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

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Has Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson Already Picked His Next Chief?

****UPDATE: Finance Committee breaks meeting drought again, to meet and discuss agenda items on May 10. More details to come...

Rumors have been rampant as of late and now one media outlet has announced that a new Riverside police chief has been selected already by City Manager Brad Hudson and that individuals have been given advance notice of his selection on the condition of keeping it under wraps from everyone else. It's hard to know what to say about these rumors and this statement because common logic would dictate that the city wouldn't be so foolish to commit acts including the circumvention of a fair and just hiring process so soon after news arose of a cover up of criminal conduct involving the last police chief and then going around advertising about it. Revelations that shook the city's confidence in the police department and City Hall to its core, would then lead to more inquiries including possibly by outside agencies about what was taking place in Riverside's halls of power. Why on earth would they go down this road again when the majority of people in Riverside wouldn't choose that path? Do they really want to face another round of losing public trust in City Hall? If they've picked the police chief already, then the answer to that question would be maybe not, but then who cares what the public thinks or if it trusts the city and its operations anyway.

Because it's not just the chief's identity which would be kept under wraps but the fact that any selection made at this point of the next chief would prove that the hiring process itself as reported to the public by Hudson and also city officials was a sham. As a blogger and city resident, it's not the former that's the major problem (though that's relatively speaking) but the latter, because the fact that during a huge period of distrust by city residents towards City Hall and the police department, the city had made this plea to trust in its ability to hire the next police leader. And by circumventing the promised hiring process, the city would be violating that currently fragile trust.

My first question with this information would not have anything to do with the identity of any police chief (which frankly I wouldn't want to know particularly at this stage of the process in exchange for silence about much more than just that chief's identity), but instead why was the process circumvented by City Hall and why if this is the case, were over 350,00 city residents and police employees (who were also informed of the hiring process like the public) lied to by their city government and its direct employees? How was this allowed to happen on everyone's watch? Because this city, its employees and residents have been through too much already to be retreading the same steps that led to the point where we are now, involving all the turbulence and uncertainty of the past few months. And then it's necessary to research that hiring process to see if indeed it had been circumvented by Hudson or others in this fashion because that's something that should be determined and if so, then there needs to be some explanations of how this happened and why.

Interestingly enough, there had been reports of people being told that the new police chief had been hired but they couldn't divulge the identity because they were sworn to secrecy, beginning first about a month ago. But people had dismissed them when they had heard them because they thought the city hadn't been that foolish to repeat its old mistakes which have been largely responsible for the image beating it's taken lately. But is it really foolish to believe that there's that enough foolishness at City Hall? That it really hasn't learned from the events of the past couple of months?

It's interesting how not a day goes by where there's not more intrigue coming out of the city, this being just the latest of what's been going on in hopes that city residents aren't paying attention. But it's very disturbing to consider as well, that even after everything that's unfolded in the past couple of months, it would be business as usual at City Hall which would involve in this case parading out a bogus hiring process as a lie to so many people and then convening the real one behind closed doors on what the former police chief described as the Seventh Floor of City Hall.

Not being a member of Hudson or City Hall's PR division or that whole Seventh Floor brigade, this blog wasn't on the list of people notified about the incoming police chief which isn't really such a bad thing, but as of yesterday, neither had been the employees of the public safety department that this individual would oversee, replacing former police chief, Russ Leach nor have the city's residents.

And it's in the opinion of this blogger that the very first people who should be told the identity of their new boss, are the around 600 employees of the police department. Are people curious and concerned about who the next police will be? Most definitely so, but there's an appropriate order to this process and that includes notifying the employees first and then city residents after. The two parties who have been the most often screwed over by this kind of duplicity by the upper floors of City Hall.

And if it's only being told to people who aren't critical of Hudson under a vow of secrecy, then it's not just the chief's name that would be kept confidential but the fact that this premature selection would prove positive that the publicly announced selection process was indeed a sham. That part of a sordid situation would be kept confidential as well from the majority of the city's stake holders.

And that's the true travesty of this kind of situation if it has indeed risen in this city, that this form of corruption would be kept under wraps including by individuals outside the decision making processes inside City Hall. The ultimate joke would be played by relatively few people in power against the majority of those who are left to trust (with very little of that left) in the city to hire a chief in an ethical, professional and responsible manner. And one that's truly accountable and transparent to everyone in this city. But then those are two big words that the city has often struggled with and the situation that led up to the implosion that took place on Feb. 8 involving the police department and has continued since as surely as it had begun before years ago, is a major example of that.

And rest assured, if any such process of secrecy about the integrity of the hiring processes involved any direct employee of the city council or city government members themselves, they would notice a difference when they ran for reelection next year in how the public would respond to them at the voting polls. The past elections have amply proven that Riverside's voters are sick and tired of what's passed for professional behavior from elected officials both on the dais in public and behind closed doors at City Hall or inside restaurants like The Sire, El Toritos and a couple hot meeting places in Corona as well where of course business is conducted by people who don't want to be seen associating with each other by the locals. That's just not how city business should be conducted in Riverside.

But there's been persistent rumors that this hiring process has been a sham for some weeks now and that various individuals have been sworn to secrecy about the identity of the new chief but if that were the case (and it would certainly show an appalling amount of stupidity among other qualities), that would be truly unfortunate and frankly, indicative of corruption in this city, not to mention being a huge violation of public trust both for the city residents as well as public safety employees. But this situation's more solid than those rumors in that someone is confirming that this same thing happened to them, that this individual was given the name of the next police chief in exchange for his silence.

If it's true that a police chief were already selected, it would strongly indicate that the new chief was drawn from the Riverside County pool (and there have been rumors of people like James McElvain and recently retired assistant sheriff of administration Peter Labahn applying though he's currently on the state's parole hearing board) and that this new police chief wouldn't be anything but a pawn of Hudson and assistant city manager, Tom DeSantis. Because otherwise to hire a police chief from a pool of individuals unfamiliar to Hudson and DeSantis, that would require an extensive vetting process of the current hiring pool of at least 27 candidates by Hudson and DeSantis before any person would be chosen for hire from the official pool of candidates. If any vetting took place earlier so much so that there were a police chief selection floating around a mere five days after the closure of the application process, then it would have to be a candidate of which two former county employees were already very familar with. Including whether or not that individual would go along with their currently in place program involving the police department without raising a fuss.

And after all the years of mismanagement of the police department by that office and the reality that the police chief was essentially a puppet position, it would be highly unfortunate if that destructive legacy were to continue in this city, including with the continued blessing of the majority voting members of the city council who after settling the recent lawsuit involving two former police lieutenants can't really plead ignorance on the matter.

But then they don't call this place River City for nothing.

It would be truly a travesty if a selection were made this early in a process where the city spent a sizable sum of money during fiscally difficult times to hire a firm without going through a competitive bidding process to lower the costs of recruiting a new police chief. After all, this city in the guise of budget cuts (of which it could face more given a projected $17 million cut in redevelopment funding taken by the state) reduced library hours, laid off employees and left vacancies unfilled which has contributed to a 10% overall vacancy rate in the police department not to mention that current 33% vacancy rate in the lieutenant's rank which has substantially impacted morale among individuals who have to work double to make up for having less. In fact, the department is in the process of going back to having upper management personnel staff the relief watch command positions, an action also taken last year for a period of time. Hudson and his employers, the city government would and should have some serious questions to answer if they supported the manipulation of a recruitment and hiring process at such public expense while at the same time authorizing layoffs and the vacancies of public safety positions.

This recruitment process apparently did its job and attracted over 27 individuals by the April 30 deadline who applied from different places but was this truly a serious attempt at recruiting high quality candidates for the job? That does remain to be seen in upcoming days and weeks. These individuals responded and applied for the opening in good faith believing it was a professionally conducted recruitment and hiring process and one in integrity attached during a time period in the city's history when many people doubted the integrity of what had been taking place surrounding Leach. It would definitely be unwise to hire someone without conducting a competently done and thorough background investigation including interviews with associates and family of at least the leading candidates, a financial audit and a polygraph test and that kind of extensive checking takes time to carry out, especially on more than one prime candidate. But there are truly no shortcuts here and the public right now is not in the mood for the city management to take any such shortcuts especially in this area.

What came out at least in the community forums was that people wanted a police chief with a high degree of personal and professional ethics and integrity and that's not something that can be determined by reading an application and certainly not by hiring a crony (which would be the only way the hiring process would end a couple vital steps short in its process).

It would really be downright seedy (though in itself not surprising) if a selection was made before the community and city panels were able to interview the top applicants. The interview panels which are expected to be announced soon are to include business and community leaders, police union representatives and as rumored, Councilmen Steve Adams (which in itself generates concern and questions) and possibly Rusty Bailey. At its May 3 meeting, the Human Resources Board had announced that it had sent a letter or was planning to do so to Hudson asking for its assistance in the recruitment process as well as on the interview panels but hadn't received as of yet any response. Integrity and professionalism in this hiring process must remain paramount and those qualities must be accounted for by the city government which of course hires and fires direct city employees as well as provide them direction.

The panels themselves have been referred to some as a "dog and a pony" show even before being used by Hudson, as something more than just a carrot to dangle in front of community leaders to try to keep them quiet and in line with the program. And if a new chief has already been announced and kept under wraps, then any interview panels would simply serve as a rubber stamp if they approved the already selected candidate and out of touch if they opted instead for one of the confederates instead. It wouldn't be the first time that these panels were used in this manner but it would prove to be a disappointment to city residents who looked towards City Hall for leadership in this latest crisis and found it somewhat lacking anyway.

Blowing big bucks on a bogus recruitment process to disguise the hiring of a specific employee is of course not without precedent because that was what happened when the city hired Hudson in 2005, using the same recruitment firm, Roberts, though at least this hiring process including competitive bidding by a variety of headhunting firms. But it's hoped that the city government is aware of the full price that that corruption of the hiring process involving one of its direct employees wouldn't be repeated on its watch. If it's indeed engaging in any shenanigans, then it's not learning from its own history.

Truth be told, it's really hard at this point to be really excited about any hiring announcement about the new police chief. On one hand, the department and city residents deserve the best employee to lead the troubled agency that the city can hire and there's talent out there who would prove to be a very good fit in the department and in this city.'s difficult given the travesties which have taken place involving the police department under Hudson's watch that anyone hired by Hudson will be allowed to be truly independent. The reasons listed by the Eastside Think Tank for example, when it issued a press release pushing for a change in the charter which would assign the hiring process to the city council rather than the city manager. In order for this to be changed, it would have to pass the muster of the majority of the city's voters like any other charter amendment. That wouldn't be a cure all for the current problematic dynamic between the police chief and City Hall especially given the antics of several current and former council members who participated and/or directed that dynamic but it does put accountability for that misbehavior in the hands of the voters.

And if there are indeed any premature selection of the next police chief by the city manager's office or anyone else before the employment process has even really began, then perhaps that's an argument to push for such a change and just hope that the city council entrusted with that tremendous responsibility and confidence vote by city residents would prove worthy of both. At any rate, there would definitely be a push for some kind of investigation of the hiring process of the police chief. Not that Hudson couldn't engage in this back door conduct if he chose but it would truly be shabby conduct by him if he did so and even shabbier conduct by the city government if they allowed or endorsed it.

But it's clear that there will have to be much closer oversight and scrutinizing of one of the more important hiring processes in the city's recent history by those outside of it especially if Hudson is truly circumventing the hiring process he announced to the public at the expense of the public and the future of Riverside including its police department. And no, it's too early to truly pick a police chief and to know about it as part of an inside joke being played on the city's residents and at the expense of what should be an ethical and professionally conducted hiring process. The identity of the future police chief shouldn't be known at this point and is not nearly as important as the knowledge of whether or not the city manager's office is engaging in the appropriate manner with the very important hiring process and that the city council and mayor are providing the necessary direction to ensure that this is what takes place during a pivotal time in the city's history.

And speaking of rumors, several individuals had paired the name of a former city council members, a corrupt land deal and the name of a prosecution agency in the same sentence. Stay tuned to see if there are any official or otherwise announcements on that but these rumors on this situation have come and they have gone like the wind so you never really know.

Still no news on whether Hudson was drug or alcohol tested after his recent "fender bender" involving his city issued car.

Speaking of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, if you're interested in its command structure, you can access the rather extensive chart here and like that involving the Riverside Police Department, vacancies are highlighted.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board tells the city council, rethink your budget spending! Columnist Dan Bernstein of the same publication discusses spending closer to home.

Retaliation over the corruption in San Bernardino County?

It used to be air conditioners that were plundered for copper and nothing's nicer than spending days in a building without air conditioning until it's replaced. Now it's back flow devices.

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