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, April 25, 2010

The Road to Micromanagement is Filled with...Players

[The entrance for the Riverside Police Department's Administrative Headquarters used to have the name of the police chief of painted on its front. The police department doesn't really have a police chief at the least not an official one. ]

"I would describe Tom DeSantis' role of having stronger oversight...more involved with the day-to-day operations of the police department."

---Former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach describing the management style of Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis regarding the police department in comparison to his predecessors, in 2009.

After the retirement of former Jerry Carroll in early 2000, the Riverside Police Department went through three more police chiefs before that year ended only a little quieter than it had begun. After Carroll's untimely departure, then Deputy Chief Mike Smith took the helm on an acting basis, while the city searched first for an interim replacement, ultimately deciding on former Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luman. Luman stayed about a month past his contract period and then was replaced by Smith in the acting position until the hiring of former El Paso Police Department chief, Russ Leach in the autumn of 2000.

Leach had been one of three candidates in the finalist position of the hiring process for a permanent chief. At the top of the list had been Santa Ana Police Department Chief Paul Walters who had been considered one of the nation's top experts in community oriented problem solving policing. However, it turned out that Walters was using the Riverside position to as an angle to help ensure himself a hefty salary increase at his current job. So that left Smith and Leach as the main contenders to serve as Riverside's next permanent chief. Leach got the job and he made Smith his assistant chief, as a reward for having run the department twice in 2000 without landing the permanent position.

Carroll's days had been numbered already but the final straw that broke his tenure had been the behind the scenes negotiations going on among the city council and mayor regarding a reverse racial and gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a group of White male sergeants. The city government was trying to create lieutenant positions to fill with the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, in a sense involving itself in the promotional process which was thought to be the purview of the police chief. It shocked many people that the city council and mayor would involve itself in one of the roles that was assigned to the city's department heads including the police chief and it generated a lot of controversy. Not just creating new lieutenant positions as a budgetary decision but designing them with specific officers in mind to fill them.

But the city years later, would be facing a situation again where it was quite probable that the promotional process wasn't left entirely to the police chief or even really much to him at all particularly at the department's management level. And ironic or not, some of the same players involved would be one lieutenant whose promotion by Carroll had in part generated the firestorm among the sergeants who sued and others who were promoted under Leach who had been plaintiffs in that lawsuit. It would seem that during its recent history, one entity or another from inside City Hall's Seventh Floor (as Leach later often described it) would want to engage in one or more of the powers assigned to the police chief including that involving promotions.

And so it would be in 2010 a decade after the turmoil that had shaken the police department and city had contributed to the ouster of a previous chief. Barely four months into the new year, the police department's chief has been retired after being convicted on a DUI charge stemming from his Feb. 8 accident and traffic stop. The acting chief, John DeLaRosa known as "Johnny Who" for his rapid ascension through the ranks would be sitting on the time bomb. That would be known as the release of the city's cell phone logs for the morning in question which would effectively tie his city-issued phone to that being utilized by Watch Commander Lt. Leon Phillips while he was supervising Leach's traffic stop. After the release of those records and much criticism, DeLaRosa who as acting chief had been making the rounds at civic and community meetings disappeared again inside the administrative headquarters on Orange Street and filling up that power vacuum was former deputy chief (under long ago Chief Ken Fortier) and current Personnel Capt. Mike Blakely who began running the department. He apparently began that by keeping the Internal Affairs Division which is under his umbrella of authority very, very busy. While everyone else was moving around in a state of apprehension regarding the rapidly unfolding of the chain of events, Blakely was more invigorated than he had been in years.

The first casualty of that change in dynamics was Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel who abruptly announced his retirement soon after, allegedly due to different personnel investigations, after 30 years spent in the department. He had been hired out of the academy and then worked his way up the hierarchy all the way to deputy chief, working a variety of different assignments at different ranks. Many people had believed that he had been positioned perfectly especially after DeLaRosa's position at the top of the pecking order became more precarious. There had been campaigns for him to be the new chief when his retirement announcement came the same day the city released very selective information about the purported Hudson probe of the Leach incident. His long career ending just like that, the sudden nature of it giving people pause.

But the dominoes were already starting to fall beginning with Leach and traveling on down the line. Although that might be an inevitable development, it doesn't make it any less shocking to see the house that had been built on sand fall. And while the heads of the two police unions have been assuring people that the police department was one big family or that most of the management was doing just fine, it became clear to most people watching that in fact, the ceiling of the department had already started to crumble. After all, has anyone even seen either the acting chief or the deputy chief lately at any public meetings, or really any of the command staff members for that matter? People are even at a loss of who to call at that level these days.

The ceiling of the house which had survived its final building inspection courtesy of the State Attorney General's office which had imposed a five-year stipulated judgment on the department which dissolved in March 2006 in Riverside County Superior Court. While the department had made progress in some areas, it was experiencing serious problems in others which threatened to undermine much of the fragile restructuring of the house. Problems which had already threatened to gain a foothold even while the department had been under the consent decree. Problems which begun even before the city manager's office failed to abide by a directive by its boss, the city council to move forward with the implementation of the Strategic Plan until pressured to do so by several city council members who were also pressured to do so. Only one example of how the dynamic between City Hall and the police department threatened to undermine the progress made by the police department during the stipulated judgment period.

And indeed this house had been built by many hands, some of them belonging to individuals outside the police department, a short walking distance away at City Hall. If you take the elevator up to the top floor, you'll be within the space where as many decisions are made about the police department as are made inside the department.

One of the denizens of the Seventh Floor who allegedly participated actively in the Riverside Police Department was its currently most senior council member, Steve Adams, a former Riverside Police Department officer who was alleged to have more influence over the department than it's likely he ever did in his years spent as a patrol officer.

[Riverside Councilman Steve Adams is playing mayor pro tem here but he's declared war on the ports of Southern California through the Press Enterprise, in between allegedly weighing in on personnel decisions inside the city's police department.]

"No, it's illegal for to interfere in personnel matters."

----Riverside Councilman Steve Adams, in early 2010

Recently, the city council in Riverside voted to dump more money into lawsuits filed against cities which have ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach after it lost a key decision in one of them at the initial judicial venue. Lawsuits like this are pretty much not going to come out in favor of the city because the affects of the interstate flow of commerce which is the railroad in this case, are going to be weighted against the positive aspects of maintaining that flow. No, money's most often spent on litigation like this to try to apply pressure on the cities to hand over money in the form of fees to outlying cities like Riverside. But it's pretty clear that the legal system is not the appropriate venue to address an issue which does seriously impact Riverside, when it's the legislative bodies including the state that should be the focus. It's always interesting how incumbents in the city government become much more passionate about the issues that either they ignore during most of their terms or treat with a "let them eat cake" attitude when they receive complaints on those issues from city residents. The situation involving DHL-Gate was one of the best examples of that duality, of first ignoring and ridiculing people who were passionate on that issue. Then election year rolls around and all of a sudden, it's your banner cause.

Adams has been a bit more consistent on the train issue but it will no doubt pick up more steam as soon as his campaign for reelection gets started in earnest. That and a few other issues including those stemming from areas of his ward which hardly ever see him these days.

Adams has hit the computer keyboard to write this op-ed piece blasting the ports for dumping trains on Riverside and he does allude to the need for legislative agencies to become more involved and more accountable but he doesn't mention the funneling of tax payer money into these bottomless pit lawsuits. His suggestions are a bit different than what the city' actually doing which is funneling money into lawsuits that were initially filed while a former city councilman had been running for office in 2009 and began trumpeting this issue along with some others he had neglected during most of his tenure on the dais.

It's a bit disconcerting to read about Adams' pledge for economic and social justice given his stances on other issues including the fact that if there's pollution killing people off in Riverside by causing them to "perish", most of it will be caused by vehicles idling or driving through traffic jams on thoroughfares inside Riverside. Yet, the city council pushes for more development including housing in a depleted market which will bring more cars to idle on the streets in this city and for more warehouses which have a way of attracting huge vehicles including trucks fueled by diesel which also impacts the respiratory systems especially the developing lungs of children.

The bottom line on this issue is that until vehicles use alternate fuels that don't harm people's bodies and the time that vehicles spend in use on roads is cut down in Southern California, more people will die from pollution related diseases from cars than they ever would from the impact of trains.

But by reading the opinion piece, you can definitely tell that Adams is passionate about the train issue especially given the public service announcements that air on cable television warning people about railroad crossings.

Coastal ports and railroad crossings aren't the only issues that grab Adams' attention. The two-term councilman is also very passionate about other things including the Riverside Police Department which employed him long ago. And if a key lawsuit filed against the city and some of its characters had gone to trial this month, Adams would have been set to testify in U.S. District Court about among other things, his passion about the police department including its operations and the extent of his involvement in its operations. The lawsuit filed by former lieutenants, Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt alleged that Adams had been intimately involved in the promotional process involving filling the captains' positions, namely at least two of them as well as vetoing the promotion of another candidate, apparently one of the very few to have actually been selected for advancement by former police chief, Russ Leach. Adams had also allegedly told at least one officer that he would never get promoted because he had worked on the campaign of one of the candidates facing off against Adams during the 2007 election. That he would "never fuckin get promoted" because of his campaign activities, from a man who's known in some circles for his liberal use of profanity.

Adams had been a police officer for over a decade years ago and had been peers with individuals including both lieutenants and members of the current command staff who were employed by the department in a very different era than that of today. He had been medically retired from some alleged onduty injury (though accounts vary) and his brother, Ron had also worked as an officer before retiring. Ron Adams had been a key player in a lawsuit filed by a former female sergeant, Christine Keers in the 1990s, alleging sexual discrimination, harassment and retaliation, a lawsuit which wound up being settled in the six-figured range after the city spent about $19,000 litigating it. Ron Adams currently works part-time for the city in its red-light camera citation program, having been rehired by the city.

At any rate, Adams had worked at the level of police officer which he continued in until his retirement. And some say that years later when he was elected to the city council, his involvement in the police department continued.

There's some campaign lore that stated that when Adams first decided to run for political office in 2003, he had initially sought signatures in Ward Three but after failing to get enough of them just to file his papers, he moved to the La Sierra area and filed successfully to run there. He has been elected to two terms so far although he narrowly escaped the anti-incumbent fever which swept the polls in 2007 to hold onto his seat by a scant 13 votes over former council member and mayor, Terry Frizzel who he greatly outspent. During the first election, he had been heavily backed by the Riverside Police Officers' Association PAC which had been increasing its spending in local elections due largely to the creation and implementation of Riverside's form of civilian oversight over the police department, the Community Police Review Commission. From 2001-2005, the RPOA endorsed candidates who opposed civilian review whether they publicly admitted it or not. In fact, a couple of the candidates including Adams either said that they supported civilian review or that they didn't oppose it, but then after they were elected, took steps to undermine it proving that in some ways, talk is cheap during election time and actions speak louder than words.

But while the RPOA had been heavily involved in Adams' campaign in 2003, it had opted not to endorse him in his reelection campaign in 2007 for a variety of reasons. There had been tremendous friction between them which culminated in a letter written by Adams involving the RPOA which greatly angered its leadership. Though the differences between the two sides were allegedly smoothed over some coffee, there is still some degree of division in the union when it comes to Adams. The Riverside Police Administrators' Association had also not endorsed Adams and apparently Adams wasn't happy about that either, allegedly making comments to officers about his displeasure about their campaigning against him which could possibly impact their abilities to be promoted. Also the focus of similar allegations was Adams' dais mate at the time, Frank Schiavone.

Interestingly enough, Adams and Schiavone were the two council members who were the most verbally abusive to people who addressed them at meetings. Adams called people "liars" or said they had "no class" and when anyone said anything that displeased him, his cheeks would turn bright red, he'd squirm in his seat and then people would wait to see what would come out of his mouth in anger. But Adams isn't totally clueless, being aware that several of his more boisterous dais mates were handed pink slips by the voters in their respective wards in part because of how they acted (or more specifically, acted out) on the dais. So now that it's election time rolling along, Adams has mellowed out or at least he has tried hard to do so. He mainly sticks to blushing and squirming in his chair and if he really can't take listening to people, he walks out on them. The only problem is that even when people like Schiavone and former council member, Dom Betro tried to play nice on the dais or at least dial down their outbursts a notch or two while in front of the cameras, both were still ultimately voted out of office, proving that city residents aren't nearly as easy to dupe as some elected officials might believe or hope.

But it's also not surprising that Adams and Schiavone turned up as defendants on a lawsuit which alleged that they made threatening comments to police officers not to associate with other police officers including the heads of their labor association, the RPAA. They were also allegedly the two council members who were "always hanging around" the police department and apparently there were allegations that Adams had been instrumental in the promotions involving several lieutenants who were looking to become captains. This included a decision made in the 11th hour involving one would-be promotion where one name was substituted for another after a chain of communication which allegedly included Adams as a link and one of the candidates was left out in the cold. And another lieutenant's promotion to captain happened the day after he had allegedly met with Adams to "smooth things over" regarding some animosity between the two of them. Which causes one to ask, how large of a role did Adams play in the promotional process of management personnel in the police department which would have been as he stated above, illegal under the city's charter?

But then Adams is definitely one of the more colorful characters in the cast of the production of The House that City Hall Built. He's also up for reelection next year and one of the candidates who he will be facing is CPRC Commissioner John Brandriff.

Riverside Police Officers' Association Endorses Adams

The political action committee of the Riverside Police Department's rank and file labor union has allegedly already endorsed Adams for the 2011 election in Ward Seven. Don't be surprised if the Riverside Police Administrators Association follows suit. It's still interesting to consider the 180 degree turn that latter labor association took in the 2009 election when originally its leadership wasn't going to endorse any candidate in the election including in the Ward Four race because it didn't want to appear as if it were favoring one candidate over another and thus wouldn't be able to work with the winner if that person hadn't been endorsed by the union. That kind of makes some sense. However, not long after taking that stance, the union's leadership started showing up in campaign material as having endorsed incumbent, Councilman Frank Schiavone from the fourth ward. Why that reversal might have taken place will be explored in future blog postings as another interesting chapter in the saga, The House That City Hall Built. Because after all, the RPAA had chosen to endorse a candidate alleged to have threatened some of its members, after those allegations were made.

Still it's interesting in the light of everything that's been going on in City Hall concerning its dynamic that it has with the troubled police department that any labor union would be so eager to endorse Adams. Some say it's because there's a stance in place to back incumbents, which is similar to that employed by the Riverside Firefighters' Association. It's not uncommon for unions to back incumbents because often their leaderships believe that the incumbent has the edge in winning reelection and they don't want to risk the wrath of the incumbent who didn't receive their endorsement if he or she wins reelection and holds onto their seat. In fact, there were allegations raised against Adams to that effect that his wrath had been used against union leaders and members in the RPAA.

But Adams is a different kind of choice, since there have been allegations of his involvement in the police department's promotional process at least at its captain level and harassment against former union leaders. It remains to be seen whether that will prove to be a wise endorsement for the RPOA and the RPAA if it follows suit as expected if it chooses to go the endorsement route. He's very vulnerable in his upcoming election bid and all it would really take is a dedicated candidate who wears out shoe leather and puts in the campaign time similar to that spent by grass roots candidates, Mike Gardner and Paul Davis to defeat Adams. Particularly considering his weak showing the last time he ran in 2007.

Backing incumbents doesn't always work out because the RPOA's PAC had backed Dom Betro, Art Gage and Frank Schiavone in their respective elections and all three of them were sent packing in their elections anyway. And Adams actually has greater vulnerability than the other three going into the election season which will commence in just short of one year from now. It remains of course to be seen just how much.

Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff writes about the challenge to end privilege between attorney and client in San Bernardino County which is again, buried in corruption.

Will cityhood be coming to Eastvale?

Appointed or Elected?

There's been some degree of controversy over the situation involving Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff and about his 2010 election campaign signs where he asks people to "re-elect" him into his position. Frankly, it was a bit disappointing to see Sniff use that language given that he was never actually "elected" sheriff. Rather he was appointed into that position by the legislative body for the county which is the board of supervisors. Sheriffs don't typically get appointed by county boards of supervisors but it's happened recently in this county as well as in Orange and San Bernardino Counties.

The only body which can "elect" anyone in an elective office is the voting public, meaning the residents of a city or county or state who participate in elections and are encharged with the power and responsibility of filling job positions like sheriff and district attorney through the election process. But that's not what happened with Sniff as he never appeared on an election ballot, regular or special, but was appointed through a 3-2 vote from the board of supervisors. He might call that being elected (and thus making him eligible for reelection) but in actuality, he was appointed. If you say that he was elected, that would be like saying City Manager Brad Hudson was elected city manager and City Attorney Gregory Priamos was elected city attorney (though these positions are elective in some cities like Los Angeles and San Bernardino) and in cities where city councils pick police chiefs, that they are elected them. No, in all three cases, these employees are appointed for hire by their city councils and so that's the case with Sniff. It would have been better and more honest for him to instead admit that he wasn't selected through popular vote but that he wanted and believed he earned the opportunity to be "elected". Obviously he didn't choose that road and it's kind of disturbing that he didn't.

Appointed or Elected, Part II

Moreno Valley residents to be given a chance to determine whether the mayoral seat will be elected by them rather than appointed by the city council.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meets at City Hall's Seventh Floor to discuss this agenda.

Tuesday, April 27 at 2 and 6:30 p.m. The Riverside County City Council will be meeting to discuss this agenda. One of the items dominating this agenda is this workshop being held at 3 p.m. to work on the city's annual fiscal budget. It looks like the next critical public hearing to discuss the budget will be held on May 25 during the afternoon session.

Wednesday, April 28 at 3:30 p.m. (case review) and 5:00 p.m. (general meeting) The Community Police Review Commission will be having its monthly meeting and at the evening session discussing this agenda. Key items on it include the beginning of the "review" process in lieu of an independent investigation of the Sept. 1, 2008 officer-involved death of Carlos Quinonez, Sr. This overly complicated process appears to confuse commissioners nearly as much as the public. There will also be discussion of the annual report and this draft was included. Remember, the meetings are held a half hour earlier and since that change has been implemented, the meetings have played to an empty house. The only people left listening to the commissioners bicker, at least before their recent civility training kicks in, are city employees.

Investigation and Review Time lines Still Dragging

For a long time now, the investigations and review processes by the police department and commission have dragged on for months and in some cases, several years including with the four officer-involved deaths that weren't investigated and the cases earlier which weren't reviewed in less than two years. But complaint time lines have been very slow as well, with the police department's internal affairs division taking months or longer on average to complete its investigations and forward them to the CPRC.

Here are some recent statistics:

March 2010:


Category 1: 121

Category 2: 230


Category 1: 22

Category 2: 35

February 2010:


Category 1: 201

Category 2: 234


Category 1: 31

Category 2: 34

January 2010:


Category 1: 75

Category 2: 171


Category 1: 43

Category 2: 18

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