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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Parable Comes to Life in Riverside?


Recently, when the city deposed one employee who filed a civil suit against the city for two days, they called a time out for the second day.   Surprised?  No. 

Councilman Andrew Melendrez speaks out on Facebook against the controversial new redistricting plan:

 "Avoid the land grab. Support the low income community Eastside from losing it's economically vital commercial area and Metrolink Station."

Shift changes rock the sergeants' rank? 

Is Vice Ground Zero?

"What you are doing is a joke."  ---RPOA to Chief

To be Continued...

One Gang's message to another left on Arroyo Street, it's summer time. Many students from the Eastside use this street to walk to local schools including Riverside Poly High. A recent eruption of gang violence goes  ignored by the press including the shooting of a Latino man who was seriously injured near Patterson Park. 

Councilman Paul Davis congratulates Councilman Chris MacArthur after he wins the annual City Council Regatta. Davis finished second. 

Press Enterprise offers up News Reporting 101. Is this why it's sitting on a story involving the latest in house claim by an employee against City Hall?

More Staffing changes at the police department. Officer Carlos Flores promoted to sergeant by Chief Sergio Diaz

Riverside's Department heads appear at the annual budget hearing in the City Council Chamber to listen to City Manager Scott Barber's "Dream Team" rebut concerns raised in public comment. 

Shift Changes Speak Volumes

 A brief meeting by the command staff today resulted in the announcement of promotion of Sgt. Mark Rossi to lieutenant effective July 5. 

  Chief  Sergio Diaz then moved some chess pieces around the board after telling allegedly people internally he  was waiting until mayor's election was over to announce the proposed shift changes. 

Lt. Chris Manning and Lt. Larry Gonzalez moved to watch commander positions from their current assignments. Lt. Vance Hardin takes over the NPC North Area Command as rumored and Lt. Melissa Bartholomew takes over as Personnel lieutenant.  Lt.  Bruce Blomdahl will head METRO/Aviation. 

With a captain's position possibly opening up soon, will this be part of what's called career development or a game of multiple chairs?

Mayor's Race

Rusty Bailey leads Ed Adkison 31% to 28 % in early mail in ballots. The two men will face off for the ceremonial position in November. 


Jury decides Death Penalty for Earl Ellis Green after deliberating over two days in the murder case of Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio

After Capt. Meredyth Meredith allegedly pulled her papers again,  those who wish to replace her are ready to get busy...who leads the short list and how will this week's announcement of shift change assignments impact the process?

Gaming the Testing System:

Shortcuts to getting hired in five easy steps and how it might impact the city's coffers?  

Riverside's new assistant public works director is Tina English, who of course brings a wealth of public works experience to the job to fit in with that proud tradition.  


This blog posting might include unsolicited advice

(You still have time to click out of this blog posting, Chief Diaz)

This leader frowned on "unsolicited" advice and suffered a wardrobe crisis

There once was a story about an emperor who ruled the land as far as eyes could see and legs could walk. He was reasonably intelligent, he was somewhat good looking and he took over leadership of the kingdom from his own father the previous Emperor. 

But the emperor was image conscious particularly in the age of television and the internet so he decided that he needed some new threads because he was getting bored with his current wardrobe. And the regular shops and department stores weren't going to do it for someone of his stature. So he hired the most expensive tailor who had set up shop just outside the castle to do his new wardrobe. 

The tailor took measurements and asked questions. The emperor answered them diligently because he wanted the best possible wardrobe to show off to the rest of the kingdom.  If he looked elegant and yet sophisticated enough in the monthly parade in his honor then he would be viewed as intelligent, charismatic and a man of great fortitude and vision. All highly coveted traits for an emperor. 

He waited patiently for days, even weeks for his new clothes to arrive from the tailor who kept telling his aides that he was nearly done but wanted to get the new clothes just right. But then the great day came and the emperor and those who dressed him set to get him ready to ride in the monthly parade. He slipped the clothes on as instructed but something didn't seem quite right.  He couldn't quite put his finger on it but these clothes seemed somewhat__lacking.  But his aides just smiled at him and the tailor beamed. 

"Lovely simply lovely...and a perfect fit."

The aides all smiled in agreement but the emperor wasn't that convinced. So he queried his aides one by one and then when they all raved about his new outfit, he turned to those who had always told him how great, how smart, how handsome and how powerful when he most needed it. He asked them and each was more effusive in his praise of his new clothes than the one who preceded him.

So he decided to wear his outfit in the parade and at first, he noticed some confused looks on the faces of those who adored him, those who always seemed most eager to please him. But then they recovered quickly enough and started praising his choice in clothing and applauding as he rode by in his carriage.

It looked like one huge cheering fest for the emperor and he stood up to acknowledge the accolades. But then out of the crowd came one more voice.

"Ma, why's the emperor not wearing any clothes?"

The crowd froze in its cheering and went silent. The mother was mortified at what her child had said and feared the emperor would soon show his wrath for all dissenting voices.   But what could be said, except out of the mouth of babes.  

That and the unclothed emperor learned a very important lesson about not seeking unsolicited advice.

I was reminded of this parable when I received phone calls and emails about some comments that Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz interjected into a pretty good speech on his community youth foundation  that he gave for paying customers at the Mission Inn last week. That's on the tail of receiving emails and calls about some other comments he made to me or those other "horrible" people in general at the ACLU community policing symposium also last week.  But then as far as emails, calls and concerns a lot have been received lately regarding Diaz' increasingly volatile behavior in public.  You've criticized the department or Diaz at some point or even asked questions about it and you're female, then you've probably been on Diaz' "naughty" list.

If you aren't on that list yet, it'll happen sooner or later. But in reality, it's not really a bad place to be. Perhaps it'd be devastating if you are worried about pleasing those in position of power and status even if that means not being honest to them about their wardrobe.  But to a watchdog, it's just another sign that it's important to keep watching. 

I've been on that list since pretty much the time he arrived in Riverside and have gotten quite used to it. I wasn't surprised that it happened after hearing who he had chosen to mentor him after his hiring. Who would become in a sense, his field training officers. The same  individuals who were implicated by the city's own investigation into the handling of the infamous DUI incident involving former chief Russ Leach.  Out of all the fine officers including some in leadership positions in the department that could have mentored Diaz in his earliest days, he chose the one who essentially retired much earlier than he probably wanted. Diaz' choice of mentors in a sense molded his attitudes towards both the officers in his department and individuals in the community.

That became apparent soon enough when he issued his first promotions beginning with his first cabinet member.  That makes his  recent statements about community members "coercing" him into his promotions involving lieutenants and others somewhat perplexing.  It's very clear that the promotions that were made were decided upon internally and that the community had nothing to do with it.  In contrast, the city had settled lawsuits filed by two former lieutenants that a city council member had attempted to interfere with the promotion of two lieutenants in 2005 and 2008. So it appears that if there were any "coercion" involving the promotion process for lieutenants that it came from inside City Hall not the communities of Riverside.

Yet Diaz refused to read the lawsuit or receive any information on it so by his own choice he decided not to fully educate himself  on this issue. He told people he would ask for information that he was interested in reading yet interestingly enough, he chose one outgoing individual in the police department to provide most or all of it. He chose the individual who was probably not leaving the agency by choice.

That's why the first round of 13 promotions he made in large part (but not totally as there were a couple exceptions) mirrored the list of officers mentored by those of his field training officers much, much more than anyone in the community would have suggested simply because quite a few of them had worked special assignments which didn't bring them into contact much with the communities including their leadership.  How can the community have coerced or tried to coerce the new chief into selecting these promotions because when community members heard about the promotions, many people didn't recognize the majority of those named.

This issue is serving as the introduction because it's one of a laundry list of sins that I've had  laid on my door by Diaz and no doubt others have as well. But factually, those who motivated his promotional choices in July 2010, all 100% of them inside his own department or to a lessor extent the city. The exception was likely one of his deputy chiefs, Mike Blakely who he promoted as his first cabinet member. Diaz himself explained to his extended command staff in one of his first meetings with them that he had done so despite the city's wishes not to do so. He made this statement after allegedly accusing members of  the higher levels of the police department of using bloggers to undermine him and his authority over the department. When one brave lieutenant asked for examples, the story involving Blakely was brought up while Blakely was present in the room.  At that point, serving mostly as evidence that Diaz used to show that City Hall didn't dictate his actions because his example had nothing to do with the original topic of bloggers.

Most of his next promotions after those in July 2010 reflected both the sergeants and lieutenant lists, the same criteria that had been pretty much irrelevant when he first arrived. Because remember when Diaz and his predecessor Acting Chief John De La Rosa made promotions and selected individuals near the bottom of it, the argument was that the list rewarded "good test takers", individuals who were missing that certain "something" as it was called in explanation, though that "something" never was defined by Diaz or his management.

Then later on, different lists were produced for lieutenants and suddenly, the lists were the deciding factor for promotions and in the last few rounds, people have been promoted off the lists either through "rules of three" for detectives and numerically or by "banding" for sergeants and lieutenants respectively.  Though there's been a flip flop in ranking involving people with histories of special assignments ranking much higher on these lists than they have previously and field officers ranking lower than previously.  Field officers in particular seem less than interested in testing for promotion lists in many cases than they were when Diaz and company first arrived.

This was after more testing, some changes in the oversight  and grading of the process (and interview panels in some cases) and the institution of mentorship by the new management.   Though the most powerful, influential mentorship program is less formal, newer and yet has helped lead to the promotions of three candidates for both sergeant and lieutenant by helping provide them with tools to excel in the process that for years worked against them. It was instituted as a direct challenge to the "short numbers" argument geared at this group for over a decade and guess what, management plays no part in it.

So it seems that whatever's going on or not with the promotional process, it's driven entirely either internally or through City Hall since the city manager has final approval on all promotions made by department heads and most personnel decisions as well including (barring a charter change) those in both the city attorney and city clerk's offices. The communities have nothing to do with it and to be accused en mass of "coercing" promotions appears ridiculous considering the history of the process which remember, has been costly to the  city's residents through litigation expenses.

That was one accusation that Diaz welded out during one of his recent diatribes, one where he stood probably about two feet in front of where I sat and then tried to stare me down while he talked about those who engage in "coercion" and those who are "liars" and practice deception. It was as one eyewitness who works in a management position with the city called "unfortunate" behavior on his part.  Within a day, I received emails and calls about what had happened and what people thought about it.  I've long known Diaz doesn't like me or this blog and I'm more interested in what he's actually doing to help promote accountability in his department starting at the top and what direction he's moving the department in rather than his title.  Then he mentioned something about he'll return your phone calls if you need a service if you're nice to him, which seems a bit strange given that most people go to the officers that police their streets if they want something done or they might call their area commander about an issue in the area.  Most people don't call the police chief.  Maybe it'd be best if he restricted himself to only talking on the phone to those leaders who compliment him on his wardrobe. If he's only interested in public relations and promoting image over substance, then there's not much to talk about with if unless you're interested in image.

He said he didn't like them and all I could really do was agree with that pronouncement about coercion and deception and just sit and watch his tantrum until he finished.  After all, the moment when I first realized that Diaz hadn't followed through with his fervent promise to hold his management and upper supervisory ranks accountable, I felt in a sense deceived as well.  He didn't have to try to intimidate me or shame me to get me to understand his point, I already got it after the first three incidents came to my attention about his own problems dealing with misbehavior of the people closest to him.  It's easy to toss about the words "accountability" and "transparency" in fact they're the buzzwords most commonly volleyed out by public entities these days, but it's harder to back them up with action.

The most important lesson that should have been learned from the Leach debacle is how critically important it is to hold management and supervision accountable starting with a police chief who can practice what he preaches and then hold everyone else accountable accordingly.  How important it is to build the best management and leadership team emphasizing those qualities above competition, lobbying, deal making, politicking and backstabbing.   How quickly a management team can crumble when this isn't what happens and before crumbling, descend into dysfunction and disharmony that is felt all the way down to the bottom of a foundation. How harmful unethical, self serving and even lawless behavior can set an entire department down that path. All these things if not done properly with not just the best of intentions but the very best of commitment to action will destroy a police department from within not to mention its relationship with the communities it serves.

After all exactly how long did it take for the management team to crumble after its chief medically retired?  Much shorter than it took to build it even with all the shortcuts the department and city took when creating its management structure and who would man it. What should be taken from a painful experience like that is the commitment to make the changes that are needed to build something much better that serves its employees even as they serve the public.   It's just not that complicated.  Well, except for the fact that the management team of the police department wasn't the only dysfunctional element, the city's own management team and who governs that was just as much so.

I was reminded of all this while attending the police memorial service downtown recently. It was very well done, a beautiful ceremony but I was served with reminders as to the problems that still plague this city's police department. I knew former Riverside County Sheriff Deputy Bruce Lee from when he worked courts not long before he was killed.  People downtown pretty much all knew or saw Officer Ryan Bonaminio downtown most often with the officers he worked with who were his friends.  I saw the former officer who was arrested before even being sworn in as part of the RPD there who nearly was given a get out of jail free card in the form of preferential treatment. If it hadn't been for a principled watch commander in another city, that might have happened. That was kind of unsettling to be reminded of while the death penalty case of Bonaminio's killer is still taking place not far away.

Witnesses who described Bonaminio portrayed this young officer as going above and beyond what many officers do in their jobs because of his passion for helping people in the city that raised him. He never failed to have a positive attitude, smiling to the point where those around him wondered if he had a problem but it came from someone who loved what he did every day yet set even higher standards for his own actions as he matured in his chosen profession.  It's hard to take that portrait of an officer at the lowest levels of the hierarchy of the department and then look at some of the behavior of those who he's supposed to emulate because they are supposed to set the bar of ethical and professional behavior in the department.

It's frustrating to even try to bridge the gap between someone like him and those who were entrusted to be his role models who fell way short.  Those who could learn more about the legacy he left behind about how to do their own jobs.

The young officer whose behavior should set the bar inside the police department 

But even though I knew him a bit before his tragic murder, I learned more about him through the trial which revealed portions of his life through the words of those alive to testify to it. I realized that this young man was probably the one who set the bar for what is ethical and professional in the police department and it took his death for more people to know that.  What he did, he did in service of his community and his fellow officers, and he did it cheerfully and diligently through some of the darkest months that preceded his own death.  He put everything into what he did in different areas of his life based on the stories people have told right up to the moment that he lost his life.  After his sacrifice, the department owes him and everyone else what he gave to it.  When you stack up the short life and even shorter professional history of this young officer against the job performances of some of those who were supposed to be his role models, it stops you right in your tracks.

While management team members including a chief were out engaging in all kinds of misconduct and illegal behavior like drunk driving, he was doing his job. While one officer was out getting arrested before taking his oath and nearly getting out of jail without a paper trail, Bonaminio was out doing his job, trying to represent his profession in the best way. While supervisors were allegedly assaulting each other in relation to "private matters" and then joking about  "not fighting this week" later, he was out doing his job serving the public.    

While the department's reputation was in shambles because of what those at its top did, he was out doing his job being looked at as if he were the guilty one because he was on the front lines. The unfortunate thing is that the last months of his life were spent while the department's own leadership and management had failed it so badly. But you can probably be certain that he still went out and did his job with integrity and a smile even in the face of that.

He wasn't engaging in serious misconduct when his officers were counting on his supervision for their own safety and he wasn't getting second and  third chances for committing serious misconduct in the field.  He didn't engage in outbursts or have tantrums with people who disagreed with him. Bonaminio was an excellent listener and very thoughtful in his responses. But then for being as young (and I teased him more than once on how young he looked), he was as self assured, as confident and absolutely certain about who he was and what he wanted to do with his life.  And his behavior reflected that as many people can attest to who worked with him.

If he made mistakes and all officers do, others testified that he welcomed the opportunity to face them and make amends through learning from them. He took responsibility for what he did wrong in a department where others joked about not having to face the same scrutiny that he did.

 If a chief wants to teach how his management personnel how to behave, then he could do a lot worse than start with looking at the life and professional service of Bonaminio.

But how Diaz chooses to behave is his own choice. After hearing about his outbursts even before experiencing them firsthand, I found it rather mystifying as I'd never seen a police chief act like that.  He vented about those "horrible" people who were "anti-police" that he didn't like or hated.  Mostly just because they're not praising his dancing skills, or flattering him.

At one city council meeting, that included  Karen Wright and several other women in the audience of a city council meeting were labeled that way by Diaz again in front of a lot of people.  Wright challenged his competency as police chief which is going to not make any chief happy but how he chose to respond or rather to react just added fuel to her statement.

Community leader Christina Duran had been subjected to a 20 minute diatribe by Diaz at a public event that shocked those who witnessed it. It shocked me when I heard about it from different people who were very concerned for her welfare while they witnessed it. Many had never seen a police chief behave like that. Many hoped to never see it again. 

It was pretty mystifying to many people.  Many people thought a veteran officer with his background could have handled himself much better and more professionally in interactions with the public.  

After all, Diaz had over 30 years at the Los Angeles Police Department to educate himself through training and experience to handle criticism even if it's boisterous so why he felt the need to berate a woman into tears is just baffling. If that's the best tools he's go or has been given to deal with the part of the public that's not layering effusive praise on him or inviting him to social events because of his title, then he needs another toolbox.

The LAPD and Los Angeles have had more turbulent histories than Riverside so one would think that someone who rose through the ranks at that agency would develop a thick skin. ACLU representatives including one who witnessed recent behavior of his touted Diaz' thick skin back when he was the deputy commander who rose up during an extremely difficult time after his predecessor was forced into retirement after the infamous May Day 2007 incident at MacArthur Park. Maybe having risen up on the ashes of someone else's downfall made him wary of being the focus of the kind of criticism that came out of May Day both from inside the LAPD and outside of it. 

That's why watching some of his behavior in Riverside as a police chief has been much more baffling. Diaz has his share of great strengths that he's brought from Los Angeles but he acts like a chief who believes he's standing in quicksand. But again, if he's allowed to conduct himself this way, he's behaving with the blessing of the city manager and by extension the city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge. Every time he behaves that way either internally or in public, he has the endorsement of his boss and his boss' bosses.

It's one thing to have a difference of opinion with those who are among the more than 350,000 who employ you and you were hired to protect and serve but what Duran in particular faced should have resulted in an  investigation by the city manager based on witness accounts.  Many people including some of the most prominent Latino business leaders witnessed it and rushed up to console her afterward, hugging her as she was clearly traumatized by it. Her own daughter who's a teenager had placed herself between Diaz and her mother to protect her.  That in itself should have given Diaz pause in what he did but either he didn't understand that dynamic that he had created or just didn't care about it.

But to pick on Duran like Diaz did is not only cruel, it's just plain stupid. He's got a management heavy department right now, there are plenty of people in management that could advise him on utilizing his people skills better though that's not likely to happen. Not when there's individuals there who likely are waiting for him to trip up so they can take advantage of it.  Unless he's forgotten how some of those around him got there. 

It's pretty much a given that his own boss City Manager Scott Barber's not doing it because if he were, the behavior would just stop.  But then Barber has his own issues inheriting a city that's been essentially plundered by his predecessor Brad Hudson in ways that are beginning to come more and more to light. 

It wasn't the first time that Diaz had been verbally confronted by Diaz in public.   Even Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce president for life Cindy Roth tried to lead Diaz away from Duran several times but he wasn't having it.  His own wife left his side and stood some distance away. Maybe she's had a lot of practice.

The thing is that Duran's the last person Diaz should focus his tantrums on as she's probably one of the best allies he could have among his roster of community leadership. She's critical because she's got a lifetime of activism and ministry on the front lines, places that people who talk about without being there.   But you'll never meet anyone out there who's better at coming up with solutions including some very creative than Duran. She shouldn't just be on the Chief's Advisory Board, she should run it but instead, she's subjected to abusive behavior by the chief hired to lead those who protect and serve her.  It's too bad that a police chief lacks the vision to know how to utilize diverse opinions on how to best serve his department and the public but instead gets wigged out when reminded that not everyone is enamored with him just because of his title. 

Diaz will realize his error in doing that when the department faces its first major crisis of confidence in the communities as all departments do at some point. Building friendships with those in high places in the downtown business community and sticking with community leaders who only tell you what you want to hear in language you can accept isn't going to put a chief in good stead in addressing a crisis if he's burned his bridges with those community leaders not afraid to tell him when he's making mistakes but who are best fit to help him navigate through a crisis in a way that will result in a positive outcome.  Because the people enamored with him because of his rank and title will be long gone by then as many a police chief has found in crisis. 

A lot of growth occurs in police departments and the communities they serve during times of crisis rather than times of peace. It's not clear why that it is but it's pretty universal across the country and even around the world. It's been the case in Riverside and in Los Angeles.  It's when people inside the department and outside of it worked hard and in partnership that it underwent a lot of its growth even before Diaz arrived.  But what Diaz has opted to do is to reject any opinion and anyone that he doesn't like for simply disagreeing with him on some action or issue and he doesn't handle either very well.  He lacks the awareness of this because most of the incidents where he has acted out happen in front of a lot of witnesses. 

With more and more incidents piling up, it's painting a rather baffling picture of the part of Diaz that the Press Enterprise which is so embedded to him doesn't see. They see the "wit and "brevity"  that one of their reporters raved about in a tweet recently. They don't see or in one public meeting refuse to see how he's also got a side of him that hates being criticized to the point where he vents off in public leaving people in shock.

But one of Diaz' skills that you really have to admire him for is his ability to work the press to his advantage, something that's become much more important in recent months.  A handy tool to have given that it's said that Barber's not his biggest fan.   But all these outbursts against people in the community he clearly doesn't like in part because they don't tell him what great clothes he's wearing are just part of the picture.  It makes you wonder if it's like an iceberg where you only see about a small portion of what's going on.  What you don't see a lot of is how he relates to people inside the department he leads and manages.  Does he have the same "nice" and "naughty" lists comprised of people based on whether or not they mostly tell him what he wants to hear or whether they have criticized him. 

What's going on in his own department if employees criticize or even question him?  Are they even able to do so?  Does Diaz have a greater tolerance and stomach for criticism that arises internally than he does out in the community?  Does any criticism arise internally and if so what happens?  Do employees get separated into the same "naughty" and "nice" lists like people on the outside?   The answer to that's already been given because there are definitely employees who already have been on his "naughty" list.

Maybe that's why some officers including seven sergeants have to wait until they've done their time in patrol in between special assignments before applying for another one and others can work back to back to back special assignments. Maybe as already mentioned, that's why sometimes the promotional lists mean nothing, it's just a roster of "good test takers" who don't have that certain "something" and at other times, they're the blueprint of promotions in the supervisory level of the police department.   Is that why some people are alleged to commit misconduct and are investigated while others are able to do so and have it written off as an off-duty matter?   Is that why at least one division found itself in conflict with Diaz and members of his management team over an issue that threatened the image of the department and now no longer trusts him or  members of his cabinet?

Meanwhile Back at the Police Department....

No, Wait this is the police department right?

Diaz and  members of his cabinet 

Chief Sergio Diaz (l.), Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino all came from out of town when the police department needed "outside" leadership for the second time in a decade. 

Diaz was hired in June 2010 but was sworn in his position on June 30 rather than July 1 (the beginning of the new fiscal year) as planned because it was the last day that Councilman Steve Adams would be mayor pro tem. Since Mayor Ron Loveridge clearly had greater priorities than swearing in the new police chief, that job would fall to the mayor pro tem.  So Adams swore him in at White Park in front of a crowd of officers from the LAPD (who praised his skills a lot) and those from the RPD along with community and business leaders.  A buffet was served afterward and Diaz spent a lot of time with one of his unofficial advisors, media personality Michael Morales who he knew back when he worked for the LAPD. 

Morales would prove to be a valuable spokesperson for Diaz at city council meetings speaking for or against the police department on various issues. Diaz quickly embedded himself in the Press Enterprise and Inland Empire Magazine along with NBC (before Mary Parks retired and started working for DA Paul Zellerbach). 
He soon started picking his cabinet though there wasn't much to pick from and since the last chief, John De La Rosa was educating him on the police department before his own retirement.  De La Rosa's mentor was allegedly Blakely and so Blakely became the first member of Diaz' cabinet as a deputy chief in administration and services. As stated earlier, Diaz himself said that the city wasn't keen on his choice but he stuck to his guns. Blakely's work ethic was probably the strongest and most diligent on the captain's level, his position the most powerful on that roster. 

He had experience as a deputy chief having come into the department in that position from San Diego Police Department under Chief Ken Fortier and he wasn't promoted to captain based on the faulty, controversy laden system that existed under Leach.  Blakely didn't dine with councilmen on the eve of his promotion and he didn't travel to be "pinned" by the police chief only to find out that the promotion had been revoked by higher ups at City Hall.  He didn't get promoted not long after getting into his car in the wee hours of the morning after being called for taxi service by inebriated police chiefs and he wasn't in the loop when the once again inebriated chief needed assistance in a traffic stop.   For one thing, he's too smart to do any of that. 

Deputy Chief Mike Blakely (l.) told Latino Network that the RPD not the ACLU headed a recent community policing symposium

Blakely did get named as a defendant on law suits filed against him by current and former police officers primarily for how his division, Internal Affairs conducted its own business.  Specifically in how officers were treated during interrogations by those in that division in investigations either involving higher ups or those that sprung up like poppies just before the arrival of a new chief.   Were investigations being conducted as part of power plays by members of the administration against each other, were officers being targeted for whistle blowing or for trying to get promoted or as pawns caught in the middle of power plays between management employees?  Now it appears these questions won't be answered by the department or city except in terms of how the resultant lawsuits play out in federal and state courts though sizable settlements were doled out by the city council and mayor in three lawsuits already. 

How Internal Affairs was staffed under Leach and how that influenced the dynamics of both control and power within that division and the department would take an entire blog posting on its own but one thing Diaz and one of his assistants, Chris Vicino did when they first arrived was to change the balance of power in the chain of command regarding this division. More towards Vicino and even Jeffrey Greer, who would be hired from the LAPD to oversee field operations and investigations.  This appeared to more and more marginalize Blakely's direction of Internal Affairs. Whether or not this is what led to increased conflict including some allegedly quite boisterous between Blakely and Vicino isn't clear. Diaz appeared more than content to let the two men sort things out or not between the two of them.  Whether or not that was why the locksmith showed up several times at the Orange Street Station was of course, a hot topic. 

Diaz First Boss, the One Who Hired Him

Former City Manager Brad Hudson, the man who hired Diaz based on recommendations from his interview panel or in spite of them before he left the building


He's a Brick!

Diaz of course was hired by Hudson who convened an interview panel of community leaders including those with prior financial contracts with the city, police union leaders and a police practices consultant.  Seven applicants were interviewed including two ultimately hired by the police department.  One of them, a CHP captain allegedly wasn't originally included among the finalists. At a social gala held by an elected official, a legislative aide for one of the councilman allegedly informed him he didn't make the cut and understandably, this applicant didn't like finding out through less than official channels. So he apparently challenged it and was a finalist although it's not clear what had led to his exclusion. He had been in charge of the division of the CHP who was called out very belatedly to investigate Leach's DUI incident. 

Hudson set up the process to be a blind one for the panelists meaning that they were forbidden from even mentioning the candidates or process to each other even during breaks. The could only discuss it through one on one interviews with him afterward. The community members couldn't even field their own questions, they allegedly read them like parrots from those submitted by Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout.  So with a system like that, they have no way of knowing whether or not their input or that of anyone else's had anything to do with picking the police chief.  It was intentionally set up that way by Hudson from the start. 

As it turned out, the community leaders steered towards one candidate, an assistant chief from Long Beach while initially the police union leaders had been instrumental in getting former Asst. Police Chief Mike Smith who currently heads the investigations division of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office.  Though the press scrutinized that asking if that made it a done deal, which caused some heat.  It's not clear who if anyone recommended Diaz for the position but one quality that struck Hudson in particular with him was his close alliance to the mayor of Los Angeles while he'd been employed there. 

Hudson had just survived the guns, badges and cold plates scandals mostly due to an apathetic city council who probably didn't want it  known that they'd been given badges and that it wasn't clear thanks to former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis' habit of recording public information on post-its what money had paid for the cold plated cars in the first place. The city council and mayor did what they often do which was stick their collective heads in the stand while the mayor said, "look at the pretty tree over there."

But Hudson in mid 2011 saw some serious writing on the wall and some say, he parachuted from this pending plane wreck to Sacramento County where he's endearing himself as a champion of accountability and transparency already.  Actually, no to both. He's reinventing Riverside up there while his empire down state begins to stagger under the weight of its debt which happened to coincide with the end of the Redevelopment Agency age handing the city government a convenient scapegoat. 

Diaz' New Boss Who Didn't Hire Him

Diaz' allegedly not so pleased boss, City Manager Scott Barber who inherited his predecessor's hire but then he's got his own problems. 

Poor poor Scott Barber, the former community services director who had that position created just for him by Hudson. Not only is he now city manager beating out a host of colorful outside applicants but he's been turned out to be just the right man for the job of trying to maintain the status quo left by Hudson which means maintaining Riverside's addiction for borrowing millions of dollars, cashing in on utility bond opportunities and engaging in very complicated, and very quick slight of the hand interfund transfers.   And even with the departure of perennial and multi-titled financial whiz, Paul Sundeen he's done quite well.  But he's looked very cross on the dais lately and some say he's feeling more than a little stressed. But he's got a new Best Friend Forever (BFF) in City Attorney Greg Priamos. Now it was clear that Hudson and Priamos were not best friends forever or even really friends.  In fact, once when he was misidentified as a city manager while Hudson was here, a clearly miffed Priamos retorted that it was an insult actually. You could freeze water to ice during a heat wave between the space that lurked between the two men on the dais at meetings. 

Not so with Barber and Priamos who are obviously quite friendly with one another. 

Anyway, it doesn't appear that Barber's the biggest fan of Diaz.  Unlike Hudson and DeSantis, Barber doesn't appear interested in micromanaging the police department down to the paper clip. In fact, he doesn't appear interested in it much at all. What he does look is embarrassed when Diaz is in the room, he kind of wears this pained look on the dais and he was a conspicuous no show at the recent memorial hosted by his employee, being allegedly out of town. What is known is that Barber has been receiving complaints about Diaz's outbursts with certain people which is pointless in reality because if Barber gave a hoot about how Diaz conducted himself in public, Diaz wouldn't be doing it period.   So in a sense, Barber has given his charge the license to represent the city and department by engaging in charged confrontations with people he doesn't like.  Some say Barber's just as volatile in his temperament as Diaz though the public has yet to see it if that's the case. 

New Boss' BFF

City Attorney Gregory Priamos who's now BFFs with Barber with the two commiserating over recent city council meetings which have left them looking quite steamed.

Priamos is growing more grey hairs noticeably later probably in part to former deputy city attorney Raychele Sterling's exposure of how the city conducts its business. It's not as if Priamos hasn't challenged the boundaries of conduct himself, including reportedly in an incident occurring years ago surrounding the attempted reclassification of one of his own assistant city attorneys.  An action that no one was to ever know about, apparently not even the city council and mayor that employ him.  The city council and mayor do know now but remember the ostrich with his head in the sand, well imagine seven of them.   The Press Enterprise allegedly tried to look into the situation and was warned off the story by the city.  But that aside, Priamos and Barber looked like they had a lot to commiserate about after a recent city council meeting and remarks made about both of them. 

But what's not known about Priamos is his involvement with the police department including on the morning of the Leach incident due to the fact that he didn't provide even a redacted version of his phone records to the media. It is alleged that he tried to equip his city issued car with police equipment including lights all the better to "roll" with DeSantis to those critical incidents. 

The police department's current management team, some say a bit heavy on top

The police department's considered management heavy as a consequence of changes implemented under Leach anticipating growth that never quite happened. Annexations were put on hold because the city could no longer afford them and the increase in personnel staffing became offset by unfilled vacancies on both the civilian and sworn sides.  A recent flurry of excitement and activity took place when Capt. Meredyth Meredith pulled her papers to retire, in a department that would see over 55% of its experienced officers including most on top attrition out through retirement within the next five years.  The lieutenants on the captain's list began to prepare themselves for the selection process.  Probably hoping that the department had learned its lesson from all the payouts on litigation settlements related to the process.  Diaz began having dinners with some candidates and some were described as the "total package".  But soon enough, the papers were allegedly unpulled and in the current economic climate, it's more than likely that even if a vacancy was there in the captain's rank, it would just go unfilled. 

That still leaves the lieutenants with great opportunities to build in the areas they want especially with a huge realignment among midline supervision scheduled to take place in July. The department has talent within its supervision section and it's a great time to focus on developing the strengths that actually make better leaders, managers and supervisors rather than on focusing on skills which prove to be destructive such as you-scratch-my-back-I'll-stab-yours and turning the promotional process into another Survivor Island.  With the golf course beckoning for some, it gives others the opportunity to show off their skills in meaningful ways. 

Hopefully members of the management team can patch up their differences and take it easy on their vocal cords. Ease up on the extracurricular activities in the workplace while on duty, remembering that furniture is for working. 

With contracts for three "at will" employees coming up due in the summer of 2013, it remains to be seen who'll stick around or who's a "short timer".   Of course in the case of one individual, that'll be up to Barber. 

Members of the Community Services Bureau when Diaz relaunched it. One of the members was reassigned to patrol not long after this photo was taken. Was it because Diaz didn't vet his invite list?

This photograph was taken at what was to be the kickoff of the Community Services Bureau which was jump started back into service after Diaz arrived. It was advertised by email as an "open house" for people yet when I arrived with a community leader, Diaz was most unhappy. It wasn't like more recently when he got in my face and demanded to know who invited me before being set straight.  But he then spent most of his time telling the media not to tell the police how to do its job before telling the media how to do their job. 

Then different components of the CSB were to give presentations on their respective assignments. Only that was instead done by employee, Karen Haverkamp while the officers stood in the back and watched along with the media personnel.  It seemed kind of strange why the officers with these assignments were even there  because they were the experts of their programs not Haverkamp.  But then even Haverkamp looked a bit nervous with Diaz in the room. 

That happened again at later events, this dynamic where the officers or civilian employees who are the most knowledgeable on their assignments seem to change when Diaz or in some cases Vicino are in the room. 

It's been a bit different in the past few months to watch presentations by department employees including supervisors when Diaz is present in the room compared to when he is not.  When neither of the top two management team members is present, those giving the presentations seem much more relaxed and give very informative presentations. They respond to questions with thoughtful answers and even answer people individually.  That makes a lot of sense because the people giving the presentations own the information that they are providing for the public and are most often interested in what they do.

Things change once Diaz is in the room.

These individuals talk for a minute or two, maybe more but they're glancing straight at Diaz much of the time.  Then at some point he'll interject himself into the presentation and they just grow silent.  That type of behavior in public does speak volumes and it's been baffling. It's a bit puzzling in fact because the individuals giving the presentations are highly experienced, highly knowledgeable, they are the most familiar with their assignments, care about what they do and yet they don't always appear that way when he's in the audience.

Oddly enough, the division which seemed to react the most with this dynamic was the Internal Affairs Division both at a 2011 Community Police Review Commission meeting with Vicino in the audience and at the ACLU conference more recently with both of them there. Take the management personnel out of the equation in a presentation and the officers seem much more comfortable and more confident in what they're doing and saying.  Is there friction that's going on?  One can only guess but it's a noticeable dynamic in play, probably one of the most noticeable ones.

But it's interesting to watch what you do see on the public stage and wonder.  Well, not wonder too much because within 48 hours of that media forum, one of Diaz' personnel in the CSB was reassigned back to field operations.

To Be Continued....

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