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

Friday, February 26, 2010

City Manager Brad Hudson to Host Community Forums on Hunt for New Chief

Help Wanted: New RPD Chief or Puppet?

Part 1: Brad Hudson's Invitation to City Residents

The city of Riverside issued this press release alerting city residents of three community forums that will be held by the city to solicit input from the residents on selecting the new police chief. City Manager Brad Hudson who doesn't seem to be a huge fan of public participation in governmental process will be moderating as the ringleader in any discussions or solicitation of input coming from city residents on what they hope to see in the next police chief. It's such a rarity to even hear of Hudson leaving his office at City Hall to come out to community meetings including one in the Eastside though wasn't that why he packed a gun while working as the city manager? In case he had to attend contentious meetings as city manager? Oh wait, no that was one of his assistant city managers.

His assistant, Tom DeSantis stated in his concealed and carry weapon permit application, that he needed his gun to take to some community meetings.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"Self-protection associated with professional duties which require presence in high-crime areas of the city, as well as attendance at hostile and potentially hostile community meetings in high-crime areas." No wonder the city manager is paying Tom DeSantis $157K. The man signed up for hazardous duty!

Of course the only time that most city residents have heard or read about DeSantis' gun was not when he was calling 911 to say that he had cornered someone at one of these "hostile or potentially hostile community meetings" and was holding them at gunpoint but when a woman called 911 on him during an altercation at a parking lot in Hemet. DeSantis had originally received his conceal and carry weapon permit from Leach despite the fact that he wasn't a resident in Riverside and apparently he didn't qualify to receive one from Leach as a nonresident because his permit had to be revoked and the process whipped off to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to get him a new one. More than a few heads shook at wondering how DeSantis could have "accidentally" received a CCW permit from the wrong jurisdiction due to issues with his residency. Apparently it all got smoothed out because bureaucratic red tape parts like the Red Sea for some individuals when necessary, if not for mere mortals.

But then this is Riverside and in light of this gun permit controversy that took place when both men first rode into town, it's a bit hard to picture them attending community meetings let alone moderating them. It should prove to be quite an interesting sight.

Watching Hudson moderate public forums will be very interesting to say the least, given that he wasn't exactly hired in 2005 for his community friendly skills. In fact, he's in the past tried to ban at least one of his management personnel from attending community meetings even on that employee's own time.

Anyway, this is what Hudson had to say in the city's press release on the process.

"Our next police chief will work closely with the community, its police officers and city leaders as co-producers of public safety and to realize the vision of the department's updated Strategic Plan. RPD's commitment to Community Policing makes it one of the top police agencies in California. The opportunity to lead it will be extremely appealing to highly qualified law enforcement professionals."

It's hard to know where to start with what's wrong with a statement like this one that Hudson has put out for the world to see involving his hunt for Leach's replacement. First of all, he stated that "our next police chief" will work closely with the community. That's interesting considering how invisible Leach became during his last several years as police chief. The community barely ever saw him, once the stipulated judgment was dissolved between the city and the State Attorney General's office. In fact, some called him the "invisible man" due to his dearth of public appearances. So in the face of this, it's very difficult to take Hudson at his word that he's interested in hiring a chief that's out and about in the communities of Riverside. After all, the more a department head circulates out in the public with the residents of the city that they serve, the less easy it becomes to control them. And control appears to be rather big with Hudson.

Since Hudson came aboard to work for the city in 2005 and especially by later 2006, the appearances of Leach dwindled down to a sporadic cameo appearance perhaps every few months when Hudson needed the chief to say a few words to promote his agenda, whether it be changing the investigative protocol of the CPRC which he did by directive in the summer of 2008 or a city council meeting here and there. It seemed that for the most part people in the city saw Leach when he was needed as a prop by Hudson for some purpose or another. A long way from the very active and engaging chief he had been when first hired by the city in 2000 during one of the most difficult periods in the city and police department's histories. He himself said that he felt that he could do the most work during the years that the stipulated judgment was in place but problems in his police department involving him, the dynamic in City Hall and the department began before the stipulated judgment was dissolved.

But for the most part, the communities haven't seen the former police chief in the past several years up to the point where he went on medical leave to hammer out a medical disability retirement.

It didn't appear that police officers and other employees in the department saw Leach very often in the past couple of years or so either as the department appears to be run mostly by its upper management as well as some pretty heavy involvement from Hudson and DeSantis including almost all of its budgetary allocations which had to be approved by DeSantis. There were several time periods in the past 10 years which set the department on the path that it is today, the same path which contributed greatly to what happened in the aftermath of Leach's accident and traffic stop. Those time periods will be discussed further in future blog postings including why they contributed to the dysfunctional state of the police department that exists just a few days shy of the fourth anniversary of its dissolution from the state.

But Leach's invisibility came up time and time again at community forums and meetings especially those he canceled out at the last minute. Hudson appears to be trying to distance himself from the chief that he helped create under his watch by contrasting how this new chief will be different from his predecessor almost as if alluding to negative qualities in Leach including those put on display in the early morning hours of Feb. 8.

And yet Hudson was the direct manager over Leach so if Hudson had wanted Leach to appear more in public or inside his police department, then he could certainly have ordered Leach to do just that. But as we know, that clearly didn't happen. What people saw instead at community meetings in the past several months were either deputy chief, Pete Esquivel and/or Asst. Chief John De La Rosa representing the police department including at civic meetings. In fact, in his final week, Leach canceled out of a community forum held in the Eastside on the police raids on the neighborhood and earlier, he had opted out of a community forum at the Magnolia Police Station involving the upcoming Strategic Plan. None of the command staff that appeared in his stead at these and other meetings where he had been missing seemed fazed by his absence.

So it's a bit odd to read such a statement as coming from Hudson, the same city manager who once forbade a former manager of the Community Police Review Commission from attending community meetings lest he appear too biased. It's very hard to buy into this message being sent by Hudson that he wants a community friendly police chief when it doesn't appear that was part of Hudson's program with Leach.

But it's the statements about his commitment to the upcoming strategic plan that really were fascinating given his track record of (cough) support (cough) of either the original strategic plan or its replacement. The fact being that he was not a really big fan of either strategic plan, which he showed not long after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment in 2006. At a workshop the city council held in late March 2006, the legislative body voted 7-0 to implement a strategy to ensure that the goals and the objectives of the strategic plan were carried out as well as quarterly audits on the department's progress. During the summer probably when most of the city council had its thoughts elsewhere, Hudson either on his own or after receiving amended instructions from a minority of council members didn't adhere to the directive issued him by the city council on the hiring of a police practices consultant. In fact, he seemed intent on running it aground and then reporting back to his bosses that he couldn't carry out its directive the way it had directed. It appeared that this was the plan, but as it turned out, it's not exactly what happened.

Specifically, Hudson apparently altered the plans in hopes of failing to hire the consultant so that he could go back to the city council and tell it that he was unable to hammer out a contract with the consultant, Joe Brann. He even allegedly tried to get Deputy State Attorney General Lou Verdugo involved at some point to help him get Brann to agree to a reduced contract that differed greatly from the council's directive by using his position but Verdugo apparently didn't do what Hudson wanted him to do.

When autumn arrived, enough of the city council discovered that their directive had been stalled at some point like a rudderless ship and steered the SS Hudson back on track.

Fast forward to early 2009 when the department began to develop a Strategic Plan to replace the original one when it expired at the end of that year. Discussion began about community input but then suddenly throughout the summer and early autumn, things became quiet. Never a good sign when it comes to long-range planning in the police department.

Last autumn, it turned out that this newer strategic plan had veered off into never, never, no way land due to influences at City Hall. After a couple of council members inquired as to the fate of the grounded plan, it suddenly got back on track again and was then taken out by the police department for public comment. Hopefully it hasn't stalled once again but is continuing to move forward.

The questions aren't bad but there's one that's clearly missing. Here it is.

5) Do you want a police chief that's micromanaged by Hudson or any element of City Hall? Do you want a police chief or a puppet?

Somehow, I don't think that this line of questioning will be included on any survey and with Hudson controlling the community forums as deftly as he controls City Hall and its departments, there probably won't be a forum for discussing the pressing issues that have arisen from having a police department micromanaged by City Hall.

The city's retained the recruitment firm of Roberts Consulting Group which is expected given that it's a popular choice of Mayor Ron Loveridge who hooked up with Hudson to conduct the broad search for a new police chief.

One CPRC Commissioner Examines Parallel Investigations

Community Police Review Commission member John Brandriff wrote this op-ed piece that was published in the Press Enterprise and begins it by saying he doesn't represent the commission on this issue. That's most definitely the truth given that the majority of the current makeup of the commission aligns itself with the directives it receives from City Hall, both official and unofficial. But it's nice to see one of the member's step forward to write on the issue in a fashion that the majority of that body can't grasp as beholden as it remains to City Hall. Brandriff raises excellent points as he presents his case for restoring parallel investigations of officer-involved deaths to the CPRC. It's ironic that in light of the ongoing situation involving former Chief Russ Leach and the resultant "independent" probe being orchestrated by Hudson that it's the department that's compromised one of its criminal investigations by not conducting one of its former head, rather than the CPRC which to this date has never compromised (or received any complaints from anyone alleging this) a single officer-involved death case that's landed in its purview.

The Governmental Affairs Committee will be meeting this week as its chair, Councilman Andrew Melendrez will propose an amended directive to take to the full city council which will state that the CPRC shall begin its investigations 30 days after the department begins its own criminal probe. It remains to be seen whether Melendrez will have the support and votes of the other committee members, Councilmen Rusty Bailey and Steve Adams but with an election year approaching, both might be so moved. After all, after former councilman Frank Schiavone took credit for imposing the current restrictions on the investigations by the CPRC, he saw votes slip away in some neighborhoods because of that issue, enough votes to help ensure his defeat.

It's pretty safe to say that none of the city council including the two council members up for reelection serving on the Governmental Affairs Committee want to follow in Schiavone's footsteps.

This Just In!!

RPD Officer Arrests Drunk Driver Whose Car Has Flat Tires

Who: Officer Anthony Watkins (hired by the RPD in December 2005 from the California Highway Patrol)

Where: Alessandro near Mission Grove, NPC East

When: Feb. 28, at 0230 (2:30 a.m.)

Supervisor: Sgt. Christian Dinco

Watch Commander: Lt. Leon Phillips

Officer Anthony Watkins responded to the area of Mission Grove south of Alessandro reference a report of an accident where a driver drove over the center median and flattened both his tires. The vehicle came to rest in the #2 lane on Mission Grove. Officer Watkins found the car at rest in the middle of the road without anyone inside. He saw a subject, later determined to be the driver, standing by some apartments attempting to make a phone call. When the subject saw the officers he began to run through the complex. Officer Watkins gave chase and caught the subject before he got too far. The subject submitted to arrest without incident and was arrested for 23152 CVC DUI.

(above summary written by Dinco)

So this incidentally began as a person reporting to the police department that they witnessed either an accident and/or a vehicle driving around with flattened or missing tires. The department sends an officer or two to respond and they find or pull over the vehicle and the motorist is either in the car or some place nearby. In this case, he was on a cell phone and took off running when he saw Watkins approach. Soon enough, he was submitting to arrest for DUI without incident after having been evaluated for being under the influence. Just like another similar incident involving Officers Grant Linhart and another officer with a motorist who had been reported by a concerned witness as driving around on three flattened tires. Just as in the above case, Linhart and the other officer conducted a DUI investigation and arrested the individual on a DUI charge and took him off to Robert Presley Detention Center to be booked.

Very much unlike the incident involving former Chief Russ Leach who crashed his car on Central and Hillside and drove on two rims on the left side of his vehicle which threw up enough sparks to elicit 911 calls reporting it. Leach was stopped by Linhart and Jeremy Miller who realized that he wasn't an ordinary citizen but their boss. Leach's car was heavily damaged and that Leach had little memory of what had happened, of crashing his car or any knowledge about how damage it had suffered. He repeated statements of driving on a dirt road and field and of needing to change his tire. Instead of doing what happened in the incidents mentioned above, Linhart and Miller contacted their supervisor, Sgt. Frank Orta, himself a court recognized DUI expert. Orta took over the scene according to the very much partial CAD incident report handed over to the Press Enterprise by the city as part of Orta's report. Orta mentioned in his report that Leach had been drinking and had suffered apparent disorientation and memory loss but didn't appear to conduct any investigation as to why this was the case

Two major causes of such disorientation and memory loss or "black outs" would be alcohol and/or drug intoxication and head injuries, including the type of epidermal hematoma, otherwise known as "talk and die syndrome" that killed actress Natasha Richardson. Yet there's no indication in Orta's report that Leach had been evaluated for DUI or a head injury by anyone including any medical personnel that could done that type of evaluation. Instead, they investigated the collision without doing a DUI evaluation almost as if the black Chrysler 300 had driven itself and then wrote up its wild ride as a "traffic collision" report to be "filed".

Some say that the traffic stop conducted involving Leach was done professionally by "extremely professional" officers. First however, you have to separate "professional behavior" from "extremely professional officers" because the two points might diverge in situations where otherwise professional officers are not allowed to perform their duties professionally because to do that collides with other interests. Linhart proved in his deft handling of a DUI arrest involving the driver of a vehicle with three flattened tires within several weeks of the Leach incident that he knows how to conduct a professional traffic stop complete with DUI investigation and potential arrest. Also working that shift were his supervisory, Orta and Phillips who served as the watch commander. All three behaving professionally in their capacities.

But what happened to the behavior of the involved officers (on the scene not to mention any elsewhere) in relation to the incident involving Leach has still not been satisfactorily answered by the city. It's pretty clear already that the Hudson Probe will do little to nothing to answer these questions as well, certainly as long as it remains shrouded in secrecy. And it's pretty clear that there are elements in the department and City Hall that would like to keep it that way. Just as it's likely in both places, that individuals didn't want the city's residents to know that the police chief had even gotten in an accident.

That's what raises problems with the Hudson Probe because the people in charge of it might have known more about past alleged incidents involving Leach's contact with his own police department as well as possibly other law enforcement agencies while driving, might be the ones making the final dispositions on the case. But the main reason why Hudson pushed for his "sweeping" inhouse investigation which will be overseen by his choice of "independent oversight" was likely to offset similar and less easily controlled probes by outside agencies including the county grand jury. But since the final results won't be disseminated to the public, that allows for plenty of sweep, sweep, sweeping under the rug and it places the troubled police department in a holding pattern in terms of its less than stellar image among city residents now. Without that level of accountability, it's going to be difficult for the department to move forward in a better direction. It will always be waiting for that next shoe to fall.

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein writes about the $25 million certificates of participation to be voted on by the city council this week in connection with the construction of a new hotel downtown.

Riverside County Superior Court's backlog might not be as severe as it was in previous years according to a recent study.

The Riverside County Public Defender's office is trying to change the way it handles death penalty cases.

Walking across any downtown street even with a light, even with a crosswalk is taking your life in your hands. Yesterday, Riverside Police Department officers 31 law-breaking motorists in two hours for failing to stop at a crosswalk in proper fashion or at all.

Public Meetings

Monday, March 1 at 4 p.m. The Human Resources Board meets at City Hall in the fifth floor conference room to discuss this agenda. City Manager Brad Hudson will be giving a presentation and hopefully explaining why he's blocking the Board's attempts to interview Development Department head Deanna Larsen over the massive exodus of her employees. Another highlight will be Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout's discussion of the six recent employee layoffs, most or all of them being from the SEIU.

Tuesday, March 2 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., City Council meeting held at City Hall to discuss this agenda. This item and that item have to do with the $25 million certificates of participation to Metro Riverside will be discussed at the afternoon session. In the evening, the discussion will center on the neighborhood governance and the the multi modal transit center.

Wednesday March 3 at 4 p.m. at City Hall, Governmental Affair Committee will be holding a meeting to discuss the CPRC's investigative protocol for officer-involved death investigations.

Police Chief Community Forums

Thursday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Caesar Chavez Community Center, Eastside

Wednesday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Orange Terrace Community Center, Orangecrest

Thursday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at La Sierra Senior Center, La Sierra

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

CPRC promises to play nicer to little avail, reduces public's access to meetings

****UPDATE***** Six City Employees Laid off: Five in Public Works, one crossing guard supervisor this week.

[CPRC Vice-Chair Art Santore listens to a point raised by Commissioner Dale Roberts, clearly not liking it that she's not marching lockstep with THE program. He threw a straw man or two her way which she easily deflected.]

[CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan (l), Commissioner John Brandriff, Commissioner Chani Beeman listen to public comment. Later, the majority of the commission voted to move its meetings to begin a half hour earlier even when one community member said she wouldn't be able to come.]

Riverside's Best Ongoing Stage Show Debuts New Act

but hours subject to change

Riverside's Community Police Review Commission held one of its regular monthly meetings and Chair Peter Hubbard (who works for a company that contracts with the city manager's office) laid out the new rules of how the meetings would be "congenial" but instead of explaining what the standards of conduct would be for the commissioners including those who have made personal attacks against people in attendance or acted in violation of their established procedure for meetings, they forbade the public from doing among other things, clapping or booing their staged performances.

All that was well and good until Vice-Chair Art Santore apparently forgot about what Hubbard had said and attacked a speaker while she was still speaking during public comment, over something that happened at his neighborhood watch meeting some time ago. Not exactly conversation under the rather reduced purview of the commission.

No one on the commission challenged him on his rude behavior which is a violation of the oath that Santore and other commissioners take when sworn into their positions. But then the CPRC members except Brian Pearcy (who doesn't seem to attend much anymore) and Chani Beeman voted for Santore to be its vice-chair during an afternoon session of its meeting. The election could have been held during an open session of that meeting less than two hours later, but there's very little interest in transparency from this commission since City Hall co opted it several years ago not long after the city council voted to hire Brad Hudson as city manager. There's very little interest in doing what they're supposed to be doing in line with the city's charter. There's very little interest in doing anything apparently but to put on display what's happened with the CPRC since it's been under the purview of Hudson.

City Attorney Greg Priamos apparently thought it was very funny given the expression on his face while this was taking place. The speaker ignored Santore's latest meltdown and tried to keep speaking but Santore kept at it.

At its next meeting, it's fully anticipated that the majority of the commission if not almost all of it will nominate and reelect the Hubbard/Santore slate to run the commission even further in the ground during its year term. Even those who oppose will likely vote for them (except for perhaps Beeman) because they're not thinking like the communities they represent but as politicians and that's one reason why perceptions exist throughout Riverside that the commission is run by Rogan (which isn't true, because he's "at will") or an essentially toothless tool of City Hall. Because if you're a commissioner or board member voting against your conscience as part of a strategy to "win" something later on, you're acting like a politician. There may or may not be a place for that on the city council dais but not on any of the city's boards and commissions.

New commissioner, Dale Roberts has clearly gotten an earful and eyeful of how dysfunctional this body is and it was interesting to see her hold her ground in the face of Santore's domineering attitude (which Hubbard amazingly reined in at one point) and keep to the point that she raised about the commission as a "quasi-judicial body" needing to receive both majority and minority opinions. Her words didn't please Santore who clearly would rather try to stamp out all minority opinion at least until the day comes when it's his own, who tried to snap back by saying that the commission wasn't a "court of law". Then about 45 minutes was spent arguing over how to define a "fact".

This was during a discussion of the evaluation process involving officer-involved deaths which is mired in minor details on how to handle different aspects of it. Commissioner John Brandriff ruffled a few feathers when he said that the past two weeks were an example of what could be expected from police reports from the department. He said that the situation involving Leach was "poorly" handled and had attracted two outside investigation which provided food for argument in the importance of an independent investigation. People in the audience, well most of them agreed and wanted to say so but alas, clapping is now forbidden at meetings.

Watching paint dry is much more thrilling than watching that dialogue which mainly involves the commission serving as the dog chasing its tail while discussing the limited topics that City Hall allows it to place on its meeting agenda. Instead of watching a commission that's supposed to represent the community and serve as a conduit for them, what you have is a rather entertaining showcase of overinflated egos. Which is why community members who attend one meeting rarely return and many asked how can anyone speak at these meetings given the way that people are treated. But with the high priced entertainment at the newly renovated Fox Theater and the rising costs at the Cineplex in popcorn futures, at least this entertainment is almost free.

Later on in the meeting, Hubbard, Santore, Ken Rotkins and Robert Slawsby voted to begin the meetings earlier, including having the general meeting begin at 5:00 p.m. and end by 8 p.m. regardless of whether or not they have completed their agendas (which they haven't done for months anyway). Commissioners Brandriff, Chani Beeman and Roberts voted against the move which was no doubt done in large part to discourage community attendance including that of Leslie Braden who addressed the commission saying that she wouldn't be able to attend because she didn't get off work in time. Some months ago, Hubbard and several others tried to change the commission's general meetings to early in the morning at about 9 a.m. That measure failed when several commissioners including Beeman and Brandriff said they would then have trouble attending the meetings themselves.

Given that Hubbard is loathe to call special meetings so that the commission can actually catch up with its agendized business, the commission will likely fall even further behind and slide even further into being completely useless to the communities of Riverside even as it might serve as a public relations tool for City Hall. But if City Hall thinks that the commission can perform even that rudimentary function, it might find out differently if the police department has another critical incident. What was interesting is that when this latest situation broke involving former chief, Russ Leach and his accident broke, people called for the feds, the state attorney general's office and county grand jury to investigate. They didn't call for the CPRC because most people do know that it's essentially controlled by City Hall and thus useless to operate in any fashion associated with this situation. Much like in the 1990s when the police department split wide open, the city's residents didn't go calling for the equally useless LEPAC.

But it's not lost on most people how as the CPRC continues to collapse on itself, that the police department has been hit with a crisis that has shaken the public's faith in it and has sent City Hall off scurrying off to find a new police chief to sign up and take the helm of an agency at what what Riverside Police Officers' Association President Det. Cliff Mason said was at a particularly delicate time. The city's going to be holding public forums and there's one public forum being held by Councilman Paul Davis being held in two weeks asking what people want to see in their next police chief. It's important for the community to provide input in this process even as community leaders have been shut off of the planned interview panel by City Manager Brad Hudson who wants law enforcement officials, business leaders (most likely only those beholden to the Chamber of Commerce rather than a more broad representation) and CPRC members (who are mainly political appointments). But no community you know, ask any prospective applicants any questions on community policing from their perspective.

Not exactly inspiring much confidence in Hudson's procedure for picking his next police chief, because make no mistake about it, the next police chief will belong to him unless enough members from the city council tell him that is not appropriate behavior and unless some serious dysfunctional dynamics within the department and between the department and City Hall are addressed. And that's not likely to take place anytime soon because guess what, City Hall really has no desire to let anyone let alone its constituents and true employers know what's really going on (the part that it doesn't know) because enough elements inside were either happy with the status quo or chose to remain blissfully ignorant.

Hudson's a bright guy and very skillful at playing his bosses which has given him much more free rein over running the city departments that he oversees than any of his most recent predecessors. That task is facilitated by the city council pretty much handing off most of its accountability mechanisms especially for financial operations and expenditures off to the city manager. It's very interesting to watch it all play out but it's impact has been detrimental most particularly on the police department.

There's no evidence that Hudson and his assistant, Tom DeSantis knew about what happened with Leach and his ill-fated drive through Riverside until some time afterward, at least this time. Hiding the incident from this micromanaging duo might not have been an easy feat. But it appeared to have worked for a while even though the department apparently violated a city policy involving "high profile" peeps to do so. It appears that the police department made the decision not to report the accident and traffic stop to Hudson's office and perhaps Hudson and DeSantis would have remained in the dark for longer, if Mayor Ron Loveridge hadn't received that anonymous phone call and another elected official hadn't received a call as well. But Loveridge's instinctual reaction would have been to stamp out the spread of the news outside the 'Hall just like the police department had clearly tried to hide it from City Hall by not notifying Hudson's office. By that time, it was probably too late.

Loveridge's pushing may or may not have catalyzed Sgt. Frank Orta to write his "traffic collision" report after he had provided a disposition at 4:44 a.m. that no report was to be taken, according to the very limited portion of the CAD report provided to the Press Enterprise by the city. Or maybe Orta had written the report earlier before the mayor notified Hudson to conduct an inquiry. While the copy of the report released by the Press Enterprise (which received its copy from City Hall) contained no reviewer's signature, there's been an allegation raised that the report had been signed by a member of the police department's management which if that were the case, would be a rather unusual circumstance for a police report.

But as the city's white wash and completely behind closed doors (where it will stay) probe continues, there's many questions that the public needs to have answered about this troubling incident and its aftermath.

There's been a lot of discussion of what's been going on and the city's so-called "sweeping" investigation into the mess which will be under the so-called "independent oversight" of Best, Best and Krieger Attorney (and former Riverside County District Attorney) Grover Trask, who of course is under contract to Hudson so really, how independent can he be? About as independent as the next police chief will be perhaps. But there's been many comments and discussions about the written report put out by Orta since it's been online at the Press Enterprise Web site. One of the questions most asked is how can a written report which included two "potential" or "possible" misdemeanor violations be written in such a fashion where it's clear that neither one was even investigated by the officers on scene including the supervisors before the incident was to be "filed" away by the department.

Here are the suspected violations introduced in the report are broken down.

"Potential DUI"

Misdemeanor #1: VC M23152(A)

Sgt. Frank Orta's statements about Leach's statements that he made after being pulled over by two patrol officers looking for a "potential DUI" reported to them. He writes about how Leach thought he had been driving in a field and dirt road and that it was evident that his vehicle had suffered "major damage" in a collision. Yet despite being a court recognized DUI expert, he never conducts a sobriety evaluation on Leach after taking over the situation from two patrol officers after he arrived onscene at the traffic stop. Why not, is the question many city residents have asked. Is it because he was the police chief? On Feb. 21, one of the patrol officers involved conducted a DUI investigation and arrest on a motorist driving on three flat tires who had been reported as a possible DUI. Writing the description of that incident was his supervisor, Orta. A solidly handled situation involving most likely an ordinary person not the police chief.

"Possible Hit and Run Traffic Collision"

Misdemeanor #2: PC M20002(A)

This section of Orta's report contains statements about Leach's vehicle having been possibly involved in a hit and run traffic collision at Central and Hillside three miles away from Arlington and Rutland, where his car which was being driven on two rims was stopped by two patrol officers. Yet there's nothing further in the report about whether or not there was any indication that Orta viewed it as a hit and run collision or that it was really investigated as such. He instead blamed the initial accident on an unsafe driving maneuver by Leach while driving near the intersection in the face of Leach's vehicle which suffered "major damage" (as checked off on the report) and the driver's apparently memory loss. So you have "major damage" to the car as the photographs clearly showed and the driver suffering memory loss who was noted on the report as having been drinking and yet you have no DUI evaluation let alone a DUI investigation conducted on Leach by Orta or anyone else at the scene. And you have no real investigation into what was clearly a hit and run accident involving Leach crashing his car at point A and then driving to point B. For most of us, that would be called "hit and run" but those words never appear anywhere except for the initial suspicion. There's again nothing about an investigation into that misdemeanor violation to see if it took place and it's perplexing to see a report listed to be filed away with not much to say about the investigation of these two misdemeanor violations.

Orta even helps out by drawing a picture of what he believed happened with this "unsafe driving maneuver".

And in the report itself, Orta provides a more verbal discription. He blames the accident on "combined violations" meaning vehicle infractions and seems content to leave it at that. Never mind the heavy damage to the car, never mind Leach's memory loss (except for the dirt road and the field), never mind that Leach's damaged car was pulled over three miles away from the point of impact. But curiously enough, Leach isn't even cited for these so-called "combined violations" by Orta or anyone else.

"Leach's Unsafe Turning Movement"

No, Leach isn't cited for the "combined violations" nor is he investigated for the "potential DUI" or the "possible hit and run traffic collision". Instead this is the recommended action provided by Orta at the end of his report.

Disposition/Recommendation: FILE

Now what if this had been an ordinary person? Would he or she had been treated this way? Would they have had potential violations of DUI and/or hit and run ignored by responding police officers and their supervisors if complaints had been made by witnesses and there was enough tangible evidence including a wrecked car that crashed elsewhere and a driver with memory loss? Not likely. In fact, most of the city's residents either through experience or just common sense know the answer to that question. The police department knows the answers too especially given in light that it abruptly canceled a planned DUI checkpoint that had been scheduled for Feb. 17 with apparently no immediate plans to reschedule it.

The Press Enterprise wrote this article about the upcoming sentencing of former Riverside Police Department officer David Reeves, Jr.

Wi Fi Outage Enters Fourth Week

An area covering part of Canyon Crest and areas around it to the north and south has been impacted by a Wi Fi outage that stems back three weeks to the rain storm that took place back then, which flooded a box containing equipment which broadcasts the internet signal to these areas. The total area impacted covers a two-square mile area. AT&T has sent out repair teams on at least two occasions recently but service has not been restored to much of this area. When the repairs will be completed is not known at this point.

Inland Empire Weekly investigates whether the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department buys equipment from a company that uses sweatshop labor.

Someone connected with former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus faces criminal charges.

Gates separating two areas of Alessandro Heights may some day be opened.

A new way to generate power from water could come to Riverside.

The history of censorship battles in Southwestern Riverside County is a lengthy one.

Community Forum

Thursday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Orange Terrace Community Center, there will be a "search for the new police chief" public forum.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Paul Takes on Rod and a Former RPD Officer Prepares to Take a Plea Bargain

This news was kind of expected but it's interesting to hear anyway that Riverside County Superior Court Judge (and former prosecutor) Paul Zellerbach is formerly tossing his hat in the ring of the District Attorney's race that will pit him against incumbent, Rod Pacheco. His entry into the upcoming contest turns what is usually a preordained ordination into an actual horse race. Is this an extension of the D.A.'s office vs county judges rumble? It will be interesting to find out and to follow the election process now that there's actually going to be a bonafide election and not an appointment process.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"I think it is time for a change. The citizens of Riverside County deserve better from a district attorney. They are not getting what they are paying for," Zellerbach, 56, said in a brief phone interview.

Zellerbach said superior court records from the past two years show that the conviction rate for Pacheco's office is less than 45 percent at trial for all charges in combined felony and misdemeanor cases.

"The citizens of this county are rejecting the district attorney's criminal charges over 55 percent of the time," Zellerbach said. "That sends a message that he his not doing the job that the citizens of this county want."

A phone message was left for Pacheco to comment.

So is Zellerbach claiming that the conviction rate of the D.A.'s office has plummeted to 45% from its high point of 91% under his predecessor, Grover Trask? Everyone knows the ranks of his office have plummeted by 25% after that percentage of prosecutors including many with seniority have departed that office since he took the position. The inhouse union's members will most likely back their boss because if they believe he's going to get reelected, they'll believe it's career suicide not to do so. But this could be a very interesting election battle in the months ahead, in what is usually an exercise that would induce yawns and very low voter turnout.

Hopefully the two candidates will attend or even hold debate forums so that people can go to the polls to make an informed decision. Debates are interesting locations for fireworks as well. Expect Pacheco to hold another press conference where he's backed by his regular supporters in response to Zellerbach's decision to throw down the gauntlet.

Zellerbach used to be on the Human Relations Commission in Riverside and even chaired it. He participated very much in that process. He seemed intelligent and thoughtful rather than bombastic in his presentation. So his style clearly contrasts with Pacheco's (who remember, once boasted to the wrong crowd that it took a truly great prosecutor to get an innocent man convicted) which should make for an even more exciting political contest. But it will be very interesting to see a judge go up against the D.A.

More election coverage to come...

RPD DUI Checkpoint Canceled

Press Enterprise columnist, Dan Bernstein comments on the cancellation of last weeks scheduled DUI checkpoint by the Riverside Police Department. No reason was given by the department for why it decided not to hold this latest DUI checkpoint or when it plans to reschedule it. Maybe they anticipated problems at least of the public relations kind if they continued their campaign on cracking down on intoxicated drivers while they are being non-investigated for possibly trying to give their own former boss a free pass. But it's going to be a while before the public forgets that double standard of enforcement by the police department.

Bernstein's explanation is that perhaps the officers needed a refresher course on how to do DUI stops. But as we know, the officers who were either involved in responding to the ill-fated Feb. 8 accident or the subsequent traffic stop do not need that training. The supervisor who wrote the report involving former Riverside Chief Russ Leach and his sparks shooting vehicle does not need that training nor does the watch commander. It seems that they have the handling of potential DUI cases down pat already, at least for more ordinary people as was clearly shown earlier this week.

On Feb. 21, they did conduct a DUI stop involving a more ordinary person driving on three flat tires and did do the DUI investigation on that motorist. They arrested and booked him at the county jail facility without incident in downtown Riverside according to the summary of the incident written by Sgt. Frank Orta who wrote the report in connection with the Leach incident. In addition, the watch commander on Feb. 21 was the same as the one on duty two weeks earlier who was Lt. Leon Phillips.

People including police officials have argued that the officers involved were very professional officers and that could very much be the case. Officer Grant Linhart proved through his deft handling of the Feb. 21 stop that he can behave very professionally in taking an intoxicated driver off of the streets. Those two officers apparently didn't need to call for supervision so Orta was able to write a summary on the incident based likely on information provided by Linhart and Officer Jorge Sepulveda. It was a case handled very well by the officers involved, probably similar to hundreds of other such cases involving drivers under the influence in Riverside.

However, there's a difference between "extremely professional officers" and "extremely professional behavior" particularly if the former are being influenced or directed by others not to do the latter in one particular case.

And this situation and its handling just generates more questions into how professionally behaving officers can handle another potential DUI situation so unprofessionally. City resident Miguel Morales showed up at the last city council meeting with two shot glasses to talk about how alcohol is served at bars but mainly to castigate his favorite target, Councilman Mike Gardner, for comments he made to several media outlets after the incident had happened and the media descended once again on Riverside's City Hall and police department.

He blasted Gardner for saying anything was even remotely questionable about the handling of the situation involving Leach. In 2009, Morales hung out with former Councilman Frank Schiavone who came out in the Press Enterprise within a day of the incident and insisted Leach couldn't even have one beer because he was on prescription medication and thus could suffer severe effects. Maybe Schiavone would know given that Leach had spent some time living at his residence before Schiavone ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 2009. But if Schiavone wanted to be a true friend to Leach, enabling his behavior through his comments to the press wasn't the way to do that. The two are heavily rumored to be part of the old Sire's Restaurant crowd that allegedly conducted some share of the city's business inside that establishment during the past few years.

However that affirmation of Schiavone's was challenged by both the owner of Club 215 (where Leach spent 3-4 hours some time before his accident) and his attorney that Leach had consumed four whiskeys including one that was allegedly "watered down". The club might have been interested in protecting itself from any potential legal action if it was proven that Leach had been intoxicated when he left the establishment before his accident. But then the owner and attorney said they had provided video footage of Leach's whereabouts while he was at the club to CHP investigators.

Morales chastised those namely Gardner who questioned the validity of the stop on Leach, as an insult to the department. I disagree with his assertion believing that to not question it is a greater insult to the police department. To not question it is to lower the standards of conduct by police officers on traffic stops where DUI is suspected. The police department's officers conduct hundreds of these stops as unfortunately, drinking and driving is not as uncommon as it should be. The incident on Feb. 21 clearly shows that the officers involved with the Feb. 8 stop of Leach clearly know the expectations of how to conduct stops and DUI investigations on motorists suspected to legally drunk or intoxicated in ways that impair their driving functions to the point where they become a danger to themselves and others. Especially having lost Officer Claire Connally to a legally drunk driver and having had several officers involved in accidents where drunk drivers hit their vehicles while they were coming to and from work or actually onduty in their squad cars.

But this case involving Leach didn't go nearly that way. He was a suspected DUI by at least one or more reporting parties who either witnessed the accident at Central and Hillside or saw him driving around in one of his black Chrysler 300 vehicles throwing up sparks over at least three miles before he was pulled over by two patrol officers who likely had heard calls broadcast over the dispatch about a vehicle fitting that description, down to the rims. They didn't know who he was until they stopped him and approached him. But they knew from the damage and possibly reports on the radio of a prior accident that he had traveled away from the original accident scene, making him a possible hit and run offender. They said he had been drinking which was on Orta's report. It's hard to know much about what the patrol officers were thinking or doing because these aspects of them were filtered through Orta's report given that they didn't file reports of their own.

They knew he had memory loss of the accident, the damage to the car and where he had been beyond some comments about driving on a field or dirt road. Yet none of the officers who appeared on the scene looked at the two possible scenarios in this type of situation. Those being that he was intoxicated from some substance and crashed his car and left the scene, or that he had been in an accident, had suffered a head injury (leading to memory loss) and had driven away from the accident scene or possibly both. No evaluation for DUI or a head injury were ever done. The officers quickly called for supervision and then Orta, who is a DUI expert, did not conduct a DUI evaluation on the head of the agency that employed him for about 30 years. An agency he had been about to retire from in a few months.

Phillips had apparently arrived at or near the time that Orta had arrived and apparently they didn't know Leach had been involved until that point. It's possible that Orta being the expert could have said a DUI evaluation needed to be done and if he had done that, it was not the answer that those above him wanted to hear. What is clear is that at some point a decision was made by someone, and probably neither of the two supervisors involved, to not evaluate Leach for a DUI and to get him home and his car taken to one of the field operation stations for storage. But who made that decision? Were Orta and Phillips the type of supervisors who would unilaterally decide not to even conduct a DUI investigation in a case where the evidence showed it was clearly necessary to do so? Would they instead do as the officers did before them and ask for advice on how to handle it from officers higher up on the food chain than themselves? Were in fact the decisions made to handle the situation with Leach made by individuals not actually at the scene which would become Ground Zero in the resultant controversy?

And if that were the case, would City Hall ever reveal that? Of course not. Just like City Hall including City Manager Brad Hudson, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis and City Attorney Gregory Priamos would never say anything about whether this incident involving Leach was isolated or whether there had been other alleged incidents including one where a member of the command staff received a late night call from Leach to pick him up from a desert town in San Bernardino County because he was unable to drive home himself. Or any of a number of alleged incidents including traffic stops involving other law enforcement agencies in Riverside County and perhaps others. If these people who have now put themselves in charge of a probe knew of prior incidents and didn't address them, then how can they possibly be deemed as being credible arbiters in this situation when it would provide for them at the very least a conflict of interest? Meaning that they're not just arbiters of the investigation, they are potentially its witnesses. Witnesses who may have questions directed at them that they need to answer. That's one reason of many while people including Mel Opotowski of the Press Enterprise have called for an independent probe of the whole affair.

Not the ongoing white wash probe which appears to be more about some parties protecting their own interests than at getting at the truth and putting themselves in charge of this probe was intended to leave them holding all the cards. Which will remain the status quo until the situation involving the police department is looked at independently which isn't going to happen soon.

Letters to the newspaper's reader's forum have been written for the following dates. Diverse viewpoints with some people thinking a police chief should be held to a higher standard and some believing that he should be held to a lower one.

Feb. 24

Feb. 23

Feb. 22

Feb. 20

Feb. 19

Feb. 17

Feb. 16

Former RPD Officer Pleads Guilty in Armed Robbery, Kidnapping Case

David Reeves Jr. Looking at 15 Years in State Prison Under Plea Bargain

On Feb. 23, former Riverside Police Department officer, David Reeves, Jr. plead guilty in court in front of Riverside County Superior Court Judge Richard T. Fields and will be formerly sentenced on March 11 at 1:30 p.m. Reeves has been remanded to county jail on $500,000 bail since his arrest on Oct. 14, 2009. He had initially plead not guilty to the multiple felony counts and enhancements including the possession of a firearm but during the past month or so, his attorney Tera Harden worked out a plea bargain.

(excerpt, court minute records)

SENTENCING IS SET FOR 03/11/2010 AT 13:30 IN DEPT. 42.

At the time Reeves committed a series of armed robberies and attempted armed robberies, the department had allegedly been investigating him for an addiction to pain medications and at one point had done an evaluation on him and asked for a blood or urine sample for drug testing, which led him to file a lawsuit in court one week before his arrest. The city had been trying to get him to medically retire from the department without giving him a paid physical disability retirement because his injuries allegedly occurred while he was off duty.

Temecula takes the hatchet to its budget again in its latest round of cuts.

Why Shamu is not a puppy

A trained killer whale at one of Sea World's parks finally kills a trainer. I've heard that Kenneth Peters has some really impressive tooth marks left in his head during one of his forays to the bottom of the tank. He and the whales' previous trainer were attacked and dragged to the bottom of the tank numerous times.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hudson Probe: Who is going to investigate the investigator?

****UPDATES***Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach to run for the D.A. spot against incumbent Ron Pacheco***

RPD Cancels DUI Checkpoint on Feb. 17. No reason given why.

Ev'ryone can see we're together
As we walk on by (FLY!) and we fly just like birds of a feather I won't tell no lie (ALL!) all of the people around us they say Can they be that close Just let me state for the record We're giving love in a family dose

---Sister Sledge ("We are Family" 1979)

Finally, there's been some calling for an independent probe to be conducted of the Feb. 8 traffic stop involving former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach and its aftermath. It's been pretty silent from the leadership in this city, both civic and community based and most of that has been based on the search for a new police chief to take over the helm of a troubled law enforcement agency. We know that Mayor Ron Loveridge and City Manager Brad Hudson are out searching far and wide for a police chief after having picked a recruiter behind closed doors instead of allowing the city council to meet publicly and pick one firm from a list of competitive bidders as has happened with several job searches including that of the police chief in 2000. Both men most likely would like a chief that either one or both of them can keep a tight leash on so they don't get too independent and start well, acting like a head of a police department. What they will get remains to be seen. There's been cries from people like Community Police Review Commission member, Robert Slawsy for an insider to get the respect so it won't be seen as a slap in the face to the "commanders" inside of the department. But most of the comments appear to be that the city needs to hire from outside.

Councilman Mike Gardner's asked some questions about whether anyone besides Leach would have been treated the same way or would have been placed in the back seat of a police car, which are important questions to ask from a civic leader. Of course, Gardner's attracted a cyber-anti-fan of sorts who slams him on Craigslist complete with crudely inserted photographs and engaging in some hard to decipher rants against him but so much hasn't gathered much of a following. For the most part, the people on the dais are awaiting word on the inhouse probe being led by Hudson and his so-called "independent oversight" Best, Best and Krieger attorney (and former Riverside County District Attorney) Grover Trask. City residents have challenged the probe in different venues. Community and civic leaders have remained silent on whether it's best to have an internal investigation but along come some voices from another corner on the need to do a truly independent probe of the situation. If not exactly leaders, these entities do present their cases as to why they think the ultra-secretive probe being conducted by Hudson's simply isn't the right way to go towards restoring the public's faith in the police department.

Some things are just clearly more important than restoring trust in the law enforcement agency for the second item in barely 10 years and that is in protecting any high-ranking individuals in the police department and City Hall who might at the very least have some questions to answer about what happened with Leach. These include why it took so long for the criminal noninvestigation to be handed off to the CHP rather than calling them right away perhaps at the same time there might have been cell phones being whipped out. Why Leach wasn't given a field sobriety test or DUI evaluation despite a spate of evidence that it was necessary to do. Why Sgt. Frank Orta, a court trained DUI expert, wrote a report that Leach had been drinking but not field tested. A report that was hand written rather than done through a department computer. Why Orta's report wasn't signed by any supervisor or management personnel, although an allegation has risen that originally the report had been reviewed and signed on the day it was written (which if true, would contradict the report given to the Press Enterprise by the city which had no visible signature) by someone in management.

And the most important questions, how many people were aware of what was transpiring at the intersection of Arlington and Rutland including those at City Hall. And if Hudson and DeSantis are being forthright about being in the dark, then who in the department made the decision to not notify the city management office in violation of city policy. And did Hudson ever mandate that a drug and alcohol test be performed on Leach, pursuant to city policy that requires it of city employees who crash city owned vehicles or did he decide not to to so? And how is that going to be investigated if he's in charge of the inhouse probe?

The hundreds of civilian and especially sworn personnel of the police department are left being the ambassadors of a department with its reputation in shreds based on the decisions made by a relatively smaller number of them and perhaps inside City Hall. No covered up investigation of an alleged coverup is going to change that situation for the better. But then if the well being of the police department were ever truly a concern, this mess wouldn't have happened in the first place.

But before the truth can be known, because it's sure not going to be investigated by the city anytime soon, we have to deal with something called, public relations which has been a large part of some serious community policing done by the department since this has happened both out in the city and inside the police department.

RPD PR Blitz: 'We are a family''

You can't really completely blame some of the leaders across the city for their silence on the issue, given the public relation effort that's been making the rounds of various community meetings and apparently roll call sessions inside the department about how the employees of the Riverside Police Department are all one big happy family. Oh and not to talk to bloggers or the press because the members of the department are a family. This was allegedly said by the current head of the police department, at least the one who's not currently inside City Hall who has rounded up the not exactly thrilled department's command staff to attend these roll call sessions which might be just a little slice of history in itself for all of them to be filling one space.

In community meetings, it's more like the necessity of coming together to lift up the RPD as if this were some kind of mass revival. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this situation when he saw it and referred to it as a time of "negative peace". That's when leaders of different stripes urge people to pretty much ignore what's in front of them and try to tell everyone to be happy instead. Not that it's not interesting to suddenly see police officers at community meetings to deliver this message to the masses. Some of the community leaders seem to be buying into it but what about their constituents?

Being positive is important but not as much as being realistic.

But what's striking about these publicity tours that are taking place in the wake of the emerging scandal stemming from the events of Feb. 8 and later on is that what this stumping is about seems to be about protecting the status quo inside the police department and perhaps inside City Hall as well. If it's about keeping family together, it's about doing so while keeping its dysfunctional roots intact. Now this is in the wake of evidence that's been pushed into the public arena that the status quo in the police department is at the very least, problematic and at the most, highly dysfunctional. Why then is there such a flurry of activity going on to try to protect it? Shouldn't the status quo stand up fine on its own without the need for these appearances?

When you start seeing this type of activity, that's when you really have to start wondering what really is going on. What is it that they don't want you to see?

You have these PR junkets by key individuals in the police department in different venues, covering their bases. You have an internalized probe being conducted by the police department of a select group of individuals who were involved with the Leach traffic stop but you've handed it off to a division, in this case Internal Affairs, that can only investigate a certain class of officers, that being lieutenant and lower. So what of those above who could have their finger prints on this situation? Who investigates them? What if so-and-so says during his interview with the inhouse investigators that someone higher up ordered him to do something? What if the Internal Affairs investigators learned that a finger had been pointed at one of their own bosses higher up on the food chain? What if the fingers get pointed outside of the police department towards City Hall? What if fingers get pointed at the man overseeing the investigation, City Manager Brad Hudson. Unless you have supervisors who are willing to fall on their swords for their bosses, that could happen.

Does this "sweeping" probe of the police department's handling of the Leach affair include investigations into any similar situations involving Leach in the past? If so, wouldn't that potentially disqualify just about everyone from handling this inhouse probe?

Not if the investigation is essentially a white wash, which is exactly what it is, because there's no part of it that exists to give the public confidence in its police department if you essentially have given the investigation over to some people who perhaps at the very least might have questions to answer themselves. And you have already given the keys to the police department to the city manager's office. Because that's one aspect of the police department that needs an independent investigation is why Hudson and his assistant, Tom DeSantis have been given license to micromanage the police department since at least 2006 much to its detriment as we have all seen.

The Need for an Independent Probe

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board asked if Leach had been given special treatment by officers in his own department who responded. The Board doesn't seem to have much faith in the city's handling of its inhouse investigation. That means someone has their thinking hats on.


The city plans to tackle the latter issue through an internal investigation. City officials say the findings of the Internal Affairs probe cannot by law be shared with the public. But if city officials don't answer questions about preferential treatment and integrity, it will only undermine public trust in the Police Department and City Hall.

Residents' confidence in the city's inquiry will depend on officials providing a candid and detailed account of police actions and the city's response.

How far up the chain of command, for example, went the decisions to skip a sobriety test and not cite Leach? Why did City Hall only find out about the chief's accident through an anonymous phone call hours later? City policy called for police to notify city management of the incident, so where was the breakdown in communications? Does the city have sufficient safeguards in place to ensure that police do not treat high-ranking officials differently from average residents? And if this case was merely an aberration from standard policy, as city officials suggest, how does the city plan to ensure compliance in the future?

Such questions are not a matter of finding scapegoats, but reassuring the public that city law enforcement is impartial and city government is accountable. Those issues matter, as Riverside should know: Leach came to the Riverside Police Department a decade ago specifically to rebuild public trust in a department many residents viewed as out of control. The 1998 police shooting of 19-year-old Tyisha Miller as she sat in her car stirred community protests. That shooting also led the state attorney general to mandate reforms in the Police Department's use of force, among other changes.

That's assuming there was actually a breakdown in communications and not a bunch of people scrambling around to protect themselves by distancing themselves from what happened. It's possible that Hudson and DeSantis (who said he usually handles the "high profile" stop calls himself) were in the dark for a while after the stop had taken place. But if there were any prior incidents where Leach was pulled over and not investigated for a DUI or given a sobriety test, were his direct employers as much in the dark then?

But it's intriguing seeing how Hudson and DeSantis in the Press Enterprise are saying how they were out of the loop and the proper procedure on "high profile" stops wasn't adhered to by the police department. But the problem with their attempts to put up defenses for themselves is that they can't have it both ways. They spent several years micromanaging the police department to the depths that can only be guessed by those outside of it, doing perhaps some serious and irrevocable damage to it in the process and no one from the city government stepped forward to address them on this issue.

One former councilman tried to stop Hudson from doing it by telling him not to do it anymore back in 2007 and Hudson promised but apparently didn't stop from doing it. So Hudson has this involvement and some say overinvolvement in the police department as it heads down its decline the past several years and then when trouble erupts perhaps in relation to this treatment, he tosses up his hands and tells the media that he had no knowledge of anything. Perhaps to maintain himself as the final arbiter of the inhouse probe. After all, if he aroused too much suspicion that his own behavior might have contributed to the need of this probe, then how can he be in charge of it?

In a city where the government truly cared about accountability and transparency, he wouldn't be. But in that regard, how far has Riverside really come? Has it made any grounds at all? The lockstep behind an internal investigation that's clearly compromised from the start doesn't yield much promise.

Former Managing Editor Mel Opotowsky of the Press Enterprise took it further and demanded an independent probe. He also raised some of the same questions that many other people have been bringing up the past several weeks. Questions unfortunately for him and all of us, the city and police department have no intention of answering anytime soon.


One reason may be that they will blurt out something harmful -- about the department. Indeed, they may be under orders now not to talk because police again are conducting the investigation into police behavior. This time City Manager Brad Hudson, who has a stake in the outcome and what is revealed because he is responsible for the department, is taking direct control, with former DA Grover Trask having "oversight." Translated: Trask, a very experienced investigator knowledgeable about police culture, does not have independent control; Hudson, who some say is obsessive about quelling dissent, says the investigators will report to him.

But don't expect to find out much soon. At the "appropriate" time, Trask says, which (translation again) means when things cool off and civic curiosity has waned.

Why can't we know now the answer to these questions:

How did Leach get home? Once home was he ordered not to drive?

Why wasn't he tested for blood alcohol levels? Because he ordered his employees to lay off? Did the lieutenant say to lay off? Or did that come from someone else?

Was the car or what was left of it searched for alcohol, drugs or weapons? Was the chief armed?

What are the protocols for an officer-involved incident?

Who at city hall, including Hudson himself, was in on the incident as it was unfolding, in on the decisions not to test, not to bring Leach to be booked, not to charge him with anything, but just wait until the dust settled?

Why is the city refusing to release the 911 calls?

Why are patrol car videos of the incident being withheld? Still pictures were released.

Many of the answers from Leach, who had issued a public statement urging Super Bowl celebrants to get designated drivers, have been vague, evasive or buried in a memory failure. But maybe he is being guided by his boss, Hudson.

Therefore lies the rub, if it's true that Hudson is "guiding" Leach on how to behave as his employee while at the same time placing himself at the top position of the ongoing internal probe of the events that took place surrounding Leach's car accident and traffic stop. Few people perhaps outside the leadership circles of City Hall have any faith in this internal probe being led by Hudson who said to the press that the results of that probe and any actions taken will never be released to the public pursuant to state law. That's too bad because on Hudson's watch (and most people know he was heavily involved in the operations of the police department), the department has plummeted in its stock in terms of public perception. It's become the butt of jokes that people say when they're not really feeling all that humorous. All kinds of allegations have been raised of inappropriate behavior stemming back at least several years including a complete subversion of the promotion process beginning with the classified captains positions in March 2007 and the lower ranked lieutenant and sergeant positions in the past year or so.

Will the probe by Hudson's office investigate that? Don't count on it.

Questions, Questions and More Questions


No Answers

It's interesting to see the list of information and questions that Opotowsky wanted the department to address or answer and it has chosen not to do so just as the city has opted out of explaining why Leach was allowed to crash a city car, drive three miles on rims, elicit 911 calls, get pulled over, suffer huge memory gaps of what happened, not know how he crashed his car and despite all this, not be given a field sobriety test let alone a DUI investigation.

Contrast that with a motorist on the evening of Feb. 21 who drove on three flat tires and was pulled over by two officers both tied to either the crash of Leach's car or the traffic stop that followed the accident. Those officers including Officer Grant Linhart did a DUI investigation on the motorist and wound up arresting and taking him to Robert Presley Detention Center to be booked on DUI charges. The summary of that incident and subsequent arrest was helpfully provided by Sgt. Frank Orta, the same supervisor who oversaw the handling of the traffic stop involving Leach. Orta, a court recognized DUI expert didn't conduct any such DUI investigation or even a field sobriety test on Leach even though his own report noted that Leach had been drinking. Who was the watch commander on this shift? Lt. Leon Phillips who worked the shift when Leach was pulled over by the officers.

It's good that these officers, Linhart, Orta and Phillips, know how to do a DUI investigation on a motorist and get an arrest or draft an appropriate summary later on, at least if the person's fairly ordinary. It's not clear why these officers didn't do this type of professional job when they were stopping Leach who as stated had a wrecked car that had clearly been in an accident in another location. It's not clear why these officers didn't do this type of professional job when they realized that Leach had been drinking (as noted on the report) and yet had no memory of his accident or knowledge about the damage to his car (aside from mentioning a flat tire from driving in some field or dirt road). It's not clear why in the face of all this, the officers did not do this type of professional job which would have included a field sobriety investigation and DUI investigation. Instead, Orta wrote it all up as a handwritten report to be filed away in some cabinet some place and pretty much forgotten.

Kind of what the city wants people to do regarding this probe and the ongoing problems in the police department. Forget about them and file them away in some dusty cabinet some place.

Perris is getting set to possibly lay off more employees.

The recall election in Lake Elsinore that led to action by the Riverside County District Attorney's office attracts voters to the polls today.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Hudson and Loveridge to Search High and Low for New Chief While Shutting Community Leaders from Interview Panel

[The rivers which crosses Arroyo near the Victoria Country Club returns to flood the street, as it does every time it rains. In a few days, it will be gone until the next rain storm. ]

"I expect there will be a lot of people who will want this job."

---Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, to Press Enterprise.

"Wow! We the taxpayers have input. Mr. Hudson says we will never know the results or anything about ex-Chief Leach's "hearing" "trial" tribunnal" or whatever it is.

Has he even been charged with anything? Brad if you want to play fair here is your opportunity. Treat the ex-Chief according to the laws he swore to uphold!Or whatever he did."

---"People's Input"

Sure, If you beleive that "I am the boss and I am going to do as I want city manager" and "I am mayor for life ding dong" plus the "Dah city council" are going to listen to the comments and recommendations of the true citizens of Riverside, I have bridge to sell you. They listen if you have cash, mula, green franklins to put into their coffer.


In Riverside, the rain might be drying up but City Manager Brad Hudson and Mayor Ron Loveridge have gotten together to begin the search for a new police chief. Hudson of course is coming on really strong with this quest of saying that he is planning to seek public input for the hiring even as he's preparing to stack any interview panel with law enforcement officials, business leaders (meaning Chambers of Commerce loyalists and maybe a developer or two rather than a broader representation of local business owners) and the Community Police Review Commission. This panel is so community hostile right now it's considering civility and communication training at its monthly general meeting later this week in light of having run off nearly every community member who's attended one of their meetings in the past two years. Perhaps this desire for training has more to do with the City Hall loyal majority trying to leash its minority viewpoints rather than any real concern about how it presents itself at public meetings. Only time will tell on that front, but that issue of civility training will be discussed at its meeting this week along with its annual officer elections, which is sure to be eventful. It will probably end in a Peter Hubbard/Art Santore slate or a Peter Hubbard/Robert Slawsby slate. Either way, it will be more of the same from the CPRC as far as community members are concerned.

Shut out from any interview panel are actually community leaders or even the ones that City Hall likes to turn to when it needs them. Which might be disappointing to those that felt that silence on the disturbing issues surrounding what's been going on with our city was enough for them to appear nonthreatening enough to Hudson to win a spot on the panel. But apparently, Hudson has no real interest in inviting community leaders to participate on this interview panel and you notice how quickly Loveridge jumped in and said, Brad we need some community leaders on that panel which he didn't do. And Hudson's going with the commission that he controls (which is the CPRC) opposed to the Human Resources Board (which he doesn't yet but he's working on it), which would be the more sensible choice for an interview panel because this is the commission that addresses...labor issues. Plus, it's more diverse, racially and by gender than is the CPRC.

An interview panel should be broad based, comprising of a cross section of this city of people who can bring different insights and skills to the process. That would include Hudson's groups that he mentioned sure enough but should include community leaders as well. But it would be nice if they went that route (and they won't so this is purely hypothetical), they would tap into a different group of leaders than they put on committees like this one.

But then this process has clearly been stacked and that's a necessary action by Hudson to ensure that he can hire a brand new puppet. Because after seeing the process that went into hiring the current manager of t he CPRC, Kevin Rogan, it's difficult to believe that Hudson would ever want a police chief in power who wouldn't kowtow to him and his whims. It's pretty much known by everyone that Hudson's been micromanaging the police department with his assistant, Tom DeSantis for at least several years now and the history of how that all began will be detailed here in future blog postings. But no, Hudson doesn't want an independent police chief and he's in control of the hiring process although it's not clear how a ribbon cutting mayor (as Riverside runs on a city council-city manager form of government) like Loveridge can have his fingers in the mix. Watching Loveridge and Hudson clash is much more interesting than watching them launch a joint project like hiring the next controllable leader of the police department. What's very clear is how damaging this system of micromanagement by Hudson and his minion have been to the police department. We're all paying the price for the allowance of Hudson and DeSantis to essentially manage the department during the past several years in an extent much greater than what should be deemed appropriate for a city manager.

But it's always fun to read into what Hudson says because he's actually saying a lot through relatively few words spoken. He and Loveridge have said there will be a 9o day window and that a recruiting firm has been picked and apparently hired and folks, these contracts to these head hunters are not cheap. Which is interesting because in the past, such hiring was done in public in front of the city council which then would vote on the recruiting firm from a list of them in a public meeting much as it did when it set about to hire a new police chief in 2000 and a new city manager in 2004. It remains to be seen whether the city council which wasn't quoted in this article will be voting on the contract for the recruiter, will be participating in the hiring of a firm from a list of competitive bidders or will be leaving it all up to its city manager as it's been prone to do with a lot of decisions since 2006. Hudson also plans to hold 3-4 community forums for input. The process is open and inclusive to any applicants. That affirmation will be tested, Mr. Hudson. But you have to love this quote given by Hudson in the light of recent events.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"You've got to engage the community in this process," Hudson said.

Just like Hudson did in the aftermath of the accident that former chief, Russ Leach got into and the resultant traffic stop. He engaged the public by quickly behind closed doors hiring a Best, Best and Krieger attorney to provide "independent oversight" over the police department's own "sweeping" investigation which began several days after it should have started. Hudson's not even interested in giving the city residents who pay his salary and those who employ him an honest accounting of what's happening in the police department that has sunken in its reputation in the past several weeks due to the incident itself and allegations of a cover up by members of the police department and people inside City Hall. This occurred on the watch of Hudson and DeSantis, not to mention City Attorney Gregory Priamos. We're all going to be paying for the end result of their micromanagement of the agency from inside the walls at City Hall. It's a question whether or not city council members up for reelection in 2011 are going to be having to answer related questions. And perhaps even in election cycles beyond that, something for the current crowd considering a run for the mayoral spot in 2012 to keep in mind when whipping up some campaign literature.

Then there's the commentary from some of those who will be on this interview panel, including CPRC commissioner, Robert Slawsby who endorsed former Councilman Frank Schiavone in his unsuccessful attempt to remain in office.


"I hope it's not just looked at as a window dressing," said Robert Slawsby, a member of the civilian review commission. "If they feel we can add some valuable insight, that would be great."

Slawsby said he believes an inside candidate should be strongly considered, and that it would "almost send the wrong message" to current commanders if the search were to focus too much on the outside.

Slawsby must surely know by now that his commission that he serves on is "window dressing" and since he's content to still serve on it, then it's not clear what the problem is with the selection process set forth by Hudson. His comments about seeking someone from inside are interesting considering his past endorsement with Schiavone. But can the department really hire someone to serve as police chief from the inside? The public pretty much overwhelmingly wants someone from the outside to be hired as police chief and apparently, there's not much trust internally of anyone within arm's reach of the top cop job. Even while city leaders and also key community leaders remain silent on this issue, everyone else seems to believe that it's time to clean house inside the police department. In between jokes about handing out chief applications to the strip clubs so that anyone within the police department who wants the job would have a head start on that rigorous recruitment and hiring process.

Loveridge apparently doesn't know that yet because he's busy talking about how a lot of people are going to apply for this job, because after all, who wouldn't want it? Well, the enthusiasm they will see during their hiring process depends on how quickly or not they learn what Riverside's City Hall is really looking for in its police chief.

It all depends on whether and how many prospective candidates are willing to get a job where they can collect a huge salary (though probably not one on scale of what Leach made while in the position) and allow themselves to be manipulated and micromanaged in return. Any independent thinking chiefs will be intelligent to read the writing on the wall and in between the lines and apply elsewhere. After all, they'll have better things to do with their time and energy than set themselves to be micromanaged by their boss.

Just In!

RPD Shows Off DUI Evaluation Skills Involving Average Citizens

Officers involved in Leach's stop send a more ordinary drunk driver to jail

There's some great news coming out of the Riverside Police Department this morning in that several of its officers have successfully conducted a DUI stop involving a vehicle which was driving on three flattened tires. They arrested the individual and took another drunk driver off of the city's streets.

No, it's not THAT traffic stop of course, but this is another one involving an average citizen who's not in charge of the police department and is not a "high profile" person either. So it's likely that Hudson and his assistant, Tom DeSantis probably weren't notified about it pursuant to their policy involving "high profile" stops by police. But if one of the names sounds familiar, that would be that of Officer Grant Linhart who performed this traffic stop of this potentially DUI individual who was ultimately arrested rather than given a ride home. Linhart was the same one who along with Officer Jeremy Miller had run into the former police chief when it was he who was driving around two while missing two tires and having no idea where he was or what had happened to his vehicle. Incidentally Officer Sepulvada shows up on the CAD report the city handed off to the daily newspaper as responding to the reported accident by Leach at Central and Hillside on Feb. 8.

Here is the stop in a nutshell.

NPC: Central

Time: 2336 hrs. (11:36 p.m.)

Location: Magnolia Ave. / Adams

DUI #024709:

Officers Sepulveda and Linhart responded to a report of an Reporting Party following a possible DUI driver. While en-route to the location they were given additional information that the suspect vehicle was travelling on three flatten tires. The officers conducted at traffic stop of the suspect vehicle in the area of Magnolia Ave. and Adams St. and a DUI investigation on the suspect driver. The driver was arrested and booked into RPDC without incident. fao

Above summary written by Sgt. Frank A. Orta

Okay, so this is how a DUI stop is properly done, in a professional manner, right? It's good to see that this was done, because as stated, the streets are a bit safer without drunk drivers. And it's good to know that Linhart in particular clearly understands the appropriate procedure to follow when a reported potential DUI involving a vehicle with missing tires crosses his path. But why did he and other officers when faced with a similar situation involving a car that had even fled the scene of an accident (which is illegal in this state), treat that situation so much differently? Meaning that none of them even did a "DUI investigation"?

But it gets even more interesting because as it turns out, some other familiar names were involved in the above DUI stop at least in terms of supervising that particular area and crew of officers during that patrol shift. These individuals were Sgt. Frank Orta (who was working the Central NPC) and Watch Commander Lt. Leon Phillips. Both men worked in their respective assignments during the early morning shift that involved Leach's traffic stop and subsequent drive home by unnamed parties. Both played principle roles in that situation.

The police department is to be commended for showing how it handles potential DUI stops (as alleged by reporting parties) and those involving vehicles with flattened or missing tires which is of course very important for getting unsafe motorists off the city streets. But the handling of this traffic stop while well and good has produced even more questions and concerns about the handling of a similar stop involving Leach who wasn't even tested by Linhart, Orta or Phillips.

It's nice to know that the cast of people involved with Leach's stop know how to do the DUI stops, well at least those involving nonimportant people, but that tells us that the problems involving their former boss' stop weren't due to ignorance of the process, but what was the problem exactly? It would be nice if Hudson and the police department could explain that part to the city's residents. About why there's clearly two separate standards to how "potential DUI" stops were handled, especially given that Leach actually admitted to being under the influence, albeit to prescription medication.

A compare and contrast of this DUI investigation and arrest and the filed away traffic collision report involving the former police chief will be done in a future blog posting, given that most of the same individuals were involved in both incidents.

Riverside's City Council to consider asking the voters whether or not to have hotels charge a "bed tax".

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