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

Friday, June 25, 2010

Riverside Prepares to Swear in Its Latest Police Chief

[The City Hall in Riverside is getting ready to wind down its most recent action-packed and scandal-ridden fiscal year in recent memory and head on towards the next. Will it be as dramatic, scintillating and require a program manual to follow? Stay tuned!]

Riverside to Swear in New Police Chief

[The administrative headquarters of the police department on Orange Street and its denizens have a new commander in chief who hopefully will last long enough to get his name painted on the door because what's broken in Riverside hasn't been fixed.]

As the fiscal year winds down along with the month of June, the police department awaits its new police chief who will begin working for the city on July 1. That also means that the latest administration, that of Acting Chief John DeLaRosa will be winding down to a close. He will be part of the transition forces which will be showing the new chief the ropes until DeLaRosa's own retirement on July 23. DeLaRosa's exit will mark the third at the department's highest levels in recent months since the events stemming from former Chief Russ Leach's DUI incident unfolded. Oh who would have thought this chain of events would have transpired back in January? Then on the other hand, these days were bound to come because the city had set itself on this inevitable path through its own decision making processes beginning years before Feb. 8, 2010.

Former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief, Sergio Diaz will be sworn into his position a day earlier, on Wednesday, June 30 at 9:30 a.m. at White Park which is located on Market and 10th Streets. Engraved invitations were sent out via email by the police department to select individuals and it's not clear for some people who've asked whether this noteworthy event is open to the general public or whether it's restricted to those invited. If you're in the area, you might want to check out this event and if anyone gets refused entry because they don't have an invitation, then feel free to use the email address at the top of the blog. If anyone asks you why you are there, just tell them to witness the swearing in of the new city employee financed by your tax dollars.

Thanks to those who notified this blogger that this event was even scheduled to take place, because as some of you might guess, this blog just isn't that popular with certain segments of City Hall or the police department's upper management. So it receives very few press releases out of either City Hall or the police department. But then most people on this city aren't on either press release list either, so we get news of these upcoming events wherever we can get it and we all love to ask questions about what happens in our city and that's not going to win you any popularity contests at City Hall, particularly when you go after the truth that others want to hide. And there's definitive efforts coming from different corners in Riverside to do just that.

But hopefully this swearing in ceremony is open to the public because after all, who pays the salary of the city's police chief? Those who truly shop Riverside rather than just talk about doing that like some of the local politicians who buy their campaign materials in Orange County for example. Diaz has already been making the rounds at meetings such as those held by The Group and the Latino Network among others. He had his formal and public unveiling several weeks ago and that was attended by over 200 people, both members of the public and employees of the police department. And it was fascinating to see the dynamics of the department and those of City Hall play out already even in a more social setting held in the lovely Grier Pavilion.

It was interesting to see how close City Manager Brad Hudson hovered to his newest chief and how there was a bit of a turf challenge tossed out by Councilman Steve Adams in his own comments, which were a bit bizarre and difficult to process at first. But fully understandable given allegations made against him by two former lieutenants that he had involved himself in the promotions of at least three captains in violation of the city's charter. It's understandable that he believes it's his police department in that context. But he would be wrong about that as it belongs to all the residents of this city, not City Hall.

It's clear that even before he's arrived in Riverside to start his new job, that Diaz will be walking a difficult tightrope. It's difficult to even be a police chief in normal circumstances that actually make sense what with balancing one's self between the three co-partners of public safety (borrowing from former State Attorney General, Bill Lockyer) meaning City Hall, the communities and the department employees. But alas, Riverside's hardly normal at all, given the escapades that have come to light about some of the denizens at City Hall running around decking themselves out like police officers including acquiring or trying to acquire badges, cold plates, emergency equipment including sirens and even guns from an unlicensed dealer, the police department. Some might feel like the fuss on these illegal antics is not worthy but they would be wrong about that given the very real damage it's done in this city including with the police department.

When caught some time after the fact, those involved simply claimed ignorance about the violations and/or they pointed the finger of blame to a subordinate employee or an entire city department essentially saying [insert name of individual or department] made me do it. And interestingly enough, the higher up the chain of power in this city that you ascend, the quicker that person denies any knowledge and points that finger of blame elsewhere.

But what it must be to be hired as a police chief of an agency and have to report to bosses who have been tied to three "inquiries" by the State Attorney General's office regarding the misuse of police equipment including those in the police department. To take an oath to uphold the law and to report to those who have essentially been caught breaking it. Yes, they were afforded the chances to remedy their actions that others of lesser status might not receive and even deny their culpability or pass the buck but it does place a police chief in an unenviable position and it compromises his ability to exert his own authority.

It's difficult to understand where the authority provided to this police chief to be autonomous over his department would even come from, especially since as long as Hudson and his management team have been in town, this form of autonomy has never even existed.

So how can a police chief really be a police chief in this city? And what will his bosses have to say about that given their track records?

Let the games begin.

The Chief's "Chief"?

[As the first work day of the new chief approaches, the question's still being asked, how much autonomy will Diaz have over the Riverside Police Department? Will decisions involving the operations of the RPD come out of Orange Street or from Main Street? What would be Hudson's answer to that? The mayor and city council?]

An obvious answer to that issue would be that Hudson would have his own bosses, the city council and mayor, to keep him in line when it comes to both allowing Diaz to be an autonomous police chief and to stop performing actions which draw the attention of outside law enforcement agencies and brings them to the doors of the police department and City Hall to investigate either. Although it might prove to already be too late for that. But if you look what the spokespersons on the city council as a legislative body have been doing, it's been praising Hudson's actions in every forum, including a Press Enterprise article where Mayor Ron Loveridge called Hudson the best city manager in 30 years just days before the whole badges, guns and cold plates scandals came to light. But then some old timers told me that Loveridge gave similarly effusive praise to former City Manager John Holmes.

So as far as majority leadership goes on the dais, it doesn't look like the S.S. Hudson will be reset on a more appropriate path if he does return to familiar patterns involving the micromanagement of the police department.

Obviously the message sent by former U.S. President Harry S. Truman about the buck stopping here, meaning at the top of the structural hierarchy of power, didn't quite make it inside Riverside's very own City Hall. Because when you're at the top of the power structure at City Hall or the chain of the command at the police department (where Hudson placed himself at the top), then it's always easy to blame someone else for actions and decisions made while at the top.

For the past five years, the police department's been run by a variety of characters. From 2001-early 2006, it was essentially run by the State Attorney General's office through a list of mandated reforms that former Police Chief Russ Leach had to abide by while at the helm of the department. Then in 2005, along came Hudson and his assistant city manager, Tom DeSantis who at some point probably early on in their administration began micromanaging the department even down to budgetary acquisitions and day to day operations. They involved themselves more heavily in the "final say" role in the department's promotional process than any other city management team at least in recent memory. They even allegedly allowed elected officials including Adams to have the "final say" in several promotions including the vetoing of Leach's plans to promote then Lt. Meredyth Meredith in late 2005.

And it's these actions which when they finally came to light including in public forums, beg the obvious question to be asked involving Diaz and his tenure with the police department.

Who Will Promote

and Fill

the Vacancies in the RPD?

In fact, if you look at the promotions made since at least 2005 involving the department's captains, it really shows you the challenges that lie ahead for Diaz when it comes to being a chief who will have to involve himself fairly quickly in the promotional process at the management and supervisory levels to fill a high number of vacancies in the department including four at the highest levels. If the State Attorney General's office who was alarmed by the vacancy rate in the 1990s could see the department now, it might be more than a little concerned with how the department's trending in this respect especially if the number of vacancies continues to grow. How did these vacancies ever get to be so many? Well, part of the blame lies on the recession's impact on Riverside's own finances much like the recession of the mid to late 1990s but quite a bit lies at the door of Hudson.

The staffing levels from patrol officer on upward and on the civilian side as well are very critically low and many of them need to be filled. The lieutenant's rank is operating at a 33% vacancy level and the sergeants are low also, but both tap heavily into the officers' pool because every promotion that's filled ultimately impacts the numbers of officer positions out in the field. The only rank not impacted by attrition is the detective's rank due to the early 1990s MOU between the city and the Riverside Police Officers' Association that requires that rank to have its vacancies filled. There is some acceptance of applications for lateral officers and for a detective vacancy.

But what these promotions and what it took to make them will make you ask the question, Will Diaz actually be the individual making these promotions? Who will pick out his management team? Will it be him, or the city management...or how about Adams? It's critical to pay very close attention to how Diaz as the department's latest police chief will build his own management team. Who will serve in these positions and where will they come from? Will they come from inside the police department or from outside of it? And who will really be the individual or individuals making these choices? How these initial steps that are often the ones taken by incoming chiefs are handled and carried out will actually provide quite a bit of information on who will ultimately run the police department.

Most people seem to believe that there's not enough depth within the highest level of the police department's management to fill the positions of those closest to the police chief. Both the assistant and deputy chiefs are or will be completely out of the picture. And it's not clear yet what will happen with the department's four captains particularly those closest to or past retirement age. In some agencies even this one in the past, that might mean retiring quietly but some of the staunchest barnacles in the RPD have traditionally been its long-timers so how this plays out at the highest levels could be the most interesting dynamic at least in the initial weeks and months of Diaz' tenure as chief.

Promotion Blocked by City Hall?

[Former Lt. Meredyth Meredith was Leach's choice for promotion in December 2005 but her promotion was blocked in the final hours by Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis acting on behalf of Councilman Steve Adams according to sworn testimony. If this was indeed the case, the actions against her violated the city's charter.]

Promotion on Hold and then Saved in Corona?

[When Capt. John Carpenter was a lieutenant, he allegedly fell out of favor with Adams during the 2007 election cycle. Leach wanted to promote Carpenter but nothing happened until not long after former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel brokered a meeting between Adams and Carpenter to "clear the air" between the two men at a restaurant all the way in Corona. By noon the next day, Carpenter had received his promotion. If Adams had any influence in that promotion, he violated the city's charter.]

Bumped to the Front of the Line?

[Capt. Mark Boyer was promoted to that position in December 2005, at the same time that Meredith's promotion had been vetoed by City Hall. Some claimed, it was community policing experience that placed him first, others connections to Adams or perhaps a political marker that he called in with Leach. Whatever it was, Boyer received the promotion but didn't stay long with the police department retiring in June 2009 after a rocky period with the department in his final months.

Did Youth Carry the Day?

[Lt. John Wallace became the department's youngest captain when promoted at around age 38. A talent with words and great ambition (enough to be the sole tryout for the chief's spot from inside the department) helped get him there but were rumors true that he also made a rumored trip out to a High Desert city to pick up an inebriated Leach?]

Where Possession is Nine-tenths the Law

[Capt. Mike Blakely is the most senior officer at that level inside the police department having arrived in the department as Ken Fortier's second in command which means unlike the others in his rank, he has tasted even higher management than where he's at. But what will the future hold for the department's alpha captain? Will he rise again up in the chain of command and how will he impact Diaz' transition?]

Even when looking past the upper management of the police department and even above Hudson, there's the city council including one current member who's apparently had more influence in the operations of the department as an elected official than he ever did as one of its police officers. And this could be one of the most interesting dynamics especially given that Adams has already essentially thrown down the gauntlet to Diaz through his "We are RPD" speech at the chief's unveiling at City Hall. Incidentally, Diaz had little difficulty deflecting Adams' comments in his own speech, having coming from a more intricately organized politicized environment in L.A. than you'll ever see in River City.

Will "Chief" Steve Adams Butt Heads With Chief Diaz?

[Councilman Steve Adams, here sitting in the mayor pro tem chair and some say, also occasionally sitting in the police chief's seat as well, especially when it comes to approving captains' promotions between December 2005 and early 2008. ]

What's interesting to people is how will Councilman and retired police officer, Steve Adams react to the arrival of the latest police chief, Diaz? Given that as the former chief, Russ Leach testified in a deposition, Adams was constantly all over the police department. And further testimony illuminated that Adams allegedly played a considerable role in the promotion of two lieutenants to the captain's level and the 11th hour veto of another lieutenant.

But there will be more coming down the road on Adams later...

The Lesson of Maywood

This news article documented the events behind the final collapse of the city, Maywood which recently disbanded its city services including its beleaguered police department. Beginning July 1, Maywood will become a "100% contract" city in the wake of the collapse of its final row of dominoes which started by the city's inability to pay off a massive number of claims and lawsuits filed against the city involving its police department. That put its status with its insurance carrier on civil litigation into jeopardy and after Maywood failed to satisfy a list of conditions mandated by its carrier, it became uninsured.

Maywood's police department hired a large number of questionable police officers including many who had been arrested, fired or had failed to be hired by up to 25 other law enforcement agencies. The claims and lawsuits filed against it involved just about every form of police abuse, corruption and misconduct that exists, from sexual assaults, to excessive force to fraud. Some have called Maywood's police department the most dysfunctional ever and that appears to have been the case. Ironically, Maywood also contracted its own police forces out to Cudahy, a neighboring city. Now Maywood's residents will have police services provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department starting at the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year on July 1.

But how surprising is it that this would happen involving a police department where 13 out of 39 of its officers (and some say many more) were problematic hires and even two of its interim chiefs were convicted criminals before being hired? Seriously what kind of expectations does a city council have involving its police department if a criminal conviction (whether for verbal threats or theft) doesn't disqualify a person from becoming police chief? Word is, that the third interim police chief did have professional integrity and the city did ultimately hire a permanent chief, but what kind of messages were sent to Maywood's police force and to the public by the decisions coming out of City Hall?

It became the subject of county, federal and state investigation and at the time it was disbanded had been the focus of a negotiation between the city and the State Attorney General's office of some form of court-mandated reform process similar to that faced by Riverside in 2001. Maywood was the focus of several blog postings here particularly back in the spring of 2007 when the scandals involving both its City Hall and police department first broke.

But what's happened to Maywood while not all that surprising does provide lessons for other cities to learn from including Riverside. What Riverside has in common with Maywood is that it also doesn't have an insurance carrier for litigation filed against it. There's been different accounts provided of what has happened to it. City Hall's position appears to be that the city is "self-insured" which is an indirect way of saying that the city pays off its own liabilities including settlements and jury verdicts. And since the city actually doesn't pay for anything, this means that monies generated by city residents that goes towards the city's revenue streams provide payment that an insurance company does not on these lawsuits.

Others have said that the city used to have an insurance carrier, including the plaintiff on one lawsuit that commanded a high six figure settlement from the city several years ago. She said that her own attorney told her that the money she received wouldn't be coming from an insurance carrier because the city's insurance policy related to such lawsuits had been canceled. Others have said that when the city did have an insurance carrier, the carrier told the city that it had to start fighting some of the lawsuits filed against it at trial and not keep settling them all. Obviously the full story behind the fate of the city's insurance carrier as well as its current status of apparently being self-insured is a complicated one. But the city has had numerous claims for damages, labor grievances and lawsuits associated with different forms of allegations both in and outside of its workplace filed against it. In claims involving the police department alone, the city has received at least $25 million (an estimate because some claims included unspecified damages) worth in just under two years.

Riverside's also attracted many labor grievances, claims for damages and lawsuits and has paid out settlements and verdicts on these lawsuits. The Human Resources Board tried to obtain statistical information on lawsuits filed by city employees and was stymied in its attempts by both the city manager and city attorney's offices. And after some of the cases which have come to light, it's easy to see why even though there's no legal reason why the Human Resources Board shouldn't have access to this data. As for the other excuse being that the examination of such statistical data is outside the purview of the board's role and responsibilities, those who make it need to go back and read the municipal code which outlines the role and responsibilities that govern the Human Resources Board. But why is the city engaging in so many suspicious labor practices including violations that lead to lawsuits to redress them which ultimately lead to the city residents picking up the tabs? Why can't the city just honor fair labor practices involving its workforce in the first place? Because if that was what it was doing, the city wouldn't either be losing or settling these cases, most likely to either not lose them or to avoid any embarrassment to it in the public arena inside a courtroom.

But while Riverside's not Maywood, there's some interesting lessons to be learned with what's happening in what could have been the second city in the state to be placed under a consent decree (which is moot now) by the city who preceded it.

What's Behind Councilwoman Nancy Hart's Mysterious Invocation?

Okay, is just me or did anyone else out there receive inquiries about the invocation given by Councilwoman Nancy Hart's invocation at the June 22 city council meeting's evening session? She made some comments about seeking guidance from her unnamed higher power about whether the timing is right for the city to make financial decisions about some expensive items coming up for vote in future agendas. She appeared somewhat vague in terms of what these expensive items would be. They can't be part of the city's annual 2010-11 budget because that's been approved and passed already and the fiscal year starts next week. But some have mentioned that the mysterious items that Hart could have been praying for spiritual guidance about may have to do with earlier comments made in the Press Enterprise article about Brad Hudson's five year anniversary with Riverside about Riverside Renaissance2 or Riverside Renaissance: the sequel as it has also been called.

I find those references along with Hart's comments to be quite puzzling. Because the city still hasn't completed its first Renaissance and it's already planning on starting a second round? The only reason to do so would be because it's exhausted its financial revenue sources for the first renaissance so it's leaving it uncompleted and moving on to Renaissance 2 which might have newer streams of funding sources the city could tap into allegedly for the purposes of launching another renaissance. Questions have been brought to my attention about the first Renaissance and problems associated with it and its funding sources so it seems premature to start off on Riverside Renaissance 2.

Besides, history doesn't allow more than one "renaissance" during a 500 year period. But at any rate, hopefully Hart can provide more clarity on her mysterious comments during her next invocation at a city council meeting.

Alvord Unified School District cut two school resource officers from its roster due to budget constraints within the district's depressed financial condition.

There's been news published here about the Riverside County Superior Court's decision to impose new fees for online searches through its records. Now Press Enterprise columnist, Dan Bernstein has informed his readers that the Sheriff's Department has unveiled its own fee schedules.

Bernstein's colleague from San Berdoo County, Cassie MacDuff writes that every Riverside County ballot needs to be counted. As everyone must know by now, the Voters' Registrar of Riverside County totally botched the recent June elections at first by experiencing long delays at reporting on county elections including those for both the district attorney and sheriff positions. Then news broke of over 100,000 ballots not being counted which was reduced somehow to a mere 12,500 which weren't counted because the registrar's office botched their delivery and receipt. Voters shouldn't have their access to the democratic process jeopardized due to incompetence on the part of those encharged with the responsibility of receiving and counting those votes.

An insider in the Riverside County District Attorney's office explains why he supported Paul Zellerbach who won the election and the job.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The politicos endorsed Pacheco because they were afraid if they did not back him, once Pacheco won, he would use the resources of the DA's office and law enforcement to get even with his political enemies. In Pacheco's worldview, if you were not a supporter, you were an enemy, period. Prior to the June election, Pacheco looked unbeatable; he had a $450,000 election fund, he had all the endorsements of law enforcement and he was the incumbent.

It was no wonder almost every elected official publicly endorsed Pacheco.

What the public did not know was that these same officials and law enforcement types came up to members of Judge Paul Zellerbach's campaign and told us they were going to vote for Zellerbach and that they hoped he would win. They freely told us they feared the political backlash from Pacheco if they did not endorse him. However, these politicians bade us "good luck," and stated they would be voting for Zellerbach.

Questions Raised in Fatal Shooting By Security Guard

The shooting of a man by a security guard in a Canyon Crest apartment complex has already been cleared publicly by the Riverside Police Department even as it still is asking for information. But while the police department might not be asking many questions given that its purview is solely based on whether criminal laws were violated, many people have been asking questions about the tactics used by the security guard in this case, not to mention his relatively young age and most likely, scant experience level. The issue of security guards and their authorization and training in terms of use of force including lethal force is contentious in part because the qualifications and expectations of security guards spans a large continuum from those who are unarmed and instructed mainly to observe and call for assistance as needed to those who are de facto private police officers. And what kind of authority do even armed security guards hold in situations when they encounter anyone engaging in criminal conduct or suspected of it? There's state licensing and gun permit processes but since the field of providing security covers such diverse ground, is there any standardization?

Are there any performance standards that can cover such a breadth of job requirements? Are there any standards, i.e. similar to state requirements like POST? Are the hiring standards for those who carry weapons including guns as stringent as those for law enforcement? Including background, as the murder case of Teak Dyer highlighted, not to mention the murder spree of this guy both alone and with his cousin in the 1970s when they committed the Hillside Stranglings. Dyer was a friend of one of my siblings when she was alive and the daughter of a friend of my family's was a victim of the Hillside Stranglers so I begin asking questions about the hiring practices of security guards while much younger especially after Bianchi was finally caught out of state after luring two women to their deaths while working as a guard up there.

But even when it comes to smaller cities and towns, there's been struggles with determining the proper age for hiring and training police officers with most large agencies hiring men and women who are 21 or older. That's not the case in smaller jurisdictions where officers as young as 18 or 19 have been hired and not without experiencing problems because of questions about whether individuals of that age are emotionally and cognitively mature (and both include judgment skills) enough to handle the job. One 19 year old man in Wisconsin actually held two law enforcement jobs, one in a small city, the other county and the issues of age came to light after this man shot and killed a half dozen individuals including an ex-girlfriend at a party when he was 20.

There are probably good reasons why most police officers are at least in their early twenties and not their late teens and maybe these provide good reasons to exercise care on whether to hire armed security guards in these lower age ranges as well. A 19 year old security guard could not possibly have much experience on the job, maybe a year? And in many police departments like Riverside's, new officers undergo extensive training including evaluation and supervision by more experienced training officers and supervisors even before they are allowed to perform solo on their work shifts. Police officers particularly probational officers or rookies are by design subject to oversight by their departments including during their developmental phases.

Do security guards have similar backgrounds when they start out and at least for the ones carrying firearms which are accompanied by the authorization to use lethal force on the job, should they?

This seems to be a critical incident where issues such as these and others can be more thoroughly examined to determine if any changes should be made in how this industry conducts its business.

No City Council Meeting Next Week

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