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

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"No coverup..." states Acting Chief John DeLaRosa Involving Leach's Accident

"I'm working on it, no cover up!!"

---Acting Riverside Police Chief John DeLaRosa in an email given to the Press Enterprise addressing concerns about the cover up of former chief, Russ Leach's accident.

No Cover up by Police Management...states Police Management After Hudson Clears City Hall in His Probe

(Anyone see a pattern here?)

The revelation that there were allegedly no attempts by police management to cover up the Feb. 8 vehicle crash and traffic stop involving former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach was made public through a news article published by the Press Enterprise involving the filing of a claim for damages by one of the department's employees. Incidentally, this assertion was revealed to the public not long after Hudson had cleared himself and others in City Hall of essentially the same thing which shows that there's a rush for the involved parties to make sure they clear themselves of any involvement in any cover up rather early in this inhouse investigative process. Just to set the record straight of course.

But don't get excited about these released announcements just yet.

Given that this latest revelation of no coverup involving the police management was indirectly made through public exposure of an email by a member of the police department's management, many people who heard or read about it appear to be taking it all with a grain of salt and more than a little bit of skepticism given that there are serious indications that point to another conclusion. That being that it was cover up central in River City within minutes, hours and then some after the incident first unfolded on that early morning. The questions that could help shed some light on what happened have yet to be answered by those who one would think would have those answers. Don't expect that to change soon unless the entities involved suddenly discover who they are supposed to be accountable to and serve which are the city's residents.

The conclusion reached by many individuals is that the officers who responded to complaints made to 911 about Leach's city-issued vehicle being driven through Riverside on its rims were directed to essentially ignore the whole situation by individuals higher up in the department's organizational structure who didn't want anything to be known about this incident outside the department or perhaps outside City Hall as well. Because even if it really took that long for City Hall to find out about it as it claims, when it did, it didn't exactly tell the constituents served by it what had happened. Instead, the silence from inside the 'Hall continued alongside that of its police department until it became quite clear that the incident wouldn't remain buried where it belonged. City Hall's silence became a greater part of that which it would later claim to be investigating inside the police department after the incident could no longer be contained while allowing concerns about its own code of silence to go unanswered.

The RPD's organizational chart ( as of Feb. 22, 2010) gives you some idea of the chain of command that is followed at least from the middle level of supervision and on upward. If you look under the bottom list of watch commanders, you'll find the name of one of them, Lt. Leon Phillips. Phillips who's been a lieutenant since July 2008 worked as the watch commander on the graveyard shift or "A" watch during the Feb. 7/8 shift. His supervisors are in the following order, Capt. Meredyth Meredith who is the Central/West captain who reports to Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel (from Department Operations) who reports to Asst. Chief and now acting chief, John DeLaRosa. Sgt. Frank Orta who crafted the lovely slip of a traffic report worked as the Central Neighborhood Policing Center supervising sergeant during the graveyard shift on that same day the incident took place and was dispatched to the scene at some point. He supervised the two officers, Jeremy Miller and Grant Linhart who were involved with Leach's traffic stop and probably wished they were anywhere else once they learned who was driving the car that had attracted a lot of attention with the sparks flying up from its rims.

This is the chain of command that Orta's report would have traveled in search of a rather elusive "reviewer's" signature. So what happened? An allegation was raised that one member of this chain of command did sign off on the report on Feb. 8. However, by the time the city released its copy to the Press Enterprise which posted it online, all the "reviewer" signature sections were blank. The city has not submitted any copy of the report with a "reviewer's" signature on it to the public. If one exists, then it's being kept under wraps and if that's the case, then why would that be done?

So if the report had been signed, why was the public issued a copy of it without a signature? And if it was never signed by a "reviewer" then why was that allowed and why didn't anyone on this chain of command then not sign it? And what about anyone else pulling out a city-issued ball point pen and lending a signature to it, if Phillips, Meredith, Esquivel and DeLaRosa weren't available to sign off on it for whatever reason? But then there's so many questions just about Orta's efforts at writing a report of the "traffic collision" surrounding Leach's accident, they would fill a book and by the end of this month, maybe a set of encyclopedias.

The only thing missing from the department's management, DeLaRosa, Hudson and City Hall are any answers to these questions and others that have been raised in different venues. And the only mechanism the city set up to answer them is its so-called internal "sweeping" probe commanded by Hudson which as we've all been told is totally hush hush and not for our eyes and ears although we're paying for its cost. That's kind of like saying that the joke's on us. And that's the only real truth so far, is that the public will never really know who did what, when and why. Not to mention the true role played by anyone in City Hall during this whole mess. But that's by design and intent and is not accidental.

There's a couple interesting allegations and comments made by Det. Chris Lanzillo through his claim and/or other city and police representatives made in the news article that was published over the weekend.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

In an e-mail sent the day after the crash -- obtained by The Press-Enterprise through a public records act request -- De La Rosa responded to the suggestion of a department cover up of the case by writing, "I'm working on it, no cover up!!"

Lanzillo also claims De La Rosa later urged officers not to post Internet comments about the crash, and became upset when Lanzillo asked what took him so long to bring in the CHP.

"He then called the complainant a 'lone wolf out there by himself," the claim reads, "obviously referencing perceived disloyalty on the part of complainant for failure to support De La Rosa's actions."

As you know, the day after the accident was Tuesday, Feb. 9, the day when the world was about to come crashing down on Leach and the police department when it became clear that the efforts to contain Leach's accident and subsequent traffic stop were going to prove to be unsuccessful. That afternoon, the police department through DeLaRosa had made its belated decision to farm off the noninvestigation of Leach's filed away "traffic collision" to the CHP for further investigation at about the point their phones began ringing off the hooks from media outlets calling them to ask what's up with Leach and his car which had shot off enough sparks for a Fourth of July gala. And by the way, where was the investigative report on the suspected DUI related crash?

Oops, what DUI investigation? No was a mere traffic collision stemming from an ill-fated right turn on a street...okay it was not where he was stopped afterward by officers after his crash...but...

It kind of went on downhill from there.

City Manager Brad Hudson hadn't yet announced to the public that he had intended to take over and launch some "sweeping" probe of the police department through its internal affairs division and have it reviewed by Best, Best and Krieger attorney, Grover Trask who would serve as Hudson's idea of "independent oversight". That wouldn't come until over 24 more hours later when it became abundantly clear to City Hall that the liquid in the pot they were trying to cover had boiled over. So that individuals within there had to start thinking about their own jobs and their own skins.

Oh no, we were never notified, no siree. Oh yes, we were supposed to be never happened...pursuant to policy...yeah right, we didn't know anything...would you like to see our latest Riverside Renaissance project? Oh and that last problem we had, it was the Community Development Department's/police chief's/miscommunication from City Hall's fault...Yes, that's right...and we've got a bridge to show you...the Columbia overpass just this way...

Monday, Feb. 8, had been so much quieter than the days that followed, that perhaps some of the city and department's leaders look back on that day as the last day when the public was still in the dark about what was going on. Which is where the public belonged because the public after all, is supposed to be in the dark about what goes on in this city. You ask too many questions in public forums and you open yourself to verbal insults from the dais by elected officials, city employees referring to you while conducting city business as the "biggest bitch around" or a "liar" or an "instigator" or "almost a criminal".

The traffic collision report involving Leach had been handwritten and neatly filed away somewhere even as Mayor Ron Loveridge came asking around after receiving some phone tip through his secretaries that the chief had been involved in some traffic accident. Loveridge of course was digging up information on this tip he had received while he was in Sacramento so that he could immediately issue a press release to the city's residents about what had happened, that a city department head had crashed a city-owned vehicle and had been stopped by police officers a while later. All in the interest of public disclosure and transparency. Actually, his intentions were probably no different than some others in high places elsewhere who had received the news earlier which was to keep the situation under wraps as long as possibly, preferably forever. It's a little difficult to complain of a cover up and stand behind an investigation into a said cover up when you're likely planning to do a little covering up of your own. After all, City Hall once had to hire a high-priced public relations firm just to learn how to talk to people.

Because if Loveridge knew something was up on Monday, Feb. 8, why did it take his office so long to respond? Why didn't he tell the public what had happened and demand an investigation that's just a tad more accountable than the one being done by City Hall? Okay, we all know it's not an election year for him but it would have been the appropriate action to take, given that an incident of that magnitude wasn't going to stay under wraps for long.

To date, Loveridge has yet to issue an official statement about personally wanted to get to the bottom of this mess and produce a public accounting of this incident and its aftermath. And any reference to the inhouse investigation being done by Hudson doesn't fall under that category. He's not even expressed his relief that Hudson had officially cleared City Hall and all its denizens from being involved in the cover up that took place surrounding Leach's accident. Which is really easy to do when you're in charge of the investigation. In fact, the way you can always test the integrity of an inhouse investigation is by how quickly those in charge of the investigation clear themselves and/or those who employ them. In this case, it didn't take Hudson through his own probe very long to do that and to announce it in a public forum held in the Eastside earlier this month. If you put 30 days or less for Hudson to issue that pronouncement in any informal betting pools, be prepared to collect your winnings, that is if anyone took that bet against you.

"We are Family"

The RPD Public Relations Division channels Sister Sledge

I found the quote allegedly made by DeLaRosa about Lanzillo being some form of "lone wolf out there by himself" interesting in part because of the curious publicity campaign launched by the upper management of the police department within days of the news breaking about the incident involving Leach and his medical retirement placement on medical leave. That's when representatives of the police department allegedly went to community meetings and roll call sessions to preach this message about unity and family, in other worlds preaching the gospel of the blue code of silence to all the department's officers while telling community members that no such things existed just accountability, light and transparency. It's curious how the message spread outward by several department representatives in community meetings was to reach out to them to draw community members and police officers into some collective fold with the emphasis being on family and reconciliation to get their minds off of the breach of trust between the department and the public that had just taken place as well as that which had occurred between the department's officers and their management.

Whereas inside the much more insulated and isolated department, the message appeared to be more focused on coming together and keeping your problems within that family, in other words solidifying that insulation and isolationthat's part of police culture. a curious message to send to officers while again telling the public that no such culture and its resultant code exists.

DeLaRosa allegedly visited roll call sessions surrounded by most or all of the members of his command staff who apparently weren't exactly thrilled to be there portraying the "happy" family while admonishing officers not to speak to bloggers or to the press about what had happened. If the police department's upper management were truly interested in openness and transparency (meaning the opposite of the cover up that DeLaRosa stated wasn't happening in an email), then why would they be so concerned about anything officers might say to anyone outside the department? What was there not to talk about if everything involving Leach's accident and traffic stop had been put out in the open? What needed to be hidden or as some might come out and call it, covered up?

Why was it so important to engage in these publicity campaigns after the situation involving Leach first erupted? Especially if you're telling everyone that everyone agrees with you and those who don't are just "lone wolves" as if that were the case, would publicity campaigns like these really be necessary unless you're dealing with a larger crowd of skepticism? It was a bit bewildering I heard for community members to be hit upon by this message of family and reconciliation at community meetings across the city only after this situation happened. Many people who witnessed it still don't know what to make of it. Those who are a bit on the cynical side, who have become more jaded view it as a campaign to perpetuate more of the same cover up. Some say, why did the department want us to buy into this family and reconciliation shtick only when it got itself in a bit of trouble?


Several council members said Friday that they would defer judgment on De La Rosa until the two investigations are complete. Hudson could not be reached for comment.

"If it were known that a senior member of the Police Department had acted wrongly," Councilman Mike Gardner said, "it would give me concern to increase their level of command."

City officials have said they were not notified of Leach's crash until an anonymous call was placed to the mayor's office around 9 a.m. Monday -- six hours after the incident -- although protocol dictates top city management should have been called.

It's clear that most of City Hall is deferring to the inhouse probe being conducted by Hudson even though many city residents seem to be distrustful of City Hall right now. Many people wonder if City Hall and any of its denizens knew about prior problems with Leach and covered them up and whether any of them were involved in the current situation and cover up either during or after the fact. But if City Hall had been paying any attention to the escapades of the past several years, it wouldn't have handed any internal probe of the police department off to Hudson or his assistant city manager, Tom DeSantis. It should have known that both city employees are hopelessly conflicted out by prior conduct involving the police department. But then it's always been a question that city residents have asked in terms of who leads who? Does the city council lead the city manager or as some have suspected, the other way around? It's a fair question given that the city council has voted away much of its powers and responsibilities as a financial accountability mechanism for the city's administration.

Gardner's statement is interesting because he clearly understands the seriousness of the situation of hiring an individual from the police department to next lead the department if they were complicit in a cover up surrounding Leach but most of the city residents have said that they wouldn't think there would be any room for any such individual whoever they might be in a clean police department at all if they were involved in any misconduct surrounding the Leach incident. If dirty conduct took place surrounding the Leach incident, then why would those who masterminded it whoever they might be still be employed? The issue wouldn't or shouldn't be whether or not to promote them to a top spot but whether to keep them employed in the police department and/or City Hall at all. After all, this is a city government that would have a zero tolerance philosophy about corruption, right? Oh wait, they can't tell anyone.

Was city management really not called while the Leach incident played out on the city streets of Riverside? Hudson and DeSantis came out strong in a recent article in the daily newspaper that they weren't informed as required under policy by the police department's management about what happened with Leach. The city manager's office claimed that it was not informed until the Loveridge had asked it to look into a phone tip his office had received. What might clear up all this confusion and some of these concerns and questions would be if the city would release the records of phone calls made on city-issued phones during the time during and after Leach's accident and traffic stop. This would include more than several city employees including at City Hall. Hudson and DeSantis might have a better chance of proving they were as clueless as they claimed to be if they facilitated releasing this list which of course, would include any phone calls made during that time period by their own city-issued phones. So far none of this information has been released to the public although it could be, most likely because the city facilitated by Priamos' office has made this releasable information confidential in the guise of slipping it into the internal probe being instituted by Hudson. The release of information from the city has been somewhat scant and has only yielded more questions.

But still City Hall and the police department's management want everyone to trust in their probe and its outcome.

The CHP has pretty much completed its investigation of Leach's car crash which was belatedly farmed off on it by the police department's management more than 24 hours after the incident. As predicted, the city will not release the findings until Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco makes his decision whether or not to file criminal charges against Leach either for driving under the influence and/or hit and run. The rumors are that Leach might be facing a DUI charge but it remains to be seen what will happen exactly and how Pacheco's decision will impact his election bid for a second term as the DA, given that he's been subjected to much criticism from different corners.

If Pacheco doesn't file charges, there would be some pretty loud and vigorous protesting against him and his office by city and county residents who are already upset that Leach received special treatment by officers in his own agency. But how will they feel if they perceive that Leach received special treatment by the DA's office? And how will Pacheco's decision on whether or not to prosecute impact the city's own internal probe of the incident?

Most of what's going to happen in this ongoing saga involving the attempted cover up still lays ahead in the days, weeks and months to come.

More Commentary on the Latest Chapter of the Leach Incident

The discussions on the latest development in the situation stemming from former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach's accident and traffic stop are being held here. Many comments on the implications of this ongoing incident on the police department as well as at City Hall. There' s probably been nearly a thousand comments written in connection with Press Enterprise stories since the news first broke. None of them very nice, in fact many of them are calling for the entire command staff or police department to be replaced as long as calling for federal and/or state investigators and the replacement of just about everyone inside City Hall. Which isn't surprising because the last time that happened was the last time the city replaced a police chief.

The 2000 departure of former chief, Jerry Carroll took a city manager, a city attorney and most of the city council with it. The city didn't do many recruitment searches to fill these positions at the time except for Carrolls which it did with interim police chief, Robert Luman and then later Leach. It merely elevated assistant city attorney Gregory Priamos and Asst. City Manager Larry Paulson up to fill the top spots though only Priamos still looms today. It's alleged that when City Manager Brad Hudson was brought in from his job in Riverside County, he wanted to bring along his own personal choice for city attorney but in that case, the city council and mayor didn't roll over and Priamos was able to keep his position. That situation allegedly has led to an icy relationship between two of the city council's direct employees and that cast an interesting angle on the enigmatic behavior of Priamos at one meeting when he was inadvertently referred to as the city manager and blithely referred to it being insulting.

A couple of house cleanings of sorts is what's needed, is what most people who have anything to say about it and aren't afraid of having City Hall think badly of them.

(excerpts, Press Enterprise)

The command staff and city hall are in bed together. Don't you think that DeLaRosa called city officials about this when it happened. Check the phone records of Brad Hudson, Tom DeSantis, Greg Priamos and Mayor Luv along with the city council members. They had to know for liability purposes to protect the city. The feds have a lot of work to do at city hall if they want to clean up the city. Call in the Sheriff to run the P.D. until the investigation is complete.

You're missing the point Mr. "Just the facts", it's your entire command staff that has brought you to this point in life. From the Sgt. to the deputy chief need to be held accountable, along with the city council, city attorney and city manager for this fiasco. The problem is that this smells of a cover-up and the only way to find out how far this went up is to bring in the F.B.I I don't fault the officers on-scene, they took direction from the higher ups. And the B.S. the city leaders are trying to push on us is nothing short of an insult to the residents that they did not know about the crash. They should bring in the Sheriff until this mess is sorted out.

Wow, so many disturbing posts on this site make me think we do need another federal investigation of the RPD. Are these mostly from officers or other employees of the department? I hope not because they are embarrasing to the residents of Riverside. Mayor, City Council? Are you reading this?

I was wondering how long the beat cops of Riverside were going to hold their mud after suffering so much indignity because of this Chief's actions. At some point they are going to have to make a clean break of this mess in order to get past the stigma and feel decent again about doing their jobs.
The Chief brought this upon himself and was aided by a few high level accomplices. Sadly, the RPD is having to suffer a black eye for his and their abuse of power. At some point you have to call things as they really are. Continuing to shield this Chief and his immediate cronies will only prolong the pain and continue to bring shame on the department.

It's not the police who are shielding the Chief, it's the city manager, city attorney and city council that are running interference for the chief. Why else would it take 2 days for an outside agency to be called in to invesitgate the crash. Why else would it take 11 days for city hall to issue the only statement on the crash, with no one taking responsibility and passing the blame on others. It's time for the Justice Department to look into city politics.

It's people like you that are missing the point. Everyone keeps placing blame on the police, but they take their orders from city hall. Do you really believe city hall knew nothing about the accident. That they were not informed about the incident. The city manager and city attorney have still not given an official statement other then to deny they were notified about the crash.

As a resident of Riverside, I am ashamed that there is a culture within our police department that would encourage or tolerate this type of unethical behavior. DO THE RIGHT THING! We definitely need to clean house and NO ONE within the police department should be considered to lead our police department, need new blood and need to clean house. The residents of Riverside deserve better than what our current police administration has given us.

Why are you only blaming the police department. Don't you think our city officials are up to their eyeballs in this. They knew about the crash, but have never taken responsibility for this. Don't just blame the police department when this goes all the way to city hall. It's people like you that think a band aid will solve the problem when the cut goes deeper.

Lets face it, if the beat cops had done their job, there would have been nothing for the higher ups to cover up. In this case the corruption began at the bottom. Had the cops who responded done their jobs, Leach would be out of a job and there would be no cries of "cover-up" and the resultant corrupt officials who are shielding him. If some beat level cop let a superior talk him into covering this up, he should be out of a job for lack of moral fortitude.

Well I happen to know a few guys that work for the Corona Fire Dept and the RPD and CPD and if one of them is DUI the citing officer just calls the wife or girlfriend and lets them go. It always happens-nothing new. I'm just glad they are finially going public.

These sentiments have appeared in other venues as well. Most people aren't buying what the police department and City Hall are selling and they probably aren't settling down nearly as quickly as this city would like.

Two out of three candidates in the Riverside County District Attorney's race this June have have filed their final papers.

For those who received an email purportedly from the Riverside County fire chief warning of a pending large earthquake, it wasn't authorized by him.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, March 16 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. the Riverside City Council meets at City Hall to discuss this agenda. Actually most of the agenda items are on the consent calendar so there won't be much to discuss during the evening session. For entertainment purposes, appearing at the meeting will be Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams. Alas, never a dull moment when he's leading a meeting.

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