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, July 27, 2012

The Fab Five and Other Terms of Endearment from River City


Chief Diaz promotes a new captain and it's Ed Blevins, formerly the RPAA president. 

One candidate, Lt. Bob Williams set to retire and with former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel's departure from his security position at the Tyler Galleria, will Williams step in?

Riverside Firefighter Association endorses Rusty Bailey for mayor but what about the Riverside Police Officers' Association? What will it do in the face of allegations raised in connection with a lawsuit filed by one of it's members?  

Oh what tangled webs are woven in River City...

Larry Tibbals Beal  charged with four felony counts including two counts of child molestation in court.  He worked as a meter reader for years with Riverside Public Utilities which sent out an internal email alert on the situation to its employees.

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

coming soon...

Former Riverside Chief Russ Leach had more to say about alleged promotional interference by City Hall this time around. 

The Press Enterprise calls Bailey's involvement in the promotional process done "unwittingly"  as two elected officials and a former city management employee deny Leach's allegations.

"I got-- when I took an emergency call from DeSantis all panicky and said, "You're not going to promote Meredith are you?"

I said, "Yes. Best qualified this time for the job."

And he said, "No you're not going to do that."

And I found out Steve Adams marched into the meeting with both of them--meaning Hudson and DeSantis--told them emphatically she couldn't be promoted."

---Former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach on April 9, 2012 about the aborted promotion of now retired Capt. Meredyth Meredith, one of two captain's positions that he alleged Adams interfered with. 

"So I went to City Hall to have a face-to-face with Hudson and DeSantis to present what the testing process revealed and who we selected. And he said, "Well, let me think about it."

So I let him think about it And I hadn't heard from him for a while. And then I called back and he explained to me that Carpenter and Adams had bad history together. Adams was adament that he didn't want Carpenter to be promoted to captain."

---Leach on April 9, 2012

Leach's testimony under oath about the promotional process in the police department as he saw it was released by the City of Riverside in response to a CPRA request. 

A man in Moreno Valley gets arrested for child porn on his computer  but is he an employee working for the City of Riverside in one of its departments?

Yes, he works for Riverside Public Utilities as a meter reader. 

Press Enterprise blogger and reporter Alicia Robinson touched on the latest controversy with redistricting  but the newspaper has already shied away from the issue of a city employee with alleged political ambitions for next year circulating a petition to prevent his neighborhood from being moved to another ward. 

Riverside Ward Redistricting:  Should the process be done around one city resident's desire to run for political office in a particular ward...and why is the Governmental Affairs Committee already caving?  If the guy was smart, he'd realize the ward he's been placed in would probably be easier pickings for him than the one he's in right now. Not to mention that the third possibility might have an "open" election next year as well depending on the mayoral race. 

A Different "Fab Five" not the one currently playing in Riverside

As a blogger who blogs about Riverside proper and improper, it's par for the course to be subject to being called an assortment of nicknames, some of them quite colorful.  Some of them are related to group association or perceived group association and have included everything from the "filthy five" to the "naughty nine" to "dirty thirty" and so on down a sordid list.

Individually, they've been more along the lines of  "tramp", "whore" and other endearments not to forget "that f-n blogger" from one  irate city department head.  But in a city where nicknames are often part of its vernacular when one is on its defensive, it happens to most people at some point or another who have criticized the city over something.

 Just this week, one council member, Mike Gardner labeled speakers "misinformed" which was ironic considered some of the information provided at that meeting, a revision of city history by some on the dais during what was to be a special presentation honoring a retiring city employee.  I didn't really mind being called that and said so. If you don't pick up the pom poms at the podium (whether or not you have any financial ties to the city or elected officials), then that's just what happens to you.

It's just par for the course in this city and perhaps the most to be expected from city officials who themselves appear misinformed or perhaps uninformed on most of the issues they decide upon, whether they're opening up agenda reports on the dais perhaps for the first time or awfully quiet when certain high ticket items get discussed because they don't know enough about the item ahead of time to generate questions.  After all, when you represent your constituents, you're supposed to do more than just sit up there, smile and bob your head, you're supposed to ask questions for those who can't ask them and  have them answered.

I do have to say that I didn't mind Rusty Bailey being mayor pro tem as he actually let speakers finish their thoughts when their time was up rather than start cutting them off beforehand as Loveridge does with the infamous  hand gesture. He didn't summon the police officers to "escort" anyone away from the podium either for exceeding the limit though I admit most of the people who needed to finish their thoughts this week were too young to be included in that demographic of those who have experienced that.

Meaning they were were younger than 80 or in one case 90 which was the age of Marjorie Von Poule.

So when the latest nickname floated out of City Hall  which referred apparently to a group of us gadflies as the "Fab Five" that provoked some interest as to what it meant. After all, when I think Fab Five, I think of one of the best music bands ever, the Beatles. But it's likely that it's just as likely to be shorthand for excuse my language, fucking asshole bitches (which was one possibility mentioned) depending on what corner of City Hall it originated especially if that corner is really the bar stools at the Salted Pig.

But maybe if some Beatles song lyrics can be worked in to it, that in itself might work.

Mayoral Race Heats Up in Riverside

Councilman Rusty Bailey takes time off from the campaign trail where he's been getting some mayor pro tem experience and .  

After the least suspenseful political announcement ever was made by Mayor Ron Loveridge in terms of who he'll endorse for the upcoming finals of the mayor's election,  former Councilman and the other surviving mayoral candidate  Ed Adkison announced that he'd be holding a press conference to make an announcement. The summer is usually a time when the campaign schedule goes dark to gear up for a huge push for the November election come autumn but not this election cycle.

Yes Loveridge had dropped the bombshell during the slow, hot days of summer that he'd be endorsing Councilman Rusty Bailey in the November election which will be the one that decides who will be the next (weak) mayor of Riverside. But it shouldn't have surprised anyone since Loveridge has been mentoring Bailey since day one and it seems logical he'd choose the councilman as his heir apparent.

When holding his own press conference, Adkison brought along a placard prop.

Adkison announced that he planned to sign a bankruptcy pledge card and urged  Bailey to do the same. Bailey was in the vicinity hanging out under the bridge in front of City Hall talking to Press Enterprise columnist and blogger Dan Bernstein who's just back from his vacation.

During his brief speech, Adkison pledged that he'll push for budget and fiscal accountability and will slash the $900,000 budgeted mayoral office at least in half.  A good portion of that money was taken from what the people were charged and taxed for utilities which have nothing to do with most of what happens at City Hall certainly not its seventh floor.  Every time the mayor gives his chief of staff Kristin Tillquest another 15% "merit" raise (and it's getting harder to keep count), it could be money that could be spent on utilities repairs and maintenance of its vital infrastructure so the city can have its utilities working properly.

The city's aging sewer system hasn't exactly thrived with having its fund depleted to pay for everything but sewer maintenance and repairs (its only stated purpose according to city ordinance) what with exploding toilets and flooded basements not to mention a group of parents being trapped in their cars near a former downtown elementary school when raw sewage flowed down the street after a line broke.

How many people in City Hall or other city departments have seen salary benefits in the past several years?  How many people have frozen salaries, have undergone pension "reform" and how many people have been laid off during this "no layoff" period?

The simple thing would be to cut the mayor's salary down to where there'd be enough to buy one of those large shiny pair of scissors for ribbon cutting ceremonies.  But it's interesting how the mayor's office gets all this money including raises for staff members and everyone else has salary freezes and some people losing jobs.

If you worked for code enforcement for example, that might be in the past tense on the employment issue. They're easier to lay off because they're often not popular but they're a tool to be used in a beneficial or positive manner or to be horribly abused and misused like any other employee in any other department.

Adkison mentioned that while he was on the city council, Loveridge used to plead with him not to cut the budget for the mayor's office even during difficult fiscal times.    But the only reason Riverside is avoiding the fate of that other major inland city in that other county that is bankrupt is that it owns its own public utilities and it's not the second poorest city in the country which is of course, San Bernardino.  The latter city has its own water department but relies on Southern California Edison for electrical power. Riverside "balances" its own budget through the monies it receives through taxes, fees, costs involving its residents' use of both electricity and water.  Unfortunately, the drain of monies from Riverside's own ATM machine, public utilities will wind up being detrimental at some point like happened with the Department of Water and Power in Los Angeles.

Last Tuesday, after the city council meeting a huge portion of Riverside loomed in the darkness around Andulka Park after a power outage in an area that had been known for them especially in the summer time. So it's always important to save utility money to pay for what it's intended to pay for which is maintaining and fixing if necessary, infrastructure that makes it work.

Riverside has a more affluent population overall than San Bernardino so it can impose more costs on residents to pay for its exorbitant spending habits including when Brad Hudson was the city manager. It's been quiet for him lately up in Sacramento as he's either taking the summer off (including making visits to Riverside on Sacramento's dime) or the Sacramento Bee's on vacation.

San Bernardino's financial troubles have made national news as renowned columnist Ariana Huffington (who's been to Riverside) posted on it on her site.

Still I don't really know what the mayor's office has to do with the water utility or electric for that matter.  The Press Enterprise which allegedly gets very, very nice utility rates from Riverside did some useful PR for the city while the city council wisely backed away from voting to hike up water rates again.  But everyone knows that higher water rates are coming. That's why the city's targeting city residents to find ways to lower their use of water including through irrigation systems.

At his press conference, former councilman and current mayoral candidate Ed Adkison signed his bankruptcy pledge card advocating fiscal accountability

Adkison's message at his press conference was a bit different than that of financial prosperity spread by Bailey, Loveridge and other members of city government. He didn't say that bankruptcy was eminent but  that other cities which wound up filing for bankruptcy had been in a similar place not thinking it would ever happen with the latest being San Bernardino.

It's refreshing that someone's actually talking about the city's true financial picture but it remains to be seen what Adkison would really do if elected. Campaigns for most people are really for entertainment purposes mainly.  After all more than a few political candidates did 180 degree turns when elected into office.

Meanwhile Back on (re-leased) Orange Street Police Headquarters...

After allegedly getting checked by his boss Scott Barber, he's set to interview for his next captain but are sound proof walls needed on the upper floor of Orange Street?

Apparently there's been some yelling and screaming that took place in Orange Street Station as Chief Sergio Diaz and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino apparently are most vocal as very passionate people. Deputy Chief Mike Blakely's had a moment or two apparently with Vicino which some said culminated in the arrival of a locksmith at Orange Street Station.  But they all appeared in the city council chambers to witness the award given to an outgoing captain taking a breather from all the action that had been taking place.

Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer is apparently lying low across town at the Magnolia Police Center where he's located to oversee both Field Operations and Investigations and putting in his time more quietly. He's hardly seen except in passing and neither Diaz or any of his command staff show up much at Lincoln Station although Vicino had told officers in the beginning he wanted to be stationed there "closer to the troops".  But that mirrors the world that a couple of the management teams members saw while rising up in the ranks in Los Angeles.

Diaz apparently had a lot to say at high volume while reading one of the emails he allegedly received from Riverside Police Officers' Association President Brian Smith on an issue involving special assignments. As you probably remember, some of the assignments of  special assignments to sergeants lit a firestorm inside the police department on more than one occasion.  Once, it was about the reassignments of up to seven sergeants which was challenged.  It seemed to the union leadership that special assignments were an important path for mentorship which was a critical path for promotions within the ranks of the department. But it also seemed that a small group of sergeants were receiving back to back to back special assignments in some cases while others applied over and over again and never received one.  The policy governing special assignments and departmental transfers also came under fire when the rule that required officers to spend a minimum of a year in patrol between special assignments seemed to apply to some officers and sergeants and not others.  There's language added to this policy that it's at the discretion of the chief which does make one wonder if that doesn't in certain circumstances render the policy toothless and not worth the parchment it's printed on.

Anyway, Smith had apparently responded to the controversial decision made on who to assign as the sergeant in the Vice Unit that he and Sgts Gary Toussaint, Keenan Lambert and John Capen had applied to fill during July's shift change.  Capen got the post after being interviewed by officers including his former boss at Internal Affairs, Lt. Mike Cook who now heads Special Investigations. The Vice Unit is quite small and for a while shared its sergeant with another unit in the same division but  more recently got its own supervisor. Toussaint in particular had picked up some experience in that unit while supervising the gang unit several years ago as a sergeant. Smith had worked extensively in the gang unit before his promotion to sergeant and Lambert had done a stint as a narcotics officer at some point in his career.

Capen's assignments were mostly internal including allegedly a recent stint in the chief's office working on the newly rewritten policy manual. He had risen quickly in the ranks being a detective for several months before becoming a sergeant within the past decade. Some say he's also tied to civil litigation filed against the city involving the incident at Events Sports Grill that recently settled among all the parties with the city paying out a share of the cash to the plaintiffs. He's also tied to lawsuits filed by two other police officers in relation to allegations of misconduct by the internal affairs division against them.

Smith objected to the process that had left to Capen's being Diaz' choice and sent the email that was heard around the department.   So was Diaz' response.

Smith had sent an email at some point telling Diaz that he had promised to mentor employees including through placing them in special assignments yet the same cluster of officers were being moved from one special assignment to another. He called Diaz' on his track record so far, calling the process a "joke".  Diaz didn't like that much hence the volume raising of his voice that caused those around him to take notice of the loud noise coming from the second floor at Orange Street.  But he had to be careful with how to respond to Smith who is also the Riverside Police Officers' Association president and a very popular one among the membership.

Diaz allegedly wrote Smith back saying he'd reviewed his complaints and found every special assignment to be in compliance with the policy in place. Diaz was correct in his response if you look at the policy as it's written to the letter. But then the argument's been raised is that if the last line trumps the rest of the language before it each and every time, then why was there any attempt to include the one year patrol requirement in its language in the first place?  Those were pretty good questions that Smith raised in his email and they've been raised here too.

Yet even though that might be the case, Diaz didn't address the larger question of why only a select group seemed to have a chance of not just getting one special assignment but one after another.   It doesn't appear to show much regard for patrol if Diaz' choice of those to fill special assignments don't have to do that year stint inside that division. It's just not clear why the path to promotions if it's through special assignments seems to bypass field patrol assignments or at least why it minimizes them in the resumes of the department's future lieutenants and captains under Diaz.  It's really unclear to a person who's basically listened to Diaz saying he's been coerced by community leaders on his promotions.

What might throw a shock in the system would be to have a community panel involved in interviewing captains with the first question perhaps being do you recognize these candidates, answer yes or no and then move on from that point to the rest of the interview. It'd be interesting and probably very educational to see how these candidates would respond to questions about the policy and practice of community problem oriented style policing from community members. Diaz of course would have to be very careful in his selection of community leaders to stack on such a panel drawing from his "nice community members" list rather than his "naughty community members" list.  But it might still work out.

But more than likely the promotional process for captain will be fairly similar to what's happened in previous incarnations. And that's unfortunate if that's the case. The dynamic of the promotional process at the top of the ladder's been called "vicious" and "poisonous" among other terms mostly due to the struggle by those competing against each other to put themselves at the top of the list. That was the case during the era of Chief Russ Leach and people hoped that bringing a new chief in especially from the outside would change that. But did that happen?  Had the environment that allegedly had candidates trying to cash in political favors and stab each other with stilettos (at least figuratively speaking) gone the way of Leach?

It'd had taken its toll on the department whatever "team" prevailed at the time and the morale inside of it particularly in the field operations division, most  noticeably patrol.  Most of the department's officers staff patrol than any other and most sergeants at some point will supervise patrol officers. That's one reason why the number of sergeants nearly doubled under the five-year stipulated agreement with the state.  It was done to help ensure a 7 to 1 ratio in staffing of supervisors to supervised in the patrol and traffic divisions.

Yet there's this sense that an assignment in patrol particularly as a supervisor or watch commander dooms you to a life of not having any chance of being promoted which appears to be a problem if that's an aspiration. So much so that the heart of the patrol division, Lincoln Field Operations Station is now also Dead End Station.

Lincoln Field Operations Station  otherwise known as the "Dead End Station" when it comes to promotions and also is collateral for that money put into the renovation of the Convention Center.

Lincoln Station's always been that oddity. An over-sized brick with few windows that stands on where else, Lincoln Avenue near Adams (the street not the councilman).  The former chief, Russ Leach talked about putting more windows in it but even when it underwent its renovation several years ago, not many seemed to be highlights of the public tours of the building. It's actually larger inside than it looks from the outside and its outside parking lot was apparently the scene of the infamous "off-probation parties" between some male field training officers and female trainees within the past decade.

It now houses the entire patrol division which moved some of its numbers from Magnolia Police Center which held the bulk of it during the renovation. It's rumored that there's a field operations captain lurks in the building but most often is rarely seen. It's a building that Diaz and his cabinet members almost never frequent.  It's considered antithesis in the Los Angeles Police Department for upper management let alone a chief to be caught dead near a roll call room. Since the RPD's management is being re-engineered as LAPD style, the same traditions are being used here.

It's also not quite the right place to be when promotions are being handed out or people are being mentored to be promoted. It's very unlikely that if you're interested in getting promoted and you're a field sergeant or even a watch commander, you'll be plucked out from here, dusted off and told by management you should really try this promotional deal and here, we'll give you this special assignment and then...what no, don't worry about the patrol requirement because we have something over here (still at Orange Street) for you to do.

In a department that's more than medium sized and actually numbers higher than the national average of 50 sworn employees for a law enforcement agency, it's hard to believe that only a handful of people are worthy of being put in the vast variety of special assignments available. It's true that only a relatively smaller group could be in special assignments at one time but in the long run, it seems that the number of officers who are placed in these assignments should increase not stagnate.

It'd make sense to spread the wealth around especially in terms of special assignments especially since it's not clear what criteria is used to assign people to them in the first place let alone again and again and again. Most of that would start at the officer level.

What's most puzzling is how can an individual with say, a disciplinary record, civil litigation and sometimes either or both recently, can be picked for an assignment over others that don't while others who have discipline in their backgrounds are put on ice for years before having the chance for special assignments and promotions. How people can get into trouble in special assignments and remain in them.  That's probably the hardest part of the process under Diaz (and also prior chiefs) to understand why it's implemented that way.

With sexual misconduct on duty seemingly the most minor of offenses when it involves male officers especially higher in rank according to promotions done in the past. Not surprising under Leach.  More surprising under Diaz' watch and not exactly going unnoticed.  The higher rank the person is who commits it, the less it seems to be treated or viewed as misconduct. Whereas people lower on the hierarchical ladder get punished  but those higher including in management, it's never been seen as a major transgression. It seems like it should be the opposite with the accountability increasing the higher in rank an officer moves up.

 Remember though, Diaz doesn't seem to want to know what happened in the department before his arrival and the people he's picked to advise them, well one of them apparently believes that a written reprimand is enough discipline for sexual misconduct on duty even though the policy manual states otherwise requiring a higher form of discipline for that behavior.  That happened at least twice.  Yet this individual seemed to think it was perfectly okay to send two sergeants to force a female officer into a car to be interrogated for hours with few rights at another police facility. Litigation arose on both ends of that spectrum.  But that part of the promotional equation is one of the hardest parts to understand as being anything but a detriment to the development of management inside the department.

But that aside, if you want to get promoted the first thing you need to do is to get out of Dodge, or in this case Lincoln Station.

You need to get assigned to another police facility closer to the heart of downtown Riverside that's probably falling apart but still welds the most power.

As stated, that's Orange Street Station which for now at least, houses the police department's administrative headquarters. This is where most of the big honchos including the biggest honcho reside.

Orange Street Station, headquarters where people go to get promoted but since Riverside no longer owns it, it can't be put up as collateral for any city or private developer's project

It wasn't clear for quite a while how long the police department's top management was going to be able to call the Orange Street Station home.  After all when City Hall tried to pull off its very suspicious four way land swap, the police department was to be the biggest casualty, the party left holding the bag. In order to  help out two private enterprises including its favorite outside law firm, the city was going to push its own city departments, the police department (through the general fund) and the Riverside Public Utilities (through its own funds) to pay higher "rents" than either had been paying before this scheme was proposed by former City Manager Brad Hudson before he left the building.  How forcing two city departments to pay higher "rent" in exchange for assisting two private companies was spending money helping the city's residents, well that part of it was never explained.

And even though that question was asked numerous times, no attempts were made to answer it. Unless you count complete silence in response as an answer. It was really the best that City Manager Scott Barber, the city council that employees him and anyone else in City Hall could do.

Barber's been too busy to blog lately what with dealing with department heads and the city's interesting financial picture not to mention candidates lobbying to be the RPD's next captain.

It's been said that some of the candidates for the captain's position might be deciding it's time to converse a bit with Barber who after all is the chief's boss. But promotions lie within the realm of powers and responsibilities of the chief even though they all require final approval by Barber, hence the conversations. This was how it was done under Hudson and his assistant. Anyone wanted to get promoted, go plead your case to this dynamic duo.  That applied to elected officials as well, one reason why the city's a little bit poorer now.

 You can't blame any of them who would follow that avenue, to follow the same road as their predecessors because those were the rules. If the guy next to you is doing that and you want to keep up with him, you do the same thing. All kinds of traits apparently went into who got promoted into management that had little to do with whether or not you had the leadership or management skills to do the job. But then given that the workplace also apparently included the golf course, maybe not so much.  After all, Leach built a top heavy department in anticipation of great growth of the city's surface area and population mostly through the 18 or so planned annexations. Being fiscally solvent meant putting all of them on ice for the unforeseen future.

But as stated, Leach didn't really direct much towards the end.

 After all, City Manager Brad Hudson and his assistant, Tom DeSantis were heavily wed to the police department micromanaging it down to the paper clip and having access to every corner of it and yes, that's every corner including a couple that have created major headaches for law enforcement agencies in other cities and counties including Chicago when there's outside access that's come to light. After all, you wouldn't contaminate a crime scene would you?

A yelling match took place in one such situation as one management team member panicked about one such division.  The belief that if you don't look at something too closely, just leave it alone and point out the pretty tree over there prevailed and it's not clear it ever was addressed at all. But just because something remains unaddressed doesn't mean it's not there. But in related news or not, everyone in that division was apparently reassigned.  The department's initial public reaction to the off-duty fainting spell and resultant vehicle crash of one police officer as being not worthy of investigating was unfortunately another example of that mindset by management.  Never mind the officer could have had a fainting spell during a vehicle pursuit or a foot chase, it was more important to say, no we don't investigate because he doesn't a medical condition even after the Moreno Valley Police Department said that he did probably after he or someone else told its onscene officers.

Barber's not quite as into the police department as his predecessors. He hasn't equipped himself with illegally purchased firearms or an illegally made badge. No cold plates and no sirens or lights on his take home car. Diaz can't banish him from the department like Priamos but Barber's been quite busy learning how to be a city manager.

In Riverside, it's often been a steep learning curve. But at least Barber didn't get himself mixed up too much in the police department's promotion like Hudson did. Leach was powerless in his position in many ways, but it would take an entire blog posting to describe that dynamic. Hudson often sent DeSantis to do his micromanaging for him and the city council and mayor quickly learned that they too could involve themselves in making decisions about the police department, a blatant violation of the city's charter against charter interference.

Now all these city council members past and present know what the charter amendment on administrative interference. They've used it as a shield against taking any action to keep their own direct employees, mostly Hudson in line with his own job responsibilities and in some cases as with the badges and guns, likely potentially criminal conduct. Yet apparently the charter amendment didn't apply to themselves in terms of not stepping over the city management and the chief to involve themselves in the operations inside the police department. These involved decisions about the use and some say misuse (particularly during election campaign) cycles of police employees most notably during what were called loosely emergency election deployments or transfers.

This is when you're an officer who's assigned to work with other officers in Neighborhood A. Say Neighborhood A has the highest crime rate in the city and a squad of officers was assigned to patrol and work there to address  it.  But then say there's a councilman who includes Neighborhood B in his or her ward. There's fewer officers and lower crime there but the councilman's campaigning on a "tough on crime" stance for office. So what happened with at least four past and current council members is that the chief would reassign officers out of different neighborhoods including Neighborhood A to fill assignments in Neighborhood B to increase police presence in that particular neighborhood through the election cycle.

So the decision made on that redeployment ultimately arose from the council member running for reelection not the chief or the management team members who had made the original patrol assignments in other areas including Neighborhood A.

This type of involvement by elected officials in the police department happened quite a bit. But it wasn't isolated because as a pair of lawsuits settled by the city in 2010 showed that if elected officials wanted to involve themselves in the promotional process, the means to do so was just a phone call away.

They'd call Hudson who would then delegate DeSantis to do the deed with Leach of course being powerless or unwilling to do anything about it. This happened to at least two captains promotions in the final five years of Leach's tenure.  Were these isolated events?   And how would anyone know?  Because when it comes to most elected officials they tend to emulate the behavior of those around them. It's unlikely that in Riverside, particularly since a couple of powerful voting alliances or blocs were in place that it would be isolated behavior to involve one's self in operations within the police department.

One of the captains that allegedly had been blocked from a promotion by an elected official retired this past week.

Left the police department in July after decades on the force without even a mention let alone a party until City Hall issued her an honorary proclamation

Meredyth Meredith  retired her badge on July 5 as noted would happen in earlier blog postings. She left behind a career in the department spanning decades and covering many different assignments. But as elected officials and some  community leaders praised her career accomplishments, there was more than a little hypocrisy on the dais. So much so that one speech in particular was a bit hard to sit through. People throw around the "truth" but not all the truth was told by the city during those speeches.

There's a lot to be said about Councilman Steve Adams' comments that it's difficult to be a woman inside the police department. The council member who once called mentorship programs including those for women in the department "remedial training for those who can't hack it."  

There's different ways to honor people and one of them is through words said from a position of authority when that person is leaving. Some said she hated being the subject of attention even praise and that they felt she wouldn't want to be at a presentation like that at City Hall. Others said that the command staff itself didn't even mention her in passing. But what Meredith's career in part taught was that when it comes to women advancing through the ranks (and she's a pioneer), hopefully the next one will be treated much better than her.  She was not treated well by City Hall when she was up for promotions in at least two instances in the past 15 years and what happened to her when she was first promoted to captain wasn't respectful of her or her accomplishments at all. 

During her career, her two final promotions that of lieutenant and captain were met with counter actions by the men who either felt that her promotion belonged to them or belonged to some one else. She was one of three lieutenants promoted in 2000 along with Alex Tortes and Ron Orrantia whose promotions were met by first counter claims and then lawsuits filed by five white male sergeants. Meredith was promoted one month after Tortes and Orrantia to fill the position vacated by then Lt. Audrey Wilson when she was promoted to captain, the first woman in the department's history.  Allegedly the white male sergeants interested in suing in protest of Tortes and Orrantia asked Meredith to join them and she chose not to do so. So after her promotion, the complaint by the other sergeants went from being reverse racism to reverse racism and sexism. 

The lawsuit nearly tore the city apart. Not so much the lawsuit which should have been litigated by a city that claims all lawsuits filed against it are "frivolous" and are to be fought vigorously from the start.  But it was news that leaked out that City Manager John Holmes had been directed by Mayor Ron Loveridge to create two new lieutenant positions and promote two of the plaintiffs to those positions and then issue cash payouts to two others.   These discussions allegedly took place behind closed doors in confidential discussions outside the presence of the police chief.

One of the plaintiffs to be promoted, Wally Rice had suffered a career ending injury in the line of duty related to the 1998 incident at City Hall where members of the government were taken hostage by a fired city employee. Some people including Rice were shot while the police had sent a team of people including personnel assigned to Orange Street Station (the closest police facility) to rescue the city council members and Loveridge. The police department did that in difficult and dangerous conditions and the involved officers later were awarded the medal of valor, the most prestigious award one that was richly deserved. But Rice never fully recovered from his gunshot injuries to return to active duty. 

So in his case since he could no longer work after being shot, the mayor and city council were trying to secure a better pension for him for his retirement.  This appeared to have been so because most often, promotions are given to those who can actively serve in those positions. That was done probably with the best of intentions because he had nearly given his life and he had sacrificed his career to save their lives and the city government wanted to restore what some felt might have been lost.  But it became entangled into what was supposed to be a competitive promotional process in the hands of the police chief, not City Hall. That's when all hell broke loose at least for a while as people showed up to protest what City Hall had tried to do. Not to mention that other police officers ended their careers through on duty injuries and others did lose their lives on the job without being promoted so that produced a counterpoint. 

Former City Manager John Holmes (center) meeting with concerned community leaders after news leaks that the city's involving itself in the promotion process of lieutenants

Leaders met with City Hall officials as shown in the above photograph and I was there when that happened. In fact, I was drafted to write about it which I did.  Carroll found out also through the leak mill that the city government was involving itself in his promotional process behind his back and threatened to quit over it. He did ultimately medically retire but he had been politically vulnerable for quite some time even getting "no confidence" votes or threats of such from at least one police department labor union.

Loveridge's defense when it came to light what he and the other elected officials had been doing in secret, simply said they can always use more lieutenants. 

The lawsuit was settled so quickly, never even getting to the deposition phase like other inhouse lawsuits let alone to trial in front of a jury. Most of the plaintiffs wound up being lieutenants including those promoted during the first cycle of promotions done by then Chief Russ Leach about six months after he took the job. A couple of the plaintiffs would go on to be promoted to captain also by Leach though the paths of both would prove be interesting indeed. 

Because under Leach, it wasn't clear a lot of the time who was making the promotional decisions given that there were quite a few chiefs in the police department including those running it from City Hall. 

I'm sure some management team members particularly the newer transplants reading this probably know little to nothing about this chapter of Riverside history through their own choice not to educate themselves except through ex-employees who left under a cloud in other words most of the upper management in 2010. But it's a valuable lesson to keep in mind before throwing out accusations against community leaders who far from manipulating the promotional process of lieutenants as the current chief claimed, actually backed the police chief when he tried to exercise his role and responsibility of promoting lieutenants back in 2000.  In large part, because they were men of color who were having their promotions challenged but many people also felt that City Hall's involvement in the process seemed inappropriate.  At the time, the assumption was that police chiefs promoted police officers not city council members or mayors.  But apparently that's not what always happens in Riverside.

Diaz would serve himself best to remember that if he gets a phone call from his boss Scott Barber to not promote an individual he's chosen but promote someone else instead because some elected official pulled Barber's leash to make that phone call. That will be especially interesting and perhaps relevant when the new mayor is crowned by voters in November. 

City Hall on the other hand has a much dimmer record of keeping out of the police department's affairs including the promotional process. And what happened to Meredith again in 2005 is proof of that.  

In December 2005, Meredith was to be a police captain. She received the call that she probably hoped she'd get that she'd survived the process to get promoted to the next level. A great day in a police officer's life, a hallmark moment right?  Something to celebrate.

So she gets into her car and makes the drive to be "pinned" by Leach in his office as the department's newest captain. Not much time in the interim, about three hours but this is a case where you learn how much a person's career trajectory can change in even that brief amount of time. By the time she reached Leach's office to get the good news in person, her promotion had gone up as if it were no more lasting and tangible than a puff of smoke. 

Instead she was told she wouldn't be getting it and instead then Lt. Mark Boyer was chosen instead. He didn't last longer than several years in that position and later on friction with him and the chief that promoted him allegedly pushed him into retirement. 

It's hard to say what's colder. Snatching away Meredith's promotion before she even arrived to accept it or having one of her closest friends (another city employee) deliver the bad news to her. That's just no way to treat a person but Meredith apparently took matters into her hands according to testimony given by Leach in deposition and consulted legal counsel. According to Leach's deposition she came back and said she had done that and was told she might have a case. As it turned out, she likely did. 

She was promoted not long after that to fill a new captain's position and she started out her stint in Communications being both the first and last captain to serve in that position that's been held by everyone from civilian managers to sergeants. 

Councilman Steve Adams spoke platitudes about Meredith and how "difficult" it was to be a woman in the RPD leaving out a few details of course of his goodbye speech

It was only later that it came to light what happened with Meredith and her captain's promotion. It turned out that several depositions including one given by Steve Adams  shed some interesting if disturbing light on the whole issue. A narrative started to emerge that Adams had allegedly told Hudson that he shouldn't promote Meredith. If true, then Adams violated the city's charter provision against administrative interference which went unchecked including by those serving with him on the dais.

What happened is that the city residents bore the costs through litigation and settlement for his alleged actions. Two lieutenants who filed lawsuits paid the price of facing retaliation for bringing this issue and other scandals to light. Meredith however had to experience something that was pretty appalling and very disrespectful to her. If she chose to challenge it, more power to her to do that. Adams allegedly had been involved in another manipulation of the promotional process in early 2008. The individual in that case wasn't told that he was promoted only to find out he was not, but was handled differently.

According to several sworn depositions taken, he was given an airing out process with Adams at an out of town (and thus under the radar) restaurant to make his case for promotion. Adams had apparently been upset with him and other members of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association for not endorsing his reelection.

Meredith never had that opportunity in her own case to appeal the decision made not by the police department but on the seventh floor at City Hall to block her promotion after the 11th hour. It really is a "good old boys" network at City Hall.

In contrast to the 2000 lawsuit by the white sergeants,  lawsuits filed by individuals that aren't white males don't settle so quickly, they litigate for years and this is true citywide in the employee ranks, from public works to public utilities and certainly inside the police department.  But the city usually winds up paying out money on them even if it's nearly a decade and over $750,000 spent in litigation costs by the time it reaches that point as happened with a group of African-American public works employees.

It cost the "self insured"  city a small fortune when one racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuit made it to trial and received a remarkably high dollar amount inside a civil court system that rarely awards plaintiffs at trial and even rarer that kind of financial verdict. What makes or breaks civil trials like that involving Officer Roger Sutton is how much of the case can be "tried" through written documentation including employment records. Testimony on the stand matters too but it's also very difficult to control what people say or the extent of what they say on the stand and though the judge can rule "objection sustained" as well as then agreeing with a "motion to strike", it's very hard to unring a bell especially inside a public forum like a courtroom.

The Riverside County civil court system including its jurors aren't known for being generous and making charitable contributions so any sizable verdict that comes out of that system can only be viewed as an indictment against well...something.

Former Chief Russ Leach allegedly testified under oath recently again and what did City Hall think?

Leach being a police chief in Riverside for about a decade has been deposed for a number of lawsuits once they reach that stage and I've read two depositions he gave in relation to lawsuits filed in 2005 and several years after that by two now retired lieutenants.

It's never a dull moment when he hits the stand so to speak and starts lighting fires. I found out a few things about how he viewed me in the first deposition he gave in relation to the first lawsuit.  That his view of me when sworn under the threat of perjury was different than when he was not.  But then often police chiefs have to be taken with a grain of salt in part because it's a politicized position serving more masters than can be imagined and they pick and choose who to like in public and apparently behind the scenes as well.

Leach was also known as telling people what they wanted to hear in most circles but he was pretty hamstrung over his own department at the end especially after his back surgery. But actually the turning point took place in March 2007 during one of the most controversial periods in the department's history. It brought a crowd of police officers and community leaders to the city council chambers in protest. This is probably the first that the current management team minus Blakely of course has heard of it in quite this way.

When it erupted, Leach was tucked in a bar with a lieutenant in Washington, D.C., the perfect distraction while Hudson was making decisions to turn two vested positions, that of assistant chief and that of deputy chief into "at will" positions. This attempted reclassifiation had actually been taking place at least six months earlier but it took a while to erupt into full controversy.  The positions were offered to John DeLaRosa and Pete Esquivel who back then were still almost friends. They weren't in competition with each other as would happen later on. They were allegedly offered these "promotions" in exchange for serving at will not just in those positions but as police employees in general. Both the Riverside Police Officers' Association and Riverside Police Administrators' Association viewed this as creating a management team that was beholden not to the police chief (who remember, was 3,000 miles away in a bar) but to City Hall. Hudson initially defended it through an email to me that it was something all management level employees coveted because they had received pay hikes.  But those pay hikes aren't acts of generosity or even merit pay, they're in exchange for the "at will" stipulation.

Esquivel and DeLaRosa both accepted their positions but when Leach found out what happened below his radar, he erupted into fury. He came back fully prepared to confront Hudson and his unions would have backed that. But that's not what happened at all, was it?  What actually happened is that when the unions mobilized to protest at City Hall during a city council meeting in March 2007, members of the dais and Leach himself instead gave carefully worded public service announcements mollifying people while reversing Hudson's action.

So it all calmed down or so it seemed. But what came to light later on is that not long after it happened, Leach received a sizable salary increase and some viewed that as the price to buy that mollification. It was viewed as a betrayal of the department and was the beginning of the end for Leach's reign. It also allegedly impacted both DeLaRosa and Esquivel fracturing their relationship as both learned what the other was capable of doing which would come to full fruition in an ugly way almost exactly three years later.

Leach allegedly popped up to be deposed again and knowing his track record, it's more likely than not to be quite colorful given his propensity to go against those who he perceives wronged him and that's a list that got longer.  Leach is a lot of things to different people but he's never boring when he opens his mouth even under oath.

His department under his watch was micromanaged by different characters in City Hall including cop fetishists Hudson and his assistant in many things, Tom DeSantis with both craving all types of police equipment to soup up their cars and their personas including badges, cold plates and in DeSantis' case at least reversible police tires and fancy lights and radios. They made the department their own and did so allegedly at the request of more than one elected officials. They tried to oust long-time management employees with institutional memories and replace them by "yes men" whose wealth of experience in those positions they were to take was pretty much laughable.

Still, there's a trio of such in this city and who can forget the man who put a shrine to law enforcement inside his own office?

Gregory Priamos.

He was assistant city attorney during the 2000 episode and city attorney in 2005 when Meredith was roadblocked. He also had a iron fist hold on the police department using his office to get that control during Leach's reign.

The ability to "roll" into major police incidents including officer-involved shootings and when SWAT was utilized.  But rolling out in his city issued car didn't appear to be enough, allegedly he wanted lights and  a police radio as well.

When not outsourcing most of the city's legal work, City Attorney Greg Priamos has more time to perhaps lament the loss of his ironclad hold over the police department?

Alas, for poor Priamos his control of the police department allegedly ended under Diaz and he's no longer on the call list for coming out during most major incidents.  So when Diaz and management hold court in mobile command posts where they're "briefed" by various police personnel representing all kinds of inside divisions, Priamos is out of the loop.   But he's got a new BFF in Barber which is a sharp contrast to his interrelations with Hudson. 

When Hudson arrived, he thought it fair game to replace everyone he chose with one of his colleagues from Riverside County. That happened in many departments even when he put in heads who had little direct experience in the professional areas their departments covered. But Hudson also wanted a brand new city attorney and allegedly wanted Priamos to be replaced. Apparently, this miffed Priamos who once said in public that being accidentally called the city manager was hardly complimentary. 

"I consider it an insult actually," he sniffed at the time. 

He was right about that but what he doesn't realize is that he has his own masters who can tell him how to heel if necessary if they remember how. He was smart enough to stay out of the conflicts between Hudson, his assistant and the employment unions during often contentious and prolonged contract negotiations.

But several elected officials weren't smart enough to do that themselves and at least two tried to get officers reassigned or punished for speaking out as city residents at meetings such as the Mayor's Night Out.

Priamos is also apparently second to none when it comes to taking care of his loyal employees and doing the opposite with those deemed not loyal to him.

But after his alleged nemesis Hudson left the building, Priamos proved much friendlier with Barber and seemed to have picked him as his new BFF. The two are inseparable and Barber's relied on Priamos' vast city experience to come in handy at his own job as city manager. Loveridge and at  least a couple city council members seemed a bit concerned about that at around the time of Barber's latest performance evaluation, that he was relying too heavily on Priamos' counsel to do his own job.  But in a way that's understandable because Barber didn't bring in a wealth of experience into the job.

The two apparently cool off at the Salted Pig on Main including after contentious city council meetings and Priamos who's allegedly quite miffed at being almost entirely cut off from the police department's operations by Diaz and company might need some consolation over that development.

But Priamos can never be totally out of the loop as long as the police department is subjected to getting the city sued by those inside and outside of it. There are at least four active lawsuits and those are just the ones filed by its own employees including the latest action by Sgt. Duane Beckman who'd allegedly been trying to medically retire (rather than being placed on light duty) which might go class action and include other plaintiffs in similar situations.

Amazing how management employees medically retire at the drop of a hat even when nothing's really wrong with them. An officer was once prosecuted and convicted of felonies for lying on a deposition related to workman's compensation. Not by Riverside County which didn't file any fraud charges against her but by San Bernardino County where she was deposed. Think for herself here, when was the last time anyone was prosecuted or faced charges for perjury on a deposition in a civil related action?  If either county pursued these kind of cases actively how filled would the courtrooms and jails in both counties be with all the employees who are medically retired after scandals and not just inside law enforcement?

So if the inland counties are going after people who allegedly perjure themselves or commit fraud to get medical payments or even retirement how come Riverside retires as many healthy people on medical retirements as it has done?  Perhaps the proposed class action lawsuit connected with Beckman will answer these and other questions.   Diaz has advocated through Bernstein's column for more vigorous litigation of lawsuits up to trial but while that's an admirable stance, he would know if he studied Riverside's history of litigation, that's not going to happen any time soon.  If it did, Riverside might still be insured by an outside carrier rather than "self-insured" (meaning city residents pay for it) as it proudly proclaims from time to time.

That and the fact that when it comes to adding to pensions, Priamos apparently proved about eight years ago that he's the best at doing that, through a single phone call where he allegedly arranged to reclassify a city employee who didn't have long to live without going to the city council.  In fact, they were never to know about it but they found out years later and then promptly sat on it. But then this is River City.

Clearly the same pension plan wasn't made available to the likes of former deputy city attorney Raychele Sterling. In fact her termination for refusing to do what she deemed unethical has exacted a high price from loss of benefits for her family. But  this isn't apparently doing something about of kindness, it's a loyalty test.

So Priamos is obviously very skilled at a few things.

Let the Games Begin...Again

In London and Riverside

Who will be left when contracts come up for renewal in 2013? And which of these folks will serve on the interview panel for captain starting next week?

Now that Meredith has gone off to retirement, that leaves the department short of a captain's position which was lost on almost no one. Granted, it was a position created about the same time that according to Leach's deposition, Meredith told him she'd spoken to an attorney about her situation. But still, the position is to be filled with interviews of the roster of eligible and interested candidates beginning as early as next week. The interview panel will consist of 2-3 members of Diaz' cabinet,  meaning some combination of Asst. Chief Chris Vicino, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer and Deputy Chief Mike Blakely, hopefully one that doesn't prove to be too volatile in the same room.

With one of the top short list candidates Vance Hardin out of town, there had been some discussion of delaying the interviews until his return allegedly from a training stint back East.  Two of those on the short list, Gary Leach and Guy Toussaint appeared at City Hall during the award ceremony honoring Meredith. The intense competition which has come to define the promotional process to captain had already started months ago and included other possible short list members, Bob Williams and Ed Blevins. But with Meredith initially pulling her PERS papers and then changing her mind, things would heat up for a while and then cool off as people returned to their respective corners.  It's got to be more than a little nerve wracking to think that the promotional process is going on and then to find out that it's not and has been put on hold.  But during the time when a spot is up for grabs, there's a process that's followed to ensure that candidates make a good impression on those involved with the decision making process.

In order words, dinners with the chief would be more of a priority during the active periods of the recruitment of captains' candidates. As it would be in the private sector which experiences these social gatherings all the time. But people are bracing themselves and hoping that the stilettos don't start coming out including through meet ups with the chief where candidates share anecdotes about well, other candidates.  It's all about promoting your strengths and your opponents' weaknesses until the final determination is made. This isn't really American Idol, or  perhaps to Diaz' dismay,   Dancing with the Stars.  The show, Survivor has come a lot closer but still doesn't tell the entire tale.  The environment surrounding the promotional process turned so toxic that by the time Diaz came in, he had to hire outside management employees as only one captain was able to be used to fill a higher position with those who filled those positions being gone like the wind.

So who will Diaz put on the interview panel?  All three members of his cabinet or only two of them and if so, which two?  It's probably a given that Vicino will be a panelist given that Diaz doesn't really communicate with most of his management except for Vicino because the trust factor appears to be running a bit low. So that leaves Greer and Blakely or perhaps both will be joining Vicino on the oral interview stage.

Diaz had said when he first arrived that he would be participating in the interviews of captains' candidates during that promotional process beginning with an opening in July 2010 but things have changed since then.  But he'll make the final decision or at least have the final word until Barber has the final word.

Will Deputy Chief of Administration and Personnel Mike Blakely serve on the panel as well?

Blakely would of course make an interesting addition to the panel as usual. But have relations cooled between Diaz and his first choice to line his cabinet?  He had told one extended command staff meeting that he had pushed for Blakely's promotion to deputy chief amid resistance at City Hall. But has alleged friction between Vicino and Blakely which culminated in a locksmith's visit changed that environment? Even the relationship between Diaz and his second in command is said to be quite volatile at Orange Street Station and seen in other venues as well within the department. It's always a little confusing as to how good management relationships are fostered through shouting at each other. Perhaps Barber can explain that type of management style.

Another interesting aspect involving the captain's promotional process is that several of the leading candidates were allegedly mentored by Blakely and also by the man that he himself mentored as well, John DeLaRosa.  DeLaRosa was essentially Diaz' choice of field training officers when he arrived in Riverside in 2010. Diaz hadn't brought any real chief's experience with him, having been a deputy commander of the downtown area of Los Angeles as part of the fallout from the May Day 2007 scandal which cost the city millions and led to re-hauling of the department's Metro Platoon division.

By the time of the candidate interviews, Diaz and perhaps the panelists himself will know more than they want to know about the candidates mostly from other candidates as has been the case in the past. Several candidates will have some of these anecdotes to elaborate on or explain during their own interviews particularly two of them who have one trait in common. Still, several probably won't have to say anything because Diaz hadn't wanted to know more about them. In one case, he walked away from a situation involving candidate with his hands over his hears, saying he didn't want to hear any more about it.

But there's an interesting trait that all the individuals who Diaz favors in the upper positions have in common including his first captain, Mike Perea.  Besides their connections to DeLaRosa's mentoring. How this will shape the future of the police department would require a series of blog postings. I find some of Diaz' practices baffling but I find this particular practice tops that list as to its origins. He's got some very strong skills in community policing from L.A. but in terms of management building and accountability somewhat more puzzling.

That said, it shall be interesting as the competition among a pool of determined candidates over one captain's spot enters into its next chapter.

To be Continued...


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