Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Beginning to Look A lot Like Election Year in River City

[Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner already has attracted two female challengers for his seat in 2011.]

[Councilman Steve Adams will be facing off against at least one candidate in next year's election and stumped himself as knowing the "system" as why people should vote for him. The problem is, people already know he knows how to work what many people believe is a broken system, causing serious loss of trust in City Hall.]

It's still only the summer of 2010, just less than one year away from the opening round of Election 2011 for city council seats in Riverside. Yet the candidates are starting to come forward who will be contesting for the four odd-numbered wards that will be up for grabs during that election process. It's already anticipated that it will be an action-packed election cycle in light of the turbulence which has struck Riverside during the past six months. Beginning with the Feb. 8 DUI incident involving former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach and then continuing on with a series of aftershocks, with epicenters located inside the Seventh Floor of the City Hall building on Main Street in downtown Riverside. The guns, badges and cold plates scandals implicated city management employees not to mention at least one council member who had his city-issued vehicle illegally cold plated.

During times like those which have impacted and tested Riverside as has been the case beginning earlier this year, city residents have watched and often waited to see how the elected leadership in their local governments conduct themselves in times of crisis, the kind caused by one emerging scandal after another.

And from Riverside's very own City Hall has come well...silence. In fact, it's even more than silence. There's a sense that this city's elected leadership from long-time Mayor Ron Loveridge on down that they're actually living in some kind of parallel universe where Riverside's the City of Arts, Culture and Innovation, the Fox Theater is well managed and raking in the dough, the downtown remains the co-capital of the city along with UCR and everything (except the vanishing Green Belt) is "green". Riverside Renaissance doesn't bring with it a bubble of debt that will burst and isn't wrought with allegations of double and triple billing, many service change orders and incidents where city employees have to be sent to fix problems caused by construction on projects done by independent contractors. A police department that's headed by one police chief rather than a team of micromanagers in City Hall who use their few spare moments to deck themselves out like cops even in ways that have violated state laws and have brought the State Attorney General's office's criminal division to Riverside.

The streets are paved with gold, the water splashing in the fountains is champagne and the trees are really lollipops...well you get the picture. Dr. Pangloss of Candide is sitting in his tower next to City Hall and polishing words repeating the mantra that "the shadows are just the spots in a beautiful picture".

The city council and mayor clearly through their actions see a much different reality than many people do in this city including those who are wondering exactly when some leadership will emerge to address the serious problems brought to light by the scandals which have emerged and if that leadership does step forward, where will it come from? And how will the dearth of leadership in this city during times of crisis impact the election cycle involving four city council seats next year? It's already done that because the candidates are emerging in a couple of the wards up for grabs earlier in the cycle than is usual.

But there needs to be a vigorous election cycle in light of how essentially clueless the Riverside elected leadership has acted since Feb. 8. There's been elected officials praising City Manager Brad Hudson as the best city manager ever. Although for Loveridge, he made similar comments about former city manager, John Holmes, so that has to be taken in the proper context. This wasn't long before the guns, badges and cold plates scandals were reported by the Press Enterprise. But it was after these elected officials were cognizant that these illicit actions and the investigations which resulted that they made these comments. Would they have made them if they had known that the guns, badges and cold plates mess were about to emerge in the press, instead of staying buried as the city council clearly had hoped? Would it matter?

But among prospective candidates thinking about throwing their hats in the rings in all four odd-numbered wards, two words have emerged as key issues to run on and they are "accountability" and "transparency", two qualities sorely lacking in City Hall as evidenced by what's come to light this year. There's been discussions of these two issues taking place in many different venues, enough to know that they will likely remain key issues in the election cycle next year. Interesting in light of a City Hall where documents that are requested get destroyed and others can't be found one moment but then three years later wind up being waved in a city management employee's hands.

Still the city council and mayor as a body of elected representatives remain quiet. Even as the questions about the conduct of their direct employees grows. The city's police department is forced to restructure itself again at great cost including six retirements and the hiring of possibly as many as three high tiered employees including a new chief. Money that could have been spent in other areas of the department experiencing heavy personnel shortages. At least $30 million in claims and lawsuits filed against the department in the past several years ranging from the alleged criminal actions of officers, to labor violations including retaliation to wrongful deaths.

Accounts of micromanagement by elements so intense that even small monied items needed by the department including paper clips had to be signed off by DeSantis. Rumors of City Attorney Gregory Priamos and DeSantis having to approve the use of police resources including emergency response teams to incidents as well as directing the actions at situations where fire and police employees have responded to emergencies. If that's the case, then why would the city bother to even hire a police chief at all? If all this was taking place during Leach's tenure, then were was he?

This is one thing the city council and mayor need to keep in mind and the eve of an election cycle is as good a time as any to remind them. That the current state of the police department beginning with its upper management (well what's left of it) doesn't reflect very well the micromanagement it's faced from City Hall include from its city management. The hefty bills which will be paid to rebuild the department from what's happened to it since 2005 should serve as enough of a reminder of exactly how much the micromanagement from City Hall has benefited the police department.

None of this is mentioned of course by the incumbents interviewed for this article which isn't surprising because as stated earlier, they clearly live in an alternate universe where in that version of Riverside, all this never happened. Councilman Steve Adams in particular shows just how out of touch he is with reality by claiming that people should vote for him because he understands the "system". Well of course he has, he's exploited it by getting cold plates on a city-issued car which is illegal and allegedly getting involved in the police department's promotional process involving at least several captains even though he's not the police chief. And what Adams doesn't realize is that using the #1 excuse that incumbents give for deserving to be reelected, meaning they understand the system and the challengers don't, isn't going to win him many votes because many voters including those in his ward believe the "system" is broken and mired with scandal and needs to be replaced

Speaking of elections, there's some campaign kickoffs taking place in both the first and seventh wards coming up soon.

Ward Seven candidate John Brandriff is holding a campaign kickoff on Wednesday, Aug. 4 from 6 p.m-9 p.m. at Kountry Folks Restaurant located on 3653 La Sierra. He's the first declared candidate who will face off against incumbent Steve Adams next year although other rumored candidates including once again, Terry Frizzel and Jim Martin who have both ran for this position before during earlier election cycles. Adams was first elected in 2004 and will be seeking his third term in office. Last time out, he narrowly eked out a 13 vote victory running against Frizzel after the two of them received more votes against other candidates without achieving the majority required to win outright.

Two women have not officially declared in the first ward's election which will pit any contenders against incumbent, Mike Gardner who was elected in 2007. Marisa Yeager of the Democratic Women's Club is seeking financial support for an alleged bid at office and is seeking backing from many of those who had been backers of former Councilman Dom Betro. That group of political power brokers had searched far and wide to persuade a candidate to run against Gardner in 2011. So far, at least one city union is flirting with the idea of endorsement but it's too early for most of the city's labor unions to commit to city council candidates. Another woman is allegedly set to run against Gardner and is preparing to kick off an election bid as well as a well-heeled male candidate.

Given the multitude of issues impacting Ward One which includes the downtown area, not to mention with the latest round of plans impacting Tequesquite Park involving a proposed project there, this is likely to be one of the most heated contests as it had been in 2007. Yeager has already been picking up quite a bit of political support and some say the financial backing will quickly follow.

The other female candidate, Dvonne Pitruzzello, a former city employee and current teacher is also announced her running and will be kicking off her election soon.

There will be plenty of more elections to report on as the official competition still has months until it gets started. But the flurry of candidates coming forward, all pushing for greater accountability and transparency inside City Hall should be a phenomenon that City Hall pays greater attention to because these are messages that are going to resonate with the large wedge of voters in Riverside who are currently undecided in all four wards. There are people also planning to run in Wards Three and Five but they haven't officially announced yet.

[The Police Department's administrative headquarters on Orange Street in downtown Riverside has a new chief who presumably will soon have his name painted on this front door if it hasn't been done already.]

Someone alerted me to this message at I will address this individual's comments in a future expansion on the issue of women in the RPD.

Hopefully there will be a new lieutenants and sergeants list.

Funny how there is a blogger who crys for the promotion of more females. Got news for ya, just because you're a female, it doesn't mean you should get promoted. And just because you test well, it doesn't mean you're the most qualified. Many agencies lack females within their ranks. It is what it is.

This anonymous poster is absolutely right. It is what it is. And should you get promoted just because you're a man anymore than a woman? Because he or she just mentions that they are women and nothing else. They're just "females" not even "female officers".

I agree that there should be more to the promotional process than testing and clearly that's the case in terms of the relative use of the lists. But what's kind of funny is that when women didn't test as "well", the lists seemed more important then than they are now and it's a bit sexist that this is the only reason women were promoted as opposed to the men? But there's plenty more to write on this subject, so thanks for the feedback. It's always helpful so pass me a handkerchief, I'll need it before I blog on this issue again!

And it's not just women who have tested "well" and been passed over either, it's men. But yes, being a woman I'm definitely interested in how women fare in the RPD because women have asked me if they should apply there or the Riverside County Sheriff's Department? Which would be more welcoming to them? Where are the women and what positions do they hold (as that question comes up) and what do I do if I'm sexually harassed, does the complaint process work? Issues like that often come up in discussions of women pursuing law enforcement along with others about schedules, family leave and similar issue labors which impact women.

I wonder how this anonymous poster would answer those questions. Because they're common ones and they comes up quite a bit among young women interested in law enforcement. Hopefully, they are ones that Diaz can answer as well. And call it sexist but a lot of the answers to that question is highly dependent on how female officers fare in the RPD or the Sheriff's Department or any agency for that matter including the LAPD which is about 19 percent female.

It's like when men who go into female dominated professions like nursing and some levels of teaching often ask if different institutions that hire within those professions are welcoming to men. Men ask questions there like do male nurses advance into supervisory positions or are there glass ceilings? Questions like these often arise among the minority gender in a profession that's overwhelmingly one gender over the other. As they should be asked because that's how more equitable workplaces are ultimately built over time. And yes, judging by some of the feedback I've received since I've first written on this issue, the RPD has some hard work to do before its attrition rate of women will be somewhat less higher than those of its men. From the recruitment process to what happens in the academy, to field training programs to the first several years of a female officer's career where attrition rates are highest. As a woman, these issues do concern me and I've never been shy about that.

But the department also has to work on its attrition rate overall as well.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein interviews the new police chief, Sergio Diaz. Which was very interesting because even though he's been chief for several weeks, there's people asking how independent and effective of a chief is he going to be allowed to be. He brings in some high qualifications and some very high endorsements including from the Southern Californian branch of the American Civil Liberties Union which worked with him on various police/community issues while he was deputy chief (having been promoted after the controversial May Day 2007 incident). But Riverside's City Hall is coming off a history of micromanaging police chiefs and leading that pack has been City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis.

The city recently settled two lawsuits filed by former lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt in hopes of preventing city residents from finding out just how extensive this behavior turned out to be. But the revelations of the badges, guns and cold plates scandals did provide some major clues. The only ones who can prevent the city management team from continuing this pattern and practice of behavior is the city government, meaning the city council and the mayor and will they exercise the fortitude and leadership to do so? Indications don't appear all that strong given their long silence on the problems that have impacted City Hall and the police department.

But it's not going to be too difficult to tell an independent acting chief with his own viewpoints and vision from one who's not by watching carefully his interactions with City Hall and most importantly the communities. When in full micromanagement mode, Hudson and DeSantis have most often curtailed or restricted the access of micromanaged employees like former Chief Russ Leach and former Community Police Review Commission Manager Pedro Payne from even attending community meetings or interacting with community leaders or members not on the approved list of Hudson and DeSantis. If you're not on that list, like myself which I can definitely live with, you pick up on these things much more quickly than if you get the gold card. Very few people not receiving "E" tickets to see the last chief, Leach, didn't see him very much during the last 18 months to two years of his tenure as chief whereas they had earlier in his chief's tenure. Though many of his own employees didn't see him either.

If they met with him, it had to take place under the radar of Hudson and DeSantis. Payne was forbidden from attending meetings not too long before his "resignation" which took place after a heated argument between him and DeSantis at a meeting in December 2006. But it will be interesting if some of the organizations who criticized Hudson and DeSantis such as the Eastside Think Tank will be allowed to have as good access to the new chief as they did with the past one given that this organization has been highly critical of the Hudson/DeSantis regime. That will be one way to tell whether Diaz is given relatively free rein or is more tightly controlled by his bosses.

So it will at least in this respect become fairly evident if Diaz is allowed to be a chief who's heavily involved in community interaction which wasn't the case with Leach after 2005 and especially during his last two years. That will be an important sign to watch when evaluating the autonomy of the new police chief within the city structure. And as stated earlier, it will be easiest for individuals like myself to pick this one out, not being on the city management's party list.

Diaz raised two important points and that is that the police department is able to readily handle its primary responsibilities on responding to calls for service and following up with detective support. This is because even in the past few months, the majority of the police department's civilian and police employees have acted professionally and done their jobs in difficult circumstances. He addresses the problems as being a lack of leadership at the levels of sergeant to captain and that's in line with the department's problems involving a lack of real infrastructure including leadership, leadership accountability and the practice of creating future departmental leaders at the different ranks.

For one thing there's a dearth in leadership by numbers since the three supervisory and/or management ranks are low in numbers, some critically low. Those shortages will impact the effectiveness of leadership both in terms of its ability to lead due to shortage and also because of the impact on ongoing supervisory and management shortages on individual leaders and their development. But what really destroyed leadership including management within the RPD was the intensive and some say cutthroat environment which became the norm after changes were made in several promotional processes within including at the captain's level in 2005 or earlier.

The promotional processes for both lieutenant and sergeant would later undergo similar changes which led to frustration for those at the top of those lists to see individuals as low as #6 (Andy Flores, in February 2010) and #11 (Leon Phillips in July 2008) get the spots instead, not to mention a promotion earlier of a lieutenant's candidate from the bottom of the the list. The ones passed over including three female lieutenant candidates (in the top five) and two female sergeants, along with several high-ranking African-American candidates on both lists were told that the person chosen had that certain "something" without being told what this quality was by those doing the promoting. Sounds like something out of a Clarol commercial. Some people who ranked high on the list opted out of the process altogether believing they didn't have that "something" which some said consisted of having close personal ties with whoever did the promoting.

Qualities like being drinking buddies or vacation pals with the leadership became the ones to emulate to move up in the ranks whereas others said that in some cases, officers who didn't treat female officers or women in particular well also moved up in what one source once employed there called an environment where sexual harassment of women became the norm or that special "something". Was that true? It's hard to say but the RPD has had tremendous difficulty retaining female officers at all levels. Two female officers, Sgt. Linda Byerly and Lt. Melissa Bartholomew broke lengthy droughts in the promotions of women into supervisory positions going back to 2005 for supervisors and 2004 for lieutenants. But there's one caveat still attached, given that no female promoted into supervision since Sgt. Michelle Jackson in 2004 has passed probation. As of recently, there were no female field training officers, down from the handful that the department's had in preceding years. Marginal progress for female officers at different levels began during the stipulated judgment with the state attorney general's office and then stopped after it was dissolved until just recently.

It was interesting what Diaz said about outgoing Chief John DeLaRosa who's retiring after over 30 years in the department in the wake of his involvement in the mishandling of the Leach DUI incident. There had been some concern among individuals that Diaz would rely too heavily on information received from DeLaRosa to evaluate officers within the department. It's useful that he did brief extensively with DeLaRosa but hopefully this was balanced by similar conversations with a variety of different people within different ranks of the police department. One reason why is the reality that the police department had been fractured in recent years by a dynamic of teams, meaning that different officers "belonged" on different teams which were in intense competition with one another and which team had the edge depended largely on who was at the helm.

For example, "Team Leach" had the edge while Leach was police chief and went into opposition with "Team DeLaRosa" which then had the edge over "Team Leach" when Leach medically retired and DeLaRosa became acting chief. And it's been interesting to watch how members of "Team DeLaRosa" have fared compared to those not on the team. The risk is that by depending too much on DeLaRosa as a source of information on officers, it would increase the perception or actual risk of receiving favorable information on "DeLaRosa" team members and not those not on his team or not on any team.

And we've seen how non-"DeLaRosa" team members have fared in recent months including some of those passed over on the top positions of the lieutenant and sergeant promotional lists particularly during the first round of supervisory promotions in early February along with what's happened to former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel, a competitor of DeLaRosa, who saw his career end in the wake of threatened internal investigations by DeLaRosa and Internal Affairs head, then Capt. Mike Blakely (who mentored DeLaRosa). Det. Chris Lanzillo clearly wasn't a "DeLaRosa" team member either and saw his 18 year career end with the department within several months of confronting DeLaRosa during a roll call bull session and then suing him along with the city.

But if Diaz is astute which he appears to be then it would be likely that he went to different individuals within the department for feedback on officers within the department. Because what really needs to be removed from the department before any effective leadership can be built at any level is this whole "team" concept which was fostered under Leach. And with several of them high up in promotional lists for lieutenant and sergeant, one wonders what their fate will be when those positions are filled through promotions in the next few weeks or months. Given especially that none of them are likely people who were praised by DeLaRosa during his informational sessions with Diaz.

In fact, DeLaRosa moved Sgt. Jaybee Brennan (#1 on the lieutenant's list) and Sgt. Lisa Williams (#3 on the same list) out of the Orange Street Station not long before Diaz' arrival. The argument had been to fill staffing shortages but Williams was actually replaced not long after by a male sergeant who's sandwiched between the two women on the lieutenant's list and had been on the promotional list for 8-9 years. Brennan had been busy authoring the first draft of the Strategic Plan 2010-2015 which officially is on ice for an undetermined amount of time. But rumor is, that the objective in the plan to diversify the RPD through all its ranks to be reflective of the communities it serves was excised even before reaching City Hall where it wasn't expected to survive to the final draft anyway.

It still comes down in the end to whether a chief with strong qualities and leadership skills can really thrive in Riverside under the current political climate. That's a huge issue that has to be examined and watched over time but the signs will be flagging green, yellow or red fairly quickly after the "honeymoon" period's over and Hudson and DeSantis are clearly informed by their bosses yes or no on micromanaging another police chief. And those of us who are non gratis to Hudson and DeSantis and rightfully so, will be among the first to know which way this tenure's going and who's in control. Hopefully, Diaz will be allowed to use his skills in the way that's best for the department and the communities it serves.

But anyway it's still early and the city's still in watch mode to see how Diaz tenure unfolds and how much autonomy he will enjoy in the position. Only time and keen observation can do that.

Development darling Mark Rubin unveiled the second major condo-turned-rental-housing in downtown Riverside in the past several years. He and his wife are leaving Beverly Hills and coming to live in one of his condos smack in downtown, not to mention Ward One. Does this mean that there might be another candidate in the Ward One race? Interesting because it's rumored that a downtown millionaire man is thinking about running. Is it Rubin? Only time will tell.

Riverside County issues a multi-million dollar settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit related to its Sheriff's Department. It's a reduction of the 2009 jury's verdict.

The state needs to reinvest in college education states two heads of local state universities. And are digital libraries the wave of the future?

Boeing finally debuts its dreamliner aircraft.

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