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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Tale of the Two Hudson Probes and Acting Chief John DeLaRosa implicated in coverup

UPDATE****Cell phone records as reported in the Press Enterprise show Acting Chief John DeLaRosa called Watch Commander Leon Phillips once after Sgt. Frank Orta also tried to call him and Phillips called DeLaRosa twice after that for several short calls. Calls also made to one current or former internal affairs sergeant Marcus Smail by Leach from scene. Okay, who out there reading this is really all that surprised? And maybe that's why there's been news about DeLaRosa keeping close tabs on Phillips while he's on duty.

Many of the city residents knew there was a cover up since it started, and yes, it probably involved the top players because if DeLaRosa talked to Phillips, why didn't he report the incident as required to City Hall unless of course, the two men talked about the football game or the weather...Thanks for the update City Hall and for abiding by state law but the pressure is still on you...Pressure on, cover off as they say...

"Pay no Attention to that man behind the curtain."

---L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

Trivia: Is the amazing story about the origin of the wizard's coat in the movie version fact or fiction?

NOTE*****Photos will return once Blogger fixes the downed server that's hosting them...hopefully soon...

Riverside had one of its annual air shows at the Riverside Municipal Airport which attracted many thousands of aviation buffs and more casual fans and many great acts including a female wing walker. Santa Ana winds delayed or modified some of the acts but a great time was enjoyed by all. There were military aircraft, stunt planes and the Riverside Police Department's SWAT/Aviation and K9 units put on demonstrations for the estimated 95,000 in attendance.

I spent the day there and had a great time, even though I took a face plant fall while walking there on Arlington on the sidewalk and can't move one of my shoulders today very well, and only somewhat with the other one. Oy! Fortunately (in this case) I have a lot of experience with busted shoulders.

[Riverside Police Department K9 Officer David Taylor with his canine officer, Von.]

[Riverside Police Department K9 Officer Brad Smith and his dog Rocco who he's had for just over a year after his previous dog died. They later performed in a K9 demonstration. ]

[The Riverside Police Department's newest helicopter which was just delivered a few months ago from its San Diego based vendor to the SWAT/Aviation Unit. The department currently has five helicopters with one going up for sale soon.]

Tale of the Two Probes

The cardinal laws of internal probes are the following:

1) To protect those who are responsible for corruption

2) To punish those who are trying to expose #1

Remember those two rules of the internal probe and it becomes a bit easier to understand what is probably transpiring involving River City's own internal probe of the moment being conducted by its city manager's office involving seemingly everyone in the city's municipal fabric except naturally, the city manager's office. Actually that would be both probes but there's more discussion of that further down. First comes news that shouldn't really surprise anyone but here it is anyway.

Former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach might just be getting that medical retirement after all.

And that's not bad for an "at will" management employee who's now been convicted with breaking the law when he drove with an extrapolated blood alcohol level of 0.22 around Riverside, running red lights, nearly hitting a car while conducting an illegal u-turn and driving for miles in a car that had suffered "major damage". And even though he had made significant contributions to the department under the stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office, he in some major sense left the department as it was when he arrived in terms of suffering a tremendous loss of public trust and being buried in claims for damages and lawsuits along with allegations of problems going back years including those involving the department's promotional process. All of these issues will be inherited by the next police chief whoever he or she might be which may not matter all that much if the city manager leash trains him or her quickly enough and the problems continue throughout this person's reign because the problem wasn't just involving Leach.

Currently, in just claims, the department is facing at least $24 million total in terms of that process and then there are the five cases of officers who were arrested and prosecuted in a 14 month period (hence at least three of the claims) which may or may not include all of those who were arrested in 2008-09. So there's definitely a lot going on and that was magnified intensely by the decision that was made to cover up the accident and traffic stop involving Leach and his banged up city-issued black Chysler 300. To prevent Leach from becoming the sixth known officer in the department prosecuted for a crime within an 18 month period, an effort which ultimately as everyone knows now proved a futile exercise.

That decision by certain individuals to engage in this cover up of the Leach incident and any priors wound up penalizing a lot of people and continues to do just that to over 600 employees in the police department and over 350,000 city residents because this code of silence that involves any involved police management and any of their handlers at City Hall must prevail even at the cost of an agency that had worked hard to build itself up in the last decade. But apparently while the city grapples with the at least $24 million in claims (and this doesn't count the many pending lawsuits against the city in relation to the department in both federal and state courts), some payouts will be forthcoming in a matter of time including Leach's.

While the city gets ready to pay out half of Leach's salary, at least partly untaxed, City Manager Brad Hudson continues onward with what originally was one internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the controversial Feb. 8 accident and traffic stop which ultimately took the much longer route of leading to Leach's retirement. This so-called investigation has since apparently become more than one probe. And the development of the latest probe is very troubling indeed and speaks to one reason why the city government should have not been intent as a body in supporting the original inhouse probe but should have farmed this one outside the city as other cities have done in similar circumstances. And no, that doesn't mean hiring an attorney from its stable of Best, Best and Krieger attorneys to provide "independent oversight" and putting him under the contract of Hudson's office. That means having an entity do the investigation that doesn't have a vested interest in generating a specific outcome at the expense of the truth of what happened. But the city's asking the city residents who are paying for their dual probes to indulge their decision to engage in this "sweeping" exercise. Hudson perhaps meant "sweeping" in terms of all encompassing but many people read it instead as an attempt to sweep it all under the bumpy rug in the corner.

After all, haven't we already seen the difference in the quality of investigations put forth on this incident by the Riverside Police Department (which was not investigating its top cop) and the California Highway Patrol (which wasn't)? Which of the two departments actually conducted an investigation and which one didn't even initiate one? Which of the two departments worked under constraints to its investigation which were created through the actions of the other one? Which agency issued a lengthy analysis including recommendations for filing charges and which one didn't? If the criminal investigation had greatly improved by moving it(albeit slowly) to an outside agency with no vested interest in the outcome, then think about what this could do for an internal investigation!

It's very suspect at least to place investigations in the hands of those who themselves need at the very least to answer questions rather than ask them. And it's not appropriate to have an internal investigation inside a police department either be directed by police management personnel who perhaps should be answering rather than asking questions themselves and that same rule applies to people outside the department in City Hall as well. And it's become clear that elements of City Hall are utilizing the confidential nature of this probe to cover up some rather strange antics that are taking place in the name of this ahem, probe. The same one that was purportedly initiated to investigate the alleged cover up that clearly took place which led to Leach receiving preferential treatment by his own department and even attempts to hide the accident itself. Not to mention certain aspects of it including erasing any mention of those words, "alcohol" and "DUI".

But while City Hall remains quiet and community leaders all clamor over who will be picked to represent "community" on Hudson's much ballyhooed interview panel to be used in the selection of the next police chief, who's watching the probe? Is it turning into something else than what Hudson told city residents at a variety of different public venues? Who is actually being investigated here? Unfortunately, as Hudson keeps saying, the public can never know who did what, and they will certainly never know what Hudson did while conducting his so-called probe.

The answer depends on which of the two probes that you're talking about. Are you talking about the one that the public was told about in terms of its approximate scope or the one that makes it clear (if only the public knew about it) why an outside agency should have been brought in to conduct this internal "sweeping" probe from day one? Remember the difference between having the Riverside Police Department investigate its chief for a DUI and having the CHP do that investigation with much less to work with, meaning no blood alcohol tests. But then City Hall should have known better that you don't hand off probes to be handled by those who should be investigated themselves, or have them participate in the investigation process when they weren't honest about information involving Leach when they absolutely needed to be. City Hall also should be aware that much of the public isn't buying into even the first probe being a legitimate fact-finding process and knowledge of the second probe would give them less reason to trust it.

But it's not exactly as if the current city government has shown it can hold the feet of a couple of its direct employees to the fire on a serious crisis in this city which if traced back to its fundamental roots, might lead back at least in part to them. Because in these troubled days of our city and police department, one of the things most lacking has been leadership. It would be nice to heap praise on different people in City Hall for being more forthcoming, but that's difficult to do when the only sound that people here from there is silence.

Unless you have city employees who pick and choose how they respond. Like Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis. They'll announce to the media that the department's management didn't adhere to a city policy to notify their office about their "high profile" police contact on Feb. 8 but neither will be as talkative about whether or not Hudson adhered to city policy to test Leach for drugs and alcohol intoxication after he crashed a city owned vehicle. Hudson might make innuendo about Leach's "past" problems at public forums but wouldn't answer a question asked by a woman at a public forum about whether or not he or his office had any knowledge of these past problems when they weren't in the past. It's a bit naive to look at the information they parse out every so often as any meaningful example of transparency. Because any effort towards promoting ahem, transparency on their part doesn't apply to their own actions and the questions those actions might have and definitely should have raised in regards with their interactions with the police department going way back to when both became city employees in 2005. And certainly they're not going to be asked those questions let alone have to answer them within their own probe. In fact, they will never have to provide an accounting of any questionable behavior they might have engaged in since they arrived in Riverside at all.

Not until it becomes someone else's probe.

Riding in Riverside writes about service cuts for RTA buses and routes in Riverside County.

The Future of Riverside's Wi Fi

[A Bell100 one of many of them in the city sits on a street light to service the Wi Fi network. Hundreds of similar devices including many Bell200s failed over the city when the rainy season started in January. They are being replaced and repaired city-wide as AT&T tries to extricate from its ongoing contract with the city to manage and maintain the network.]

Does the Municipal Wi Fi network have a future in Riverside?

That's a pressing question as AT&T prepares to sever ties to the city through a contract that still had over a year to go before it expired. The past few months have been very difficult for both parties as hundreds of access points failed when the rain started falling in January and currently, the company is replacing a bunch of devices due to a manufacturing defect that is believed to have been the root cause of many of the outages.

Right now, the network is back up in many areas but both paid and free service are not operating at a very fast speed with page loading currently at approximately two minutes and thirty seconds in the morning and about six minutes at night for the paid Metrofi service.

CPRC Holds Annual Elections

The Community Police Review Commission held its annual elections as required by the city's charter at its March meeting. And in both races, you had squeaker results. In the chair's race Brian Pearcy regained his chairmanship after a year off by a 5-4 vote with the City Hall aligned bloc losing this round. Pearcy was chair for two years until he ran into a two-term limit for consecutive stints. However, Pearcy's going to have to work to improve his attendance record to be an effective chair. With Pearcy at this meeting, interesting how there's a bit of shift in the voting served to break the City Hall aligned voting bloc at least in some respects.

In the vice-chair's race, incumbent vice-chair Art Santore narrowly defeated John Brandriff in another 5-4 vote. The swing vote in both elections was Rogelio Morales.

What will all this mean for the beleaguered and micromanaged commission? That will be revealed in the weeks and months ahead.

Lawsuit Filed in D.A.'s Race

You know it wouldn't be a county election year without at least one lawsuit being filed and this year, it's in The Riverside County District Attorney's race. The lawsuit is being filed over candidate and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach's campaign statement and is being filed by perennial political candidate Ruben Rasso. Rasso and incumbent District Attorney Rod Pacheco have something in common, both were clients of election consultant Brian Floyd, who's known primarily for backing losing candidates in races where more than a little bit of mud is flung around.

Former Riverside City Councilman Frank Schiavone also launched his political campaign last year by suing over a campaign statement, this one by challenger and current city councilman, Paul Davis.

De ja vu anyone? Someone could write a good primer of similar duplications of events that stir the feeling of having been there before for residents and that would put a lot of people in good stead.

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