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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Clash of the Titans: The Ethics Review Committee Heads to Governmental Affairs

UPDATE: Jockeys Brawl highlights beginning of Breeder's Cup two-days of racing. Jockeys exchanges fists in winner's circle after first race and jockey room later cleared...

UPDATE: Community Police Review Commission finally posts the investigative report on the Fernando Luis Sanchez Officer Involved Death case after attempts made by Interim Manager Mario Luna to block it as being "outside the scope". View the formerly blocked report completed by Martinelli and Associates. Martinelli has a list of concerns and questions raised about the investigation conducted by the Riverside Police Department including the handling and forensic evidence collection from the handgun and issues with the audio and video recordings obtained, not to mention the two year delay in investigation.

UPDATE: Panel set to interview finalists for CPRC manager position all day today, Thursday, Nov. 4.

"Bell took the lead but we followed."

---Human Resource Board member, Jackie Rawlings during the discussion on the ethics review committee meetings

[The "Three Amigos" as they're called who serve as the management team in the Riverside Police Department have been showing up at public forums to solicit input for the upcoming Strategic Plan bringing some very different styles of conducting meetings.]

The Riverside Police Department has been conducting its public forums on the upcoming strategic plan, two per neighborhood policing center, and have hit eight different venues. Two more forums will be added this month as the police department will also present and receive input at events to be scheduled at Nichols Park and the California School for the Deaf. It's been interesting to watch the very different meetings having attended four of them especially when different individuals from the management team lead them.

Asst. Chief Chris Vicino from the Pasadena Police Department has a more forceful style and appears to try to control the direction of the meetings including while receiving input much more so than Chief Sergio Diaz who actually says very little but does listen carefully to what people are saying which is an important quality in a police chief. Vicino might watch and learn from that considering that of all the management team members, he's viewed the most as a "short timer" meaning he's here to glean experience as a management team member in hopes of parlaying it into a chief's job in his future. He's got a vibrant personality which can be important as well and clearly has a background in strategic planning but with two interim chief stints in his background the guy clearly wants to be chief. Still, he's got some learning to do and this job will provide him with that ample opportunity in spades as well the residents of this city as well as the employees inside his agency.

Because Vicino apparently didn't win many points when he appeared at roll call after being hired and telling police officers there it was time for them to return to work. As if they had ever left work during the tumultuous months that led to and preceded Vicino's arrival. No actually, the police department was still running that entire time and the majority of employees were still doing their jobs in a professional and very effective manner even though there are fewer of them than there should be. It could have been different than that as Vicino probably knows but most of the upheaval at the department in terms of job performance during the first half of 2010 was at its top and at City Hall. Vicino's got talent and he's smart and actually a quick learner on some fronts but he still has to do quite a bit of learning coming into an agency much different than his last haunt. Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer's softer in his approach, sometimes engaging in the "well at the [insert name of department] we did it this way" but actually he's the one to watch especially if Vicino does take another job within a year or two. He's doing the most of what's important at these forums and that's listening to the input which is critical in his role of overseeing field operations and investigations. It's always the quiet ones you've got to watch.

Deputy Chief Mike Blakely's been sitting and listening at the forums as well and he's clearly enjoying the interplay between city residents and the management team. He's watching it all very carefully, always the consummate chess player that he's proven to be.

Diaz hasn't been an interim chief but he can direct the solicitation of input at a public forum without running it. And that's what works for many different people which is why the flow of information at the forum he directed in Casa Blanca had a different feel and yet gleaned out quite a bit of information than some of the earlier ones.

Sgt. Jaybee Brennan did really well at imparting what's essentially her work product in front of the different groups in the different venues. She had worked for months on the Plan while holding three different positions in the Chief's office and was in her second round of being involved in the information solicitation process after what took place earlier this year. She had been shipped to patrol by former Acting Chief John DeLaRosa in the heels of Sgt. Lisa Williams who went back to patrol after her assignment in Communications was transferred from the Chief's office to the Personnel Division. Her successor, Sgt. Dan Hoxmeier was taken off the #2 spot on the lieutenant's list and promoted to lieutenant by Diaz before being assigned to be area commander of NPC Central. Hoxmeier has played an active role at outreaching to residents in his NPC to attend meetings and had attended the first public forum in the Eastside to get a feel for the process before holding meetings in his own area.

Originally it appears that Brennan wasn't even supposed to be at the public forums because she's now a patrol sergeant but she has appeared at the meetings to present on her work product. She went from being omitted from introductions at the first meeting to being mentioned by Vicino as his "partner" in the process. It's very unlikely that Vicino, the new architect of the plan will be redrafting it without her assistance due to her greater familiarity with the history and the process itself. A draft of the latest Strategic Plan had already been written last spring and it will be interesting to see how that version factors into that issued by Vicino and Diaz. But it will be clear when examining the final product, who wrote what so hopefully everyone's contributions will be properly attributed.

It's like a page out of corporate America and it will be interesting to see if it plays out that way as time goes by.

But Brennan's had to be a good sport with being the only officer not introduced at the beginning of the forum at the Caesar Chavez Community Center and then at the forum held at the NPC North at the Marriott Hotel, being referred to by her first name while the male officers were referred to by their rank and surnames. Two women walked out of that forum in protest because both of the behaviors that Brennan experienced are what many women refer to as "dog whistles". A term which is used because the user of such a whistle doesn't hear the sound he or she's making nor do most people, only the dogs that the whistle is designed to alert can hear it. Hence "dog whistles" are more subtle signs of sexist behavior (which the above is, intentional or not) are often missed by anyone except the women in the room.

Something for the department's male management team to keep in mind when engaging in discourse including in public venues.

But with two additional forums being added, the second round of soliciting public input is still continuing but it's been an interesting process to participate in and witness so far. What's going to be done with the ideas presented (which actually closely mirror those in the original court-mandate Strategic Plan) remains to be seen of course as the process is still in its earlier stages once again.

Human Resources Board Grapples with Identity Again

[The Human Resources Board now chaired by Ellie Bennett wrestles with some identity issues at its most recent meeting.]

In the wake of a contentious process hearing its first employee grievance in hears, the Human Resources Board was left feeling that this process needed to be changed which might take place after the Board undergoes its debriefing on it at next month's meeting ir even later after as one board member put it, key players in the process have some time to cool off after another board member said that personal attacks were made during the open deliberation process on the grievance.

Many of its five members who showed up at the Nov. 1 meeting barely making quorum were also discussing what their role would be, whether they would continue with the status quo or make changes to their operations. This arose after a showdown between the Board and City Manager Brad Hudson took place after members of the panel were concerned about the spree of retirements and resignations in the city's Development Department especially of older employees including those who were female. The rate had apparently increased after current director, Deanna Lorson took over the reins. The members decided they wanted a face to face meeting with Lorson and Hudson initially sent a directive towards conduit, Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout but when pressed, did appear at a meeting earlier this year. In a roundabout way, he nixed their request and then rerouted quite skillfully into reexamining the Human Resources Board's mission while making it appear as if it were the Board's idea.

The panelists did that for a little while and the discussion died for a while with summer holidays and grievance hearings but at the last meeting, it once again appeared on the forefront of discussion. But what they need to realize if they don't already is that their panel is just one of several being manipulated by the Seventh Floor of City Hall, along with the Human Relations Commission (which can't even agendize its own meetings without being muzzled by the city attorney's office) and of course, the Community Police Review Committee which has been manipulated by a cast of characters, most lately by interim manager, Mario Lara who's clearly getting his marching orders from someone outside of it.

Commissioner Bob Gordon expressed his frustration with the process of dealing with elements in the city, talking about the lack of transparency.

"We get some transparency," he said, "The door shuts again."

The Human Resources Board had written several unanswered letters to the city council and mayor after being blocked in various areas of doing its job by Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos. Gordon also commented on how it took over a year after they requested the statistics on the retention of female officers in the police department before former Chief Russ Leach showed up in the autumn of 2009 to present on this issue. One commissioner said that the Board needed to have a meet and greet with Chief Sergio Diaz although another said that December might be too early for the new chief to be prepared to present on the police department

Chair Ellie Bennett said that she was concerned about the dynamics of City Hall involving their board as well.

"I don't think we're being heard," she said.

Commissioner Art Butler said he was offended by the control of the grievance processes by some high ranking city employees. while Erin House said he wanted to move toward restoring the investigative powers by the Board which were revoked by the city council about five years ago but wasn't sure how they should do this. It's a good guess if the Board tries to do that, then elements in City Hall will try to stonewall it. Because it often appears that those at the top of the food chain simply want boards and commissions which are window dressing and don't actually do very much. Even as quite a few labor grievances and lawsuits have been filed against the city including by employees in the police department but then the more serious an issue is including those which impact the self-insured city's risk of civil liability, the more watered down the relevant mechanisms of civilian oversight become.

Expect the same with the Human Resources Board which had a pretty active and even proactive year in 2009 but City Hall has reacted and is in the process of pushing it back in its little corner again. It remains to be seen whether the board will allow itself to be subjected to that so easily. There are a mixture of personalities on the panel which should make for an interesting few months watching the board struggle to redefine itself, a mission assigned it mostly to keep it caught up in that so that it can't be spending time doing what it needs to do.

Councilman Steve Adams Ethic Complaint Hearing Rescheduled

[Riverside City Councilman Steve Adams gets a brief reprieve as his ethics complaint hearing was rescheduled away from Election Day to Nov. 10.]

[The Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee won't be hearing the complaint against Councilman Steve Adams (center) an elected official most of its members have already endorsed for reelection, until next week.]

The ethics complaint filed by the La Sierra/Arlanza Neighborhood Alliance was originally to have been heard on Election Day but some of the people wanted to changed to another date and at first Mayor Ron Loveridge apparently was a bit stubborn and didn't want to do that but on the day before, an email was circulated to select people by City Hall that the complaint's appearance in front of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee would be canceled and rescheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 1 p.m. in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room.

It should be quite the happening event to listen to some elected officials pretend to be unbiased about an ethics complaint involving a councilman most of them already endorsed for reelection. Interesting indeed. But what this sham of an ethics complaint hearing process will most amply show is how ineffective the "fox guarding the hen house" process (as called by one ethics review committee member) has been and hit home the message that a more independent and outside hearing process is sorely needed.

But one of the happening events of all will be the Government Affairs Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 3 when the committee will be meeting to hear and discuss recommendations from the Ethics Code Committee which was created by the city council to examine the process further.

Will City Hall Shut Down Committee's Recommendation for an Independent Hearing Panel on Ethics Complaints?

[The Ethics Code Review Committee met three times to try to discuss and whip out some recommendations to improve the Ethics Code and Complaint system which will be heard by the Governmental Affairs Committee. ]

The Ethics Committee which had been meeting decided that the ethics complaints should be heard by an independent panel and will include this in their recommendations to the Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Nov. 3. This should be the most happening meeting held at City Hall all week and it will be interesting to see what the reaction to the committee's work product will be by the initial committee of city officials who will receive the recommendations and of course comment on them. But will they endorse them to the full city council or will they reject them? Particularly the already publicized recommendation that an independent and outside panel hear and decide on ethics complaints filed against elected officials. This has already been recommended time and time again by city residents including members of the Group and other organizations and it's been rejected by city government in what's turned into an annual exercise of doing so including when the ethics code and complaint process came up for its annual review in September by both the Governmental Affairs Committee and the city council and mayor. The city government flipped its vote the previous years and voted to strike the so-called "24/7" language and for some officials, that vote was clearly more painful than for others.

The members had ultimately decided at the third meeting that the assignment given to it by the city council was just too hefty to be done in three weeks which is precisely why they were given that window of time in hopes that they would spend most of the time (of what was originally only two meetings) engaging in preamble and explanations rather than in discussing the focal issues involving the Ethics Code and Complaint process which is probably one of the most derailed charter amendments passed by city voters in recent history. So it's going to apparently recommend to the Governmental Affairs Committee that another panel be created to flesh out the issues in greater detail.

The Code is weak and the process of hearing complaints was pretty much a joke back when the city council and the mayor decided to have themselves hear and deliberate and ultimately decide on ethics complaints involving its own members. The Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee was assigned this role and then if that weren't enough of a conflict of interest, City Hall figured out how to derail the majority of ethics complaints involving elected officials from even reaching its own committee. It did this by funneling complaints not to the appropriate venue (according to the Code's resolution) but to the City Attorney's office for final arbitration by a city employee outside the transparent process required by the resolution. But then it's amazing how commissions get caught violating their own bylaws, city governments violate municipal ordinances as clearly happened in this case with written documentation and sometimes one wonders if the city charter itself is even worth the paper it's written on.

The Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee shouldn't be hearing these complaints for two reasons, one that every single complaint filed against one of its members has involved a councilman serving on this Committee at the time and two, most of the members of the Committee including those substituted in to address the first reason have already endorsed the elected official subjected to the complaint for reelection. So everyone but the city council and mayor apparently know this is a joke. But will the legislative body still treat it as an unacceptable option even as many city residents are more interested in farming the complaint process outside the city government. Will these voices be heard and will the response be to take action to accept this recommendation voiced over and over again in different venues? If not, hopefully the city officials won't recycle the same tired old excuses that they've been tossing out at earlier review meetings.

[Councilman Paul Davis circulated a survey to his constituents on the ethics code and process and everyone of the over 100 people who responded believed that the city government officials shouldn't be deciding complaints filed against them.]

Every person of the over 100 constituents that responded to a survey for information circulated by Councilman Paul Davis said that the complaints involving elected officials should go to an independent and outside panel consisting of people not holding elected office at City Hall. The committee appointed by the city council to examine the process came to the same conclusion but again, so have most reasonable people even as that recommendation goes ignored by the city government on an annual basis.

But the election cycle is coming up for four councilmen with the first (and possibly final) round of voting to take place by mail in early June and the upcoming election is on the mind of many of the incumbents especially considering the past year of scandals that have rocked City Hall as behavior that had been going on for years by those at the top of the police department and City Hall finally brought the house of cards that it had built crashing down and the city's still feeling the aftershocks. That and the fact that Santa Scandal still has some left to pull out of his bag of gifts.

The influx of people leaving city employment have included Leach, several members of the police department's management team and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis (who allegedly left for reasons not directly related to any known scandal) and it's been noticed by most everyone which has brought forth an increased concern and interest in all things dealing with ethics including the tepid ethics code and complaint process. The voters' intent when they passed the charter initiative to create an ethics code and complaint process was clearly watered down by City Hall and what's transpired this year goes a long way towards explaining why. And a lot of these voters will be heading into an election cycle where the fates of four council seats and those who currently occupy them will be decided sometime in 2011. And of the four individuals running for reelection, three of them haven't been particularly progressive on this issue since they landed on the dais.

That and the complete lack of any meaningful response to the scandals that broke involving their direct employees last year except by Adams to dismiss several scandals involving unethical and illegal behavior as "old news" will leave its mark on what will unfold next year at that ultimate ethics complaint hearing process, the polls.

The Other 2011 Election

Already showing some activity is the election that will take place in late 2011 involving the selection of the next Riverside Police Officers' Association president, which serves a two-year term. While it's not known if current president, Cliff Mason plans to run for reelection, a handful of prospective candidates has already surfaced though most of those are still in the soul searching process of considering whether or not to throw their hats in the ring including some blasts from the past both here and in outside law enforcement agencies. If people who are thinking about it, say I'm going to do it, it could be an exciting competition down to the wire.

Although it's customary for people to declare and then withdraw to reduce it to a two-horse race as Det. Gary Toussaint did during the 2009 election cycle to support another candidate, that led to Mason seizing the office by a small margin, it would be interesting if three or more candidates did enter the race. Discussions among prospective candidates thinking about it have already allegedly led to some folks thinking about the vice-presidency race instead of the top spot but there's still plenty of time, over a year left until the election takes place.

At the moment, both the president and vice-president Brian Smith are undergoing their sergeants' nine month probational stints, the first such case in recent history, and the association's operations have been more quiet, in the wake of the stalling of contracts among bargaining units because of the lower fiscal spending budget but there's been focus on the 2010 election with the RPOA endorsing Brian Nestande for assemblyman in the 64th district. Also an issue has been increased filing of labor grievances and lawsuits by different members including former president, Chris Lanzillo who filed two retaliation claims and a lawsuit in U.S. District Court which was just recently settled apparently against the wishes of Diaz. He made some comments in a newspaper article about Lanzillo doing "very bad things" without elaborating and criticizing the city's practice of being "soft" on lawsuits filed by employees by settling them behind closed doors. Allegedly Hudson wasn't too happy about that and Diaz was asked by the one of the union board members for an elaboration on his comments.

But Mason parlayed his win into different directions, earning a spot on the panel to interview and recommend which candidate to hire as the police chief and just recently was promoted back to sergeant only 18 months after his demotion. A phoenix rising from the ashes as some have said showing that always in motion is the future.

Plenty of excitement coming up with the election over a year away and all the candidates, aspiring and otherwise sort themselves out with the finalists racing to the finish line.

The testing processes for sergeant and lieutenants with written and orals is finished with 12 candidates being interviewed making a very long day for panelists who at least were fed. New contenders in the lieutenant's process were sergeants, Gary Toussaint, Christian Dinco and Brian Dailey. The lists for whatever they're worth will be completed in a couple weeks. The last promotion off of an expiring list was Sgt. Hal Webb which took place during an impromtu ceremony in roll call last week.

A proposed land swap could hand Chinatown off to developer and popular election campaign donor Doug Jacobs.

Speaking of land, Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein is asking the city what's up with its planned hotel, the Hyatt?

Public Meetings

Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 3 p.m. only, city council chambers, the city council will hold an abbreviated meeting due to elections to discuss this agenda.

Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room, the Governmental Affairs Committee will discuss this agenda in relation to recommendations submitted by the Ethics Code Review Committee which among other things has recommended having an outside panel hear complaints involving elected officials.

Public Service Announcement

Riverside, CA – The Riverside Police Department has made several arrests involving the theft of mail from residential and United States Postal Service (USPS) collection mail boxes in the City of Riverside. Following these tips will help in reducing the opportunities for these thefts to occur.

Citizens are urged to follow these steps to protect your mail:

· Use the interior mail depositories at your local post office or give your mail to a USPS letter carrier.

· If you must use an exterior USPS box, review the collection times listed on the box and drop your mail as close to the pickup time as possible.

· Empty your personal mail box daily.

· Notify your local USPS office when you will be out of town and have your mail held until you return.

· Promptly notify the USPS when you change your address.

If you are a victim of mail theft, call your local police and notify the United States Postal Inspection Service.

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