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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Sound of Silence: Riverside's City Hall and Its Probe


Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel to retire on May rumored. Will Acting Chief John DeLaRosa follow?

Lts. Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt settling lawsuit

Why do you need a policy that says you should not give preferential treatment to police or city employees. Isn't that 1) already in the training and 2) obvious?

----Comment at

City Hall through City Manager Brad Hudson blames the "police management" for the clear attempted cover up of Former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach's traffic stop on Feb. 8. But releases no details of actions taken and against whom. The only really positive part of it was that the two patrol officers, Grant Linhart and Jeremy Miller were cleared because they did nothing wrong. They should have been cleared much more quickly when it became clear that they had very little role in what happened besides performing the DUI evaluation using a check list of DUI "objective" signs according to statements released by the California Highway Patrol which still refuses to release its report to the public. After they noted the signs in Leach, they called for supervision which took over including Sgt. Frank Orta who served as the primary officer.

It's hard to take the policy recommendations seriously because they should have been in place already and the contention that no prior violations of preferential treatment took place, no that's hard to swallow as well. It's not acceptable just to pass off unequal enforcement and treatment of the law as inadequate policy creation and/or implementation. It's not about policy, it's about the philosophy of policing specifically but doing business in general in Riverside so that it's truly not a double standard between city residents without connections and city employees or elected officials who are connected up in high places. Something like Feb. 8 doesn't take place in a vacuum. These problems didn't take place because there was a shortage of policies in place, they occurred because there's clearly a dearth in professional ethics in higher places which creates a climate where trying to do the thing just gets you into trouble with those same individuals.

No, this incident was likely the latest sad chapter in a sordid book of past transgressions involving preferential treatment. It's a bit disingenuous to come out publicly and condemn professional treatment when you yourself or employees in your office have benefited. After all, one of Hudson's own employees was issued a concealed weapons permit in "error" by Leach despite not living in the city. This employee was also the subject of a 911 phone call from a woman alleging that he had threatened her with a gun yet the Riverside County District Attorney's office never received a police report from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department on that incident. How many times were city officials and city management employees given preferential treatment in different situations, for example? While what the department's management did is clearly wrong and unacceptable behavior by leadership, is City Hall an appropriate venue for the finger pointing to be coming from? Who created the climate where this type of misbehavior takes place so easily, and with a few simple phone calls?

Kind of Obvious at this point, don't you think about the Police Management being involved? But City Hall and Brad Hudson, how long has this been going on and covered up by everyone involved? In fact, how many sergeants in the Internal Affairs Division were compromised by prior interactions with Leach enough to be disqualified from being involved in the probe? Did these prior involvements with Leach have any relations to their later assignments to the IA Division?

What else has been covered up involving the handling of the police department? And who will investigate that? I'm assuming the comment about no prior violations is tongue in cheek because it defies simple logic? That Hudson had no idea that Leach had problems with alcohol and had alleged prior incidents? Really, now?

Why was Leach given a medical retirement at tax payers' expense; what did the city receive in return?

The Hudson Probe as it were will receive further analysis here but my favorite line is probably where he writes that the written report doesn't tell the whole story. Including the reality that the original copy of that report allegedly bore a signature from one of the parties who likely will be among those retiring soon.

It doesn't tell the story of how the current command structure in the RPD wasn't exactly built through anything resembling a promotional process that makes any sense unless you're a fan of Shakespeare. But if the police department didn't build its management level by promoting the "best of the best" then who or what did? And how big will the price tag be when it's all tallied up for payment from the handling of that process?

It doesn't tell the story of how while the city manager is wagging his finger about how preferential treatment will no longer be issued out to "high profile" individuals, there's nothing about how it will build a climate in the RPD where individuals can report misconduct involving both city management and the police management without fear of retribution. An agency where officers have the ability to challenge or disobey orders from management and/or supervisors or City Hall which require them to engage in policy violations and/ or illegal conduct, including obstructing or interfering with a criminal investigation which is what happened here with Leach.

And when and where did all this intrigue that led to a controversial traffic stop really all begin...

RPOA President Cliff Mason speaks out on high number of vacancies at supervisory levels, which he has apparently listed as one captain (actually two, though that could change), six lieutenants and more than eight anticipated sergeant vacancies (which weren't mentioned by Mason in the press) by the end of 2010.

To be continued....

Hudson statement is at Press Enterprise here.

Who Said Riverside Has No River?

[The recent rainstorm brought a return of the notorious Arroyo River, which blocks the street as it forges across it to the other side of Victoria Country Club's Golf Course delivering Class II rapids.]

Dude, Don't Get Me Wet

[Only days after AT&T finished replacing over a dozen of the Wi Fi network's Bell 200s with new ones to resolve a two month outage, the recent rain storm kicked an unknown number of them back offline but most appeared to have survived this round of rain including the newly re-installed Bell 200s. The city and wireless provider are negotiating an amicable divorce from their current contract while the city looks for the replacement network maintenance and management vendor.]


City Misses Mayor's Deadline for Announcement on Hudson Probe

Anyone Really Surprised Here?

(River City)-----Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No news…is well no news and that’s the status of the ongoing internal probe into what really happened the early morning hours of Feb. 8 and in its aftermath. That’s when former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach when he did quite a bit of drinking and got behind the wheel after to drive through Riverside’s streets even after hitting some “undetermined” object or two with his vehicle. He had been stopped by two of his department’s patrol officers who when seeing that the chief had exhibited “objective” signs of intoxication, called for supervisor, Sgt. Frank Orta a court recognized DUI expert. At some point, the watch commander, Lt. Leon Phillips appeared onscene and after a series of phone calls between him and a not-present Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa, Leach was not given a field sobriety test or arrested for DUI but driven home and the troubling incident was later “filed” away through a handwritten report produced at some point that day by Orta. And so a criminal act, of the misdemeanor variety, was effectively re-scripted as being nothing of the sort.

The cover up continued as the police department didn’t initiate any criminal investigation of the incident and had Leach’s vehicle towed to a holding area at the Magnolia Policing Center, a temporary stop before quietly sending it off to have any traces of the accident removed. Out of sight, and hopefully out of mind as well, certainly before news of what had happened could spread like wildfire, putting Riverside once again in the spotlight. Not as a city of arts, culture or innovation but of scandal like some of its neighbors in other corners of the Inland Empire. The ones that Riverside no doubt poked its finger at, and said that's clearly not us. But it's becoming clear, that the walls of City Hall despite the lack of transparency are made of glass after all.

No doubt there were probably hopes that the incident would never reach the light of day because there were certainly efforts going on after the traffic stop to ensure that this wouldn’t happen in different corners. Even when a mysterious woman had contacted Mayor Ron Loveridge’s office at City Hall a few hours later to inform him of what had happened, attempts were probably made at City Hall to determine what had taken place which ran parallel with efforts made to keep the embarrassing incident from extending outside of City Hall or to the media. After all, how long did it take City Hall to publicly admit that the accident had even taken place after it did? Did City Hall issue a press release informing city residents through the media outlets of what had happened at all on Feb. 8. Did it do so during the morning of Feb. 9 or by early afternoon?

The answer to those questions is so obvious, they really are rhetorical.

No, what happened is that various media outlets were burning the phone lines at the police department and City Hall about Leach’s mysterious crash which catalyzed two separate actions to be taken by the city. The first, which was admitting that the accident had happened and the second, being the police department’s “decision’” to transfer its “filed” incident of a “traffic collision” to the California Highway Patrol agency for well, an actual investigation. The CHP started its investigation behind the gun as its representative aptly called it but ultimately generated a 500+ page report including 40 pages of criminal analysis and the Riverside County District Attorney’s office filed two misdemeanor counts of DUI against Leach who did plead guilty through an attorney at his arraignment and received sentencing.

City Hall did come forward with information on the incident but only after being severely pressured by the media and wanting to avoid the embarrassment of being exposed through media attention which before long, extended nationwide. The city’s disclosure wasn’t done in the interest of accountability and transparency but under severe duress because otherwise it would have been done sooner. It kept the secret as long as it could before it got away. So City Hall did the next best thing which was to further the keeping of the secret of what really happened by instituting an inhouse probe shrouded completely in secrecy.

After all, this is the same city that when through the Governmental Affairs Committee, it put together an “ad hoc committee” including community leaders last year to examine investigative protocol for how civilian oversight mechanism investigate officer-involved deaths or shootings, it kept what should have been a public forum for community participation so secretive that not only were the meetings closed to the public, but the public couldn’t even be notified when these meetings took place. So if the city manager’s office, with tacit approval of its employers, the city government would go through measures to keep its handling of a relatively nonthreatening issue a secret, can you imagine that it would handle the unraveling of a scandal in any manner remotely associated with public accountability and transparency?

Leaving a Trail of Crumbs to the RPD

But Riverside went further this time by carefully dispensing a trail away from itself through the selective release of information by Hudson's office. Remember when Hudson and DeSantis cried foul early on to the press by saying that neither had been notified by the police department's management about Leach's traffic stop as required by city policy? If that's indeed the case, then yes that's indeed a policy violation. But it's curious that amid what's likely to be a sea of policy violations going back at least the past several years, that there's a public service announcement being released about this particular one, in the interest of "transparency". And it's interesting how Hudson and DeSantis to this day have remained much quieter about whether or not either of them adhered to another city policy which requires that office to test its employees for drugs and alcohol intoxication after they crash city-owned vehicles which Leach had done.

That question's been asked including here and at city council meetings and it's not been answered. So why is it so easy for Hudson and DeSantis to allege that others violated city policy and not even answer with a simple yes, or no whether its office adhered to a policy it had been required to follow?

So here's that question again...

Was the Driver of This City-Owned Car Tested for Alcohol and Drugs by Hudson's Office as Required by Policy?

Well Was That Policy Followed Hudson?

Hudson has also not answered questions asked by city residents at public forums whether or not he knew of prior problems with Leach and whether or not his office had dealth with them. He's already told people at these same forums and through the press that very little concrete information will be released by City Hall in relation to its "sweeping" probe. But then the city became even more selective when it came to releasing information including Orta's infamous written report. If you read the report, you will notice the city generously released CAD information about the original collision of sorts on Central and Hillside but zippo meaning no such information on the so-called traffic stop at Arlington and Rutland. Why wasn't that information included in the six-paged report as it should have been because the traffic stop of Leach was just as relevant in terms of either being investigated (which it was not) or filed away in some cabinet somewhere.

Then there's the cell phone logs that the city turned over to the Press Enterprise most likely to avoid a date in court and yet despite the information about cell phone calls made by members of police management like DeLaRosa in the wee hours of the morning to people at the traffic stop, there's again, more questions raised by the omissions than answers raised by what was released. Like how did DeLaRosa know to call Phillips at 3 a.m. the same time that Phillips was overseeing the situation involving an intoxicated Leach and his damaged vehicle? And why did it take so long for employees like Hudson and DeSantis to have phone calls show up on Feb. 8's records, given that the tip first hit the mayor's office between 9-10 a.m.? Why didn't City Attorney Gregory Priamos release his own calls and redact the confidential phone numbers? Because the Press Enterprise Editorial Board was right on when it talked about ahem, gaps in the phone call trail involving that incident and its aftermath..

Elections are Like Christmas Time

It’s pretty clear if you examine pattern and practice in this city when it comes to both aspects what the answer to this question would be and this doesn’t appear to be a pattern which will be broken any time soon not unless doing so is tied in with the political survival of elected officials. After all, remember the roller coaster ride involving fluctuating electric rates that took place before, during and then after the election cycle last time? Remember the bumping up in priority of two city parks that happened in the 2007 election cycle? Election cycles are the time of well-behaved elected officials and gift giving as the last two election cycles have clearly shown, even though quite a few elected officials, namely Dom Betro and Frank Schiavone who tried to tone their public attacks of their critics (though Betro experienced greater difficulty) and issued promissory notes on various issues were still sent packing. Still incumbent Steve Adams who’s up next year has been playing nicer at meetings than he had in the past. Will it reap him another term in office? You'll have to wait until the action packed months of Election 2011 to find out.

But even after the Leach incident broke, the city tried to shield itself through a probe being initiated and essentially micromanaged by one of the city council’s direct employees who instead should be answering some questions himself about his own actions involving the police department and the handling of its chief since his hiring by the city council in 2005. Until the city council and mayor take the bold move of holding the city manager and city attorney’s offices more accountable, then there’s really no hopes that anything will change to ensure that the department’s next chief will become any less of a puppet than the outgoing chief had been.

A couple of weeks ago, Loveridge in hopes of upstaging the criticism of that probe by the Eastside Think Tank through a press release had announced that there would be a statement about the completion of that probe through City Hall which of course, never bore fruition. City Hall’s been awfully quiet since an excellent editorial was published in the Press Enterprise last week which essentially blasted the city leadership for shrouding a cover up in yes, another cover up. Showing the city the dynamic in action which actually since it’s been in place leads straight up to incidents such as that which took place in early February. The current scandal involving Leach and the department which has once again put Riverside on the national radar in a most unflattering way isn’t just the result of one incident, but the growing sense among the city’s residents that the Feb. 8 traffic stop was only the latest and the last in a series of related incidents involving Leach since his hiring as police chief nearly 10 years ago. The problems apparently began to intensify with the election of several current and past council members to the dais after the city entered into the stipulated agreement with the State Attorney General’s office to reform the police department in 2001. They didn't abate during the entire period that the state had been involved in its court ordered mandate to address serious problems inside the police department.

The Micromanaging Duo and The CPRC

But things really got cooking after the hiring of certain city management employees in 2005 after the newly aligned city council voting bloc had ousted George Carvalho nearly a year earlier about the time that Schiavone later said Hudson had put out signals that he was interested in leaving his job with the Economic Development Agency of Riverside County. It didn’t take long for Hudson and DeSantis to begin their efforts to micromanage the police department including Leach and not long after that, both men turned their sights on the city’s civilian oversight, the CPRC. The conflict which arose between the city management office and then manager Pedro Payne ultimately left to Payne’s “resignation” less than one month after he was kicked out of a meeting at City Hall by DeSantis who hadn’t cared for Payne’s refusal to go with the newly instituted program of micromanagement by the duo. Hudson and DeSantis remedied that vacancy soon enough by hiring a former captain of the Pomona Police Department, Kevin Rogan who would be paid a full-time salary to work part-time to carry out their agenda involving the CPRC.

During the next year, public outreach would disappear, the annual report would face long delays and the complaint reviews would seriously backlog due to problems both with the CPRC’s management including its interim management by someone completely unqualified as well as ongoing issues with the police department’s Internal Affairs Division. One would think that an employee with this kind of record would have problems when it came time for performance evaluations. Not so with Rogan which begs more than a few questions and did among community residents who witnessed the serious and very steep decline of the CPRC. Particularly when it came to dealing with the community it's supposed to be interfacing with and even its own members dealing with each other. Things had become so acrimonious that on April 14, the CPRC will be receiving treatment on professionalism and courtesy according to this agenda.

Meetings had taken place involving Hudson, DeSantis and at least one CPRC manager where the city management employees allegedly ordered the employee to control the commissioners better and to keep them under control. Clearly that hasn't been the case at recent meetings probably because the type of acting out by some of the commissioners is precisely what is wanted to keep any real work from being done. That's why Vice-Chair Art Santore was able to verbally attack one city resident in attendance over some outside meeting that the two had both attended some time before. That's why you see the side bar conversations from former chair, Sheri Corral and outgoing chair, Peter Hubbard while community residents speak not to mention commissioners like Hubbard who have apparently napped during meetings, lots of eye rolling and sighing.

After watching what's happened with the CPRC since Hudson and DeSantis arrived, it's really not too difficult to build a case that both individuals have engaged in similar behavior involving the Riverside Police Department. Though the impact on the police department because it's a larger city department with an important purpose with a lot of risk attached to it, proved to be much more devastating than what's happened with the CPRC. Still, the micromanagment of the civilian oversight mechanism provides a good model at examining the similar handling of the department the commission was set up to oversee.

And when the micromanagement of the police department is further analyzed, it will become more apparent how good and useful a model the CPRC will serve as, because guess what, the same cast of characters on and off the dais who tried to undermine the CPRC had their hands in the cauldron of the Riverside Police Department.

And What of the Silence on the Dais?

Loveridge: Allegations of Micromanagement, "Fiction"

Loveridge claims it's "fiction" but that's because he has to do so even though he should really know better. He knows much differently because he's been in political office the longest. He's the most aware of what the dynamic of the city had been including with the police department before Hudson and DeSantis arrived. Most of the other city council members either have little or no basis of comparison to work with or are themselves actively taking advantage of Hudson and DeSantis' actions as is the case with one of them. But Loveridge has witnessed what's happened with the CPRC firsthand as well as what's been going on with the police department. He's not said publicly whether or not he's been aware of past issues involving Leach and alcohol including whether or not there were prior traffic stops by other law enforcement agencies. He also teamed up with Hudson not long after Leach had taken his medical leave (on his path to a medical retirement) to announce the search for his replacement, hiring one of his favorite businesses, the Roberts Consulting, Inc. to do the search. But don't be surprised if there's a candidate for chief who will have been waiting in the wings all along? After all, think back and remember how Hudson had been hired by City Hall.

Of the four city council members facing reelection next year, only Councilman Mike Gardner has made any comments to the public about the situation including asking questions about the role of management personnel at least in the police department in the traffic stop and preferential treatment given to Leach by his own department. Others like Rusty Bailey and Chris MacArthur have zipped their lips, deferring to Hudson's inhouse probe and Adams who probably has the least reason to want to attract attention to himself at this time, contents himself with grumbling about the community organizations/city residents/public/disgruntled activists/ never being satisfied with anything.

There's been rumors about candidates already getting ready to declare in the political races faced by Gardner and Adams, not as much the other two although don't be surprised if you do see some interesting matchups next year in the light of the city council's silence on one of its most pressing issues in recent years. Because the number of comments and insights about the police department's role in the situation remain strong but they've not increased in recent weeks quite like those involving City Hall. Which shouldn't be all that surprising because the public might be busy, it might be distracted because these are after all, challenging times even without an embarrassing screwup by the city in its midst, but one thing the public is not, is stupid. And the fact is, if City Hall continues to treat its constituents as if they are stupid, it will find out beginning next year, exactly how incorrect its assumption is, through the next round of civic elections which are already coming in the heels of two election cycles which showed a flair for ousting entrenched incumbents. So shall we see if history is just getting started.

Major Downtown Business Closes, Citing Problematic Practices by City

One of downtown's main business fixtures, the BioKorium on Main and will be closing its doors after things became rockier when the city purchased the building. Javier and Vivian Moreno, the owners and others came to city council while this issue including interactions with an employee who called himself "Larry the Liquidator" who apparently was connected with the property management company hired by the city.

It seems like the problems with the city's Development department have only increased since it hired Deanna Lorson to run it. Employees have left that department, "dropping out like flies" as one person called it including older employees who resign at an age where it's very difficult for them to find other jobs. The Human Resources Board was so concerned by the statistics of resignations and terminations particularly those involving men of color and women that it wanted to meet with Larsen to talk with her about the situation. City Manager Brad Hudson nipped that in the bud saying through his conduit to those meetings, Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout that interviewing department heads was outside the purview of the board. When the board met with him later at one of its monthly meeting, he appeared to reverse his position but then told the board it needed to redefine its mission.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first business to have problems downtown, including with the city. Probably won't be the last as there are other vulnerable tenants out there. One possible guess, is that the city wants to sell the building at some point sooner rather than later and that there's going to be some other pesky tenants in its way. It's a shame that this is happening and that a situation which one council member admitted was at least partly the city's fault led to its ouster but perhaps some day, the city will implement strategies which help small businesses which provide local jobs (and don't bring most of their own labor with them) and you know, do things like add to the sales revenue which becomes part of the city's general fund. But if you hear from a lot of small business owners,

Speaking of which, where was the Greater Chamber of Commerce and Riverside Downtown Partnership (which the Morenos likely paid business tax to during their tenure) when businesses like this need their advocacy? Per usual, no where to be found if it means challenging City Hall or if the business owners are men or women of color.

But someone left this interesting note at the site:

Of course the managers of the City of Riverside will not consider negotiating lowering rent to the tenants of city owned property. The city needs every penny it can get to pay expenses incurred by city officials. Such as replacing a car that was wrecked & then driven on the rims. And also to pay for retirement & sick-leaves, ooooh and lets NOT forget the city needs $$ to pay for stripers, drinks & drugs.

These are far more important then keeping a day-spa business open in the city. Maybe the owners of this businss should change it from day-spa to a strip club, then the city leaders would be more inclined to help them stay open, and be regular customers as well!!
Vivian and Javier Moreno, owners of the spa, I feel horrible that you have to close your doors. Such a sad situation! The best of luck to you both.

The University neighborhood in Riverside is trying to get a community center. Even with all this Riverside Renaissance spending still going on, there's not enough bucks for the Center that they've been asking for a while at meetings.

No threat to Hemet Police Department building seen, said one employee as as a fire breaks out at a shooting range. A lot of problems going on there and whether or not they surround the actions and subsequent raids involving the Vagos motorcycle gangs isn't clear.

Judge Paul Zellerbach who's running in this year's District Attorney's race against incumbent, Rod Pacheco will be allowed to keep his campaign statement after a judge rules against attempts by former Riverside County Sheriff's Department employee and political candidate to have it removed.

Blogger Archives Returned!

Sometime not too long ago, many of the monthly archived posts vanished about 90% of them, poof like that! Well, I researched the issue and sent a request through the Blogger's forum for a solution to fix it. But before Blogger responded, I figured out that the auto-pagination feature that Blogger had mandated (to great controversy as it turned out) had suppressed the full display archived posts on some of blogs using certain older templates. So I was finally able to find code to manually add to bring in pagination and thus a return of the archived posts, hopefully anyway.

Now if you want to see older posts on the home page, or archived pages, just scroll to the bottom and you'll find "older" posts and click that and that will bring up the formerly missing archived postings.

Hopefully this will be a permanent fix.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older