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

Friday, March 05, 2010

Downtown Rallies and Brad Hudson Takes His Chief's Forum Show on the Road

Across the state and even the nation, students from elementary age to college level protested proposed budget cuts on education by the thousands including in downtown Riverside's pedestrian mall. Staging die-ins and making speeches, hundreds of students congregated in downtown Riverside to protest against more budget cuts aimed at their schools.

The Riverside Police Department dispatched officers who lined along University Avenue on the north side of the street while others congregated closer to and inside both City Hall and the city council chambers. There were also some undercover peeps standing near a low cement and brick wall posing as part of the crowd. They however were quite a bit older, had a tendency to congregate together and appeared to be in serious need of some signs to hold or something (maybe some tambourines?) to more fully participate in the rally and look like they're having more fun!

Next to City Hall, Acting Chief John De La Rosa stood alongside with Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, Councilman Steve Adams, City Attorney Gregory Priamos and Deputy City Attorney Jeb Brown (who handles police related legal issues). However, apparently there were no police related incidents and it was a peaceful if boisterous rally. A story was told about how a motorist honked his horn and was belligerent during part of the protest and an officer asked him politely to stop honking his horn in an attempt to deesculate the motorist's behavior which was a good thing.

[Over 500 hundred students from Riverside protest budget cuts by the state in the downtown pedestrian mall in Riverside by late afternoon.]

[Riverside students and teachers rally against budget cuts towards education by the state in downtown Riverside.]

[Riverside Police Department officers stationed near City Hall, some wearing riot gear about a half a block away from where over 400 students and teachers rallied against budget cuts. Also participating were representatives from the Corona Police Department.]

[Riverside's Metro/SWAT Team lines up on the pedestrian mall across the street from where hundreds of students and teachers are rallying against the state's latest round of proposed budget cuts directed at education.]

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein writes about the loss of more teachers to budget cuts.

Brad Hudson Brings His Forum Circuit to the Eastside

[Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson makes his first start at the Caesar Chavez Community Center in the Eastside on his ongoing scheduled performances of his community forums to solicit input for the new police chief. The photo's blurry because the man never stops moving as he quickly set the perimeters of "his" meeting and mentioning the information about this blog, strictly forbidden!]

City Manager Brad Hudson reminds people of many different things when he shows up at meetings to sell a product. Usually, I see the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland and that vision was in full form in the Eastside last night down to the flashy smile. He kept his smile and jovial, self-depreciating attitude during most of the meeting except when he lost his cool a bit when one speaker addressed the forum, chiding her that this wasn't like a city council meeting and she couldn't say her spiel here. That was just after he had explained to the public that this was like a city council meeting and on the agenda, it said that community members in attendance could address him on the issue of the chief for up to three minutes speaking time, which is eerily reminiscent of the procedure of city council meetings. But anyway, Hudson quickly changed the rules and made it clear it was his show.

What was funny was that she was allowed to speak at the forum until she mentioned the name of this blog. Each time she tried to continue and provide it, Hudson shut her down by scolding her. It was kind of funny to watch him break his own spiel to lay down the law to her and perhaps to anyone else who might slip outside the firmly established perimeters of the meeting. He could better spend that energy on explaining why he's put himself in charge of an internal probe of the department's actions regarding Leach's accident and traffic stop rather than to offer him up as a witness to answer questions about his own observations of Leach based on the relationship he as a boss had over his subordinate, one of his department head employees. But of course he can't do that in any visible venue.

Still, he only behaves has he expects the city council that employs him to hold him accountable for behaving so essentially he treats people even his critics as he's been instructed to treat them by his bosses. Just like the legislative aide who referred to a woman who attends city council as the "biggest bitch around" in front of three military personnel at one meeting behaves the way that fulfills the expectations of the city council member who employs him who was notified of this disturbing incident by the woman who witnessed it through a letter she sent him.

That's kind of funny that Hudson would get agitated by a woman that he had to try and shut her down rather than just let her speak her piece for several minutes. He often provides the image of the cool customer who sometimes reminds you of the guy who could sell a lemon of a cool car to someone by telling then it's instead a Rolls first off the assembly line. All without breaking into a sweat. But he becomes agitated by one speaker who mentions the name of this blog. But then this blog's never been that popular with most of the powers that be at City Hall probably because it's not written for them. Clearly it's not popular with Hudson and that's just fine.

Hudson may have his moments but you have to take what he says with a grain of salt. Some of us learned that when we separately asked him the same question about whether he supported independent counsel for the Community Police Review Commission for example and he told some people yes, and this is why and then other people no, and this is why not. What are you supposed to do, take a survey and attribute his real point of view on an issue by majority vote of those who asked him that question?

However, during most of the meeting, Hudson kept his composure and sold his concept of a community forum fairly well during the ninety minute meeting as he no doubt will do during the other two community forums.

This would be the first of three community forums being conducted by the city to solicit input from city residents on what they want to see in their next police chief and this one took place at the Caesar Chavez Community Center in the Eastside. Hudson began the forum by saying that in case anyone didn’t know it by now, the city was looking for its next police chief. He didn’t want to go into the details of what happened with Leach and the handling of his traffic stop by the police department. The CHP would bring some of those issues to light, he purred.

“No one at City Hall and any part of the cover up,” Hudson said, “That is what an investigation will show.”

Which of course it will, in part because he's in charge of the investigation and if any impropriety came up, the public will never know. Still, it's so reassuring to hear from Hudson the end results of an investigation which is still in process and that he apparently knows its outcome before it's even been completed and reviewed by the "independent oversight" that the city's paid for him to hire to oversee it. But the inhouse probe will almost certainly generate many more questions among city residents than it will ever answer. Certainly more questions than Hudson will want to answer.

He took the self-depreciating approach when dealing with the forum of about 80 people, including when defining his role in terms of the city's police department and its chief.

“My role in the police department is somewhat limited,” Hudson said.

That was probably the most unintentionally funny statement of the entire evening but Hudson appeared sincere when he spoke about how the chief's huge shadow at City Hall proved to be the most powerful force inside that building, even more powerful than himself. At least his words provided some insight why at times he seems to aspire to the job himself. Still his assurances that he has little or no role in the operations of the police department come in the midst of many concerns raised that he and his assistant, Tom DeSantis have been heavily involved in the police department since at least 2007.

Hudson said that essentially only hires the police chief and deals with the department’s operational budget. No mention of waving the city charter in anyone's faces including the chief's when he wants to stake his claim as the last voice in the hiring, firing and promotions by department heads including the police chief. The latter became a huge issue of contention in the spring of 2007 when two key positions in the police department were allegedly filled by Hudson and not Leach (who wasn't even in town at the time).

Both men filling those positions today are applying for the top spot as representatives from the "within" contingent. The promotional process has changed in the past several years at least down to the sergeant levels in terms of how it's carried out and also how selections are made off of the "lists", an issue that was raised several years ago by leadership in the two police associations at a city council meeting where the issue of whether not police management positions could be converted to being "at will" and if so, who's "will"? The answer was a resounding, no. But what has been happening since in terms of the dynamic existing between the now chief-less police department and Hudson's office?

In the midst of all this intrigue boiling beneath the surface of Riverside, Hudson did mention that it's very, very important to hire a good chief. It's reassuring to the populace of the city that he understands that reality.

“If you got a bad one, you might not know it for a while,” Hudson said, sagely.

Well yeah...Hudson. That's correct. But define, "a while". Preferably during the summary of the conclusions reached by the inhouse probe. And who is going to ask the person in charge of the "sweeping" inhouse probe that question? Anyone? Probably not, because the city has placed its "sweeping" probe even with "independent oversight" in the hands of the individuals who some at the forum sensed might have the most questions to answer about what happened in the early morning hours of Feb. 8 and its aftermath. The first thing that Hudson and the city government as an entity should have done was to invite an outside agency to investigate the critical portion of the incident that won't be handled by the CHP's criminal probe (which will focus largely on Leach's behavior). The results of that probe will be released next week, the CHP has apparently decided. But whether the office has recommended that Leach be charged for crimes may or may not answer deeper questions about the incident given that the delay of handing the noninvestigation to the CHP by the city and police department's management might have hopelessly compromised that process of getting to the truth. Yet again, the ''sweeping" probe has been given to those same individuals who waited two days to transfer it to the CHP.

Hudson was asked by several people if he were going to search “inhouse” meaning inside the ranks of the police department for a potential replacement. He said that inside would be the first place to look but the city wanted to take a broader look, say Southern California. When asked by Casa Blanca community leader, Morris Mendoza how much the search process would cost, Hudson cited the figure, $25,000 and it would cover a period of several months. The last time the city had to hire a police chief for Riverside in 2000, took nine months.

Paul Chavez said that the police chief had to be trusted by the community. To stand for the law but also to reach out to the community. The chief had to be consistent in doing these things, which didn't happen towards the end of Leach's tenure with the department.

Hudson explained that the dynamic with the police union is very difficult and that it was a “tricky balance” between the unions, the community and a layer of civilian oversight.

Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely of the Group said that the city should follow some guiding principles in hiring its police chief and be mindful that the city has already sacrificed more than $22 million to reform the police department. The commitment to both community oriented policing and the newly created strategic plan needed to continue. She suggested that the finalists for the position undergo a psychological evaluation.

“Many of us knew there was a problem,” she said.

The city needs to see indicators when they arise and deal with them before they become too great to handle. Vaughn-Blakely also urged the city not to move too quickly in the hiring process while investigations into the incident involving the prior police chief are ongoing, given that some potential candidates from inside the agency might turn up in the investigations. Hudson said that the hiring couldn't go forward until his probe had ended but provided no time table for that process' completion.

Steve Figueroa, whose cousin Mike, was once the department’s deputy chief said that the chief needed to be someone who was well balanced in civil rights and labor rights. He added that he had asked his cousin to put an application in for the position.

Hudson did say that he heard from many people who wanted to be involved in any selection panel and he would be contacting some of them later. A huge contrast to his earlier statements that any panel would consist only of law enforcement professionals, business leaders and perhaps members of the Community Police Review Commission. It's not surprising that so many people want to be on the interview panels because it allows them to be involved in the selection process but some like what it can do for their reputations as well. It's not lost on many city residents that much of the focus of community leaders was to get positions on these panels rather than push for an independent probe of what transpired on Feb. 8.

But any independent probe will have to wait. Not that it's been denied, it's just been deferred until the point arrives when this dysfunctional mechanism involving City Hall and one of its departments rolls forward until it can't any longer.

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