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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Saturday, July 31, 2010

RPD: The Department Promotes and Reorganizes

[The police department's Orange Street Station where it houses its administrative headquarters and where decisions are being made on promotions and reorganization.]

There's been reaction to the recent spate of promotions made by Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, his first such action since he took the position on July 1. His only other officially announced action involving personnel had been to appoint Capt. Mike Blakely as his deputy chief. And it certainly appears from the promotional list released that Blakely welds some influence with Diaz as the list of promotions includes quite a few officers that were mentored in their careers by Blakely and outgoing Asst. (and acting) Chief John DeLaRosa who was a key part of Diaz' transition team during his first weeks in the department. Quite a few of them have SWAT backgrounds or worked in the Personnel and Training Division under Blakeley and DeLaRosa's tutelage. Just as had been the case with individuals promoted during the first round this year in back in February where DeLaRosa promoted the sergeant who had worked under Blakely and him in personnel and training and an officer with an expunged termination from the department.

More promotions took place in the following months and the department actually broke long standing droughts in the promotion of Black male officers and female officers into the supervisory ranks with the promotions of Lt. Melissa Bartholomew, Sgt. Linda Byerly and Sgt. Brian Dodson. Ones that extended back to the dissolution of the stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office in early 2006. But even with the promotions to fill these supervisory positions, the vacancies at the lieutenant and sergeant's levels continue to climb. In fact, the lieutenant's vacancy rate consistently rested at about 33%, leading to shortages of individuals to staff the watch commands for the different work shifts.

Also low both in numbers and proportionately were sergeants who had at least five vacancies with more probably to come by the end of 2010. The latest rounds of promotions do address the staffing shortages at the supervisory ranks which is important in a department with a fairly "young" patrol division due to very high departmental turnover earlier in the decade and several hiring waves later on.

But they have also created new vacancies at the bottom officer level, five more of them which will have to be filled through the creation of more officer level positions to address staffing shortages at this level. Staffing levels of patrol officers on some of the shifts is lower than in some cities smaller in population than Riverside. The city is currently engaging in a hiring plan to fill officer positions also vacated by attrition including recent retirements as well as back flowing officers in the patrol division.

The city council has approved the creation of 15 positions and had begun hiring to fill some of the patrol level positions vacated by attrition but it's not clear whether the city's paid for those 15 positions or is relying on receiving grant money from the COPS office in Washington, D.C. which it already has applied to for the second year in a row. Last year, Riverside didn't receive any funding where demand was so high that each $1 allotted by the COPS had received about $9 worth of requests by law enforcement agencies across the country.

But at any rate, the police department led by Diaz did promote to fill about 14 vacated positions. He said that he participated in interviews of the eight captain's candidates along with DeLaRosa and Blakely after reviewing personnel histories, places worked and assignments held by the candidates. Perea's assignment will be inside the department's administrative division.

For sergeants and lieutenants, Diaz said he used the existing lists and made the decisions based on reviewing personnel histories, work assignments and their folders to make the decisions to fill those vacancies.

Diaz said he is also in the process of meeting with Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout to discuss the recruitment and ultimately hiring process of both an assistant and deputy chief.

[Deputy Chief Mike Blakely's words obviously carried great weight with Chief Sergio Diaz during the promotional process as quite a few of his protegees including two of the three new lieutenants made the cut this round.]

The promotions on July 30, 2010 were as followed:

Captain Mike Perea: One of DeLaRosa's protegees, currently running the Investigations division as a lieutenant. Moved to personnel.

Lt. Bruce Blomdahl: Former SWAT officer, later in Personnel and Training which lost its lieutenant, Gary Leach, this spring and Blakely's protegee.

Lt. Eric Charette: Current SWAT sergeant and allegedly Blakely's protegee

Lt. Dan Hoxmeier: Former PACT sergeant, later replaced Sgt. Lisa Williams in Communications by Blakely and DeLaRosa to allegedly provide him greater visibility internally

Sgt. Carla Hardin: Long-time on list, first female motor officer in department's history

Sgt. Cliff Mason: RPOA president, demoted to detective in 2009 for failure to properly supervise and currently in the first year of his term as president.

Sgt. Brian Smith: RPOA vice-president formerly in the gang unit

Sgt. William Crutchfield: Former PACT and SWAT member, promoted to detective several years ago.

Sgt. Don Nelson: investigator in Sexual Assault and Child Abuse, promoted in February 2010 to detective by DeLaRosa

Det. Karla Beler Former school resource officer

Det. Kim Crutchfield: Former sergeant promoted in 2005 who didn't pass probation

Det. Phil Fernandez: Former public information officer

Det. Nick Kean: Patrol

As usual, the promotions have proven to be very interesting and the topic already of much conversation in this city. Some people were very surprised at the promotional list, while others not so much. But one thing that was noticeable right off the bat were the clear influences of two people who hold or held high ranking positions in the police department which were former Asst. Chief (and acting) John DeLaRosa who retired on July 23 and current Deputy Chief Mike Blakely. Both were part of the transitional effort for Diaz even before he officially began his job and continue onward. DeLaRosa worked closely with him until the date of his retirement after his 30+ year career with the department ended rather abruptly after his involvement in the mishandling and attempted coverup of the DUI incident involving the former police chief.

[Former Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa's influence in the police department has outlived his career as shown in the most recent round of promotions by the new chief, Diaz on July 30 including one of his protegees, Mike Perea to captain.]

The promotions were especially large in number to address the critical shortages in the middle line positions in the police department due to attrition, budgetary cuts and short sightedness by the city manager's office who was pushed by the city government (minus the mayor) to fill these positions despite his high reluctance. The lieutenant and sergeant ranks were frozen for several years until actions were taken behind closed door to pressure City Manager Brad Hudson to unfreeze them. That allegedly came close to fruition in December when two sergeant position and one lieutenant position were scheduled to be unfrozen but apparently Loveridge put his foot down regarding that and they were then set to be unfrozen in January after a closed session was held between the city council, the management and representatives of the police associations. Two weeks before the DUI incident involving former Chief Russ Leach, a meeting took place involving Hudson to negotiate for the unfreezing of at least two sergeant positions.

And in early February amidst the growing scandal, a lieutenant and three sergeants were promoted. More promotions followed in the months of limbo while the city scrambled around to hire its next police chief. But even as supervisory positions were filled in increments, the attrition rate continued undoing many of these gains quite quickly.

As far as the promotional lists went, they didn't carry much weight in this round of promotions except for the detectives list. For that rank, those who are listed at its top are customarily promoted in that order. For the ranks of sergeant and above, selections can be taken from anywhere on the promotional lists. Two candidates who were promoted, a lieutenant and a sergeant, ranked near the top of the lists whereas other applicants were taken from other positions on the list particularly involving the lieutenant's list the value of which has appeared to change. There was testing for the detective's rank (which still promotes straight off the list) in July and the other two positions will test in August with the list whatever it's worth to be finalized in October. Some had said that the format of the written test would be changed from its previous test which left people wondering how they would fare the next time around. Will the test matter or not matter, that will be interesting to watch in the months ahead because at this point, it's anyone's guess. And what will become of the lists themselves?

And that's ironic after having listened to chiefs, all past along with more than a few deputy and even an assistant chief tell me or others that in the case of women that if they want to get promoted, more of them have to appear near the top of these promotional lists. Otherwise known as the "low numbers" argument that's commonly used. Well, three women in the Riverside Police Department did that and dominated the top five including two in the top three of the lieutenant's list and then suddenly it seemed as if the lists didn't seem to be nearly as important anymore.

One problem off the bat, race and gender aside, is that the department and city residents have already witnessed what happens when the promotional lists suddenly become worthless and the power shifts to those making decisions which are more and more subjective. And at least in the case of the captains came more and more from outside the police department. Of the last four captains promoted, how many of them were selected by former Chief Russ Leach? Well, according to sworn testimony taken from depositions we have learned that apparently Leach did select both Meredyth Meredith and John Carpenter to be captains. But a provision in the city's charter gives City Manager Brad Hudson the "final say" in promotions made by department heads including the police chief. The only thing is that we know now that not even Hudson had the final say in the promotions of Meredith and Carpenter as apparently those decisions were ultimately left to of all people City Councilman Steve Adams who vetoed Meredyth and approved Carpenter but only after a reconciliation meeting between him, Adams and former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel at a Corona restaurant.

[Capt. Meredyth Meredith was Leach's choice for promotion but her first go was vetoed by City Hall in the final hours. Only an alleged threat of litigation by Meredyth led to the creation of the captain of Communications about six months later.]

[Capt. John Carpenter's promotion was allegedly and initially not fancied by Councilman Steve Adams but the two made up at a restaurant in Corona not long before Carpenter's promotion went through.]

After watching the train wreck that the captain's promotional process has become since the tossing of the captain's list or the elimination of its ranking process, one wonders why anyone including at City Hall would be in such a hurry to bring this same dysfunctional practice which ripped the highest ranks apart and created a sea of infighting and turmoil to the supervisory ranks. The situation involving the promotions into management also created a big gulf between that level and any promising leaders who could someday make excellent managers. This was due to the lack of collaboration and cooperation among the management level employees who instead became mired in competition that appeared more destructive and divisive than anyone else. It is hoped that the department will engage more including at the top in behaviors encouraging the next generation of its leaders, management and supervisors rather than having individuals pull up the ladders after they climb them.

But then this is Riverside and one learns to expect the unexpected or what on its face appears to be illogical. Something that has to change but it remains to be seen whether that will take place at the top.

But anyway, what's interesting about the situations involving the lieutenant and sergeants' list under this system adopted individually for both within the several years is to watch closely for the role played (or not played) by the so-called promotional lists for both positions. On the sergeants side, most of those who topped the list have been promoted in the past six months. Not so is the case with the lieutenant's list which is the rank with a firm foot in supervision but another foot involved at the management level though that's more with the responsibilities than the perks.

Here's the top portion of the list and the fate of those who were on it at the beginning of this new year, before all this recent intrigue really started playing out in a more public forum.

Police Department's Lieutenant list (Feb. 2010)

1) Jaybee Brennan: (white female) transferred from Chief's office to patrol

2) Daniel Hoxmeier: (white male) transferred to Orange Street, promoted July 30

3) Lisa Williams: (white female) transferred from Orange Street to patrol

4) Val Graham: (black male): Internal investigation allegedly opened up on him eight months after an already investigated incident by Blakely and DeLaRosa

5) Melissa Bartholomew: (white female) promoted in spring 2010

6) Andy Flores: (Hispanic male) promoted in January 2010

#11) Lt. Leon Phillips' rank on his candidate list when promoted on July 1, 2008 by Leach

As stated earlier, it's interesting to watch the fate of the list and those on it over time until it phases out later this autumn to be replaced by a newer list created through the next round of promotional processes which begins of course long before the promotions are picked by the chief whose promotions of course have to pass the muster of city management. It's not clear at this stage of Diaz' tenure the role of the city management in this process because it all happens behind more than one closed doors and is not transparent to the public including the involvement of individuals at City Hall. Not any more transparent than the promotions allegedly vetoed or not by individuals in City Hall for captains were known by the public until they were revealed through sworn testimony in relation to two lawsuits filed by former Lts. Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt settled earlier this year.

But it's up to the elected government to ensure that the city management doesn't micromanage city departments and it could be visible readily enough certainly by the beginning of next year's election cycle for four of the council seats whether this is being done by the city council or not.

Promotion, Probation and the RPOA

Another fascinating aspect of the latest round of promotions were that involving the sergeant ranks which saw the two highest-ranking leaders of the Riverside Police Officers' Association promoted to that level. Those were current president Cliff Mason and vice-president, Brian Smith. Since both have been promoted to this rank, they have been placed on the nine months of probation pursuant to changes made under the 2001 stipulated judgment with the State Attorney General's office. Meaning that they can be demoted without cause for allegedly failing the terms of their probationary status. It's the first time the RPOA has had a president on sergeant's probation since prior president Pat McCarthy was promoted during his second term in that position around 2005. Some said that it was his promotion and the subsequent probationary period which made him vulnerable to being ousted from office when he ran for his third term as president later that year. He ultimately lost the election to Det. Ken Tutwiler who was elected and served one full term. It's not clear in recent history whether there's ever been a situation when both the president and vice-president were promoted to sergeant at the same time or even during times where probationary statuses overlapped.

Historically, the situation involving union leaders and promotions has been interesting to follow as it seems that the majority of past union presidents of the RPOA and even the Riverside Police Administrators' Association either get promoted out of their ranks or they get forced out of the department depending on their relationships with police department leadership and management as well as with individuals at City Hall. It can be related to contentious issues that arise between the different entities including those which are labor related or the relationships themselves. Given the rather insulated nature of the RPOA which deals with the even more insulated issues of police personnel contracts, grievances and issues in general often behind closed doors with city and/or departmental management, it's not clear to those outside of it the kinds of relationships that individual leaders had with those they interfaced most often with over these sometimes tumultuous issues.

Let's look at the RPOA's own history since 2001.

Sgt. Jay Theuer: Promoted to lieutenant in 2001 while acting president of the RPOA

Pat McCarthy: Elected to two full terms, promoted to sergeant then voted out of office by membership

Ken Tutwiler: Elected to one term as president and Brian Smith elected to vice-president replacing Chris Lanzillo

Chris Lanzillo: Elected after defeating Tutwiler and serves one two-year term. Later files lawsuit alleging retaliation for union activities. Fired by one of the defendants, DeLaRosa not long after.

Cliff Mason: Elected over Chris Lanzillo in late 2009 after demotion to detective, Promoted back to sergeant in July 2010

With the RPAA, the history's less clear but it appears that so far one of its presidents, Lt. Darryl Hurt who was at the helm during probably the most tumultuous period in terms of issues directly impacting that union and its leadership including the 2006 contract negotiations and the 2007 "at will" situation involving upper management was retired out of the department after suing for retaliation by department management, city management and members of the city council for his union actions. The RPAA so far hasn't shown a similar history of its leadership getting promoted out of its top positions into management, given that the majority of past RPAA presidents have been lieutenants.

Mason's promotion was particularly interesting given that it came about a year after he had been demoted from the sergeant's rank he had held for about eight years allegedly for harassment and failure to supervise involving an onduty incident with him, a woman and two patrol officers called by a neighbor to investigate a possible prowler. Allegedly both DeLaRosa and Blakely had recommended his termination from the department but was overruled by Leach who demoted him instead. Now a little more than a year later, he's been promoted back to the sergeant's position which justified or not has created a bit of a stir already. Not to mention that the situation involving the illegal gun sale between the city management and the police department, meaning the one that had to be "redone", had him listed as the actual seller on some paperwork filled out by either city management or the police department on the original and very problematic to say the least, sale. There's been no public response from City Hall on the whole issue of this illegal transaction and none from Mason about his own role in it.

It's not a completely fair position for Mason because most likely he was ordered to perform or place his name on the record of sale which was initially listed as involving a "private party" and it's more than likely that City Hall including the parties involved and possibly even the city attorney's office have placed a gag order as they would on any city employee in that situation which prevents him from talking about it publicly to explain his role. So he's powerless to lift the cloud of suspicion regarding his role in a gun sale which created problems for an outside law enforcement agency and that's a situation that's out of his hands. He will however have to be extra conscientious to prove to city residents that his newly regained rank is the appropriate one which means he will have to have gained considerably more appreciation for that rank than he showed last year.

But with any promotional process, it remains to be seen what will happen next and how the dynamic of the recent promotions will play out including inside the RPOA. How will the membership react to the promotions and probationary periods of two of its highest leaders, that is very difficult to call at this point but will be interesting to follow in the weeks and months ahead. Labor dynamics being such that there's often a culture which separates management and even supervision from the ranks below them which is systemic in many business cultures and also law enforcement as well. That creates a challenging situation indeed as history has indeed shown during the past 10 years.

Department Undergoing Reorganization

Chief Sergio Diaz has released information about some of his plans for reorganizing the department, some of which has already taken place while others are to be implemented before the department's shift change later this month. It will be part of a multi-phase process that will take place over time with primary focus being on promoting to fill vacancies and in restructuring field operations.

He said that most of his focus would be in creating resources for the department's field operations division which is undergoing quite a bit of reorganization in the upcoming weeks and months. One of the most significant changes involves management over that division. Currently, the field operations division was overseen by two captains who divided the city up into two relative halves between them. Capt. John Carpenter oversaw two of the city's four precincts, north and east while Capt. Meredyth Meredith oversaw those of central and west. Under the new system, there will be only one field captain and that will be John Wallace overlooking all four areas of the city included in both halves. Carpenter will be moved to Special Operations while Meredith will oversee Investigations. Perea, the newest captain will be working under Blakely in Administration/Personnel. All of these divisions are undergoing reorganization as well.

The four Neighborhood Policing Centers and their respective area command positions will remain intact but the East NPC will move into space shared with the North NPC in the downtown bus terminal while the bulk of field operations will be moved to Lincoln Station. The logic of moving the East NPC to downtown is that it will be located closer to the area that it serves as Lincoln Station actually resides inside the Central NPC.

All of the remainder of the field operations division will be moved to Lincoln Station and housed there under Wallace and six watch commanders plus an executive lieutenant to handle its higher administrative responsibilities. Disparities of information and training by officers assigned to the two different stations led in part to this movement to place all of field operations minus the four NPCs at Lincoln. The sergeant/officer ratio will continue to be recorded by the watch commanders on the documentation they fill out during their respective work shifts.

The Internal Affairs Division will likely be moved away from the bus terminal office space where it's resided since late 2008 and move either to Orange Station, the Magnolia Policing Center or in another location. It will remain staffed and eventually its operations will be more closely examined and this will hopefully include taking necessary steps to reduce the exorbitant time spent investigating or processing citizen complaints, the average of which is about 150 to 200 days spent before they even reach the Community Police Review Commission. That puts a strain on all the parties involved and risks violation of state laws including Governmental Code 3304(d). Ideally, Internal Affairs should be separate from any field operations division, contain a secured storage area for personnel information and be accessible for everyone that needs to do so. The office space near the Riverside Plaza provided a good location for the division but the rental costs were prohibitive in a budgetary time of difficulty. Combining the positive elements of that location for that division along with fiscal prudence would probably provide the best outcome.

Special Operations which will be under Carpenter will also be undergoing reorganization and will be mostly overseen by Lt. Larry Gonazalez but Lt. Guy Touissaint will oversee the traffic division.

Media relations and the Audit and Compliance Bureau are currently unstaffed and will be addressed after the issues with Field Operations have been resolved. Diaz said that he didn't believe that the Audit and Compliance Bureau performed any "highly significant" work and will be reconceptionalized to examine operations, training, best practices and risk management. He said that Blakely and Perea will be very busy at changing operational procedures, supervisory training and on completing the "overdue" Strategic Plan.

Former Riverside County Sheriff Deputy Angela Parks is going to state prison.

The city council in San Bernardino will consider sponsoring a ballot initiative that would change some elected positions to being appointed including that of the city attorney.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein writes about the relationship between Best, Best and Krieger law firm and several city local cities in the news lately

What are Inland Empire city governments paying their top level employees?

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older