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

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Committee Meets to Discuss Riverside's Ethics Code

[Committee Chair Brian Pearcy (center) takes comment on the ethics code and complaint process]

[Riverside City Clerk Colleen Nicol and City Attorney Gregory Priamos represented City Hall in the discussion and research process on the city's ethics code and complaint process. Priamos tries futily to control the meeting. ]

[Members of the public and the media sit and watch the discussion taking place by the Ethics Code Review Panel]

[Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely, the Ward Four representative and Vice Chair Nancy Melendrez from the Board of Library Trustees participate in the discussion

The first meeting held by the Ethics Code Review Committee took place at the Public Utilities Board Room and the members of the panel elected Brian Pearcy from the Community Police Review Commission and Nancy Melendez from the Board of Library Trustees to be their chair and vice-chair during their discussion and review process.

But from the very beginning of the meeting, it was clear who was in charge of the process and that appeared to be City Attorney Gregory Priamos who seemed most intent on preventing the panel members from really discussing applying the ethics code to city employees including the three directly employed by the city council and department heads.

Priamos also said that 10 out of 11 complaints filed through the ethics code process involved elected officials but that wasn’t accurate as two complaints were filed against two separate members of the CPRC. Priamos also said the first complaint ever filed was withdrawn by the complainant yet that complaint filed against Councilman Steve Adams several years ago was actually rejected by the City Attorney’s office which said that third party complaints weren’t allowed under the ethics code even though nothing in the Code's language prohibited that complaint. It's interesting how the history of a process can change when it's filtered through City Hall.

Most of the board and commission chairs who attended the first meeting seemed more preoccupied by whether or not they should be covered under the code and when they should be covered, which was natural fallout from having representatives from the city’s boards and commissions serving on the panel.

Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely who chairs the Group tried to push for the inclusion of direct employees including the city manager and city attorney under the ethics code but Priamos said that the state law and the city’s charter wouldn’t allow for the code to be applied against city employees. She and Priamos went back and forth for some time on the issue.

One thing the committee did agree on was to have a separate independent panel of people review complaints involving elected officials. Otherwise to have city council do it was like the "fox guarding the henhouse" as member Bonnie Poulson said from the Park and Recreation Commission. It's doubtful that the Governmental Affairs Committee or city council will like that recommendation very much.

The Committee also added a third meeting date as it became difficult for them to get all their work done in just two work sessions.

City Hall Micromanages Another Commission

Speaking of Priamos, he's been involved in a battle of memos with the Human Relations Commission which recently tried to agendize a discussion on the controversial Arizonan immigration law for discussion. However, Priamos submitted a memo forbidding it from doing so, claiming that it was outside its purview not being a "local" issue. The commission contested that ruling and received yet another memo from Priamos this time with the support of Councilman and mayoral candidate, Andrew Melendrez who sided with the city's legal eagle.

The executive committee of the HRC was to discuss its next moves at a meeting held on Oct. 6 but what remains clear is that the HRC has joined other commissions like the CPRC and the Human Resources Board as running into micromanagement by City Hall. What was most interesting was how Priamos alleged that if the HRC discussed this issue, it would be violating its bylaws yet Priamos allowed and even encouraged the CPRC to violate its own bylaws on meeting times and locations so that certain commissioners could push their monthly meetings earlier in the day when few city residents could attend them.

Police Department to Receive Community Input on Strategic Plan
---Take Two

[Asst. Chief Chris Vicino is ready to meet with community members from all over the city in take two, of the department's attempt to solicit input on the Strategic Plan.]

The Riverside Police Department is getting ready to present future meetings on the strategic plan. Yes, the same Strategic Plan that the remnants of the Audit and Compliance Bureau solicited input for at meetings earlier this year which resulted in a completed draft of the Strategic Plan 2010-2015 even though some individuals had said that the draft had never been completed. This article stated that in fact it had been done by the Audit and Compliance Bureau, the committee that Chief Sergio Diaz said had done "meaningless" work. An odd way of categorizing the creation of the original strategic plan which had been done by members of that bureau but at any rate, that panel has essentially been disbanded and its responsibilities assigned to the Chief's office under Vicino and Deputy Chief Mike Blakely.

In that original plan had been elements ranging from increasing diversity within the department to the training of management, to traffic enforcement and education to decentralizing the police department's operations and personnel.

The community forums are being held again to gather more input to combine hopefully from that collected by the past forums. Dispatchers and police officers are to be surveyed as well. Vincino who came to the department with a history of involving himself in strategic planning will apparently be in charge of the community forums being held in eight different locations in the four neighborhood policing centers.

The information he collects will apparently be built into the next draft of the Strategic Plan.

The public meetings will be at Neighborhood Policing Centers:

7 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Cesar Chavez Community Center at Bobby Bonds Park, 2060 University Ave.

10 a.m. Oct. 16 in Reid Park Community Center, 800 N. Main St.

1 p.m. Oct. 16 in Orange Terrace Community Center, 20010 Orange Terrace Parkway

7 p.m. Oct. 18 in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Hotel, 3400 Market St.

7 p.m. Oct. 21 at Bryan Park Community Center, 7950 Philbin Ave.

7 p.m. Oct. 25, Villegas Park Community Center, 3091 Esperanza St.

7 p.m. Oct. 27, La Sierra Senior Center, 5215 La Sierra Ave.

p.m. Oct. 28 at Cal Baptist University's Cobenbarger Room, 8432 Magnolia Ave.

Driving While Female

Police Officer Stopping Women Simply for Phone Numbers?

"We need to hear about the RPD heroes who are out their on the front lines who do good also, not the small percentage who are stopping young women on Magnolia Avenue asking for their phone numbers..."

This comment was a bit interesting considering that there was a reported incident, not on Magnolia but on Market (which is the same street on the north section of town) several months ago where a young woman alleged she had been stopped by a squad car which she had just seen in passing. The officer told her when she asked why she was stopped that she hadn't done anything wrong. He was simply interested in getting her phone number. She didn't give it to him and he allowed her to go but she didn't file a complaint against him because she's became concerned about him because he had written information off of her driver's license on a notepad including her address.

Was this comment in relation to that alleged incident or have there been others that have taken place in the same corridor? It's worrisome if it happens even to one women, let alone any more than that. But it's happened in many police agencies in the country and it's called "driving while female" where female motorists are stopped on the basis of gender and treated in nonprofessional ways, ranging from being asked for their phone numbers to sexual harassment to sexual assault under the color of the authority. This alleged behavior is at the lower end of that scale and there's a perfect opportunity to address it before it worsens.

Still as it is, it's worrisome because it's not legal behavior by an officer who has to have probable cause to do a traffic stop rather than just wanting their phone numbers for personal reasons. In other states, it's even an offense punishable under the state's penal code. But regardless it's very disturbing behavior, called "driving while female" that is definitely both a violation of departmental policy and policing and a violation under any type of "ethics based policing" which was lauded by both Chief Sergio Diaz and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino. It also had shades of what had been going on in the earlier days of former Officer Robert Forman who allegedly engaged in this behavior before he took his actions further during two separate periods, the latest being 2008. The department knew about Forman's earlier misconduct yet kept him employed, a decision which had serious repercussions for the department several years later.

So it's a red flag going up if it's going on as alleged and it needs to be investigated. But the parties who allege need to do their part and file complaints if this is what's they've experienced so that if this behavior is indeed taking place, it can stop before getting any worse. That's the responsibility of the complainant. It would then be the responsibility of the department to fully investigate these allegations.

How serious is this type of conduct? Well, similar incidents were reported in Walkill New York before 2001 and that launched an investigation into that police department by the State Attorney General's office which led to Walkill being the second city in the nation (after Riverside) to be placed under a state consent decree when other substantive problems were discovered during that investigation. It just doesn't belong in the Riverside Police Department if it's going on but if it's happening here, it needs to be addressed and stopped. Because it harms everyone, the motorists affected, the public and the majority of the officers who don't engage in that misconduct.

Incidents like these if they take place can be heavily damaging to a police department, but they are harmful to the majority of police officers who behave professionally and responsibly doing their jobs. Do they report them to their supervisors or management, at least the management that still remains after the collapse of more than a few dominoes at the top?Because these officers' behavior does impact them and their department. Does the department provide an environment where this type of reporting on misconduct is able to be done without negative repercussions on the officer reporting it?

This alleged incident took place during the interim between permanent police chiefs.

This all comes in the wake of the experience which shook the department up in relation to the arrest and prosecution of Forman with him being convicted on two out of four criminal counts at a trial in late 2008. Testimony addressed what happened at the residence of one of the victims when police had responded to the scene and several of them had allegedly joked about and played with a woman's underwear including hanging it on each other's gun belts and a dart board on the wall of the living room. They acted as individuals in a group but because they wore badges and uniforms from the police department, they brought every man and women who worked in the department into that living room with them. Even though the majority of officers wouldn't engage in that conduct, on that night they were all brought there because they share the same identification as those officers wore by the actions of a relative few. And it's incidents like that that often shape people's views of all officers by witnessing the behavior of a relatively small number of them.

Every officer has the power to represent the best or the worst of their profession and through individual actions both good and bad can determine how every other one will be viewed by the public. When five officers were arrested and prosecuted during a 14 month period, it did impact how many people viewed the department even though percentage wise, those five constituted a fairly small portion of the sworn officer population. But those five projected a powerful enough image to cause many people to question the police department even before Leach's DUI incident. And each of them added to the impact of that incident.

But professional behavior makes its own mark too and the majority of the time when professional behavior is being conducted by officers needs to be remembered as well. Still, hopefully if this behavior is being done by one officer, it can be addressed before it goes any further because this kind of misconduct can have a huge rippling effect on a law enforcement agency.

Still any behavior like this if it's happening needs to be addressed and dealt with because the police department is much better than this as is the direction it hopes to be heading in for the future after one of its most turbulent years in recent history.

The Inland Empire is one of the national leaders in terms of "real estate stress".

A former planning commissioner from Murrieta lands a hefty fine.

[Congressional candidate, Bill Hendrick appears near the Mission Inn in Riverside to give a press conference before facing off against incumbent Ken Calvert in November. ]

IE Weekly Lists its Best in the IE Selections

Inland Empire Weekly had its annual "Best in the Inland Empire" issue and had a list of their best including Riverside Style Watch as the best blog. Congratulations to the winner and well done. Though I've enjoyed being working on my blog very much even as it's been an incredibly turbulent and complicated year with its ups and downs as Riverside's had to face its own crisis of conscience. It's been quite a year for 2010 so far.

The Press Enterprise Says Goodbye to Another Reporter

Speaking of the media, Paul LaRocco is leaving the Press Enterprise this week for a job back east in New York. Thank you Paul for your diligent work and willingness to cover the Riverside beat (as well as other beats) and the best of wishes for your new job venture!

Public Meetings

Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The Riverside City Council meets again to discuss this agenda. One of the items addresses a planned Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting to hear the ethics code complaint filed against Councilman Steve Adams by the La Sierra/Arlanza Neighborhood Alliance for administrative interference. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. on the Seventh Floor and the city council will decide whether or not to approve the substitution of Councilwoman Nancy Hart for Adams who will have to recuse himself. Hardly surprising as Hart has been asked to substitute for a member of that committee during an ethics complaint hearing in the past. To date, all known complaints filed against elected officials have involved councilmen serving on the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee.

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