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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Finance Committee Meets and Election 2011 Gets Rolling

UPDATE: City Settles Retaliation Lawsuit filed by former Riverside Police Department Det. Chris Lanzillo

[William Malone, the consultant in charge of the operations of the city-owned Fox Theater gave an update on the first year of its first year.]

[Riverside City Councilman Mike Gardner listens to the discussion on the report given on the Fox Theater at the Finance Committee meeting. ]

[Councilwoman Nancy Hart who chairs the Finance Committee and fellow member, Councilman Paul Davis question city staff and William Malone about the Fox Theater.]

"This is the last bastion of culture before the desert"

---Dennis Miller

The Finance Committee met again at Riverside's City Hall to discuss several items including the fiscal report on the city-owned Fox Theater in downtown. Present at the meeting were the three Finance Committee members, Finance Director Brent Mason, Asst. City Manager Belinda Graham, Asst. City Manager Paul Sundeen, Development Director Deanna Lorson and the Fox's managing consultant, William Malone. There was a written report and some discussion and questions asked by Committee members mainly aimed at Malone, who had been hit with controversy most of this year regarding his handling of the operations at the Fox Theater.

Councilwoman Nancy Hart who chairs the Committee said that she was happy that the theater which required over $30 million of city funding to renovate after the theater was seized by the city through eminent domain didn't experience a greater shortfall. She said that there had been comments about the city "losing its shirt" this year as well as the next.

Councilman Paul Davis who had raised many concerns about the finances and management of the Fox Theater by Malone and who had done his own extensive investigation into allegations of improprieties said that most of the issues had been resolved except for some minor ones. He expressed concern about the lack of programming for people in the 18-35 demographic. He said that he had been critical of it because of the significant financial investment the city had made into its operations. He said that the businesses in Ward One had to be taken more to heart and that business owners on the corridor should rethink their strategies including remaining open so that they can take advantage of the patronage after the shows ended at the nearby theater.

Also needing to be addressed were the parking issues including construction of the new parking garage near the Fox Theater.

Malone said that his goals were to operate the theater as cost effectively as possible and that the economy made it hard to sell tickets particularly at venues that weren't casinos where the majority of the tickets were already comped.

Trial of Former Riverside Police Department Officer Continues

The courtroom was packed inside the old civil courthouse in downtown Riverside which still hears criminal cases because of a backlog that's affected both civil and criminal courts in Riverside. On trial was former Riverside Police Department officer Anthony "Rod" Fletcher who faced several felony child molestation charge involving his teenaged daughter who alleged that he inappropriately touched her during a period lasting several years. He testified that he did not molest his daughter but faced tough questioning under cross examination by the prosecutor including about his actions after the allegations were raised against him. Then both sides put two different forensic psychologists on the stand, including the prosecution as one of its rebuttal witnesses. Both expert witnesses had expertise in the areas of child molestation and incest.

Individuals including Fletcher testified in front of a jury and an audience of family, friends, prosecutors and Internal Affairs Sgts John Capen and Pat McCarthy. He was arrested around Dec. 24, 2009 around the time that another former officer, Det. Scott Impola was arrested on assault and unlawful entry charges. Both were fired by former Police Chief Russ Leach around the middle of January although Impola's firing apparently was reversed and the city had allegedly decided to medically retire him. Impola's criminal case was scheduled for jury trial in December but the date has been vacated according to court records.

Police Department Management Personnel Make the Rounds

[Riverside Police Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer told people at a meeting that he would help women and others not getting promoted on where they're lacking so that they could be promoted. Earlier this year, four out of the top five officers on the top of the list were female and one was an African-American male.]

As stated in previous blog postings, management personnel in the police department including Chief Sergio Diaz have been making appearances at various community meetings. Diaz was unable to appear at the recent monthly meeting hosted by Councilman Andrew Melendrez but both Asst. Chief Chris Vicino and Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer attended the meeting, spoke with people on various issues and answered questions. It provided the attendees to get a chance to meet the newer members of the police department's management team.

Different questions were asked to both individuals including a question about the problems with diversity including with women climbing up the ranks of the police department. Greer's response apparently was that he would be willing to help these folks with where they were lacking or short so that this would help with promotion. That was a very interesting insight from someone who's been there a short period of time but at the same time, it's difficult to know what direction Greer was heading in so hopefully he will expound on his views on this complex issue at further meetings. He raises a thorny issue but his answer could have several different meanings.

There's one side of it that could be that Greer was making references to something akin to providing mentorship opportunities to candidates who are having difficulties with the promotional process including the testing process and oral interviews. Mentorshop programs are excellent in working to address issues with employee retention for both men and women, of all races. Studies have shown that they work in addressing these issues in the areas of sworn police officers and also in communication/dispatching divisions, which typically have higher turnover rates and poorer retention than any other division in a police agency.

The Riverside Police Department like other law enforcement agencies has struggled with retaining dispatchers and not losing them to attrition. It's a very challenging job and very critical job both to public safety and officer safety yet it's high-stress and it's hard to retain dispatchers. The department and city had grappled with problems in the communication bureau several years ago including a call for an investigation by dispatchers who went to the city council with some serious employment issues.

Mentorship opportunities should be open to all officers including newer ones in an open fashion. Many of the problems with the dearth of upper management personnel resulted in part because there didn't appear to be much mentoring going on at the highest levels or any productive mentorship to build leadership and management skills to pass on from generation of leadership to the next. But then it's hard to mentor others including those who will be the future leadership with a stiletto in your hand. And since most of the management personnel in the department were involved with a promotional process so highly politicized that most of those who rose up to the highest levels had to essentially use that stiletto against someone else. One of the biggest tragedies of the department was the wasted opportunities to develop a management team that was based on collaboration and cooperation rather than cutthroat competition especially considering the wealth of talented men and women inside the department. The skills that make good managers were superseded by those that were required to make it up the ladder to those positions. When it becomes more important to be drinking buddies, or vacationing buddies with whoever's in charge in the police department or at City Hall, than in the skills needed to succeed at the top management level, then yes, there's going to be a crisis at the top which is what happened in front of the city this year in painful detail.

The management culture definitely needs to change and it remains to be seen whether the influx of people from outside the department to fill the top level positions will help accomplish that. And it will be interesting if the current leadership in power in the department counter past practices by eliminating or sharply reducing some of the ruthless power plays that defined the management level and mentoring opportunities that are available to officers from the supervisory levels from which future management will likely come would help create that difference.

So on one level, Greer's comments made some sense but there's a more troubling side of them well if you consider another meaning for them. The assumption that candidates including men of color and women aren't getting promoted because of something "lacking" in them that needs to be fixed or remedied. That might be the case with candidates who either have difficulty passing written tests or oral interviews, those who have problems accumulating and mastering new skills or simply problems having the opportunities to do so. In those situations, maybe that's not as difficult to argue that something lacking or short in candidates is keeping them from getting promoted. And there's tools that departments use to help create future leaders, managers and supervisors from all different backgrounds.

However, that's a considerably less useful assessment in situations where men of color and women are not only passing the written and oral exams but are getting themselves ranked at the top of the promotional lists. What's "lacking" in women who place #1 and #3 on the lieutenant's list for example or the Black male candidate who ranked #4, because Greer being the deputy chief of both operations and investigations which staff most of the individuals in the lieutenant's rank has obviously seen the past lieutenant's list. What's lacking or what are these candidates who rank in the top five or the two women in the top three that's to be found in candidates in the bottom third of the list including in 12 out of 13th place? This isn't so much a statement for or against the promotions made in 2010 but simply to ask what's lacking or what the highest ranking candidates on these lists are short on which prevents them from being promoted? That's definitely a fair question for anyone to ask.

Are these candidates lacking advanced degrees? One of the females on the top five of the lieutenant's list (which is due to expire soon) has a Master's degree inside a profession that places more stock on advanced degrees than it did in the past. Both female in the top five have college degrees. Both female candidates in the top five served in positions which traditionally manned by officers in higher ranks and even management levels. One sergeant held three different positions simultaneously, doing administrative work that in the past had been done by a captain and lieutenant. The other did work in a division while being the lowest ranking officer ever to head that division as it previously had been headed by Capt. Meredyth Meredith and former Lt. Pete Villanueva. The black male candidate? He filled in as area commander, traditionally a lieutenant's position for three months several years ago while the area commander was at a training academy back East.

Another sergeant candidate, an African-American man with a wealth of experience in the department including investigations (where he served on an interstate enforcement team) who had a bachelor's degree and two medal of valor was passed over for several years until promoted late spring. Surely, Greer would agree that one medal of valor let alone two are hardly signs of something lacking. Whether awards including law enforcement's highest honor or commendations are included in the promotional process, maybe, maybe not but they're not evidence of something lacking as officers who win awards like that are in a very select group.

All three female officers on the lieutenant's list have attended many community meetings in their various roles so city residents are quite familiar with them and their backgrounds as they are of the officers that serve more in the public eye which isn't really the case with officers who traditionally have held more administrative jobs inside the police department especially those who have mostly done that in leadership positions. Two female sergeants who were both on promotional lists were involved in a high-profile "suicide by cop" incident where they coordinated several specialized units of officers to successfully apprehend the man without anyone on either side or the public getting injured. That might be a day on the job for male or female officers but it certainly wouldn't be evidenced of something lacking or that any male or female would be missing in their resume.

I received an unsolicited email in 2001 from then Asst. Chief Mike Smith who blamed "low numbers" for the lack of female officers at the highest ranks. It's a common argument that has arisen inside many law enforcement agencies because after all, the national average has male officers outnumbered female officers about eight to one and slightly higher in agencies that are the size of the Riverside Police Department. It's an argument that Greer's likely heard during his career as well. It would be surprising to hear if the other outside members of the police department's leadership hadn't heard it as well. And it's pretty much a given that most female officers in different law enforcement agencies have heard it as well. It would be surprising if female officers inside the Riverside Police Department hadn't heard it before or even were told that when they asked the same questions because it's human nature to ask when considering whether or not you want to change your position and it's so prevalent in law enforcement agencies in general. That's true in many male dominated professions besides law enforcement and it's often true for males in professions that are female-dominated as well.

But inside the Riverside Police Department, the "low numbers" does still apply in that there's one female captain, one female lieutenant (on probation) and about five female sergeants including two which are probationary. It's important to note the probationary status because no female supervisor has passed probation since 2004. One important reason why female and male supervisors fall out of probation does have to do with something "lacking" that doesn't involve them and that often is that no new supervisor is an island, they all need guidance and support at their new rank. That traditionally has been an issue in many a law enforcement agency including the one in Los Angeles.

Where it doesn't apply is on at least the most recent promotional lists. There were four female sergeants at the beginning of this year. Three of those sergeants or 75% of the female sergeants had passed or taken the lieutenant's test and all three of them placed in the top five out of 13 candidates with three not passing the exam. This put them in the top third. The promotional process took two candidates from the top third, one from the middle third and two from the bottom third. The white male candidates were #2, 9 and 12 while a male Latino candidate was #6 and the white female candidate was #5. So candidates came from all thirds of the list in about equal numbers. That has to do with the selection process but again, it's not really an indicator that there's anything lacking with the women who dominated the top third except perhaps for the obvious. But is what they're lacking by being women really an integral part of serving in a supervising position? And why were they lacking when they didn't make the lists or very high on the lists which was what Smith had written was the main issue behind the failure of women to advance and then when that reason was removed by their current high placements on that list that was so critical not too long ago, they're still viewed as being short.

The unfortunate thing is that with when a comment like Greer's is read in a less favorable light, where he's given less than the benefit of the doubt is that the first thing that comes to mind is that he's making an assumption that if they're not getting promoted because something must be wrong with them. And that's what is going to happen because that what it sounds like without further elaboration on exactly what is meant and unfortunately similar comments appear inside law enforcement agencies for that reason. Hopefully in the future, there will be a more discussion of those issues including the police department's promotional process which has in the past disenfranchised probably a lot of people for reasons outside of race and gender including quite a few white men who lose out on promotions or drop out of the process because they're not in the right political or social circles. And by numbers, that's probably been a major issue with the department's promotional process from sergeant to captain.

Which is interesting coming from a long time man of color in a police department which has seen millions in settlements in racial discrimination and gender discrimination cases (and Los Angeles city government often included settlement prices on their closed session meeting agendas on those lawsuits which isn't the case in Riverside), where officers started clubs advocating against female officers and as someone who is a member of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, a known organization that is not shy about what it advocates in departmental practices including the promotional process.

Because the process of promoting supervisors is so involved, so meticulous, and involves a great deal of vetting (at least when promotions don't depend or are heavily influenced by drinking relationships or friendships), a lot of cases that fall out of probation or who don't pass typically are affected by whether or not they are supported in their new positions and this is for both male and female supervisors. Because promoting is only part of the process, building supervision is much more involved than that whether candidates are male or female and mentorships in both situations could accomplish a lot to increase retention rates. Perhaps they can even counter the much more problematic falling out of a supervisor's rank which is a demotion based on sustained allegations of serious misconduct. Yet, a male sergeant was able to be promoted to the rank of sergeant within 18 months during a process which allegedly requires at least two annual performance evaluations of the candidate at least meeting performance standards. And if that's the case then one of those "meet standards" evaluations must have taken place after the sustained misconduct.

One female sergeant with over 20 years of experience with the department including eight years in investigation who did very well in the process was among those passed over for promotion earlier this year by several candidates including some fairly strong candidates although ones with lessor experience and little or no investigative experience. And she was passed over in favor of a male officer with less experience, no investigative time and with a prior termination on his record which was expunged but that's really a term with an asterick next to it because terminations aren't expunged from the memories of those involved in the process in the same fashion as they can be removed from personnel records. Those who have been reinstated after being terminated on the job for the most part probably know that fact very, very well from their daily experiences after being reinstated. It's similar to when someone testifies and their testimony gets stricken from the written record but can you do the same to a juror's recollection as neatly?

That female sergeant who watched two white male sergeants get promoted who both worked on the same high profile criminal case involving one of Riverside's former police officers was promoted a month later.

It's kind of odd to see people who rank high on a list that was heavily touted as being necessary to fill out or to overcome the "low numbers" problem suddenly be negated during the time period when it's dominated by men of color or women at its top. But then it's strange to see the defense of the promotional practices by some who are also disenfranchised by that promotion system. After all, if a promotional practice is indeed exclusive on race, gender, age, religion or any similar factor, it's not a stretch to travel to take who's left and discriminate on the basis of whether or not a candidate drinks with the person who promotes, goes on vacations with him or the same church (and this was practiced in the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 1990s by a former deputy chief). Those practices are very harmful as well and they've been damaging to this department and caused many people to lose faith in the promotional process. Something that perhaps Greer should think about addressing because these practices impact many of the officers he oversees in management. Even if the new management eschews such problematic practices, they need to be learned from and treated in clear ways as being practices that are no longer pattern and practice inside the police department. Because is someone really "lacking" who didn't vacation or drink or carouse with the prior police management either? Is someone lacking because they followed a promotional process the way it was explained and laid out to them rather than fraternized with those who made the decisions? And then management is surprised when infighting over that process takes place when what would you expect? The problem with fraternization in promotional practices is that it breeds that infighting. And it's sometimes perplexing to watch a promotional process like that defended when you question its fairness when so many people men, women, of different races have been disenfranchised by its practice in one way or another beyond of its nature of exclusion through past fraternization practices including those that cost the city a ton of money in legal settlements earlier this year. And also led to the virtual collapse of the police department's management like a house of cards.

Greer opened up a topic that's worth great consideration and discussion but that shouldn't begin and end with one observation made in a public forum by a member of the department's management and hopefully it won't end there. And it's very helpful of Greer to respond on the issue in a public forum but it would also be helpful to keep a discussion involving a process that frankly perplexes and concerns quite a few people outside the department.

Riverside City Council Candidate Holds Fundraising Event

Riverside City Council candidate John Brandriff held an event at Zacatecas which was attended by over 40 people and was hosted by two retired police lieutenants Tim Bacon who gave the opening speech and Darryl Hurt.

Brandriff told the audience in attendance that two key components of his platform were accountability and transparency in local government which were two key issues in a city wrought by scandal earlier this year. He called the two police lieutenants "heroes" for exposing what was going on in City Hall and the department including alleged illegal or unethical activity by several individuals and violations of the city charter including adminstrative interference.

[Former Riverside Police Department Lt. Tim Bacon with some new facial hair speaks at a campaign event for Ward Seven City Council candidate, John Brandriff.]

[City Council candidate John Brandriff speaks at a campaign event for his Ward Seven bid next year]

[People attending the fund raiser ate food served by Zacatecas while listening to speeches.]

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