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

Monday, November 08, 2010

Riverside Lays to Rest One of Its Police Officers

UPDATE: Bad labor news: Riverside ranks as the third worst city to find a job in the country.

UPDATE: Riverside Police Department changes promotional process listing for lieutenants to "banding".

[Some of the thousands of police vehicles from different law enforcement agencies all over the state driving to the Grove Church on Trautwein Blvd.]

[Several thousand people mostly law enforcement officers from different agencies were sitting in the grass outside the church watching the funeral on a big screen.]

[Thousands of law enforcement officers and other folks watched the funeral services of Officer Ryan Bonaminio]

Thousands of family members, friends, law enforcement officers and other folks attended the funeral and burial services of Riverside Police Department Officer Ryan Bonaminio that took place at the Grove Community Church near Orangecrest before his casket was driven to the Riverside National Cemetery for burial alongside other military veterans and their loved ones.

Law enforcement officers arrived in their vehicles and motorcycles from all over the state from Napa to Pasadena, from Long Beach to Hawthorne to Claremont and the Los Angeles Police Department. Long lines of sparkling lights filled the streets of both Alessandro and Trautwein during the procession to get to the church. People watched and took pictures from the side of the streets including by the Mission Grove Plaza as the officers drove by.

All to pay tribute to one of their own who had been killed in the line of duty.

Inside the church, there were over 1200 people sitting in the pews. Outside there were several thousand people sitting in chairs on the grass in rows watching the funeral that took place inside the church. Many others stood on the sides and in the back, holding onto water bottles and programs, after signing the guest books on display. They laughed at some of the stories that Bonaminio's family and friends told during their eulogies and shed some tears as well.

For many it hadn't been the first funeral they had attended this year, some of them driving long miles to get to the church.

Hundreds of people had attended candlelight vigils, both formal and informal last week both at the Orange Street Station and the shrine inside the entrance of Fairmount Park. Many people came together to donate their services to the vigil on Nov. 11 which was very moving to see, from donations of over 1,000 candles to musicians and religious leaders not to mention community members who gathered together to do things like unwrap candles and put up sound systems including an elected official and officers like Sgt. Rene Ramirez who helped get the lighting so the vigil wouldn't be held in the darkness. Soldier Doug Spencer coming home from Iraq and heading straight in his fatigues to the vigil held in memory of his friend where he met his mother who hadn't seen him in a long time.

[Fairmount Park]

Officer Ryan Bonaminio, 27 was a common sight in the area of what's called the Neighborhood Policing Center North, one of the police department's four areas of policing in the city which has been divided into quadrants several years ago. Like many people have said, he always wore a big smile and he seemed impassioned with the career he had chosen for himself. Certainly when describing what he did to so many people that he crossed paths during his life.

I encountered him several times sometimes with other young officers like himself. He looked very young to be an officer and I asked him at least once if he were brand new and he'd smile and say, "No, I've been here three years." or more recently, "No I've been here four years."

That last time was about several weeks before the last radio call he ever answered on the very busy swing shift that he worked just before the graveyard shift came on duty around 10pm.

[Officer Ryan Bonaminio]

Ramona High School 2000

U.S. Army (January 2001-December 2009)

(Nov. 25,1982-Nov. 7, 2010)

"He was my hero..."

---Joseph Bonaminio, father

Bonaminio never saw his fifth year anniversary of being a Riverside Police Department officer which would have been sometime next July around Independence Day.

Instead his life ended not long after an encounter with a killer at Fairmount Park, a locale which had been the scene of the highly controversial Lake Evans in 1997 involving three officers who beat a man and threw him in the lake. It also saw a lot of criminal activity, not to mention controversies involving the homeless who lived there. The park that had been designed by the same visionary, Frederick Law Olmstead who designed Central Park decades ago had a history which extended back over 100 years, both good and bad.

But what it had never claimed before was the life of a police officer.

Its naturalistic environment without much artificial lighting attracted many people of all backgrounds to the park during the day to enjoy themselves in sunshine and surrounded by trees and a picturesque lake that had been the scene of a regatta race involving city council members which had become an annual contest. Cops and Clergy used to hold their quarterly meetings in the boathouse where only recently the paddle boats had been made available for public use and the sailing program had been restored. Festivals and musical concerts were held within the park near the band shell.

Couples married in the rose garden. Senior citizens met to go lawn bowling. Many families go there to barbecue and fish in the lake or to feed the ducks and other waterfowl that congregate there.

But at night, it turned into something different, the same features which made it desirable by day made it difficult at night to feel safe. Darkness, large trees which cast larger shadows and as it turned out, created a killing zone. About a hundred yards or so from where a church stood, was where Bonaminio was found shot by the officers who arrived to back him up. An ambulance then raced him to Riverside Community Hospital where his family would come including his parents and some of his superiors including Chief Sergio Diaz and members of the management team. Physicians declared him medically dead at about 10:25 p.m. though it took several hours for many people to know his fate. But even before that, it had appeared bleak with people talking about him in the past tense even before the official declaration had been issued.

I learned about the shooting not long after it had happened on Sunday, Nov. 7 at 9:52 p.m the time that the digital video recorder filmed his alleged killer returning to the truck that had been stolen from a rental company some miles away and then driving down Market Street apparently back to where he had stolen the truck. The video later became instrumental in generating tips to the police department's detectives and phone banks which ran for 24 hours without stopping until even after the arrest of the suspected killer. A fingerprint was found in the stolen vehicle and an arrest was made at the Target store on Arlington where many people in this city have shopped or worked. Chief Sergio Diaz said to the Press Enterprise that he felt that Bonaminio even after death might have had a finger in the investigation of his murder and maybe he was right.

And on Nov. 16, thousands of people congregated at a church and remembered the life of a young man then said goodbye...for now as some including his sister, Nichole added in their comments.

One person said to me last week, someone from a more religious background, that this had been a year of tribulation for the Riverside Police Department almost as if it were going through a gauntlet to test its faith and resolve. Similar to what religious figures in the Bible faced and that makes as much as anything else in a world that often makes little sense. Because it's hard to look back at last nine months and attach any reason to them, often life just is.

That the department faced two of the most difficult tests that any agency of men and women could ever have to deal with in their midst in a single calendar year. The first six months addressing a crisis that shook the city and the department to the point that today it's under new and outside leadership and by the end of summer, the police department had taken some steps at moving forward into the direction that was more deserving for it than what had led to the crisis that was behind what manifested on Feb. 8. There had been a lot of turmoil, more than most people would have guessed when the new year began but as difficult as it got, there were lights at the end of the tunnel, although the journey to reach them would be arduous indeed. But it was a very important journey as it turned out and it was one the department seemed more than up to taking to get where it needed to be.

As difficult as the first six months were, they were necessary for the department to be what both the city residents and its over 600 employees deserved and had worked hard to achieve before decision making from those higher up placed it off its path. The sobering thing about it for many people was the realization that many of those in leadership positions had been more interested in looking out for themselves and their own interests than the agency of men and women that they were encharged with leading. And the decisions they made to serve those interests impacted many people in this city. Whereas most of the department's employees countered the management's behavior by putting their concern and energy into providing service for others outside of themselves.

When the people who are being led have higher standards of professional conduct than those leading them, that type of situation is always going to reach its crisis point which clearly happened here when their leadership failed them. But it was the people who were led who restored a lot of people's faith in the department though for many the jury is still out on the leadership.

That's what caused the crisis of confidence and conscience that defined the earlier part of this year. And despite attempts by the city to sweep that under the rug, they were working against a department filled with employees who took care in what they did and had pride doing that. That's why the department's in a better position and trying to move forward than it had been eight months ago because those in its ranks cared about it and what it represented to the public. Because the city residents weren't the only ones disgusted by what was unfolding in their midst. The difference between them and many of the employees is that they could express that without paying consequences. After all, the city watched what happened to one former RPD employee who faced off with an acting chief during the roll call session where he and the management staff had dropped by to reinforce the code of silence.

Beneath all the crises involving the top of the police department’s chain of command, were officers at the bottom of the command who continued to do the work of the department despite all the chaos going on around them. Officers like Bonaminio who worked in the neighborhoods and streets of the four neighborhood policing centers doing their jobs, even as the public became very upset about what had been taking place and expressed that in different ways.

The officers at the street level not being as insulated from the furor that was generated earlier this year as a result of decision making at levels much higher above them.

They say that most patrol officers are mainly concerned about personnel at their level and access to functioning equipment and maybe one or two levels above them on the chain of command. Officers in the police department have been working in fewer numbers lately and they had been supervised by fewer sergeants given the large number of vacancies that have not been filled in their ranks due to the budget cuts to the department. Much has been said about why officers in the police department drive one-man cars in contrast to what takes place in other agencies like the Los Angeles Police Department (where both Diaz and Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer hail from) and the answers have varied from maximizing the geographic area of the growing city covered to budget constraints. Much work had been done by the labor unions to increase the size of the department's operational ranks in the past year which has led to 27 new officer positions and the filling of over 20 vacancies including those in supervision and management through the promotional process. For the officer positions, it will take 2-3 years before the officers who will be hired to fill them will be fully confident in those positions especially if they are new hires who go through the two police academies utilized by the city's police department for recruits.

But they are also the primary responders, the ambassadors in a sense of coming into contact with the public, the ones who kept the department together and running. From talking to many different people of all stripes and walks of life, Bonaminio was a very good ambassador for the department and the city. People remembered him very fondly with a chuckle, some tears and a smile that mirrored his own. While the world was essentially falling apart around him, officers like Bonaminio still came to work their shifts, wear the uniform and the badge and served the public from the time they arrived in roll call to the time they went home. Through his short life, he left a powerful legacy behind that will outlive him including those inside and outside his department for which he served as a role model.

Asst. Chief Chris Vicino who hailed from the Pasadena Police Department (which sent a large contingent to the funeral) went into his initial roll calls and told the field officers to get back to work but they had never left it or stayed away. The work didn’t just resume when he and the other newer members of the police management arrived including the police chief, Diaz because officers like Bonaminio had been out there doing it all along. That's why Diaz was able to say when he first arrived that the department was doing very well in spite of everything that happened, that officers were doing their work in the field and investigators were doing so with their cases. That's why the department functioned in some ways remarkably well considering its management level had collapsed like a house of cards and their staffing levels were greatly reduced leaving the department with a 10% vacancy rate. Because the work kept getting done in very difficult conditions.

The department had been heading towards the other side of its first crisis when the second one happened on Nov. 7. the night it lost one of its own. Now it's undergoing an entirely different kind of crisis to navigate through in the weeks and months ahead, a test of a different kind.

But one word that's often come up when people describe the RPD probably more than most others is "resilient" that it weathers crises that test it and works towards turning them into something positive and lasting. That's a very powerful quality to have and hold onto during the more difficult times of crisis because that's what brings a department to the other side.

Those in leadership positions in the department and City Hall need to take a closer look at that and honor it through the decisions that they make to avoid the mistakes of the past and to move towards a better future by giving it what it needs before it has to really ask for it, by paying close attention to what's going on before the crisis happens. That's the best way to protect and serve a police department that buried one of its own this week.

[A candlelight vigil attracts hundreds of people from different backgrounds but very few of them from City Hall.]

[Elected officials congregate before the press conference at Orange Street station]

[Mayor Ron Loveridge, center, joined by other city and county officials in front of the cameras at a press conference announcing the establishment of a reward.]

[Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz giving the update on the investigation into the killing of Officer Ryan Bonaminio]

[Dash Cam video taken from Bonaminio's squad car (foreground)of the alleged suspect in the shooting returning to the stolen truck cab]

[Earl Ellis Green,44 arrested in the murder of Bonaminio]

[Officer Ryan Bonaminio's service gun after it was recovered at one of the locations of the three search warrants issued with 11 rounds left]

[A roadside shrine inside Fairmount Park]

Family and friends recalled his life.

Detectives investigating the murder of one of their own describe that process and their timeline.

Press Enterprise
columnists Dan Bernstein and Cassie MacDuff wrote columns on Bonaminio.

His funeral services will be on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 10 am at the Grove Community Church with burial at the National Cemetery to follow.

Transportation Committee Meets on the "Gates"

Riverside's Transportation Committee met to discuss the very thorny issue of whether the gates near the aborted Overlook project should be open or close after reviewing this report. This situation originally arose when two different gates were installed while the thoroughfare for Overlook Drive was to be completed but it's pretty clear now that it will never happen so that left the issue of whether the gates should be opened or closed and residents in that area went up to the podium to argue for either point of view. The gates had been ordered closed and locked for a traffic study and environmental impact report but in the past, the locks had been cut and the gates opened by unknown individuals and this issue had sharply divided neighborhoods in the vicinity. People cited safety issues from speeders, vehicles who run stop signs and individuals who play loud music and vandalize one neighborhood.

Chair Steve Adams initially tried to shut down public comment at noon saying that if people were going to say the same thing over and over they should think about that. One man in the middle of the audience stood up and said he was here to speak and was he going to be allowed to speak and Adams relented and allowed all the speakers on the issue to make their comments.

After two hours of testimony, the decision was made for the gates to be opened until at least mid-December and immediate mitigation efforts be made to reduce traffic issues in the Crystal Terrace area.

[A long line of people wait to speak in favor of leaving the gates open and the line of speakers to close them was somewhat shorter.]

[The Transportation Committee with Councilman Paul Davis substituting in for Councilman Andrew Melendrez because this issue involves a portion of the fourth ward he represents.]

[City residents by the dozens sit listening to the report submitted to the Transportation Committee]

[Dozens of city resident attend a meeting on the issue of whether or not the "gates" should be closed or open near the Overlook area.]

Ethics Review Committee Reports to City Council
City Council Discussion Descends into Chaos

[Councilman Steve Adams shifts his position on the recommendation for an independent pane 180 degrees saying only elected officials are suited to hold themselves accountable for ethics violations.]

[Mayor Ron Loveridge finds instructions from City Attorney Gregory Priamos "incomprehensible" in all his years in public service.]

[Councilman Paul Davis wanted the word "discovery" returned to the text of the recommendations.]

[Councilman and 2012 mayoral candidate, Andrew Melendrez found the whole process "ambiguous" and asked for clarification on the motions being voted upon.]

The recommendations of the Ethics Review Committee went straight to the city council from the Governmental Affairs Committee which had approved all of them except for mandating the exclusion of the word "discovery" and replacing it with incident when detailing the 180 day statutory limit for filing complaints under the Ethics Code. The city council tried to do what it did last year which was for some members of the Governmental Affairs Committee to pull reversals in what they had voted to approve at the city council level once they felt sure they had secured the necessary votes to do so from the full city council. This happened with the "24/7" language which was upheld last year but finally struck down this year after some of the four council members up for reelection in 2011 no doubt realized that governmental ethics and anything related to them would be a contentious issue given everything that transpired during the past year.

Individuals from the public spoke as did Chair Brian Pearcy from the Community Police Review Commission on the process carried out by the committee not to mention its outcome in the form of recommendations. Most of the comments appeared to support the panel's recommendations including the creation of an outside panel to hear complaints and the issue of the timeline required in filing them which previously had been only 30 days after the alleged incident took place.

Kevin Dawson who filed a complaint against former Councilman Dom Betro in 2007 that was nullified by the city attorneys' office urged the city council to adopt the recommendations that were originally submitted by the Ethics Review Committee including that which would allow complaints to be filed on allegations of ethical violations a period of time after the "discovery" of that misconduct.

Bob Melsh recommended that Councilman Steve Adams be asked to recuse himself from the discussion because of the ethics complaint pending against him by the La Sierra/Arlanza Neighborhood Alliance for violating the city's charter amendment against administrative interference. That complaint which was originally scheduled for last week was canceled because City Manager Brad Hudson had to suddenly leave town and he was presented as being germane to the hearing process in front of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee as a witness.

Brian Pearcy who chaired the Ethics Review Committee provided a brief summary of the process that the committee underwent during several public meetings and its final work product.

Councilman Steve Adams said he's not recusing himself from the discussion process because there's one thing not covered in this which is those who make complaints for political reasons and violate the process. Adams wanted changes made to the code including the addition of candidates running for political office in those covered by the code so that they're ethical and it should be known if they refuse it. Adams addressed the use of an independent body to discuss complaints by comparing it to the late police officer, Ryan Bonaminio and said that the panel had to have the same kind of integrity that he had. Transparency is shown when candidates undergo scrutiny during the election that elects them into office and he's all for increasing transparency but didn't feel that needed to extend to a review off of the dais.

He quoted the constitution as stating that politicians had to be judged by their peers. Who better to judge the integrity of those elected to office than those who were elected to serve in those positions by the voters? He also said that there are numerous individuals and entities that already oversee the elected officials including the voters. He vowed never to commit any ethical violations of the oath that he took. He proposed a substitute motion to not silence the vote of those who elected them by having an outside panel handle ethics complaints against them, conveniently forgetting that the most an outside panel could recommend is public censure. Throughout his comments, Adams appeared either to misunderstand the ethics complaint process or he just mistated on it through the use of strawman arguments.

City Attorney Gregory Priamos did correct several of his misperceptions and said that the role of the adjudicatory board of the chairs of the boards and commissions would only be advisory and that only the full city council could take any action and only the voters could expel any elected official off the dais.

Adams appeared unmoved and clearly opposed the panel which in this revised edition would be a collective of board and commission chairs similar to what had been appointed to research and recommend on the current code and complaint process.

"We should be judged by our peers," Adams said, meaning elected officials.

His comments did draw some sharp opposition from the city council.

Councilman Paul Davis sharply disagreed saying that the members of the boards and commissions are their constituents too. He thinks that the inclusion of the terminology is appropriate, asking the other elected officials on the dais, what do we have to hide?

He proposes a motion to change the statuatory period of six months to file a complaint after alleged misconduct to include the "discovery" language.

Councilman Mike Gardner thinks that asking the chairs of boards and commissions to serve on the independent panel "is too much to ask" of individuals who might not be comfortable sitting in judgment of elected officials. He was concerned that people would resign from the chair positions or even the boards and commissions themselves if they had to serve in this capacity.

Councilman Chris MacArthur wanted to protect the members of boards and commissions from the community by having them have the right for informal resolution of complaints against them by their respective chairs.

Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Andrew Melendrez said they could send information advising those running for chair positions that serving on this panel would be part of their responsibilities thus alerting them so they could make the decision of whether or not to run for those positions.

Mayor Ron Loveridge supported the recommendations as a "work in progress" but said they had to move forward.

Several elected officials welded motions and substitute motions on just about every part of it, so much so it was difficult to keep them all straight. Davis said that the discovery should remain part of the process because it's pretty basic and simple. He asked why the complaint form wasn't available on the internet at the city's Web site.

Melendrez asked to have Pearcy trot on back to the podium again to talk about the process of instituting discovery in the issue but Loveridge countered him by saying that if one of the amended standing motions had a second, then Pearcy wouldn't have to come up and talk.

Davis motion on discovery is seconded by Gardner but then Adams wants to speak on it citing it as a "brand new motion" and Loveridge and Adams tussle some more on that language. Priamos interrupts them to recite the semantics on how to conduct motions and substitute motions which leads to some degree of confusion and turmoil on the dais.

"I find that just incomprehensible instructions," Loveridge laments, saying that he's been in public service most of his life.

Adams asks for clarification on the term, discovery and all the things that it means which has nothing to do with the fact that some of his own behavior from several years ago only came to light recently due to the city's efforts to keep it from seeing the light of day.

Vote on 180 days after "discovery" and the changes recommended by the ethics panel came to a vote and it passed 4-3 (with Melendrez, a fairly silent Councilman Rusty Bailey and Adams dissenting).

What essentially happened was that the majority of the city council overruled the wishes of the flip-flopped Governmental Affairs Committee. This was quite a victory for the fairly diluted process that came to light during the year which Riverside's City Hall would rather forget but it remains to be seen what happens next especially during the election cycle next year.

Go on trial, so said a San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge to former county assessor, Bill Postmus on his corruption case.

Why did a Menifee councilman-elect torch campaign signs of his opponent?

[The hearse carrying the body of Firefighter Nick Barrios heading down 14th Street after his funeral on Nov. 10.]

Apparently Riverside's looking for a new library director.

Public Meeting

Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 2pm and 6:30pm, the city council will meet at City Hall and discuss this agenda. This agenda includes the city council discussion of the recommendations involving the Ethics Review Committee including the formation of a new independent panel to hear ethics complaints involving elected officials.

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