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, April 27, 2012

City Hall Clashes with Two State Agencies Over Its Assets

The trial in the killing of Riverside Police Department Officer Ryan Bonaminio began today 

Opening arguments began today in a courtroom packed to the limit as many other people waited outside the lobby because there were not enough seats. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputy  assigned to Judge Jean Leonard's courtroom experienced his own frustration at having to turn people away, adding that they were able to seat people in the front rows of Dept. 54. Some witnesses who were subpoenaed showed up to testify and others to find out what was going on inside the locked courtroom. The mainstream media showed up in force and were seated in their own row. Family and friends of Ryan Bonaminio including those wearing military uniforms were seated in two rows in the back.

After opening arguments, the first witnesses for the prosecution were questioned by lead prosecuting attorney with the Riverside County District Attorney's office Mike Hestrin. They were cross-examined by one of two Riverside County Public Defender's office attorneys Gail O'Rene.  

The prosecution's case was that the crime was a first degree murder with special circumstances whereas O'Rene's argument was that the jury has to decide whether it was murder in the first degree or second. 

First up in the witness stand was a woman named Robinson who had originally crossed paths with the defendant Earl Ellis Green on a highway after a vehicle collision. She had initially said she thought he might be intoxicated based on how he was driving. He had asked her if he had hit her car. 

Later, she followed him while talking to 911 dispatchers into Fairmount Park. She had hung up with the dispatcher after the dispatcher had told her to pull over and wait for the responding police officer. She saw the big rig park and a squad car with flashing lights.  She was about 34 feet away and both vehicles were to the right of her..

What was the next thing you noticed, Hestrin asked her. 

"The gunshots..."

She said she heard about five gunshots all in a row about a minute after the vehicles stopped. She called 911 back.  The defendant returned to his truck acting calmly and got into the vehicle sitting there for about a minute. Then drove slowly towards Market. He did a u-turn as Robinson followed him. 

O'Rene's cross-examination was very short. and was mostly to clarify details, followed by an even briefer re-examination by Hestrin. The prosecutor who wishes to be District Attorney one day almost got ahead of himself several times but laid out his questioning in a fairly methodical manner. 

Stephen James McQueen was on the witness stand next. A homeless man living with his fiancee Susan inside his car. He had volunteered many times with Center of Spiritual Living including with landscaping and he and Susan had keys to the bathroom. They had stopped in their Nissan Ultima 2006 so Susan could use the restroom on their way to crossing the Santa Ana river at Market near an industrial yard to sleep.  At about 9:45, McQueen had been leaning against the driver's side of his car smoking a cigarette and looking at the restroom. But then the atmosphere in Fairmount Park changed. 

"I noticed a pursuit occur in front of me."

Between an individual who'd been running and a police officer chasing him. He heard a loud voice yell "Stop" three times and then glanced over his right shoulder.  He saw an individual coming to the top of the bank near his car. The man was running diagonally acdorr the parking lot and passed about 4-5 feet in front of where McQueen stood. When he asked if he could see the individual's face, he said "no not that great".  He noticed a ball cap and jacket.  About five seconds separated him from the police officer in pursuit.  He didn't notice anything in the man's hand.  But he did hear a loud voice speaking. 

"Let me see your hands. Let me see your hands."

 The man ran diagonally and out of sight behind the stairs. There was a flower bed that the man had tended there. He knew there were sprinklers for irrigation but didn't know when they were activated including that night. 

"I saw the officer lose his footing and go down."

The officer was barely on his knee and backside in the mud.  Somebody came out from behind the stairs at the officer and it appeared to be the same guy. This time McQueen testified that he could see an object in his right hand. 

"I would say like a pipe."

 Within a couple of seconds of the officer's fall, the man swung at him with three quick consecutive blows, and McQueen raised his right hand over above his shoulder in demonstration.  The officer put his hands to shield his head.  Then he got back on his feet with the man 4-5 feet away facing him and the stairs. The area was lit with a double bulb parking light as well as lighting on the planter.  He heard the officer shout  loudly as he shielded his face and head. 

"Don't do it. Don't do it."  

Leonard dismissed the court for lunch recess.


The courtroom opened and McQueen resumed the witness stand to continue his eyewitness account of the events of Nov. 7, 2010.  He said that the officer had put his hands out in front of him. He appeared pretty calm but when he told the man not to do it, his voice had been a little louder. The man held something "dark" in his hands, which McQueen demonstrated for the court by holding both of his hands out together in a fist, as if he had a handgun and was pointing it at someone.  Three shots were fired, in succession. 

The first didn't appear to affect the officer. The next two there was movement, McQueen said, and the officer began falling. Only a few seconds after the officer had slipped on the pavement. The man had been walking very slowly barely at all towards the officer when he fired the shots. The officer began to fall forward after the second shot was fired. At some point, the man had crouched with knees bent and by the time he fired the first and last shot McQueen said he witnessed the hands with the gun had been pointing slightly downward while his arms were slightly bent. 

McQueen said that the man then left quickly across the parking lot towards Market. McQueen went to the bathroom to make sure Susan was safe, telling her to stay put and then tried to follow at a sprint where the man had run to see what vehicle he might be driving.  He did see a yellow big rig parked. Soon after, officers appeared.

He's called the man here because there wasn't a point when Hestrin asked McQueen if he could identify the man inside the courtroom meaning Green. But he'd testified earlier that he hadn't been able to make out much of his face. He did say that the man who had been pursued by the officer and who had fallen out of his line of sight by the staircase was the one who did the shooting.  The defense said in opening arguments that Green had shot Bonaminio to death but that its argument was that it was second degree murder. McQueen's testimony would be part of both sides' presentation of their counter arguments during trial as the eyewitness to the shooting and thus could prove to be one of many important components of the trial. 

The public defenders cross-examined McQueen who seemed a little nervous but answered questions. Judge Jean Leonard told him that she knew it wasn't something he did every day and when people chuckled it wasn't to laugh at him but to break the tension of stress due to the nature of the case.  He asked if it had rained that day and McQueen said no, not at that point but there had been drizzle later. 

When asked about the officer and where his right hand had been, McQueen said it had been resting on his holster on his right side when the officer had been in the pursuit though McQueen hadn't seen the gun.  

McQueen said when asked that he hadn't been drinking that day and he didn't do drugs. 

Next up after he departed was Susan, who identified herself as McQueen's fiancee.  They had been passing the Center of Spiritual Living where both of them volunteered when she had to stop to use the bathroom. They just happened to be there, she testified.

So they stopped and she got out to go to the ladies' room which was in a small detached building away from the church with a door facing the larger building and a window on the opposite wall. 

At about 9:45, she was going to the bathroom while McQueen waited for her by the car. It didn't take her long to go to the bathroom.  What happened next, Hestrin asked. 

"I heard three very loud shots."

A short time after she had heard the sound of running footsteps outside the bathroom and a man's voice yelling three words. 

"Don't do it."


It was hard for her to establish a time frame for how the events unfolded from the footsteps to the shooting.  Time just seemed to slow down, she said.  When she testified, she seemed as if when the words spilled out she couldn't stop which led to objections by O'Rene and Leonard sustaining them and admonishing Susan to stick to answering the questions. She spilled her cup of water at one point and tried to clean it up, apologizing. Leonard told her to stop testifying so she'd not be distracted, the court could wait. Susan did that apologizing again.

The first two shots seemed to come in rapid succession, she said, but between the second and third shot, there was a slight pause.  Then McQueen had rushed up to her and gotten her to the car for safety reasons but she told the court that someone rushed pretty close right behind her. 

The courtroom broke for recess. 

Tweeters Banned?

"My experience is that when you have to use your gavel it's too late."
--Judge Jean Leonard 

When recess ended and everyone filed back inside the courtroom, Leonard's face looked grave and she said they had an issue to discuss before bringing the jurors back inside. It had been brought to her attention that someone was tweeting and it looked like someone from the Press Enterprise.  Brian Rokos an experienced and solid reporter, had been tweeting in court on an Ipad offering a very interesting view of the trial. Many people have been following his tweets which provide insight into what's going on in the courthouse and not just the testimony. It's to help those not there understand the process better he said, and he's right.  

But Leonard who seemed a bit miffed at one of his tweets about her and her gavel banned the tweets, saying he could only use his Ipad to write.  She criticized most of the tweets as not being newsworthy of being what you'd read in an "entertainment magazine." What was odd about it is that she focused most of her words on how she didn't deem them news worthy than any actual harm they'd do which is pretty much the opposite of most hearings involving the media's coverage of trials including high-profile trials.

That it was jeopardizing the process because people might accidentally encounter them. But what's different between tweets and twitter and other media outlets?  The jurors are admonished regularly by Leonard and rightly so not to read what's in the news or internet about the case because their opinions must not be tainted by those of others and factual or other information not presented before them through testimony or exhibits.  And studies and surveys have shown that  most jurors seem to be pretty much into doing what the judge tells them because they want to do their civic duty the best way they know how.   I wondered if she's more concerned about the comments about her than about the case and hopefully I won't be banned if she founds out I wrote this.  For the most part, she seems to be a judge who carefully weighs what she does and pays close attention to the integrity of the record of the case and the conduct of the attorneys.  She injects levity when it's needed in trials like this one and seems patient and sensible but the ruling on the tweets, it'll be interesting if a couple of media outlets are on the phones with their legal counsel right now. It'll be interesting to see if there's a part two to this story.

An Los Angeles Times reporter who admitted sending tweets  was admonished and agreed to it. Court resumed after she made her ruling on the tweets. But I felt a bit old school there with my note book and pen sitting in the public section squeezed in often with other people, amidst all this technology. 

"11-99 Officer Down"

Next up was Sgt. Carla Hardin who was dressed in uniform as she took the witness stand. Hestrin had her there to testify because she had not only been Bonaminio's supervisor on that swing shift but she'd been his field training officer when he did his traffic phase.  That had been back when she did a long stint working "motor" meaning she rode a motorcycle.  Her husband Lt. Vance Hardin watched her testimony through a conference room window in the back. 

She'd been a sergeant since promoted by Chief Sergio Diaz when he arrived in 2010 and started working at that rank in patrol on Aug. 20 that year. She had been an officer since 1995.  

Under direct by prosecutor John Aki, she recalled when she had first met Bonamino. He was about in the middle of his six month field training protocol and started his traffic phase which would last two weeks.  He had gotten there early on that day shift and had been wandering the halls looking around. 

"He came up to me with a big smile on his face," she said, like he looked in the picture that was displayed behind her from his hiring date.  

"He always came to work that way." 

She testified initially about the squad cars and the equipment on them and inside of them. Mobile Data terminals, lights sirens, cages separating the detainees from the officers along with a lot of other equipment. They worked a two-man car and since he'd been training for a while, he knew a lot about it.  She taught him about doing traffic stops, and always keeping officer safety at the forefront because traffic stops carry high risk. 

In August, 2010, Bonaminio worked the C watch which was between 3pm and 1am.  He was part of a six officer squad within that shift assignment. At the beginning of the shift, the sergeants and watch commander would brief the officers on issues and incidents involving the city before they went out into the field. 

Hardin identified herself when asked by her call number, Sam 48.   Bonaminio was known as Charles 118.  

The night of the shooting, she heard on dispatch that there was a call out on a hit and run. She testified that often more information was needed including whether or not the involved motorist knew he had hit someone.  This alleged hit and run incident involved a tractor trailer.  Bonaminio  and an officer from the East NPC (as his backup) headed out to address it. Hardin responded as well from where she was near the Riverside Plaza in her squad car. She knew since it was a traffic stop and she had been Bonaminio's FTO, she could go check it out to see how he handled it.   To give him a bad time. 

"A little rub in," she added. 

When she heard that a pursuit was taking place, she picked up her driving speed as quickly as she could. She went down Magnolia to 14th street and she could see Bonaminio's squad car alone by itself with no other vehicles nearby. 

 She didn't know what had happened and Fairmount Park was so large, it might not be easy to determine where he entered into the park.  She didn't see any big rig. 

She scanned the area in the darkness  to see if she could determine what had happened.  A struggle, any activity but at that point there wasn't much.  Another squad car came out of a side street, one assigned to the North NPC. 

Then she heard someone screaming to her right. 

"Over here. Over here. He's been shot."

It turned out that was McQueen and he was gesturing in the direction of where the officer lay. 

More police units responded and parked so she parked behind them. She exited her vehicle with other officers.

Hardin testified that at first she thought that Bonominio had shot the suspect. But that was not what happened at all as she soon discovered.

"I could see a body lying in the parking lot," she said, "Immediately I recognized it as an officer."

Officers Rogelio Serrato and John Allison were two at the scene.  Serrato quickly got on his radio and said, "11-99 Officer Down".  Hardin recognized the downed officer as Bonamino and went to render aid as she'd been trained to do.  In situations like this where an officer had experienced a "traumatic injury" with no suspect in sight, officers were trained to assist him while keeping officer safety in mind.

"I went to check on his vitals to see if there were any signs of life."

When Hestrin asked her if she found any, she said no. 

She had no idea what had happened and didn't know the circumstances that had led to Bonamino being shot. Serrato took cover behind a nearby tree to scan the area for any suspects.  

Hardin testified that Bonaminio had been lying in a fetal position with his feet on the sidewalk, his body in between there and the asphalt stop where his head lay on "almost like a pillow". 

"Feet were south. Head was north and his face was in an easterly direction."

Because he lay on his right side, she immediately noticed that his department issued handgun was missing. 

The photo that Hestrin put on the Elmo showed blood spattering over the area where he'd been found.

Leonard dismissed the courtroom for the day at 4pm. Testimony of Hardin including cross-examination resumes tomorrow morning.

Appeal:  Denied

In other news, the appeal filed by former Riverside Police Department officer Robert Forman by his attorneys to challenge his two convictions in his 2009 case in relation to sexual assault under the color of authority were denied by the appellate court. which means his convictions will stand. 

 [A recent city council meeting that wasn't popularly attended]

 A familiar Face returned briefly to the canvas to do what he's done before, answer questions under oath.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not on a city computer on networks which have apparently experienced technical difficulties involving this site.  Problems afflicting blogs that City Hall favors, perhaps so, perhaps not.  But whereas some blogs might adopt as slogans, the truth that no one else will print. Others like this one post what the city doesn't want you to read.  As usual, there are some link here that provide information on various issues. City Hall probably doesn't want you to read those links either.

But for those who are interested in finding more about how the city does its financial business, there are thousands of pages of public records accessible to you to research and review yourselves. All you have to do is ask for them. The California Public Records Act gives you that right to ask and receive information. Much of what you'll read under financial information is just written in a language the public's not meant to understand. That's the point, after all to make public information difficult to understand.

Thankfully not at the public libraries in which the city admitted that while trying to restrict certain blogs from city networks, they essentially accidentally included the internet networks for the public libraries. City Hall has been quite frantic with busyness lately, what with legislative aides allegedly being placed on administrative leave for questionable behavior and the growing reality in the halls that the city’s going to be paying the piper for its extravagant spending habits beginning with the so-called Riverside Renaissance.

The city calls it a resounding success, better than expected.  But what's interesting about the report is that it details only the money spent in projects for public use and not the high priority projects that the city invested in before the funds ran dry (gee, sorry downtown library) by private developers including the pricey condos turned pricy rentals, the Raincross Promenade.There's two sides of the Renaissance after all, the public and the private and when the city needs to sell its increasing budget to residents, they pretend that the part of it that greatly rewards its stable of private developers including Mark Rubin doesn't exist.  They also don't talk about the projects that were done, like streets where they improved how they looked and then remembered, oops we need to fix the infrastructure beneath the pavement so they'd rip it up and spend more money doing it all over again.  The double and triple change orders on projects or having a  private contractor do a job action and then decide to have city employees including those in Public Works and Public Utilities do it over again.  Riverside Renaissance has had its good moments on the public sector side but is it leading us into the Dark Ages of debt and uncertainty?  When will the 60% of over $2 billion that was borrowed come up due?  Some how those questions are glossed over in the city's promotional material but for those who pay for sewer and utility use as well as property taxes, these could be very important questions to be answered.

Barber's been busy blogging

Spend, spend, borrow money, purchase bonds, spend, sell bonds, spend, borrow, borrow, and borrow until the well runs dry. It’s too early to really get into the fact that the former police chief, Russ Leach was recently doing one thing that he does well, being deposed for a lawsuit against the city. And it’s indeed running dry, even as the city claims that it’s actually doing much better than other cities. Even as it sees its strategies of trying to manipulate both the Department of Finance and State Comptroller’s offices up in Sacramento go up in flames.

Neither agency succumbed to when making their rulings on the city’s handling of the dismantlement of its Redevelopment Agency. The Department of Finance vetoed about 10% of the obligations and debts owed that were submitted by the so-called (yet heavily stacked) Oversight Board.

Both the agencies provided clear cut information on exactly how they planned to do business. You won't find either link on City Manager Scott Barber's blog. 

Department of Finance FAQs 

(includes different articles on aspects of RDAS, assets and AB26)

The State Comptroller who oversees the handling of Redevelopment properties through a a letter sent by Chiang  that stated that any transfers of properties made after January 1, 2011 had to be reversed, meaning the properties had to be transferred back to the “successor agency”. In Riverside’s case that is Riverside but not quite. The California Planning and Development Report had this to say about the affair.

(excerpt, CPDR)

Controller Warns Cities Against RDA Funny Business By CP&DR Staff on 26 April 2012 - 5:19pm California State Controller John Chiang sent what many cities consider to be an ominous letter, advising them to hand over assets that they may have acquired from redevelopment agencies. 

The letter, dated April 20, instructs cities, counties, and other agencies to cast a wide net to identify assets that may have been improperly transfered following the January 1, 2011 effective date of AB 1X 26, the bill that calls for the dissolution of redevelopment agencies and liquidation of their assets. 

Cities and other entities are ordered to "reverse the transfer" and return all applicable assets to successor agencies, which are charged with liquidating such assets. The order refers to assets transfered both "directly and indirectly" between RDAs and parent jurisdictions. Many agencies had reportedly formed hasty loan agreements and put real assets on the books of their host jurisdictions presumably in order to shield those assets from liquidation. 

The order "applies to all assets including, but not limited to, real and personal property, cash funds, accounts receivable, deeds of trust and mortgages, contract rights, and rights to any payment of any kind." The only exemption is if such assets were involved in a contract with a third party, such as a developer, as of June 28, 2011. The letter warns that cities and counties can expect audits "in the coming weeks." The League of California Cities has announced that its Post-Redevelopment Working Group is working on a response to the letter and will advise cities how to proceed. 

Good God!  How did the city of Riverside EVER allow this to happen?  When people expressed concerns about the placement of two fire stations and two public libraries in the RDA to use as collateral on bonds taken out on the Hyatt Hotel, the city laughed and poo-poohed those of us as alarmists. But unless they fall under the "third party" exemption, then what's going to happen to them?  We will all have to wait and see.  As you know, even the fire stations that cost millions to build were valued out at less than $700,000 when listed as collateral on loans involving the development of a city park.  Why did the city put up fire stations as collateral in the first place?  Because they were so certain that they were "low-risk" not because the loans were but because they were so sure no one would ever buy up a fire station and no governmental agency would seize one away.  But as they recently discovered as did the heavily stacked Oversight Board (headed by Mayor Ron Loveridge who appointed himself), the state agencies are not very sentimental about what buildings were designated to do, they're all about business.  Pleas and tears and other forms of emotional blackmail about fire stations, public libraries and emergency facilities aren't going to sway them. And why the tears now?  If Riverside's City Hall gave a hoot about any of these buildings, it and its denizens would have never put them up at collateral at any level of risk in the first place. So who's misrepresenting itself?

So maybe Fire Stations #13 and #14 might be safe along with the Arlington and Casa Blanca libraries but it's nothing short of insane to take an action that put them at risk in the first place.

What's going to happen to the Fox Theater now?  That question's come up a few times. Probably not much because that property wasn't on the transferred list last year. It will continue to cost more money to run than it's currently bringing in for the foreseeable future and probably wind up on an auction block some time down the road unless its direction and that of downtown is seriously changed. But there are some complicated land deals that took place between non-third party entities that will have to be decided upon.

What's going to happen to various projects including downtown?  The Hyatt Hotel which was bucking serious odds just to survive the grueling first two years in the region of the state most hard hit by hotel and motel foreclosures when news broke that its main source of traffic, the Riverside Convention Center was going to be shut down for those same first two years.

Maybe City Hall better start thinking what it's going to do with a hotel several years down the road due to its amazing business acumen, vision and foresight on this issue.

Which would be a shame because this hotel trumped in importance two lowly fire stations, both newly built and shiny. Both badly needed by the neighborhoods they serve. I can personally say that some of us owe our homes to the work that they do. But then that's just one of many reasons why the use of them as collateral leaves a bad taste behind.

Is there an "exemption" that can save Fires Station 13 from liquidation? And why did the city government put this station and #14 at the mercy of the same state it's demonized? Should we start praying? 

Would Riverside Firefighters Association President Tim Strack chain himself in front of the fire stations if necessary?  Don't worry Tim, you won't be alone. Plenty of people will back you if you fight for our fire stations.

 Because if the city was supposed to transfer the properties back to itself as a Successor Agency, then letters like this one likely wouldn’t be generated. In at least one public meeting, Former Asst. City Manager of Finance/Chief Finance Officer/Treasurer  and now independent contractor Paul Sundeen admitted that the city was commingling money from the RDA accounts into the general fund so that the state wouldn’t take it away. This happened from about March to May 2011 at the time when the city believed that Gov. Jerry Brown was going to dissolve all the RDAs by July 1.

When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, the money magically became un commingled. Was it the same deal with the properties that were abruptly transferred en masse? So it’s back to worrying about these 149 or so properties including two fire stations and two libraries and where they’ll ultimately wind up. Hopefully, not on the auction block to be sold off as assets.

The Southern California Gas Company already read the writing on the wall and announced to its subscribers through emails that it is relocating its payment offices out of the downtown Riverside Public Utilities building to another location. Its current location which it shares with RPU was transferred for some odd reason from the city to the RDA even though technically at the time, it wasn’t in the RDA zone for downtown. So what happened with that property? Obviously for whatever reason the Gas Company which had been there for quite a few years didn’t want to stick around and find out or maybe it was facing a rent increase. Better safe than sorry perhaps.

 This is the realty that the so-called “truth squad” won’t tell you. This is the real truth that the “truth squad” was established to shield from the public. Many a government that engages in questionable behavior has set up its own media outlets to try to distract its public from what’s really going on inside its walls and its impact on the residents it governs. It’s actually was a popular tool used by Communist run governments in the past.

 Those who criticize the city’s excessive spending and especially its massive borrowing must be hitting more than one sensitive nerve if the city’s needing to create a blog of its own to refute those criticisms and concerns. Obviously the one that was already doing this (and is linked to financial contributions by several mayoral candidates who are on the city council) wasn’t doing a good enough job.

The Barber Blog is a perfect example of that, because you can send in your insights and questions and since they kind of disappear into this fog, Barber can then rewrite what you wrote (which he’s done already) into something you probably wouldn’t recognize if you knew exactly what it was that got rewritten. Then Barber essentially sets up what’s called a Strawman Argument to refute in his blog. It’s the perfect tool to offset criticism and unintended comic relief, my personal favorite posting being the one justifying Brad Hudson’s exorbitant spending sprees using discretionary monies. Hey lighten up, the budget’s like $1 billion or something like that so what’s $30, 40 or $50 million? Not anywhere does Barber address the real concern which is many of the line items in Hudson’s bloated discretionary budgets.

 At least he didn’t touch the payouts from the various city departments from Public Works to Development with quite a few in between to former part-time employee Connie Leach who at the time was either married to or planning to divorce the police chief, Russ Leach. Her volunteer-turned salaried turned private contracting part-time job paid her over $670,000 in just several years.  Even if the salary was warranted, why was money from Public Works, Development, Redevelopment and even Park and Recreation not to mention police asset forfeiture funding being used to pay her salary since she worked in Mayor Ron Loveridge's office?  That seems a bit odd don't you think? 

Perhaps that’s the topic of a future blog posting, perhaps not. Not to mention why speaking of Leach, so much of his discretionary funding was spent on San Diego Police Department for purchasing surplus property? Under Leach’s fund and that of Personnel and Training between 2005-2008, thousands of dollars were given to this police department.

 [San Diego Police Department received quite a bit of money from the police department's Office of the Chief and Personnel and Training Divisions between 2005-2008]

Anyway, with the city including its general fund on the hook for quite a bit of debt that will have to be paid, the city’s been circling its wagons threatening to sue the horribly evil mustache twirling state agencies and maybe the feds for good measure.

There's more to say about this including the latest Barber Blog where he writes about the Riverside County District Attorney's investigation initiated by complaints made by a (somewhat) incomplete list of concerned citizens. What he neglects to add is the back and forth flow of campaign contributions between the current District Attorney Paul Zellerbach and current and past city council members.

Cute map of connections between Zellerbach and former Councilman Dom Betro  just for starters.

But seriously, this whole let's blame the state and now the feds for our financial problems is hard to take seriously. Did either agency coerce the city into putting up fire stations and libraries as collateral on loans on bonds taken out by private developers?  I don't think so.

No to drinking the city's Kool-Aid!

 Councilman's Legislative Aide on Administrative Leave Pending Investigation of Complaint?

Allegedly is "Aide-less" for at least a little while

People have been talking about the rumors that Councilman Chris MacArthur’s legislative aide, Chuck Condor was involved in some sort of physical altercation with another individual.

 That allegedly led to his real boss, Barber putting him on some form of paid administrative leave pending investigation of a complaint against him. Condor had been allegedly involved in several questionable incidents. The niece of Marjorie Von Poule said several years ago that she witnessed Condor (who she didn’t recognize at first) sitting with two military personnel in the city council chambers during a city council meeting. The military men were there to present on the March Air Reserve Base air show and Von Poule’s niece who sat two rows directly behind him said that she heard Condor say after activist Karen Wright walked by, “there’s the biggest bitch around”. She was so livid when I spoke with her that she was going to march to the podium during public comment and address the council about it but she decided to take the more discreet approach of writing a letter to MacArthur relating her complaint. Apparently nothing came out of that.

Then there was an alleged incident at the so-called Lincoln’s Club where redevelopment abolitionist activist Karen Renfro was allegedly ordered to leave the meeting by Condor who’s a member.

Then there was the alleged incident during a meeting between the city officials and Congressman Ken Calvert that he called former deputy city attorney, Raychele Sterling and Self-Appointed City Auditor Vivian Moreno “idiots” after they gave a detailed and documented presentation on the fate of $240 million in federal stimulus (AKA “Obama” bonds) allocated for sewer projects.

If these alleged incidents are all true, does anyone notice a pattern here? All of these people are women. Not just any women, mouthy women. Women who criticize government rather than applaud what’s wrong with it or just sit down and shut up and it’s very unfortunate if any councilman or the city hires employees who demean anyone, including those who actually Shop Riverside or pay property taxes that finance their salaries and benefits too.

Condor was allegedly one of those who stumped the most for making legislative aides permanent employees of the city rather than independent contractors. But if that’s the case and he’s really been involved in a pattern of disturbing behavior involving women, then I’m sure he’s found this adage to be true, be careful what you wish for. It’s too bad if all this went down but if so, hardly surprising.

This is not a City Hall that is supportive of women especially those who do criticize its operations. Male councilmen running for that office and the mayoral seat make financial contributions to those who call women “tramps” and post derogatory cartoons of them on their Web sites and male management employees including at the top, are involved in intimate relationships with subordinate female employees. Women have complained about being fired or forced to resign as they approach retirement to be replaced by younger models including as one person put it, women in high heels and short skirts in the workplace.

But if Condor's truly on hot water and has been placed on leave, it does show that if things did get physical on or off-duty, he's working for the wrong city department.  Because what might be administrative leave in one place can always be a "private matter" in another.

 Meanwhile at the RPD….  

Dog whistle is a type of strategy of communication that sends a message that the general population will take a certain meaning from, but a certain group that is "in the know" will take away the secret, intended message. Often involves code words. Republicans say they want to make civil rights for gays a state issue, which is really just a dog whistle strategy for saying that they will refuse to grant equal rights on a federal level.  [Urban Dictionary]

Chief Sergio Diaz and part of his Cabinet Chill at a community forum together, but oh things have changed!

Orange Street station (which watched its proposed relocation fall through mightily in that four-way land swap scheme) and its two satellite facilities have been a hub of activity lately, what with Chief Sergio Diaz shooting off emails every time a baby's born and Vicino spending some of his time on the golfing green when he has the time. The quietest of all is Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer who spends most of his time in his office, leaving many to speculate if he'll re-up his contract when it expires in the summer of 2013 or retire. Greer who had allegedly once been a top applicant for the Chief Investigations position in the Riverside County District Attorney's office had apparently hoped to be more actively involved in the changes that were to take place inside the police department.

Changes that still haven't happened.

The fourth member of the cabinet, Deputy Chief Mike Blakely (not photographed) has been busy acquiring new equipment for the police department and trying to get it to work with the department's current equipment. Since the structural changes in the operations of the upper echelon of the RPD, he's taken on some more projects.   While this is all going on, there's been some incidents inside Orange Street station that perhaps have generated more stress for Diaz.

But coming off the success of his undercover stint to bust a criminal he's perhaps feeling more relaxed. He's been enjoying an extended honeymoon period during one of the quietest periods in the RPD's recent history. Whether or not the decibel level has decreased in terms of verbal interaction at the top is included in that still remains to be seen. But it's been a rather quiet and vibrant spring in Riverside and inside the police department.  Whether it's a negative or positive peace or the lull before a  storm, one can always hope that the direction is forward and progressive rather than reactive and regressive.

I’ve run into some bright young women who aspire to be police officers in different venues. But what has been puzzling to me, is that they aren’t applying to the Riverside Police Department. Many of them are applying instead to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department when it's hiring with some of them saying they’ll stay there and perhaps lateral to the RPD at a good time.

Say what?

Some people in the department including former chief, Leach said that women gravitated to the Sheriff Department because they really wanted to be correctional deputies. That makes some sense because there might be women who want a more stable working schedule in a “safer” environment than out in the field. Statistics at both the San Bernardino and Riverside County Sheriff’s Departments have shown that women are overrepresented in higher numbers in the correctional divisions than in the sworn side. But is that really why they gravitate to the correction deputy division at higher rates?

Typically, about 9% of sworn field deputies will be female whereas about 22% of correctional deputies are females. However, the reasoning that they’re choosing the “easier” path as women is someone negated by the fact that another demographic group is also overrepresented on the correctional side of policing and that is African-American males. So why is that group represented in greater numbers in corrections than in patrol? Is it because they also seek a more stable work schedule for rearing a family or that it’s a “safer” work choice? If that’s the case, then why don’t males in other racial demographic groups make similar choices to the same degree? The women’s comments which have continued even under Chief Sergio Diaz’ watch puzzle in the sense that in very many ways the RPD has more to offer than the Sheriff’s Department to its employees and does a lot of things better. It’s implemented training that the Sheriff Department hasn’t and the RPD had been an innovator in its training.  Has a lot of strengths in different areas. More than a few reasons to recommend it.

So what's going on here?

The Strategic Plan interested me greatly. It had truly been a long time coming hitting many twists, turns and outright blockages by City Hall along the way. But what fascinated me more than the writing were the choices made in the pictures included in the Plan.

I flipped through it and examined each one and many were excellent photos taken by individuals from different eras with clear and impressive talent in that form of expression. But I found them confusing as well. I found several of them to include women in police uniforms including women of color. Odd because of all the groups in the police department, women of color are the least represented on the sworn side. Together, while women make up about 10% of the population of police officers, women of color make up about 0.9% and that’s a number that seriously hasn’t really changed since at least the mid-1990s. In every single racial group, women are underrepresented in similar fashion, the most striking percentile difference between male and female officers actually occurs among Latinos and Latinas who are sworn officers.

So I looked through the hard copy of the Strategic Plan because each picture is worth a thousand words or so they say and each tells a story.  

Strategic Plan 2010-2015

The cover photo struck me first. It’s a collection of three photos intended to show a cross section of the RPD, both in terms of its population of employees and its functions. On the left is a nice photograph of a female Black officer who has been a patrol officer for at least eight years and currently works in its field training officer program. It’s a great photo, great to include but it struck me as ironic simply because this photo represents 50% of the population of female Black officers in the RPD. Yet when you look at it, you don’t see that. You don’t know that she’s one of only two Black female officers in the entire department now. You don't know that she's one of the few Black women who have been RPD officers during its history. 

You don't know what it's been like for her. Whether she's working in an environment that's inclusive and encourages her growth and success, that will be her ally in her career goals that she sets. You don't know if its not inclusive or doesn't encourage her growth and success or serves as an adversary for her career goals instead. You don't know if she's advancing at the same time as those around her hiring period or whether she's finding herself more and more alone as others around her advance and she's passed over. You don't know whether she's moving ahead, with few limitations or she's hitting a glass ceiling or wall over and over again. Does she have access to special assignments or promotional opportunities like her peers or does she not?  Behind that smiling face, lies a lot that's unknown.  Yet is she being posted on the cover to advertise more than just the police department?  Is she being included to show that it's rich in diversity in terms of race and gender?

It’s nice to see her photo included but it’s very difficult not to question why. It might not be fair to take a police officer and reduce them to demographic classifications of race and gender but as a woman myself, it’s just often one of those aforementioned “dog whistles” to see a demographic that’s so underrepresented in a department being put front and center like that as if they’re the norm not the exception.  In one respect it seems inclusive, but in another it leads to more questions about how far that inclusiveness goes.

 It happens in the business world as well as the public sector that women especially women of color are used this way to project a level of diversity which simply doesn’t exist. In some of these cases, the women who were fighting discrimination or having a difficult time confronting it in the workplace, which is the ultimate irony. A woman I know, Penny Harrington explained it to me in great detail as she did so many other aspects of what it was like to be a female police officer in a male dominated profession. For over 10 years, she shared her wisdom and her experiences with me and she had a way of examining actions and behavior at its macro and micro levels and now they impacted women.

What’s it like to be that woman in the photo? To be shown as the face of the RPD yet you’re one of two of what you are asked to represent. Does that woman find herself as accepted in her work environment and if she tries to advance in rank or assignment how difficult is it? Is it as easy or even possible or much more difficult than being the face of the RPD on the cover of a Strategic Plan? Because after all, it means nothing if you put a woman’s face on the cover of such an important document and then make it difficult for that person to advance in the ranks due to issues pertaining to racial and gender identity rather than someone’s experience, performance and skill level and seniority. It doesn't mean much if you put a woman's face on the cover if you don't have an environment that's inclusive of women.But why kind of environment does exist for her and other women?

If you put a woman on the cover of a Plan as a sign of respect, then you treat her with respect in every aspect of interacting with her in the agency just as you would do anyone. If that’s not done, then the intention to include her on the cover to represent the face of the police department is not done with honorable intentions. There are a lot of parts of the story that are not included in the photographs after all.

[Officer Vivian Tate ( with Neely Nakamura and Chris Carnahan) receiving an award along with two other police officers who worked to put on a successful conference.]

You don’t see in the Strategic Plan that for many years, the department had only one Black female police officer, Vivian Tate who retired not too long ago. A very hardworking and talented woman who was in ways alone for so long before another Black female officer, Cheryl Hayes was hired around 2002. I was puzzled that she hadn’t advanced further than that because she clearly was very skilled, worked hard and was very good at dealing with the public. Was it a matter of choice or had it been made? Other women in law enforcement had struggled with some of those same difficult choices so what about those in the RPD?

Many people with those qualities that she showed do try to put in for what are called special assignments and/or promotions but not everyone chooses that road.  Still does it become a situation where you’re the only one in your group running into obstacles that others don't face? Through the years, there were quite a few people who wanted to meet and talk to this lone Black female officer that Leach mentioned as proof that there was that one (and the “only one” issue is a blog posting in itself) in the department. Because Leach and others would say when asked about the dearth of Black female officers, that the department did have one who had worked there for many years in response.  By herself, she had to serve as proof that the department was inclusive to Black female officers, a pretty heavy burden to carry. But there were times that Leach was smart enough to at least appear a bit embarrassed about that.

She was to some, a statistic that was included with the rest of the racial and gender statistics in the Equal Employment Opportunity Stat reports and a place to start a dialogue about recruiting and hiring  more female officers including women of color. To many others who did interact with her, they really appreciated the skills and kindness that she brought to her job, becoming more than that statistic.  There's quite a few people who had positive experiences with her in the workplace, who miss her in her retirement. 

A lot of people wanted to know she really existed, that there were Black women working as police officers in the department. Not many people ever saw any in the field or at community or city meetings. But there are young Black women who want to go into law enforcement and when they ask how many others like them are in the department, the truth is not an answer that satisfies.

It shouldn't. 

Many people still don’t believe that there's and one cover’s not going to change that. Leach told me when I asked about that one Black female officer, she liked working in patrol on graveyard and didn’t want to change that. I supposed that could be true and if so, then that choice is to be respected. But sometimes language like that is universally used to simply say, the employees are happy where they are when the reality might be very different. What if someone really wanted more and hit what’s akin to a brick wall disguised as a glass ceiling over and over and just one day said, enough. 

That’s mentioned as an alternative explanation to Leach’s to ponder because there have been  cases of female officers doing that particularly women of color where they do hit walls and ceiling much harder than glass.

After all, glass can be shattered with the right tools.

When she worked in special projects towards the end of her career, it would have been great if she could have spent more time doing that because she contributed a lot and seemed to enjoy a forum she was involved in at Magnolia Police Center.  

Leach and others in management have said, well it’s the women who don’t really want these special assignments or to be promoted, the so-called “low numbers” argument which is so entrenched and prevalent in law enforcement agencies, you’d think everyone using it purchased it online at EBay.

But then there are the male management employees who have said in front of both male and female officers comments like, they prefer promoting SWAT officers. There are probably good reasons to promoting officers that are highly skilled at working as a team in some of the most demanding situations requiring skills including judgment and decision making. But on another level, there are also no female SWAT officers in the RPD and there never have been so that could be interpreted as translating to female officers need to not bother to apply to be promoted.  And one of those management employees passed over the top qualifiers on the sergeants' and lieutenants' lists in 2010 who both were female when promoting officers into supervision. The argument was, and this one was oft repeated, that we couldn't promote people just because they're good test takers which is why candidates who placed sixth, ninth and 12th were promoted instead off the lieutenant's list.

That's a bit of a head scratcher and left quite a few people no doubt wondering what was the point of having those lists in the first place?   A 20 year plus female detective with eight years of experience in investigations who tops the list getting passed over by less experienced men for sergeant by then Acting Police Chief John DeLaRosa, the management employee who allegedly made that SWAT comment.  Three female candidates out of the top five in the lieutenants' list getting passed over until DeLaRosa finally and apparently reluctantly thawed the chill in the department which hadn't seen a woman get promoted into supervision since 2005 and no female officer pass supervisory promotional probation since 2004.  This was after female officers had been told over and over (and over) again that to be promoted into supervision, they had to score at the top of the lists but when they did, suddenly they were missing that "certain something that can't be described or defined you just know it" or they were just good test takers.

Not surprisingly, quite a few women have opted out of the promotional process altogether being discouraged by its implementation including under Diaz. But then a lot of officers particularly those in frontline patrol officers (rather than inside the offices) have started to opt out of going out for promotions at the supervisory levels.  Because being a male officer isn't necessarily going to be helpful if you don't play for the "right" team or choose the right "side" and many a male officer including quite a few in field operations and investigations who has a lot to offer at a higher rank has opted out as well. Why engage in a process when it comes down to how much time you spend inside the office rather than out in the field on the front lines?  It seems that if you're out in the community in your police car, you shouldn't bother testing. Special Assignments became much more important to the promotional process than field assignments.

That proved puzzling too because you have management personnel who tout the accomplishment and work done by field officers including supervisors and yet, they hardly ever promote from that population.That seems more than a bit odd.

But the Strategic Plan continues posting photographs of female officers whose numbers have hovered at the 10% (below the national average of around 14%) since at least a few decades ago.

Photo from the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan

 Again, it’s another great photo of a female officer interfacing with the community, in this case a Latina officer who is working patrol after working in the community services bureau for several years. But when you look at the population of Latina officers, you’ll see the largest differences  in percentages of officers by gender.

Whereas the department’s hired many Latino officers and more and more, they are moving up through the ranks including the RPD, that hasn’t happened at all with Latinas. For years, even as the population of Latino officers increased greatly, the number of Latina officers remained at about five. Always it was around five. If one officer was hired, another (or maybe that one) left to replace her. That would make the attrition rate of Latina officers the highest in the RPD. Except for Asian American female officers of which there are usually one or two, complicated by the fact that at least one biracial female officer identifies herself as “white”. Ironically, enough, Latina officers do not advance in the ranks at all, in sharp contrast to Latinos who have filled every promotional rank up to the police chief. One who made it to the rank of detective a few years ago has since left the department.  There hasn't been a promotion of a Latina since, but then it doesn't seem as if that many of them remain working in the department. As one gets hired, it seems another one leaves.

As for Asian-American officers in general, the RPD's hired more on the men's side but quite a few candidates are recruited by the UC Riverside Police Department which serves a population of people that is about 40%  Asian or Asian-American.  Asian-Americans are the fastest growing racial demographic in Riverside but not so much inside many  law enforcement agencies.  In 2001, when Leach and his management team at the time were about to issue their first progress report on both the Use of Force Panel recommendations and the State AG's office consent decree, its stats stated that there was one Asian-American female officer among the new hires but none among the RPD's sworn population stats from the same time period. I asked Leach and company about that discrepancy in statistical information he provided and he and his team scrambled over their documents flipping through pages until Leach finally said, that the one Asian-American female officer they had hired had "washed out" during her first day at the peace officer training academy. 

But the Strategic Plan doesn't address the issue of  "diversity" except to talk about what's already there in the department that's still about 10% female.  Not to mention that most of the women who had advanced in the ranks to supervision and above are within five years or so of retirement age. When they leave, will the department be back to what it was before their upward movement?

The  women who work in the police department  as officers work in a profession dominated by men. But are the same opportunities available to them that are afforded the men they work alongside?  Are they in an environment devoid of sexism and racism including discrimination?  What are the steps the city and department have taken to avoid paying out another huge verdict in a jury trial since they did so with the lawsuit filed by Officer Roger Sutton?

What has the police department done to eliminate the "team" system in general for both male and female employees? Have they replaced it with something more equitable or simply reduced the number of teams?

When that woman on the cover of the Strategic Plan goes to work, to do the job that she's been used to advertise, will she get equitable and fair treatment in a profession that for many decades worked against other women?  When she tests for promotion and does well, will she have a chance to get promoted or be told she's a good test taker?  Will she be working in an environment where she feels that she's getting the same opportunities and support as her peers?  Will she walk away some day from a career with positive feelings about the journey?

The answers to those questions will truly define her purpose for being put front and center of the new "Our PD".


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