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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Riverside's Strategic Plan Closes for Comment; Next Stage creating it without censorship from the 'Hall

"She's the biggest bitch around."

---One of Riverside's legislative aides according to a shocked eyewitness before the evening session of the city council meeting began. "She" was a woman who speaks regularly at city council members and he works for Councilman Chris MacArthur.

[photograph of the arms of an elderly man after he was handcuffed by police officers during raids in the Eastside and other Riverside County cities last week. The man was a retired worker, not a gang member and perhaps City Attorney Gregory Priamos and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis wouldn't have been chuckling among themselves when this person's relative spoke if they'd seen these photos. ]

Over 30 residents from the Eastside including members of the Eastside Think Tank appeared at the city council meeting on Feb. 2 to speak on the raids done by a multi-agency task force led by the Riverside County District Attorney's office and the United States Attorney's office last week.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez, who represents the Eastside encouraged residents to come to a public forum being held on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Bobby Bonds Park. Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel are said to be in attendance with no word from the D.A.'s office on whether District Attorney Rod Pacheco or a representative will be in attendance.

This question came up in the Press Enterprise about whether Riverside was a "snob city" or not . Oh lord, I see another effort by the city government to refute that by hiring another consultant to create a plan to create a logo or slogan and so forth... Though it's a bit unsettling to see years of institutional racism including in Riverside (from its racist housing laws, to the racist jokes shared by councilmen at the watering holes in the 1960s) simply labeled "snobbery" that was simply a product of the times. Fortunately not everyone thought that way, or there would have been no Civil Rights Movement.

But the downtown area seems in its path to mainly cater to those who have the money to spend at the Fox Theater which hasn't born well for the usually financially successful Broadway show, Annie in ticket sales. Once there were more family oriented events and now there's very few of them left. The push seems to be to get money from more affluent people especially those visiting and bringing their dollars from adjoining areas including Los Angeles and Orange Counties. I'm not sure how well that's worked so far. But the economic success of the downtown won't be built by attracting that crowd even as $32 million is being spent on the Fox Theater so far (not including the pricey contract given to the "consultant" to run it) and now a planned $25 million for developers interested in erecting a hotel that likely, they were not able to do through doing what most people in this country have to do which is get a loan with interest through a bank or other financial lending institution. Now Riverside, has seen fit to allow that same least for developers who have already in a "gesture" seen their fees get reduced even as those involving more normal people like city residents have seen theirs increase.

Talk about a welfare state! Riverside's long been one for developers particularly those who aren't local which means that "shopping Riverside" obviously doesn't include shopping for developers. But this city's seen employee layoffs, it's been vacancy rates increase including in public safety and it's seen libraries reduce their hours. Yet, the city's flush enough to serve as a lending institution in lieu of banks (who are particularly shy around loaning out money for hotels given the high foreclosure rate for them in the Inland Empire which leads the state) so it's going to have a harder time selling to the wary public particularly with an election cycle on the horizon that it has to make further budget cuts impacting its basic services.

This upcoming $25 million loan for the hotel doesn't seem to be really all that popular with city residents but hey, all the residents do is vote. They don't do what seems to be much more important which is to pay money into the campaigns of politicians including people like Mark Rubin and Doug Jacobs, plunderer of Chinatown who violated the municipal code and his building permit to bulldoze the site even while it was still in escrow.

Strategic Plan Survey Closed

The Riverside Police Department stopped receiving input on its Strategic Plan on Jan. 31 regarding its online survey and it has held several public forums for different segments of the city's population during the past month. Currently, the department including members of the remnants of the Audit and Compliance Bureau headed by Sgt. Jaybee Brennan will review the input they have received and will incorporate it into the blueprint for the department which will span the time period between 2010-2015. It might be heading in some form to the Public Safety Committee which is chaired by Councilman Chris MacArthur before heading off to the full city council.

It's important to remain vigilant in this process because even as this is written, the word is that it's currently being edited by the city manager's office which has never been one to value public input and participation. After all, original attempts by the department to put together the new Strategic Plan ran into interference at City Hall which was unstuck when several councilmen including MacArthur and Rusty Bailey began asking questions about it when they learned that it had been stalled. Still, considering all the chefs...chiefs in the kitchen that is the RPD, one must always be watchful for further attempts to undermine the public process including with the Strategic Plan. This plan of course replaces the former one mandated by former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

It's unfortunate to have to warn the public of such things but history has dictated that to do otherwise is simply negligent.

However, I filled out one of those survey plans and really tried to stick to the 50 word guidelines but eh, that never works out. So here are some of my comments. I doubt any of them will be included in the plan that will be coming out of City Hall to the city council in March. From what it appears so far, there is already some good and important elements included in the Plan and it remains to be seen how many drafts will contain this input as well. But despite the good efforts of the department's audit and compliance bureau and great input from the city's residents, don't expect to see anything really substantial out of City Hall except what will bolster it to continue its current management practices involving the police department.

1) That all the elements in place pertaining to the Stipulated Judgment between the City of Riverside and the California State Attorney General’s office be implemented, as the city council had voted in March 2006 that this be so. Of course it didn’t take the police department long to stumble after that vote and the dissolution of the stipulated judgment due in part to decision making in City Hall. This is why it’s prudent to include these prior mandates in any Strategic Plan as a reminder that in order to keep the police department on the right path towards becoming the “best of the best”, these should be followed. These include:

*Timely personnel evaluations
*Maintain 7 to 1 officer to sergeant ratios
*Critical Incident Debriefing
*Early Warning System Monitoring (expand to other misconduct besides excessive force)

*Audio Recorder policy and procedure compliance
*Purchase/deploy less-lethal weapons
*Complaint process, compliant with policy and state law
*Diversity training
*Lt. Watch commander assignment 24/7
*Pretext Stop Training
*Use of Force monitoring and reporting
*Complaint procedure audits
*Dash video cameras maintenance

Add to this, the following elements of the Mayor’s Use of Force Panel (1999):

*Determine the need for more officers in Riverside
*Increase the representation of minority and/or female officers at all levels
*Firmly commit to community policing
*Ensure experienced patrol officers on all watches and supervisors in the field

These above elements are vital to the police department and critical for keeping this department on the path it needs to follow to continue its evolution into a healthy and professionally outstanding agency. Without them, the latter won’t take place and the department resists regression back into an agency which was plagued with many problems. I’m well aware of the fact that several of the above elements especially that pertaining to the officer/sergeant staffing ratios are being negatively impacted by high attrition/vacancy rates in sworn positions including at the supervisory ranks. I’m also aware that the watch commanders are being included in the calculation of these ratios which is not a good practice and does not provide an accurate representation of that ratio because watch commanders do not spend very much time out in the field during their work shifts as it’s the sergeants who do the vast majority of the frontline supervision.

Continued depletion of the sergeant levels which is expected to continue into 2010 with at least four retirements will put the police department in a bad and potentially dangerous position which could impact the safety of its officers and the public. It’s hard to overemphasize the need for adequate supervision in all the department’s work shifts particularly in a department like Riverside’s with a predominantly “young” patrol division. If this isn’t done, then it won’t be a matter of “if” the next critical incident that puts this city on the national map in a bad way, happens, it will become a matter of “when”. After watching the budgetary decisions being made by the city in the past year or so, it’s clear at this point that a statement of goals or objectives on the department being committed to having sufficient staffing within its ranks in both the civilian and sworn division including at the supervisory level needs to be included in the Strategic Plan to show that commitment and make it clear to the city that the future of the police department is dependent on its ability to be fully staffed and have access to the resources it needs to operate as a public safety agency

The department has been facing severe budget cuts with at least $5-12 million in more cuts coming this year. It has already eliminated key programs including PACT, Project Bridge, much of its traffic education programs and other community services which provided vital services to the public. Its vacancy rate if you combine the civilian and sworn positions is currently around 10%, with the civilian level (which provides valuable support to the officers and services to the public) being particularly depleted. And it’s difficult to buy into its commitment to community policing when this was the first to go in terms of the budget decisions by the city. The cuts as well as other factors have pushed the department away from that burgeoning philosophy back into what’s known as reactionary, “watchman” style policing. In the long-term, this is not a healthy or particularly productive road to take by the department and the city.

Having witnessed most of the trial that took place involving former Officer Robert Forman, there were issues impacting the department which arose from that process. While it’s true that Forman is responsible for his own criminal conduct, there are lessons to be learned from this horrendous incident that could assist the department in improving its own practices and help to prevent more officers from engaging in behavior like that exhibited by Forman. A gentleman had complained to me once about alleged misconduct involving Forman two years before his arrest in autumn 2008, with homeless women in one of the city’s parks. In addition, anther male officer is currently the subject of much rumor in a neighborhood about his conduct involving a woman or women. Complaints were made by a woman at a recent community meeting about the conduct of a former police officer who she said regularly sexually harassed her and the response from department personnel was dismissive, when he allegedly chuckled and said it was because she was so beautiful. This shouldn’t be the practice and if even one or several officers do not take these allegations seriously then it reflects badly on the agency and it could prevent an allegation of misconduct which might be involve a crime from being investigated by the relevant authorities. Fortunately, in the case of the Forman incidents, several police officers did do the right thing when made aware of these serious allegations.

That reflects much better on the department and places it in a much better light.
There were ethical issues that arose from that trial as well as issues involving accountability and the importance of maintaining a professional work environment at all times and not engaging in racist, sexist, sexual or homophobic behavior as well as demonstrated clearly in a couple of cases, veracity on the witness stand.

Unfortunately, the conduct of several male officers at the scene of a woman’s apartment in that case made it clear that there are still issues in the department pertaining to how it treats women both in the field and in the workplace. Two immediate issues came to mind when watching officer after officer testify in this trial (mostly contradicting each other and minimizing Forman’s participation in that activity) about this so-called lingerie incident. The first, is that the officers including at least two field training officers engaged in this atrocious behavior within sight of the woman who lived in the apartment (and only hours later was sexually assaulted by Forman) which shows a complete disregard for women in the field. Second, the officers engaged in this behavior in front of a female trainee who was still on professional probation who incidentally soon after the Forman investigations began, “failed” probation (and it’s not lost on some of us how female officers “fail probation” not long after witnessing sexist behavior by male field training officers). These male officers through their behavior showed a complete lack of regard for female officers and given how public this disregard and lack of professionalism was, it makes one wonder how they act around female officers in less than public circumstances.

It’s difficult to look at even this event as being isolated without being concerned about whether or not female civilian employees and police officers are working in an environment free of sexism which is required under both state and federal law. The city also has very strict policies in place about racist and sexist banter or jokes in the workplace which for officers includes out in the field. That applies to all city employees not just police employees so these policies weren’t specifically aimed at the police department.

I’m aware that the vast majority of male police officers were not involved in this incident but it was still disturbing and one would hope an isolated incident of sexism in the field and in the workplace. Even though there were up to three field sergeants at the scene of this “home invasion” call, there were allegedly none in the apartment when this happened but at least two field training officers, Forman and another FTO were present, both playing prominent roles in the lingerie incident. But given that this was a pretty flagrant example, it does bring up the issue of whether or not the department is engaging in practices of ensuring that female city residents are treated professionally and with respect as are female employees including officers in the workplace. There needs to be an environment that is receptive to female employees filing complaints of sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace. Based on past history most notably the civil case filed by former Sgt. Christine Keers and a lawsuit filed by former probationary officer Kelsey Metzler (who alleged sexual harassment at the Ben Clark Training Academy), it’s not clear that this is the case though both cases were settled by the city. And as the city and department saw in the 2005 trial verdict of $1.64 million against the city in the case of Officer Roger Sutton’s racism and retaliation case, it can get expensive to be confronted by this behavior in a public arena.

Sergeant Watch

The latest news is that meetings might be taking place between the Riverside Police Officers Association and City Manager Brad Hudson to discuss unfreezing two to three sergeant positions in the police department after some earlier discussions that have been taking place at City Hall. It's premature to say that this will be done as it's been proposed in the past and then withdrawn including last December when the thawing of one lieutenant's position (to fill a vacancy in the Traffic Division) and two sergeant positions seemed like it might be happening until more budget cuts to the tune of around $2.5 million to the department shut that down pretty quickly. Even as sergeant levels continue to decline and if there are no positions unfrozen, the vacancy rate will be a minimum of 12-13 positions by the end of 2010. Departures in 2010 include Frank Orta, Frank Patino (possibly), George Masson, Paul De Jong (who's looking for another job after maxing his retirement) and at least one medical retirement. That's on top of the seven current vacancies that include positions left empty since 2008.

Hopefully, the city will follow through on the unfreezing of these important positions.

In related news, it looks like the POPs unit might have some more life in it having been on the top of the list for the next round of budget cuts which will be at least $5 million and possibly as high as $10 million by the end of the year. Apparently, this unit might be seeing a reprieve but a lot of concern has already been raised about the disbanding of the PACT because of more unsupervised parolees being released from state prisons due to overcrowding and a legislative decision in Sacramento. The PACT was in charge of monitoring the parolees in the area in situations when they were released in this area, which receives a disproportionate number of parolees and probationers.

So keep an eye on this situation as it develops so that the city doesn't drop the ball on stemming the depletion of sergeants in the police department. The members of this rank don't have a similar MOU in place like the detectives have enjoyed since the days of former Chief Ken Fortier in the early 1990s where their vacancies get filled.

And recently, the detective position vacated by the termination of Det. Scott Impola who's facing assault charges, was filled by Adrian Tillet.


I've received many comments and questions about the police department particularly in the wake of at least five (and possibly more) arrests in 2008 and 2009. Is this an unfortunate statistical anomaly or a sign of deeper, more serious problems inside the department and even at City Hall. Considering the latter is particularly important considering just how many chefs...chiefs are busy in the RPD's kitchen. There are probably many factors that play a role in what's been going on the past couple of years particularly since elements at City Hall began playing a greater role in the management of the city's law enforcement agency. Is the city reaping what it sowed? More blog postings to come.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez No Show at Eastside Meeting

Councilman Andrew Melendrez failed to show up at a meeting attended by over 40 people in the Eastside addressing last weeks' raids in the neighborhood which resulted in arrests and federal charges filed against members of East Side Riva. Complaints have arisen in the Eastside that were heard by members of the Community Police Review Commission who were in attendance. Melendrez had said last week that he had gotten numerous phone calls beginning the morning of the raids and it's not clear exactly why he bailed on this meeting. Hopefully an explanation from his camp is forthcoming.

Long time Riverside Police Department Officer Mike Mears stops a young boy from killing himself. The standoff took place near Sycamore Canyon.

Riverside Unified School District lays off 160 teachers and the city of Perris is going to lay off 10 employees.

Las Cruces, New Mexico is looking to get a civilian review board.

The mayor in Providence, Rhode Island is planning some major veto action of civilian oversight there.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Riverside Councilman Takes a Stand on the CPRC and Forman Fallout Hits the RPD

UPDATE: Inglewood's police department is told by United States Department of Justice that it must reform....

Former RPD Officer Robert Forman Sentencing Postponed...Again

Judge Molloy: Several officers testified in ways "detrimental to their careers."

A packed courtroom of prosecutors, Internal Affairs Division sergeants and family members of the defendant listened as Riverside County Superior Court presiding judge, John Molloy listened to both parties involved in the case of former Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman who was convicted of last month of one count of felony oral copulation under the color of authority and misdemeanor petty theft. Forman was acquitted of a second charge of oral copulation under the color of authority and received a deadlocked verdict on a felony sexual battery charge.

After the trial, Forman's attorney Mark Johnson filed a motion for a new trial contesting the convictions and raising allegations of prosecutory misconduct and witness tampering involving the ex-boyfriend of the victim Forman was convicted of assaulting. The Riverside County District Attorney's office responded and filed its countermotion which Johnson then responded to in writing.

Molloy said that the purpose of the motion for new trial wasn't to punish either party in the case but was to guarantee that Forman's right to a fair trial on his criminal charges was exercised. He did say that he couldn't find anywhere in the defense's motion that any specific information was provided about what evidence was withheld from the jury. Johnson said that the ex-boyfriend had been willing to testify for the defense challenging his ex-girlfriend's credibility and had told defense investigator Robert Tufano that, but that when he came to court, he seemed less than willing. The boyfriend in a hearing ultimately invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and didn't testify. He was led away from the courtroom by deputies not long after who took him back to jail.

Molloy said in court that Johnson had chosen not to put the witness on the stand. Johnson said that after being prohibited by talking about what happened on April 18, 2008 (the day of the sexual assault) that there wasn't much left for the witness to talk about. When asked for the evidence that was not revealed to the jury, Johnson said that the witness would have testified that he had seen the victim put on makeup and get dressed before telling him to leave which indicated to him that she was waiting for a gentleman caller and that this was Forman. This led the boyfriend to believe the sexual act to be consensual.

"This is absolutely material to the case," Johnson said.

Molloy said that the case did turn on whether the sexual act involved was consensual. The jury heard different versions and accepted one while rejecting the other. The judge said that the withheld evidence had to be material to the case before he could move on towards addressing the raised allegations of prosecutory misconduct.

Prosecutor Elaina Bentley who works in the office's appellate division argued against the motion for new trial filed by Johnson. She said that the victim had already been impeached by previous felony convictions as well as misdemeanor convictions of moral turpitude and that the witness was a spurned lover facing deportation for crimes. The testimony that he would have provided would have been unfavorable to the defense because his version of events which detailed that the victim had known that Forman was coming contradicted Forman's account which said that his decision to return to the woman's apartment was a "spur of the moment" decision made while he was getting food at a nearby drive thru restaurant. She added that this latest account by the witness conflicted with statements that he had made in earlier interrogations that he had not even been at the victim's apartment that morning, that he had been at his mother's house and in fact had said earlier that he had not seen her again until three days later.

"The first time you heard this story was at the 11th hour before lunch," Bentley said.

Molloy reiterated his earlier point that information that was withheld from jurors had to be material and asked for more examples from Johnson. All he had heard was comments that the victim was putting on makeup and clothes.

"The court cannot say this is material," Molloy said.

Molloy issued his tentative ruling which was to deny the motion for new trial and said that both sides had to ask for a hearing before he could address the allegations of prosecutory misconduct. But the prosecutors didn't ask for that hearing.

Johnson said that the prosecutors had wanted transparency in the process and that so many things in the trial had been nefarious in their totality and that the police department had been involved in trying to get Robert Forman. He said that if he had tried to tamper with a witness, he would have been held up on State Bar charges but the prosecutors could say no harm, no foul.

Several Officers Testified in Ways "detrimental to their careers"

Molloy countered the allegation of the department's involvement in going after Forman. He said that three to four officers had testified with information that was detrimental to their careers in front of Internal Affairs Division sergeants who had been sitting in during the trial and at subsequent hearings after the jury had reached its verdict.

"A few careers might have self-destructed at least partially while on the stand," Molloy said.

Meaning most likely the several officers who had testified to engaging in misconduct including their involvement in the lingerie incident where a group of male officers played and joked with the victim's underwear right in front of her before it wound up on the dart board. And in relation to this and other testimony, issues arose on the witness stand and were raised by attorneys for both sides regarding the veracity of several witnesses. Both involving civilian who testified and as it turns out police officers as well.

The reasons why the Internal Affairs Division sergeants began appearing in court starting with the morning that Officer William Zackowski testified have varied. Those given have included the need to build enough of an administrative case against Forman in case he tried to appeal his firing through arbitration after an acquittal. But another reason presented was that the sergeants were dispatched down to the courthouse to sit in on the officers' testimony upon an order issued from higher up in the department due to concern related back to the department that some of the officers might be testifying to accounts different than those provided to the case investigators earlier.

Testimony did emerge during cross-examination of Zackowski that the department's investigators had not believed that his version of the events preceding Forman's assault of one victim had been true and that he was sent back for an additional interview by a sergeant who told him after his initial interview that the department's not amused with him. Then the defense investigator had allegedly called him up and told him to help the defense in case they have to work with him in the future, a comment he took as a threat according to his testimony on the stand. A tactic that's certainly questionable at any rate.

Officer Anthony Watkins, who lateraled from the CHP in late 2005, also testified to a version of an encounter with one alleged victim of Forman in the autumn of 2008 that was apparently much different than that he provided to the defense's own investigator months before the trial. Prosecutor Elan Zektser impeached Watkins with the defense investigator's summary of his interview while Watkins was on the witness stand. By the end of his testimony, there wasn't much left of what he said that hadn't been thoroughly impeached by the prosecution and even by the defense. Watching him testify was very worrisome, and it made you wonder if this kind of testimony he provided was an isolated occurrence or part of a larger pattern.

Issues apparently arose with the testimony of at least another officer who testified with the defense as well though for the most part, the testimony of the majority of the officers who testified wasn't exactly the kind that would raise eyebrows and seemed straight forward. That just provided a bigger contrast to the testimony by several of the witnesses that did. There were moments of the trial which certainly weren't the RPD's finest hours and many issues came to light both in terms of what witnesses testified to as well as what they didn't. No doubt, the department's not going to be pleased at Molloy's words and no doubt, the department is checking and double checking the public record in terms of what each officer testified to while on the stand and how that stacks up with accounts they gave to investigators on the Forman case earlier.

The officers who testified in relation to the lingerie incident contradicted each other as well as the victim and former probational police officer, Megan Edwards Meyers. None of them mentioned much in their testimony about where Forman was or what he was doing while he was supervising the police activity in the apartment of one victim during a home invasion call in April 2008. The victim had asserted that Forman had placed the lingerie on the dartboard and joked with other male officers about it. Meyers and a couple of others testified to seeing it on the dartboard and Meyers testified that unspecified comments were made by the male officers about it. However, some officers said that they didn't even notice a dartboard in the apartment let alone see any underwear on it. None of those testified that they saw Forman near the dartboard but then there was scant testimony by any of them about what Forman had been doing and where he had been while he spent time inside the woman's apartment, enough to turn him into the "invisible" man.

The other area of contradictory testimony involved whether the evidence of syringes and methamphetamine baggies in the apartment of the woman who was on felony probation at the time warranted an arrest or whether the woman was informed she was arrested or could be arrested by officers. One officer, Zackowski, had warned her at some point in the bathroom that if he found more syringes on the search than the one that he had already found that she would be arrested. Later, the search produced a bag of 20-30 of them in her bedroom closet, a bag of drug paraphernalia that was never taken into evidence.

Several other officers who testified hurt Forman with their testimony including his former trainee, Michael Bucy who said that Forman had been a very meticulous, strict and thorough field training officer which contradicted Forman's own testimony later on that he was "lazy" and "complacent" and violating many departmental policies including those prohibiting the destruction of the digital audio recordings, those involving the use of police informants and those involving radioing in when going to a person's residence (which is also important for safety reasons).

The officers behaved professionally in their demeanor on the stand although some simply were more believable than others, actually most of them were believable over a few. Even some of those who were friendly with Forman didn't seem intent on angling their testimony towards helping him. The sergeant, Paul De Jong who was one of three sergeants assigned to the home invasion call appeared at court several times to speak with officers who were testifying as to the incident while they waited to be called to the stand and later was called to testify for the defense. Allegations also arose anonymously on the Press Enterprise Web site that the department was disciplining officers who had testified for Forman's defense because of what they said on the witness stand including the "SWAT officer" who's likely Zackowski. Essentially being punished for admitting to policy violations, according to the commenter on the site.

So a bit of controversy is brewing on this case which also saw a brief but emotionally charged verbal exchange between two officers on opposite sides of the issues (because after all, they're not all monolithic about everything), one through what he advocates, one through what he was encharged to do as a police officer, which was a very difficult task. But whatever these officers testified to on the stand, right or wrong, was their choice. What they told investigators, right or wrong, was also their choice. And what Forman said on the stand was his choice. No one put words inside their mouths as one person said. Police officers, after all, are in a sense witnesses by profession. As for the investigators assigned to Forman's criminal case, they had no choice in their assignment and hopefully they're not paying for something that's part of doing their jobs, as police officers which means doing things that are unpleasant. They were doing what every police officer is encharged to do which is investigate a crime and that should be respected. This time, it involved one of their own. Hopefully that will be a rare thing for the right reasons.

Molloy was somewhat somber when he made that very rare statement about the officers he felt had done damage to their careers when they took the stand. Whether he believed they were honest by testifying to admitted misconduct including the lingerie incident in the woman's apartment or whether they were speaking the truth after giving conflicting information to investigators, wasn't clear. But it's clear that the fallout from the Forman case on the police department isn't finished. Not nearly.

Sentencing Postponed

Molloy postponed the sentencing in the Forman case as the court is still awaiting the recommendation report by psychologist Dr. Rath who as of this date had still not interviewed Forman because on one occasionally, he accidentally went out to the wrong jail facility. He told the court he plans to interview Forman in the next two weeks and will submit the letter after that.

A tentative sentencing date has been set for Feb. 11, at 1:30 p.m. And if the doctor's report isn't completed and sent to the court by then, it might be postponed for another week. The probational report for Forman was "very favorable" and it's more likely than not, that Forman's sentence for forcibly orally copulating a woman and committing petty theft will be between 120-150 days in county jail. One comment you won't be hearing from Johnson is what kind of sentence he or anyone else would be getting if they had forced a woman into oral sex.

Molloy's the one who will ultimately decide whether it's probation, jail or state prison for the former Riverside Police Department officer.

Is the City Council Thawing on the CPRC?

One city council member in Riverside has said that it's time to restore the investigative powers of the Community Police Review Commission involving its charter mandated power to investigate and review officer-involved deaths. Currently, there are two other city council members who agree with Gardner's assessment but that's not enough to reverse the 5-2 vote that took place in early 2009 by the city council to essentially suspend the commission's charter power and reaffirm the ban placed on the commission by City Manager Brad Hudson (who's believed to have been directed by a current and/or former councilman or two). Apparently, the commission remembered why it existed or a voting majority of it did and voted to initiate an investigation into the Sept. 1, 2008 fatal shooting of Carlos Quinonez Sr. and apparently the city has given its permission to conduct this investigation nearly 18 months after this incident. In opposition to the motion were Chair Peter Hubbard (who clearly knows what side of the bread his is buttered on), Art Santore and Ken Rotker, along with Rogalio Morales (who's an inspiring future employee of the Riverside County District Attorney's office) whose view seemed to fluctuate a bit.

Of course, at this point, even the city (and especially the city) knows that conducting any investigation at this point is useless which was precisely the point behind the action taken which was to knock out the power of investigating and reviewing officer-involved deaths without undergoing the arduous and probably unsuccessful process of creating a charter initiative to amend the charter's language in its favor. Subverting that process without allowing for the public vote actually required to amend the charter vote was the tactic chosen by the city manager's office, the city attorney's office and likely involving a current or former elected official or two. It's believed that Councilman Frank Schiavone spearheaded this process and when it became clear to many Ward Four voters that this was the case during his 2009 reelection bid, he lost the support of several critical neighborhoods including Casa Blanca and this in part, caused him to be given a pink slip by the ward's voters instead of another term on the dais.

Adios Schiavone. At least until he reemerges most likely to run again for county supervisor in several years.

But at least Gardner's taking this stance and hopefully he's not alone on the dais. Only time will tell how other elected officials respond to his call for action. Two other council members have said that they support this action as well, but it appears that the other four are still fairly adamant in their positions even as they're not exactly sure what they are (particularly the case with Councilwoman Nancy Hart), though apparently Mayor Ron Loveridge might have softened on the issue as well.

Councilman Steve Adams continues to show that he should follow his own advice about not speaking on issues in which he either knows nothing or is not an authority, meaning the city's charter (which it doesn't seem like he's read) because his statement here:

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"They're there to review and advise, not investigate," said Adams, who is a former Riverside police officer. "If it takes a year, it takes a year."

is in violation of this charter amendment. For most people, carrying out a charter violation would as City Attorney Gregory Priamos helpfully pointed out to commissioners in autumn 2008 would result in a $1,000 fine and six months to a year in county jail. That's for most people, remember. There are of course exceptions. But given that Adams is the last remnant of both the GASS and BASS quartets, it's not surprising that he's been making some noise. He's running again in 2011 and it seems that currently some of his opposition is still undecided about whether or not they will face against him.

Traditionally, the police unions in the department have supported Adams and in fact, were instrumental in getting him elected after he moved to Ward Seven after his initial attempt to gather signatures in another odd-numbered weren't very successful. But last time out, Adams and both the Riverside Police Officers' Association and the Riverside Police Administrators' Association parted ways. The two unions instead endorsed another candidate, who was eliminated in the first mail in ballot round. Members of the RPOA PAC were upset about a letter that Adams circulated to voters criticizing them and both Lt. Darryl Hurt, who was president of the RPAA and Lt. Tim Bacon later sued the city including Adams for allegations including retaliation against those officers who didn't endorse him by saying if they didn't support him or worked for his opposition that they would "never fuckin get promoted".

Even two years later, the RPOA's leadership remained divided in its support of Adams and the new RPAA president, Lt. Bob Williams initially said that the RPAA wouldn't be backing city council candidates in the 2009 election because they didn't want to be perceived as playing favorites due to their roles as police officers and that they would have to work with whoever got elected. However, not long after that, the RPAA announced that it was endorsing Schiavone for reelection even though Schiavone was also being sued by two of its members for retaliation against them.

What was behind the 180 degree turn on the RPAA's stance on city council election endorsements was a mystery to most but no doubt, the change of heart must have been part of an interesting storyline that took place in the 2009 city council elections. The department at the time was experiencing more staffing shortages as sergeants, lieutenants and one captain, Mark Boyer, retired during the time period of the council elections. Boyer's retirement came as a surprise to most people, including myself who had a conversation with him several months before whereas he and a lieutenant (now also retired) both joked about going after retired Commander Richard Dana's longetivity record. Within six months, both were gone.

And the Ward Four contest was turning into a real horse race between Schiavone and challenger Paul Davis, who was engaging in heavy canvassing of the ward to meet prospective voters and many ward constituents while Schiavone pretty much avoided all of that, a decision which among others he had made while in office would prove to be costly. The decision to endorse Schiavone over Davis allegedly split the decision makers of the RPOA, and not long after that at least one long-term board member resigned. And neither endorsement nor did that of most of his dais mates did Schiavone any good. The residents of Ward Four upset over the DHL-Gate situation, the dilution of the CPRC's powers and the Bradley Estates scandal were more than ready enough for a change in representation on the city council.

Adams himself got a whiff of that discontent when he barely managed to get reelected to office over former councilwoman and mayor, Terry Frizzel who he outspent nearly 20 to 1. Only a scant 13 votes separated the two of them by election end and yet Adams seemed to act as if he had won by a landslide. Several candidates are thinking about running but no one's committed because the city is still in that time period when any prospective candidate is weighing the pros and cons of tossing their hat in the ring to run for a city council position.

But until the 2011 election begins, Adams still has plenty of time to muse on the issues and his take on them and if he doesn't exactly make the correct reference to the charter, well then it's not like there's anyone from the halls of power that will correct him.

But here's the charter language below pertaining to the CPRC and its power assigned to it pertaining to officer-involved deaths. The original municipal code was the powers given to it by the city council in 2000. The charter includes the powers given to it by the majority vote of the residents of Riverside. These powers were placed in the city charter to prevent just what happened, politicking by the city council.

(excerpt, City Charter Section 810, color coded for Adams' benefit)

"Review and investigate the death of any individual arising out of or in connection with actions of a police officer, regardless of whether a complaint regarding such death has been filed."

Not that it will do Adams much good to point this out. The four commissioners who voted against the motion to initiate the investigation need a refresher course on the charter language as well, not that it will sink in the mind of the chair of the commissioner, Hubbard, who's working with the company, American Medical Response, that has a public safety contract through Hudson's office.

But then if I were a city councilman who's among other things being sued for allegedly threatening Riverside Police Department officers with not being promoted unless they back his reelection bid, I wouldn't want the commission to be looking too hard at the police department either because what if they discovered my fingerprints in places they didn't belong? And if the allegations in the lawsuit filed against the city including Adams are true, then that's the case and then questions have to be asked as to how and why that was allowed to take place. How is it that a councilman thought that he could go around telling officers that if they didn't back his campaign, they couldn't be promoted.

And if that's the case too, then any attempt to uncover said fingerprints isn't going to be particularly welcomed by someone who's being sued for having them in the big pot inside the Riverside Police Department. It would be very distressing indeed to learn that city officials were involving themselves in the police department in ways they shouldn't. Including decisions made regarding promotions and the hiring of employees. The council's role in firings is limited to making decisions about whether to accept decisions made by arbitrators in cases of fired employees or to appeal them in Riverside County Superior Court.

It's interesting how those city councilmen who don't oppose it are not being sued for interfering in connection with any such alleged behavior but some of those who do or have in the past (i.e. former Councilman Frank Schiavone) are being sued. If these individuals are engaging in such inappropriate behavior (and other related misdeeds) then yes, they are going to be stomping around upset about civilian oversight, even though the CPRC really doesn't have purview over some of the areas of the police department that need much closer scrutiny. But then it's interesting that some city officials still feel intimidated by the commission as weak as it has become.

Still, it's a bit amusing to see Adams rant and throw strawmen about how investigators trample crime scenes when they've never been to one but Adams risked putting the city at huge financial liability when at one city council meeting, he slandered the CPRC's investigative firm by saying that it fabricated evidence in one officer-involved death investigation without elaborating on the basis of his allegations. So you have an elected official who essentially accuses without any presented factual basis an investigative firm of engaging in behavior that is both highly unethical and also criminal in nature. Suffice it to say that the folks at this investigative firm weren't at all amused and it was left to CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan to clean up after Adams' missteps. Unfortunately, no one on the dais corrected Adams' false statements about the investigative firm and no one took sanctions against his statements or asked him to provide a factual basis for them.

But with Adams, you just never know what he'll do or say next and this latest comments involving the CPRC are just another chapter in the fascinating book of Adams.

So what's next for the CPRC in the wake of Gardner's statements to the Press Enterprise? Unless people who share the dais with him start speaking out too, probably not very much. It takes four votes to undo the city council's prior vote to amend the city charter (without taking it to a popular vote) and so far, at least publicly, the rest of the dais is pretty silent.

Update on Eastside Raids

A community meeting to discuss the raids on Wednesday, Jan. 27 will be held possibly in the upcoming week involving Councilman Andrew Melendrez who said he was barraged with phone calls that day and the Eastside Think Tank.

The Riverside County District Attorney's office gave a press conference with the heads of the Riverside Police Department and the United States Attorney's office and provided statistics for the membership and arrests and home searches of those subjected to warrants in connection with association or membership in the East Side Riva gang. However, none of these entities made references to any law enforcement activities involving the 1200 Bloc Crip gang which also has a foothold in the Eastside and has committed shootings including a double homicide in December 2008 which remains officially unsolved. This one-sided portrayal of gang enforcement in the Eastside has long led to complaints by the neighborhood's Latino residents that they are being subjected to enforcement while the victims of crimes committed against them by the 1200 Bloc and Georgia Street Mafia gangs go ignored.

Someone in the department did challenge the content of the arrests in the D.A.'s press conference and said that about 45 arrests and searches were conducted that day against 1200 Bloc members but that because there's no injunction in place against 1200 Bloc by the District Attorney's office that it makes for better press for that office to focus on ESR enforcement and arrest statistics than for the other gangs.

If this is the case, then the District Attorney's office including its head, Rod Pacheco needs to explain why they view the crimes including murders committed by one gang as being more important and the management of the police department needs to explain why it said for years including not too long ago that the 1200 Bloc gang didn't even exist, that killings and shootings including Black on Latino were committed by gangs just "passing through". The D.A.'s office needs to explain if this is the case, why it's using the name of one Eastside gang and the enforcement actions taken against it to promote itself. Because what was spoken certainly isn't the truth and it's little consolation to the relatives of victims killed by the 1200 Bloc Crips in the past several years, including during the time they purportedly didn't exist. If the police department's units are using enforcement tools on both gangs, then the D.A.'s office needs to recognize this in his speechs rather than present a rather skewed picture of gang enforcement measures taken in the Eastside.

At this upcoming community meeting, representatives from the District Attorney's office and police department need to provide accurate and up to date statistical information on the numbers of gang members in both ESR and 1200 Bloc and the comparative arrest and house searches conducted for each gang. The numbers for each will provide a more accurate picture of which gang received which levels of enforcement for those who are in attendance at the meetings. The stats are available, it's just the issue of whether as one person said, the area commander has the guts to present them at said meeting.

Let's hope that this is the case in terms of addressing this ongoing issue of whether there's unequal enforcement regarding different gangs in the Eastside and that this is made clear to the public that while the District Attorney may be favoring one gang over the other in his press appearances, that this isn't the case with the department.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Riverside City Council will meet and discuss and vote on this very abbreviated agenda. And as an additional bonus to the entertainment, our very own red cheeked Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams will be presiding over the council meeting. Friendly wagers will be accepted on whether or not he rants from the dais or even pushes for the ejection of someone from the chambers, which he did on one meeting during the short period of time he chaired an afternoon session of a recent city council meeting while Mayor Ron Loveridge left the dais. Apparently, he grew all red faced and began shouting before police officers in the back of the room were ordered to eject a speaker. It took him but a minute or two to get to that point and he seriously wants to run for election again in 2011? He's verbally assaulted people at meetings and he's being sued for threatening city employees who don't either endorse him or they endorse or work on his opponent's campaigns. They should really charge admission to see his act but they're going to let people view it for free!

Hopefully, he can make it through this much abbreviated agenda without a meltdown.

Finance Committee Watch

After holding three consecutive meetings, which must be a record at least in recent times for this previously barely there committee, it has been scheduled to meet again on Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m. although there's been rumors that meeting might be canceled. We'll have to wait and see.

Save Our Chinatown Committee's fundraising Chinese New Year Banquet on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Lotus Garden Restaurant in San Bernardino.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

When Past Becomes Prologue: Will former RPD Officer Robert Forman Be Sentenced?

***UPDATE Robert Forman sentencing postponed; Motion for new trial denied by Judge John Molloy who said 3-4 officers might have "self-destructed their careers at least partially" on the witness stand.

[One week after the cessation of the El Nino fueled storms, Arroyo Street becomes the setting of Riverside's second river. Nature proving once again, it won't be thwarted and given time, this new river will soon boast both plant life and perhaps even animal life as well. Toss in some minnows and you have maybe the next wilderness preserve. ]

The site welcomes its readers from the Riverside County District Attorney's office and the United States Department of Justice.

One day after the multi-agency raids that took place largely in the Eastside yesterday as the latest targeted enforcement against East Side Riva has led to much discussion in that neighborhood and lots of anger at the lack of response from police management and city leaders afterward including Councilman Andrew Melendrez who said he was hit by a barrage of phone calls yesterday. Most of it seems to be aimed at the lack of communication between this leadership and the community's leadership, even shutting them out of a press conference held by the Riverside County District Attorney's office yesterday. So the Eastside Think Tank and Melendrez will apparently be hosting some gathering of sorts but not until next week. And it's just as likely that once again District Attorney Rod Pacheco will ignore any invitation and won't discuss what's going on in the Eastside unless he can discuss it at a meeting held some place outside of it.

The other source of ire has long been the department and D.A.'s office unilateral focus on East Side Riva as the scourge of the Eastside and the source of all the killing and injuring being done there. In fact, there's more than one gang including the one that didn't exist, 1200 Bloc and Georgia Street Mafia, which apparently doesn't exist either. Members of one or both gangs are rumored to have killed two young Latino men who were attending a party in December 2008, a case where no arrests have yet been made. The reason by the department being that people who were witnesses to the shooting were too scared to testify.

Although ironically, that problem doesn't seem to prevent arrests and prosecutions of ESR members including one case where a dog was shot and killed less than a month after the two teens were killed. Over and over to anyone who's listening, this argument's been raised that Latino gang members (who should be the focus of enforcement) and Latinos (including those who aren't gang members but are often viewed as guilty by neighborhood association) are the focus of the police's efforts at enforcement even as the city recently disbanded its only gang intervention and prevention program several months ago.

And it's hard to know how to respond to inquiries of why a case involving the fatal shooting of a dog cleared after than the killing of two young men nearly a month earlier. People aren't so much against enforcement against gangs including ESR but they just wish it that it didn't seem that one group of victims was worth more than another. That a life taken by a 1200 Bloc gang member was worth as much as one taken by an ESR member. That the life of two teens was worth at least as much as a dog's. Does it come down to being able to find people who will testify against ESR and not in the cases of 1200, which makes you ask does one gang really scare that many more people than the other? At any rate, this is a concern that comes up an awful lot among Latinos in the Eastside including leaders that there seems to be a lot of focus on one gang while the others don't receive that. That's what I've been hearing the past day or so just as I've heard many times before. I'm not going to be the one to tell them how wrong they are or what to be frustrated and upset about. Hopefully, the community meeting next week will be well attended including by civic leaders and police department officials.

But a Press Enterprise article this morning did two things, it stated that several members of the 1200 Bloc gang were arrested albeit by local efforts not as part of this task force's actions and that 1200 Bloc once again apparently does exist and has about 200 members. This admission comes after years of the department and city reassuring everyone including as of last year when the teens were killed that the 1200 Bloc gang didn't exist, that there were no Black gangs based in the Eastside, that any of them engaging in shooting, killing and dealing drugs were just "passing through" from Moreno Valley or San Bernardino on their way some place else. But last year, Gang Sgt. Gary Touissant said at a forum held at the Orange Terrace Community Center that 1200 Bloc did exist, the first statement from the police department of what most of the people in the Eastside have known for quite a while. But he deserves credit for making that statement even as the police department blamed ESR for the murders of the two teens in the Press Enterprise coverage of that death because after all, the killing by its rivals occurred on its turf. With that argument, then the killings by ESR of either innocent people or gang members could be blamed on the 1200 Bloc because they killed on their turf, which was mentioned by the representative of the United States Attorney's office in its press statements regarding the federal indictments.

So now it's official, the 1200 Bloc gang exists. And maybe some day soon, Pacheco will wipe off his podium and hold a press conference announcing an arrest and prosecution in these killings as well. He would be making history by doing so. That might come as good news to a segment of the neighborhood that thinks that no one cares.

But one woman's efforts to bring information about the raids and the impact on community members to the Community Police Review Commission was met with a lack of attention by several commissioners and derisive chuckles by its chair, Peter Hubbard whose behavior as the head of this commission at its public meetings is absolutely atrocious. Yet it goes unaddressed by any of the other commissioners and by the city employees in attendance.

CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan did send me an email apologizing for giving the wrong information to Hubbard about how agenda items are conducted by the CPRC but the problem wasn't just that, it was also Hubbard's statements about how it didn't matter what the procedure was (that had been voted upon by the commission), he was chair and he would conduct the meetings any way he saw fit, thus endorsing the violation of their set procedure. It's pretty clear to the community why Hubbard behaves in this fashion and it has largely to do with the tremendous conflict of interest and that's most likely why he's rude, derisive, sarcastic and at best, inattentive (when he's been awake) at most meetings. People subjected to the treatment of him and his "me too" squad like Art Santore often walk out of the meetings before they are even over.

But why would a man laugh derisively when told about people being traumatized by a police raid including children? Because it's easy for many people to conflate the entire neighborhood of the Eastside with its gang members (who are its vast minority). Unlike in White affluent neighborhoods, there's not much attempt to separate the two, so consequently, it's okay for people like Hubbard to behave the way that they do and few people outside of that will blink. And these people won't change their minds until it's them that are lying on the ground during police raids or that they are in the middle of police officers running all over a street with guns. Then it will suddenly become the biggest injustice in the world to be treated as part of what's bad in your neighborhood rather than a means to an end for getting violent criminals off of the street. I've seen that change in people particularly Whites just too many times to believe otherwise. The personal becoming political.

While I was doing what the commissioners should have done and correcting Hubbard on holding a sidebar conversation while people were addressing him, Santore kept telling him not to "bite". Bolstering their "us versus them" mentality against the public even further. Honestly, how do they pick these people? That will be the subject of an upcoming blog posting or two, although not long ago the Riverside County Grand Jury allegedly sought a lot of paper documents involving the CPRC including a minute record from a city council meeting where one of its more recent appointments to the CPRC was made, involving the individual current representing the fourth ward. It's not clear why the Grand Jury wanted all these record and it might never be known for sure, but it's certainly very interesting.

The latest news about the commission gone horribly astray was sent out to the NACOLE mailing list and I received several interesting emails from members as what's been going on with Riverside's civilian oversight mechanism has been the talk of this state and at the annual NACOLE conference in Austin, Texas. Where news came out at the conference by several directors of civilian mechanisms in California who seemed to be surprised to learn that they didn't conduct independent investigations after officer-involved deaths or shootings, given that the city said that only the Los Angeles Police Commission did. Some of them from different cities in the state who attended the conference said, no actually we do it too. Which doesn't surprise me at all because this matches the results of an email inquiry I did to many of the same agencies in California. After all, just because it didn't match the city's results (and I heard so many insinuations about the "weaknesses" of my query method), doesn't make it less true or the study conducted by the city, the truth.

The commission incidentally had a whole roster of things to discuss or fight about including further restrictions on public comment at their meetings. I'm not sure what happened with that because after a while, Hubbard's poor conduct got so tiresome, I walked out of the meeting. It's just a waste of time because this commission really doesn't do anything at all and the city and probably majority of the city government (who either hates it or doesn't care about the will of the voters being subverted by City Hall) would like to keep it that way.

And it's most definitely clear that those who are responsible for the seriously bad state of the Riverside Police Department in the face of multiple officers getting arrested, violations of labor practices including the chief's powers (i.e. promoting people when he's out of town, allegations of offering promotions for campaign endorsements) and severe budget cutting would like to keep that status quo as well. It's probably the biggest conflict of all to have the same entity control both at the same time and it likely will become clearer further down the road if not now, just how detrimental these conflicts of interest and resultant decision making will be once the full truth plays out. Which is a real shame because most of the people in the department work hard and are trying to do their jobs in a situation that's worsening. But while elected officials tout public safety as the main concern in Riverside, they are either ignoring the micromanagement and mishandling of the police department by their subordinates or in a couple of cases, might even not be ignoring it all but the attention that they are paying isn't of the good kind. And what will be done to address these and other issues before the morale in the department declines further because of the damaging impact of the budget cuts and other acts of intrigue that have been done involving Riverside's public safety agency in the past several years.

As far as any voiced support of the CPRC including by city officials running for office, no offense but I'll believe it when I see it and frankly it's past time to either put up or you know, be quiet about saying that they are supporters of it. And I'm not the only one. But it's clear from getting emails of support from Oregon to Wisconsin and in between, that Riverside's not unique in having a majority of people wanting independent and transparent oversight and also having a minority view at City Hall intent on shutting it down.

Robert Forman to be Sentenced?

Today, Jan. 29 at 2 p.m., former Officer Robert Forman is scheduled to be sentenced for his convictions of felony oral copulation under the color of authority and petty misdemeanor theft. The probationary report mentioned that the recommended sentence was between 120-160 days. The sentencing has been postponed several times while the court awaits a letter from a doctor who's evaluating Forman. The letter must be submitted to the court in order for Forman to avoid a mandatory prison sentence under state law. It's not clear what sentence presiding judge, John Molloy will ultimately give him but often times, judges do closely adhere to the sentencing recommendations given by probational officers. So it's conceivable that Forman could get time served and a few weekends sweeping leaves on sheriff work detail and some probation time. Not entirely uncommon in cases like this one. Molloy could also go the other way and sentence Forman to a term in state prison.

Also being heard is a motion for a new trial filed by Forman's attorney, Mark Johnson who alleged that the D.A.'s office and police department engaged in witness tampering, pertaining to the ex-boyfriend of one victim, who was expected to testify for the defense about the woman's demeanor on the morning of the sexual assault by Forman, in terms of bolstering Forman's testimony that it was consensual. The D.A.'s Appellate Division filed a response but it was not made available online to the public but it did elicit a terse response filed by Johnson.

In his rebuttal to the rebuttal of his original motion, Johnson stated that Forman's right to a "full and fair trial" has been denied. The trial played out not "unlike what good conspiracy stories stem from, complete with daily press coverage, the presence of Riverside PD Internal Affairs sergeants upon the testimony of the first sworn witness who was identified as adverse to the People's case, and general witness intimidation that was present throughout the trial, ostensibly orchestrated by the Riverside Police Department." It went further in the next sentence.

"The theme generated by the District Attorney's Office and Riverside Police Department was to get Robert Forman at all costs."

Daily press coverage? I guess that's a compliment given that the only regular coverage of the Forman trial was by this blog. But I'm not clear on the rest of it pertaining to the daily press being part of this "theme". Were we invited or told by the police department to write about this trial? Hardly, the last thing the police department and city would want is anyone to actually attend a criminal or even civil trial involving any of its employees especially its police officers. The Press Enterprise lacks the ability to really cover courts regularly anymore due to the massive layoffs and re allotment of its remaining reporting staff. So it was mostly myself and a blogger based in San Diego who showed up several times. Not that the trial didn't prove to be very popular reading material during its duration. But no, the police department doesn't issue press releases or any instructions directing the media to show up at trials where its officers are being prosecuted. Nor does it issue press releases inviting the media to arraignments of officers who are arrested either. It didn't seem that the police department was out to *get* Forman but it did seem that it had a strong impression of his guilt for whatever reason.

If there's any pattern of behavior that's happened in the Forman case that's been disturbing, it's the sense of deja vu that this former officer was on trial on charges in relation to sexual assault under the color of authority when several years ago, a homeless gentleman said that Forman had been engaged in sexually harassing homeless women in a city park and then later added that he believed the department had taken care of it by transferring Forman to another assignment away from that park (which was also the setting for a 1997 assault under the color of authority by three former police officers). If this man's statements were indeed the truth, then where were those women when he was on trial? If the defense lost one witness in some sidebar discussion that took place behind closed doors, then the prosecution lost any prior victims that might have existed along with any record that they existed. Rumors about officers and sexual misconduct are very rare and at the moment, there have only been such rumors out in the city about two officers in the department and Forman was one of them.

Johnson who's a pretty astute trial attorney mentions that he noticed the presence of sergeants who are assigned to the Internal Affairs Division. Two or three of them began attending when the first officer began testifying about the conduct in the apartment of the first victim, the one that Forman was ultimately convicted of sexually assaulting.

Having watched the testimony of that first "adversarial" witness in question, which was Officer William Zackowski, he might have been testifying with the Internal Affairs Division sergeants sitting in the audience but Johnson appeared to treat him every much as a hostile witness as anyone else did. While on the witness stand, Zackowski did relate an incident where he was in the movie theater and he received a phone call on a number that he had kept private from the defense investigator telling him that he had better cooperate with the defense because they might have to work together down the road. Zackowski took that statement as a threat according to his testimony and that indeed sounds like behavior that's quite shady by the defense investigator towards a member of the labor union that retains this defense firm.

It's a bit strange to start advocating for an officer, whose testimony likely did attract Internal Affairs sergeants because yes, they did show up for the first time when he took the stand, when the defense investigator allegedly made those kind of comments. And it's a bit odd when Johnson made comments throughout the trial implying that it was Zackowski not Forman who had committed the criminal behavior as that makes it clear that he didn't think Zackowski was his witness. Zackowski may or may not have been Forman's friend but if that's the case, it didn't take long for his "friend" to sell him down the river to save his own skin.

It's clear that Zackowski's in a very difficult situation involving the department given the content of his testimony especially under cross-examination as he didn't really appear to be a witness for either side of the case and that was the case for other witnesses like former probational officer, Megan (Edwards) Meyers as well. Meyers didn't seem to be advocating or testifying for either side and seemed most impacted still by her firing from the police department in August 2008. Perhaps because when something controversial or out of policy happens, the probational officers are usually the first to go. Even Forman had a longer career trajectory than she did after the incidents that took place in the apartment of one of the victims several hours before she was sexually assaulted by Forman.

Though the officer who sounded the most questionable on the witness stand was former CHP officer, Anthony Watkins who came up with some testimony about an encounter he had with one of the alleged victims where she said she was looking to make money off of Forman. The account that he provided on the witness stand in December turned out to be entirely different than the one that was paraphrased on a report of his statements by the defense investigator. Everyone even those on the defense team appeared shocked at his testimony, which also took place in front of the Internal Affairs sergeants. Johnson was left in the unenviable position of trying to make it look like he wasn't hiding evidence (which he probably wasn't) and then had to paint his own investigator as incompetent to rehabilitate that witness.

The testimony about the lingerie incident where several male officers played and joked with a pair of a woman's underwear in front of her inside her apartment finally placing it on the dartboard hanging on the wall in the living room was conflicting, with the only consistency being that Forman's name not being mentioned as participating even though the victim said he led it. In fact however, very little testimony was offered up by any of the officers on exactly where or what Forman was doing while he was inside that apartment.

But the victim that Forman's convicted of assaulting was according to the defense's missing witness putting on makeup and shooing people out of her apartment in anticipation of Forman's return for recreational and consensual sex (even though this witness also said that she told him Forman "forced me to suck his dick" which is what she told others after it happened) and this creates a huge problem for the defense. Why, because if the woman is anticipating that Forman would return, it meant that some kind of conversation took place between them before he left the apartment hours earlier. Which of course would contradict Forman's own testimony that his decision to return to the woman's apartment was a spur of the moment decision after his food run to Del Taco and having time to kill. Forman never actually testified that any understanding was between the two of them of either a sexual act in exchange for no arrest or consensual sex. In fact, he testified that the sexual act was on the spur of the moment as well.

So essentially the defense through this motion has mentioned testimony by a man who never testified in court that would have contradicted the account of events that day by Forman, which doesn't sound like he would have helped Forman's defense at all. Because the only person that testified that they understood that Forman would be returning to the apartment for any reason was the woman. Why else would anyone have an expectation that an officer would return to an apartment when he had cleared the scene of a call for service hours earlier?

But one question that might not be answered is actually one of the most important from the trial and that involves the over 50 digital audio recordings that were erased by Forman from his department issued recording device or were still on the missing media disk that has never been found. What was on those recordings and why were they really deleted? And how long did it take the department to notice they were missing, and was Forman being tracked under the department's Early Warning System at the time?

When and how did Forman realize that downloading recordings from his belt recorder was such a huge liability?

Answer that question and it will tell you a lot about 1) the Forman trial and 2) why the city will likely be paying out a huge settlement on lawsuits filed in relation to Forman down the road.

Over 500 of Riverside's homeless showed up for an event sponsored by Project Homeless Connect.

The Riverside Police Department is searching for a man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a young girl on Tuesday night.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bank of Riverside Prepares to Open for Business

[Day four after the mighty rains stopped, the city sends out its crews to address the flooding of Arroyo Street by a blocked stream that runs through Victoria County Club's golf course.]


Man Detained by Police During Raids, his house hit by mistake?

U.S Attorney's Office files indictments against 20 people

Community Meeting Planned Next Week

UPDATE: Major gang sweeps targeting Latino residences (as reported by witnesses) hit Eastside apparently at some point about an hour or so ago by multi-agency task force hitting over a dozen residences.

Community confused and dismayed that police department and Councilman Andrew Melendrez not returning calls or addressing community on this issue even as dozens of different law enforcement officers and vehicles hit several areas of the Eastside this morning in what's been called a joint operation between the FBI, ICE, the RPD and the Riverside County District Attorney's office.

There's been what's been called "a war" between Latino and Black gang members, the latter not existing according to the city officials and police management (as they've been telling people for years) with the only person saying that 1200 Bloc did exist is Gang Sgt. Gary Touissant at a community policing forum held last year when he said that this gang indeed existed in the Eastside. Still, the city's policy seems to be that it doesn't exist, even when the gang sergeant said that it did which was the right statement to make if that's the case and it clearly is and at least someone made that statement even as the city denied it insisting that any Black gang members in Riverside are simply "passing through" the city. It's perplexing that there are two contradictory statements being issued about whether or not Black gangs exist and are committing violence in the Eastside as Latino gangs have done, but it's pretty clear that the city's stance is not the correct one.

And that's long been an issue that's been raised in the Eastside including by its leaders many times throughout the past several years is why one gang's being targeted for the violence it causes and the others are not even though they kill and harm people as well, usually in spurts of violence that occur when the different gangs clash.

Raids are scary and traumatic for those who aren't the targets and the city and police management need to be sensitive to that and address the concerns raised by neighborhood residents as to what went on this morning and then they need to take a seat and listen to people's concerns and questions about it. Melendrez should be out right now in the Eastside talking to his ward constituents but no one has seen or heard from him. The city leaders and police management need to be as responsive to community leaders and prepared to address their issues and questions as they are when conducting the raids, in a very different way. Relations between communities and police, already fragile most of the time, tend to unravel when incidents like this take place where the leadership remains silent rather than going out and talking with them and more importantly, listening to them.

When police including those wearing armor and carrying weapons are running about, people don't know whether to feel safer or more in danger, especially when they don't know what's going on. Police officers participate in raids as part of their jobs, but they don't live in neighborhoods where these raids take place and that's a lot different to be in that position. Police officers might spend time lying in the ground in situations hoping that it will provide enough cover but residents of areas that are raided suddenly often spend hours on the floors of their own homes hoping for the same while hoping that their loved ones are safe just as they do when violence is going on including by gangs. And from personal experience when police officers including SWAT conducted numerous raids in an apartment complex I lived in going after gang members, or drug dealers or armed weapons dealers and such, the floor gets a bit uncomfortable after a while and you are wondering whether you did the right thing when you reported some of those gang members, drug dealers and gun dealers in the first place. Did you help your neighbors or did you harm them by bringing in even more armed people? That might sound like silly questions to ask but unless you've been there yourself, you don't know and the answer might never be a satisfactory one. Because often that answer doesn't exist.

Addressing crime in your neighborhood is a series of questions that you ask yourself, if it's worth it. Report a drug dealer, a narcotics officer dressed in some seriously bad 70s threads comes around and leaves their calling card on your door with the orange logo on it and then you come home from a holiday and find that someone took a shot at your door. And was it because of being a "snitch" or because they meant to hit the drug dealer downstairs and missed? The last is possible, because on more than one occasion, one drug dealer trying to take out someone who stiffed him walked up the wrong flight of stairs and shot a family eating dinner, through their open front door with a dozen people watching but none of them saw a thing. But then being a good neighbor and reporting crimes like this can be a double edged sword that can come back and hit you.

Plus there's the fear that at any moment, there will be guns going off or shootouts, which aren't pleasant experiences either for people in a neighborhood.

Violence in a neighborhood is a serious issue and a scary issue for people who live in it and experience it. But sometimes the response to that violence or even to prevent it, can be just as scary and occasionally just as dangerous.

Suggestions were made at the Strategic Plan forums to have community/police liaisons to address crisis situations like raids in a neighborhood, including one with multiple racial and even ethnic and generational populations and more than one official language. Any police officer participating in a raid understands his or her role in the larger process and even though it's dangerous to do this, they understand the actions they take and why. Community members have no understanding of all the activity and even as the city might pat them on the head like children and tell them it's for their own good to make them safer, that does little to help them feel safer and less vulnerable at the time and a lot less angry than many feel right now. But that's a challenge, which is to create such a liaison process to improve communications between police and community when the former by design or in some cases necessity, keeps about half of what it does shrouded in secrecy. That's readily apparent when the area commander who's supposed to be means of communication between the department and his "area", is asked questions and can only give vague responses which only serve to muddle the issues further in those communities.

And that there's more than one gang in the Eastside. If the D.A.'s office is out there having arrests done of gangs besides ESR, then it's not issuing press releases each time an arrest is made and a case is filed for members of those other gangs.

But that's a different issue given that one such gang 1200 Bloc has been tagging all over the Eastside and crossing out both ESR and Blood gangs, yet they seem to avoid similar attention, even as the murders of two Latino young men in December 2009 by allegedly Black gang members remain unsolved. D.A. Rod Pacheco to hold press conference on raids at 2 p.m.
But what should be explained is if there's a "war" going on between Black and Latino gangs in the Eastside, why is only one gang being targeted by the city and county in raids and injunctions while the other is free to continue? But then many Eastsiders including some of its leaders have been scratching their heads at the unilateral gang injunction imposed in the Eastside by Pacheco's office, which is kind of a rarity in the use of such injunctions by other cities which often target multiple feuding gangs, realizing that it's the combined violence of the gangs against each other that causes the casualties. And that if you tie the arm of only one of them, then another one will come in and try to fill the vacuum which happened for a while in late 2008 when a Crip gang from outside the city wrote graffiti in the Eastside threatening to "gang bang" with anyone who stepped foot in a large area of the Eastside area allegedly claimed by ESR. Not long after the graffiti appeared, a Latino teenager was shot in the leg inside that zone claimed by this outside Crip gang.

ICE agents are involved in these raids as well, according to eyewitness accounts, as their agents and vehicles have been spotted. This indicates that the targets of the raids are primarily Latinos.

This is a question that's asked often by Eastside residents who have for the most part been completely left in the dark regarding policing strategy involving gang activity in the neighborhood and the department heads and Melendrez need to answer it. To some degree, that might be necessary for sensitive operations but the communication always seems to breakdown after the arrests are done and the police leave en force from the Eastside nearly as quickly as they came. Latinos often feel they have no one to turn to when their kids get beaten up after school by Black gang members or threatened while they are walking home by members of 1200 Bloc who threaten them with words or hand signs. The police chief and department often claim they don't mention gangs by name in order to avoid giving them notoriety. But that's not true at all, as they repeatedly have named Eastside Riva or ESR by its name in many a press conference and article. Here, it's equal opportunity because all gangs can destroys people's lives (and having in the past had my life threatened by members of both ESR and 1200 Bloc, I think that makes me neutral while grading them) and if written about here, none will be getting special treatment in the arena of public rhetoric and word choice.

Pacheco should be contacting the leadership primarily the Latino leadership in the Eastside to address them on this issue. But then again, when members of the Think Tank, a committee with origins in the police department wanted to meet with Pacheco about the injunction, he wouldn't do so unless the group submitted the names of those attending including law enforcement officers to his investigators' division for background checks.

Is Pacheco targeting primarily Latino gangs to prove to the state officials that he's tough on his own racial group, given that his ambition includes higher state office (as he had set up a Pacheco For State Attorney General committee a while back)? Pacheco's given a lot of press conferences on Latino gangs in the Eastside but has never given one on its Black gangs and this fact isn't lost on many Latinos in the Eastide nor is the fact that he still won't meet with anyone of them several years after the injunction, even though he'll hold meetings in other predominantly Latino neighborhoods to discuss gang enforcement and prosecution (albeit of Latino gang members) in the Eastside.

If different gangs in the Eastside are at war and hurting or killing people, most often passerbys, then shouldn't the city be targeting all of them, not just one? At least, it would be nice if the city government could make an announcement at the press conference that 1200 Bloc does in fact exist and by now, is probably more than up to fighting strength.

The Press Enterprise which has been flooding this site has posted this news brief stating that the FBI is behind the warrants being served in Riverside today. Whether that's in relation to the raids in the Eastside this morning, remains to be seen but city leaders and police management need to discuss the situation with the Eastside residents including the leaders who once again have been left in the dark.

[Gang graffiti by probably 1200 Bloc, the gang that doesn't exist, at the Town Gate Center near Chicago and University in the Eastside. While gang violence must be addressed as it impacts innocent lives, questions have been asked in the Eastside while Latinos are targeted and there haven't been as many raids and no injunction involving Black gangs like 1200 Block and Georgia Street Mafia, whose graffiti is often found side by side in the southern part of the Eastside/Victoria Gulf Club/ northern Canyon Crest areas. But ask the city and they'll tell you 1200 Bloc doesn't even exist.)

UPDATE: The operation involved in raids in the Eastside raids this morning is a joint operation between the FBI, Riverside County District Attorney's office, the Riverside Police Department and ICE and that the arrests were primarily Latino although four African-Americans were taken into custody near 12th street and ICE took in some individuals on Patterson Street.

The Think Tank is set to hold a meeting soon on this series of raids and has invited police and city officials including Melendrez who haven't yet RSVPed.

Melendrez later on said he had been receiving phone calls from Eastsiders all day and that a meeting will be scheduled to address the raids in the neighborhood next week.

And the U.S. Attorney's office has issued indictments
against 20 members of East Side Riva and if they're eliminating drug trafficking as they say and hate crimes, not a bad thing and more power to them for accomplishing both in society but it takes two sides to make a gang war and ignoring one side, just will help that side take over. And it will probably be a long time before the killings of those two Latino men by Black gang members because of their race are ever treated or seen by these same federal agencies in the same light as being every bit as much hate crimes. They were shot to death while one of ESR's rival gangs armed themselves and went "cruising" for people inside ESR's territory, which is not a lot different than what the feds had said that ESR has been doing.

What's also interesting to note is that since these individuals are charged with federal crimes, they'll eventually go to federal prisons spreading themselves far and wide across the country to potentially take root elsewhere and grow, bringing what they brought at home with them. It's not that difficult in this difficult economy to replace the arrested people who were dealing drugs with new people and no doubt, any dealers arrested will be replaced by the end of the week. These people will probably be more valuable inside federal prison where they can spread this larger prison gang into different corners of the federal penal system as has already happened when California's gang members were transferred to other state prisons in the country. Now places like Durham, North Carolina are seeing the same interracial gang strife as was once thought only to exist in Southern California's cities. No doubt, due in part to this practice, this phenomenon will spread.

It's hard to attack a larger gang solely by force when it's the same force which makes it stronger, kind of like the Hydra's head being replaced with three new ones for every one struck down. After all, if the Mexican Mafia does or did (well still does if this is the case) control the Eastside as one police official said then it's through the funneling in and out of prison of local gang members which serve as the necessary link between the prisons and the neighborhood streets. Keep that flow going and that's how this gang gathers its strength to build further on its operations as it will spread through the federal penal system even further. Each one that is arrested and goes to prison is a new recruit for any prison gang. And so it goes, and will continue to go until the gang violence problem is treated with a multi-prong approach rather than just throwing the considerable muscle of multiple law enforcement agencies at it hoping it will go away.

That's apparent anytime you see a young kid with nothing to do, no hope of anything to do getting approached by gangs or because their family members were in gangs. Until it's seen through those eyes, then nothing will change. And the legal system can keep on waving swords at that Hydra.

The Riverside County District Attorney's office and Riverside Police Department held a joint press conference during the afternoon open to big media outlets but again, shutting Eastside community leadership out, where they said that six men had been arrested by over 800 police officers from different agencies. The rest of the 20 gang members under indictment are either incustody or are at large.

One man did report having his house broken into by 10 police officers, damage done to his carpet and being forced onto the ground in front of a young child at gunpoint by multiple officers, and it turned out the police had struck the wrong address. His daughter later drew a picture of officers pointing a gun at her father.

State of Morale in the RPD

In the past few weeks, it appears that the newly elected president of the Riverside Police Officers’ Association has made the rounds of both the floors of City Hall and the rooms of community meetings to speak on the issues being faced by the police department and its employees. Det. Cliff Mason was elected by the membership of the police department’s largest bargaining unit over incumbent, Det. Chris Lanzillo who had handily defeated Det. Ken Tutwiler who had done like to Sgt. Pat McCarthy and so forth. The RPOA turned over quite a bit of its board of directors last year.

In the past decade, the RPOA has seen about five presidents come and go. Mason is the union’s sixth leader and he stepped into the position during a time that the police department’s in deep turmoil and the city’s entrenched in an economic downturn, part of a larger recession that’s been felt around the world. He’s a detective who wants his stripes back in an agency where there aren’t any left to be allocated to anyone even as the levels of sergeants sink further and morale in the police department has been impacted by this and other situations that have risen.

Mason’s spoken at meetings about the need to address the department’s sworn vacancies which have been piling up for the past couple years, and his opinion has apparently been that the problems which have rocked the department just shy of four years since the dissolution of its consent decree with former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer have been several years in the making. Mason's joined some other officers who've made appearances in the past year at different venues including City Hall who've said that the morale in the department has sunken to its lowest levels in a decade. The Riverside Police Department is heading in a not so very good direction and it's not a matter of "if" there's going to be a tragic incident, it's a matter of "when" and the clock is ticking while City Hall (which has essentially been running the police department by insisting the city charter states that it can) keeps going on with its short-minded decision making.

And he’s right.

When the city made the decision to promote itself as being highly committed to public safety in front of the cameras and the packed venues and engage in cutting sworn positions behind the scenes by giving its city administration the “final say” in what happens to the city’s public safety agencies, it set the department down the path it’s currently traveling on towards its next highly charged critical incident. And seriously, I believed it would take the city government much longer to screw this one up or allow its underlings to do like. I like others no doubt had hoped that the tragedy that shook the city in 1998 and the $26 million or so spent addressing it would have hit that particular lesson down hard. That and the adage that says, that those who don’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. But you've got department heads with more advanced degrees in management practices than Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who lacks one and in fact, got his job by having the Human Resources change the educational requirements for assistant city manager in this city. And maybe frankly, this lack of requirement for an educational background is part of the problem. And you've got the problem that apparently the employees in the city manager's office (and a couple elected officials past and present) who want to be police chiefs when even that position requires a more advanced degree than it takes to be the assistant city manager that supervises it. Or in Riverside's case, micromanages that position. And in homage to that style of management exercised by the city, it will be receiving a report card on the State of the RPD under its management, though at this point one really isn't all that necessary because most of the city's been talking about what's been going there including its five (and possibly even more) recent arrests of its police officers. Which is one piece of a much more complicated puzzle involving the state of the city's public safety department.

After all, don't they teach people in management school not to violate labor MOUs, yet this city gets taken to task by the labor unions including through lawsuits alleging labor violations and it appears that the unions have a higher success record for winning their cases than does the city. And guess what? This costs the tax payers' money that needs to be spent elsewhere and would be, if the city would do a better job at abiding by the labor contracts it signs with employment unions.

The SEIU for example is about to go after the city on the issue of Step pay and it's likely that other labor unions will be joining in including those from the police department. At least half of the officers who are members of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association for example aren't receiving Step pay. And okay, maybe that's necessary but if that's so, then someone should propose that department heads make as much money as their assistants. That City Manager Brad Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos make as much as their assistants. That the assistant city managers make as much money as department heads, given that one didn't have a Master's when he was hired in management and another, doesn't work full-time anyway. After all, the leadership should make the same sacrifices its decision making imposes on those it leads. That's called leading with the courage and vision, the same elements that the city council seeks from a higher power every week from some (unnamed) higher power so that it can make good decisions.

When you see what's going on these days, you have to say, well so much for history! We've got a police department that's coming full circle back to where it was in the 1990s in terms of its staffing level and access to resources and huge reductions in other city departments, yet the Bank of Riverside is opening its doors including those to its financial resources to developers. The city has doled out $32 million to the Fox Theater which doesn't even grant media access equally to the many media outlets in the Inland Empire and is committed to spend $500,000 every year to keep it operating when the ticket prices that it charges for its shows are already keeping enough Riversiders away to affect ticket sales on one production.

Well, it’s pretty clear that this city government including Mayor Ron Loveridge still have not proven to be good history students. Loveridge having lived through the last round of turmoil both outside in the city and inside the police department should really know better but he's tied up these days with being the president or king of the League of Cities and fostering a very academic approach to running a city, which involves study after study and apparently more conceptual visions of the city than you can shake a stick at.

Not when you have city officials telling the media that there’s no deficit in Riverside’s budget because of its reserve fund like one did this month. There’s certainly no shortage of funding for these law enforcement positions that have remained frozen for a couple of years because the city is seeing fit to operate as a lending institution to development firms to the tune of what might be up to $57 million just to cover two entities, a theater and a hotel in downtown Riverside. While no stone is left unturned as one council member said, to ensure that developers see a 50% reduction in some of their fees purportedly to stimulate the construction industry (which in actuality will lead to the employment of few people because both commercial and housing development aren’t happening in this region including Riverside), there’s no similar commitment or at least not that which is nearly so visible regarding the unfreezing of police department positions including two heavily strapped areas, the sergeant ranks and the civilian division. The latter which hasn’t received much attention is a backbone in terms of support to the policing side of the department, not to mention that this work force is strapped to the point where officers will be pulled off of the streets to work desks, similar to what has happened in other cities. But then again, it’s not as if civilian positions hadn’t been frozen before. In 2007, many such positions were frozen in the police department for several months to apparently allow the money to be borrowed against and spent elsewhere.

This transfer of officers to desk duty when it takes place will strap the patrol and traffic divisions which have seen reductions in their shift representation and the return of the majority of the patrol division which is relatively young and not as experienced being relegated to the weekend and night shifts, much as they were in the years preceding the Tyisha Miller shooting in 1998.
But the situation involving the case of the disappearing sergeants is just embarrassing, to believe that the city could have let the situation deteriorate as far and as long as it has done while they are playing Bank of Riverside with very high-risk development projects. Either these developers can’t get loans through the bank because they are so high-risk (especially given that the foreclosure rates on hotels in the Inland Empire is the state’s highest) or they are not happy with the interest rates that come with any such loans. But the mantra was on jobs, jobs and more jobs which is definitely critical in an area with a 14% unemployment rate but if they think these developers are going to pay construction members from the unions at the wages they make, there’s probably some beachfront property that you’d like to look at in Idaho.

And since union members are loathe to cross lines even in construction, most of the labor force they are aiming this effort or a gesture as one councilman called it, won’t be the ones wearing the hardhats and carrying the tools at the construction sites. They’ll likely do what many construction interests do in Riverside which is hire Guatemalan which is great because they need jobs too and to feed their families and shelter them (which Adams rightfully pointed out is on the minds of most people). After all, at least 50% of the roofs done in Riverside are done by Guatemalans. But reducing the fees will have much more impact on developers' interests than on creating jobs because the city council is making the mistake of depending on "trickle down economy" which almost never works though it looks great.

But if you're a developer and you need money and the banks won't give it to you because projects like hotels in this region are so high-risk and banks have their own problems (including loathing any form of regulatory oversight), so what do you do? You think all your financial resources are out of reach but never fear! Look ahead and you have the Bank of Riverside, which is open to developers only. Because after all, they're the only ones who need jobs.

So what is the financially strapped developer to do? Go to Bank of Riverside, located on 3900 Main Street in downtown Riverside and get their loans there. They go to a city that can’t even keep its libraries open at the same number of hours as last year and get their hands on millions of dollars in loans. Still, while the Bank of Riverside is handing out the money for loans, maybe they can be hit up for a smaller loan to fund say, three sergeants with step pay? A loan to unfreeze some officer positions along with those in the civilian division? How well do you think that would go over at the Loan Approval office on the Seventh Floor? As well as handing off $25 million to a developer as the city council or wait, the redevelopment agency (it’s hard to keep them straight at times given that it’s the same folks) is likely to do next week, once it eliminates some annoying delays in the land deal that’s been taking place behind closed doors.

Okay, maybe we can do what film maker Michael Moore does and get a video crew and go down to the Bank of Riverside to try and take out a loan on the three aforementioned sergeant positions (with step pay) and some officer and civilian position as well. You know, fill out the forms and then submit them to the loan approval office and see what happens. Whether or not this approval committee at the Bank of Riverside will approve the loan for the police positions. I imagine what will happen is that anyone who does this, camera crew or not, will be greeted by as sea of confused faces who will say that’s not how this loan process works. Wait a minute, didn’t you just say that Riverside’s coffers are flush enough so that it can float a $25 million loan to a developer and you can’t provide enough capital for a few police positions? Oh we should go readdress this issue with the city council, when if you do that, you can watch former officer and current councilman, Steve Adams’ face redden like a ripe tomato on a summer vine.

They envision large-scale home building when the foreclosure rate’s still very high in Riverside and they envision building more office space when the vacancy rate for office space in this city is at least 30 percent. They boast that major crimes are down in the city, and are down to a 30 year low, as the police department faces its next round of budget cuts. And the city government is engaging in high-risk financial lending when it's been laying off employees and making these tremendous budget cuts. Library hours are cut and the museum staffing has been decimated. Office of Neighborhoods has closed again as it does in the midst of every recession and entities that meet in city buildings are being ejected from those buildings by 8 p.m. at night, which might be a bit of bad news for the marathon session holding Community Police Review Commission although if they stopped engaging in one's upmanship and ridiculous side arguments, they might cut their meeting times in half.

But they have created through short-term decision making a police department that’s going to be down at least 12 sergeants and five lieutenants by the end of 2012. This freezing of supervisory positions including that involving step pay will and no doubt has already accelerated the retirement rate of officers at these levels as well, which will only exacerbate the shortage. But I sat at the city council meeting hearing someone cite a figure of over $600,000 for the contract of the consultant, yes the consultant, hired by the city to run the "people's" theater (even though most of the people can't afford it, hence problems opening one anticipated musical cited below) and I sat there trying to calculate how many jobs that money could have saved, how many sergeant positions with step pay could have been returned into service with the money hired to run what should really be a private theater. And the city plans to subsidize it to the tune of $500,000 a year, which is about four sergeant salaries.

But even as the situation becomes more treacherous, it may be the case that the Bank of Riverside has only just begun as the Carpenters used to say opening its doors to developers out there who are unable to do what the rest of the public has to do in these trying economic times with tightening credit markets which is to go to the banks and take your chances getting loans there. Developers get reductions in fees even as the city admits that the financial impact will be minimal which makes a lot of sense given that like, no one is out getting permits to build houses and major commercial vendors are avoiding Riverside for reasons besides having to pay these developers' fees. There's not much land left in Riverside left to develop in comparison to other places where they've cut fees and since annexations have mercifully stopped for a while (which makes sense given that they don't come into the city fold with built in infrastructure)

Annie Closing Before It Opens?

A theater that recently had to cut down its planned showings of the Broadway musical Annie because of lackluster ticket sales, driven by the reality that most of the audience a musical production like this one would attract can’t afford to pay the ticket prices. Annie’s actually one of the theatrical productions with the highest royalty fees which means lower profit margins for any production of this show, which makes it difficult for even this popular musical to be viable in a tough economy where many families have cut the entertainment portions of their monthly and annual operational budgets accordingly. What the city apparently has not realized is that the audience of wealthy theater-going folks that they were hoping to attract to their shows at the Fox Theater just isn’t big enough and the middle class pretty much doesn’t exist anymore.

The city of Riverside which owns the theater and even has encharged itself with approving media passes (mostly to the Press Enterprise) issued a statement praising the reduction of the performances as a "business decision" which will help ensure the long-term survival of the Fox Theater. Okay, whatever.

Riverside County faces laying off up to 1600 employees in the next two years. And in Palm Springs, a courthouse closes down.

Riverside laid off another employee this week, a woman, but transferred her into another position. Still people are watching this situation very carefully and hoping that the city's plan to throw money at the new hotel project will prevent further layoffs which given that action, would put it in a bad light.

Perris wants to shrink its citizen commissions.

A Los Angeles County Fire Department assistant chief has been convicted of animal cruelty in connection with the beating death of a puppy.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board which waxed enthusiasm for the Fox Theater's opening last week spanked the city for making it appear like a secret operation by denying media access to it. Hey, now this publication knows how the rest of the media in Riverside have felt for years.


The public owns the Fox, and has a substantial stake in seeing the venue succeed. Riverside spent $32 million to refurbish the old theater, which will cost more than $500,000 a year to operate. The city expects to provide a yearly subsidy to keep the Fox running.

But good attendance at the center's events can help defray some of those costs. And public interest will play a large role in deciding whether the Fox thrives. Media coverage of performances can help build enthusiasm for events and boost attendance. That support is crucial: Broadway in Riverside on Monday cancelled three performances of the first musical slated for the Fox due to weak ticket sales.

Discouraging publicity about Fox performances serves no rational public purpose. A media blackout only assures taxpayers of a poor payoff for their big investment in a new performing arts center.

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