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, June 15, 2010

The New Chief Meets and Greets Amidst a Mad, Mad World

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it"

---Edmund Burke

Over 100 people, from the neighborhoods of Riverside and inside the walls of the police department congregated at the Grier Pavilion on the top floor of City Hall to welcome the city's new police chief, Sergio Diaz, a retired deputy chief from Los Angeles. Many people snacked on the catered food while mingling before sitting down or standing while various speakers stood at the podium to address the crowd. Community leaders from the Eastside, Casa Blanca and downtown showed up in force, alongside the department's command staff, many dressed in blue. Elected officials intermingled with others including a police detective who was terminated from employment last week. Chris Lanzillo the former Riverside Police Officers' Association president had appeared as well, not long after the leadership of his former union had gone to City Manager Brad Hudson to express its belief that the termination was unjustified but Hudson denied their appeal.

Mayor Ron Loveridge spoke about the utopia that he lives in while apparently unaware that the floor of City Hall that he resides in is currently in the state of meltdown, in the light of the revelations coming to light about legal violations that were apparently committed within its walls, with even more awaiting to come out in the days and weeks ahead.

City Manager Brad Hudson talked about the search process, including the recruitment firm of Roberts which had been used by the city in other employment searches. Councilman Steve Adams for some reason was elected to be the spokesperson for the city council and made some strange speech about how someone in San Diego was brought in and created the San Diego Police Department. Then someone from L.A. came in to try to create the Los Angeles Police Department but that wouldn't work for Riverside.

"We are RPD," averred Adams.

Actually, it's curious to see Adams bite the hands that fed him with Leach because in his deposition as part of a lawsuit filed by two former lieutenants, Leach testified that Adams (along with another elected official) were constantly around and involved in the police department. And if city management personnel are telling the truth rather than passing the buck, then Leach was responsible for Adams' cold plates that were issued for his city-issued car. Adams also allegedly involved himself in at least two, perhaps even three promotions at the captain's level, essentially vetoing one and "clearing the air" with one other candidate in a restaurant in Corona less than 24 hours before that individual was promoted.

But maybe this was his way of laying claim? That remains to be seen and maybe it's just natural because Adams had played such a role in the department's operations, probably more than he did when he worked there as a patrol officer.

Adams attended the event with his brother Ron, a retired officer who works for the city's red light camera program and who was the defendant in a sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by a former female sergeant during the 1990s that the city paid a huge sum to settle.

But Diaz quite deftly deflected Adams' challenge and hopefully he'll be able and given room to continue to do so. He said that "respect" marked every positive interaction involving police and community members and that would be the mark of his tenure as chief. He also said that he would ensure that by the time he departed, there would be commanders who were capable of taking the helm of the department. Perhaps that indicates that he has some inkling about the immense challenges which lie ahead in connection with doing that. As he does have a background in mentoring in the LAPD, it will be interesting to see how that transfers to the RPD where mentoring in some areas of the department is absent or highly deficient but could have great benefits for many of its employees. For one thing, studies show that mentoring employees increases retention which in the RPD has been abysmal particularly for its female officers, from the time they go to the academy to the time they hit the 3-4 year mark.

[City residents come down to City Hall to meet Riverside's new police chief.]

[In the front rows, are many of the elected officials and management police personnel listening to the introductory speech by Mayor Ron Loveridge who doesn't seem to have a very good grasp of what's happened in the past several months. ]

The event was joyful and people stood up and clapped---twice. A festive environment was definitely in the air as people hoped that this was a sign that both the police department and city were turning an important corner.

But then afterward, everyone had to go home. Many took the happiness of the occasion with them but many reflected concern about the days ahead. Feeling that the new chief really has his work cut out for him just to dodge the minefields in this city.

Meanwhile Back at the Mad, Mad World...

“Don’t talk to the bloggers. Don’t talk to the press. We are one family…”

---Acting Police Chief John DeLaRosa at roll call, in February 2010

[The epicenter of the final days of Acting Chief John DeLaRosa's career at the top of the chain and he's been quite busy terminating employees including those who sue him and engaging in some rather interesting activities involving the department's lieutenant's list.]

[Acting Chief John DeLaRosa in different times. He was implicated in the mishandling of the traffic stop involving his former boss, yet his new boss, City Manager Brad Hudson kept him at the helm to show people what an officer who should be facing discipline who's issuing it himself looks like.]

[Capt. Mike Blakely (l.), the only member of the management staff who didn't rise up through the ranks under the promotional system which was the focus of lawsuits filed by two former police lieutenants, alleging that other individuals including a city councilman were influencing or making promotions at the highest level. As head of Internal Affairs, Blakely's, who mentored DeLaRosa up through the ranks, been involved in the opening of internal investigations and the transfer of at least a half dozen officers to the "penalty box" at the Orange Street Station.]

They say that when they transfer an officer to the Riverside Police Department’s administrative headquarters on Orange Street these days, it’s akin to having a scarlet letter attached to your chest. That those who walk its floors are waiting for the next shoe to drop, as the clock ticks away the final days of the regime of Acting Chief John DeLaRosa. For most people, the date of June 30 which will mark his final day as acting chief can’t come fast enough. Feeling it most intently are those who haven’t been playing on the right team which at the moment is his team.

And it's not just that officers are being transferred to the Station from the field, the dynamic duo that now runs the police department has opened up internal investigations on other individuals in relation to incidents that are fairly old and they have made transfers of some individuals out of the Orange Street Station allegedly to fill patrol vacancies which they then draw from to fill these same vacated positions. All this frenetic activity brings to mind what's happened to many a regime that's in power over a population of individuals just before it's about to fall or to experiment an exchange in power. Not every ruling party hands off the keys to its kingdom in ways that are without some degree of turbulence and not every king leaves the throne quietly and it's appearing as if the final days of DeLaRosa's brief career as the chief will reflect that. That's not the way that it should have been but the next two weeks are expected to be particularly...frantic particularly for those individuals not on Team DeLaRosa.

Whose Team? My Team!

The Riverside Police Department had become during the reign of former chief, Russ Leach an environment where officers apparently had to play for one team or the other, almost like some strange variation of the reality show, Survivor Island. Whereas Hollywood has Team Jennifer and Team Angelina for deciding which woman deserves the prize of Brad Pitt, the police department had Team Leach and Team DeLaRosa to decide who will have access to what, inside the RPD. When Leach mentioned the ongoing issues of "bickering" inside the department, this was partly what he meant but what he didn't add was that he played a large role in if not creating this dynamic inside the department in fostering it to ensure that it became one of the strongest dynamics under his watch.

Dynamics like this can be extremely destructive. They take what should be a cooperative, collaborative level from the top levels of management in the department to the officers at the lower levels and turn it into a competitive and even in some areas of the department downright ruthless situation instead. At the highest level of command, there's a very dysfunctional and fractured management staff, which isn't surprising in the least when you research the history including that provided by sworn testimony in the lawsuits filed by former lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt and learn about all the different individual climbs to power. You'll read about who stuck which stiletto where and how far some of them went to reach their positions, selling out the person who might wind up working with them.

You have to ask yourself this, what part of the promotional process involving captains that was detailed again in sworn testimony reflects anything remotely similar to cooperation, collaboration, leadership skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills or professionalism for that matter. If people are being ruthless to each other to get where they are and they succeeded, then it's these skills which will dominate at the level they work at in most of their interactions rather than the ones they really need.

Under the system that is only beginning to come to light, there's no room for any of the skills that management really needs for the police department to grow and thrive. The fact that in recent months and years the opposite has happened is reflected largely in what's happened at this level and how the management tier of the department had been built. One of the new chief's greatest challenges and one that has to be addressed immediately is how to address what other police leaders have done (not to mention his own bosses!), that's now been left on his door step.

He's definitely got his work cut out for him.

Some say that in the waning days of his short reign at the top of the command structure, DeLaRosa has been disciplining officers including those who filed lawsuits against him and that he and Personnel Capt. Michael Blakely have been transferring officers to the Orange Street Station and just as importantly, transferring certain officers out of the building into patrol. Almost immediately after DeLaRosa was appointed by Hudson to become acting chief, four officers were placed on administrative leave, an internal affairs sergeant was investigated after being a victim of a car burglary and then there's this whole issue of what's been called, the "penalty box" at the Orange Station.

There's at least six officers who were placed in this box, and of those six, four remain. Most of them are younger officers with most of them having less than five years work experience. And in what can surely only be explained as a bizarre statistical anomaly, three of them testified at the same criminal trial involving a former police officer charged with sexually assaulting three women in a three month period in early 2008.

There's about 350 officers left in the police department. There's about four left in the penalty box and three of them testified in this trial. During the Forman trial, about seven officers testified and a sergeant so while about 2% of the department's officers testified in that case, about 75% of the officers left in the penalty box had testified in that trial and these three represent just under 50% of those who testified in that trial. At least 66% of the Forman officers in the penalty box testified in ways viewed (but not necessarily so) as being favorable to Forman's defense.

Having been a student of statistics, this naturally caught my attention but whether it's what is called in statistics, a "random cluster" which can definitely happen or if there's some significance to it, one definitely can't be sure without further information but it would be hard for even professional statisticians to ignore and would definitely be interested in studying further. It's too early to tell in terms of drawing any conclusions except to say that's one hell of a statistical anomaly the department has here.

Officers Assigned to the Department's "Penalty Box"
By DeLaRosa

Lt. Leon Phillips, received note of termination for Leach incident for failure to properly supervise

Det. Chris Lanzillo, terminated within several months after filing his claim and lawsuit for dishonesty

Officer Michael Bucy: Awaiting disciplinary action for an incident from Oct. 2009, testified in Robert Forman Trial in autumn of 2009 as a former trainee of his.

Officer Richard Glover: Awaiting disciplinary action for an incident from Oct. 2009, testified in Robert Forman Trial in autumn of 2009 as having worked with him.

Officer Jeffrey Adcox: Awaiting disciplinary action for an incident involving a pursuit. In March 2009, involved in DUI accident and plead guilty about six months later.

Officer Justin Mann: Awaiting disciplinary action for an incident involving a pursuit, testified in Robert Forman trial in autumn 2009. He testified about receiving and forwarding one victim's report.

The idea of this "penalty box" is interesting because apparently it's not regular practice for all these individuals to be removed from the field to the administrative headquarters to sit idly waiting for discipline. The serious cases usually are placed on paid administrative leave (when not being promoted to acting chief) and most of the others are disciplined from the positions of their particular assignments. Some say it's done to humiliate officers who are facing disciplinary action who for whatever reason don't fall along the lines of being Team DeLaRosa just before the department terminates them.

Because most likely there are officers who have engaged in even serious misconduct who weren't treated in this fashion. It's ironic beyond belief that these disciplinary or punitive actions are being carried out by an individual who was allowed to retire out of the department either in lieu of disciplinary action or without any disciplinary action. In most cities, an individual in DeLaRosa's shoes would have been placed on paid administrative leave, not given a pay hike to be the acting chief. But then maybe other cities have city management employees who don't get themselves in this kind of situation and who incidentally aren't more focused in decking themselves out like cops than they are in being competent managers. Not to mention elected officials who as a legislative body play much stronger leadership roles than the Riverside City Council and Mayor Ron Loveridge.

But for there to be a "penalty box" under DeLaRosa who should be inside it himself is not the appropriate way to do business or to manage a police department or even to micromanage one for that matter. All of the officers inside the "penalty box" including Lanzillo should have their administrative processes brought to an immediate halt and suspended until they can be more appropriately handled by Diaz. Any disciplinary action should be stopped or reversed until that process under Diaz is completed. Phillips and Lanzillo should if not be reinstated to duty be put on paid administrative leave until their cases are handled and processed by individuals who have the authority but do not harbor an actual or perceived conflict of interest in the outcomes.

Lanzillo for his racial comments should be afforded the same discipline given to the now retired lieutenant who currently works for the City Attorney's office as an investigator. If it's good for a command staff employee to receive no disciplinary action for engaging in very similar misconduct, then it's good enough for someone lower in the chain of command as well. The police management at the time had some clue that what they did wasn't equivalent to how they would treat a lower level employee because after letting this command staff member completely off of the hook, more severe disciplinary action given to a detective was reduced to a written reprimand. It's not clear exactly why people in the upper ranks are able to skirt disciplinary action but if they are granted greater authority and power in the chain of command, they also hold greater responsibilities and should if anything, face greater disciplinary action.

Diaz has a wealth of experience in the Internal Affairs Division of the LAPD and thus has the tools to address this issue and he already has greater credibility than an acting chief who's proven that preferential treatment for a certain class of employees is still alive and well in Riverside. This just seems the best way for these situations to be handled in ways that practice equal protection under the law including pertaining to conflict of interest and will likely save the city huge litigation expenses in the long run if the actions against these officer are not being conducted fairly.

Fired Detective Files Second Claim for Damages with City

Lanzillo who was fired within 15 minutes after the end of his Skelly on June 11 has filed another claim for damages with the city, alleging that his rights to have his Skelly hearing heard by an impartial party were violated when his requests to have DeLaRosa removed from the process through his attorney were denied by Hudson. The claim is against the city, DeLaRosa, Blakely and Lt. Ed Blevins who supervised the Vice Unit where Lanzillo had been for several years until he was transferred out earlier this year not long after his two-year term as RPOA president ended.

During his Skelly, Lanzillo appeared and saw the Internal Affairs sergeant assigned to his case in the hallway which led him to believe the outcome was pre-determined. He had been investigated in relation to a racial joke he told in a cultural diversity training class that had been reported by a supervisor who hadn't attended the class.

According to Lanzillo, he had a confrontation with DeLaRosa during one of the roll calls where DeLaRosa was telling the department's officers to stick together and among other things, challenged DeLaRosa on why he took so long to send the case involving Leach's incident to the California Highway Patrol. The investigation was launched soon after and after Lanzillo's comments hit the pages of the Press Enterprise, the Internal Affairs Division was allegedly ordered to place his investigation at the top of its list in terms of priority by someone in management at Orange Station.

The city council will upon legal advice from the City Attorney's office or from outside counsel will decide whether to uphold or deny the claim.

When DeLaRosa hasn't been firing employees who have sued him, he has been engaging in transferring employees in and out of the Orange Street Station for other reasons besides disciplinary action. One interesting story to follow has been the ongoing situation involving the police department's promotional list for lieutenants, which as has been shown here several times is top-heavy with both men of color and especially women. Four out of five people at the top of the lieutenant's list weren't white men. But even though two candidates have been promoted, first Andy Flores from #6 and Melissa Bartholomew from #5, this is what has happened to other individuals on the top five of the lieutenant's list in recent weeks.

Promotional list for lieutenants:

Jaybee Brennan, white female –transferred from chief’s office to patrol allegedly to fill vacancy

Daniel Hoxmeier, white male—transferred from PACT/patrol to Communications after Williams goes to patrol

Lisa Williams white female-- transferred from Communications to Patrol after she is required to report to Blakely instead of the police chief

Val Graham Black male, Internal investigation activated on him in relation to an incident involving other officers and a sergeant that took place six months earlier.

More to come on as the DeLaRosa regime draws to a close...and a new era begins?

Committee Hears Ethics Complaint

At Riverside City Hall, the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee minus the mayor appeared to hear and rule on the ethics complaint of Michael Morales who alleged that Councilman Paul Davis had been operating a catering business out of his garage without the appropriate permits. Morales who had been railing at city council meetings against another councilman, Mike Gardner had disappeared for a while and then resurfaced with complaints against Davis.

Loveridge did show up in the middle of the affair, saying that the meeting had never appeared in his appointment calendar and if a meeting's not in that book, then he doesn't appear at it. Well anyway, he missed part of the proceedings but stuck around for the rest as the committee grappled with issues like whether or not people would be cited for lemonade stands and making cookies and whether or not women could be independent business owners or whether they were merely props of men to do what they are told.

Oh and whether the complaint filed by Morales fit under the purview with the city's code of ethics. City Attorney Gregory Priamos said it did not and so the committee voted 4-0 in agreement with Priamos. Ironically, Morales who spoke about the importance of equal protection under the law as being important in terms of code enforcement didn't seem nearly as clear on this issue when it comes to how people who are DUI like police chiefs are treated. Earlier this year not long after the incident involving former police chief, Russ Leach he claimed that Leach hadn't been drinking but it had been only medication that he had taken. Well, the video at the Club 215 proved that Leach had in fact been drinking seven "doubles" on top of what he had already drank. So what's good for Davis, isn't good enough for Leach?

What struck as ironic about the process is that it came on the wake of the revelations in recent weeks of city management employees and at least one council member, Steve Adams, had been implicated in the commission of what were illegal actions including the issuance of cold plates.

Two former high-ranking police employees in the city's department who are now police chiefs each responded to this article in different ways but revealing similar information in that city officials and city management employees did use cold plating on their cars.

First Palm Springs Police Chief David Dominguez said to the Press Enterprise that city management employees had directed the issuance of cold plates.

One of those who had cold plates in his city issued vehicle, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis responded by calling Dominguez a "disgruntled" employee but every time DeSantis opens his mouth to explain away his involvement in these "inquiries" made by the State Attorney General's office, he just defies logic further. Maybe he should just quit while he's ahead.

Then Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana announced the removal of cold plates issued to city officials there. Here's a narrative on what happened in Hemet according to Dana, who like Dominguez has worked in upper management in the Riverside Police Department.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The chief said he didn't realize putting untraceable plates on cars used by civilians was illegal until he read a June 9 Press-Enterprise story on Riverside's use of the plates

"It was a mistake, and I am taking them off," he said.

Dana said that when he was a commander at the Riverside Police Department, he was aware that non-police employees such as council members and the city manager's staff had cold plates on their city vehicles.

So what DeSantis and his boss, Hudson have to realize is that now they apparently have two "disgruntled" employees. Because clearly if there's more than a handful of "disgruntled" employees, then that would seem that it's more and more likely on a geometric causation scale that this would point to problems with management's relationships with its work force.

But anyway, it's just a bit strange and more than a little bit surreal to have an ethics complaint against one city councilman being heard by a panel of his peers which includes one member who was part of an investigation into illegal violations involving the issuance of cold plates. But maybe that's why the suggestion of some organizations like The Group and the League of Women's Voters to instead have the hearing process on complaints done by an independent board perhaps made up of retired judges might need revisiting. After all, the city council had said that the idea was supposed to go back to the Governmental Affairs Committee for further discussion and then that got dropped.

Save-Riverside's Kevin Dawson talked about the relationship of what he referred to as the Betro/Schiavone clause that had been passed not long after his own complaint had been rejected in the summer of 2007 by the City Attorney's office and how maybe the city council needed to rethink its inclusion. And yes, women can operate independently of men and are individuals who can think, act and even conduct business independently without having to cleave to men to do so.

Anyway, here are some snapshots from the meeting.

[Michael Morales who filed a complaint against Councilman Paul Davis prepares to make his speech.]

[Riverside Councilman Paul Davis appears at the ethics code hearing by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee which held a joint meeting with the City Council to satisfy the provision of the state's Brown Act which prohibits serial meetings. Davis said he supported Morales' right to file complaint but called his views on his wife, "sexist". ]

[Councilman Steve Adams (l.), Councilman Rusty Bailey who are members of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee sit with City Attorney Gregory Priamos to decide Davis' fate. Adams was implicated in the recent revelations about the cold plating of city issued cars which is a violation of state law.]

Introducing the New Police Chief

The denizens at City Hall including those employed in the city management office put the newly hired police chief, who's retired Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz on display at the Grier Pavillion on the top floor of City Hall.

Talk about a new employee in a difficult and interesting situation, of having to work directly under a city management which has been implicated in several scandals involving violations of state laws involving badges, guns and cold plates. To be a newly hired police chief overseeing a department which appeared to be put to use by individuals inside of City Hall in ways that had nothing to do with the mantra, to protect and serve the public. Because of actions being taken by these individuals, it was at least in part being used to equip and service city officials and management employees. In ways that go even further than what's been unveiled so far. The lid's still not come completely off of this boiling cauldron and the Seventh Floor as it has been called is definitely feeling the heat.

Well, its denizens have to remember that they created the cauldron and if it's heating up, well they have no one to blame but themselves for that.

With talk in the wards about candidates preparing to come out of the woodwork for the elections next year in each ward, there's discussion of what leadership really means in a city which has seen very little of that from City Hall even as illegal activities by some of those inside have come to light. The most that city residents get is some patronizing words about it all being "old news" which is only true because City Hall tried to keep it "buried news" and failed miserably.

D.A. Closes Books on Witness Tampering Case involving Former Elected Official

An announcement came out today that the Riverside County District Attorney's office won't file charges of persuading a witness against former Councilman Frank Schiavone which is probably the only responsible decision it can make at this point because everyone's taped each other at this point and there's really no case to file for this situation if the complainant has provided two entirely different accounts of the incident in question on tape. If there's not enough of a strong case to win at trial, then charges shouldn't be filed past what can be proven in court. A lesson that at least outgoing District Attorney Rod Pacheco learned just in time to make a final ruling on Schiavone's case.

I did receive a rebuttal from Schiavone of sorts where he fully denied any involvement in any of the scandals at City Hall, including the cold plates scandal in response to the posting where that documented that lists city-owned vehicles to be cold plated was posted. That response is duly noted.

As for his assertion that it's "killing me" that he's not guilty of witness tampering, no not...really.

With all the problems hitting Riverside at once, most of them in relation with how the city government and city management did business in the past five years not to mention all the collateral damage that resulted, it's been too busy to really give him and his somewhat colorful exploits much thought.

Though hopefully he will move on and do something constructive and positive with his life to help those people who are wrongfully accused and have charges filed against them who lack the resources that he enjoys. That's a worthwhile endeavor and I wish him good luck with that.

Still, it's definitely ironic that the only one who spent time in jail was the only one in that situation that lacked privilege and social status.

But to refresh memories so that people want to know what the rebuttal's at least partially in reference to, here's the document.

As far as council members go, testimony from the depositions mentions at least two people receiving them and both Dominguez and possibly Dana from their comments seem to be saying that it was more than one elected official who received them in Riverside while they were employed there.

[Document posted previously of city-issued cars to be cold plated. Click to enlarge.]

Menifee struggles with cityhood.

Riverside City Council Regatta and Barbecue

Saturday, June 19 from 1-4

Fairmount Park

The second regatta among the city council members takes place this Saturday and it remains to be seen whether Councilman Paul Davis will repeat or whether Councilman Rusty Bailey will atone for his very surprising last place finish during last autumn's event. Part of a day's worth of events taking place at this historic park.

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