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, May 23, 2010

Can River City Be Fixed with Its Own Tool Box?


The rumors that have been floating around recently about former Riverside Councilman Frank Schiavone being investigated for witness tampering in connection with former Chief Russ Leach's DUI case apparently are true. He allegedly called a dancer working at Club 215 while she was being interviewed at home by CHP investigators and tried to coach her on her statement to police. Instead, she allegedly relayed what he said to the investigators. Later, he was interviewed by Riverside County District Attorney investigators.

No decision yet by District Attorney Rod Pacheco (who had received a campaign donation from Schiavone in the past) on whether charges will be filed or a grand jury will be paneled to investigate the case.

Riverside Police Department Promotion and Staffing Update

As stated earlier, the Riverside Police Department announced three new promotions despite the city's apparent earlier decision to await the arrival of the police chief. However, some of these promotions address vacancy levels approaching critical including that of lieutenants, which has six so far and possibly seven.

Sgt. Melissa Bartholomew was promoted to lieutenant and is the only woman serving in that capacity. Det. Brian Dodson who is African-American and had been on the sergeant's list for at least three years was promoted to sergeant, breaking the nearly five year drought on promotions of Black officers to the supervisory ranks. Bartholomew is only the second woman to be promoted to a supervisory rank since late 2005, coming in the heels of the promotion of Det. Linda Byerly to sergeant. However, there's been no successful promotion of women to the supervisory level since that involving Sgt. Michelle Jackson in November 2004. And the benchmark of a successful promotion is when the candidate passes probation, which for sergeants lasts about nine months.

The promotions of an African-American and two white women to supervisory positions in the last several months has caught attention given the dearth of officers in either or both groups being promoted to supervision since just before the stipulated judgment expired in March 2006.

Officer Dave Johansen was promoted to detective, a position that's required to be filled pursuant to an early 1990s MOU between the RPOA and Riverside. One more officer vacancy has been created to add to a growing list of them and it's critical that the city create at least 15 more officer positions in the upcoming budgetary year. It will take at least one year for any new officer positions to be filled by academy graduates and up to 2-3 years before any officers become relatively experienced enough to be performing at the higher levels.

This story is ongoing and will be regularly updated as necessary. It's a very critical factor in the police department's present and future in more ways than one.

City Hall to Increase Grip on Neighborhood Partnership?

Mayor Ron Loveridge of Riverside wants to formalize the Riverside Neighborhood Partnership. More rules, more regulations to give City Hall more control over a group that's supposed to be about neighborhoods representing themselves in their interactions with government. It's City Hall's biggest move since voting to abolish the NACs several years ago and heap the blame for that power grab over community development funding away from the neighborhoods on some problems in a single group. This facilitated the transfer of that funding from one project area formerly covered by a NAC to another and it's not surprising where most of the funds wound up going.

That wasn't the last power gasp from the GASS/BASS days but it was the beginning of the end for both quartets because voters don't like rude behavior on the dais and they don't like City Hall engaging in power plays in their neighborhoods. When City Hall needs to realize that most city residents can address issues in their own neighborhoods and interface with City Hall without any middleman. There's certainly no shortage of city residents with smarts and vision about their neighborhoods and on different issues. That should be welcomed by City Hall rather than so heavily regulated with the city buffering itself through consultants which has happened often enough.

But then considering that you have a city government that as a collective body has taken the city council-city management form of government and flip-flopped it, maybe this development shouldn't be so surprising. The city leadership is so tentative and not really receptive to engagement with neighborhoods that don't follow this same behavior that it views that as a problem needing to be *fixed* through a governance system.

What City Hall needs to do instead is to more directly respond to community organizations, those who have accepted for official registration by the now defunct Office of Neighborhoods (which disappears every recession but it will be back) or not, and to not view contention and disagreement from those organizations as something to avoid. And really, after watching a city council meeting or two where it seems that disagreeing on an issue is akin to conflict on the dais rather than just a normal dynamic in a diverse body, it's really par for the course that the city government would carry this dynamic out to the communities including their organizations. It's really not the community and neighborhood organizations that need to get their act together, it's City Hall. And if anyone needs a sort of governance system, it's the city government. The city council has to decide whether to be leaders or not particularly when their direct employees go astray as has happened several times or when one of its own acts inappropriately and is alleged to have violated the city's charter.

And the fact that this plan is supported by someone like Councilman Steve Adams who spends more time outside of his ward than in it these days (as laments some residents) might provide some reason for pause. But it's great that he's taking time off of his handling of the police department including some say its promotion of its highest echelon of power to comment on the thorny issue of neighborhood governance. Still, he's gearing up for his reelection bid next year and has to start compiling issues that he and his backers believe will help and not hurt his cause.

One change in the order of things is that the proposal's inclusion of a new consultant position to liaison between the Partnership and City Hall has been dropped which is excellent. The city didn't need to create that position after having laid off other personnel. Loveridge who's never met a consultant he hasn't liked can't be happy about that but really, what's with the city's pattern of hiring consultants? There's a time and a place for them but not with everything. If the city government really needs a consultant or an "intermediary" to help connect them with the city's residents and their neighborhoods, then its members who believe this really need to think about stepping down. But then this is the city that during a time of tremendous upheaval went out and contracted with a high-priced public relations firm to teach it how to talk to its constituents and the media.

Now of all things that could be the focus of a power grab, is the really very innocuous Riverside Neighborhood Partnership which has its useful purposes but is really more a tool for the city than it is for the neighborhoods because those in the caucuses aren't even able to really elect their own representatives. Because if anyone gets elected that doesn't pass the muster at City Hall, the rules will be changed along with the election results.

My involvement with this organization, the neighborhood partnership board, was alas, very brief. I was actually elected as an alternate to serve on it for my area of the city and three weeks later, received a letter from the Office of Neighborhoods voiding my election with the explanation that the rules of the election had been changed after the election. The new rule might have been a perfectly good rule or even a necessary change but most new rules passed by reputable organizations are applied in the future, not enforced in the past.

Now most people know that when election rules are changed, they usually apply to future elections and aren't applied retroactively at least in a civilized, professional process. Can you imagine that if they held a city council election, then changed the rules and then applied them retroactively and nullified some of those election results? Yet the city does that same practice with its residents with the Riverside Neighborhood Partnership and it impacted a couple of us who fairly and legally won seats or alternate positions on the Partnership simply because the city didn't like the election results because otherwise the city wouldn't have gone back and nullified election results after passing such a regulation without any due process to those impacted by it. Actually while disappointing, it's hard not to feel honored. The practice itself is questionable but it's kind of nice for those in local government to understand that there's a diversity of thought out in the city whether it likes that or not.

That experience was a head scratcher for a couple of minutes. That as far as civic engagement went, the city would change the rules and then apply them retroactively to nullify the election results of a city neighborhood caucus. But then the city's leadership picks and chooses what kind of "community" leaders, organizers or even representatives that it wants to deal with, in the guise of trying to foster or improve community or neighborhood engagement. And that experience taught me an important lesson about how the city might advertise its advocacy for community engagement at City Hall, but it picks and chooses carefully those it wishes to engage with and those most often are people who carry out its own agenda without fuss rather than rock its boat. Play Again to Get Along should just be tattooed in the front fall of City Hall over the entrance because that's the cardinal rule inside its corridors and its backrooms not to mention its workforces even when things are going horribly awry.

I learned all that again when a department head asked me to serve as a community representatives who would be added to a panel in place but not long after that, the entire idea was scrapped most likely by the city management. And with these two examples listed of trying to participate in the city's engagement opportunities, the lessons learned were the same. That if you don't nicely tow the party line, then you won't be included at the same time the city advertises of just how inconclusive it is. That's the way that the city does business and what it's inadvertently created within the city's communities and within its labor force, are other ways to be activists for change.

Even on the city council level, there's a turn among some towards grass-roots campaigns for city government rather than relying simply on heavily funded ones and several key races were decided by the dominance of the former over the latter way of conducting campaign strategy. But then the real test remains there is how elected officials conduct their reelection campaigns whether they stick to their grass-roots principles or go the campaign chest route through the heavy donors like developers when they try to hold onto their seats. And former councilman, Dom Betro, the only candidate who ran on a grass-routes campaign recently switched strategies during his reelection bid and went after more traditional donors including development firms.

It's the city's prerogative to run its community engagement and participation mechanisms as it sees fit since they truly belong to it but it's highly inappropriate to market them as something entirely different than what they are in reality. Which is applicable only to those who go along with the program.

So when people ask why I blog instead of play the city's games like a good little city resident, it's because when gadflies like myself do, the rules change and others have experienced like as well. There's many different ways to engage the city including its government that have been useful rather than just relying on the city's playbook.

And blogging's just a hell lot more fun, definitely much more than sitting and listening to the mayor lecture on "playing nice" to accomplish a goal when everyone knows that like it or not, the biggest avenues of change to Riverside have traditionally been through the ballot box or through lawsuits filed in federal or state courts. Or sitting on a panel and being given a script to follow while serving as "community" representation on a employee hiring panel for the city manager's office. As if community representatives don't bring enough wealth of experience in their communities to be able to come up with their own questions to ask any prospective police chief candidate from the perspective they come from. Apparently the city management doesn't believe so or it's just too anxious about relinquishing its iron grasp on the process, which is completely understandable really when you factor in the city management's role in ensuring that the city would need to hire a new police chief who unless the current dynamic entrenched at City Hall changes will be the city management's next plaything.

Most people would rather write their own script than recite someone else's when it comes to community engagement in government.

To Know Riverside is to Sue It?

It's interesting that of all the forms of engagement that people have with their government, that one that grass-roots organizations have done in Riverside that has brought them the most proactive change is to sue it. And believe it or not, this has created one of the most effective avenues for change even though the civil courts in Riverside have been rendered nearly useless in recent year by problems with the logger jammed Riverside County Superior Court system. Like the idea of lawsuits or hate them, they've been effective and have even unearthed a scandal or two including the notorious Bradley Estates Scandal which was when former Councilman Frank Schiavone became the first developer in city history to have his legal fees paid for by city funds. meaning the tax payers. A perfect choice to set that precedent, wasn't it? The last chapter likely hasn't been written on that sordid affair yet as it remains to be seen what lies ahead. There's many avenues for city residents to foster change in their neighborhoods without taking the city to court but in terms of accountability of the city when it comes to often abiding by the law, litigation has become one of the most powerful tools in the community organization's arsenal.

Not that City Hall wants organizations to know this. The word, "sue" was actually uttered during a seminar on community organization at the Neighborhood Conference one year and oh the vapors that broke out among the organizers, a box of smelling salts wouldn't suffice to undo all the fainting that takes place when this subject is even mentioned in passing, let alone actually broached.

This means that those activist organizations who have accomplished the most meaningful changes in how this city does business are those who sue it in court, i.e. Friends of the Hills which raised money through yard sales to pay its attorneys to go to court to fight to push the city government into abiding by city laws passed by voter initiative, including growth control measures, C and R. People like the late Yolanda Garland and Ken Stansbury who fought to put eminent domain involving private use on the local ballot for the voters to decide (and was SLAPPed for his efforts). It's hard to believe that people can actually be sued by the city to prevent them from circulating a ballot initiative for signatures but despite all the city's rhetoric funneled through its legal division, that actually did happen at tax payer expense. You don't sue a community organization and then turn around and tell them you're doing them a service or helping them by doing so but that's what Riverside, again funneled through its legal team, did in the Stansbury case.

Meaning that city residents had to pay for the legal expenses for the city to be able to ensure that it can continue seizing the commercial businesses and even homes of residents to hand off to private developers, including those who donate into the campaigns of elected officials.

Some people say people and organizations in the city's neighborhoods shouldn't sue because it costs the city money to defend itself but there's a very easy remedy to that and that's for City Hall to recognize the will of the voters and to abide by the city's charter. Often that, will prevent more than a lawsuit or two which is filed when the city government in its infinite wisdom or for expediency decides to violate a charter amendment or a law or municipal code passed by voters such as the growth control laws. And the people who sue usually do when more conventional means of redressing the city government on legal or charter violations fails to elicit a remedy of perhaps, not violating a law or charter amendment.

The city as you will see has also been sued many times by its own employees individually, in groups or through labor unions and it's settled quite a few of them including before they reach the public forums of the federal and state court systems. Many lawsuits deal with City Hall violating MOU items in labor contracts as well as discrimination, harassment or retaliation on the basis of race, gender and also political activities or affiliation with unions. Again, it would seem the obvious remedy would to not engage in these actions or violate MOUs or agreements.

Activism Within the City's Ranks

Even in the city ranks, there have been numerous employees who have filed lawsuits alleging racism, sexism and other unethical or illegal practices within the city's ranks. And the city has paid out one way or another on quite a few of these lawsuits including racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuits involving Black employees including those that work in different divisions (and it fought that law suit spending nearly $1 million before ultimately settling with some plaintiffs) and Officer Roger Sutton with the police department. Sutton won a verdict of $1.64 million which trumped the $200,000 that he won in arbitration that the city refused to pay out. The police department had $24 million or greater in claims for damages or grievances filed against it and the city which covers its indemnity. These range from employee retaliation claims to people impacted by the alleged or convicted criminal behavior of some of the six officers prosecuted in the past two years. That's what five years under the city's management team has done to it.

Several city departments are the subject of grievances and/or lawsuits ranging from everything from racism, to sexual harassment, to being exiled to a tin shack in the city's corporate yard surrounded by toxic materials as happened to three code enforcement employees several years ago. Some unions have said that they constantly have to prevent the city management from violating or disregarding their MOUs. Other unions have voted to sue the city and then had personnel from the city management trying to get lists of union members who voted in favor of the lawsuits or against settling them. Two former presidents of police labor unions sued alleging retaliation for their union activities.

Two police lieutenants, including one of those former union presidents, sued to expose bad and illegal behaviors inside City Hall including control and manipulation of the police department's promotional process. And retaliation by City Hall including by a current and former council member for their efforts.

Then there were those unknown individuals inside the department who refused to remain silent while the DUI traffic stop of their boss was being covered up by upper management and possibly elements inside City Hall. In situations like the Leach incident, most often there are those who decide not to remain quiet about it, as that's traditionally been the case in law enforcement agencies across the country when facing similar situations of corruption and cover up. No wall of silence is completely impermeable and that's been true with most cases of corruption inside law enforcement or city government for that matter.

In an environment where doing so is not seen as heroism but the ultimate act of betrayal by elements in City Hall including the city manager's office as well as inside the department as is often the case in other jurisdictions as well. Even though the city posts protective guidelines and laws for whistle blowing everywhere including inside the police roll call rooms, those words aren't really worth the paper they're printed on as history has shown many a time certainly in Riverside. In fact, the city will push a whistle blower out of its ranks much faster than it will pave the way out for those who engage in the wrongdoing. It's done that more recently as well unfortunately.

If what happened involving in the department involving Leach and the unethical actions of some of those around him caused people to lose faith and trust in the police department, then the actions taken by some of those within the ranks to bring it to light so the public knew about it should go some real distance in restoring both. And inside an insulated and often isolated environment like law enforcement, that's the only way that many acts of misconduct can come to light including those involving management personnel, or even the police chief. It's through behavior like exposing misconduct through whistle blowing that the message is ultimately sent to upper management and City Hall that any orders coming from either or both to cover up misconduct from those levels won't be followed and that any punishment of officers refusing to engage in a Leach-type cover up will be met with the leverage needed to avoid punishment. Hopefully, the representative police unions would be involved in doing this even if it means putting the promotional hopes at risk of its leaders which often does happen. These actions in most cases will serve to protect the officers at the lower ranks who were in the situations similar to the two patrol officers who stopped Leach so that they can arrest even the chief without worrying about committing career suicide.

What the public doesn't know because City Hall doesn't want it to know is how many times that police officers within the department had to address unethical and illegal conduct within the department instituted by individuals outside of it. For those city residents who are reading this, it might be useful to know that thousands of dollars from property and sales tax revenues went into the defense of covering up this highly questionable behavior by City Hall from the public. This was all done under the guise of representing the public interest which naturally is to be left in the dark. Part of that was in the form of the city manager's so-called "sweeping" probe into the Leach incident which failed to even investigate City Hall even as it tried to hunt down whistle blowers in the police department.

And yes, that tax-paid probe did try to do just that purportedly while trying to investigate the Leach incident but then that's hardly unusual in this type of investigation but do most city residents want their tax payer dollars going to investigations that are more intent on exorcising whistle blowers than in identifying the roots of wrongdoing? No, actually most city residents want whistle blowers to have the freedom to do just what needs to be done and to be protected and most community members including this blogger will protect any out there trying to make a difference even at tremendous risk to their careers. But then many Riversiders believe the same and it's the communities' responsibility too to support whistle blowers when they appear.

Are these actions by these police officers easily done and without consequence? Hardly, as the city's actions against the two lieutenants who sued the city was that they needed to be removed from the canvas first before any of the players in the attempted cover up of Leach's traffic stop were even placed on paid administrative leave where they belonged since the administrative investigation begun. There are reasons as to why the city carried out these actions and they present a very damning picture of what's been going on at City Hall including with its handling of the Riverside Police Department within the past five years. Yet sometimes officers who engage in this conduct have difficulty getting public support from their own peers who might fear reprisal including the two lieutenants who saw as one of the councilman they sued for retaliation was endorsed for reelection in 2009 by the Riverside Police Officers' Association which pulled a sudden reversal in its decision not to endorse in that election by in nearly the 11th hour, announcing its endorsement for Schiavone. The union should have chosen its lieutenants over Schiavone, but it didn't.

But are these actions to try to promote accountability within the department by its own employees important?

Very much so. The roads to change aren't always smoothly paved after all, but are often very rocky, especially in the early going. It's only through many chances to make the right choices and to foster change that the road traveled begins to smooth.

Here's one interesting response to neighborhood governance article at

The mayor has obviously lost his mind. Didn't he learn anything from the citizens review board that was formed to look into police shootings and claims of police misconduct?

Once you start getting the people of our communities involved in current activities and give them a voice in neighborhood matters which can and will have an effect on their lives, you are asking for trouble.
It never fails, you open the doors of thought and opinion to the public and before you know it folks start seeing the untarnished truth surrounding city matters.
Can you imagine?
Then what? Did you ever consider what will happen if the people in our communities actually stopped fighting among themselves for a minute and looked into who and what is really threatening their quality of life?

Before you know it the people who currently have our cities, states and nation plummeting in an uncontrolled tail spin will have to answer to the people who pay their inflated salaries and waste our hard earned money and abuse our trust at every turn.

Then you will have to kill the monster you created by passing ordinances and laws in an attempt to close the doors of reality and keep people at arms length.

Haven't we already seen this play out with the citizen's review board?

Be careful what you wish for Mr. Mayor, you just might get it.

Remember that movie line: "Truth? You can't handle the truth!"

Community participation? as if,,,,

Law Enforcement Union Remains Mum About Boss

Is a cover up going up in the Riverside County District Attorney's office involving one of its labor union's reluctance to release job performance statistics? What's funny is that it's a bit too late for that because most people already know the office lost over 25% of its prosecutors including many of its most experienced ones and that many of its investigators (who are members of the Riverside Sheriff's Association. Is this to prevent the embarrassment of District Attorney Rod Pacheco?

Challenger and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach points out the obvious in his response.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Members had pushed about six months for the survey on Horst. The union planned to release the results earlier this month. But when members asked, union officials told them the association decided to withhold the numbers until after the election to avoid turning the outcome into a political matter, sources familiar with the matter said.

"Actually, they are making it political by not distributing the results, since they obviously aren't favorable," Zellerbach said. "If they were favorable, there would be a news conference by Rod to announce them."

A phone call seeking comment on Zellerbach's statement was not returned from Pacheco or his campaign manager, Brian Floyd.

Oh so true. And the fact that everyone is avoiding their phones to comment, just underlines that point more strongly. Because when your own appointee doesn't want to release the results of a study until after the election is over, man that just is a tad bit suspicious.

Speaking of the DA's election, it appears that both candidates will be actually standing on the same turf at the same time but you'll have to go all the way to Banning and pay money to see it.

City to Approve New Wi Fi Contract?

[AT&T will transfer management of the city's Wi Fi network to the city this fall. If the city gets a federal grant of nearly $10 million, it will expand to possibly 95% coverage. If not, it will contract to covering about 55% of the cities' current area.]

The City Council will vote today to determine whether or not to change internet providers for its free Wi Fi service. The contract is very wordy and lengthy and it's tough loading on laser fische this morning but what's absolutely necessary in its content are provisions for preventive maintenance and prompt service repair and restoral service during periods of inclement weather. Meaning rain showers placed a serious crimp on the equipment, flooding it and ultimaetly breaking some of it, leading to outages which range from several days to several months.

But it's not just poor people who have trouble getting internet but people who either have poor credit scores or scant credit history including those of the older generation who spent their lives paying their bills with money they had rather than relying on accumulating debt through use of credit cards. It's not surprising that the recession's about to hit round two pretty soon because the country's broken credit system is still in place. Can you imagine determining people's ability to pay bills or services based not on the money they actually have or will have but solely on their ability to accumulate or carry debt by making minimum and/or interest payments on their credit cards? Well that's what most internet providers including AT&T and the now bankrupt Charter Communications actually do. They have turned people down while trying to push their bundles at people because even though they spent decades paying their bills, they didn't use credit cards to do so. And Charter in particular has struggled to pay its own bills in the past with some vendors so would Charter really have a high enough credit score to qualify for its own internet service?

Here is the proposal going before the city council in the consent calendar.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, May 25 at 3 and 6:30 p.m. Riverside holds a city council meeting at the City Hall building to discuss and whip its way through this agenda. Also at 6:15 p.m. Ellie Bennett who chairs the Human Resources Board will give that body's annual report to the city government.

Riverside Neighborhood Conference

It's being held again on Saturday, June 5 at Cal Baptist University and will feature guest speakers and panel sessions. Registration can be done at City Hall and online and is FREE. However, some changes this year are that there will be NO childcare (even as the online form asks for information for that service it no longer offers) and breakfast/lunch will cost $5 per person.

The loss of childcare will no doubt cut down greatly on attendance at this year's conference among families particularly those headed by single mothers, which will leave a large segment of Riverside's city residents unable to access what's really a valuable networking and resource opportunity.

Riverside Unsafe For Pedestrians? One Reason Why

[This construction quagmire is at Sedgwick and 14th Street in the Eastside where a caterpillar tractor digs up the sidewalk with no warning signs to alert pedestrians coming off of Sedgwick. Maybe that's because the sidewalk closure signs were actually posted on the sidewalk...across the street.]

One of the problems with Riverside's scheduling of its construction projects is that too often the city plans to have projects done impacting the pedestrian traffic on both sides of the street at the same time. This has happened at least three times in the past several weeks including on Alessandro near Communication Center. This time, it's been at 14th and Sedgwick where the city has placed equipment including a caterpillar truck on the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the intersection and without any warning signage. So you turn the corner on Sedgewick and nearly walk into a caterpillar tractor shoveling up the sidewalk right in front of you. So what do you do? You cross to the other side of 14th but wait a minute, you walk a few yards and what do you see? A sign that tells you that the sidewalk's closed and to walk on the other side of the street!

Calls were made to the 311 center (which by the way once again requires dialing 826-5311 on Verizon Wireless) and to Councilman Andrew Melendrez office about the problems with closing off or blocking sidewalks on both sides of the street simultaneously to both pedestrians and the disabled. Public Works called and left a message that it would send a contractor and a representative out to investigate this potentially very dangerous situation.

The city really needs to remember that just because most of them drive cars, there are many people who do not and that many of even the main thoroughfares lack sidewalks on either side of the street including Arlington and Central for example or pedestrians have a difficult time figuring out how to walk down streets where sidewalks on both sides are under construction.

The number of injuries and fatalities to pedestrians in Riverside is unacceptably high and yes, some of it's due to careless walking but there are also dangerous situations in this city for walkers and also for those who are disabled.

Is Former City Councilman Dom Betro Running for Mayor?

Since everyone but his mother has already declared for the 2012 seat, why not forget having an election and hold a televised version of Survivor Island, River City style instead?

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