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 09, 2010

Tis the season for Christmas and for Controversy

The Riverside Police Department hosted "Cops East" a Christmas event in Riverside which was held on Saturday, Dec. 11 in the Eastside at Town Gate Square mall and the military forces, the California Highway Patrol, the Riverside Fire Department also dropped on by and had booths there along with the Riverside Police Officers' Association which runs a "blue elf" program.

The event was organized by Officer Christopher Carnahan, Officer Neely Nakamura and Officer Phil Sears with Sgt. Linda Byerly and members of the bomb squad, K9 officers Ray Soto and Carat in attendance as well. It was the very successful end result of a lot of organization and planning by those including members of the old Community Services Division which disbanded several years ago and apparently was reorganized to begin again in January when it will be led by Lt. Guy Toussaint. Over 75% of the lieutenants were interested in this position when it opened in contrast to only two lieutenants (including one of the area commanders) filing to replace the vacancy created in the Traffic division from Toussaint's transfer.

Actually as most people know, that division isn't all that new, it was headed by former Lt. Tim Bacon several years ago before it was disbanded as part of an ill-fated effort to "de-centralize" community policing. It's interesting to see its return as something "new" but it will be up and running in January.

[Members of the public inspect the Riverside Police Department helicopter]

[One of Santa's green elves who assisted in the gift giving]

[Santa's sleigh of choice while dropping in on Riverside]

[Friends of Officer Byrd]

[Santa and Mrs Claus hand out gifts in the Eastside in Riverside]

Many people who attended the event including Councilmen Andrew Melendrez and Paul Davis had a good time, and the Santas were certainly very popular with the children who lined up by the hundreds awaiting their turn with them.

Events like this have usually been pretty successful exercises in building relations between police officers and the communities they serve, one of the best mechanisms of community policing in the arsenal. Other events are going to be planned in different areas of the city at different times in the upcoming year.

Finance Committee Meets, Rocked by Tough Questions

[Asst. City Manager Paul Sundeen of Finance discusses the auditing process at a contentious Finance Committee meeting]

[The Finance Committee chaired by Councilwoman Nancy Hart (center) received two reports at its most recent meeting.]

The Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 8 was packed to the walls by people whether city employees or members of the public who came to sit in while the Finance Committee met jointly with something called the Investment Committee to discuss topics such as the city's investment portfolio and both its internal and external auditing processes. As has been stated, the city of Riverside has just finished a five year contract with Mayer Hoffman McKann auditing firm, which if it sounds familiar that's because this firm also handled audits for another city called Bell. Other cities who were clients of this firm including Burbank and Victorville are now playing close attention.

And the firm itself is facing more intense scrutiny from Sacramento. The firm also hired an independent accountant to review its work product as State Controller John Chiang is prepared to issue his assessment of the firm's handling of its audits of Bell which is under investigation by his office.

(excerpt, LA NOW)

"We believe the independent peer review by CRI will provide a fair and neutral evaluation of our government accounting and auditing practice for MHM and its clients, as well as other interested parties in the public sector,” Bill Hancock, president of Mayer Hoffman McCann, said in a statement.

Mayer Hoffman McKann had also given fairly perfect audits on Riverside's own books. According to the city's charter, the city has to change auditors at least every five years but Asst. City Manager of Finance Paul Sundeen said that the city could retain the same firm and use different partners in it.

Still while the city seeks bids for its next auditor, is it really a good idea to simply change auditors in the same firm that's under scrutiny by Chiang's office? Sundeen seemed to attribute the problem with Bell as being related to a "bad apple". But other officials have been adamant that the city won't be retaining the same firm period, which makes sense in that why would Riverside want to be associated with having its auditing handed off to a firm which gave awards to Bell from perfect audits of that city that turned out...not to be so perfect? And the excuses given that Bell wasn't forthcoming with its information to the auditing firm, the problem with that is that if someone or some firm is experienced enough with auditing the books of an agency in the public sector then it should know enough to be concerned or even suspicious when information is given in incomplete form, enough so to ask some serious questions about the integrity of the information provision that's necessary in any successful audit. But that clearly didn't happen here and did it happen in Riverside's own audits?

Questions were raised about why the city couldn't provide a single copy of any business contract it had with Best, Best and Krieger which was also steeped in Bell. There's been some folks who have publicly insisted that Riverside's not Bell and that it shouldn't be grouped in with a city like that. To a point that's true, Bell is Bell and Riverside's Riverside but it's getting more difficult not to notice the parallels between the two very different cities which warrant at least more probing by our city government but then how much probing did the city government do during the Leach incident, or the guns, badges and cold plates scandals (except to dismiss them as old news, essentially in one case patting themselves on the back for successful nondisclosure for several years)? And remember that internal investigation that was done on the Leach incident? Another Best, Best and Krieger attorney, former District Attorney Grover Trask who approved of an investigation later essentially discredited by a Riverside police lieutenant who still remains a lieutenant today...with in hand, a written agreement with the city management never to have to work with one of the surviving parties of the investigation who is now deputy chief of the department.

Lt. Leon Phillips who was never demoted after allegedly proving his allegations against upper management in the police department still is continuing to work through his attorney on his path of exoneration which entertains a lot of questions about the original independent investigation ordered by City Manager Brad Hudson of all the parties...well except those at City Hall.

Meanwhile, Edward Lee, the lawyer that quit had been the attorneys for both Bell and its scandal plagued sibling, Maywood which disbanded its entire workforce including its police department which faced a lawsuit from the State Attorney General's office because of serious problems there.

But also coming up for questions were topics ranging from investment portfolios from the city to the expenditures of asset forfeiture by the police department, to capital projects where millions have been budgeted including one allegedly associated with the police department (though under the city manager's budget) that certainly doesn't exist yet.

Sundeen and some of the other previous separate finance department employees shot looks at each other when some of these issues were raised by those in attendance and issued some flat denials.

City council members including finance committee member, Councilman Paul Davis have asked for any auditor to report to the city council and mayor instead of city management, something that other city officials haven't seemed to warm up to yet. But perhaps in the months ahead as more questions...and possibly answers about the city's financial state and that of its book(s).

Chair and Councilwoman Nancy Hart looked especially harried but now that the Finance Committee has spent more time out of mothballs lately awaiting approval to meet from Sundeen and his boss, Hudson, more and more questions will be raised for those on the committee to answer, particularly as the city prepares for its 2011 election cycle.

City Government to Settle Former Police Chief's Workman's Compensation Claims?

Former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach will have his workman's compensation complaints decided by the city council at the upcoming meeting. He allegedly filed them after suffering back and neck injuries while climbing up a ladder at work, which had people in different places including the always active (and reactivated after deletion) comment threads wondering why a police chief is climbing a ladder in the first place. But then it's been one of those years indeed when everything's been possible.

The city council and mayor which for the most part have been awfully quiet on the events that have rocked the city and police department in the past year will probably pay these out. But if you journey into the comments thread on this one, best wear the equivalent of asbestos gloves.

Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer?

On Dec. 3, 2010, there was a fundraiser held for Officer Ryan Bonaminio who was murdered last month by a man arrested and charged with his death that was very well attended and successful. However, reports emerged that one of the management team members became intoxicated in the bar area and was flashing his upper body at people and allegedly displaying pictures of naked women on a portable communication device before hitting on some married women of male officers in attendance.

If this is true and what's been going on, then this just seems like more of the same behavior which was involved with the past leadership and management of the Riverside Police Department. It's getting tiresome of being reminded of how the old management culture there viewed women though it goes a long way towards explaining why women apparently don't want to stick around very long in the police department even when they pass probation.

Yeah, it might be on someone's personal time but if you're at a sponsored event to raise money for a fund associated with a deceased member of your department, then is that the best behavior to put on display for the public? The public has seen more than enough of this macho, womanizing culture in the police department and it contributed greatly to the turmoil that it has experienced this year. It pretty much was responsible for damaging people's faith and trust in the promotional process and fostered much of the animosity and antagonism that still surrounds it even under new leadership. What someone does privately may not matter as much but this was allegedly on display in public at an event sponsored by the police department. If it's what happened, unfortunately it wouldn't be surprising at this point given all the conduct that's come to light in the past year but it's very disappointing.

Is it the best display to put on for the female employees, civilian and sworn, who are trying to make it in a department including being elevated through the ranks to higher positions including management if members of management hold women in that light? That they are not really people at all, certainly not professional police officers or civilian employees but are simply objects to be put on display and shared with other men in some intoxicated bonding ritual in that fashion? This behavior doesn't really serve the men well either, except as a reminder that if you want to be up in management, do you need to adopt that kind of behavior too in public?

The department has struggled to hire women who usually opt for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department which just recently appointed its second female under sheriff in a row and a Black female officer to captain and another to lieutenant courtesy of the current leader, Stan Sniff. Whereas the Riverside Police Department has one female captain who allegedly recently announced her own pending retirement within a year and one female lieutenant who was promoted this year. The highest Black female officer is a woman with eight years who did quite well on the sergeant's placing in the top third of a candidate list that boasted over around 35 candidates. Promotional processes even ones where women have topped the lists and been passed over as "lacking" maybe subject to great debate and argument but it should be a given that those promoted into management are to behave in manners which don't diminish them or any other person including many male officers who also struggle in a department because they don't buy into that dynamic which was so strongly held and practiced by the prior leadership and management.

Those higher ranking officers including management are to set the tone by their own behavior to everyone who they manage or supervise, male or female. And how does showing naked pictures at a publicly attended event held in memory for a fallen officer show that to be the case? If lower ranking male officers behaved in this way off-duty they are more likely to get called to the carpet than a management team member but the management personnel shouldn't be using their apparently lack of accountability to behave in frankly such a sexist fashion. But if management is to set the tone for professionalism, how does behaving in this fashion serve that ends? And why should any woman have any faith in the promotional process if it elevates men that devalue them and certainly their contributions as officers?

People ask why female officers attrition out at a rate of 44% female versus 29% men and more fall out at the 2-3 year mark than any other time except probation (which is responsible for the attrition of over 90% of male and female, and slightly higher for female). I received an anonymous email several years ago that discussed the culture of the police department governed by womanizing at the top including the promotional process, and allegations of stripes and bars being given to those who participated. Is that the truth, well this past year hasn't done anything to disprove it and after viewing how two prior incidents of sexual misconduct didn't seem to impact the most recent promotions very much, hasn't really disproved it either. But until it's realized that over 90% of individuals of every gender and race who go out for promotions had virtually no chance under this type of system of buddy-buddy promotions, then there won't be much pressure to change it.

It was interesting to see how the sergeant's candidate list multiplied by three times this round, was that a sign of more people trying out what they hope is a new system to replace the old? That would be good news if the actual practice proved to be worthy of that renewed benefit of the doubt attitude. Still that remains to be seen as it remains to be seen who will actually get promoted including if a lieutenant's position that goes off the books in January is actually filled.

But if incidents like the one above are still going on at the management level, then no not really much has changed, certainly not if you're female and have to work with management personnel who love showing off naked women on their phones to anyone nearby at a bar. And if you're male and you just don't want anything to do with that and you don't believe that's professional conduct either in your management. But if there's behavior like that near the top of the department, then no, it's not much of a stretch to figure out why women attrition out at higher rates, get passed over while leading promotional lists for sergeants and lieutenants and that the process for the ranking of lieutenants changes after the initiation of litigation challenging it and the fact that the three out of the top five on the last list were female, not to mention an African-American male, wasn't kept a secret.

Because if members of management continue to view women as less than human and only objects there to entertain them and put such behavior on display in a public place including that frequented by female officers and employees (who ironically are actually the most powerful class), then it's pretty clear that nothing's really changed but some of the faces at the top. And who knows down the road it might be an issue of tremendous civil liability for the city to address as well because inhouse labor lawsuits where this type of behavior has been shown by management have been quite costly for the cities and counties which have born that cost of settlement or trial verdicts.

The new management needs to do what it has claimed to do which is to set the tone for more professional conduct among its membership and make it clear that the buddy-buddy, womanizing part of management team building is a thing of the past instead of not still an integral part of how the police department does its business.

And the burden of proof is on Chief Sergio Diaz and his management team.

Meanwhile here's a really interesting letter out that I've received on this blog posting which I will share here because this individual is concerned that they don't get a forum to express themselves under the name of "John Smith" which isn't a bad moniker really unless your real name happens to be John Smith of course.

Dear Mary Shelton,
It is very interesting to read your blog. The way you judge people, but nobody gets to judge you. How come you do not allow comments other than "team members"? Are you afraid of being ripped to shreads publically? By the way, why not just mention John Carpenter in the blog instead of alluding to a member of the command staff acting stupid at the Roadhous? You love to demean him anyway.
Get a life. Better yet, just get a job.

No actually, it was the threats of violence, the attempts to publish porn on my site and the overall crude racist (including Ebonics), homophobic and sexist language is what has somewhat discouraged me from accepting comments at this time. No offense but being called bitch, whore, cunt, witch, slut, having people saying my uterus needs to be sewn up, demeaning my mother for birthing me, having my wardrobe described to me while I'm walking down the street and being told I needed to be #1 on the liberal sniper's list just got a wee bit old after a while.

Not to mention that statistically speaking, only about 1% of all readers during the time that comments were allowed even read them and about 90% of those who read them were those who had written comments and the other 10% of those resulted in comments of their own to me that they found them offensive. Not to mention the complaints I got from people reading the comments without a warning label attached that there was naughty words used, explicit descriptions of sexual acts and sexually transmitted diseases and rather nasty vitriol about masturbating on one's keyboard when reading the post. This just isn't the appropriate site for that kind of content, given the massive markets out there that focus specifically on publishing erotica even by amateur writers as some of these clearly were who put inspiration and vivid imagery to prose.

In addition, individuals who either agreed or disagreed with me on issues I wrote about felt too intimidated or uncomfortable to engage in that form of dialogue in the midst of porn posters and people who loved slinging gender and homophobic slurs around and wrote in sloppy ebonics or wrote the "n" word half a dozen times perhaps because they were bored. So more actual discussion was taking place ironically outside of the comment thread to sidetrack the vitriol spewed there which people didn't want to wallow through to get to the actual discussions.

Thank you for restraining from any of the behaviors yourself in your own comment, Mr. Smith. I do appreciate your self control which others have not shown. Your comment has been posted here in its entirety.

And thanks for your input...your advice...Mr. Smith and some clarity regarding the situation and essentially your belief that boys should be boys, not much has changed I see since we last met here. That's one way to look at it, I suppose that this is the way it should be. It was simply disappointing to learn of it and given the last year's antics, it's disappointing to hear about it publicly no matter who it is including an individual that you mentioned that I've actually defended a time or two right here.

Public Meeting

Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The city council will actually meet and discuss this agenda including whether or not to award Leach with his workman's compensation claims, in addition to a medical retirement he already has received. But the keynote item no doubt will the the next chapter in the saga involving whether or not the gates near the never completed Overlook Passway will be opened, closed or whether there are more chapters on the horizon.

And how's this for a politically charged item? This item on the consent calendar is to set the charter required public hearing to determine whether or not the city council and mayor will get raises. Since the majority of the council is up for reelection five months later in a very strong anti-incumbent environment, if that majority and others go along with wisdom, they won't raise their own salaries while others have been doing more work without increases due to frozen vacancies in many departments as well as layoffs in the city.

If they lack said foresight and vision, then prepare to say farewell to them in 2011 as fed up voters might be compelled then to start issuing pink slips again.

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