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, May 20, 2010

CPRC Votes To Have Special Meeting to Decide When to Meet

UPDATE: Three new Riverside Police Department promotions announced despite plans to wait until chief was installed. They will go into effect May 28.

Sgt. Melissa Bartholomew is now a lieutenant and Det. Brian Dodson was promoted to sergeant. Dodson breaks a five year freeze on the promotions of African-Americans into supervision. Bartholomew is the second female supervisor after a similar five year freeze. Still, there's been no successful promotion of a female officer into supervision since Sgt. Michelle Jackson in 2005.

Officer David Johansen is now a detective as that position had to be filled pursuant to an MOU in play between the RPOA and the city.

One officer vacancy has now been created which needs to be remedied with the addition of at least 15 new officer positions this year as the numbers of officer level positions has fallen to a very low level.

(chärtr)----Provided by Free Dictionary


1) A document issued by a sovereign, legislature, or other authority, creating a public or private corporation, such as a city, college, or bank, and defining its privileges and purposes.

2) Riverside: A piece of paper stashed somewhere at City Hall with writing on it.

(Above definition from the Informal Guide to River City Lexicon)

The CPRC to Meet to Figure Out When to Meet

[The Community Police Review Commission in its new digs as it met at noon on May 20 for several hours, in what looked like a storage closet.]

[Recently dethroned chair and AMR (which contracts with the city manager's office) employee Peter Hubbard didn't say much at the meeting, not being an active player for Team City Hall.]

[Team City Hall member, Ken Rotker (r) argued against the community by believing that meetings should be held early in the day. Seated next to him is Personnel Capt. Mike Blakely who was the liaison between the police department and the CPRC.]

[Chair Brian Pearcy was in pretty good form, arguing for a restoration of the evening meeting time and labeling the behavior of others opposed to that as being "selfish". ]

[Team City Hall (and often you can tell them by their CPRC shirts)was well represented by Art Santore who as it turns out may have future political ambitions of his own.]

It took two hours for the Riverside Community Police Review Commission which met in a cramped conference room to decide to hold a special determine when it should meet. Two motions were made and both failed by the same margin. Finally they voted to have a "special meeting" at some undesignated date and time to decide well...when to schedule their meetings. The meeting in question would have all nine commission members in attendance.

The decision to change the meetings from being held in the evenings to being held at noon sparked some controversy as community members complained that they were losing access to the commission as did some commissioners who said that they couldn't attend the meetings at the new time. Seven out of nine commissioners did attend the meeting but two, Chani Beeman and Dale Roberts had to use sick or vacation days to attend and Beeman had to reschedule training which inconvenienced several of her colleagues. Chair Brian Pearcy took note at the sacrifices that had to be made by them and Commissioner John Brandriff (who didn't attend and can't attend at the new meeting time) and called the commissioners who pushed for the morning time, "very, very unbelievably selfish" and acting out of personal motivation.

Rotker in particular bristled at being called selfish and felt that the rest of them had been diminished by Pearcy's comments. However, given that they responded to the fact that several commissioners had to use sick and vacation days to come to the meetings in mid-day by saying that sacrifices had to be made even though their own schedules were much more flexible, they didn't really need much help to diminish themselves. They used the morning schedules of the Planning Commission and the Board of Public Utilities to justify moving the CPRC meetings earlier in the day than in the evenings even though some commissioners on the CPRC said that in their case, city residents would have greater access to the commission during the evening. And in fact, the move to change the meetings to midday came in the wake of a year which saw an increase in attendance by city residents. So the commission's response by shutting those people out (the ones who weren't already driven away by the rude conduct of some members) was seen as a slap against the city's residents by a sizable segment of the panel.

Others like newest commissioner, Dale Roberts said that she didn't see community members clamoring for the meetings to be scheduled at mid-day. She said she was taking vacation days to attend the mid-day meetings but that it was "more about the community" and its access to meetings, she said. Beeman said she considered the move to change meetings "personally and politically hurtful". She saw the commission as continuously taking one step forward and then two back.

"We need to settle down," Beeman said.

But for the fractured body, that seems a tall order at this point. So far the time this "special meeting" will take place has not yet been decided.

Here are two of the actual motions that were voted on, with Brandriff and Commissioner Robert Slawsby being absent.

1) Motion to have public meetings at 5:30 p.m.

Pro: Beeman, Pearcy, Roberts

Con: Hubbard, Santore, Rotker, Morales

2) Motion to have public meetings at 12 noon.

Pro: Hubbard, Santore, Rotker

Con: Morales, Pearcy, Beeman, Roberts

To no surprise, the CPRC then voted 3-3 not to look into allegations of racism and sexism raised by former Police Chief Russ Leach. This is a commission where the active majority really doesn't seem to want to do anything even abide by the city's charter.

Disparate opinions raised by different commissioners.

(excerpts, Press Enterprise)

"Whether we believe them or not, I think it's those kinds of public comments that create distrust and hinder the relations between our Police Department and our community," Beeman said.

And then there's this one.

"If there was sexism and racism in the Police Department while he was chief, that would make it his responsibility," Commission Peter Hubbard said.

And both commissioners raise good points, though Hubbard doesn't explain why the fact that it's Leach's responsibility completely shuts the CPRC out of the process. At least one commissioner said the whole situation is out of its purview which is a common statement thrown out by some commissioners to prevent that body from actually doing anything meaningful.

Because actually those commissioners who believe that it's outside of the commission's purview are factually incorrect, according to language in the charter.

Section 810 of the charter which governs the CPRC and was passed by the majority of voters in 2004 gives plenty of license to do so in provisions, A, E, F and H.

"A" provides language that the CPRC is to advise the city and mayor on all police/community relations while "E" and "F" pertain to commission initiated investigations which the CPRC would do in this situation. "H" provides that option by giving the commission the power to review and advise the police department on matters in relation to its policies and practices. So it's not the city's charter that's keeping the commission from addressing the concerns raised by Leach's parting comments, it's just laziness most likely and perhaps to avoid any potential embarrassment to either the department or City Hall. But it's more problematic for the department if the comments raised by Leach continue to go unaddressed.

What could have happened is that both the CPRC and the Human Relations Commission could have held a fact finding process holding forums for community members to discuss this issue and then also interview individuals like Leach (admittedly not likely to happen including if Leach signed any confidentiality agreements with his medical retirement) and the two presidents of the Riverside Police Officers' Association and the Riverside Police Administrators' Association who made brief comments in the Press Enterprise article and could provide more detailed information from their valuable perspective. Mason in particular, spoke of all the work that the police department had done to address these issues and the information that he could provide on that process could go quite a way on educating members of both commissions on what that entailed because so many people do not really know what happened inside the very insulated police department.

There are still concerns about racism, sexism and especially "bickering" and infighting inside the Riverside Police Department, concerns that should be addressed that have been raised in the community and inhouse. Concerns that more recently came to light during the past two promotional cycles including the first one when five high-ranking women were passed over for both sergeant and lieutenant positions not to mention at least two African-American men.

A female detective, Linda Byerly, was promoted to sergeant in the next round, allegedly after some uproar over her exclusion the first time. She brought over 20 years work experience including eight years in investigations and saw two other male detectives in her own division promoted to sergeant in early 2009 and 2010. One of the officers who was promoted before her had a prior termination on his record that was reversed by arbitration and the city council some within the past 10 years.

What would be interesting and perhaps useful is if the Human Resources Board which is the panel of volunteers entrusted to examine labor issues involving the city would do an investigation into the police department's promotional level beginning at its top and continuing on downward. There's been very much concern and allegations raised that the department's promotions were done with at least the influence from inappropriate corners of City Hall and that one current city council member might have actually operated under the "final say" provision which under the charter, goes to the city manager's office. If so, then this city council member violated the city's charter involving at least the promotions of two of the current captains and possibly one past one as well. Other allegations of promotions that have been offered or given in exchange for political endorsements or other favors including future ones perhaps could be probed by the Board as well. It remains to be seen whether or not the incoming chief whoever he or she might be will have any ability at all to even make promotions or whether or not this individual will be a rubber stamp and you'll have a continuation of past practices involving City Hall's involvement with the police department's promotional process.

It's interesting how behaviors like that seem to happen with impunity inside the walls of City Hall and not much is done about it. In fact, it seems like most of the elected officials currently serving in office don't question anything that's done by their direct employees and in fact, defer to them on even some highly questionable actions.

Retiring Riverside County Sheriff's Department Undersheriff Valerie Hill wins an award.

Although Riverside's Metropolitan Museum has had its budget severely cut and lost about half of its staffing, it has put together a week of events.

The city's finally got some plans for what's going to be done with Tequisquite Park which was the focus of a task force and community input about three years ago.

Fox Theater Update

Meetings are being conducted and hours of testimony from people in connection with the troubled theater's management and operations are offering eyewitness accounts and documentation of what's been going on at the city-owned facility including former employee, Johnny Diamond who was terminated by the focus of the controversy, general manager, William Malone.

Riverside Councilman Paul Davis had told the city council that he had received documentation of serious management problems with the theater, enough to consider ousting Malone and doing an audit of the financial books. Other councilmen like Steve Adams said they were offended at any such criticism and Asst. City Manager Paul Sundeen who pretty much handles the sole oversight of the city's finances these days pretty much said everything's okey dokey with the finances and most of those on the dais pretty much do what they are told by Sundeen including the chair of the Finance Committee, Councilwoman Nancy Hart. But at least one elected official is trying to do what's right in this situation and that's a thorough investigation to determine exactly what happened at the Fox and what steps to take to address those serious problems. Problems which had been raised as concerns by people for quite a while and need to be addressed. Both involving the Fox Theater as well as other related areas like the Development Department and how contracts are handled by the city management.

Police Chief Search Update

Oh my goodness! The news that's coming in about Riverside's selection for either its next police chief or Hudson's next puppet is getting really interesting these days. There's been a lot of speculation about who are among the 60 individuals who applied for the job by the April 30 application deadline. Many people were surprised at the number of applicants given that up to two days before the deadline, the numbers provided had ranged between 25-30 though sometimes there is a flurry of last minute applications in situations like this one.

Names dropped include several from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department including retiring undersheriff, Valerie Hill (and she apparently didn't put in) and also from the California Highway Patrol , Capt. Jeff Talbott who's in charge of the Riverside office. If his name sounds familiar, it should because his office conducted the criminal investigation of Leach's DUI incident and Talbott provided many of the updates on that matter to the media.

It's been said in different places is that the city manager's office has already been narrowing down the names of those who have applied to the next round of candidates and that one candidate was told at a social event by someone who's not Hudson that he didn't make the cut. If that's true, then that's not exactly the way that I would want to find out my standing in the hiring process for such an important position. A phone call or written correspondence providing an update on an applicant's status just appears to be a much more appropriate not to mention professional means of contacting people. Also these impromptu actions are the kind of actions which lead to cities and counties being sued over their hiring practices so they really shouldn't be encouraged by the city manager's office.

But what many people are talking about is whether or not a former department assistant chief and current head of investigations at the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office applied for the job. That would be Mike Smith who rose in the department during his career there and even served as acting chief during two separate stints in 2000 while the city hunted down its next chief. He was one of the top three candidates, with Leach and Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters being the other two and he might have at least one elected official in his corner so far. Not to mention that the leadership of the two police unions seemed to be enthusiastic as well to see him apply.

Smith's entry into the process would prove to be very interesting indeed given that while some of the leadership there has pushed for hiring inside, the bulk of those employed by the department seem to be hoping that the next chief comes from outside of it. Some individuals aren't even confident that the upper management working directly under the chief should come from inside the department at least not at the captains level or higher. The chief should be autonomous in his or her selection of those key management personnel. However, it's still not clear at this point whether or not the chief will have any autonomy at all given the history of the department within the past five years since Hudson and DeSantis have essentially been running it.

But is Smith an insider or an outsider? Yes, he's been working in another position in the public sector for more than five years now but before that, he had over 25 years working inside the agency until he retired. Given the department's tremendous turnout in the past 5-10 years, it's not clear what the collective memory of Smith is by the agency but it's clear that there are many people who do remember him if the union leadership is keen on bringing him back to take over the troubled department. It also remains to be seen whether or not working as chief will impact any PERS retirement he received from his employment in Riverside and whether or not he's interested in leaving his well-paying job in the neighboring county to try out for the opportunity to take the helm of a troubling agency. Whether or not he'll play ball with Hudson which means that he won't be able to do very much as chief. And his potential application to the position has created a lot of concern as well, including from within the department. It remains to be seen how this very interesting development will play out but if he applied, he'll probably make the finals given that anyone in City Hall who had reservations about him is most likely no longer in power.

Hudson's also drafted his interview panel which might start that process as early as the beginning of June. So far it includes two long-time community leaders including one with former law enforcement experience, the two police union heads, Det. Cliff Mason from the RPOA and Lt. Ed Blevins from the RPAA (or designees) and to the lament of some, no one under 40 years of age. If the latter is true, then it must be remedied as soon as possible given that there's such a huge population of young people including students in this city and they are left off of virtually every representative body that purports to resemble a slice of the populace of Riverside. There were rumors of city council representation but no elected officials will be serving on it.

In the past, interview panels conducted by Hudson that have included community representation have simply been situations where these intelligent and involved individuals are simply fed pre-written questions to read to the candidates. If that's the practice, then it would seem that Hudson and DeSantis are more interested in having the equivalent of marionette puppets on their boards rather than community leaders who know this city much better than they do. Hudson and DeSantis really should realize that if people are bright and involved enough to serve on their panels, then they are certainly smart enough to come up with their own questions reflecting the community perspective they're supposed to be bringing to the process. And still create an equally fair process to all the candidates being interviewed at the same time. Besides a crafty city management would figure out how to afford these panelists this basic dignity while still being in micromanagement heaven at the same time.

But there's going to be many, many more developments in this arduous process, and together they will provide a very telling account of what the future holds for the department and its next leader.

Are the Walls of the Sires' House Toppling Down?

Riverside's other City Hall

Rumor has it that one of the former members of the so-called clique that used to hang out at the Sire's Restaurant and allegedly carry out city business there is facing quite a bit of scrutiny from the Riverside County District Attorney's office regarding two separate criminal matters, and during an election cycle to boot. I'm sure there will be much more coming down the pike on this situation ahead on what transpired but it's been the talk all over the city in the past few weeks in one version or another. An investigation of this rumor is definitely in order.

The Riverside Police Department is looking for a young mentally disabled man who's missing.

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