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".

Monday, April 16, 2012

News and the "Truth Squad" in the All-American City

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

 Where's Councilman Chris MacArthur's legislative aide these days?

UPDATE: Was Chris MacArthur's legislative aide placed on admin leave and if so, why? 


 Is Riverside's Redevelopment Mess behind the decision made by Southern California Gas Company to relocate its payment offices?  That building was property that was transferred to the former RDA from the city.  But now that all those properties madly transferred in March 2011 by the city out of the RDA might have to go to the successor agency...who knows what will happen?

Our records indicate that you previously visited our branch payment office located at: 3460 Orange St., Riverside, CA 92501 This email is to inform you that our branch payment office at this location is scheduled to close, effective Thursday, May 3, 2012. The office will be relocating and in preparation for the move, will be closed for approximately four (4) days. 

The new payment office will be located at 7000 Indiana St. #105, Riverside, CA 92506 and is scheduled to open on Wednesday, May 9, 2012. For your convenience, we offer another easy way to pay your gas bill by doing so online. 

With My Account it is easy to view, pay your bill, and manage your account online. Save a trip to a branch payment office and pay your bill faster by using My Account. Pay My Bill 

Thank you for your patience and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. 

 Branch Office Department  

UPDATE: Charter Review Committee Chair Tom Evans gets a new gig in Lake Elsinore


 Flooding at Sedgwick Avenue might be a thing of the past since the city council voted to fix the culvert that caused the street to flood when it rained. 

The Downtown Library which has fallen in a state if disrepair and neglect amid the Riverside Renaissance was the center of recent controversy surrounding censorship

This month, this blog hit a milestone of sorts, celebrating its seventh anniversary of being online, having been started in April 2005. Not everyone has been happy with it of course including the powers that be at City Hall. So what happened recently in Riverside was hardly surprising.

A couple of news stories recently crashed the pages of the Press Enterprise including what happened at a recent city council meeting.  News emerged that City Hall had accidentally filtered out the Web site Thirty Miles of Corruption from the public libraries while trying to block it from the city's other networks accessed by its employees.  This explanation actually is believable. At the March 27 city council meeting there was mention by speakers that a lot of city employees accessed this Web site and then on March 28, something curious happened. People started having problems accessing that blog, this blog and who knows how many others on most of the city's half dozen or so internet networks.  The only one that wasn't blocking certain blogs critical of the city was Smart Riverside, the city's free service.  Most of the other networks started having problems allegedly beginning on the evening of March 28 or early March 29.  When this situation was brought to light and news was delivered that the ACLU would be notified, at about 11am the next day, the situation appeared to reverse itself, soon enough to report that good news to the ACLU attorneys.

The ACLU attorney who responded back was most interested in the blockages at the public libraries, which makes since there's an extremely high bar set for banning news or political speech from the public libraries.When I realized that the city's networks apparently had been cut off, I figured that it must be accidental. Because what the city admitted that it did was that it was filtering out blogs critical of its operations from the employee used networks and that its blockage of them from the public library systems was accidentally done.  Like oops, we were trying to censor them from our employees (within 24 hours of being notified that they were visiting one blog) but we goofed and accidentally censored them from everyone else.

It's funny that the city can't even engage in censorship properly but then  even while censoring city employees on the internet, the city might have run into legal problems. Yes, the internet used by city employees can be blanked censored from certain types of sites, i.e. porn (which as one woman complained is not banned from the public libraries) but the city can't split hairs and ban or block sites in an allowable class based on whether or not it agrees or even likes the content.  Meaning that in this case, the city might be able to block the city employees' access to news or political blogs on the city but it can't ban employees from viewing Thirty Miles of Corruption or Five Before Midnight while allowing them access to say, The Truth Publication or Inside Riverside which essentially lobby for Riverside and its elected officials.  That's a violation of both the First Amendment but also the 14th Amendment as well.

It's more than likely that the blogs or news/political sites which trump for the city weren't blocked by any of the city's networks including the one that still is allegedly having "problems" loading certain sites.

But then Riverside's long had some history in the area of blocking things it doesn't like from its venues but it still hasn't learned from its experiences.

Banned from the Riverside Public Library in the 1970s

Because after all, the city should have learned from past attempts at censoring at the library from attempts to remove the book, "The Fan Club"  from its shelves several decades ago. The book was on the shelves as of 2008 when the library held one of its celebrations commemorating Banned Books Week, a copy would find its way in the "cage" where the librarians had placed books commonly banned in other places. During the days of the Brad Hudson/Tom DeSantis regime, Banned Books week kind of fell out of favor, at one point being shafted off the premises of the downtown library to the annual United Way Chili Cook-off.  

After much of what has come to light about what happened during this regime, it's not surprising that an event like this one would be one held by them in high esteem. After all, during their era, the librarians all had gag orders on them not to say anything even about the purview of their own jobs or else they would face the consequences.

Not to mention more recent book banning including by the Riverside Unified School District which banned Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War from at least one of its middle school libraries not long ago. 

Banned from one of Riverside Unified School District's Middle Schools

Mayor Ron Loveridge once negotiated with the publisher of the Black Voice News in 1999 while at a conference in Palm Springs at the same time someone at City Hall ordered a truck from the Public Works division to go make the rounds of the city tossing 26 news racks belonging to that newspaper into the back of the truck.  At the same time the powers that be including Loveridge were gnashing their teeth and wailing over its coverage of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Tyisha Miller. A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court and settled after the presiding judge determined that the city had violated the publishers' 14th amendment by singling them out for having their news racks removed and tossed in the back of a truck.

But all this mostly recent  internet censorship, accidental or otherwise, also took place a day after City Manager Scott Barber announced his plans publicly to create his own blog. 

Which would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  But while his spin on the carefully selected issues he has chosen to present have been interesting, he apparently hasn't mastered HTML style enough to provide links to the city's documents which would help hit the points that he raises further home.

Meanwhile Back at the Offices of the "Truth Squad"...

All he needs is a cape and some spandex. 


Barber Blog

With the mayor's endorsement of his blog as the "Truth Squad", Barber's stock in the news and political writing arena has risen considerably.  Essentially, Loveridge has designated Barber with super hero status to save City Hall from being criticized and even questioned by individuals at City Council meetings and on blogs.  Will Barber be able to don his cap and spandex suit to rise up to the challenge of avenging City Hall and placing it in its pristine light?  

That remains to be seen of course.  But what's left for Barber to designate is the obligatory sidekick, the subordinate in this relationship, the one who will do a lot of the work but not outshine the starring character in this ongoing drama.

I'm still waiting to see how Barber addresses the comment made by one of his bosses' Councilman Steve Adams in terms to discrimination being "funny".  Namely, whether or not it's the best attitude to publicly express when the city's applying for and receiving federal funding and whether or not it will impact how the city litigates the plethora of grievances and lawsuits filed by its own employees alleging discrimination and retaliation. But then he's had over a week to do that and has opted out.

When "Outrageous" Means Believing Discrimination is Funny


---Councilman Steve Adams when asked if discrimination was funny.  

“I am relieved this is finally over. Hopefully my case encourages the department to apply equal standards of justice to its officers and to not lash out at officers when they protest unfair treatment.”

---Officer Roger Sutton, Riverside Police Department to ACLU in 2005 after winning at trial.

The Press Enterprise proved to be an appropriate venue for Adams to add some clarity to the comment he made at the March 27 City Council meeting in response to Raychele Sterling's public comments alleging the misuse of evaluations against city employees. He laughed during much of it and when she asked him if discrimination is funny, he didn't say, "no I don't".

He didn't say, "I never find it funny," or even "I'm offended that you are asking me this comment and calling me on my rudeness because I'd never find it funny."

No, what Adams answered instead was, "yes".

Most of the time when people answer "yes" to their belief that something is funny, they mean that they find it funny. But Adams said that he simply was responding to a comment he found "outrageous".

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Last week, Adams said he was reacting to comments he found inappropriate. “Rather than end with a scowl on my face, I smiled,” he said. “(When) she made another outrageous statement, I just said ‘sure.’”

Okay, so that's an explanation.  He never said in his quoted comments what that "another outrageous statement" was and he never even said that he didn't believe discrimination to be funny to refute what he had said at the city council meeting. There's still no statement from Adams that he doesn't find discrimination funny.  But then again, most people who oppose discrimination are fairly consistent in stating that opinion in a variety of circumstances. If you were truly against it, why would you respond otherwise in any circumstance including in public?  Folks who responded said that since Adams won his reelection, he obviously doesn't feel as if he's accountable even to the voters, of which at least half in his own ward are Latinos who have a history of discrimination as a demographic population. After all, it's his tireless aide who does much of the legwork in his ward and is the most visible presence there.

It's interesting that the issue got raised at all because when that meeting was watched online or in reruns, apparently his comment in response to Sterling was somewhat muffled. Allegations have been raised that the volume of some of the speakers is lowered during public comment at least in the recordings that are online and on reruns of the meeting on television. It's also interesting to see whether or not City Attorney Gregory Priamos had some advice to Adams in the future when it came to public statements that discrimination was funny.

But what about all the federal funding that the city receives that could be suspended if the city engages in discriminatory practices?  What about the litigation filed against the city alleging discrimination including racism coming out of the police department and public utilities?

Given the city's history of millions spent litigating and either settling  or losing inhouse lawsuits, the last thing you'd think that anyone on the dais would have to say about discrimination is that it's funny. A group of African-American employees settling lawsuits and Officer Roger Sutton taking his lawsuit to trial and winning a jury's verdict of $1.64 million.

Not long ago, it suffered a major blow in ongoing litigation involving a  Public Utilities employee who won a major victory in court. But then what's not generally known is how poorly the city's done when defending itself against grievances filed by its employees including for discrimination and/or retaliation. After all, it's now currently "self-insured" which is simply one way of saying that it's the city residents that will be footing the bill rather than the insurance carrier.

Then Back at the Police Headquarters...

What's the latest alleged incident that took place involving someone here and does Chief Sergio Diaz know about it?

While researching the latest installment to take place at the still-deteriorating retro-styled building which houses the police administrative offices, news emerged of another incident that allegedly took place involving someone working there.  A couple people were furious about it and what they felt was a history in upper management and supervision, those they believed were supposed to serve as role models for those they manage and supervise. If it's what happened, it's beyond very disappointing. But what does it mean about how business is being conducted by those at the police department's administration headquarters?  But then the last three incidents involving individuals in high ranking positions there have been disappointing to people who had hoped that the management culture of the department had changed with the arrival of Chief Sergio Diaz and his cabinet.  The current management had sailed into the department, setting its calendar to Year One as if it hadn't existed before their arrival and said everything would be different now that they were there.

But is it?

It reminded me of several emails I received in the past which explained what life was like at Orange Street Station during the regime of former Chief Russ Leach and his cabinet. Not to mention what was allegedly happening in the industrial parking area of Lincoln Field Operations Station near Adams and Lincoln in what were called "Off Probation Parties."  The  kind where female trainees were allegedly the guests of honor.The behavior described was the kind that eventually results in multi-million dollar payouts in litigation by cities including self-insured ones.

Then there was the following line.

Of course, there are all the supervisors that believe that sexual
harassment is a rite of passage with getting stripes or bars.

 Was that or is that the truth?

The police department's strategic plan addressed the issue of mentoring and "promotional meetings" which hopefully will be different than those in the past which allegedly took place on golfing greens, restaurants, vacations and intramural sports. These could be very good and useful tools to developing promotional practices in an agency where few trust them and to ensure that they're accountable, fair and transparent to those who participate in them. But quite a few people have opted out of the process entirely, including many of those who work field assignments wondering what's the point, not long after the whole issue of special assignments and who gets them became a bone of some contention in the department including between management and the Riverside Police Officers' Association.  If you were a police officer working in a squad car in the streets of Riverside, interfacing more with the public and less with police management or politicians, how much of a realistic chance did you have of getting promoted?  What were the odds of you getting promoted compared to employees who hadn't worn a police uniform in years?

How would those questions be answered under the last police chief?  How would they be answered by the current one?

In 2009, Leach appeared in front of the Human Resources Board and provided the attrition rates for male versus female officers. Male officers dropped out at a rate of 29% while for female officers it was around 45%. For both groups there were 93% (for male officers) and 96% (for female officers) attrition rates for probationary officers. Actually for female officers, the biggest dropout period appeared to be about 2-3 years in their careers with the department, a time when most officers are settling into their jobs and feeling more confident in their abilities to do what's required.  It's also when reality might hit officers that what they did to cope and survive in a culture that doesn't really view them other than strippers wasn't a one-time thing, or a two-time event but the decisions made to make it that far were just symptoms of that culture.

But then the information that sifted in about the "off probation" parties was among the hardest to read. If these parties took place as alleged, how was that allowed to happen? And did someone finally step forward and put a stop to them?  Hopefully  by the time of Diaz' arrival, they were just a vestige of history.

When Diaz made his own appearance in front of the same Board had these statistics changed?  Were they presented at all?  Did the Human Resources Board get any information about attrition rates for male and female officers at different stages of the process?

The disparity of attrition statistics aren't very surprising considering what had emerged about the police department under its last chief, the one who was medically retired after a controversial DUI incident.

 As everyone in the country knows by now,  he was pulled over while driving intoxicated from Club 215 where exotic dancers entertain those who drop by for food and drink. It's not surprising that there are those who don't feel drawn to watching women strip believed that this culture which celebrated women who did believe that they had little to zero chances of advancing in the police department.  What do you do if you're a women, have ambitions of promotion and those who make the decisions seem to relate best at least on a recreational level to women who strip for a living?  Not to mention that many male employees didn't subscribe to this culture either and were likely penalized as well or at least not rewarded by it. To be viewed as favorable for promotion and special assignments was it required to embrace this culture?  Leach had people of choice to vacation with, party with and so forth.  For women, what is it like to know that the management team members who make the promotional decisions that impact both male and female officers relax by ogling women stripping at clubs?  Or they go drinking at bars and hit on women there sometimes those who are there with other employees?  The department's upper echelon was apparently a hard drinking, hard partying culture, not normally one in most cases that many women subscribe to or even most men past the age of about 25.

It's hardly surprising that out of this management culture that existed, there were officers like Robert Forman who were busted for sexual misconduct on duty.  Forman actually was busted twice, once around 2004 for at incident with a homeless woman that took place at Fairmount Park and was captured on his own audio recording device.  Then in 2008 and likely dozens of deleted recordings later, Forman was arrested for sexual crimes under the color of authority against three women. He testified at trial that he had consensual oral sex with one of the woman, bursting into tears saying he had done it in a moment of weakness. As if it was the first time he had ever done it while on duty.  He was able to sell this story to a jury because any information and testimony about the earlier incident that somehow didn't get him fired apparently wasn't admissible during his trial. So what he did was put on a good show for a jury that had been apparently left in the dark. But the jury convicted him on that charge anyway.

 It's not really known how many women that Forman had similar encounters with and it's difficult to forget the documents shown during his criminal trial that showed how often and how many times the numerical sequence recorded by his digital audio recorder had been broken by deleted or "missing" recordings.  Then there was the sergeant who allegedly was demoted for on-duty sexual misconduct and failure to supervise.  The captain who had allegedly been disciplined with a written reprimand when caught committing sexual misconduct some years and a couple of ranks earlier. A rather bawdy online novella written about the police department by an unknown individual that abruptly disappeared after an internal investigation was launched.  It's often begged the question, what is it like to be a female employee in the department in this kind of environment?  And how does the attitudes and treatment of women inside the department shape how women are viewed and treated outside of it?

That's why it's not surprising when a woman complained of being pulled over by an officer in 2010 who told her she did nothing wrong, he just wanted her phone number. Remember getting involved in sexual misconduct if you are a man might get you dinged but you'll be back in no time, that's what the department both under Leach and now under Diaz has shown. Leach had left the building for good this time and Acting Chief John DeLaRosa had been appointed to that position before the public knew he had been implicated for failure to act appropriately in the investigation into the alleged coverup of Leach's DUI incident.

But those individuals are gone, well except for DeLaRosa who's still an influential and visible presence in the department's fabric. Still, there are elements of that same troubling culture that existed in Leach which are still present now leaving people wondering if despite the new focus on image over substance by Diaz and his cabinet, things had changed.

Lieutenants can allegedly still physically fight and whereas most people (including lower level officers) might get arrested, criminally charged or at least investigated, it's viewed as a "private matter" by Diaz and crew.  Captains can allegedly try to get their sons (also police officers) out of jail without paper trails within months of a new chief being hired in a department that had been painted as giving preferential treatment to its own chief.   If that's what is happening, what is so different about the management culture of the department under Diaz and company as opposed to how Leach mostly through his own cabinet ran it?   It's a shame if little or nothing's changed because the department's filled with hardworking and talented employees both on the dwindling civilian and the sworn sides of it. But how are these individuals and the public served if it's indeed business as usual inside the halls of power in the police department?

I thought of the complaint about the woman pulled over for her phone number, what that must have been like. What does a woman do in that situation?
Pulling women over to ask for dates and phone numbers was what helped put Walkill, New York under the second state issued consent decree issued two weeks after Riverside had started its own in March 2001. In some states, that kind of conduct can land an officer in jail for up to a year because it's illegal to use police powers to get information for personal information. This woman felt creeped out just giving the officer her license, which he used to copy information off of it. Did he then go and run it through CLETS to get what she didn't want to give him? There's no way of knowing what he did with it or whether he had done the same thing to other women.

The problem when this happens is that it causes women over time to start distrusting officers who pull them over on traffic stops for more legitimate reasons.  Because one officer in a uniform has that much power to rightly or wrongly shape the way members  of a gender view all police officers even those who are committed to protecting public safety including for women. As some of these officers learn when they either stop or interact with women who've had these experiences.  One female victim of Forman's refused to let officers into her apartment and finally told one of them why.  That ultimately led to the investigation of the department against Forman. But the arrest warrant declarations by detectives also showed that she had tried to tell other officers including a sergeant with no followup back to her.

Is it such a large stretch for an officer who pulls a woman asking for her phone number to then pull her over, coerce her to take her clothes off and walk back home carrying them while he drives behind her, as happened in another police department in New York state about 10 years ago?  Officers who engage in this conduct make it much harder for the majority who don't to do their jobs because of the strong identification people have not for officers as individuals but as members of the same police force. Rewarding certain officers or not holding them accountable makes it harder for both the officers not engaging in that behavior (but who might be labeled for it) and the public.

Officers joking about and playing with a woman's underwear not long before she alleged that Forman committed a crime against her. None of them would testify to the identity of the officer who stuck her underwear on a dart board right in front of her.  The female officer present who had been assigned to Forman for field training failed probation within three months of his investigated.  Arrested and out of the department three months before that happened with Forman in 2008.

Not exactly surprising either as the management in a police department can release an officer from probation without explaining why.

Forman's completely responsible for his behavior including that which was criminal. But the question begs to be asked anyway. What kind of culture existed during his development as an officer?  Was he doing behaviors in both time periods that were his alone or did he learn through his history with the police department through example?  After all, he worked at the department when former Det. Al Kennedy who worked in the department's sexual assault and child abuse unit had been sued by a woman who alleged he coerced her into sex while investigating her alleged case. He was investigated internally and the allegations on some level were sustained against him. He then went through the process of being reviewed for disciplinary recommendations by the chain of the command that oversaw him.  The investigations captain recommended a written reprimand which was contraindicated by departmental policy which required that disciplinary actions for certain categories of "conduct unbecoming of an officer" be disciplined only through suspension, demotion and/or termination.  The department's assistant chief then recommended a suspension but Leach overruled him and fired Kennedy. 

Kennedy sued through arbitration for his job and ultimately proved to be successful when the city withdrew its opposition to the arbitration ruling reinstating him back (without three years of back pay) from the state's court of appeals.  Other disturbing alleged incidents involving Kennedy's conduct with women including someone on a rape crisis board who felt uncomfortable in his presence came to Leach's attention.

Then again, most officers don't engage in this type of misconduct even in a culture of management and supervision that seemed best to wink at it or selectively enforce investigations and/or discipline involving it. But as several cases have shown even getting discipline for it isn't going to slow down upward progression of some careers for very long.  On the other hand complaining about this kind of behavior is pretty much career suicide as former Sgt. Christine Keers discovered in 1996 even before Leach's arrival.

Even before Leach, there was a lawsuit filed by first fired,  Keers who submitted a 30+ page lawsuit to Riverside County Superior Court that was chock filled with alleged incidents of sexual discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Plus a roster of xeroxed "exhibits" of just about every sexist cartoon imaginable. Women depicted with breasts twice their size and being penetrated by just about everything including in one case a Christmas tree. Not to mention sexual toys being helpfully placed on her desk and messages calling her "bitch" written on the bathroom wall like it was high school and not a police department. 

Then she mentioned that to celebrate the promotion of male sergeants, porno movies were aired in the roll call room. After filing complaints with Chiefs Sonny Richardson and Ken Fortier, Keers was arrested by those she complained against even when the Riverside County District Attorney's office specifically ordered them not to do so.  She ultimately was acquitted within one hour at trial by a jury who was effusive in its praise of her and was retired as part of a hefty settlement with the city after only $19,000 was spent litigating her case.

Some say her own son who works with her in another local law enforcement agency isn't on speaking terms with her anymore.

The police department that her lawsuit described in the 1980s and 1990s appeared more like a frat house than a police department but it has evolved a great deal since then. Hopefully most of that atmosphere was changed by the efforts made to reform it.  Hopefully much has changed for female employees inside Diaz' department even as a civilian division that's about 93% female has dwindled down in the past several years.

Still, what do you do when one former management level employee allegedly had a history of sexual harassment claims in a prior police department?  Because the police department's management of not so long ago past apparently included an individual like that.

What do you do if you're the female employee that gets hit on by one of them?  Do you keep your mouth shut, just ignore it or do you file a complaint?  The first might ensure more career longevity than the second.

What's there to say when a male supervisor gets his demotion reversed within 18 months of being disciplined yet two female supervisors had to wait nearly five years for the same action? As one member of Vicino's management told someone, "no one should  have to pay their entire career for a mistake" but some seem to pay longer than others.

That's why as someone else said it back in those days, "you do what they want or they'll take a lie about you and make it true".  Why a volunteer who said she was subjected to "black jokes" by other volunteers at a coffee shop after the first DUI checkpoint done by the police department was allegedly told by her coordinator that yes this kind of thing happened, but they had to just essentially put up with it and learn to get along with each other. She said that the Black officers walked on egg shells inside the department and so did its women.

Within three days of meeting with this coordinator, this female volunteer was allegedly let go from the volunteer program. That was about three years ago, has anything changed since then in Diaz' commitment to the volunteer program?

It takes a lot of commitment and work by management to address these issues but it seems that members of the management have already been quite busy now that spring's in the air.

Meanwhile on the Golf Course...

Which member of management has the best golf handicap?

Golfing had always been the sport of choice in the police department, where a share of the politicking in-house was done. Before Diaz' arrival, those in management who loved to golf started putting their noses to the grindstone to impress the new chief and company with their work ethic.  But the weather's getting warmer, spring is in the air and the golfing greens are apparently calling out like the Siren and some members of management have taken full advantage of the opportunities to increase their golfing handicaps.  I guess when you're making six figures in a recessive economy that you've truly arrived when golfing becomes part of your work assignment. With all the management people including the now non-permanent assistant city manager of finance loving the sport, is it included in the recruitment and hiring process as a perk of the job?  Before anyone laughs, while Grover Trask was Riverside County district attorney, on the recruitment page of the Web site, there was a statement of fact that Riverside had more golfing greens within driving distance than any other city.

Maybe the golfing green has replaced the conference room for meetings, the office for conducting business and if these individuals in management participate in promotional processes then maybe they'll start conducting the interviews on the golfing greens for a more informal and relaxing session. Maybe they'll have the promotional meetings or seminars there as well.

To  Be Continued...

Meanwhile the city continues its bait and switch involving retired city employees. The latest being the manager of the city's Community Police Review Commission who landed a $50,000 contract for working between April and August. Not only does he get to keep his job, but in order to avoid the entire issue of "double dipping" he gets to earn a greater payday.

The Population of Hired Consultants Explodes at City Hall

"New" PERS Rules brings Extravaganza to Riverside

 CPRC Manager Frank Hauptmann is making $50,000 for three months of part-time work thanks to PERS new rules

But what happens when August rolls again, do they terminate him leaving the city without a manager for the CPRC that City Hall's never supported except as a public relations tool to be manipulated or will he wind up with $50,000 contracts every three months making his "part-time" salary, $150,000 a year?  But it had to be $50,000. Why ? Because apparently that's still the maximum amount of money the city manager, Barber in this case can spend on contracts without being required to go to the city council for approval.

The choice of making it $50,000 and guess what, did it ever appear on the city council agenda for approval on March 1?   Of course not.  The city government including staff members like Barber never wanted the city residents to know that Hauptmann's employee status had changed and that his salary had apparently increased as well.

So when August rolls around, does Barber fire Hauptmann or having him resign leaving the CPRC without a manager or does he re-up his temporary contractual status for another four months at $50,000?  Hopefully, this question can be answered by Barber in his blog soon.

This issue also caused concern because the police department rehired retired employees to fill some of the positions for background investigators who evaluate the histories of prospective employees by the department including officers. Asst. Chief Chris Vicino said that those employees impacted by the new rules would no longer be housed in a police facility but would be working from home sending their hours spent on their responsibilities to the city for billing.

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