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, March 16, 2010

The Code of Silence Continues at City Hall

Time to tell the public the truth. You think? Yet City Hall still refuses and upholds a code of silence that could outdo that found inside just about any law enforcement agency.

The above was most recently stated by Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff in her column discussing the latest developments in the ongoing saga which began when former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach crashed his car. MacDuff usually focuses her writing on the numerous political scandals populating the other Inland Empire county, San Bernardino but has focused on Riverside's very own scandal in a couple of her columns.


Former Riverside Police Officers Association president Chris Lanzillo alleged that then-Assistant Chief (now Acting Chief) John De La Rosa was notified "almost immediately" about Leach's crash and was complicit in covering it up.

City officials have receded behind a wall of silence.

I wanted to ask City Manager Brad Hudson, City Attorney Greg Priamos and De La Rosa what kind of confidence the public will have in the results of the Internal Affairs investigation, since it means the department is investigating itself.

I wanted to ask whether it would have been better to ask the state attorney general to do the probe.

I wanted to ask whether the police department has an official policy on preferential treatment for community leaders suspected of drunken driving or other crimes.

I wanted to ask how many other officials have gotten the kind of preferential treatment Leach got.

None of them returned my calls on Monday. Hudson had his executive assistant tell me he wouldn't comment because of Lanzillo's claim.

Lanzillo's not the first to say that Asst. Chief and now acting chief, John DeLaRosa played a prominent role in the cover up that took place after Leach crashed one of his city-issued Chrysler 300 vehicles, lost two of the tires and then drove on the rims until stopped by two patrol officers from inside his department. But what does the city have to say about these allegations? Including that DeLaRosa and the police management delayed turning over the noninvestigation of Leach's "traffic collision" to the California Highway Patrol

The city first hid behind the so-called "sweeping" probe being conducted by City Manager Brad Hudson and now it's expanded the wall it's hiding behind to include Lanzillo's claim that it has already rejected including apparently his allegations against DeLaRosa. But MacDuff raises an important issue that's been raised by many city residents, not that anyone at City Hall or running the police department appears to be listening. Oh what a difference it would have made if this had happened at this point in 2011, when incumbent city officials had been filling out papers for reelection bids and had begun raising money for their campaign chests in earnest. Perhaps then, the ones who should be investigated wouldn't have been assigned the task of leading the investigation.

Even as the department's investigation continues with its process of interviewing its employees as part of this sweeping probe which appears to be expanding, what's left unanswered is who is interviewing those individuals including Hudson, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, City Attorney Gregory Priamos over at City Hall? Who's interviewing some past and current elected officials to ask them what they knew about a cover up that might have begun way before Feb. 8. Maybe start with the former councilman who once lived with Leach?

And while they think about what transpired in the past, are they interviewing any current or former command staff members including one who sent an email to the city council and mayor about five years ago alleging problems with Leach dating even back then? Are they interviewing representatives from any outside law enforcement agency who ever probed the Riverside Police Department about what they investigated or observed, including federal, state or county grand jury agencies?

Most people distrust the probe being conducted by City Hall because they aren't nearly as clueless as the city appears to think. Many people believe that a command staff member or two or more knew what had happened with Leach and participated in issuing orders for the cover up to take place. Many people believe that Hudson, his office, Priamos and possibly an elected official or two or more knew or should have known what was taking place.

Many people believe like MacDuff pointed out, that perhaps an outside probe would be more trustworthy for really finding out what happened with Leach, not only on Feb. 8 but during other alleged incidents where he was either stopped by law enforcement officers or given rides home from bars or there places including somewhere in Victorville by members of the command staff or other individuals. Many people have asked how Hudson who was Leach's boss could have really been in the dark when all this was allegedly taking place. Hudson and DeSantis had insisted that neither knew about the Feb. 8 incident until an anonymous caller alerted Mayor Ron Loveridge's office about Leach's accident within hours after it and the traffic stop took place. He and DeSantis said that department management violated some sort of disclosure policy requiring the city manager's office to be notified directly after someone "high profile" had a runin with police officers.

Hudson and DeSantis didn't volunteer information about whether or not Leach was tested for alcohol and drug intoxication by the city as required by another policy in place for employees in car accidents. But then of course, they didn't volunteer information about a lot of things and since they can't easily interview themselves, a lot about their past conduct involving the police department will naturally be excluded from this ahem, "sweeping" probe as well any information that could be forthcoming from Priamos or individuals inside his office.

This is unfortunate indeed but again, if these issues are being neglected now, they certainly won't be so around election time next year when it's likely that the situation surrounding the handling of the Leach incident as well as this probe could be front and center as an issue to be discussed and debated at forums held during the next election cycle impacting four current council members next year.

More to Come...

Muni Wi Fi Outages Continue

[If this appears on your wireless connection to ATT Metrofi or ATTMETROFREE, you're not alone. Outages involving both networks have hit large portions of Riverside and are well into their second month after some rain storms knocked out much of the hardware equipment citywide. As for repair and restoral of service dates, your guess is as good as mine. Most of the outages appear as limited connectivity. Others including a wide swath of eastern downtown appear to manifest themselves as acquired and quickly dropped IP addresses impacting internet access which may or may not be related to the larger outages.]

Riverside's city council tackles the decision of what to do with its convention center in downtown. Some differing visions by former and current elected representatives were provided.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents downtown, said he expects there will be "substantial" interest in expanding the convention center. However, questions of timing, size and funding must be answered first, he said.

The consultant's report suggests more than 600 additional hotel rooms that could be reserved for convention center users would be needed to support a 100,000-square-foot convention center, but Gardner said that sounds like a big number.

"If you're that big you're almost competing with Ontario or Long Beach," he said. "I don't think that's where Riverside wants to be, to compete for that size convention."

Dom Betro, Riverside councilman until Gardner unseated him in 2007, said the convention center needs a modest expansion. The city should be doing it now while construction costs are low rather than putting its efforts behind a developer's planned Hyatt hotel, he said.

"I think it's right to do it," Betro said. "It just should come first."

An officer-involved shooting in Riverside.

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein writes more about the ongoing battle over which defense firm gets the conflict panel contract for Riverside County's Superior Court. Maybe they should take it to a vote.

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