Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Monday, May 30, 2011

Election 2011: The Home Stretch in a World of Uncertainty

Election Day, Tuesday, June 7

Coming soon:
Why every dime that City Hall spends should go to a public vote in front of City Council as an example of "discretionary spending" going completely amok behind closed doors comes to light.

Why is the city's Finance Division so understaffed in Risk Management and are the inspectors professionally certified or not?

If Riverside's coffers
are so much more flush this year, then why's the civilian division of the police department still shrinking with four more positions freezing in the records division? The civilian division is currently experiencing a 27% vacancy rate after 10 departures in just 60 days. This has caused some shuffling around as some people who attended the annual neighborhood conference noted. But Karen Haverkamp who presented on the Community Services Bureau said that this internal movement helps civilian employees become more "well rounded". Still, no civilian vacancies (except in dispatching) have been filled in four years which is a long time and how many more will attrition out until they are filled. In the past, the city government had borrowed against civilian vacancies for short periods to make payments to other funds including redevelopment.

When Diaz was referred by Haverkamp to answer my question on the issue, he said, that it was a statement,not a question and not worthy of a response. But in actuality through his words, Diaz did provide an eloquent response and I appreciate his candor.

What's the Whistle blower policy in River City?

It's called a piece of paper with writing on it.

The city plasters this bill of rights on many walls in its workplaces, including buildings that are paid for by tax dollars. Including some that still might be owned by the city rather than the Redevelopment Agency so that denizens at City Hall can play innkeeper.

But in reality, the situation is much, much different. Employees who don't want to violate their own ethical code even as their bosses aren't even held accountable by the city's own worthless code are either fired if they're "at will" or pushed to retire or resign. The city when it settles with employees and even while ironing out some of the employee departures will have the employees sign non-disclosure clauses or what's called "gag" orders. The city council will sit in closed sessions being briefed on these troublesome current and ex-employees and it will sign off on settlement after medical retirement after payout for these harassment, retaliation, discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuits without any concern about the common denominators found in each one. Why should the elected officials care that they've reached the point in their own ethical development where the price of silence is paramount to remembering that as a self-insured city, it's the city residents who pay for these transgressions.

Because although Riverside once carried an insurance carrier, it's been proudly self-insured for the past several years allegedly because the insurance carrier's directions to litigate more lawsuits to trial instead of settling them behind closed doors went unheeded. And yet the lawsuits and grievances keep coming, and yes the city's residents will pick up the tabs.

But what you'll find out is that when you need to buy an employee's silence in City Hall, there's another strategy that can be utilized and in fact that was allegedly done inside City Hall for at least three years involving a city employee whose "truth" was worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars expended to maintain a veil of untruthfulness inside City Hall. You won't find this strategy to silence in any lawsuit or courtroom and whether it's been discussed behind closed doors, it probably wasn't at a city council meeting.

But have you heard the story about Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, the one that he thought he could always control until the day it ran amok? Well, imagine that Dr. Frankenstein is the Riverside City Council and mayor and the monster is something that it believed it could control and in fact in some cases reassured people that it could do so. One ex-council member, Dom Betro running for reelection insisted to the Greater Democrats of Riverside early on to vote for him because he was the only one who could control one of the city's employees. The sad truth is that River City's very own version of Dr. Frankenstein might finally be realizing the truth and this unsettling chapter inside City Hall that's due to come to light down the pike might provide evidence why.

For such an honest, ethical form of government, it seems to be paying an exorbitant amount of money that could be used elsewhere to keep the truth buried and certainly out of a public forum like a courtroom.

And as it turned out, that was just the beginning...

Owned by the Redevelopment Agency, Leased by the City
So it could play innkeeper

This is the brand new fire station that's been built on Canyon Crest, after many delays and other obstacles. But this fire station no longer belongs to the city and its residents at least not in the real sense. It's been given to the Redevelopment Agency (which doesn't represent city residents who have no voice in it) to "lease" out to the city and that funding goes into the Redevelopment Agency's loan to the developer who owns the hotel. And it's not the only building that's essentially collateral of sorts or at least an income generator for this "loan", as another fire station along with the Arlington and Casa Blanca libraries are also in this position.

The library is more unique because unlike the other properties, it's not actually sitting in a Redevelopment zone. Remember how the city government and its management team said there was no cost or even risk to city residents on this hotel deal? Well, that wasn't exactly true. But it makes one wonder how many of the city's facilities that it actually still owns that don't belong to the Redevelopment Agency.

If you haven't voted and you're in an odd numbered ward, send in your ballot! The only endorsements on this site is to tell people to vote, to be represented along the ballots counted.

A popular La Sierra restaurant & Predatory towing?

[Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz's decision not to involve an altercation involving two lieutenants has caused some consternation]

News came out last week that Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino had opted not to investigate an off-duty physical altercation between two lieutenants, calling it an "off duty matter". Allegedly the incident was sparked by the involvement of the wife of one of the lieutenant's, a lower ranking officer with her supervisor, the other lieutenant. The lower ranking officer was at the house of the lieutenant when her husband arrived then either entered the house or kicked in the door. The physical altercation resulted after that and the lieutenant living in that house then took vacation time and allegedly didn't want to file a complaint.

Apparently when Diaz and Vicino were told by another party about it, they nixed investigating the incident dismissing it as off-duty. This only weeks after one of the police department's officers was involved in an onduty fatal shooting involving a triangle of sorts between three correction officers that exploded into murder. Does that mean anything like that is going to happen her or this incident is a precursor to that kind of violence? Of course not and that's probably very unlikely, but it'd be a useful period of time for law enforcement agencies to reflect about what as a department including at the very top of management, would be done if there were dynamics in an agency that had produced a violent response. What would an agency do including at the top of its command if it had a chance to look at an off-duty critical incident like that and change its outcome? Were there any missed opportunities?

Because to say that an incident like that involving those three officers didn't throw off early warning signs is probably not the case. It's more likely than not that the Riverside Police Department's own probes into that incident which led to the death of three people in different capacities will reveal that. Were there times where the respective agencies including those who employed them were faced with issues involving the three correctional officers and decided not to investigate them?

This incident's not in that scope but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have been looked into on an administrative level.

Because no act of violence by an officer including against another officer should be ignored as an off-duty matter. Whether or not there should be discipline allotted out is one issue that might be debated or decided but the main point is that that the incident shouldn't have gone without an investigation. There were two aspects of investigation here. The first being any type of relationship between the supervising lieutenant and the subordinate officer. That's important for different reasons including ascertaining whether any relationship is not carried out through coercion or a form of sexual harassment by a higher ranking officer against one of lower rank. Is the relationship between the higher ranking officer and subordinate employee consensual or is it based on sexual harassment?

Was that even investigated because of the natural of the differential powers between ranks? Apparently not, if no investigation was conducted.

That type of investigation should be done with great care and no, the police department's handling of Officer Neely Nakamura's interrogation was not an example of great or special sensitivity in doing that. The acting police chief at the time shouldn't tell the management employee to sit and wait to be called in for an interview at his workplace and then treat the subordinate officer like she were a criminal, from the way she was allegedly ambushed in the parking lot by two Internal Affairs sergeants, to the scope of some of the questioning to her needing to be escorted to the bathroom at the division office. But any situation should have been investigated as stated in the department's policy manual in a way that's more dignified and respectful to those being interviewed while still getting the factual information. After all, one stated purpose of that investigation is to protect the subordinate officer from any type of coercion or harassment by the higher ranking one yet it's a police department where a lot of officers either marry or are in personal relationships with other officers in all different ranks. Hence another reason why to be professional and sensitive while investigating. The agency just needs to do it in a less disgraceful way and learn to hold the higher ranking officer's feet to the fire for that situation if that's what it warrants to a greater extent than the subordinate employee instead of the other way around which is often how it has been.

Second, the physical altercation between the two lieutenants should also have been investigated just like similar altercations involving lower ranked officers have been in the past. First of all, entering into someone's house without their permission (if that's what happened) and physical assault causing injuries are potential criminal offenses. And under the department's policy involving Conduct Involving the Behavior of an Officer (otherwise known as CUBO), any behavior that could be criminal is to be investigated, off-duty or not.

That doesn't mean that it's necessarily a crime 0r that action will be taken as if it were a crime. That just means the incident will be investigated for reasons that should be pretty obvious including those making that determination. This investigation should also be professionally done affording both parties and any witnesses their due process rights including interviews where the purpose is to gather the information needed to eventually reach a conclusion or finding on that investigation. An investigation also affords opportunities for the involved parties to deal with what they've done to one another in a way that affords accountability for them and for the department including for example mediation. To ensure that there aren't any future physical altercations including ones that cause more serious injuries and greater consequences. If discipline is required, then that's what an investigation would determine by its outcome and there's due process stages in that process as well.

If there's no investigation, how does the management team including the police chief have any idea what really took place or if it's an incident that's self-limited or one that could lead to further problems down the road? How would they know if it was something that's only a one time situation or an early warning sign of potentially worse incidents down the road? They really can't say if they didn't investigate it.

Not investigating a case particularly involving a higher ranking officer also sends the message to everyone else that there's differential standards of investigating off-duty incidents whether that's true or not. In this case, the perception itself is harmful. It's proven to be that in the past.

This matter has led to people wondering if it was an off-duty incident that was different than past ones involving officers of lower ranks. Officer goes to bar off-duty. Officer goes into bar bathroom and beats up an ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend. After investigation for this off-duty incident, officer gets terminated in part for being less than honest about it in his interrogation. Detective while off-duty looks up a truck parked in his wife's driveway through the restricted DMV database. Detective breaks down or kicks through door and beats up wife's male friend or boyfriend in he house. Detective gets arrested and later charged with misdemeanor crimes. Detective was fired, later medically retired and is going on trial later this month on these charges in hopes of keeping his right to carry his firearm.

Does this mean that the incident involving the two off-duty lieutenants translates to these above incidents or their severity. You can't discern that without an investigation and of course in this case, Diaz ruled against it so that's never determined through the process set up in the policies and procedures to reach that point. And by doing so, he knowingly or not put more fuel on the fire that inside the infrastructure of the police department, it might still matter which team you're on. Diaz has brought a lot of new things and back some old ones like the citizen's academy but one of the most problematic situations in the police department was the divisions created among its ranks particularly at the top through team assignments. The sentiment that promotions rested on who vacationed or partied with which member of the department's management. Were you on one team or another for example and if so, what did that mean for you or your career including assignments, discipline or promotions. If that's not the case for why an investigation wasn't conducted, then it's going to be difficult to prove that to those who know about it.

Diaz and Vicino rightly took the necessary steps of placing more accountability on the shoulders of their management employees namely the captains. Under Leach and DeLaRosa, the captains had apparently filled the role of primarily following specific orders from their superiors rather than been required to make their own decisions or recommendations involving their respective divisions. Rather than making the day to day decisions involving their assigned divisions, they'd wait until someone higher up told them what to do. That form of leadership and management had its consequences for the department and no doubt Diaz and Vicino not to mention Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer (who's busy keeping his profile really low) witnessed that when they arrived last summer. After all, why pay these captains six figured salaries if they aren't acting as managers? It didn't help that the department under Leach and later DeLaRosa apparently fostered such a take no prisoner, cut throat environment among that level so that one's skill with the stiletto proved to be just as important to achieve that high rank. There were a lot of missed opportunities to develop other skills among those who were promoted into the positions instead.

But making decisions for their divisions for apparently the first time has been a struggle for most of them. That's probably why captains were recommending termination for officers 14 months after the clock started ticking under Governmental Code 3304 (d) on their administrative investigations. Maybe why when one captain's son who had been hired as a probational police officer had tried to convince a watch commander at Corona Police Department to release his son from jail there for public intoxication and fighting without leaving a paper trail. Behind this wall of captains are lieutenants who are working their ways towards being future managers with some of them really accepting that challenge and running with it. Trying to become the leadership that the police department needs after its current management is retired.

But Diaz' decision not to investigate this off-duty incident when he had the perfect opportunity to show the agency that all of its employees regardless of ranks or prior teams would be treated to the same standards of personnel investigations is not very encouraging. He made some bold moves in community policing lately, distanced himself from the City Attorney's office but internally, he's got quite a ways to go, it appears to make it not appear so much like business as usual at the Riverside Police Department.

Election 2011: It's in the Mail

[Candidates in Ward One gear up for a political debate at the First Congregational Church]

Elections are always contentious periods and that's always the case in Riverside which undergoes that exercise in some corner of it. This year's no exception with four wards up for reelection although councilman Chris MacArthur is running unopposed.

In Ward Three, Rusty Bailey is expected to defeat challenger Jim Davis to win another term in his ward while it's expected that at least one and possibly both of the remaining two wards will finish their preliminary rounds with two candidates heading towards runoffs in November.

[Four of the councilmen in this photo at the regatta event are up for reelection this year]

As far as elections go, this one started off slowly even though several candidates began actively campaigning last year. This election hasn't been as costly as the last round of contests conducted in the same wards in 2007. Perhaps that's reflective of the recession and people's inability or unwillingness to donate to campaigns to the same degree as they did back before the bubbles burst on the economy and housing. Maybe it's because candidates realized that having powerful war chests just wasn't cutting it, that often elections came down to how much was being paid in shoe leather from walking the wards and talking with people one on one.

Having those conversations on the street, in businesses, churches or people's homes often are the deciding factor in who wins, who loves elections. Councilmen Mike Gardner and Paul Davis perhaps know that better than anyone on the dais having sprung to office through aggressive and persistent grass roots campaigns. It's almost impossible though several losing candidates have tried to get into office not engaging in that type of exhaustive outreach. Campaign signs don't appear to be as effective as people think in comparison to one on one outreach with prospective voters. One hopes that those engaged in the craft of stealing or vandalizing signs which unfortunately has plagued every election cycle to some degree would realize that this is the case Since respecting people's right to public expression and speech on their own properties is over their heads to those who choose to engage in this behavior.

Endorsements either through unions or publications or even blogs have enjoyed a mixed record when it comes to predicting election victories. The fact that so many incumbents have been voted out in Riverside the past several election cycles doesn't exactly speak to the success of this type of endorsement because most of these types of endorsements go to incumbents. Part of this has to do with not wanting to alienate incumbents who the unions might have to deal with after the election.

Most of the campaigns appeared civil although there's been a three way slug fest in Ward Seven where three candidates are facing off in what most likely is the preliminary round of that election contest. Arrows and accusations have been slung between the various candidates which is nothing new. Accusations that candidates have committed felonies and innuendos of incriminating videos have been raised but not much substance to any of that. Candidates being called "old bats" and rumors of temporary alliances between two candidates hoping to face against each other in the runoff. People with different feet in different camps not keeping their options open in who to champion the next round. Also, not uncommon during the preliminary rounds of an election cycle.

In Ward One, there may or may not be a runoff election this autumn depending on how many votes incumbent Mike Gardner pulls in compared to the three candidates running against him. It's harder not to have a runoff than it is to have one with four strong candidates. It's difficult to predict who will face off in the autumn if there's a runoff but it's very likely that Gardner will be one of those candidates. But although the Press Enterprise's Editorial Board appeared to even forget there were three women running in the city council races even in its discussion of its endorsement choices, they all look strong in their contests

It'd be great actually to see the incumbents win and have their collective butts in the seat (if Adams can manage to stay in his seat during a meeting) when the truth about the economic health of the city comes to roost. The massive accumulation of debt in the city including through the Riverside Renaissance program which could put many projects including very necessary ones out of reach for the next 20-30 years. It's very appropriate in some regards for those currently holding those positions to be the ones in the seats when what's really going on with the city's finances and yes, its debt accumulation come to light, most likely within the next fiscal year. Any newly elected council members would need to be fully aware that if they're elected instead that they will be left to deal with the aftermath of the actions taken and the decisions made by those who preceded them.

Even as the city prepares to sign off on the preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year, there's still parts of the city's

Because a lot of that money that could have been used is already tied up in bonds or loans for quite a while. The city's been shuffling so much money lately between its coffers and the Redevelopment agency almost as if it's moving property out of a house before the bank changes the locks and interestingly enough, it appears there's still a lot of buying and selling of property. Not to mention giving properties to the Redevelopment Agency as collateral on bonds and loans including the $20 million plus being spent on the new Hyatt hotel. Remember how city council members swore up and down that the city residents wouldn't be left with the bill on the city essentially giving a developer a hotel?

Turns out, that might not be the truth especially considering that the city's now leasing from the Redevelopment Agency (and thus in a sense the state) to use both the Arlington and Casa Blanca libraries not to mention two fire stations including one in Canyon Crest that doesn't even lie within the boundaries of a Redevelopment zone. It will be interesting indeed to see who winds up owning all four installations if the city folds on what it owes on the deal that put them up as collateral in the first place, not to mention if the Redevelopment Agency which now owns the four buildings dissolves before the obligations are paid off. Makes you wonder in this wonderfully flush city (so much better than San Diego and Anaheim which is no better than saying that Riverside's an honest city because it's better than Bell) why there's so much scrambling around with the bucks.

At any rate, these and other issues will be facing those who win election this year whether they're incumbents or newcomers.

Oops! In the midst of an election cycle, Riverside knocks down another historical building. Allegedly by accident. But hey, at least they're not going to turn it into a fast food restaurant there. It would have been great if the Marcy Library had enjoyed more integrity and transparency with the assessment of its true property value not to mention allowing people to participate more in the process of determining alternate uses for city buildings. But that's not likely in Riverside unless you're pushing major money into a political campaign or two. Reading of the people pushing the Lucky Greek (of all the restaurants languishing on "Restaurant Row" due to street construction), it's a given that with names like that, yeah they're going to find a new home for that restaurant by selling or swapping the land for less than what its true assessment value.

But then look at people like Mark and Doreen Johnson who own a Scuba Shop in that area and haven't been given a dime to relocate let alone received an alternative site to place their business. I've seen this vibrant business owner fire some excellent and pointed questions at people at City Hall and it's be interesting to know when the city's going to free up some of its property (and there's been a lot of property transactions in closed session lately) to provide for Johnson and her husband at a discounted value. Maybe that would happen if she were a hefty donor to a political campaign or two or who had powerful friends who did.

Auto Dealers at the auto center in Riverside might also face up to $8,000 a year as part of a assessment for more promotional activities. Those fees will likely be passed to the consumer but it remains to be seen how that will impact sales during a recession that still has the Inland Empire seized in its grip. That will greatly serve to offset its $3 billion in debt which is split in half between the Redevelopment Agency which may or may not be there next month and the Riverside Renaissance which is still over 60% unfunded except through bonds and loans.

Please Pass the Koolaid

Riverside's City Hall claimed that the city's coffers are up even though tens of millions of dollars of money has been moved to the Redevelopment Agency as part of a tremendous gamble that Sacramento either will or will not dissolve its redevelopment agencies in July. If that happens, all that money, will be gone forever as being noncollectable. Poof! Talk about high stakes gambling which means it's very reassuring that the city's found a few million more dollars.

So the city's bringing back tree trimming and hiring more officers but if you remember, the 15 are paid for several years through federal COPS grants and the other eight were part of the 23 more promised earlier by City Manager Brad Hudson after he found several million dollars of unexpected funding last year behind the municipal equivalent of a living room couch cushion. It's just so nice that after several attempts at reminding Hudson that he had pledged the funding of more police positions that he finally remembered.

The increase in revenue is based on projections of sales tax this fiscal year and next and likely will include next to no increases from other sources like property and utilities taxes. But there's speculation that utility rates for water and sewer are set to increase and possibly electric rates as well to pay for the Riverside Renaissance. Also the city placed at least $100 million or more in bonds and loans into the Redevelopment Agency aware that as stated, that this money could be lost for ever if the state dissolves these agencies.

Two pieces of state legislation are going through the assembly and senate houses in Sacramento but will they include provisions in the language to ensure that the loans taken out by cities to pay off the state debt are ever recovered by those cities? Governor Jerry Brown isn't proposing the dissolution of these agencies out of the goodness of his heart or because he believes that these agencies carry serious abuses or other problems. He's doing it to funnel money out of them to lessen the state's budget deficit. But guess what, the same cities with leaders and management employees gnashing their teeth over the "theft" or "robbery" being committed by Brown and company are facilitating that effort by the massive transfers of these funds to the agencies in the first place.

After all, the city council just voted to transfer affordable housing funds to the agency's "inadequately funded" capital redevelopment fund to make an annual state repayment. It did so knowing it might never be held accountable for returning that "loan" back to the housing fund. After all the housing fund was picked for two reasons. The first being that the city doesn't have to pay it back for five years, which gives the agencies that much time to be dissolved which will probably happen by then. Not to mention that this way they and Hudson can point their collective fingers at Brown and Company, those "thieves" and claim that they're forcing the city to give up its affordable housing funding.

But it's the city that is making that happen through its decision to raid Peter to pay Paul rather than lose their ability to play with all aspects of their redevelopment agency until they make that state payment. If the state's truly "stealing" then the city's engaging in high stakes gambling with the funds seemingly with full knowledge that it might never see that money again.

Which of course the city could have done so through other means because it's so flush and all. Okay lovely, now that the city's operating with a surplus, maybe they could find a way to disengage the city's sewer fund from being caught up in an unholy $20 million in loans that were used to fund the purchasing of properties in the downtown area that had nothing to do with making sewer repairs. Wonderfully resourceful except the Sewer Fund's not allowed to be used for these types of loans especially since the money's already been spent.

Public Meeting

No Riverside City Council meeting on May 31 as it's the fifth Tuesday

Wednesday, June 1 at 4 pm. The Community Police Review Commission will conduct this "special" meeting to discuss this agenda including a preliminary briefing on the recent officer-involved death of Virgil Million and the introduction of an independent investigator, in this case a new one of Mike Bumcrot from Mike Bumcrot Consulting who had this contract with Riverside County.

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