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, August 19, 2011

The City Looks for a Manager and Orange Street Station, A Locksmith?

[This condo was hit by flying embers from some distance behind it after the fire went up a narrow gully on the ridge. Fortunately, due to the fast action of the fire and police departments, it was the only structure damaged in last Friday's Sunset Ranch fire.]

can't afford to renovate a major city park. This is kind of what they said about the downtown library but not when it comes to assisting developers who are major campaign donors from coming up with revenue streams to make their bond payments or getting into the hotel and theater ownership business. The park might get fully renovated some day but the major concern right now with all city parks will be as one former Park and Recreations director once said, ensuring the city can afford to fully staff the positions to maintain and operate them during what will be the most challenging fiscal period of its history.

It'd be interesting to read the comments that people might write on this development but alas, the PE stopped allowing people to write comments on all articles having to do with Riverside's City Hall in the guise of "spam" protection. But then the relationship between the struggling newspaper and City Hall's always been complicated...

[A consultant from the firm hired by the city to hunt for a new city manager sits in between Councilmen Chris MacArthur and Paul Davis as they took public input at a forum in Orangecrest]

The city's started holding public forums to solicit input from city residents on what they hope to have in the next city manager, with the first one being held at Orange Terrace Community Center. But will history repeat itself? Will the city undergo this so-called recruitment and hiring process while wooing another candidate in the wings.

The Press Enterprise focused its attention on how few people attended without really examining why. One important reason was the lack of publicity given these forums to the public. In contrast to other events the city's promoted, this one remained very low key. Not to mention that many people received the mailer announcing the forum dates a day after the one that took place in Orangecrest. Councilman Paul Davis said himself that he wished the dates could have been set on better days given that in that area of his ward, Wednesday nights are for football and many families are getting ready to send their kids back to school. But no doubt, the city's desire to push the forums in the dog days of summer is absolutely deliberate. But the first forum was interesting though it was not very well attended. If you remember the Roberts Consulting was the same recruiter hired to seek out the last city manager and the city paid to have them present a list of eligible and well vetted candidates. However, they did that and they were interviewed but ultimately the city hired someone not on that list.

Three councilmen none still on the dais actively sought out former Riverside County Economic Development Agency head Brad Hudson to take the position, some say even before his predecessor George Carvalho was even fired. One of them even during a celebratory mood after Hudson's hiring announcement let that information slip while sitting on the dais in his comments.

The trio of elected officials wanted to launch the Riverside Renaissance largely on the backs of public utility rate hikes and apparently Carvalho wasn't into doing that. It's easy to be reminded of that because at the city council meeting this week when they did the by rote public hearing on the whole bait and switch land deal downtown, one person mentioned that two days later, a meeting would be held to discuss utility rate hikes.

And when it comes to utility rates and higher sewer fees, better get used to them. The city's facing about $230 million in bond payments due in 2012 and 2013 beginning in January. With sales tax and property tax revenue still being highly depressed due to the recession, what else is left to make the payments from the city's residents? And many of those on fixed incomes including the elderly are going to have a tough time keeping up, especially in the summers when heat waves strike and they might not always be able to make it to the few cooling centers set up for them because basically they either can't afford an air conditioner or to use it when it's needed. What's ironic is that two out of the three city councilmen who sought out Hudson and brought him here in the midst of a so-called recruitment drive the city residents paid for, don't even currently live in Riverside and neither does Hudson. They won't be paying any higher utility rates resulting from their decision making.

The representative from Roberts admitted that he was very disappointed the city didn't select from their candidate list last time and said that doesn't happen 99% of the time and that it was a highly unusual circumstance. Yes indeed it was at that. But it makes observers twice shy when the same hiring process comes up again even with a turned over city council. What was amazing and appalling at the same time is that when factual information was provided by individuals at that first forum just as it has been at city council meetings, the city council looked like it had no idea what was being said. This is all information to be read and reviewed in public documents that they all can access and they are all supposed to have read including agenda item reports. What's getting clear is that the majority of them don't seem to do this and rely on "staff" to tell them what they should know through reading and I guess how to think and ask questions as well.

The land deal downtown that began with a favored developer and wound up with the police station is one classic example. I asked two questions at that last hearing in relation to developer Mark Rubin who receives campaign contributions from quite a few council members past and present. His office building, the Citrus Tower which is seeking tenants in a tough market was built using about $37.8 million in California Redevelopment Zone bonds. These bonds can only be paid off through revenue generated through leases and rents collected on a collateral property. In this case, that money was to be paid from another one of his projects, the Raincross Promenade which sets dark and mostly empty on Market Street in downtown Riverside.

[High priced condos for sale became apartments to rent]

If you remember the Raincross Promenade, originally it was marketed including by former city council members as bringing home owners to downtown which has a huge rental population. But these condos were very high priced and sold during the housing market crash when the same price could buy a person a whole lot more house. Only about four people bought into the units and so they became rentals for affluence seeking buyers. Originally marketed as including "affordable (low and moderate) income" housing, that fell by the wayside and the focus became on luxury. Problem was, no one was renting either and though some at City Hall claim it's mostly rented out, if you pass it at night, it's all dark like an abandoned palace. It's probably a pretty solid guess that there's not a whole lot of revenue stream coming from rents collected to pay off the bonds on the Citrus Tower. So I asked questions about if the Promenade couldn't pay off the bonds with its rentals, then how were the bonds being paid off and did the city help Rubin acquire the bonds and then provide a revenue stream to make the payments?

These questions were of course ignored and never answered during the workshop, not by these so-called knowledgeable people who keep telling us they know what they're talking about and that we don't or we're misinformed. But if they have done the research, had the answers and knew more than we do, those questions should have been readily answered and not brushed off. But they can't be answered because the city council members apparently had no idea that the Raincross Promenade was being used to pay off the bonds on the Citrus Tower. Maybe they don't even know about the CRZ bonds being acquired at all. Yet they made sure the public was unable to bring up this item for discussion in a public venue until after all the leases are signed so they could then say, well there's nothing they can do. They can't pay the money to undo a lease, which is only partially true.

Leases are challenged all the time after being signed, most often successfully when new information (withheld either accidentally or intentionally) comes to light that impacts them and the issues with the bonds and the revenue payment streams being so uncertain, well that's more than enough grounds to reexamine a lease without losing the city's shirt. Interestingly enough, Rubin sought me out after the meeting to say he liked my comments and asked me if I did a lot of research. He can afford to say that because he knows that he's popular with the city council even though his projects downtown are experiencing revenue stream problems and he knows about the bonds and the conditions surrounding him because he took them out...but he needed some city help to do that. It's odd that as 15 businesses including several in city owned and managed buildings have been pushed or forced out of downtown, that the city's expending so much energy and tax payer money to help Rubin make a profit on his projects that either are or are in danger of operating at a loss.

But why that is, and what extent the city government will go to help him, is really crystal clear when addressing a piece of fenced off property that lies adjacent to the Promenade. The story behind that parcel is very appalling, but because of efforts by the city to hide it, it's only started coming to light.

That property was known as the Swiss Inn and it's story is only beginning to unfold.

The forum attracted a few folks and yes, most of them were critics of Hudson as the local newspaper dutifully pointed out. I thought it was funny but that's par for publications that have always painted those who criticize issues or city councils as being critics or disgruntled (and employees who do like or file lawsuits are labeled as such) when apparently it never occurs to them that there are issues out there to be critical of and perhaps disgruntled about including unethical and illegal behavior.

The Press Enterprise has been perplexing as of late, given that they focus mostly on printing press releases issued by the city and its departments and as for everything else, if they stuffed every story they sat on in a seat cushion, some heads would be brushing the ceilings by now.

After all, they have been sitting on what happened with the over $700,000 that was paid off to former city employee Connie Leach over several years, even though she was contracted to only work 12 hours a week. Not to mention the fact that quite a bit of that money paid off to her came out of the police department's asset forfeiture fund. The same fund that one department head joked about at the soiree given to Hudson several weeks ago. Beginning with $35,000 to the Multi-Cultural Youth Festival under the 15% "allowable" use but somehow that money wound up dropped in the general fund instead, which if it happened is considered an illegal use because asset forfeiture funds can't be co-mingled with other monies or can they supplant general fund expenditures even involving the police department. There's no evidence that this money ever saw a bank account associated with a non-profit like the Festival maybe because the city wrote it all down on post-its and then accidentally recycled them or flushed them down the john.

At the same time that former Chief Russ Leach as executive officer of the fund gave $35,000 from asset forfeiture to the project handled by his own wife, other organizations like Alternatives to Domestic Violence, the Rape Crisis Center and Operation Safe house (for runaway and at risk youth) had to go to city council to beg for money out of the general fund. Project Bridge, the city's award winning gang intervention program pretty much went belly up after its grant funding dried up. But then there's so many questions about this whole situation the city won't answer like why so many city departments were funneling their budget money into her part-time working contracts in the first place. If it's a mayoral position, why was Development, Redevelopment, Public Works and others donating funds to one of his pet causes? Surely someone at City Hall could come up with one reason.

That's why when the fire chief made his asset forfeiture joke that even the current police chief smiled at, there were some party poopers in the audience who didn't find it funny at all. It's not because we don't have a sense of humor or need to lighten up. It's just that misusing highly restricted funds is a crime and not a joke and using the police department to do illegal or unethical behavior's not funny either. It was done with the more than questionable firearm sale that when the State Attorney's office was notified about it, it had to essentially be laundered through a private dealer. It's disrespectful to the over 600 employees who work hard to do their jobs even as there are fewer of them to do them and also the public they serve in this city.

[Certification report from 2007 showing expenditure involving Multi-Cultural Youth Festival]

But while the Press Enterprise knows about this, they're not writing about any of it any more than they're writing about what happened at the Swiss Inn. At least they are allegedly looking into the mysterious house on Arlington near Hawardan Hills that had part of its hillside severely graded within the past month. The ownership of that property is somewhat mysterious and the official version is that one of the banks owns it as a foreclosure. Yet, that struck me as a bit odd because since when have banks even performed basic maintenance on their foreclosed properties meaning weed abatement of yards and the care and cleaning of pools and spas to keep them from going "green"? Yet we're supposed to believe that the bank that owns this property paid tens of thousands of dollars to have major grading done? Okay, it makes me wonder who really paid to have that extensive work done, was it the same as who paid to have the Swiss Inn demolished?

[Newly graded area on Arlington was allegedly done by a local bank for one of its residential properties]

It's beyond interesting that a bank of all types of property owners paid huge bucks to have a hillside graded like this apparently legally according to one council member but it gets even more so. It turns out that the driveway to that property received its very own turn lane as well.

[Brand new turn lane on Arlington for the residence]

It's be great if the city would design and install turn lanes for everyone off its busiest streets but does that happen? This property owned by the bank gets a nice big huge arrow, and a separate lane (which made the bike lane adjacent it much more skinny) so who paid for that? Who do you have to know in this city to be able to severely grade a hillside and get your own turn lane? Where can mere mortals among this city's populace sign up for this program?

Former RPD Officer Honored at City Hall

[The City and Riverside Police Department honored the city's first K9 officer at the recent city council meeting]

[Officer Brad Smith's K9 after the ceremony at City Hall]

[Riverside's first K9 Officer, Loren Mitchell and family members at City Hall where he was honored]

A packed house including police department employees watched as the department's first K9 officer Loren Mitchell was honored by the city and others for his service. About 50 years ago, he had come up with the idea of using a canine officer believing it would be safer for officers in certain situations while pursing fugitives or other suspects. His family was there to watch him be honored and it was a good reminder of how innovative thinking and looking outside the box for solutions to challenges is always a viable way for a law enforcement agency to go.

Chief Sergio Diaz and his cabinet including the rarely seen Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer made appearances along with active members of the department's K9 team and retired officers including Rick Albee and members of the Rubio family. Retired lieutenant, Darryl Hurt was at the meeting for the presentation on the exchange student program with a city in Germany that might be a future addition to the Sister City Program. When Councilman Steve Adams was rhapsodizing about his own years in the police department including time spent on the SWAT team, he recognized past officers in attendance including Hurt by saying that he's a captain now.

Adams was sued by Hurt and retired lieutenant, Tim Bacon as part of their lawsuits alleging retaliation by him and others due to their involvement in union activities.

It was good to see a man like Mitchell honored and the management team attend to support that though while some of them stood together, two individuals in particular appeared to make it clear that they wanted to be on opposite sides of the chambers from each other. It seems that the friction between some members of Diaz' cabinet continues and what's become a question is whether Orange Street Station is big enough for the both of them.

As the World Turns at Orange Street

The Locksmith Cometh

[The scene of some very interesting dynamics in the management team]

The Locksmith Cometh....

Whose locks needed to be changed on the top floor of the administrative headquarters and what does that say about the dynamics at the very top of the department?

With a lease of only a dollar a year paid to Riverside County, it's clear that Orange Street Station delivers a lot of bang for the buck. It's been the scene of a lot of activities involving those who still occupy it. With the dispatchers finally moving out of the basement dungeon filled with mold and mildew to better (and seismically safer) digs at the Magnolia Police Center, there's still two floors left for plenty of dynamics to play out. This long-time administrative facility has been the location for the "Penalty Box" for broken officers, the place where Lt. Leon Phillips plotted his campaign to overturn first his notice of intent to terminate and then his demotion/suspension in very successful fashion. Benched here by then Acting Chief John DeLaRosa, Phillips used his downtime while "receiving training for a special assignment" to turn the tables on those who intended to use him to be the fall guy in the whole DUI incident involving the former police chief.

But then in July, the changing of the guard took place at the police department with Sergio Diaz eschewing retirement from the Los Angeles Police Department to take the top position and soon after his swearing in, he began appointing his cabinet. He chose internally first and chose Capt. Mike Blakely who ran the department's personnel division. That made some sense because Blakely was the hardest working, most experienced captain who didn't get promoted through the intensely competitive lobbying process that reigned during former Chief Russ Leach's tenure. Whereas the other captains stumbled as a result of a system that fostered cut throat tactics above leadership and management skills, Blakely had been riding out the decade or so since he arrived from the San Diego Police Department in very rigorous style. Diaz was advised even warned not to select Blakely from different circles including City Hall but chose him anyway. In reality, if the first selection had to come inhouse, he didn't have much to choose from at the captain's level.

An expert told me that the best hopes the department had of cleaning up the mess at the top that took place last year would be to "golden handshake" or sell retirements to everyone ranked captain and above and then hire from the outside to fill those positions, giving them long-term contracts. Whether that's practical or not, it's recommended under the idea that if the top level was so contaminated by issues including unethical behavior that one has to tear out the roof and build anew. The way that most of the highest management team fell out on its own or through power plays launched by those from a different "team" does give a lot of credence to that. But as we all saw, the city led by Hudson did the opposite. It retained most of its upper management that didn't attrition out and when it hired from the outside, it made the employees "at will" with three year contracts. Employees who are "at will" even those with retirements secured already are still vulnerable to becoming "yes" men or women to the one who holds their reins. And if any of them go against the grain even to do what's right, they can still be dismissed without explanation.

But what was fascinating and made the situation even more complex and more problematic is that one management team member didn't go "at will" and that was Blakely. After all, he's a member of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association and can't be forced to go at will. He may have the choice and Blakely's smart enough to refuse it. While the others can be dismissed without explanation for doing whatever, all that can happen to Blakely is that he's demoted back to captain again. Intentionally or not, that set up a current power play that's apparently unfolding inside Orange Street Station right now between him and other management employees. Two very dynamic, very driven, very type A personality type employees would soon be ready to clash professionally but though one outranked the other on one scale, his footing was less secured as his subordinate. The other's trained others who rise through the ranks even above him and knows how to pull the strings of those around him always while standing on terra firma. One a former outsider turned Old Guard and the other, a member of the latest trio of interlopers brought in by scandal.

Blakely's had his share of controversy being linked to the departure of former Chief Jerry Carroll after he and another former captain took some complaints against Carroll by a group of white male sergeants to the Human Resources Department. Some said that Carroll's ultimate departure had Blakely's fingerprints on it but it's hard to say given the environment already surrounding Carroll in the wake of Riverside's most controversial officer involved shooting. Critical incidents like that one often lead to the ousters of chiefs (as witnessed recently in Fullerton) but did Diaz even know about this history and if so would he care as it's clear that history's not one of his favorite subjects? Blakely's about as driven as they come, clocking in his full 10 hours at the Orange Street Station (and no afternoons on the golf course) and he had time to mentor others like the man who eventually outranked him, DeLaRosa and a host of others who were moved like chess pieces up the promotional ladder by Diaz during that first round of promotions in July 2010 whether the new chief was aware of it or not. During that first round, the DeLaRosa and Blakely camp set themselves up a chain of command including members of their team even while DeLaRosa lunched with both Diaz and later Vicino providing them both with advice.

Diaz is still pretty close with DeLaRosa and the latter attended a community meeting recently where Diaz gave a presentation and lectured those in attendance how he had found out through is own experience how wrong the information provided to him on certain individuals had been. People in the audience scratched their heads a little bit but what he said would wind up playing a large role in the organization of his department.

Building leadership in the police department hadn't been happening in any effective or meaningful way in the last five years or so. If that hadn't been true, the department's management wouldn't have collapsed so quickly last year like a house of cards. That left an outside chief to be hired who would see two out of three of his cabinet members hired from outside as well. It didn't take long for Asst. Chief Chris Vicino from Pasadena's police department and Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer from the LAPD to be hired to fill out that cabinet along with Blakely. Diaz had promised in several speeches that he'd build leadership from within the department so that after about a decade, there would be individuals inside the agency ready to step into the position vacated by him. How this would be done was never really explained though another cabinet member, Greer said he was "all about mentorship". So will these plans materialize in reality or are they just ideas?

But then Hudson wasn't great at mentoring leadership either. Even though more assistant city managers, three of them, worked under him than any other city manager in history, none of them wound up being appointed in the interim position by the city council and mayor. The city government can rave all it wants about Hudson's greatness as they see it but the fact is, when it appointed his acting replacement, neither Belinda Graham, Deanna Lorson nor Paul Sundeen were selected to fill the position. Instead Community Development Director Scott Barber who's allegedly not quite the yes man (or woman) as the trio above him, was the choice. Allegedly when Hudson got wind of the city council's selection, he was as some said, "very pissed off."

But Hudson's off in Sacramento in his new job and the chief might have the most freedom he's had since at least 2005 to build leadership with his management team. Vicino's background is in strategic planning and he's been busy in helping draft the Riverside Police Department's 2010-2015 version of that. Pasadena's had developed its own Strategic plan in 2009. Greer's arrival made him the highest ranking African-American in the department's history.

However along the way in the past year, some interesting dynamics have developed between Diaz and his management team. Whereas in the beginning, they were often seen together as a united front, more lately they've been spread out and some have become somewhat scarce certainly out in public. That's partly normal because they're more established in their positions and the responsibilities and roles they play but it's also a bit odd in some cases.

[Who's the police department's own version of Waldo?]

[In this photo, it shows a rare public sighting of Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer who's been rather invisible as of late]

Greer who used to be highly visible in public often with Diaz has pretty much vanished. You can go three to four months without a sighting of the deputy chief of field operations and investigations. That's quite a contrast when compared to his predecessor, former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel who was pretty much seen in public all the time, more often in fact than DeLaRosa who apparently didn't favor public appearances and making speeches. DeLaRosa had risen up through the ranks largely on the inside taking assignments in Personnel and Training and heading Internal Affairs whereas Esquivel was well known at community meetings. Greer in contrast has hardly been seen since about six months after he first arrived. Some say that is in part because he's trying to keep under the radar because of some dynamics that have erupted among other personnel at the top. Keeping his nose down during his three year contract, and since he's assigned at Magnolia Police Center which is across the city from Orange Street, it's not that difficult. The culture that entrenched the department during Leach's tenure hasn't changed enough to engage it. Employees still feel pitted against each other for promotions and special assignments with some people who excelled in assignments being dropped out in favor of others. People still moving from one special assignment to the next without time spent in patrol in between. Employees at the highest levels avoiding investigations for allegations of off-duty misconduct.

Greer's invisibility is very noticeable and it's said that his relations with Blakely are somewhat on the passive aggressive side. They're equal in rank even as their responsibilities differ. And apparently internally, Greer's akin to the invisible man as well. He's probably the most quiet and soft spoken member of Diaz' management team by far but his withdrawal from being seen by anyone, is it a reflection of the dynamics? But maybe Greer's learned some history that preceded him including the dynamics that allegedly played out with Blakely and former Captain Lee Wagner.

His tenure at the department's been much more quieter than that of Vicino. The assistant chief who actually came in with chief's experience is very extroverted and out there at meetings even though most of his work is on the internal side of the department. Personality wise, he's the opposite of DeLaRosa and he's got his nose to the grindstone under Diaz' charge. He launched some changes in the department's internal affairs procedures earlier on including getting cases involving officers that had languished or put them on desk duty under review. Apparently, he highly criticized the handling of more than a few of them, overturned findings and disciplinary actions and tossed some out. This allegedly caused friction between him and Blakely who ran Internal Affairs under his roster of duties. Diaz mostly watched from his perch how this dynamic played out in between public appearances including his victory in a charity dancing competition at the Fox Theater. But in his old haunt, management is very separate from those it manages including those on its team so he had learned that role well and brought it to Riverside.

But he did allegedly change the procedure to where the captains would play larger roles in the disciplinary recommendation process and then forward their recommendations to Greer and Vicino bypassing Blakely. Some of the captains not surprisingly stumbled at these changes because they had been struggling at their ranks given the means to which some of them rose up through them under Leach. One captain waited until the 14th month period to decide to recommend the termination of two patrol officers while their onscene supervisor would get a two week suspension.

First of all, that exceeded the 12 month period allowable for discipline under state governmental code 3304(d) and second, it seemed peculiar perhaps to lay people that two officers would commit fireable offenses yet the sergeant who supervised them onscene would only get a brief suspension. One would think if what the officers did was so egregious enough to be fired that the sergeant could have reined them in before that happened. But anyway, some of the changes that Vicino made purportedly at the will of Diaz did add to the dynamic that had apparently developed between him and Blakely.

Orange Street Station has an interesting floor plan on the second floor with the different offices and how some of them adjoin each other. Diaz has his corner end office and his two main management team members residing there as well as civilian management also do as well. Some of these offices have doors between them which can be opened or closed, depending on the decision of whoever's in the office. Vicino apparently had his door opened when he first started working at Orange Street Station and Blakely walked inside his office pretty freely and pretty often. Even when Vicino had assigned his subordinate something to work on, Blakely came in frequently to talk to him about it. It apparently didn't take too long for the friction to develop between the two headstrong men. That and the changes that Diaz had instructed Vicino to carry out that impacted Blakely's own role in management.

Not much of this was on display as Diaz and his cabinet went out to the community to solicit input on the upcoming Strategic Plan. All four of them appeared to listen to community members and most of the time, Vicino led the forums with enthusiasm and energy. But later on, as the dynamic between Blakely and Vicino continued to develop, the two men allegedly had a very loud argument while walking to their city-issued vehicles in the parking lot of their headquarters. Then around that time, Vicino began to have more of a closed door policy with Blakely, to discourage the deputy chief from dropping by his office. But Blakely allegedly still managed to do so.

So in more recent weeks, Vicino allegedly took greater steps, using furniture and then apparently changing the locks to his door. Diaz' response to this isn't known but he's been taking a hands off view when it comes to the relations among those in his cabinet. And he's had his own challenging situations among his management team to deal with or not, including off-duty behavior involving one of his captains and a pair of lieutenants. One captain had a son who had been hired by the department after being released from probation by another agency while in the final month of training at the police academy. He was due to be sworn in to his position in Riverside and start field training when he got arrested for public intoxication and creating a disturbance in public with three other men. All four of them wound up locked up in the Corona Police Department jail and the captain allegedly called the watch commander to try to get his son released without a paper trail. When it came to light, his son was allegedly pressured to resign, which provides him the opportunity to work elsewhere because technically he failed to pass probation and no excuse or reason for termination is needed. Not long after that, two lieutenants including one at Orange Street station had a physical altercation at the house of one of them.

Diaz declined to do any investigation in that case citing it a private matter and allegedly when asked about whether or not they should be booked, said he didn't hear anything. That's in marked contrast to Officer Miguel Rivera and Det. Scott Impola who were both fired and Impola charged with misdemeanor offenses for off-duty physical altercations albeit by a different police chief. At least one of the lieutenants involved allegedly joked that he hadn't been in a fight that weekend or in the blog and yes, he can afford to do so because he can be in a fight and not be investigated for it. That reality carries a strong sense of entitlement and the joking is simply a reflection of that.

[Asst. Chief Chris Vicino back in his days in Pasadena where he served as interim chief twice]

[Chief Sergio Diaz sitting here with Deputy Chief Mike Blakely at an award ceremony last year but is Diaz now distancing himself from his deputy chief?]

But it's interesting this dynamic that's apparently playing out between Blakely and Vicino but puzzling too. After all, in the hierarchy of the department, the two men are not at equal levels. Vicino technically and through the pay scale outranks Blakely so why the conflict, and why was it allowed to get to the point that it apparently has gotten? If they were lower in rank and this was playing out, wouldn't it at some point be viewed as insubordination? But then maybe it's two dynamic personalities clashing but if it comes to Vicino allegedly deciding to change the locks for his office, what lies ahead for this tumultuous relationship? And was Diaz at Orange Street when the locksmith showed up to do the job, and if so what did he think?

Blakely's a very strong personality who was smart to avoid the whole "at will" contract issue. But the appearance of all four men at the recent honoring of the K9 officer was noticeable in terms of serving as a stark contrast to how they appeared earlier at the public forums connected with the Strategic Plan. Though in any type of engagement in a power of wills between the two men, it's very hard to dismiss Blakely who after all has survived three police chiefs not including those in acting or interim capacities.

Speaking of which, the Plan had been given to Blakely in 2010 to lead the creation of and he had diligently along with then Sgt. Jaybee Brennan presented an update of it at the Public Safety Committee in March of that year.

Over a year later, Diaz and Vicino would head off to City Hall to provide another update, through a power point which dealt with the five goals of what Vicino called a 30 page draft report. They were greeted with comments and questions by the committee.

Strategic Plan Unveiling

[Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz (l.) and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino (r.) unveil the update on the department's 2010-2015 Strategic Plan with administrative analyst Mario Lara sitting between them]

Riverside Chief Sergio Diaz and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino appeared at City Hall to attend the Public Safety Committee meeting in order to present on the nearly completed Strategic Plan which was to have encompassed 2010-2015. However, it stalled last year amid a chain of events that shook the department and the city. He talked about the five goals, the role of community policing (including programs like the youth court and the crime free multi-housing program) and why the officer level badge on the mission statement was changed to that of the chief's instead. He said he changed the badge on it to essentially say that the buck stops with the police chief when it comes to accountability. It certainly has in cases ranging from the incident in the river bottom involving police officers and a homeless encampment where he was rather public about to cases involving those in the higher ranks where he was more reticent and in at least one case chose not to investigate.

Diaz aided by Vicino outlined the emphasis on community policing, reestablishing programs like Crime Free Multi-Housing and Youth Court and focusing on youth, which were very important. Diaz spoke of crucial connections he had established with area organizations and religious institutions.

Some things were missing in the latest draft, which followed an earlier one completed in the spring of 2010 before Diaz arrived. That included the diversity plank which had been included in the earlier version but was apparently missing in this one, ironic given that the city's got open litigation involving a Black police sergeant who filed a lawsuit a month ago.

Diaz also commented on other topics including what he called the references by the public that every city's like Bell and that the city manager, Brad Hudson's the "anti-Christ". About how the criticisms of the public last year tore the department down and that he and others were building it up. Okay, there's only one way to respond to that which is to point out that what happened last year inside the department, was what the management at the time brought down on itself through its own decision making and actions carried out. No member of the public forced the last chief to drive heavily intoxicated and wreck his city issued car, nor did any city resident force the police department's management to have him driven home rather than arrested or at least sent home with a citation including a notice to appear in his pocket. No city resident forced guns to be first given away and then later sold illegally to two city management employees. The public didn't cause at least nine officers to be arrested in a 14 month period with six being prosecuted on various criminal charges during that time including the chief. No city resident forced the department to hand over asset forfeiture money to the city's general fund to possibly be laundered for inappropriate and illegal use and no one forced city department heads to joke about misusing that highly restricted fund at a public event. No city resident forced at least two city officials and a city management team from being heavily involved in the operations of the police department.

All we as city residents did is we spoke up in various venues and objected to all this abusive behavior which impacted city residents and over 600 employees inside the department. That's not being too critical, that's not sitting around in your underwear eating junk food, that's called doing your civic duty. Certainly if city management is forcing the department to engage in illegal behavior that attracts the investigative powers of the state's highest ranking law enforcement/prosecutory agency.

If you value public safety and your law enforcement agency, then you speak up when what happens last year happens, simple as that. The department's past management tore the department down on its own watch and it took some years to do that and it impacted everyone down to the two patrol officers who stopped their police chief and worried about the consequences for doing their jobs. The new management is hired with the task, the public's trust and ultimately the test of rebuilding it back up within five years after it exited a state consent decree.

The buck as Diaz said with his badge change ends at the top and he's right about that. But that applies to the management who preceded him just like it applies to the one that is currently working there only because of what transpired last year. If not for 2010, the three newest employees would be enjoying their retirements or in other jobs. They are here because of the failures of the prior management to keep the department from heading where it needed to go. The Strategic Plan should have a plank within it that assures the public that such behavior won't be repeated because accountability and professional integrity were two of the top qualities viewed as being absolutely necessary according to feedback processes both inside and outside of the department.

As Diaz and his cabinet deal with internal turmoil in their own rank which they try so hard to keep bottled up, they should remember that they picked up a mantle that was discarded by their predecessors.

Diaz being a latecomer to this saga can afford to make jokes about people calling his former boss, the "anti-christ", after all he didn't have to send letters to a state AG investigator explaining why his department as an unlicensed gun vendor was selling them to city employees. Now with Hudson gone, there's not much he has to think about when it comes to the shenanigans that Hudson and former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis engaged in during their tenures. His greater concern is the hiring of his new boss and to what degree, the new city manager wants to retain the current city department heads. It's not anticipated that the city would ever hire anyone who'd make major shifts in department management, given that it's going to be difficult enough for City Hall to come up with a version of the city's financial status that will be palatable to the candidates.

Diaz has chosen not to be a student of history and that's his choice. It's not the best one but he and the other non-students in his cabinet minus one who's lived it and learned have only given themselves half of the tools they need to do their work. Time will tell if that will be enough.

As for Bell, it stands on its own but the one lesson that should have been learned from its example, is the importance of remaining vigilant in the operations of one's government including the elected officials. The one city employee who watched Bell play out observed that it would have been better if there had been more active civic involvement in that city.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Hudson's Farewell Revealed About the River City Culture

[A consultant from the firm hired by the city to hunt for a new city manager sits in between Councilmen Chris MacArthur and Paul Davis as they took public input at a forum in Orangecrest]

The city's started holding public forums to solicit input from city residents on what they hope to have in the next city manager, with the first one being held at Orange Terrace Community Center. But will history repeat itself? Will the city undergo this so-called recruitment and hiring process while wooing another candidate in the wings?

Guess we'll all see....

[The City and Riverside Police Department honored the city's first K9 officer at the recent city council meeting]

As the World Turns At Orange Street

[The scene of some very interesting dynamics in the management team]

The Locksmith Cometh....

Whose locks needed to be changed on the top floor of the administrative headquarters and what does that say about the dynamics at the very top of the department?

coming soon....

[Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz (l.) and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino (r.) unveil the update on the department's 2010-2015 Strategic Plan with administrative analyst Mario Lara sitting between them]

Riverside Chief Sergio Diaz and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino appeared at City Hall to attend the Public Safety Committee meeting in order to present on the nearly completed Strategic Plan which was to have encompassed 2010-2015. However, it stalled last year amid a chain of events that shook the department and the city. He talked about the five goals, the role of community policing (including programs like the youth court and the crime free multi-housing program) and why the officer level badge on the mission statement was changed to that of the chief's instead.

He also commented on other topics including what he called the references by the public that every city's like Bell and that the city manager, Brad Hudson's the "anti-Christ". About how the criticisms of the public last year tore the department down and that he and others were building it up.

There once was a city manager named Bradley

Who sometimes behaved a little badly

But have no fear

His sidearm is near

And his trigger finger moves oh so quickly.

---Riverside Councilman Rusty Bailey as the city council finally broke its long silence in a matter of speaking involving the highly questionable and illegal gun sale that took place involving the city's police department.

Brad Hudson's Going Away Party

City Official Breaks Government's long silence on 2010 Scandals Through the media of Poetry

[Former City Manager Brad Hudson's top management team including interim manager Scott Barber sat in the first row, well all except one of them.]

[The soiree attracted several hundred guests onto the Grier Pavilion at City Hall]

[Former Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson and Former Councilman and current mayoral candidate, Ed Adkison meet up at Hudson's going away soiree]

[Both Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz (r.) and Deputy Chief Mike Blakely attended the Hudson party but Hudson never mentioned Diaz during his speeches]

[All the buffet food came with labels, and the name of the caterer, the beleaguered Provider company which is the subject of internal and external investigations.]

The minute I stepped onto the roof underneath the Greer Pavilion, I felt like I had crashed outgoing Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson's going away party. The invites went out to some of the community leaders but got forwarded to a much larger crowd. Over 200 city employees and community leaders showed up for Hudson's final soiree. Most of the city council was there except for Councilman Steve Adams who was off in Texas on some transportation gig. The city council in Riverside does out of state traveling (even though most departments have banned it) while many other cities can't afford it. Well, next year Riverside might not be able to afford it either.

The food catered by Provider wasn't bad at all, and if you remember, Provider's the company that is connected with the City Hall Cafeteria that some city employees alleged was subsidized by the Park and Recreation Department. The city's own "independent" investigation naturally cleared Hudson and anyone else, including in terms of how the city conducts its contracting process. But interestingly enough the firm hired by Hudson which is about two degrees removed from City Hall not only cleared the city of misconduct but while they couldn't say that nothing irregular had happened, they attributed it to the city's commitment to its Shop Riverside program. Regardless of the city's own findings, allegedly the Riverside County District Attorney's office is looking into the situation and probably others as well.

There were many speeches being made though the community representation consisted of mostly people of people with city ties. Adding more community leaders from all over the city would have made it appear that more people would be missing Hudson. Some city departments were less represented than others.

But what was disturbing about the soiree which some elected officials said included "roasting" was the choice of humor though on the bright side, at least some city council members including Rusty Bailey broke their long silence on the Year of Scandal in 2010 by making it seem like it was a joke. There were other jokes besides Bailey's one about the illegal gun sale that took place several years ago resulting in an investigation by the State Attorney General's criminal division. The gun sale which was done after two guns belonging to the police department were checked out to Hudson and former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis while they were completing marksmanship training and testing. Those two guns complete with serial numbers later turned up in paperwork associated with their conceal and carry weapons permits of both employees. After a series of letters between the State AG investigator and former Chief Russ Leach, the guns were recollected and essentially laundered through a sale involving a private dealer.

When that and related scandals broke last year, if you'll recall the city council members and Mayor Ron Loveridge had very little to say about any of it in public. Even when people asked for City Hall to show some leadership in the multiple crises of conscience that hit the city, it remained silent, or tried to pretend nothing was going on. When people asked, it was along the lines of oh...why don't we look at that pretty tree or trinket over there instead? So while it was nice to see the city council through Bailey break its silence at last, did it have to be to joke about what was alleged to have been a criminal act? And why was that treated as being funny, or at least socially acceptable in that circle?

Hudson joked not for the first time about violating the city's charter, its Constitution and more chuckles followed. One department head joked about spending the police asset forfeiture money on something not law enforcement related and more chuckles, he made a reference to Chief Sergio Diaz. When there's a few of you that aren't laughing at jokes like these ones, the humor that comes of corruption, wink, wink, it's somewhat disconcerting. Most people probably were just going on with it to look like they fit in the audience because the memories of terminations like Sean Gill and Raychelle Sterling not to mention a host of others weigh heavily on the city's front. These whistle blowers encompass what's truly important in that our city government operate in an honest, ethical matter and any corrupt act that led to any whistle blower's departure through termination or harassment just isn't funny at all. It's an insult to the entire workforce to have leaders elected or others downplay or dismiss unethical and/or illegal acts. The problem is, you don't have anyone in leadership who will say that publicly and mean it in more private settings like Hudson's soiree.

The bottom line is this, if the government of Riverside is truly operating above board and in an honest and ethical fashion, jokes like these aren't told in any setting because they're not viewed as being funny or humorous. It's beyond ironic that Bailey would joke about Hudson's gun purchase given that he and others decided to pay off a huge settlement to the two former police lieutenants who brought that and other misdeeds to light. I guess that's his and their way of saying the joke's on us the city residents and those who alleged retaliation for blowing the whistle on bad and illegal behavior. Or maybe just to show that even after the city's been through one of its most difficult and painful years, its leadership hasn't learned anything at all.

If that's the case, there's still plenty of opportunities coming up for them to figure it out. Especially those who've tossed or are planning to toss their hats in the mayoral race.

Wikipedia and the Riverside Police Department

Wikipedia page on Riverside Police Department

After I blogged about the two different police department Wikipedia pages, including one with an IP address that is owned by the city of Riverside, I received the following email from a management employee inside the department on city and police department letterhead. It was written by Asst. Chief Chris Vicino and carbon copied to the following:

Chief Sergio Diaz
Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer
Deputy Chief Mike Blakely
RPOA President Cliff Mason
RPOA Vice President Brian Smith
Public Information Officer Lt. Guy Toussaint

Dear Ms. Shelton,

A citizen contacted me yesterday and directed me to your “blog”. As a result, I read the Wikipedia web page as it relates to the Riverside Police Department. While it is my duty as a police officer to protect the rights of others, and free speech is one of those rights, the material posted on this web page was disingenuous and distasteful. Thus, I edited the posted material.

While the Wikipedia web site offered ISP anonymity, I did not seek to use it. Anonymity under such circumstances is the act of a coward.

The men and women of the RPD are hard-working cops and civilians committed to making the Riverside community a safer place to live, work, and visit. Our police employees do not deserve to be ridiculed and slanderously attacked with baseless accusations by an anonymous source on the Internet who has clearly succumbed to his or her own cowardice.

Over and over again, our police officers have proven to be courageous and unyielding as they safeguard the lives and property of others. Too many have made the ultimate sacrifice in this cause. They have earned better. . . . .

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


Assistant Chief of Police

Riverside Police Department

4102 Orange Street, Riverside, CA. 92501

(951) 826-5522

I appreciate Vicino's candor in his response and it's always interesting talking with him and hearing his insights on different issues. He's responsive to questions and doesn't seem to back away from the more difficult ones with some caustic comment. I thought about what he wrote and having read his riding in his reports written while he worked at Pasadena Police Department, he does explain issues and points well. You can tell he's been a police chief in his past and feels comfortable in that position. What I did like was how he listened to input on his during the information gathering process from the Strategic Plan and if he made a gaffe that was pointed out (like forgetting to introduce the only female officer present who was instrumental in the strategic planning process and then calling only her by her first name and not her rank), he didn't do it twice. That's an important attribute to have that kind of flexibility in an administration that appears somewhat doggedly rigid at times. He's got some areas he needs to work at but he does work hard at his job. He's attracted interest from other departments to work in those places as well.

I'm still on the fence with the three newcomers as it's still early in their tenures (as at least the two subordinates are one-third through their three year contracts).

It was interesting being introduced to his administrative and communicative styles through those public forums.

But I did a lot of thinking about what he wrote and other things about history and its impact on the present on the future, both positive and negative. History that Vicino wasn't privy to during the past 10 years. I thought about softening what I had to say but I think Vicino can handle it.
Somewhat better than some other people. The department has grown and changed much in the past 10 years been through peaks and valleys, and that's what made last year for example, so frustrating and sad in ways is that not everyone was on board with the important mission of moving forward in a progressive direction. But is the leadership willing to go there including dealing with the any favoritism at the top? After all, Chief Sergio Diaz is rightly saying that he'll be upfront about what his rank and file officers do including the incident investigated involving the homeless in the river bottom last year. That openness helps the public know that the department takes alleged incidents like that seriously.

But what about the alleged assault case involving the lieutenants or the alleged attempts of one of the captains to get his son an officer preferential treatment after his public intoxication and disturbance incident? These weren't done on duty but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be investigated.

When it comes to allowing off-duty assaults and fights between officers like what happened to the lieutenants and how it's treated as an "off-duty" matter and thus not worthy of investigation. Perhaps that's something that a former and lowly patrol officer Miguel Rivera would like to comment on if given the chance.

Who's Rivera? He got involved in an off-duty fight in a bar and he got terminated from the police department in January of last year. No one said, "private matter", no one said, "I didn't hear that" when it came to dealing with him did they? Part of the termination of Rivera was allegedly related to his denial of the fight but even if he admitted it, he still likely faced discipline and at the very least had been investigated by Internal Affairs. Were those actions appropriate, yes given that the department's own CUBO policy states that an investigation is to be conducted on those types of offduty incidents. Another former patrol officer was terminated for a domestic disturbance offduty in another city a few years before that, after an lengthy investigation. These investigations should be done and the department has policy stating but then again what about domestic disturbances at higher ranks?

Why not include lieutenants in that group?

Anyway, here's my response to Vicino's letter.

My response to Asst. Chief Vicino:

Thanks for your response to what I posted on my blog. I posted both versions side by side as most of my readers can read through and base their own opinions on what they’ve read. In addition, the style of the amended version appears to be assuming its audience had read the earlier version. That may or may not be the case.

There’s certainly merit to launching a counterargument to what was written in some matter though I wish there had been more expansion on the factual information which was excised based on the Russ Leach DUI incident and I’ll explain why below. There were indeed factual inaccuracies in the previous version as well, including with the crime rate soaring when in fact it’s been decreasing and other aspects particularly with the Ku Klux Klan which hasn’t even been active in Riverside since the 1950s. In 1999, three members of the KKK did show up to protest on behalf of the department but no one else showed up to support them. Part of that perception of the department might be residual from the unfortunate incident in 1999 when 2/3 of the police department shaved their heads in response to the firing of the four officers who shot Tyisha Miller. This was an action that many of them regretted when they understood how it impacted people regardless of what their original intent might have been, i.e. solidarity with fired officers. That incident became part of training curriculum required under the five-year stipulated judgment with the state.

It’s history and thus easily to be dismissed certainly by newcomers. It needs to be placed in a proper perspective but it also possibly made it more difficult when newer employees enter into dynamics which impact them even though they weren’t there when they started. Why a newer officer might be assigned to work in a particular neighborhood and walk into conflictual dynamics that preexisted him or her even being on the force, causing some frustration. When they could have the information to use as a tool to change that reality and help build better relationships. A management team member once asked me why they hadn’t made inroads in one particular community with a history, good experiences but a lot of turmoil and some of the officers were confused and hurt with the animosity they received from some people. I told him to educate officers on that history, both positive and negative and don’t shortchange them when they work there with what could help them in their decision making and interactions with people they protect and serve. It might be something that helps provide building blocks that make a lot of difference, something similar to what Sgt. Mason referred to as reconciliation though his context was different. But the principle appeared to be the same and there’s officers who utilized it and were able to accomplish that.

Everything that’s past has an impact on the present and future and for the three newcomers on this list; dismissing or erasing history would be the equivalent of forgetting why you’re here. History is one of the most valuable teachers after all, and forgetting or erasing it doesn’t really work in practice. If it weren’t for the department’s recent history, three of you would be off doing other things probably not in Riverside. That’s not really a criticism, that’s simply the truth. Several of you stated yourself that you chose to take these positions even after retiring from your previous careers because that opportunity arose.

I don’t know who wrote the original version on Wikipedia but it’s not the first time I’ve seen that sentiment expressed mostly in times of crisis. For those on this list from Los Angeles and Pasadena, I am aware that your respective agencies experienced similar dynamics tied with controversial incidents in both cities. I’m aware that Diaz had to play an instrumental role in what happened in the aftermath of the May Day 2007 incident. I first became familiar with his name through ACLU attorney Peter Bibring who worked with him on police issues in the LAPD. You faced your own challenges in Pasadena beginning not long after you arrived. But I imagined you learned from your experiences as part of working to do your job better and had the motivation to keep learning.

The Human Relations Commission in fact even more so than the Community Police Review Commission grappled with those issues when they arise here. I’m not sure what the counterparts to these mechanisms were in Los Angeles or Pasadena though reading your report on Pasadena’s policing style did provide insight. Dealing with these issues in ways that empower the relationships between the community and the department should come naturally enough to the three of you based on your respective involvements in your departments.

It seems that there are resources in upper management and certainly below that to build on that collaboration with that commission. In the past, the RPD had a liaison with the Human Relations Commission which provided a valuable resource for that body on a myriad of issues.

Back in 2003, the Human Relations Commission launched its study circle program involving members of different communities and police officers from the department. That was pretty bold and people had varying experiences with that program from the different groups. The police department’s introduced a variety of programs like that increasing interfacing between officers and community members including incorporating time in nonprofit organizations as part of field training and in the 1970s, a live in program that was featured in Time magazine. So there’s a definite pattern and practice of those kinds of efforts being made during its history. Not to reinvent these programs but to know they were there and that those efforts were part of the department’s history.

There are probably still individuals in the city with institutional memory of that program and even some of the older ones. And that’s just one example of how the police department’s made strides in interfacing with not just those who praise it but who question it. It was interesting to hear some of the stories told by the newer management team in terms of their own experiences back in their old haunts when they first arrived as well. But what you need to show others is how you learned from them and what that means for what your mission is here.

I think there’s probably always going to be individuals who will always show those sentiments for a variety of reasons but I think that the police department’s relationships with communities particularly those with histories of distrust and dislike of police is always going to be a work in progress in terms of finding ways to engage with all the people it serves. Individuals including those on this list have worked hard at doing that as have other officers in the department who have led those efforts. I’m sure you’ve met them all by now during your tenure with the department for those who are newer.

The police department has good things going on, some problems and the most important thing is that the management and leadership remain steadfast in ensuring that it can move forward in a positive direction and not regress backwards. It’s a work in progress like with any other department which is actually good because that’s when you have an environment to grow and change with your profession’s demands which are always changing. You gave a good example of 9-11 in some of his public speeches as a case where police agencies had to adapt to overnight changes in both the local and national arenas.

The police department’s primary strength has been its resiliency and its willingness to try to take the lead in grappling with the changing world while risking failure but a lot of the time achieving success. Also when there’s a pressing issue different factions of it work together to address it and that’s something that’s always going to make the difference. One example is the Crisis Intervention Training which involves how police approach, engage and interact with those who are mentally ill. Deputy Chief Mike Blakely was instrumental in developing that program in 2007 along with other individuals and within a couple years, it was POST certified and the majority of officers had been trained.

The Community Services Bureau which Lt. Toussaint now heads was as you know actually a division that got disbanded during the process of decentralizing community policing a few years back that didn’t quite work as intended. Programs like Crime Free Multi-Housing and Youth Court make a difference in people’s lives but had fallen by the wayside for a while in part because staffing issues inside the department prioritized most of it into patrol where it was most needed. PACT was another casualty of that movement but was reinstated and Lt. Toussaint was the director of it when it first started.

That said, I’m a bit mystified at this preoccupation with image when the reality is what will matter. I’m aware of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of comments and threats too from “anonymous cowards”. The Wikipedia writing bothered me as well but I just believe that between image and reality, it’s more important to focus on the latter to build the former. But it’s interesting the way that community leaders and bloggers have been viewed by the current management team as being the enemy, and yes, I’m well aware of what’s been said because it's a topic of some discussion on the outside. We in the community are not really the main concerns that are being faced by you.

It’s your reality that you need to face in the future because there’s enough challenges ahead to keep you quite busy.

What you’ll find next year, your biggest challenge isn’t going to be bloggers or commenters, it ’s going to be the budget and the impact of the city’s financial status on the police department’s operational and personnel budgets including staffing levels primarily on the civilian side. Fortunately due to the COPS grant funding, the department will have 15 positions reopened at the officer level and their funding will be covered for several years. Hopefully, the city’s economic picture will improve enough to ensure that the necessary funding continues to pay for those 15 spots (plus the additional vacancies filled).

However, on the civilian side, there hasn’t been any employee positions outside of the dispatch position that have been filled in four years. That leaves a vacancy rate of approximately 27% and actually if you omit the non-frozen civilian positions such as dispatching, it’s quite higher than that. Supervisory sworn staffing was at critical levels and promotions in the past year had helped alleviate those deficiencies and in fact, two of those on this list were promoted during that time period. Since civilian employees serve as valuable support to sworn officers in different ways, their absences have an impact on that division as well. That issue isn’t dealt with in the next several years; it’s going to create increasingly serious problems in the department’s operations.

There are still vacancies at the supervisory levels on the sworn side though efforts to address them in 2009-2010 including those by the leadership of the two labor associations did improve that situation. Not that it didn’t exact costs for some of those leaders.

The only level in the hierarchical structure of the RPD that had its vacancy rate reduced to zero so far has been upper management. Those vacancies are the only ones that have been completely filled besides detectives who have an MOU protecting those positions going back nearly 20 years. Probably the only reason that rank didn't get depleted though it lost supervisory support.

Efforts must be continued over the long-term to bring staffing levels up above critical levels in several areas both in civilian and in the sworn division as I’m sure most of you realize. To value the contributions of people who work hard in a dangerous profession is to ensure that staffing levels remain at the levels that are needed.

Some of you have been vocal about these issues and that’s made a difference. It hasn’t been always easy I’m sure but it does matter to people in this city.

The employees work very hard but it’s important to not have people burn themselves out as was warned in an audit conducted of the police department by a police practices consultant in 2008. City Manager Brad Hudson’s response was to have the consultant finish out the rest of his contract as long as he didn’t do another audit. But his point was salient to those of us who pay attention. A few of you on this list have the institutional memory to remember what it was like when staffing levels were depleted at different levels in the latter 1990s. That contributed greatly to the turmoil in the following decade and to serious problems leading to great expenditures including monotery.

I think the work ethic of the department is very high. What did puzzle me when some of the newer management arrived and they told employees that the past was the past and it’s time to get back to work. However, even as some members of former management engaged in problematic behavior including decision making, the vast majority of the police department was out doing its job in a much more difficult climate which wasn’t one of their making. As ambassadors for the troubled department while those who created the problems remained much more insulated from the public’s response to what happened last year especially considering that most of the city’s consternation was placed on a mid-level watch commander who successfully overturned a demotion and suspension. That’s something else that could have been acknowledged in the Wikipedia article under the excised Leach section.

As for honoring and valuing the commitment and contributions of the police department’s civilian and sworn employees often in most difficult situations, I definitely agree with that. But there are other ways that the department can honor that that are equally as important as writing Wikipedia articles and again that speaks to why three of you are here including the author. It’s hopefully a good thing that you are here but if last year hadn’t happened as stated, the three newer employees would likely be elsewhere doing other things, perhaps in other positions or vocations. I think it’s important not to forget that, in part because it can remind you of the challenges which lie ahead. To do so doesn’t lessen what you can accomplish, it actually enhances it.

As you know last year, there was the Leach DIU incident and yes that’s in the past and everyone’s moved on but the image that still sticks with me appeared on a 15 minute COBAIN video taken from a police squad car. It depicted two patrol officers, both fairly new, who were talking about what it meant to stop the police chief in a damaged car while he was clearly intoxicated. They talked about him being a threat to their safety as he carried a firearm they couldn’t account for and about what they were to do while they called for supervision. The most disturbing part of that video was when another squad car pulled over to back those officers up for their traffic stop to help ensure their safety in a potentially dangerous situation.

But instead of receiving assistance from this third officer, one of the two already there instead waves him off, warning him to leave the “political train wreck” and then said he wished he could leave too. Two officers out doing their job when most people including the assistant chief are asleep, one cold enough to wear a knit cap who are doing what you called a traffic stop on their own chief. They are clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation but despite being relatively new, they already knew the unwritten rules about stopping the police chief even though they clearly didn’t appear to agree with that code and felt very uncomfortable. There’s no argument available to counter that assessment, it’s right on the recording through their behavior and speech.

It seemed to me that these two officers weren’t honored nor were they respected for the services they provide by their own agency or whoever put into place those unwritten rules for conducting DUI or traffic stops on chiefs and perhaps other “high profile” (as Hudson defined them) people.

It seems to me that if you’re honoring or valuing the commitment and contributions of your officers which you believe is critical, then how did putting two patrol officers in the unenviable position that these two faced in front of a national audience accomplish that? The best way to honor that commitment and service if you’re in a position to do something about it would be to ensure that the rules have changed so no one has to face that same situation and worry how it impacts their careers. That should be something that makes sense to all of you.

That’s why I’d wished that if the Leach incident portion of the Wikipedia was being excised (as if history could be so easily erased) that the language that replaced it could have been more along the lines of providing that information that those changes have been made in ways that both the public and the employees inside the police department can trust. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but to this day, most of the public has no idea what changes were made to prevent that type of incident or anything similar relating to off-duty behavior.

It seems to me that one way to honor and respect the service of your employees in difficult situations is to eliminate any double standards of treatment of different levels of employees and to make it clear through words and behavior that this is being done, and in addition putting it in writing. So that officers in the future don't face similar situations. But that's just my opinion.

Sorry that this is so lengthy but those who know me know that brevity is not my long suit. Rest assured if I ever write a Wikipedia article, it’ll be signed and it will have a table of contents along with plenty of footnotes.


Former Riverside Canine Officer Honored

RIVERSIDE, CA: On Tuesday, August 23, 2011, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz will honor Loren Mitchell for his distinguished service as the first K-9 Handler for the Riverside Police Department. Loren began his career with the Department in 1956. He was an avid fan of the legendary movie dog, RIN TIN TIN; and as a result, developed a keen sense of the potential value of service dogs in police work. In 1958, a homicide suspect was able to elude capture by hiding in an area heavily overgrown with vegetation. Loren recognized that a properly trained police dog would have been able to more safely and far more efficiently search the area and would likely have resulted in the capture of the suspect.

Loren set his mind to convince the Department and then Riverside Police Chief Jack Bennett that Police dogs would be a great benefit to the Department and the community. At the time, Lee Duncan, was a nearby resident of Fairmount Park. Mr. Duncan was a World War I veteran and a renowned dog trainer who had trained Rin Tin Tin for his movie adventures. Duncan was a strong supporter of the concept of police canines and donated one of Rin Tin Tin’s offspring puppies to Mitchell to become the Departments first canine crime fighter.

Officer Mitchell and his canine partner, “PAL,” worked the streets together until 1960 when funding shortfalls forced the department to abandon the program. Ownership of “PAL” had remained with Duncan but the strong bond between Officer Mitchell and the canine “PAL,” was obvious and Mr. Duncan allowed Mitchell to keep him as his own.

Chief Sergio Diaz will honor former Officer Mitchell for his unique and distinctive place in the history of Riverside. The presentation will take place in the City Council Chambers located next to Riverside City Hall at 3900 Main Street. The presentation will commence at 6:30 p.m. Please join the Riverside Police Department, members of the current RPD Canine Unit and the entire City of Riverside in honoring Loren Mitchell for his service to the City as the first Canine Handler of the Riverside Police Department.

Riverside Youth Court Accepting Applications

Riverside Youth Court is accepting applications for its September 17, 2011 training session. The session runs from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm and will be held at the Alvord Unified School District, Professional Development Center, 7377 Jurupa Ave, Riverside, CA.

Riverside Youth Court is an innovative approach to juvenile justice and acts as an early intervention for first-time offenders of misdemeanor crimes. It is designed to give youth between the ages of 10 and 17, who have broken the law and admitted their guilt, a second chance. Those who are eligible for the program will have the case heard in a real courtroom with youth serving as prosecuting and defense attorneys, court clerks, bailiffs and jurors. An actual judge will preside, but the youth jury will determine the sentence. The Riverside Youth Court is also designed to educate youth about the juvenile justice system. Through direct participation, youth court addresses the juvenile’s responsibility for his or her behavior and holds the juveniles accountable to their community and peers. Involvement in youth court, either as a respondent or as a volunteer, increases their respect for the judicial process. Community service hours are given for all training and jury sessions.

The class size is limited to 100 people; seats will be given to the first candidates to complete their reservation online at

Reservations must be submitted by September 9th, 2011

For more information, contact Officer Mark Reddick or Officer Regina Quillen at (951) 826-5959 / 826-5544 or by e-mail,

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