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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Monday, February 06, 2012

Feb. 8, 2012: The RPD and City Revisit an Anniversary

Drinking the Redevelopment Agency Kool-aid and have the city's layoffs already begun?

[Sacramento County's current CEO is on a spending spree]

And what of Brad Hudson's latest adventures up north?


[Mayor Ron Loveridge got someone to provide him with a definition for "crimes of moral turpitude"]

More mayoral candidates are preparing to come aboard as the current mayor asks those around him,
"What is a crime of moral turpitude?"
Fortunately one of the councilman looked up the definition on his Ipad.


Riverside Police Officers' Association's new contract up for City Council approval.

This new contract includes amendments in the detective's promotional process and an agreement to "meet and confer" between the city and union about the department's controversial transfer policy.

Still up is the RPOA Supervisory Unit's contract to be completed and approved by all parties.

And the least transparent process this week....

City Council Redistricting!

Stay tuned....

Roger Boisjoly


Whistle blew on problems with the Challengers booster rockets which caused the fatal 1986 explosion

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

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

"The public will never know anything about that investigation, any discipline that may or may not be given. By law, none of that can be disclosed."

---Then Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson just telling it like it is.

"Bro don't...You're good dude...We're Code 4, this is a political nightmare...Dude just leave. Go 10-8."

---Patrol officer Grant Linhart to another officer passing through the area of the stop.

"I don't recall anything. It was a nightmare."

[Former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach in younger days sitting with representatives of the State Attorney General at a city council meeting in 2001]


(Feb. 9, 2010)

Rumors are emerging of some intrigue surrounding the police department over an alleged incident during the weekend. Is there more to come or is it just a rumor?

Confirmed: Chief Russ Leach crashes vehicle on early Monday morning, Details sketchy but conflicting information about circumstances of accident. But major questions are being asked about what led to the earlier accident and a later traffic stop by Riverside Police Department officers involving Leach inside a damaged vehicle after numerous 911 phone calls came in involving a black vehicle throwing off sparks while it was being driven in Riverside. The vehicle was later stopped by officers after they allegedly tailed it for a period of time. Then the report writing began...

What's left of Leach's city-issued Chrysler 300 sitting in a cargo bay held for evidence or merely for insurance purposes.

Former Riverside Police Sgt. Frank Orta who wrote the traffic incident report then contacted his inlaw, Councilman Andrew Melendrez after allegedly fearing for his safety after a conversation with a management team member several hours after the incident

[Orta's recommendation was to simply file the report away and take no further action. However, the report soon took on a life of its own]

“Don’t talk to blogs. Don’t talk to the press. We are a family.”

[Interim Chief John DeLaRosa tried to rally the troops behind him at roll call sessions until one detective stood up and said no, soon costing him his career]

“My role in the police department is somewhat limited,”

Then City Manager Brad Hudson said. But was that truly the case and if so, how did Hudson control Leach?

[According to the CHP investigation and unnamed sources, Esquivel did sign the official version of the traffic incident report written by Sgt. Frank Orta if not the version released by City Hall. An internal power play near the top soon left Esquivel permanently on the sidelines. ]

It's hard to remember who won the Super Bowl or even who played into it the day after it happens if you're not much of a football fan. But in 2010, there were other reasons for that memory loss. That was the Super Bowl Sunday where the Riverside Police Department maintained sobriety checkpoints that its police chief, Russ Leach had advertised. Yet that was also the day that Leach drove while intoxicated with alcohol and prescription medications through Riverside without hitting a single checkpoint.

Two police officers, Grant Linhart and Jeremy Miller weren't even paying attention to Leach on the early morning hours around 2 a.m. of Feb. 8. They were located near the intersection of Arlington and Rutland dressed in uniform and one wearing a knit cap to ward off the winter chill while dealing with another situation. Then they see the Black Chrysler 300 driving past them, throwing off sparks because the tires are missing, only the rims of the wheels left to propel the car forward where the driver takes it. '

They leave their current situation and take pursuit of the car which they suspect has some serious problems. The car moves unsteadily ahead of them for a while before it finally pulls over to a stop. Then when they proceed carefully, exercising caution given that the first few moments of a traffic stop can be hazardous, to speak with the driver.

A hand reaches out through the window from inside the car with a badge in its grasp. And from there, the nightmare began.

Soon enough the two patrol officers realized that the man behind the wrecked vehicle was their own chief. One does just before the other and it's clear that they both knew the serious political and professional implications of having to treat their boss as a "subject" and then perhaps a "suspect" of a crime. Neither of them had many years on the force but already they knew that it wasn't going to be an ordinary traffic stop, no they would have to deal with their own police chief.

The same chief who on better days might have shaken their hands after they were sworn in on the force and maybe in passing since, given that in his final years Leach largely isolated himself from his officers and wasn't as much a visible presence. They saw signs of intoxication, reddened eyes, repetitive speech and soaked pants and they knew that he probably carried his city-issued firearm. Meaning that if their boss was intoxicated and armed, then potentially he could harm or kill them if they weren't careful. So they discussed the issue of whether he was packing between themselves as well. One of them said a bit nervously that he saw the chief move his hand towards the center console between the two seats. At that moment, perhaps Leach had appeared to be any individual who might pose a threat to an officer during a traffic stop but reality wouldn't allow them to linger on those thoughts for very long.

He was still their chief and it's clear that these two young men knew there'd be hell to pay somewhere for the choices they had to make whether they were right or wrong, in policy and by procedure or not. Even if the ultimate decisions to make were taken out of their hands by others higher up in the ranks. But as the primary responders, it was entirely possible that their own actions could be held to answer by others.

One of them aptly described the situation as a "train wreck" so much so that he warned backup officers away from the stop. An impulsive action to spare others what he and the other officers were facing because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they were also in the right place because who knows what might have happened if they hadn't been there, hadn't pulled Leach over. That action by itself might have saved lives including that of their police chief. But that's about all that was saved in the aftermath that followed.

But watching and listening to the two officers struggle with the nightmare that interrupted their graveyard shift was like being a voyeur into the part of the police department that most people always suspected existed but never actually wanted to see. The fact that in this police department and clearly others all people were treated equally but some were more equal than others including inebriated police chiefs.

A retired high ranking law enforcement officer once told me he had pulled over an inebriated county board supervisor and that individual had been driven home without arrest or citation. What else was there to do, he and others said, if I wanted to keep my job and my career alive? So the crisis that hit the Riverside Police Department was hardly unique but that didn't make it any less painful to so many people. But the fact is that this department and others in the Inland Empire had been giving Leach preferential treatment for some time before the last time Leach drove inebriated as a police chief.

The two police officers probably didn't know Leach's complicated history anymore than they appeared to know him. In fact, they seemed to know the black Chrysler 300 without plates as being associated more with the chief than the man who drove it that night. That's clear in one officer's phone conversation with their sergeant.

These two men knew enough that it would be awkward to detain their own boss but they likely didn't know that the police department's management and possibly that of the city allegedly had its own game plan in place when the police chief drank to the point of inebriation. To essentially not arrest or even cite him for DUI but to make sure someone gave him a ride home safely and allegedly, other agencies in the region outside of the Riverside Police Department played into this game plan one way or another.

When the officers activated their lights to pull over the vehicle, they had activated their Cobain video camera installed inside the vehicle and the traffic stop would be documented.The Cobain video of the traffic stop can be found here. The recording though disconcerting to watch and hear does provide valuable insight into much more than what's going on with two patrol officers.

Below are excerpts from the video. Snatches of conversation that took place during an approximately 15 minute recording.

"This is way above us bro... if it goes away it's their call."

---Patrol officer, while Leach is calling DeLaRosa on the phone

Miller and Linhart were two officers assigned to the department's graveyard shift or Shift A as it's called on the patrol log sheets. Both of them had been hired during Leach's tenure as police chief and both of them had completed their probational periods some years earlier. They were supervised that night by Sgt. Frank Orta, who had worked for years in the department's traffic motor division. He had a fairly distinguished career including being involved in the arrest of the notorious serial killer William Suff and had originally planned to retire at the end of 2009. But he had decided to stay on until June 2010 in part because the department was woefully deficient in terms of its sergeant staffing at the time due to a growing number of vacancies. It would prove to be a fateful decision for Orta.

Their watch commander was another experienced officer, Lt. Leon Phillips who had been promoted by Leach not too long before the incident. He was an officer who would have his faith deeply tested based on actions performed that night. These were the two supervisors out in the field that night, while management personnel including their captain, deputy chief of field operations and investigations and assistant chief all were off-duty.

But before anyone arrived, Miller and Linhart had to deal with the situation in front of them, with the growing realization that it was going to prove to be most challenging. What was wrong with their chief that he had no clue how "totaled" his car looked? Was he carrying his service weapon and if so where was it? Guns and alcohol make dangerous partners and if both were involved with the chief, how would that be handled?

"He's reaching under the seat dude, that makes me nervous..."

---Patrol officer to other just before Leach gets out of his car

Then at some point Leach gets his cell phone out and starts making calls to people to come help him. Among those called were a then Internal Affairs sergeant who was a close friend, a girlfriend and of course, Leach's immediate subordinate Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa.

"Hey John, it's Russ..."

----Former Chief Russ Leach on cell phone to Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa before Sgt. Frank Orta arrived onscene.

"Who's John. I'm like who's John..."

---Patrol Officer Grant Linhart to CHP investigators

But the two officers already knew by then that they couldn't handle the situation by themselves and so they took the option that they had available to them in situations where they needed assistance from a more experienced supervisor, which is to call for a field sergeant. They took the appropriate action and weren't guilty at all of giving Leach preferential treatment. Too bad, some of those above them couldn't say the same.

"So I put my head in the car and I'm really looking and I get a side view of the driver, looks like an old man, kind of get a frontal view and then he just kind of glanced my way and then I was like, "Oh Crap. That's the chief. The chief." I immediately went over the top and I'm like "Miller" and I pointed down and I'm like "it's Chief One"." He motions to me with a hand signal, you now the telephone to his ear, and he's like "Call the Serge".

---Officer Grant Linhart to CHP investigators during his interview.

"Serg, hey can you come up to our stop? We're at Arlington and Rutland and ah.I'll tell you. You'll know who it is. It's a black no plates Chrysler 300. Really nice and I think you know who drives that kind of car."

---RPD officer to then Sgt. Frank Orta

Orta who was in the same vicinity as Phillips was when he got the officers' call for supervisory support drove out to the scene and Phillips showed up either at the same time or shortly after. Accounts of the situation by sources say that there was a lieutenant, at least one sergeant and the two officers at the scene.

The sergeant had this observation to share with CHP investigators about when he first arrived at the scene of the traffic stop.

"And as I got within arms' distance, he just stuck the phone at me and he said it's the Assistant Chief John DeLaRosa. So I thought that was odd. You know, so they handed me the phone and so he goes "Hey Frank what's going on there"? I said "I don't know I just got here. " He goes, well he goes, is he drunk?"

---Sgt. Frank Orta about a phone conversation with DeLaRosa, to CHP investigators

Judging from the discussion on the Cobain video tape, it seemed Orta wasn't thrilled to get the news about Leach but that he would come on over from the Magnolia Police Center to supervise. But Orta's words were critical because according to what he said, it was DeLaRosa who raised the question of whether or not Leach was intoxicated and it was the first question he asked of Orta. At least one of the officers, Orta and Phillips all told investigators that they had mentioned that Leach appeared intoxicated. DeLaRosa on the other hand said he had no idea and hadn't been told that Leach had been intoxicated. What's strange about that is that given Leach's history in this area and the likelihood that DeLaRosa would have known all or most of it, that DeLaRosa wouldn't have had stronger suspicions that Leach had been intoxicated again.

But what happened when it came to the police department's or city's own investigators trying to decide who to believe, the three subordinate employees or the highest ranking management employee that wasn't intoxicated, apparently some decision maker sided with the assistant chief on every point of disagreement with a larger number of lower ranking employees. These occurrences would later form the major thrust of Phillips complaint that this had compromised the investigation, one that at least initially had turned him into the scapegoat of the entire scandal.

***We break into this blog posting to pass on a public service announcement. City Hall has declared at a public meeting that it does have a Fraud and Audit Hotline. A service representative can be reached at (951) 826-2232, again the number is (951) 826-2232. We know return to our previously scheduled program.***

Another important part of drafting a timeline of the traffic stop involving Leach is created through use of the city's listing of the phone calls that were made by employees using city-issued phones during the incident and the day afterward. Leach had made his own phone calls but then so had others at the scene as this means of communication began to spread out like the branches of a tree.

The Riverside Police Department Phone Tree
(What's Missing are the phone calls from City Hall)

2:51 a.m.: RPD Officers Grant Linhart and Jeremy Miller stop Leach's banged up city-issued Chryler 300. Orta responds to their call for a supervisor within several minutes.

2:53 a.m. Leach calls friend and current or former Internal Affairs Sergeant Marcus Smail who told Press Enterprise he missed the call. Leach makes three unidentified phone calls within first 30 minutes. Smail apparently didn't work on the department's internal investigation of the incident although assigned to that division.

3:02 a.m. Orta calls Phillips

3:10 a.m. DeLaRosa calls Phillips. Why did he decide to call him at this time of the morning anyway? Alas, the phone records didn't help there.

3:21 a.m. Phillips calls DeLaRosa's phone

4:04 a.m. Phillips calls DeLaRosa and both calls last about three minutes in duration

Oh wait, here are the known ones from City Hall:

9-10 a.m. (time varies) Anonymous woman calls Mayor Ron Loveridge's office to talk about Leach incident. At least one other councilman said that an anonymous woman contacted him sometime that day.

1:24 p.m. Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis calls Leach, about four hours after woman tipped off Loveridge's office. Loveridge who was out of the office at the time had said that when contacted, he had made inquiries at Hudson's office about the incident. City Manager Brad Hudson doesn't use his city-issued cell phone to make a phone call that day until 5:08 p.m. and it's not clear whether he ever tried to contact his direct employee through this cell phone on Feb. 8 though it doesn't appear that he did.

4:44 p.m. Loveridge's earliest call by his city issued cell phone that day but if he was out of the office and was notified by his office about the anonymous phone call why is there no record of that call? And again, why is there a big delay between the morning tip and the city manager's office now saying it was notified in the afternoon?

5:08 p.m. Earliest phone call made by Hudson's city issued phone. Really?

Okay there were other phone calls that weren't included on this list like the one that Orta made to his in-law Councilman Andrew Melendrez not long after the incident where he expressed concerns about it. That means that as far as what's known in the public record (in this case the CHP investigative report) Melendrez was the first city official to learn of the incident. Then the mayor followed after his office received a phone call from a mysterious woman about the Leach incident at about 9am. When the mayor and other elected officials found out followed by city management, they didn't go out and write a press release informing the rest of the city's residents, no they apparently both tried to find more information about what happened and then engaged in what was likely intended to be a coverup of the entire incident. After all, that's what usually is going on when concerns are raised about records depicting an incident start disappearing. And it's not like the city hadn't had to do it before involving Leach. Hudson as Leach's boss had denied knowing of any such or even that Leach had any issues or problems with alcohol. However, there's a very good chance that's not the truth. What if Hudson knew the whole time about that and other problems pertaining to Leach and used them to keep him in check? It more than appeared that Hudson and his assistant city manager, Tom DeSantis had pretty much controlled the police department, micromanaging it down to the last paperclip so where did they get their authority and power to do just that?

City Attorney Greg Priamos was exempted from producing even a redacted listing of phone calls he made from his city-issued device citing attorney/client privilege. It's not officially very clear when exactly the city's own legal counsel was brought into the loop. But then the most common theme of the recent charter review process was limiting the scope of the city manager's authority and powers from overseeing internal audits to hiring and firing the public utilities manager. And joining in on this bandwagon was Priamos who proposed the ballot initiative to abolish the city manager's authority to have final approval of personnel decisions made by the city attorney and city clerk. No doubt, that was much more fresh in Priamos' mind this time than back during the last charter review process in 2004 because in the interim between then and 2011, lay the Hudson management regime.

Priamos as he once told someone has two main functions as city attorney. The first is to protect the city council and mayor. When asked from what, he allegedly couldn't answer that question with anything but silence. But anyway, let's move onto the second responsibility which is to protect the city from civic liability. By banning access to his city issued phone during the period of time during and after the Leach incident under "attorney/client privilage", it's not clear which of these two main responsibilities is driving Priamos' action or whether it's both of them. But given that both Leach and then later Hudson would file claims of various types against the city, it was clear that pretty soon Priamos would have his hands full.

In 1984, the Riverside Police Department and many of its employees were involved in motion picture making. They made credited appearances as "Riverside police officers" in the movie, Killpoint which starred Richard Roundtree.

[A 1984 action movie that starred many officers in the Riverside Police Department including the watch commander and the man who tried to fire him.]

But what happened on Feb. 8, 2010 wasn't quite like a movie. Phones lines to City Hall and the police department soon lit on fire when news got out further than the city would have liked about what had happened during those early morning hours. As it turned out, it wasn't going to be business as usual this time and it would no longer be secret.

Within several days after exposure, Leach was put on paid administrative leave for medical reasons as the city begin to hammer out a medical retirement. Hudson announced that he would personally oversee the "independent" investigation that would be reviewed by former Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask, now a partner at Best, Best and Krieger. But strangely enough, it would be only the actions of those in the police department that would be investigated, not anyone including Hudson inside City Hall. It became clear soon enough why that was the case when revelations that certain denizens past and present at City Hall had been quite busy decking themselves out like cops, creating their own badges, getting cold plated cars to drive (sometimes crookedly) around town (or across patches of untamed fields strewn with errant fence posts).

For some, just cars with untraceable plates (which were of course illegal for city officials) weren't enough, they wanted police radios, reversible tires and in at least once case police lights to "roll" into those critical incidents. How was all this illegal and very unethical conduct able to happen and who called the shots?

But for the fearless duo of Hudson and DeSantis, they took it a step further by acquiring firearms owned by the city that were sold to them by an unlicensed dealer, the police department. After the State Attorney General's office weighed in, they laundered the sale through a private gun dealership. What came clearer when these revelations came to light as a result of litigation filed by two former police lieutenants was why Hudson wanted to institute an "independent" investigation he could tightly control by establishing his own parameters. It also explains why a bulk of the energy and likely money invested in the "independent" investigation was spent essentially doing a witch hunt of any whistle blowers.

Of course, the city council and mayor went right along with it just like they went along with everything else. When it came to the Leach incident and these embarrassing scandals, the city government had little to say and even fewer questions to ask at least publicly.

***We break into this blog posting to pass on a public service announcement. City Hall has declared at a public meeting that it does have a Fraud and Audit Hotline. A service representative can be reached at (951) 826-2232, again the number is (951) 826-2232. We know return to our previously scheduled program.***

Chris Lanzillo who would later be hired by the police defense firm, Lackey, Dammeier and McGill had been a detective and a former Riverside Police Officers' Association president. According to the lieutenants' lawsuit, he had been warned by Esquivel that he had a target sign on his back in part because of the research being done by leaders of the two police unions into what city management had been doing. But it wasn't until he was sitting in a roll call session that was visited by DeLaRosa that his career trajectory suddenly altered its course. DeLaRosa and his band of captains had gone on tour to speak to officers about the importance of family unity, well the thin blue line really, and that they needed to stick together and circle the wagons against any attempts to find out what had been going on related to the incident involving their police chief. But was that what had really been happening, or were management employees closet to Leach exploring their own options for advancement when it became clear that Leach's near decade reign would be coming to an abrupt end.

Deputy Chief Mike Blakely had allegedly served as an important mentor to DeLaRosa whose meteoric rise in the ranks was unprecedented, well at least since that of former chief, Jerry Carroll who rose from sergeant to chief in about five years. "Johnny D. " or "Johnny Who" was temperament wise much different than the more extroverted Esquivel. But some say they both wanted to put in for the chief's position when it opened up, but as it turned out neither would get it. DeLaRosa became interim picked by Hudson even though it was clear he'd be much more of a central figure in the "independent" investigation than Esquivel. The only upper management team member who would survive was the only one who knew how to do so and that was Blakely.

The problem with Blakely is that he wound up as a defendant along with the police department on a growing number of lawsuits and claims for damages filed by at least four police employees in less than six months. He oversaw an Internal Affairs Division which put on a seminar in how to treat management employees with kid gloves and lower ranking officers like criminals, using them as pawns on a chess board to launch a counter strike against the management member treated with kid gloves. One of the more shameful episodes being how the division treated Officer Neely Nakamura starting with in the parking lot at Magnolia Police Center in 2010. How the city views these lawsuits and the defendants listed them will be largely revealed by the legal decisions it makes involving them.

But every investigation done by the Internal Affairs Division (except maybe the Hudson "independent" probe) in early 2010 became shunted down the list replaced by the number one prioritized investigation which was to investigate Lanzillo for a complaint that was filed by the supervisor of an officer who attended a diversity training class and said he made a racial comment. But then they went back three years to see if he'd lied about making an earlier comment, meaning he didn't actually make it. They relied on interviews of people who didn't recall him making it which could have been due to faded memory over time or concern that the Internal Affairs investigators would ask them why they never reported it if they did recall him making it. But Lanzillo was fired by DeLaRosa allegedly for lying when he said he made a prior racial comment.

But what was really ironic about that was that a former Internal Affairs lieutenant while in that assignment made a racial comment during use of force training offered by the city attorney's office. That lieutenant wasn't disciplined for making that comment, was able to retire and then get another job at City Hall. When the lieutenant had made the racial comment, his division had been in the process of investigating a detective for making the same racial derogatory term that he had, this one in a roll call training session. Initially that detective faced a suspension but after the whole non-discipline thing involving the lieutenant of the division investigating him, the discipline given to that detective was somewhat reduced.

The lesson that differential treatment effectively taught was that if you're higher up in rank and you made a racial comment, then you not only didn't get disciplined, you could get benefits like another job with the same city. But if you're a detective, then you get disciplined although if the guy in charge of the investigation that results in your discipline doesn't get disciplined for the same thing, you might get it reduced. That would be like if an officer and a lieutenant both got involved in off-duty fights with other people, the officer might get disciplined and the lieutenant might not even get investigated. In other words, a double standard of conduct and professionalism would be established. That helps foster a situation where a police chief would get a ride home instead of a jail cell or even a written citation for a hit and run and DUI investigation and that's what even intoxicated, he apparently expected to receive based on the information that was provided of events on Feb. 8.

But Lanzillo's situation wasn't just about how he was treated in comparison to the former lieutenant. It was that the interest in what had happened in the diversity training class became of more keen interest after he had attended one of those roll call bull sessions. Apparently, he had challenged DeLaRosa's comments rejecting them and asking him why it had taken so long (over 30 hours) for him to contact the CHP to take over (or really just start) the criminal investigation involving Leach. Not too long later, Lanzillo received his notice of intent to terminate on the same day as Phillips allegedly received his own. The investigation against Lanzillo began after his confrontation with DeLaRosa in that roll call and after it hit the public arena, a missive was allegedly sent out of Orange Street Station's second floor to Internal Affairs in downtown Riverside's bus terminal to make it the main priority of the division's investigation schedule.

Lanzillo's Skelly hearing in front of the man he'd challenged in roll call didn't last very long and in less than 10 minutes deliberation by DeLaRosa, Lanzillo was fired from the police department where he'd put in at least 15 years of service.

Phillips had been pulled out of his watch command duties some time earlier and relegated into the "penalty box" at Orange Street Station where Lanzillo and at least four other officers were assigned in investigation limbo. But Phillips wasn't keeping idle, he spent his down time preparing and researching his case. Allegedly, he had been given a notice of intent to terminate to get him to be more amiable to accepting a suspension and/or demotion back to sergeant but he wouldn't budge. He had lawyered up and he was able to prove his case to city management and reverse the suspension and demotion to a written reprimand. But then, what kind of investigation would penalize a mid-line supervisor so his pension value was lowered while allowing the management employee that oversaw him and the chief who was later convicted of a DUI to keep their pensions unchanged?

Phillips was castigated by some at City Hall including as part of the "independent" investigation while the employee at the top of the management chain just below Leach was put in the interim position and not criticized in the same manner before the investigation was even completed. The treatment of Phillips provided more case lessons on the buck stopping at mid-line supervision instead of in the assistant chief's office, the chief's office and even Hudson's office. After all, if Leach had issues with alcohol, it would seem that Hudson would be in a greater position to address it than Phillips.

So despite all this talk from City Hall about how preferential treatment wasn't the pattern and practice and wouldn't be tolerated, the investigation itself was rife in the pattern and practice of preferential treatment including that Hudson afforded himself. The people who were most culpable got their pensions, those that were fired and/or retaliated for whistle blowing or criticizing the very questionable actions of their superiors especially in front of others had to sue to get retirements. In other words, it was clear that despite the fallout from the Leach incident, it was still pretty much business as usual.

But what of the future?

The New Regime

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it"

---Edmund Burke

After Leach faded into the sunset along with all of his cabinet members, the city hired its police chief Sergio Diaz from the outside. Although the city and department had been promised way back earlier in the decade that it would hire inside after Leach, it wasn't in the position to do that based on how Leach's tenure played out in terms of building its management team.

Hudson announced a recruitment and search for the new police chief and then created a "blind" panel of community leaders, police union representatives and a police practices consultant. The community leaders couldn't ask their own questions but only those that were provided by Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout. None of the panelists were able to talk to one another at all about the process or their opinions about any of the candidates, they could only talk about these issues to Hudson in one-on-one interviews at the process' end. It's not clear how some of the panelists voted. The police unions had allegedly been instrumental in persuading former Asst. Police Chief Mike Smith (who now heads investigations in the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office) to go out for the position and he'd been branded one of the leading candidates.

One finalist reportedly had been told at a social gala by an employee at City Hall that he'd been eliminated from consideration for the chief's position. This candidate then allegedly had threatened to take legal action against the city for its unprofessional behavior in telling one of its seventh floor employees his status in the process when this employee was entirely outside of the process. Soon after, he was added to the list of finalists for interviews.

Remarkably all or most of the community leaders all liked best the same candidate, the assistant chief of Long Beach. It's not clear which members had Diaz as their first choice or how they judged him. The only thing that's known is that when the final decision was made by Hudson, he picked Diaz.

Diaz was sworn in on the last day of June by then Mayor Pro Tem Steve Adams who would have missed out if the city had stuck with the original planned swearing in date of July 1, the new fiscal year. It became clear that at least two upper management positions would be filled from the outside and though the positions had been vested for years, they would somehow be converted without a public vote to "at will" but only for the two newcomers. And so former Pasadena Police Department interim Chief Chris Vicino and former Los Angeles Police Department management employee Jeffrey Greer joined Diaz' cabinet. By then, Diaz had gone against the recommendations of City Hall and picked Blakely to be his deputy chief but Blakely did have much more experience and skills than anyone else in the captain's rank. Also from the time that Diaz had arrived at the police department, he had counted DeLaRosa among his most trusted advisers.

Very good luck for those officers who had been members of that team as several of them were included in the first round of promotions and others were assigned close to Diaz. The new chief then started the difficult task of pushing the department into a new direction away from the scandalous practices that blew up earlier in 2010. He went out into the community, got involved in dancing competitions, had a tamale festival and even directed the arrest of a fifty cent newspaper bandit filling in his new role as "Charles 1". But concerns soon rose about his enforcement of several departmental policies and procedures including the special assignment/transfer policy. Not to mention clashes and highly emotional and colorfully worded exchanges between management employees and also others. Not to mention more than a few from management about this blog in various venues.

Vicino worked diligently on the Strategic Plan which is still awaiting release to the public and edited a Wikipedia page. His essay is the one on the right hand side of the page. It's not bad and in areas, an improvement on the original but as you can see, he did delete the entire section on the Leach DUI incident from his version. That's one way to deal with a historical lesson is to omit it from memory but what would have been better was to just leave it and state that the department and city have put measures in place to ensure this type of preferential treatment never happens again on our watch. That would have been a much more powerful message for the department's leadership to send rather than the message it did send which was let's just pretend it never happened and move on without even showing that we've learned from it.

What's troubling about something that might seem so minor to many, almost like making syntax changes in an essay is that is that the kind of attitude that the department's management will bring into a crisis of confidence that results from a breakdown in accountability? When the management sees any signs of any problem in the department, will it investigate, and then if serious problems are uncovered, address and fix those problems? What if instead it just decides to shut down any examination or critical exercise of anything that looks like it might be a problem and then bury its head in the sand? Will it take the attitude that it's better not to know or find out than to investigate, confront and deal with it?

The management has already been tested by this scenario more than once and what it's done has shown others the answer to these questions.

But the question on this anniversary begs to be asked is what would this department's management do if placed in the same scenario as the Leach incident with an employee? Through its actions so far, the management has effectively answered that question and there are those who know just as definitively the answers.

When employees break the law off-duty or engage in behavior that may be criminal, will they be investigated like the regular public or will it be treated instead as not worthy of attention?

When asked to book employees who break the law or engage in behavior that may be criminal will the management walk away and say I don't want to hear about it?

When an employee breaks the law off-duty or engages in behavior that might be criminal will management team members address that employee's behavior or try to seek preferential treatment for that employee?

When an employee breaks the law off-duty or engages in behavior that might be criminal will it be addressed immediately by management or will management wait until there's liability of public exposure?

If there's evidence of a serious problem, will management respond to it immediately and be concerned about remedying it or will instead shy away from any further exploration of that problem and not address it all?

Does the reality of the department matter more or does the image it projects to the public?

What are or will be the answers to these questions? Have they already been asked and answered? Would these answers provide confidence to city residents that the status quo that existed on Feb. 8, 2010 is really gone forever? The answers to these questions will tell anyone whether or not the city or department would make the same mistakes it made previously in the Leach incident by assigning preferential treatment to certain individuals at the expense of everyone else.

The rest of the city can only watch and wait and hope that history won't repeat itself.

***We break into this blog posting to pass on a public service announcement. City Hall has declared at a public meeting that it does have a Fraud and Audit Hotline. A service representative can be reached at (951) 826-2232, again the number is (951) 826-2232....Oh never mind...don't call us, we'll call you....***

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older