying from the rims was reported as a "potential DUI" and the police chief, Russ Leach, had no memory of the accident or no apparent clue about the damage to his car. And then there were concerns about coverup being raised by many people who wondered why a potential crime was treated so casually by the department that Leach led until last week. That the officers including one who was fairly new were told not to even submit incident reports by a supervisor who was told by someone higher than him. That the noninvestigation written off as a "traffic collision" report to be filed away was only handed off to the CHP to investigate when heat was applied to the police department and public exposure was imminent. All of these concerns were raised in the communities. All of this has been denied but questions remain in part because City Hall has been fairly quiet. The lack of a truly independent investigation and an active dialogue of the issues raised does both the city's residents and the police department's employees a tremendous disservice.

Then did the lies continue onward apparently at City Hall, when city employees were allegedly not truthful to people asked questions about what had happened that morning and the circumstances? Was the truth told by everyone or was it not and will city residents ever know? That's a common question in the communities meaning what did employees at City Hall know. That perhaps this was an ongoing pattern of treatment for the chief going back some years even while most people in his shoes would be facing arrest and prosecution for hit and run and DUI (whether alcohol or prescription medication). Too many questions remain in this case that need answers or there's really not much hope for this city or the department to ever regain what both have lost because of the actions of a relative few at the penalty at the majority of both. But is there any real investment by the city to reach that point?

So many allegations and questions but few to no real answers. And an investigation to answer some of them that will never be made public, even as the city claims to push for transparency. The public which funds the city and the agency will never know what happened that early morning and in its aftermath. It's not hard to believe that's exactly how some individuals at City Hall and the police department would like it to remain.

There's been comments of witness intimidation and of prior attempts to address malfeasance and criminal conduct among other things involving Leach which leads to more unanswered questions. Were these allegations ever investigated by City Manager Brad Hudson? Were they ignored by him and the then city council instead? What has happened in the past week is far worse than what happened in the original crash because of the way it was handled. But it makes me wonder why someone felt they could put this bad behavior on the city's residents and on the vast majority of police officers and civilian employees who do professional and conscientious work? What gave them that right? And who's going to take that right to put a law enforcement agency in this situation a scant four years after the city dissolved its stipulated judgment with the state attorney general's office?

You can't have those who may through their actions need to be investigated be the investigators. You can't have anyone in Riverside investigate what's transpired here. But who will? In a city where the government appears more concerned about keeping people from sitting on grassy knolls their tax dollars paid for than what's been going on inside one police department and its unhealthy dynamic of micromanagement from City Hall for quite a while now. There's been a lot of talk about coming together and moving forward but if you rebuild the house on a rotten foundation, then it will just collapse again. The fundamental problems which have plagued the police department beginning but not ending with its management and relationship to city management have to be addressed first for this agency to ever make sustained change.

The city rarely has needed leadership like it does right now and it rarely has so much needed to do the right thing as it does right now. But this is tougher than shopping for logos or serving as a lending institution to developers, this case involves multiple ethical issues and just as many alleged violations of ethics. And whether the city's leadership is up to it remains to be seen in the days and weeks ahead as more and more questions like those above pile up.

"He wasn't drunk; He wasn't disorderly."

The picture of Leach's hours before the wreck including a visit at a strip club may have been intended to answer questions but raised more instead. Why was he portrayed by the club owner's attorney (and that he's responding tells you something) as being sober about an hour before the accident yet by the time eye witnesses saw him crash his car at Central and Hillside, they suspected him as a DUI. In fact, someone flagged down the two officers and reported him as a "potential DUI". By the time these officer caught up to Leach three miles and some time later, he had no memory of the accident, didn't know how badly his car was damaged and that he believed he had been driving through a field and dirt road and got a flat tire. Contrast his own very confused and confusing perceptions with the photos taken of the vehicle and then contrast that with the scant written documentation of this "potential DUI" that turned into a "traffic collision" report to be filed away. The whole affair was to have been filed away but that's not what happened.

So now the story is that Leach was at a strip joint watching naked women which may or may not speak volumes about why the department has had problems attracting and retaining female officers. But it collides with comments by Leach's friend, former Councilman Frank Schiavone who was fairly adamant in his comments before Leach's retirement that Leach was on pain medication and even one beer could be very harmful for him, ergo he couldn't have been drinking. Yet now the manager of the strip club is saying that Leach had three drinks during his time spent at the club. So which is it going to be? Leach didn't drink because it would have been very unhealthy or even dangerous for him to do so. Leach drank three servings while at the strip club and was captured on surveillance cameras while doing so. And if he had been on prescription medication, he would have been warned more than once not to drink while taking it if it would have had detrimental affects.

The owner of Club 215's attorney did most of the responding so it makes you wonder that in the face of the CHP investigation that he's worried about potentially putting his club at risk including its liquor license if an investigation revealed that Leach had left that club intoxicated not long before his accident. Strip clubs have precarious relations at best with law enforcement agencies because by their nature, they are seen as attractants for crime. But at any rate, there's still a huge disconnect between him being sober at the strip club and then having no memory of anything but driving through a field on a flat tire and in between the two points is an hour or so of missing time.

And the list of those suddenly not having a comment to tell the media grows.

Mayor Vs Mayor Pro Tem

"Let's get ready to rumble..."

"Either run it or not."

---Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams

"As mayor, I will be as permissible as possible."

---Mayor Ron Loveridge

A little bit of a tussle for power of the gavel took place between long-time mayor, Ron Loveridge and short-term Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams during the afternoon session of the city council meeting. After Adams interrupted what city resident Karen Wright was saying at the podium, Loveridge didn't respond to him. This led to the exchange above and then Adams saying why don't you listen to my point of order and Loveridge essentially saying he would run the meeting. Loveridge is much less threatened by people at the podium than is Adams who has been known to get police officers onduty in the chambers to evict speakers and to engage in verbal temper tantrums on the dais. His first meltdown while mayor pro tem was within five minute of his first time leading a meeting when the mayor left the podium for a short time.

He's planning to run for a third term in Ward Seven but hopefully the voters there will install someone to represent them on the dais who is somewhat calmer and can handle himself or herself more professionally on the dais with minimal meltdowns. What's kind of funny is that Adams' acting out is in contrast to fairly professional conduct from the other elected officials and Loveridge having to treat Adams as you would a recalcitrant child and having to explain to him some of the job responsibilities of being an elected official.

Riverside Police Department has looked into several specific complaints connected with a raid several weeks ago in the Eastside. And apparently according to Special Investigations Lt. Ed Blevins, the officers' behavior has already been justified including the case of an 87 year old man with severely bruised man. Kind of makes you wonder why the department even needs an Internal Affairs Division to figure all this stuff ou when it appears that the department has much quicker and decisive procedures in place. Since the police department's made up its mind already, then it's a waste of time to fill out a complaint to undergo the investigation process. But then that's why most people don't file complaints for precisely the reasons which Blevins displayed in the news article.

Maybe that's why more and more people are filing claims for damages and/or lawsuits instead to bypass that process.

Lt. Ed Blevins: Man Verbally Confronted Officer and Used Profanity

RPD Supervisor Promotional Freeze Thaws:

Three sergeants, lieutenant promoted


Andy Flores


Michael Barney, Chris Wagner, Benjamin Shafer


Dan Nelson
Dan Koehler

In the midst of turmoil inside the Riverside Police Department, comes the news that there will be between three to five promotions, including three definite promotions at the supervisory levels. Two sergeant positions and one lieutenant position have been unfrozen and if any detectives are elevated into the sergeant positions, then those positions vacated will be filled through the promotional process pursuant to a MOU in place since the early 1990s. These promotions come within days of the medical retirement of former Chief Russ Leach and over a year since the last supervisory promotion was announced by the department.
The department has been promoting to fill detective promotions that have been vacated through retirements or in the case of former Det. Scott Impola, through termination. But the last promotion of a sergeant was Julian Hutzler over a year ago. The last lieutenant’s position was that involving Leon Phillips on July 1, 2008. The vacancy rate for lieutenants was five and that involving sergeants was about seven. However, the level of anticipated vacancies at the sergeant’s level was anticipated to rise by the end to 2010 given that there were four planned retirements and one departure. The department during its latest shift change which went into effect around Feb. 5 managed to fill the sergeant staffing positions in its patrol division but had pulled sergeants out of the Internal Affairs Division and some detective units in both the centralized and special investigation bureaus during the past year or so including Sexual Assault and Child Abuse as well as the Vice /intelligence squad. Possibly soon to be vacated is the sergeant position in the department’s family violence division if current sergeant, Paul De Jong retires to take a job elsewhere.

These promotions come in the wake of discussions between members of the Riverside Police Officers’ Association leadership and City Manager Brad Hudson which was referred to in an earlier blog posting about two weeks ago. There had been ardent and consistent pushing for some of these positions at especially the sergeant rank to be filled in light of the issues which have arisen regarding whether this situation has created staffing shortages over the predominantly young and inexperienced patrol division. The fear was that lower staffing of supervisors would mirror the problems in the 1990s that took place after a recession in the mid 1990s led to reductions in the patrol division including its supervisors. But the city manager’s office has long been believed not to see it that way. Perhaps because neither Hudson nor his assistant, Tom DeSantis were here when this happened the first time and because Hudson’s experience is mostly in the economic development sector of government rather than labor management. Several city employee unions including the SEIU have gone to city council meetings expressing their frustration at having to deal with Hudson and DeSantis on labor issues including those involving terms of their MOUs with the city.

The Special Operations which used to have three lieutenants lost two of them to retirement and now only has one. The investigations division has no captain, except one that splits duties between that division and Special Operations.

Riverside's Pass/Fail Test?

Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff over in San Bernardino write this article about what happened in Riverside's police department with the departure of former Chief Russ Leach. She has a conversation with City Manager Brad Hudson about the whole affair.


I asked City Manager Brad Hudson why the officers had not been placed on administrative leave during the two parallel investigations.

Four Manhattan Beach police officers were put on leave after a three-car crash involving a vehicle reportedly belonging to an officer. So why are the Riverside officers still working?

Hudson said in the Manhattan Beach case, no police report was taken at all.

It's a distinction with not much difference. The Riverside police report has so many holes in it, they glare even to the untrained eye. There's no mention of the hit-and-run violation, and the cause and extent of the chief's impairment is glossed over.

Fortunately the chief, Russ Leach, took a medical retirement three days after the accident, saying he takes full responsibility for driving while he was "obviously" disoriented from prescription medication.

On Monday, Leach reiterated his chagrin and said the accident was a wake-up call to him that he was taking more medication than he should. He said he's working with a doctor to get the problem under control.

The CHP investigation should be done soon. But Hudson warned that the results of the internal affairs investigation may never be made public, because peace officers' discipline by law is confidential.

That's too bad. Because the public needs assurance this blunder was addressed.

Actually, it's called business as usual in Riverside.

Metro Wi Fi Outages Continue

Both the city’s free and paid Wi Fi services have been experiencing multiple outages in the wake of the last rain storm over a week ago. Problems with water flooding the containers which held the equipment have contributed to several major outages located around Box Springs and Alessandro and Trautwein as well as smaller outages throughout at least the northern part of the city. At least one string of access points went out yesterday near the University Avenue corridor.
AT&T has dispatched technicians out to repair the outages and restore services but over a week after most of these outages began, many places remain without service. No estimate of when the entire network would be up and running has been provided. More rain is predicted early next morning which if it plays out as it has in the previous storms will likely create more outages to the network.



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