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, December 02, 2010

The RPD Rounds out its Stragetic Plan Forums

The Riverside Police Department held its most recent Strategic Plan forum at the California School for the Deaf located in the Central Neighborhood Policing Center and in the ward of Councilman Paul Davis.

Both Davis and Ward Three Councilman Rusty Bailey attended the forum which attracted about 30 people and listened to input from members of the Deaf Community including Gerald "Bummy" Burstein, CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults) and students from an interpretation program at Riverside Community College. Conducting the presentation were Central NPC Commander Lt. Daniel Hoxmeier, Sgt. Jaybee Brennan, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino.

Chief Sergio Diaz was absent due to the recent tragic death of his son and also absent was Deputy Chief Mike Blakely.

Almost immediately after the initial presentation, there were issues and concerns raised by members of the audience, predominantly the RCC students in attendance about officers' driving, handling of domestic violence cases and the homeless and how handcuffing impacts deaf people's ability to communicate.

Bummy asked if a separate meeting could be held between the police officers and the Deaf community because of issues that are "unique" with that community and that the San Bernardino Police Department's officers were more in tune with the Deaf community than those in Riverside closer to one of two state schools. There had once been a Model Deaf Task Force Committee that started after an incident involving a Deaf individual and the police department some years ago that had apparently gone fallow in recent years. Some asked about where Det. Rick Wheeler, the department's first fluent American Sign Language officer had gone and Hoxmeier said that he had been very busy doing critical work as a homicide detective and had to step down. Another female officer who had been fluent in ASL medically retired from the department several years ago but Vicino said that several other officers had families or friends in the Deaf community.

Suggestions for taking ASL classes included those at Riverside Community College and Cal State University at San Bernardino. Not too difficult a language to learn especially if you've studied French, which shares many grammatical rules with ASL, not surprising since the language has origin ties to France. Though in recent decades, the language is changing to have more of an English influence. Facial expressions (or nonmanual markers as they're called and signing with a blank face might be considered rude) and active "listening" are important components of the language not the signs of aggression that they may often be read as appearing.

Together, Deaf and hard of hearing individuals and their family members made up over 15% of Riverside's population.

[Deputy Chief Jeff Greer and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino observe the presentation on the Strategic Plan]

[ City residents, both hearing and Deaf attended the latest Strategic Plan forum at California School for the Deaf in Riverside and heard a presentation from Sgt. Jaybee Brennan]

[Central NPC Area Commander and Lt. Daniel Hoxmeier addresses audience through an interpreter as Sgt. Jaybee Brennan looks on]

[Some of the suggestions made by people in attendance at the forum]

What was interesting is that unlike other forums, there were more younger people including students at this forum and they participated pretty enthusiastically. But it's hard to hold forums and ask younger people including students to attend them, it's much better to go to the institutions like colleges and high schools to solicit input from this age demographic.

Also touted was the department's Community Services Division which Vicino said they would be starting soon. Actually, it is being restarted in January because this isn't anything new as the department had a similar division which included Youth Court, Crime-Free Multi-Housing and other similar programs several years ago inside Special Operations. Several lieutenants who had been in charge of it had included former Lts. Tim Bacon and Rick Tedesco. It was disbanded in an ill-fated effort by the department to "decentralize" its community policing in 2008-09 which didn't really happen.

The revamped division will be helmed by former Traffic Divisions Lt. Guy Toussaint and will include the Volunteer Division which had been struggling with problems while under Traffic Division. Including the discharge of a female volunteer allegedly after she tried unsuccessfully to file a complaint of sexual harassment and a racially hostile environment several years ago and the turnover of volunteers in more recent years. She had allegedly been told that yes, these things happen but we have to learn to go along to get along...only they couldn't "get along" with her because within days she was gone. Allegations of related problematic behavior at one of the police department's first DUI checkpoints was apparently investigated and Mayor Ron Loveridge was made aware of the allegations but apparently had little or no response.

[Lt. Guy Toussaint (center)here shown at a DUI checkpoint in the Eastside was apparently appointed by Chief Sergio Diaz to run the Community Services Division]

It was encouraging to see the police department reach out and conduct the forum in hopes of reestablishing its relationship with the Deaf community. Vicino's presentation since the first Strategic Plan has greatly improved including his recollection of the history of the first round of Strategic Plan: The Sequel. And Brennan who allegedly topped the list of lieutenant candidates being of the two "A" banders this past testing round provided that historical perspective. Ironically or not, after being abruptly transferred out of the Orange Street Station (on the heels of the departure of Sgt. Lisa Williams) before Diaz started working there by then Acting Chief John DeLaRosa, Brennan has returned to her haunts as working on the Strategic Plan and serving as public information officer while still remaining in her position as a field sergeant.

The area commanders were actively involved in the forums in their respective NPCs including attending earlier ones to get a feel for the formats. The department's inhouse survey of its employees has been conducted with allegedly some interesting results and the command staff will meet on what direction to take the Strategic Plan (the second round) in light of the public input taken from both rounds sometime early next year.

The Group Holds Its Annual Breakfast

Organization Honors Two Retired RPD Lieutenants

[Dozens of city officials, employees and community members attended the Group's annual breakfast at the Canyon Crest Country Club]

[Dr. Lula Mae Clemmons, 93, won a community service award from the Group for her years of civic involvement.]

Dozens of individuals, including four city council members attended the annual breakfast sponsored by The Group at the Canyon Crest Country Club where three individuals were honored including Dr. Lula Mae Clemmons. Also honored were Robert Bratton, owner of Gram's Barbecue in downtown Riverside and the folks who own the Coffee Depot in Riverside which will be closing its doors and moving operations to Simi Valley.

The Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability gave its Bill Howe award (named after the retired police chief and original member of the Community Police Review Commission) to retired Lts Darryl Hurt and Tim Bacon for their roles in bringing to light misdeeds by denizens at City Hall particularly involving the guns, badges and cold plates scandals. They along with former Riverside Police Officers' Association present, Det. Chris Lanzillo had been working on public information requests as well to find out how other police designated resources had allegedly been used or misused by individuals at the top floor of City Hall. If you'll notice, none of these former leaders of the two police associations are employed with Riverside any longer. The two lieutenants are retired or will be as top level captains back to 2008 and Lanzillo received a settlement from the city which includes a medical retirement on the eve of the initiation of the deposition stage of his federal lawsuit.

Three out of three former union leaders retiring after being involved in these actions of exposure and in Lanzillo's case challenging DeLaRosa in one of the roll call bull sessions which DeLaRosa and the management staff conducted not long after the Feb. 8 DUI incident involving former chief, Russ Leach. The sessions were geared towards rallying the troops behind the thin blue line to protect mainly those in management including DeLaRosa when he had the perfect opportunity to admit what had happened to those he managed who were taking heat because of the anger and distrust fostered against the department in the wake of that incident. That is, depending on how much iron clad control the city management had over him.

Not particularly happy at the award was City Manager Brad Hudson who departed not long after the award was presented with some of his staff. Accepting the award on the behalf of Bacon and Hurt who couldn't attend was Davis.

But what would have been nice is if City Hall had just issued press releases to the people who really own that building, the city residents when these scandals first came to light inside its walls. That would have been appreciated in the cases of Leach's DUI incident as well as the scandals unearthed in the discovery material in the Bacon and Hurt lawsuits. The public elects the representatives who lease space in City Hall for four-year periods subject to renewal or eviction (complete with the 30 day notice). But no, City Hall covered up the guns, badges and cold plates scandals until it became what Councilman Steve Adams called "old news" in the press and thus outside the purview of an ethics complaint being filed involving portions of it under the old rules of the Ethics Code and Complaint process.

Mayor Ron Loveridge did say that on the DUI incident he did receive anonymous notice of it on the morning of Feb. 8 by a woman who called his office even though he wasn't in town at the time. But was a press release issued to the city's residents of that town, no there was a lot of intrigue of whether or not Leach was at City Hall for a meeting later that morning, how City Manager Brad Hudson was notified about it given that his city-issued phone had been turned off all day and didn't receive or send any phone calls. Hudson did his "sweeping" investigation which deftly avoided any real investigation of either his office or City Attorney Gregory Priamos' office (and remember his phone records were never released at all) and was overseen by an "independent" person he hired in the form of Best, Best and Krieger partner, Grover Trask who surprisingly didn't find anything wrong with an investigation that later was apparently somewhat discredited in some other intrigue involving one of the investigated parties.

Lt. Leon Phillips remains in that rank today working watch command in the field division and issuing press releases on what happens there in that capacity not as a demoted sergeant because while under house arrest in the "penalty box" at the Orange Street Station, he hadn't remained idle. After this blog posted that he had been transferred from his watch command to the penalty box in lieu of discipline including possible termination, DeLaRosa went running down to a roll call session to assure officers there that no Phillips wasn't at Orange Street to be disciplined but to receive training for a "special assignment". But oddly enough, instead of shifting into a special assignment say with Personnel and Training, Phillips received his notice of intent to terminate a week later. Wow, did they put all that preparation for this alleged special assignment (including transferring a lieutenant out of field command which already experienced a 50% vacancy rate at the time) to waste on a person that was to be fired. So what was the truth here, was it that he was being transferred to fill a special assignment or were the plans instead to fire him?

Of course he wasn't because after all, apparently he had been busy finding problems in his own case investigation including apparent bias in how veracity was determined in the face of conflicting information provided by different parties where Hudson's office took the words of management employees as being factual every time. Hudson even implied to the press that Phillips was dishonest because of conflicting statements but DeLaRosa was telling the truth because his statements were consistent. Yet Phillips' retention as lieutenant to this day speaks for itself in that he and his lawyer allegedly were able to build a case to City Hall that the problems with the investigation and the culpability with the handling of the DUI incident lay higher than the supervisory level. After all, an officer and former Sgt. Frank Orta offered information about management's knowledge of the intoxication of Leach that matched that given by Phillips if not management in their interviews with CHP investigators who belatedly probed the incident.

Which of course brings the whole integrity of the most important internal investigation done by the city of the year into question and not Hudson nor his office have provided any clarification on the actual truth of what had become of that "sweeping" investigation to this day. That episode which marked the investigation into the handling of the DUI incident only went further to show that the mishandling of it continued even after its exposure.

But no, Loveridge, Hudson nor anyone else released any information to the public about what had happened. They themselves researched the incident to inform themselves and then worked to withhold it from the public which makes the idea of the internal investigation coming out of City Hall all the more ludicrous. The public was never supposed to know anything about the DUI incident any more than it was supposed to find out about the other scandals which emerged this year. The only reason it did was because people decided they didn't want to remain silent and go along with this status quo and they deserve the city residents' appreciation and thanks for their very risky endeavors in a city that punishes severely those who don't keep its problematic behaviors secret. The fact that the city government for the most part accepted Hudson's "sweeping investigation" as the final answer to get themselves off the hook out of saying anything at all publicly just goes to show that the election cycle next year can go a long ways towards ferreting more definitive answers on these issues as long as the voting public holds their incumbents' feet to the fire on the trail.

There are some outside City Hall that probably wish these issues hadn't come to light and blame those who wrote about it for the very scandals that they feel have cast the city in a bad light. As if someone outside those responsible for the scandalous behavior was what painted the city negatively when the fact is, the city including those in its most powerful positions did that themselves. They shamed all of us who live and work here inside and outside of the city's employment. Just because you don't hear or read about a scandal doesn't mean it didn't happen and remaining ignorant about it in all of these cases would have just guaranteed more damage to the city and departments including the police department. Look at the police department for example and see how quickly the management fell apart, well there were reasons for that that were years in the making. You didn't have people in high places deciding to retire at the same time for other reasons besides what unfolded this year on different fronts.

More than one person has said that the police department had turned into the butt of jokes among the public, but not really, what it did was put it under public scrutiny and criticism. People just lost faith and trust in it beginning before Leach's downfall, because of the arrests and prosecution of a number of its officers that looking back, was a red flag of issues involving the department in that all of them were higher risk individuals (due to family strife, drug addiction, prior disciplinary history and similar misconduct) impacted by a management system that was built essentially on corruption. With all the misbehavior at the top that was going on including illegal behavior, there were bound to be individuals including those already facing stress to misbehave because those who were supposed to set high standards of behavior openly subverted them instead. Knowing about that came because there were people deeply embarrassed about it which is hopeful because as long as they are there, those situations can be addressed but knowing about what's going on with the arrests and prosecutions of officers doesn't determine whether these actions take place.

They have already happened whether the public knows about them or not through the media and if they cause damage, they do so regardless. It's interesting how much some people wish they could still be left in the dark as if that prevents scandals from being done. But the police department for example, was going to run aground at some point given the behavior that had taken place and it would have if not for those who decided they wanted something better in their workplace than what had taken place.

That's what the ostriches in this city who would prefer everyone had their heads in the sand miss is that it wasn't just the city residents who were affronted and unhappy about what happened and its coverup. If that hadn't been the case then the city and department would be in a much different place and certainly not a better one. Living in a vacuum that the truth shouldn't be told because it's too unpleasant and somehow telling it is what causes it to happen, is one way to live but it's just an assurance that more unpleasantness to cover up will be coming.

The mishandling of the DUI incident impacted the public the way it did because of the double standard of handlng criminal conduct involving drunk driving including accidents and traffic stops. Leach received preferential treatment even under the heavy suspicion of DUI reported by the patrol officers to their supervisor and a hit and run crime yet unlike most people, he received a ride home. Officers and former officers in different law enforcement agencies reported similar actions involving high ranking law enforcement officers and even elected officials in a couple cases so this isn't unique but once the public knew about it, they reacted coming from the idea of whether or not high ranking police management personnel were above the law. After all, at least two lower leveled police officers in Riverside's department had been prosecuted and convicted of DUI after off-duty crashes. Not knowing about Leach's incident or knowing about it doesn't serve as a determining factor in whether it happened or not. If they had been successful at covering it up, then Leach could have been involved in a DUI crash in the future which could have resulted in injuries or death and a much larger scandal because before the Feb. 8 incident, there were allegedly other DUI stops involving Leach in and out of Riverside County.

A lot was going right with the police department but it's hard to notice it when it's an impoding mess up at the top. And today's makeup of that management reflects it with an outside police chief in Diaz and two out of three of his cabinet also coming from the outside. The captains' level which was both a creation and casualty of some rather cut throat promotional competition failed to be able to provide candidates to those positions except for one individual, Blakely, who was promoted outside of that process.

The challenge remains to rebuild the department's management and its leadership, to as one management personnel put it to create future leadership coming from within the department that could fit so seamlessly in the top positions that those currently holding them wouldn't be missed. There's great potential to do that but you have to bridge the grand canyon that exists between those candidates and the top positions partly created by what the public didn't know about that had been taking place for years involving the advancement of individuals into management positions. And foster an environment more based on collaboration and not cutthroat competition. But the management are going to have to want to achieve those things rather than maintain past practices and so far the jury's still out.

Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco announced his office is seeking the death penalty in the Officer Ryan Bonaminio case and Columnist Dan Bernstein examines the handling of the man charged with killing him by the penal system.

Public Meetings

Monday, Dec. 6 at 4 p.m. Human Resources Board meets at City Hall on the fifth floor conference room.

Mon. Dec. 6, at 5:30PM
Riverside Unified School District meeting at Palm Adult School to discuss budget proposals for athletic facilities including North High School

Monday, December 6, 2010 7:00 PM, the police department will hold a forum for input in the Strategic Plan at Nichols Park – Multi Purpose Room 5505 Dewey Avenue

Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meets in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room on the ethics complaint filed by La Sierra Arlanza Neighborhood Alliance against Councilman Steve Adams.

Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 2 pm and 6:30 p.m. the city council will meet in the chambers at City Hall to discuss this agenda. Among other things, the police department's Metro Team including Officers Dawson Smith and Brett Stennett by the California Firefighters Association. Oh and it didn't take long before the argument over making and amending motions during the discussion on the Ethics Code changes at a recent meeting to return to the city council under a resolution to change them on the consent calendar naturally so the public can't really participate in a discussion.

Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. The Finance Committee will meet to discuss this agenda on the situation involving the fact that Riverside shared its financial auditing firm with cities like Bell that had so-called perfect audits but problems and criminal conduct were discovered later.

Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. The Community Police Review Commission will discuss this agenda in the city council chambers. This will be the monthly meeting for December.

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