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 21, 2010

Will the City Start Taking Every Police Employee Lawsuit to Trial?

UPDATE: Chief Sergio Diaz promotes Officer Hal Webb, an African-American to sergeant. Webb "stunned" in surprise promotion to replace retiring Frank Patino.

[Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz believes that the city's been "soft" on litigation involving his agency and that he hopes to see more vigorous litigation in the future. City Hall hasn't yet issued a public response.]

Det. Chris Lanzillo vs the City of Riverside


1) $50,000 payment tax-free

2) $40,000 back salary

3) Salaried employee until Jan. 1, 2011

4) Minus 80 hours unpaid suspension

This wasn't exactly news here but the Press Enterprise wrote this article about the city's settlement with former Det. Chris Lanzillo who had been fired by former Acting Chief John DeLaRosa last year about eight weeks after an altercation between the two in a roll call session.

Chief Sergio Diaz who wasn't here when the firing took place but was informed on his case made some interesting comments in the press in lieu of City Attorney Gregory Priamos who usually responds when litigation is filed and when it's ultimately settled as it is most of the time in city employee cases. But it appears that Priamos has been put on ice for at least a while in terms of litigation involving the police department. His feelings on this issue are not known.

Diaz' words came after he and Lanzillo allegedly exchanged some rather sharp words not too long ago, in front of one of the police facilities regarding the lawsuit.


The fact that Lanzillo is being reinstated might look like an admission that he was fired wrongly, but that's not the case, said police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is new to the department but said he is familiar with Lanzillo's case.

Lanzillo was fired "not because he was a member of the leadership of the (police union) but because he did some really bad things," Diaz said by phone Wednesday. The chief did not give specifics.

Diaz noted that under the settlement, Lanzillo will be on leave and will not be working before his retirement.

Lanzillo declined to discuss the settlement before checking with his attorney.

The settlement says the city will pay Lanzillo $25,000, mostly for his attorneys, and will sign off on industrial disability retirement, which is given when an on-the-job injury prevents an employee from working. The amount of his retirement was not provided.

Lanzillo said he has many injuries, but the biggest problem is his neck, which he said was hurt in the course of his regular duties.

Diaz said from his review of recent claims, he doesn't believe officers have been punished for union leadership positions, and he said the claims have been "largely driven by profit motive."

In a settlement the city reached in April with Lts. Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt, the men received a combined $550,000 and retirement at top captains' pay. Diaz said the city is not likely to settle easily on some of the pending claims.

"I'm very concerned that cumulatively the impression is given that the city is a soft touch, and I'm very eager to start to reverse that impression," Diaz said. "I'm looking forward to litigating some of these issues."

Now Diaz is correct that the city's settled a lot of lawsuits filed against it and tried very few (with the last police employee lawsuit being Officer Roger Sutton's in 2005). And he's correct in that the city should litigate more claims and lawsuits all the way to trials in front of juries in both federal and state court. My reason for believing this is the case might be different than his because it's past time for the city's residents to know the truth good or bad or both about what's going on inside the police department including its relationship with the city for the past five years or so but most particularly during the past eight months including the time period between permanent police chiefs. Because even though the claims and lawsuits themselves, settled or not, are fairly diverse, they share a defendant or two in common at the current and former upper management level and that's difficult to miss.

Then there's Lt. Leon Phillips who still remains a lieutenant today even though he was nearly terminated, facing demotion to sergeant and somehow managed to turn the tables on the city and those who oversaw the investigation of him. The guy who was painted by City Manager Brad Hudson in the media is the employee who had differences in his accounts while the acting chief John DeLaRosa told a "consistent" story. But Phillips worked his way down from a notice of intent to terminate in June to a demotion to sergeant and two week suspension in July and a written reprimand sometime in August.

If the city's making comments about Lanzillo doing "very bad things" without being more specific, will it even be forthcoming about what happened to abruptly halt Phillips' demotion? Because there were insinuations made about him too, though not by Diaz.

There's a reason why the city didn't go through with its plans to drop him to sergeant after City Manager Brad Hudson, former Acting Chief John DeLaRosa and others tried to paint him as the scapegoat of the DUI incident involving former Chief Russ Leach. And given all that was insinuated but again not said (due to confidentiality laws) about Phillips that he lied and DeLaRosa told the truth, that situation really needs to be explained in its entirety. Since if Phillips lied, then two other officers on the scene who gave similar versions about Leach's intoxication to DeLaRosa lied too and we all realize at this point that they didn't lie.

Meaning that three officers including Phillips said to California Highway Patrol investigators that they were concerned that Leach was intoxicated or a drunk driver and expressed that to DeLaRosa who said he had no recollection of any of that. Yet when it came to Hudson deciding who actually told the truth, management clearly trumped supervision. It had to, because one thing, it was Hudson who had made the decision on who would be the acting chief when Leach stepped down. And if you appointed the man who was tied to the mishandling of the traffic stop, then how does that make you appear? But it appears that management simply believed management over supervision even though in one critical area, the lieutenant, sergeant and one officer shared similar versions against management's single version.

Apparently based on a commonly practiced assumption in that when there's disputing versions of events including alleged misconduct, the word of management trumps supervision trumps those managed and supervised. It apparently plays out something like this, that when a higher ranking employee and lower ranking employee disagree with a version of events in a "he said, he said" situation, apparently the upper ranking employee is the one that will be believed by those investigating each and every time over the lower ranking employee. Maybe that's why when one officer wanted to file a complaint against alleged criminal conduct he witnessed in another officer, he actually opted to try and file it with the Community Police Review Commission, a decision vetoed by Internal Affairs Lt. Mike Cook during the interim period between permanent chiefs. A bit ironic on its face but if this were indeed the case, very revealing as well because if an officer wanted to file a complaint through the CPRC than it might not be the investigation that this person distrusts as much but the later review of it by upper management in the police department which parallels the review (but often not investigative) process of the CPRC on complaints.

That apparently was the case in the high profile investigation conducted by the city this year that management trumped supervision in areas where one of each provided the only evidence. Instead of reaching a "not sustained" finding which in the absence of outside evidence or information involves a "he said, he said" situation, the city repeatedly ruled in favor of management over supervision just as it's probably accustomed together. An independent review of that investigation by a former Riverside County district attorney and current partner at Best, Best and Krieger (the city's number one outside law firm) apparently didn't find this pattern and practice of investigation protocol to be a problem at all. But then that "independent" hire was a partner inside the law firm most deeply entrenched with City Hall. In a city with 350,000 people that still operates using small-town politics.

So somehow in a meeting with Former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, Phillips and his attorney were able to turn it around. One supervisor was able to get his demotion and suspension overturned.

Even though Phillips didn't file a lawsuit, it's really the perplexing actions threatened and not ultimately taken against him that tends to make people skeptical that all these claims and lawsuits are truly frivolous, filed by people out to get rich off the city. But if Phillips was able to right a wrong committed against him by individuals who have appeared as defendants on most of these profit-motivated claims and lawsuits, then more power to him. And what he experienced is all the more reason for these issues raised by the lawsuits that were filed to be litigated at trial. Because as Phillips' case has shown, as the Hurt, Bacon and Lanzillo cases have show, there's something rotten in Denmark or in this case, River City. Is what's come out so far the iceberg, or just the visible part of it?

The Press Enterprise has covered these issues well
but they stopped too soon with Phillips. It wrote that he was to be terminated and then that sources said that he was to be demoted but it hasn't written so far that Phillips remains a lieutenant with a written reprimand in his file. Even though it's published press releases where Phillips has been mentioned as a lieutenant.

The claims and lawsuits filed by former lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt as well as Lanzillo all were associated with research conducted by all three individuals into unethical and illegal activities including cold plating vehicles. The involvement of all three former officers and leaders of both police unions were clearly documented in the paper trail they left behind. As were warnings against all three that there would be consequences for those actions. If Bacon and Hurt's motives were financial to get rich off the city, then the residents of this city would have never found out about the guns, badges and cold plates scandals and besides a trial could have resulted in a higher payout anyway. One of the reason the scandals in Bell came to light after the fact was because there were police officers in upper ranks who apparently had received kickbacks not to say anything by Bell's leaders. Thank god, Riverside's not Bell.

Reviewing hundreds of pages of testimony by department employees and some of the most powerful players in this city, was shall I say, very illuminating as were pages of documentation on the illicit weapons sale and the cold plates. Armed with information rather than opting out of reading it, it's clear why these two lawsuits didn't go to trial. They didn't go because there were high ranking city employees and elected officials who had contradicted each other during their sworn testimony in depositions. There was documentation of unethical and illegal conduct taking place in City Hall, and the collective decision to settle by the local government was simply because it decided it was cheaper than to go to trial and risk all this scandal playing out in a public forum and potentially costing the city much more money in a trial verdict. Even if the city had won the trial and not paid out, it would have exposed itself to potentially even greater civil liability through testimony that likely would have taken place in U.S. District Court in April 2010.

This cold plating was done by members of upper management in City Hall and impacted vehicles assigned to elected officials under a controversial program that allowed city officials to have city vehicles to drive. And allegedly Lanzillo had been preparing to depo several witnesses involved in the cold plating of these vehicles including one key witness who would have tied a particular individual who blamed everyone else to the decision to cold plate city vehicles. Remember, where the initial settlement offer involving Lanzillo's office came from before the city council vetoed it in a contentious closed session not long before the resignation of former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis. Why would that take place, since the city council's apparent response was to veto it?

Why was the origin of that proposed settlement in the city manager's office involving a former assistant city management employee who had just jumped on the grenade for his boss on the cold plates scandal, though that might not have been voluntary.

Okay, it might be "rehashing" history in a whole different way in a climate that sort of frowns on doing that but it might be necessary to put some issues that the lawsuits raise on trial in a public forum with county residents including those living in Riverside to serve on the federal and state juries to serve as the trier of facts. That's essentially what Diaz' recommended actions would lead to, the rehashing of history that he himself didn't experience the first time around, you know before it became prologue.

Maybe it's time to let the city residents in particular serve on these juries and make the decisions at these trials in these two venues. Because what's been revealed from the cases that settled has been bad enough, and has painted a disturbing picture of how business has been conducted at City Hall involving the police department. Using the police department to engage in an illegal weapons transaction, and then having one of those guns (and allegedly a pair of handcuffs) play a starring role in a 911 call for help made by a woman in Hemet during an altercation with DeSantis. These things have disturbed many people.

Yeah, let's see what can come out at trial in cases like these ones that are litigated in front of jury in public when city officials included those elected and higher ranking police employees get on the witness stand. Take former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel for example, another past employee who's been painted as doing "very bad things" (in different words). Say that's the truth, well if that case goes to trial, how will the city and department then explain his rapid advancement up the ranks of the department including his elevation to deputy chief in 2007, an action that had already been fraught with controversy involving in that case, the "at will" status of his position as well as that of DeLaRosa's.

If this former officer is evil incarnate, then how will testimony and evidence of how he was elevated to the third ranking position in the Riverside Police Department play out in front of a jury? How did an agency which employs the "best of the best" let this happen? If this case goes to trial and Esquivel is painted as evil incarnate, it might be interesting to find out about his journey up to such a high ranking position through those who will testify for either side. Why would an officer who's so awful as he's been painted move up from lieutenant to deputy chief in less than a decade? If that were indeed the case, then yes, it's time for the residents of the city to have answers to those questions.

But nope, no matter what kind of tough talk Diaz and those at City Hall might provide, this case is not likely to go to trial in front of a jury either although it probably should. And it would be a trial that whether the city wins or loses, would put out through sworn testimony involving the assorted characters as to why if Esquivel was so bad or he did very bad things, as stated he worked his way up to the deputy chief position in the police department. After all this press release on Esquivel's promotion to deputy chief stated the following:

(excerpt, RPD press release March 16, 2007)

“Pete brings vast operational depth to the post of Deputy Chief,” said Leach. “His experienced leadership will be invaluable to RPD’s field staff and commanders.”

“The Chief’s selections for Assistant Chief and Deputy Chief will be vital to RPD’s long-term success in carrying out the Department’s Strategic Plan,” said City Manager Brad Hudson. “We look forward to working with the Chief and his team to fulfill the City Council’s vision for proactive public service and accountability.”

Okay so where does it say that he's done really bad things, or was such a bad police officer? Leach made the promotion and his boss, Hudson who has final say approved it as clearly shown here. Actually who actually made these appointments is a subject of much dispute as documented in this blog, but the point here is that there's no evidence in these comments that either Leach or Hudson had anything but positive things to say about their new deputy chief. Yet if he were a bad rogue officer, why would they be lying to the public by making positive comments to offer rationale for his upward career advancement? And it would be splendid indeed for both of them and others to get on the witness stand and explain these comments and provide any evidence that any negative statements were made about Esquivel before he decided to put in an application for police chief in opposition to DeLaRosa?

Can you imagine Hudson hitting the witness stand at the Esquivel trial and talking about this rogue doing very bad things and then having to go back and explain this prior inconsistent statement to a judge and jury? Especially since he's running out of subordinate employees to throw under the bus?

Perhaps the Esquivel lawsuit really is the one that the city would win at trial but at trial's end, it would have probably more explaining to do with this one than the rest. If Esquivel is the rogue he's being painted as now, imagine the civil liability the city would be facing if testimony came out that it knowingly elevated an officer they now say is a rogue up the chain of command almost to its top. What might play out inside are the Esquivel is the good cop retaliated for filing for the chief's position or Esquivel is the rogue cop who somehow advanced to a high leadership position through incremental steps and we just can't explain how that happened. Both of these are very ugly and the testimony whether it supports one or the other will be equally so.

Either way it will really be the department and city that are put on trial in the process of trying to put the plaintiff on trial.

So no, this case probably won't make it in front of a jury in a public forum like a courtroom either.

It's pretty much a given that the city would never litigate any case in a public arena that might prove embarrassing to it when it can always settle it behind closed doors. Which it almost always does within months of releasing an official statement that the claim or lawsuit has no merit and will be litigated aggressively by the city. When the city invariably settles the lawsuit, it then simply states through Priamos' office that it did so to save the money that would be spent litigating it. The strategy of now saying after settling cases that the officers did very bad things is apparently a new one and the city sends a contradictory message of stating well, we're settling this case and we won't tell you exactly for how much but that person that was fired and then unfired and then rehired or reinstated and then medically retired, they did really bad things which we can't say what they are. It's not clear what to think by reading those statements whether there's a divide between Diaz' view of the situation and that of the City Council or City Attorney's office which would of course never hand out retirements to employees who did "very bad things". But this is again, a case where the actions of putting officers (including those fired) on "leave" and then retiring them out speak louder than the words about how they're doing bad things and are out for money.

But if Diaz is saying take it to a jury, then more power to him. Because if these lawsuits get to trial and these issues get aired in a public arena, then maybe the city's residents will get incensed enough as they were during the revelation of guns, plates and badges scandals as well as the DUI incident to demand change. To demand answers as to why the top candidates on the lieutenant's are passed over for those on the bottom, why officers demoted for character misconduct can get repromoted faster than those who failed probation. Also, why again, if an officer is evil incarnate, how can this individual be elevated to such a high rank or climb the ladder so quickly? How can an officer with 17 years of no discipline (including for a sustained complaint I filed against him in 2003) can see his career evaporate about two months after he confronts the acting chief in a roll call and how can an internal investigation involving this individual get bumped to the top of the list within 24 hours of when his allegations about DeLaRosa hit the press while DeLaRosa is still at the helm of the agency? Or did all these individuals suddenly become bad or rogue when they took actions or said words that upset the apple carts of others equal or higher than them in rank in the department or City Hall? Why was it acceptable for a mid-line supervisor to be blamed for the decisions made or not made by his superiors on a controversial incident? Why didn't the city management purchase their firearms from a licensed dealer instead of from an unlicensed police department?

Maybe some of the answers to these questions can only a trial in front of a jury can answer because it will provide everyone involved with the opportunity to talk, voluntary or under subpoena, in a public forum.

Watching these questions get litigated in the assorted trials would have probably been very educational about the part of the police department that the public doesn't see, the huge mess of it whose costs are borne by the part of it the public does see, the officers on the street. Because unfortunately because of their constant interfacing with the public and the uniform they wear, the officers at this level do have the closest contact with the sentiment that arose beginning when the news about Feb. 8 did come out. The management involved as well as that in the department and City Hall involved in the guns, cold plates and badges scandal could and did insulate themselves much better from public reproach.

Ironically this statement about the merit of past litigation came out at the same time that an incident allegedly took place involving a white police officer stopping and ticketing a Black detective who was onduty at the time had taken place. It came days after a former police officer was convicted of six felonies of child molestation by a jury. Two men promoted by Diaz had histories of sexual misconduct onduty, one was investigated for a crime after he allegedly spray painted a wall and one of the officers that he looked up on for advice engaged in the coverup of a crime involving his own boss which for a lot of non-law enforcement individuals would be equated with a criminal violation of delaying, obstructing or deterring an officer or investigation. The officer who confronted that individual is the one who Diaz alleged had engaged in "very bad things" when the attempted covering up of criminal conduct is more forgivable, so much so that this person's worthy of briefing on departmental issues including apparently candidates for promotions. As the promotional processes wind down for sergeants and lieutenants this week, the candidates will be ranked on a list that as shown in July has been rendered absolutely meaningless. The new lieutenant and sergeant's lists seriously shouldn't be ranked by number, but the candidates should just simply be put in alphabetical order.

What else can be said when ranking 12# out of 13 on that list is more likely to get you promoted than finishing #1? Now if the top ranked candidates finish at the bottom of the list this time rather than the top, will they be more likely to be promoted at the bottom than they were at the top?

But anyway, back to Lanzillo and his "very bad things", the ones so bad that there's no elaboration on what he did. The same officer who did "very bad things", so bad apparently the city decided to reverse his firing by DeLaRosa and issue him a medical retirement rather than fight him tooth and nail all the way to trial.

Okay, if the officer had been doing that for most or all of his career, why were those "very bad things" suddenly paramount only after he had that altercation with DeLaRosa? Diaz never met Lanzillo while he was employed, never managed him, never personally investigated him, so he's left to rely on the written record or what is told to him by the two highest ranking individuals who oversee internal affairs who just happen to have been defendants on the lawsuit.

Okay, so the city goes to trial on the Lanzillo case and what's going to be seen? Years and years of "very bad" or progressively "very bad" employment evaluations. A long history of extensive disciplinary action or even what's called progressive disciplinary action. Supervisor after supervisor saying in writing and dated before Feb. 8 that here was an officer doing "very bad things". Activations of the department's Early Warning System tracking this officer because of these "very bad things". Well you get the picture. Will you get that kind of hardcore evidence at trial or will it be another officer placing evaluation after evaluation on the Elmo for display to the jury that meet or exceed standards? Will there be evidence of scant or even no discipline involving Lanzillo during his 17 year career of doing "very bad things" or will there be officer after officer on the clock going up there to testify about these "very bad things" and then under cross-examination when asked why none of this ever appeared in writing will just gaze at the attorney with very little to say that's not on a script.

Because this all happened before in the civil trial involving Officer Roger Sutton, where he laid out his paper trail in front of the jury while officers took the witness stand testifying that he was akin to Satan or at least a very bad rogue officer. But you know what? Juries don't care about all that, they care about what's on paper over a period of years, not what's said about the plaintiff on the witness stand in the matter of minutes all while the officer is looking for prompt by the officer assigned by the city to help it defend itself and then having to be reminded that what they said contradicted what they said in their depositions, oh about a dozen times or so for one witness.

That might sound a bit harsh but that's what happened. And at the end of the day, a $1.64 million verdict for Sutton which apparently for an area like Riverside, very impressive. The jury didn't give that verdict as an act of charity or because it was ignorant, it's because Sutton's attorneys put on a more impressive case with documentation provided to it in some cases by the officers who hit the stand contradicting their own written product. The defense failed to deliver on most of what it promised in opening arguments and that makes a huge difference to jurors who remember, make the ultimate decision about who wins and who loses in lawsuits that go to trial.

And in the meantime, over a five week period, a lot of testimony that didn't have direct relevance to Sutton's legal arguments spilled out in front of that jury including testimony about what was going on at the top of management. Because once you get witnesses on the stand, it's impossible to really control them and an "objection, motion to strike" followed by a "sustained" followed by an admonition for jurors to ignore what they heard as if they were audio recording devices that could simply erase portions of their memories and not human.

Diaz' own bosses apparently engaged in illicit activities or violations of state laws involving a gun sale, the acquisition of flat badges and cold plates not to mention DeSantis' alleged gun brandishing incident. The behavior involving his own employers and even city council members came to light not because the city issued a press release disclosing its own actions but only because of two apparently greedy individuals that Diaz never worked with or managed decided at the end of lengthy careers they wanted to get rich. So he's essentially surrounded or surrounding himself with people who might not be doing "very bad things" but are definitely doing questionable things. Is this all relative?

I'm not sure where Diaz' line of reasoning is coming from but it's time for the public to know what's going on and the public arena of a courtroom's a great place to really get started so we can witness lines of witnesses including city management and elected officials at City Hall and employees from top to bottom in the police department hit the witness stand to testify under penalty of perjury and hopefully without suddenly having personnel investigations opened on them when they leave the witness stand. After all, at least one distinguished career in the Riverside Police Department came to a rather abrupt end after this officer testified about racism in the department's highest level of management where things like "Jerry's Kids" and "exclusionary rule" had entirely different meanings than most people would associate with either term.

Just like happened in the last most expensive Riverside Police Department civil trial in 2005, which also was viewed as being frivolous. The most expensive action ever involving the police department at least in the past 10 years. The only one that actually saw a trial was the one that actually cost the city the most.

So history has shown that Diaz is not correct is that the city's "soft" on these cases that are lacking of merit, because that's not what appears to be the case at all. The city approaches litigation from a risk management perspective. After all, the second primary responsibility for Priamos and his legal team (and any outside team which typically handles labor litigation) behind protecting the city council and mayor is to minimize the risk of civil liability faced by the city. The city has shown that it will vigorously litigate to trial cases it believes it will win like the Sutton case showed, because at the five year mark, the case could have expired back to a $200,000 arbitration award but the city said no, we want a trial and boy, did they get one for the ages. If Diaz' advice is taken, the city will have at least a dozen more opportunities to litigate current claims and lawsuits involving the police department all the way to trial by jury. A couple employees or so will probably have multiple trial dates to book into their schedules when they get subpoenaed to testify in those proceedings.

There's two considerations the city's legal and risk management teams contemplate when making the decision on whether or not to take a lawsuit all the way to trial. The first is whether the city will lose and how much it will lose, the second is that regardless of whether it wins or loses, how much embarrassing and formerly confidential information will be revealed at trial in front of the media and any witnesses because it takes place not behind the blue wall of silence or behind closed doors but inside a public arena.

Diaz made a statement that he hopes the city will change its strategy and start litigating cases to trial rather than settle them to make greedy employees rich. Well it might help if he did his homework to figure out why the city's not done as he suggested, why hell will freeze over first before it does what he suggests and what will happen with again, the dozen or so litigation in the forms of claims and lawsuits in two separate court systems that are "pending" all go to trial.

The city might win some, lose others but what will happen is that the public will learn some good and a lot bad about how the police department conducted its shop. And the negative is the focus here, because cities don't settle litigation to suppress the good news, the positive attributes of a city department (which certainly exist inside the police department in many ways), they do it to suppress the news they never want the public to learn about and the guns, badges, and cold plates is one really good example of what the city wanted to suppress.

Diaz coming from the Los Angeles Police Department which overshadows his new haunt in litigation both filed inside the department (including a round of lawsuits filed by Black officers earlier this decade that were settled) and out of house too including a recent $13 million settlement in relation to the controversial May Day 2007 incident. How many lawsuits filed against the LAPD are taken to trial and if they're being settled as they are here (and many of them are), why is that? Remember, his agency has faced a federal consent decree, the Christopher Commission of the 1990s and other investigations including a blue panel probe of the so-called Rampart scandal. What's the overall impact of the litigation been on the LAPD and what role has it played in the direction of the LAPD? Lawsuits filed by police officers including Sgt. Wayne Guillary and Earl Williams, who after two years of unpaid leave won his board of rights hearing and had 11 charges of misconduct reversed. Williams had been investigated for insubordination to a supervisor shortly after complaining about a noose hanging from his locker at the 77th precinct. Guillary and Williams were listed in this class action lawsuit filed against the LAPD in 2000.

Riverside's own lawsuits are probably drops in the bucket in comparison to those in the much larger LAPD.

If Diaz truly knows Lanzillo's employment history as he states and he's reviewed it firsthand rather than receiving information filtered by others including two defendants in Lanzillo's lawsuit, then Diaz will know what individual filed a complaint against Lanzillo and prevailed in the finding issued by the police department (if not the Community Police Review Commission) against Lanzillo. The only person to ever prevail against Lanzillo in a citizens complaint. He will know that no disciplinary action was given in response to that complaint and that one month after it was adjudicated, Lanzillo was promoted to detective. There's probably readers of this blog who are somewhat surprised that I've even questioned Lanzillo's termination which I have done, considering the history that the two of us have shared which Diaz should be fully cognizant about if his factual information is as correct and thorough as he's said.

But it's precisely that history which has made me view Lanzillo's firing as highly suspicious. Because what's on trial in any type of retaliation case isn't whether an officer is the angel or the devil as the city might think. What's on trial is how that officer was treated during his or her career and whether that changed at any point including after a particular event took place, in this case Lanzillo's altercation with DeLaRosa. If the officer was an angel, was he treated like an angel before and after his altercation with DeLaRosa? How a jury answers that question after evaluating evidence by both sides will determine what happened and how much it will cost the city if anything.

But if an officer was a devil, then was he treated like an angel or a devil before and after the incident alleged to spark the retaliation? It's just as problematic for a devil to be treated like an angel for years and suddenly treated like a devil after the incident that sparked the retaliation claim. Because if the treatment of even the worst officer was positive before the incident that sparked the claim and then it changed to negative after that same incident, the city's just as likely to lose a lawsuit at trial than if the officer was an angel treated the same way. The city erred in a very expensive way by treating Sutton as the devil while giving him years of acceptable or better evaluations in writing and there's enough probability that they would have erred in Lanzillo's civil lawsuit trial as well.

But again, painting an officer as a "very bad" employee at trial through testimony when the paper trail says otherwise will ensure that the city loses again, maybe its shirt, and this city learned not to go to trial twice.

That said, it's that part of his employment history which actually helps prove his case rather than the department and city's case against him. Because the city's most common defense to litigation filed against it by city employees, is to say how bad these employees have been which is easy to do because confidentiality laws prevent exposure of the facts that would prove or disprove these assessments including the police officer's bill of rights, the litigation that officers including Lanzillo fought so hard for to use to keep this information secret. Only to find that the reasons why the bill was first signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown in the first place has come full circle. That the same law meant to protect rank and file officers against abuses of their rights by management is actually being used to shield those management officials from similar abuses to their officers from public exposure. This is why an officer can be said as having done "very hard things" in the press without any more details provided to know if that's really the case or not.

Whether that happened in this case will never be truly known by the public. Why? Because the city made a decision not to litigate it at trial.

But as stated, the city's number one defense against litigation that's filed by its own employees is to say that this employee has done very bad things, is the "rogue" officer and is the worst of the worst (in an agency that as a motto, says it hires "the best of the best", ironic indeed). It happened to Sutton who was painted as some "rogue" almost criminal officer which was the city's defense against his litigation at trial. Okay, that's one strategy but if there's truth to it, then that needs to be presented at trial to in his case, counter the nearly 10 years of annual evaluations that were displayed as evidence to the jury of where all but once, he either met performance standards or exceeded them. So much for the rogue defense because the obvious question would be, if this officer's truly the worse of the worse, then why weren't any complaints alleging that ever written in a decade of evaluations? The only negative one he received was after the dog bite incident and it would have been odd if he hadn't received that evaluation in that situation by a supervisor examining his work performance.

From a financial perspective, the city would have less of an incentive to settle than an employee who has been fired and may be trying to get income to pay the daily bills, yet the city which has an unlimited expense account it seems to litigate these cases to trial settles them fairly quickly.

That will be the case with the dozen or so of them that are remaining. Because what the city has found out is that when the truth comes out in a public forum rather than remaining hidden behind closed doors, it just proves to be too costly in ways that include financially.

But it's interested after all the admonitions during the Strategic Plan forums not to rehash history involving the police department that the new chief has taken a position on civil litigation filed by his employees that involves doing just that.

San Bernardino County supervisor turning in car after DUI incident.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The city council meets to discuss this agenda including the lawsuit filed by the family of Marlon Acevedo (who died in police custody on Oct. 31, 2008) in closed session.

Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers, the Community Police Review Commission meets to discuss this agenda which includes processing three officer-involved death cases from 2008 and 2009 as well as a training presentation on the police department's Early Warning System

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