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

Thursday, April 08, 2010

RPD Promotes First Female Supervisor Since 2005

The Riverside Police Department took some action on April 7 by promoting two of its officers to fill vacancies created by the departure of Sgt. Paul De Jong who had supervised the Family Violence Unit. Since the announcement of promotions didn't include any names from the police management, it's not clear who oversaw them and it's becoming less clear who exactly is officially the police chief in the department at the moment. The acting chief currently is supposed to be John DeLaRosa but then again, he's been keeping a lower profile since the release of the cell phone logs involving the key players in that infamous Feb. 8 traffic stop. Given that his city issued cell phone was either calling or being called by Lt. Leon Phillips, the watch commander at the scene of Leach's stop, he just hasn't been as visible lately.

Does the police department even have a chief right now? Capt. Mike Blakely apparently has been busy issuing directives that have been carried out but what about the person who's in the official seat?

But anyway, there were some promotions including the first female officer promoted into supervision in quite some time. The number of women promoted in the department dropped after the stipulated judgment dissolved in March 2006.

Det. Linda Byerly who has over 20 years of service with the police department and over seven years in the investigations division as a detective was promoted to sergeant which left her position vacant. Due to an existing MOU between the city and the Riverside Police Officers' Association dating back to the early 1990s, the detective vacancy had to be filled so Aurelio Melendrez, who is the son of Councilman Andrew Melendrez, was picked to fill the spot. Melendrez had been with the department as an officer for about six years and is a member of the RPOA board.

Byerly had been one of five women who had scored highly in the sergeants and lieutenants lists and had been passed over during the last round carried out in February by DeLaRosa, not long after former Chief Russ Leach went on medical leave. Female sergeants had dominated the lieutenant's list filling three of the top five spots including the top position. Two female detectives had placed well on the sergeant's list including Byerly. This in a police department where female officers comprise about 9% of the ranks. But though they filled the top positions on these lists, none were promoted last time.

With records like this where women placed high, it's become a bit difficult for police management to argue that there's "low numbers" in terms of women to promote at or into the supervisory levels. But in the lieutenant's promotion last time around, DeLaRosa opted to pick the sixth ranked individual on the list, Andy Flores to fill the spot.

Still, even when female officers get promoted, it remains tough, as their demotion and failure to make probation rates at the supervisory level remain fairly high. But then when it comes to even being accepting of its female officers, the police department has had problems across the board at changing that climate. Mirroring the trend shown at other law enforcement agencies across the country.

Zero female field training officers as of within the past six months, whereas in past years, there had been a handful. The highest ranking female is a captain and there are currently no female lieutenants and about four female sergeants, three of which placed high on the lieutenant's list. An attrition rate of 44% versus 29% for male officers, with a slightly higher rate of female officers failing probation than male officers. This shows that some of the disparity in attrition happens in officers with at least a few years of experience under their belts.

And a female trainee testifying on the witness stand about having watched male officers including a field training officer play and joke around with a woman's underwear in her apartment only hours before that woman had been forced to orally copulate the trainee's field training officer, Robert Forman who's believed to have led that earlier behavior. Rumored past problems in the field training division with female trainees and male training officers taking place in Lincoln Station's industrial yard several years ago.

In 2007, a lawsuit was filed against the department by former probational police officer, Kelsy Metzler who alleged that the department had fired her because it had been upset when she filed a sexual harassment complaint against another cadet at the Ben Clark Training Academy. In her lawsuit, she had alleged that two male officers had met up with her at the Academy and had told her that the department was unhappy with her for filing the complaint which her academy coordinator never allowed her to access in violation of the harassment complaint policy. She completed the Academy, graduating 21st out of a class of 70 people and completed her two weeks orientation at the department. She showed up for her first day of reporting to the field training program and instead of receiving her expected assignment, she was led into a room of police employees and terminated without being given a reason. Her lawsuit was dismissed in Riverside County Superior Court with the reason being that a settlement of some form had been reached between the parties.

Post Consent Decree Promotions of African-Americans and Women

The department has allegedly promoted no women or African-American male officers into supervision or management positions since December 2005, which was several months before the dissolution of the consent decree between Riverside and the State Attorney General's office. Even though members of both groups have each placed high or at the top of several of the department's promotional lists from captain to sergeant. The last Black officer promoted was Adrian Tillet, who replaced Scott Impola who was terminated not long after being arrested last December. And there have been female officers promoted to detective including Lisa Johnson.

And What of the Hudson Probe?

The news of the promotions comes the same week that Mayor Ron Loveridge had said in a recent Press Enterprise article that the internal probe initiated by City Manager Brad Hudson would be completed. In addition, a statement would be released by the city at that time to the masses who have been waiting since news broke about the Feb. 8 incident to find out what happened. Hudson has already told the city residents whose tax dollars are paying for his investigation that very little information can be released publicly due to state law. So it's not clear what everyone's supposed to get excited about or what great revelations are supposed to spill out of a statement from Hudson's office which will essentially read, we did a probe. we may/may not have uncovered misconduct and if so, we handled it internally. The end. Like just about everything else that's been released by City Hall or the department, it will surely generate many more questions than it will deliver on answers. Unless any of the investigated parties waive their state mandated rights to confidentiality in the interest of restoring some trust to the department, the public will never know for sure, who did what to cover up a criminal violation committed by Leach. Most people already have some idea but some pieces of the puzzle will still be missing to complete it.

But the public has a pretty good idea that the cell phone records shed some light on the whole affair albeit providing a very selective look at the parties involved with the actions that brought the police department to that point in history when an incident like what took place with Leach was just going to happen. The City Hall kept some semblance of attention focused on the police department but diverted any attention away from some of its elements including those who had been very active in micromanaging the police department during the past several years.

What might be interesting is if the California Highway Patrol's criminal investigative report, all 520+ pages of it, is finally released to the public after having most of it remain withheld. People wonder if the officers' statements in particular will shed any light about how this incident was handled by the chain of command in the police department.

But what also needs to be explored and explained to the public is how long the department and City Hall engaged in covering up prior incidents involving Leach who was rumored to have been stopped by police officers in Riverside as well as other law enforcement agencies in Riverside County and possibly elsewhere. Not to mention having been given rides home while intoxicated by police officers including possibly two members of the department's Internal Affairs Division and having captains pick him up in other counties in the wee hours of the morning. And it's pretty clear that the city manager's office doesn't want to go to any place where it might have to provide its own explanations of how much it knew about Leach up to the Feb. 8 incident. Until Hudson's employers, the city council and the mayor, make it clear that accountability includes him, then this disturbing avenue will not be fully explored. Given how involved Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis were in the operations of the police department, it would be very surprising if they were well, really as left out of the loop as they both claimed to be about what had been going on with Leach, their employee.

There's been a lot of focus on the hiring of the next police chief in this city. Lots of individuals lighting up Hudson's phone lines to be involved in the process and the job description for the position being sent out to the far reaches of the United States. Yet, when one considers what kind of police chief that can be hired by the city management's office, will it be an independent department head or will it be a puppet to be manipulated by the city manager's office? That question's not really been answered and the public hasn't been told much either way except Loveridge's contention that Hudson's micromanagement is pure "fiction". After reading the brochure particularly that involving the "ideal candidate", it's going to be very hard to find a person that fulfills all those different requisite qualities because some of them contradict each other.

The "ideal candidate" has to be a "reformer" and yet a "team player" who understands and respects the "chain of command" which Hudson places himself at the helm. The terminology of "chain of command" is almost exclusively utilized by the military and law enforcement. So what is Hudson essentially saying, that as the head of this "chain of command", he's the de facto police chief over the new police chief? In a situation, having a police chief who's a "reformer" (which isn't a bad idea), would be impossible. To be a "reformer", that chief would have to challenge the current status quo where City Hall has its tendrils inside the police department. Where the city manager exercises his "final say" in hirings and promotions in such an interesting way and one or two past and current elected officials may have done so as well. Not much room for "reforming" for a chief inclined to exercise that role if he or she is going to be vetoed at every turn by a city management which likely, has very little interest in reforming the system that's been set up to work for them.

The system is broken. The police department's management structure is broken. City Hall's dynamic with the police department is broken. And yet, all this is being ignored by the city's leadership while it prepares to bring a new police chief in, with some believing that the new chief will "fix" it. But it's highly doubtful that this new chief will even be allowed to operate independently let alone fix anything. To change the police department where it can be lead by an independent, innovative chief, you have to change City Hall's administration which rests in the hands of the elected officials who as a legislative body headed by a ribbon cutting mayor have exhibited little inclination with addressing the deep-seated issues which have led to over $25 million in claims for damages in the past several years and most likely, play a role in the arrests and prosecutions of at least six officers including the ex-police chief. In fact, between the city manager and the city council, one of those common questions I receive is who controls who and sometimes, it's difficult for the public to tell.

Some people argue that most of the officers were arrested for off-duty conduct ranging from assault, to child molestation, to armed robbery and kidnapping. Not to mention DUI related accidents. But every police officer operates under the expectation that they are one 24/7 because it's not a job that you can neatly put away at the end of the shift.

There's an expectation that officers will adhere to laws and not break them while off-duty, just like similar expectations are held in other professions. School bus drivers operate under the expectation that they can't run red lights and commit other traffic violations and get tickets even while driving for reasons other than those involving their job. If they receive tickets, they could lose their jobs. If police officers suddenly start spiking in their rates of off-duty crimes committed, then that might be because those expectations are no longer really enforced by those who supervise and manage them. And face it, in a department where its chief broke the law off-duty and had it covered up, that's going to make people ask those questions. Are supervisors and management personnel promoting those expectations and are they living up to those expectations themselves to serve as role models for those they supervise or manage?

Was Leach's off-duty conduct a good or poor example as a role model for his officers? And it's very important for the leader of a law enforcement organization to serve as a role model of those expectations placed on every other employee. Are the decisions that are being made to create a management structure and to elevate people into those positions of management those that foster good role modeling for the officers and other employees who are being managed or supervised by those individuals? If you have a higher number of officers being arrested even for off-duty conduct (and the RPD's rate is at least 1 for every 65 sworn employees, much higher than the national average), then one of the first areas of the department which must be examined are the supervisors and especially the managers.

Are good role models for law enforcement officers those who break the law and then expect to be given special treatment? Are good role models those individuals in a law enforcement agency who provide that special treatment and cover it up after the fact? And what impact does this type of behavior, both of which have clearly been put on public display by the police department in the past couple of months have on what's expected of other employees? Is it do as I do, or do as I say, not as I do. One major problem with Leach, is that his expectation appears to have been the latter, given that he filmed a promotional spot admonishing people not to drink and drive on Super Bowl Sunday because they might take lives. But what did he do on Super Bowl Sunday? He drank, took medication then drove to a spot where he could drink some more before getting behind the wheel to drive again.

Removing the chief didn't address all of the problems in the police department including its dynamic with City Hall because by the time Leach removed himself, he was barely a chief. More like a ghost of one and operating at the level where the only impact he could have on his agency was a negative one. And one wonders if his personal problems including that with alcohol made him a more desirable employee for micromanagement by those engaging in that activity, especially if his behavior had begun not long after his hiring. Would Hudson and DeSantis had been able to engage in much of the behavior that both did with the police department with a stronger chief who didn't have these problems? Did it make it easy for a couple of current and past elected officials to do the same thing?

The police department is still operating and performing most of its duties because the majority of its employees are conscientious and working very hard at what they are doing, in a difficult, tumultuous situation. But the department itself needs some serious renovation which many people know but have assigned that task to the incoming police chief to take care of as soon as he or she comes aboard. But that person has to have the support of City Hall to rein in its city management enough for the new chief to do that and it remains to be seen if that will ever take place. If City Hall allows or promotes the current dysfunctional and ultimately destructive dynamic instituted by its direct employees, then the script that details what's to come will start sounding very familiar before very long.

What was past will once again be prologue.

City Hall Trivia Question

How many city-owned vehicles or others driven by city management employees and elected officials have been involved in vehicle accidents? And which individual has been in the most crashes? This issue has come up quite a bit in recent weeks, not surprisingly due to the accident and traffic stop involving Leach. One city management employee has allegedly had at least one city-issued car involved in an accident while one city council member has been in anywhere from one to three accidents during his tenure on the dais including one accident which allegedly occurred or was reported the same day as that involving a city management employee.

And from a fiscal perspective, who paid for the cars repair jobs?

Riverside's city government has dropped for now at least, its plans to take control of the Citrus Park.

The two law enforcement officers charged with kidnapping and raping a young woman plead not guilty in court and both have been placed on administrative leave pending conclusion of their cases. Police agencies are also investigating to determine whether there are other alleged victims.

Why guns are not toys.

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