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

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Wanted: Riverside Police Chief and Team Player

*****UPDATE: Riverside Police Department promotes two officers, Linda Byerly and Aurelio Melendrez on April 7. Promoted to sergeant, is Byerly, a detective in the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Division and a 20 year veteran of the department and to detective, Melendrez who joined the department about six years ago. These promotions were done to fill the vacancy left by outgoing Sgt. Paul De Jong. Byerly's promotion comes after five female sergeant and lieutenant candidates, all high scoring, were passed over during the last round of promotions in February. The memo released announcing the promotions didn't include the name of any member of police management let alone a chief, reflective of the ongoing turmoil at the department's highest level. ********

Ward Four Community Meeting to be held today, April 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Orange Terrace Community Center hosted by Councilman Paul Davis to discuss different issues including March Healthcare and Overlook Street.

Press Enterprise's
columnist Dan Bernstein muses on what two police officers discussed while chatting on their city issued cell phones during the wee hours of the morning on Feb. 8. This all took place at about the same time former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach was stopped by two patrol officers from his department after he had been driving around on the rims of his city-issued black Chrysler 300 for a while, apparently with no idea where he was or where he was going. The two officers in question, are Lt. Leon Phillips, who was the watch commander that morning and then assistant and current acting chief, John DeLaRosa who was not at the scene except through cellular optic technology. Both were engaged in phone chatter beginning at around 3 a.m. and dishing about something that clearly couldn't wait until daylight hours to discuss. This all got going when DeLaRosa called Phillips' phone about eight minutes after Sgt. Frank Orta who was supervising Leach's traffic stop, had called Phillips trying to reach his supervisor. Orta of course had just responded to a call for a supervisor issued to the dispatcher by the two patrol officers who stopped Leach.

City Hall claimed publicly that the police department's phone tree never reached it but that's impossible to tell since only phone calls made from city-issued cell phones were released pursuant to a public records request by the local newspaper. And some say that police department management had been informed not to call City Hall on city-issued phones. After all, who notified DeLaRosa to call Phillips in the first place since he initiated that phone contact and not Phillips? The answer to that wasn't shown in the city call logs.

It's not clear at this point exactly what the two men chatted about so early in the morning. Bernstein seems adamant in his column that it was all about baking cookies and nuking gophers and that could very well be the case given the attraction of indulging in the culinary arts early in the morning and that you've got to keep those gophers from eating those cookies before the sun comes up. But what seems more obvious and is the point of Bernstein's column is that any other alibi provided by both men besides what most people probably would guess transpired would just sound ridiculous at this point. If Phillips was standing close to where the intoxicated chief sat dialing on his own phone and talking to several steps on the department's hierarchical ladder above him which would be DeLaRosa, then it's just pretty much a given that they were discussing Leach's traffic stop and how to handle it. And what was the end result of those phone conversations between Phillips and DeLaRosa?

No enforcement action taken. No investigation initiated, either administrative or criminal. The car with "major damage" had been towed off back to the Magnolia Police Center. Only one belated report that was written of a "traffic collision" with nary a mention of a DUI evaluation or hit and run investigation. But the handwritten unsigned (at least for the copy released by the city) to be "filed" away. What Leach got wasn't a DUI evaluation and a trip to jail to be booked if it's true that his blood alcohol was around 0.22. What he got was a trip home in the front seat of a police car belonging probably to one of the people at the scene. And what the public received eventually from City Hall was a police report purportedly issued out to the media to prove that no cover up occurred. However, the problem with that strategic move by the city was that the report itself became evidence of very inappropriate conduct in connection with the handling of Leach's traffic stop. It provided the public with ample reason to believe that a double standard existed in the police department in terms of how the law of DUI was enforced involving city residents and the city's police chief. The only thing more embarrassing about the report at this point is if a copy surfaced that had actually been reviewed and signed by a member of management.

But what many people didn't know was that apparently there had been a system in place in the police department's upper ranks and probably within City Hall's management system as well that not only knew about Leach's problems that eventually ended his career but that covered them up. Perhaps in the interest of micromanagement given that a chief in Leach's condition would be much easier to control than one that was not. Did his condition make it easier or more difficult for members of the city management office and even the city council to manipulate the department's promotional process at the upper levels for example?

Apparently there was a practice of giving Leach rides home when he was intoxicated for years, including in one instance when he had allegedly been intoxicated up in a desert city in San Bernardino County and had to be driven home in the middle of the night by one of his captains. Other employees in the department including possibly two working in the Internal Affairs Division (which was assigned to investigate the incident) allegedly gave him rides home as well. It took years and a lot of enabling for Leach's drinking to finally catch up with him culminating in the Feb. 8 incident which ultimately led to him being charged with and pleading guilty to DUI last month through his attorney. And now those who knew what was going on with him including at City Hall are allowed to play ignorant and are self- assigned to investigate why Feb. 8 happened and purportedly any other incidents which should be real easy to list if they just search their own memories where that information is likely stored.

City Hall through its ambassadors of the moment Mayor Ron Loveridge and Councilman Steve Adams has announced that some form of statement will be released in the case of the Hudson probe initiated of the incident by City Manager Brad Hudson about two days after it took place and one day after the transfer of the incident for criminal investigation by the California Highway Patrol. Loveridge and Adams seem to be building it up as this major event but in reality, the public has already been informed that the investigation it's paying for will undergo very little in the way of open disclosure. Essentially what will happen is that a terse comment will be issued by City Hall stating that it did a probe, there might have been inappropriate behavior and it was dealt with. There will be no information released about who did what, to cover up a criminal act so that it couldn't be investigated because it's very unlikely that any of the involved parties would issue a waiver allowing for the release of that information. After all, the involved parties have been mum about their involvement in the cover up for two months now, even as public trust in the department as well as City Hall has plummeted along with the department's morale largely because of what relatively few people know and won't talk about.

It's a bit sobering to watch the higher ups inside a police department and City Hall management sell out an agency of roughly 600 employees that serves a city of about 350,000 people but there you have it. By their silence about their own behavior including on Feb. 8 but also beginning years earlier, that's exactly what they are doing. And yet these are the same individuals encharged with making decisions which impact the lives and safety of many people including the initiation of the "sweeping" probe.

These situations could be mitigated by some honest disclosures of those involved that they engaged in bad behavior which of course won't happen. If it did, it might undo some of the considerable damage that the behavior of these individuals has caused. But the wall of silence will be the order of the day including at City Hall which through City Attorney Gregory Priamos has already patted itself on the back for at least partially complying with the California Public Records Act in the release of the city's cell phone logs. Well, everyone except for Priamos who refused to release his own cell phone records citing attorney/client privilege which was a silly excuse considering all he had to do was redact the phone calls he made or received which belonged to people who were actually clients and release the rest on his list.

But then Hudson and Priamos have put themselves in the position of controlling the release of public information from City Hall to focus all of the public attention on what was happening with the police department and not so much what was happening from the 'Hall that manages the department. What won't be examined in any probe controlled by Hudson is the years of micromanagement out of Hudson's office of the police department which has as its end results, a department with at least six of its officers including its chief arrested and/or prosecuted for crimes in less than 18 months. In addition, the department's the subject of at least $24 million in claims for damages filed by current or former employees as well as members of the public. That's of course, not counting the lawsuits currently being litigated in county or federal court including those filed by employees, labor unions and city residents. Inhouse grievances have increased over the past year or so. Is this the legacy of Hudson's form of micromanagement?

That question certainly won't be revealed through the non-statement City Hall is set to release on the Hudson probe. In fact, it might be that the purpose of that probe is to keep them from being answered. With the fingers being pointed at various players inside the police department, who will be looking at City Hall?

Wanted: Riverside Police Chief

This link will give you some information about the requirements of Riverside's next police chief. There's an ad placed at the International Association of Police Chiefs which refers to the linked site.

Be sure to check out the brochure which is interesting reading. Highlights include the "ideal candidate" section which includes the "team player" section placing the city manager as the "chain of command" which when you put it in that language makes the city manager sound like the police chief. Kind of nice to see it in writing but it's a bit disconcerting to see the city manager put himself on the top of the chain of command. Kind of makes one wonder why the city is going through all the trouble and expense of finding a new chief.

As already mentioned, there's apparently some tension among the captains brigade in the police department in terms of what awaits them if a new chief arrives most likely from outside the department. Will they stay or will they go? And if some do stay, which ones will they be? Some of the captains have allegedly become more visible at their assignments in recent weeks in hopes of making a good impression on the new chief even before he or she arrives. Less visible apparently has been DeLaRosa who had been making the rounds of the city before the list of cell phone calls by key players of the Feb. 8 traffic stop were released to the public. Whereas before he had gone to meetings and made appearances including some where he hadn't been seen in years, now he had become somewhat less visible as speculation continues about whether or not he played any role in the cover up involving Leach and whether he will even remain employed and if so in what role.

This apparently has allowed Capt. Mike Blakely to play a larger role in the operations of the police department which he appeared to be enjoying very much. However, even though he oversees Internal Affairs as the personnel captain, he hasn't been as much in the loops about the current ongoing probe involving Leach which has been left to the unit's head, Lt. Mike Cook. Cook has become largely a liaison of sorts to Hudson's hired gun, Best, Best and Krieger attorney, Grover Trask who assigns him tasks to carry out as well. Given that a sergeant or two in Internal Affairs has personal connections to Leach and thus could potentially be interviewed (and should, but hopefully not by themselves), not surprisingly that produced some problems with the investigation off the bat. Plus it'd be hard to imagine Hudson not playing a huge role in it given that he loves to micromanage all things RPD and this would be too hard to resist.

But apparently after a spiffy two months, Hudson is ready to make a statement that's really anything but about a complicated probe that apparently has been completed (and reviewed) in record time. Of course, the probe to be ready for summation had to have provided a clear narrative of the events as they most likely transpired which it would of course, if everyone decides to tell the truth. And the culmination of all this time and money spent will be essentially Hudson or perhaps Loveridge in between out of town trips of course, standing up and saying nothing.

But check out the publications on the police chief including the brochure put out by City Hall and issued through the headhunting firm. Because the probe really won't tell you nothing.

A community affairs policing unit is formed by the San Bernardino Police Department.

A Westminster Police Department officer is being held on $1 million bail while he and a state correctional officer face charges of carjacking and rape. The officer's gun was allegedly discovered inside the victim's car. He called his wife looking for his missing gun and she called the police in Ontario. At the time he allegedly committed his crimes, his wife was shopping at the mall.

Two Desert Hot Springs Police Department officers receive federal indictments for tasing inmates in custody.

It's a good day to catch up with wrongdoing among city and county elected officials and their employees.

A Lake Elsinore councilman plead guilty to a DIU while Moreno Valley's former city manager took a plea of no contest in his harassment case.

Eastvale's incorporation is under scrutiny.

Not to be left out is San Bernardino County where county and state prosecutors might broker a deal in the release of documents in the Colonies case.

How to fix corruption is a task being undertaken by the Press Enterprise Editorial Board.

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