Shades of Diallo: People are People

November 26, 2006

Seven years after four plainclothed New York Police Department officers shot and killed Amadou Diallo, after firing more than 40 bullets, another unarmed Black man was shot and killed by undercover police officers who fired at him and his two friends at least 50 times.

Groom shot by NYPD on wedding day

Dead was Sean Bell, 23, who was to be married to his long-time fiancee later that day. Also wounded were Trent Benefield, 23 and Joseph Guzman, 31 who suffered eleven and three bullet wounds respectively. For a while, both men were handcuffed to their hospital beds.

A New York Times article stated that the men were briefly handcuffed according to the police department, until it could be established that they were unarmed. Presumably that would have been done and that issue resolved before they were placed in hospital beds, let alone turned over to doctors to treat their injuries.

(excerpt)

A woman who said she was Mr. Benefield’s mother but did not give her name, said her son had been treated like a criminal.

“He’s got a shattered leg,” she said. “And he’s handcuffed. Right hand, left leg.”

The shooting took place after the three men left a bachelor party at a strip club in Queens. The NYPD refuses to comment on the shooting, but one unidentified sergeant at the department allegedly said “it’s as confusing as hell.” A grand jury investigation has been initiated.

One unidentified officer with 13 years on the force fired 31 times, emptying two magazines at the car. Two White officers, two Hispanic officers and One Black officer were involved according to the department.

The police department released this preliminary statement on its version of events.

NYPD officers involved in shooting

(excerpt, New York Times)

In a statement, Commissioner Kelly said that about 4 a.m. a group of men confronted a man outside the strip club and that one man in the group yelled, “Yo, get my gun.”

The altercation broke up, and the men separated into two groups, with an undercover officer following one group. The men being followed by the undercover officer got into the Altima that then hit the minivan.
The police said that one officer who leaped from the minivan, a 12-year police veteran, fired 31 times, and an undercover officer with nine years on the force fired 11 times. The other officers fired three, four and five times. Shell casings from the officers’ 16-shot, 9-millimeter semiautomatic weapons littered the street; at least 40 were later recovered. A fourth person may have been in the Altima, police said.

One of Bell’s relatives was nearly speechless after hearing the news of Bell’s death.

Robert Porter, who identified himself as Bell’s first cousin, said he was supposed to be a DJ at the wedding. He said about 250 people were invited to the ceremony and were flying in from all over the country. He said his cousin wasn’t the type to confront police and that he was “on the straight-and-narrow.”

“I can’t really express myself. It’s a numb feeling,” Porter said. “I still don’t want to believe it, a beautiful day like this, and he was going to have a beautiful wedding, he was going to live forever with his wife and children. And this happened.”

Bullets fired by five police officers went flying everywhere according to eyewitnesses. Hitting cars, houses and a train station. Bullets that probably would not have been flying as haphazardly on Fifth Avenue or Park, or any of the more affluent neighborhoods.

(excerpt, New York Times article)

One neighbor said his car was hit by three bullets and a fourth smashed through his front window, piercing a lamp in the living room.

“There was bullets all over the place,” said Paul Gomes, 31, who awoke to the barrage of gunfire and pulled his wife and children onto the floor.

Robert and Vivian Hernandez, residents of Liverpool Street, were watching television when they heard the crashing of bullets and people yelling. When the gunfire finally died down, they went outside and saw a man leaning on a fence and moaning, “They shot me in the leg.”
Mr. Kelly said that two Port Authority Police Officers suffered minor facial injuries at a nearby AirTrain facility when one of the bullets shattered a window.

One police officer suffered abrasions. Another was hospitalized for hypertension.

A noon vigil is planned today on the day that would have been the second day of Bell’s married life, by his family members.

Family plans vigil after fatal shooting

The Reverend Al Sharpton asked the question that many others have asked in the past 24 hours as well.

“How does one justify 50 shots at unarmed men?” Sharpton asked.

He forgot to mention unarmed Black men.

After all, Diallo stood on the stoop of his residence unarmed when four officers shot at him 41 times, while they were allegedly looking for a rape suspect in that neighborhood. Here in Riverside, Tyisha Miller, a Black woman, died inside her aunt’s car with a gun on her lap for her protection as a lone woman in a “bad” neighborhood after four police officers shot at her at least 24 times. None of the gun shots that struck her body were to the front of her body.

Many a battered White woman came forward after the Miller shooting and spoke of nights they had spent sleeping in their cars after leaving their homes, with only a gun for protection. Others wished they had been able to do so and were upset about the shooting. Would police officers have viewed them as dangerous criminals as they had viewed Miller without knowing anything about her background at the time? Would they have hi-fived and re-enacted the shooting afterwards? These White women asked those questions just like many other people did.

In the hours that followed, Miller’s death was the subject of comments and jokes in the police department, including racial comments and jokes. It was all harmless fun for those involved, until the investigations began, all from outside law enforcement agencies who looked at Riverside and no doubt wondered what the hell was going on.

The same thing happened across the country in New York City, after the shootings of several unarmed Black men including Diallo and the savage torture and beating of Abner Louima by several officers inside a bathroom at one of the station houses.

Soon after these incidents, which launched many protests in the streets of New York City just as the Miller shooting did here, the U.S. Department of Justice began its investigation of this police department. The two entities reached a settlement several years later, to reform the NYPD. Has it worked?

Often, it’s never the residents who interface with the police the most in their own neighborhoods who are asked that question. Nor are they often asked what it must feel like to not only be the most to interface with police, but to be most often, the butt of humor for police officers either on or off-duty.

On Labor Day in 1998, Queens was the location of another incident involving NYPD officers, FDNY employees and a neighborhood parade. NYPD officer Joseph Locurto and FDNY fire fighters Jonathan Walters and Robert Steiner created a float that depicted racist stereotypes involving African-Americans including the use of blackface and afro wigs, eating watermelon. At the back of the float, there was a depiction of the horrible torture and death of James Byrd, jr. by White Supremacists who had chained him to the back of their pickup truck. The inclusion of this hate crime was intended to be humorous, but few outside of that particular crowd found it funny.

The float was titled, “Black to the Future – Broad Channel in 2098”.

All three men were fired by the city, then unfired by the U.S. District Court before being refired by the appellate court, earlier this year.

Appeals Court reverses prior decision in racist float case

On April 27, 2006, the Second Circuit of Appeals in the federal court system reversed an earlier decision by one of its district courts to reinstate Locurto and the two fire fighters.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Elizabeth I. Freedman, who handled the case on appeal, stated, “We are
extremely gratified with the Second Circuit’s unanimous endorsement of the actions of the defendants in
this case. The decision properly balances the competing interests of public employees and public
employers. In this case, the Second Circuit properly balanced those interests, finding that where the
employees’ conduct threatened “to bring discredit upon the Police and Fire Departments in the minority
community,” it was constitutionally permissible for the City to fire them.

One blogger’s view of the appellate decision.

Basically, what the appellate court stated is that it matters if communities of color have faith that the law enforcement agency which receives their sales tax money to protect and serve them is not harboring racist attitudes towards them. If only this were true in real life.

If it were, then police officers would not make derogatory comments about those communities or engage in racist behavior mocking those communities, based on racist stereotypes they use as substitutes for their lack of ability and certainly, willingness to see these communities as anything less than inferior, animalistic and dangerous. After all, how many of these officers go home at the end of their shifts to homes in neighborhoods that are ethnically and racially diverse? Do they go home to their often White enclaves and think of how animalistic and horrible Whites are, because they encounter violent White criminals on the job?

One year before the Queens float incident, Louema would be tortured inside a bathroom, by several officers hiding in plain sight. One year after the float incident, Diallo would encounter the officers who feared for their safety and in response, would shoot him dozens more times than it takes to kill any one man. Both were treated as if they were not human at all, by those who abused one and by those who killed the other.

Maybe to them, they were just animals. After all, if an officer and two fire fighters can appear on a racist float in broad daylight(and on video it turned out) depicting the same racist stereotypes, that most people believed were eradicated years ago or at least were carefully kept hidden, then how safe did they feel to act like that, knowing that their employers would find out? If their actions had not become so public outside the sphere of their own cliques, would the department’s leadership have terminated their employment or kept the incident hidden? The fact that these employees including Locurto acted like this in public actually speaks volumes about the agencies that employ them.

Here in Riverside, the same investigations done in New York City and more were conducted, at least in part to address racist comments, jokes and stereotypes that were so pervasive in the department, they were also made by the sergeants who conducted the roll call sessions. That is why today, there are closed circuited cameras in that room, hooked up to different locations including the chief’s office.

The Miller shooting was also preceded by years and years of racist and sexist jokes, comments and other forms of behavior which were reported in law suits filed by Officer Roger Sutton and former officers, Rene Rodriquez and Christine Keers.

Questions still exist in people’s minds.

Have racist remarks, jokes and other forms of humor done at the expense of men of color and women gone away? Or have they gone underground? If it were determined that officers participated in this behavior, would they be disciplined? Would they be rewarded? Would they be disciplined and then rewarded when no one was paying attention? Would these officers be later held up as part of the new, exciting RPD? What about the ones who choose not to participate in that behavior? Are they rewarded or are they penalized by sitting and watching those who participate in this behavior get rewarded in their stead?

I ask myself these questions a bit, particularly when I get phone calls after Black men have died in police custody, which has happened three times between October 2005 and November 2006. Many others have asked them as well.

After Terry Rabb succumbed to cardiac arrest minutes after being restrained by two police officers to be treated for hypoglycemic shock, I received phone calls asking me if it was safe to call the police if you were Black and in medical distress or if the police would just assume you were on drugs, because Black people apparently don’t get diabetes no matter what the dispatcher told both officers about Rabb’s illnesses. One of Rabb’s friends alleged that one of the officers made comments that Rabb appeared to be on an illegal drug, either crack or PCP. Rabb tested negative for both drugs and the department’s investigators apparently did not question either officer about the alleged comments.

After the shooting of Lee Deante Brown, I received calls asking me if it was safe to be Black and mentally ill in Riverside and whether or not the police department had any mental illness crisis intervention training. The answer to the second question, which is no, is easier to answer than the first one. That shooting is still under investigation by the department, the Community Police Review Commission and the FBI.

After the Douglas Steven Cloud shooting, I received phone calls asking me if it was safe to be in a car accident within city limits even though Cloud was White. That shooting created a great deal of concern because many African-Americans and Latinos said that if the police shot a White man who crashed his car, how much more quickly would they shoot a man of color?

The frequency of phone calls and other contacts after the most recent shootings and incidents was last matched in 2001. People have concerns and questions, after incidents like these ones and don’t receive many answers.

After the Brown shooting, over 100 local residents gathered on the street to yell and scream at police officers for shooting him, according to statements submitted by various police officers who responded to the shooting after it happened to the case investigators. More officers were quickly dispatched to “control” this angry crowd. These people also live in the neighborhood that one Riverside Police Department officer apparently believes should be patrolled by animal control, which is why any concerns they have will be ignored. Both are disturbing, in some ways it appears like this city has come or is coming full circle since 1998.

Afterwards, the local NAACP and other organizations tried to reach out to these individuals and sponsored a public forum on the shooting. Most people were too angry to come.

Earlier this year, the department announced plans to revamp its cultural diversity program.

Not much has been said about that new “cultural sensitivity” training that the department plans to implement this fall which will either replace or supplement the training that Leach has said is “inadequate, infrequent and insufficient”. There was mention of “focus groups” and controlled dialogues where “community members” and police officers were kept segregated, but not much else has been revealed to the public at this time.

They will probably be far different than the Human Relations Commission’s study circles conducted in the summer of 2003 where community members and police officers engaged in a series of dialogues. However, apparently some lieutenants who participated complained to their superiors that the sessions involved “cop bashing” so that was that, even though the participants, both community members and police officers, in the session I attended agreed it was a good beginning for building relations.

Any cultural sensitivity training should be attended by those at the top of the department’s structure before it is required of those at the bottom. Recent events both here and 3,000 miles away have proven once again, they need it the most.

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What’s Past is prologue 2

November 26, 2006

The Riverside City Council will be quite busy during its closed session in its city council meeting on Nov. 28. Five actions involving ongoing or pending civil litigation will be discussed behind closed doors including at least four that are directly related to fatal shootings or other incustody deaths involving Riverside Police Department officers. There has been five incustody deaths from Oct. 2005 to November 2006 including two last month.

Terry Rabb:

The Estate of Terry Rabb, et al., v the City of Riverside (Claim No. : o6-03-13)

Terra Rabb, el al., v the City of Riverside, et al.; (RCSC Case No. RIC459245)

Summer Marie Lane:

Michael Bradford Lane, et al., v the City of Riverside, et al.; (USDC Case No. CVO6-03358 ER(AJWx)

Lee Deante Brown:

Makayla Brown v the City of Riverside (Claim No. : 06/07/17)

At least one claim against the city was also filed by the father of Douglas Steven Cloud and has already been discussed in closed session several weeks ago. It is not clear whether or not there will be claims filed in relation to the fatal officer-involved shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill.

Winners this week: Two RPD canines, Aldo and VonFips and their officers, David Taylor and Mike Mears in a competition in Las Vegas, Nevada, winning second place over all and placing in several other categories.

Canines win in Las Vegas, officers tag along

I was watching a demonstration of the canine unit last July during a career fair at Bordwell Park in the Eastside. Officer Ray Soto was out with his latest dog, Xian, trying to get him to “guard and bark” an officer in a padded suit. Unfortunately, Xian kept leaping on the officer and biting him instead, until he performed the task. The audience applauded Xian just as enthusiastically either way, though it’s doubtful that City Attorney Gregory Priamos would have felt the same way had he been in attendance.

Speaking of dogs biting police officers, if you watched any part of the civil trial involving Officer Roger Sutton’s racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation law suit, you would have heard testimony from police officers about getting bit by their own dogs, often numerous times in different situations.

David Reaver, the so-called “dog whisperer” who purchases, trains and evaluates canines for various local law enforcement agencies including the Riverside Police Department gets sued a lot. His latest case involves a dog that bit another officer.

Canine handler sued at least a dozen times by same attorney

(excerpt)

Sgt. Bruce Leamer, 48, alleges that he was attacked and bitten on the hand and leg by Ygor, a Belgian Malinois, in June 2005, while assisting another officer on a burglary call.
Ygor, who was wearing an electric collar, ignored the electric shocks and the dog’s handler had to pull the canine off Leamer, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit refers to the dog as “an uncontrollable deadly and dangerous weapon.” It alleges that, as the animal’s trainer, Reaver should have known that the dog posed a risk of serious injury.

Reaver’s apparently won all of these cases including two that went to trial. He testified for the winning side in the Sutton case as well, beating out the city’s own expert canine handler, Brad Smith. Both did have good stage presence.

But has there ever been a case where an officer bit his own dog? Perhaps. And if so, would the Internal Affairs and risk management launch an investigation of that incident?

The U.S. Department of Justice dropped in on the Riverside Police Department’s canine unit several years ago. Among the reforms it imposed on that division was for it to rewrite its policy particularly the section involving the deployment of canines.

Losers this week: The Eastside community. Using derogatory language against this community in any medium can reap career accolades in this post-consent decree department as long as no one is watching. Some times, the days of comments like “the animals are coming by the busload” don’t seem so far away, including this week.

In other places:

UCLA is the only campus in the University of California system which tases noncombative students, according to an article published today in the Mercury News. The interest in this issue has risen after the Nov. 14 tasing of UCLA senior Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23 by Officer Terrence Duren.

Taser used limited at most UC campuses

(excerpt)

Police at six of the 10 UC campuses carry Taser guns. Most are restricted to only using the guns against violent suspects, according to interviews with top UC law enforcement officials.
UCLA’s police rules, however, allow officers to use Tasers on passive resisters as “a pain compliance technique,” Assistant Chief Jeff Young said last week.

Police departments at UC Merced, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Riverside also equip their officers with tasers, but their rules are different.

“It can only be used when it appears reasonable under the circumstances to restrain or arrest a violent or threatening suspect,” said UC Riverside Police Chief Michael Lane

It’s raining reviews again

November 19, 2006

The Riverside Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division is conducting a “review” of an incident involving a brawl at a local sports bar that was apparently witnessed by five police officers and a sergeant, including several who allegedly left the bar during the fight, according to an article published in today’s Press Enterprise. Some people contacted me this morning about this article before I had even read it.

RPD officers present during brawl at local sports bar

The inquiry is being launched, according to the department’s press information officer, Steven Frasher because of the scope of the incident. The officers were all allegedly off-duty and not in uniform at the time, yet Frasher said that some of them may not have been formally logged off of their shifts, in what he called a “technicality”.

“The presence of the officers and any action they may or may not have taken will be reviewed by Internal Affairs,” Frasher said. That “doesn’t presuppose that there’s anything wrong with what they did,” he added.

The exact nature of the injuries suffered by the two victims of the fight is not known but it was assumed in the article that because charges of attempted murder were filed against two men, Sione Telua Faanunu, 26, and Siosefa Telva Faanunu, 22, that the victims were either left in a comatose condition or paralyzed as a result of their beatings. At one point, at least one of them was beaten by a table and chair. The two assailants who were apparently brothers were also charged with torture and aggravated mayhem.

The officers who stood by and watched, as “good witnesses” could wind up hindering the case as much as their observations of the melee might help it, depending on how it goes. If it goes to trial, any jury might ask itself, if this fight was really as bad as the prosecutors and their witnesses including these officers make it out to be, then why did the individuals in the bar who had the training and experience to intervene, choose not to do so? Hopefully, the fact that the officers were present and watching, if not actively intervening, might lead to the involved parties opting for plea bargains.

The fight which took place at Events Sports Grill on Nov. 10 at around 11:45 started small and turned into a melee, with the officers still present. It’s not clear what shifts these police officers had worked prior to coming to the bar, which is housed in the same business complex as the newly completed Magnolia Police Station. Based on Frasher’s comments in the news articles, one officer was on the phone with the dispatch center while the fight was going on, several others were acting as “good witnesses” in accordance with the departmental policy and the rest of them left the bar while the melee was ongoing.

The attorney who represents the Riverside Police Officers Association had this to say about the incident, according to the news article.

(excerpt)

Mike Lackie, attorney for the Riverside Police Officers Association, said he had heard that officers were at the bar during the brawl. The union attorney said none of the officers was on duty.

“They were all off duty,” Lackie said Friday. “There’s nothing to it.”

The people who contacted me were mostly upset about the officers who did nothing at all, not even in terms of being “good witnesses” for further prosecution whether it be as a criminal case involving murder, attempted murder or aggravated assault, because at the time the brawl was taking place, it was not certain how it would end and who would end it. They asked why these officers chose to simply leave the bar, rather than even remain as witnesses. I’ll leave it to the police department to answer that one, because it is the agency which is most knowledgable about its own policies and procedures for situations involving its employees. Maybe that response will come on the tail to responses to questions about the process used by the department to select its candidates for the “public safety of the month” awards. The department does not appear up to answering tough questions this week.

The city might disagree with Lackie’s assertion that there is nothing to it, if the victims of this beating recover enough to file a law suit against the city. Then the fact that several officers may or may have logged off duty will probably be more than just a “technicality” if there is written policy and procedure which requires it. That practice, probably more than their actions or inactions during the melee in question will probably be a major hurdle if they do get sued. A lesson the department should have learned the last time the city was sued(and later settled that law suit) involving an incident at TGIF restaurant in 1999 where determining whether the involved officers were onduty or not posed similar problems.

It will be interesting to find out what the administrative review being conducted by the Internal Affairs will reveal, except the public won’t ever find out, pursuant to PC 832.7.

Over 500 people showed up at UCLA yesterday to protest the recent tasing incident involving Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a 23-year-old senior who is an Iranian-American. He was tased at least five times on Nov. 14 by UCLA police officers who showed up to eject him from the library after he did not produce a photo identification card during a “routine” check.

The students then marched to the police station, yelling, “Tasers out of UCLA” and carrying signs reading, “I am a student. Don’t tase me.”

UCLA administrators have also decided to hand off the investigation of this incident to Merrick Bobb who served as staff attorney to the Christopher Commission’s investigation into the LAPD and currently serves as the Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors’ watch dog over the Sheriff’s Department. The students and more importantly to the university, the students’ parents have spoken on this incident, much to the administration’s dismay.

UCLA to farm out investigation to outside resource

The police chief continued to defend the officers’ actions.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times article)

UCLA Police Chief Karl Ross said the officers decided to use the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad after he went limp while they were escorting him out and urged other library patrons to join his resistance.

Mavrick Goodrich, a chemical engineering major who observed the incident, said Tabatabainejad shouted, “Am I the only martyr?”

Some witnesses disputed the officers’ account, saying that when campus police arrived, Tabatabainejad had begun to walk toward the door.

However, representatives of other law enforcement agencies pointed out differences between their own policies on taser use and the tactics practiced by UCLA’s officers.

(excerpt)

Several local police agencies — including the LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — allow officers to use Tasers only if a suspect poses a physical threat or is acting combatively.The sheriff’s policies expressly say deputies can’t use Tasers simply to move someone.

We look for assaultive conduct,” said Bill McSweeney, chief of the sheriff’s leadership and training division “We generally don’t use the Taser on passive resisters except when an individual indicates explosive action to follow, such as a verbal threat.”

Assistant Police Chief Jeff Young said that his officers were allowed to use their tasers in the drive stun mode against passive resisters for “pain compliance”. The drive stun mode is when officers press the taser directly against the body part, rather than using it in the mode where the device fires two probes, which send an electrical shock that incapacitates the individual.

Students continued to ask the questions which the administrative officials should be asking and perhaps would be if they weren’t in damage control mode.

“Once you have him subdued, you don’t have to keep Tasing him,” said Rohit Mahajan, a psychobiology major who watched the video. “You could see him crying. He’s not a threat. He’s maybe acting like a smartass, but he doesn’t” deserve that.

Videos and verdicts

November 19, 2006

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23 and a senior at UCLA announced plans to file a law suit, through his attorney, Stephen Yagman, according to a Los Angeles Times article published today.

Man stunned by UCLA police plans to sue

Both Tabatabainejad, who is Iranian-American, and his attorney alleged that UCLA officers used excessive force when they tased the young man five times at the campus’s library on Nov. 14, because he would not produce a photo identification card on request. Yagman called the incident, profiling by the officers that was done based on his client’s Middle-Eastern appearance.

The tasing was captured on a web phone and transmitted around the world, through the media and via a YouTube Web site. The incident has sparked protest at UCLA including a planned demonstration today.

In a prepared statement released late Thursday, UCLA’s interim chancellor, Norman Abrams, urged the public to “withhold judgment” while the campus police department investigates.


“I, too, have watched the videos, and I do not believe that one can make a fair judgment regarding the matter from the videos alone. I am encouraged that a number of witnesses have come forward and are participating in the investigation.”

The UCLA Daily Bruin’s article on the incident provides a detailed account of what took place, when community service officers performed what the article called a “random” ID check on Tabatabainejad.

The CSOs left, returning minutes later, and police officers arrived to escort the student out. By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well. The student began to yell “get off me,” repeating himself several times. It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain.

The student also told the officers he had a medical condition. UCPD officers confirmed that the man involved in the incident was a student, but did not give a name or any additional information about his identity.

Video shot from a student’s camera phone captured the student yelling, “Here’s your Patriot Act, here’s your fucking abuse of power,” while he struggled with the officers. As the student was screaming, UCPD officers repeatedly told him to stand up and said “stop fighting us.”

The student did not stand up as the officers requested and they shot him with the Taser at least once more

. “It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life,” said David Remesnitsky, a 2006 UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident.

As the student and the officers were struggling, bystanders repeatedly asked the police officers to stop, and at one point officers told the gathered crowd to stand back and threatened to use a Taser on anyone who got too close. Laila Gordy, a fourth-year economics student who was present in the library during the incident, said police officers threatened to shoot her with a Taser when she asked an officer for his name and his badge number.

Gordy was visibly upset by the incident and said other students were also disturbed.

It’s a shock that something like this can happen at UCLA,” she said. “It was unnecessary what they did.”

Another witness who was interviewed by NBC agreed.

“Any student who witnessed it was left with an image you don’t want to remember,” said a witness who asked not to be identified.

When asked whether the student resisted when officer attempted to escort him from the building, the witness said, “In the beginning, no. But when they were holding onto him and they were on the ground, he was trying to just break free. He was saying, ‘I’m leaving, I’m leaving.’ It was so disturbing to watch that I cannot be concise on that. I can just say that he was willing to leave. He had his backpack on his shoulder and he was walking out when the cops approached him. It was unnecessary.”


The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Los Angeles director, Hussam Ayloush said that his organization was very concerned about the incident.

“It is hard to see the justification for repeatedly using pain-inducing weapons on a person who was apparently not a threat to any officer or student. We call on state and national authorities, including the FBI, to launch an independent investigation of this disturbing incident. Given the circumstances involved, only an outside, independent probe will ensure that the civil rights aspects of this case are being taken seriously and will be addressed in an impartial manner.”

UCLA finally responded via its media relations division here.

Date: November 17, 2006
Contact: Office of Media Relations ( media@support.ucla.edu )
Phone: 310-825-2585

Updated Statement from Chancellor Abrams About the Incident at Powell Library

A number of students, parents and members of the public have contacted me to express their concern about Tuesday evening’s incident in which university police took a student into custody at Powell Library. Since the incident, I have been in close contact with the chief of police and have asked that the investigation into the actions of all involved move at the quickest pace possible without sacrificing fairness.

I am committed to our country’s system of due process — which counsels us not to rush to judgment. It would be best if everyone, within and without the university, would withhold judgment pending review of the matter. I, too, have watched the videos, and I do not believe that one can make a fair judgment regarding the matter from the videos alone. I am encouraged that a number of witnesses have come forward and are participating in the investigation.

To parents who are concerned about the safety of their children at the university, student safety and treatment are of paramount concern at UCLA. Indeed, this incident arose out of a university policy that is designed to ensure student safety, which requires persons in the library after 11:00 p.m. to be prepared to identify themselves.

There are conflicting reports of what transpired in this matter. I am confident that the review process underway will lead to a complete and accurate story of what took place. We must let the fact-finding process take its course.
-UCLA-

In another article published by the Daily Bruin, there were more details released and more response from the UCLA community.

“I realize when looking at these kind of arrest tapes that they don’t always show the full picture. … But that six minutes that we can watch just seems like it’s a ridiculous amount of force for someone being escorted because they forgot their BruinCard,” said Ali Ghandour, a fourth-year anthropology student.

“It certainly makes you wonder if something as small as forgetting your BruinCard can eventually lead to getting Tased several times in front of the library,” he added.

Edouard Tchertchian, a third-year mathematics student, said he was concerned that the student was not offered any other means of showing that he was a UCLA student.


Resources:

NBC’s links to video

UCLA Daily Bruin article

The American Muslim article on CAIR-L.A. call for probe

Council on American-Islamic Relations press release

Life continues on in Riverside, where tasers have played critical roles in the deaths of two Black men. They did not die from being tased by the devices, but because they had allegedly grabbed them from the possession of police officers before they were shot to death by the police. Both of those onduty shootings are currently being investigated by the Riverside Police Department and the Community Police Review Commission.

The city council has also decided to forgo its appeal of the huge jury verdict awarded to Black officer, Roger Sutton after his racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation law suit filed in 2000 finally made it to trial.

City drops appeal, pays out settlement

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

His attorney, Scott Silverman responded as well.

The settlement announced Thursday “sends a message that Riverside police need to take racial discrimination and harassment seriously,” Scott Silverman, Sutton’s attorney, said in a statement.

The city’s attorneys did not respond.

Sutton will receive $1.64 million and $67,103 in other costs. His attorneys will receive $825,000 in fees, which will put the city and its insurance carriers out over $2.5 million.

What the city will receive instead is this message, racism costs

People are people: Diversity training and the RPD

November 17, 2006

Part of a series

While reading through next week’s city council agenda, I encountered an item on it that made me want to vomit, but I can’t write about it for reasons I can’t get into here. However, this item reminded me of a related topic and that is how the police department conducts its cultural diversity and sensitivity training. You know, the kind that tries to teach police officers that people of color aren’t well you know, animals.

This autumn, the department entered into a contract with UCR extension to offer a beefed up diversity curriculum to its officers, but most people in Riverside remain unaware of what that training entails and what impact it will have on the city’s police officers. And after I saw that particular item on the agenda, I wonder if those in the police department’s management are giving more than lip service to this form of instruction or whether they need to line up and take the classes first.

In the past, the department relied on several programs to train its officers. They didn’t work. Tyisha Miller and all the racist comments made afterwards by an assortment of officers made that abundantly clear.

One well-known program that was set up to teach cultural diversity to law enforcement officers is provided through the Tools for Tolerance program by Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The department utilized this resource during the 1990s up to at least last year, according to documents received from the department in response to a California Public Records Act request.

Its objectives include the following:

Specific objectives include:

Employing the impactful, inter-active learning experience of the Museum of Tolerance in order to expose the dynamics of racism and bigotry, prejudice and discrimination in both an historic and contemporary context;

Engaging participants in a facilitated discussion around issues of tolerance, diversity, personal values and responsibility, and their relevance to the work of a police officer;

Increasing participants’ awareness of the evolving role of law enforcement and the tools necessary for an effective response
.

The Riverside Police Department has sent its officers there to do the two-day training course. However, the reception to this program has been mixed.

Former Chief Jerry Carroll used to talk about how the experience including the bus trip to and from Los Angeles bonded officers to each other. These discussions by Carroll took place of course in the months following the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998, when an angry Black community filled churches and meeting places, in the months before they filled the city’s streets. They took place to reassure the angry crowds at “healing” meetings that they were trying to do the right thing, as a form of placation.

Others however appeared to disagree.

According to a law suit filed by Officer Roger Sutton in 2000, an officer had referred to the program as “Nazi school”. Former officer, Bill Rhetts, who is no friend of gays and lesbians due to homophobic writings on his Web site, sharply criticized the training course in a letter to the center, for being biased against Whites. His letter was the subject of a program on radio station, KPFK in Los Angeles in 1999.

Here is his letter:

Simon Wiesenthal Center
9760 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA. 90035
October 27th, 1999

Dear Simon Wiesenthal Center Staff,

It is imperatively important to set the stage for this letter, by saying to you first that “I love all of man kind, including Jews ~ after all, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a Jew!” This month I was sent by my police department to attend your two day museum of tolerance school. You need to know that I believe your school was an exceptionally great reminder as to the sin of hate, and it’s terrible consequences. In no way do I condone sin, or the unlawful murder of those of the Jewish descent, religion and or the malicious murder of anyone for that matter.

Although I do have a couple of issues that I would like to bring forth, which have been brought to my attention through many others that attended your two day school. To be most honest with you, the curriculum was very biased. Your staff failed to recognize the hate groups from those that are not Caucasians. As a matter of fact the only speaker that did mention that issue, was one of your guest speakers “TJ” (a former white supremacist skin head.) TJ taught the truth by stating that there is racism within all races. He then gave his sincere heart by sharing with us police officers some issues that some of us did not know, such as particular officer safety issues. I thank TJ for his change and his courage.

Then one of your instructors had the audacity to tell the class of police officers that “we had no enemies, criminals are not our enemies, crime is!” I ask you, who commits the crime? A criminal does.

Crim·i·nal (krîm¹e-nel) adjective Abbr. crim.1. Of, involving, or having the nature of crime: criminal abuse.2. Relating to the administration of penal law.3. a. Guilty of crime. b. Characteristic of a criminal.4. Shameful; disgraceful: a criminal waste of talent.
Crim·i·nal noun ~ One that has committed or been legally convicted of a crime. [Middle English, from Old French criminel, from Late Latin crìminâlis, from Latin crìmen, crìmin-, accusation. See CRIME.] — crim¹i·nal·ly adverb

Crime (krìm) noun1. An act committed or omitted in violation of a law forbidding or commanding it and for which punishment is imposed upon conviction.2. Unlawful activity: statistics relating to violent crime.3. A serious offense, especially one in violation of morality. See Synonyms at OFFENSE.4. An unjust, senseless, or disgraceful act or condition: It’s a crime to squander our country’s natural resources.[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin crìmen.]
Now that we clearly see and hopefully agree that the practicing criminal whom commits the crime, is our problem, lets go further.

Then the instructor on your staff wrote on the chalk board these three categories…. She itemized War & Combat ~ Genocide ~ and Law Enforcement. It was very offensive that she would place law enforcement next to the category of genocide.

gen·o·cide (jèn¹e-sìd´) nounThe systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.[Greek genos, race + -CIDE.]— gen´o·cid¹al (-sìd¹l) adjective— gen´o·cid¹al·ly adverb

The instructor never expounded our explained why she placed them on the chalk board, but we had to see those two together, as if she was implying that cops are thugs.
Then the instructor writes another two columns with the words soldier and educator. She then tells us that “we should move more towards the role as an educator.” I tell you, we must first be soldiers. Once a situation has become safe, then we can educate, sympathize and be compassionate educators; but never to compromise our safety or our sol·dier·y.

Lastly when the course concluded, we were all issued a CD called Digital Hate 2000. We were told that this CD identified over 1,400 hate/extremist web sites. Curiosity got this cat, so I observed the CD myself. Beyond a shadow of any doubt, I agree that most of the sites are purely hateful and racist. Unfortunately though, you included some evangelical Christian sites with them. I contacted the organizations that I always thought were biblically sound, and asked for there statements of faith and other literature. My investigation concluded that they were undeservedly included on you hate CD.

You yourselves have proven to be very unfair, biased, hateful and prejudiced by doing this. Have you forgotten that it was soldiers that lost their lives freeing Europe on “D day” in 1944. Soldiers that saved them from the Nazi Germans. Have you forgotten that it was Soldiers by God’s grace, that won our Nations freedom. Our Nation was built with four tools, an ax, a plow, a rifle and a book (the Bible.)

In closing, it is the police officer soldiers of our cities that protect your freedoms in these modern times. In our own nation’s history, American soldiers bore arms against the King’s army, taking many lives, but winning freedom…the very civil rights which you espouse. A century later, Union soldiers bore arms against their own countrymen, whom had drawn a line, and named themselves the Confederacy. Although many were killed in the process, freedom was won for a group of people whose civil rights had not previously been recognized.

Today, the war is not against countries around us, a King denying our free practice of religion, or our Republic divided over the ownership of fellow human beings. Today, the war is for the safety of our neighborhoods. The police are called and appointed as warriors, to protect the populace. They are the agents of those whom are unable or unwilling to protect themselves against the bullies of our society, who would prevent their quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the freedoms our God has given us, and our Constitution affirms.

The line is drawn between those who would enjoy these rights, and those who would deny them. The police officer stands in the gap, to protect the innocent. He is not obligated to shirk or shy from this sacred responsibility, and in the eyes of the law, he does not become the aggressor when he stands firm, to protect himself or others.

When you insult those who serve and fulfill so sacred a trust, you insult each peaceful member of our nation who stands behind them, reliant upon their protection.
I would ask you to please reconsider your prejudice towards evangelical Christians. We love the sinner, but hate the sin that he commits, including my own. A Christian is commanded to have a zero tolerance for sin.

Feel free to contact me any time you would like.
In His Truth,
Bill RhettsPeace Officers for Christ Int.Regional Representative ~ Inland Empire

CC:email recipientsfax recipientsU.S. mail recipients

It’s not clear whether Rhetts ever received a response to his letter.

In 1999, Rhetts was under investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs Division for comments he allegedly made after the shooting of Tyisha Miller in 1998. His comments were allegedly this, “In L.A., they treat you like a King. In Riverside, it’s Miller time.” Rhetts said that his comments were taken out of context and that he had merely been trying to “educate” younger officers in the department. But one should ask and many did, what is educational, or even particularly humorous about teaching newer officers that the LAPD beats African-Americans and the RPD shoots them to death?

Eighteen months of investigating and the department was still unable to determine what Rhetts’ comments meant, according to an account that he provided at his own Web site.

At the time, he retired in May 2000, Rhetts was the vice president of the Riverside Police Officers Association. Hardly the marginalized officer in the department that he was portrayed as being while under investigation and after he left. Rhetts later turned up in a Los Angeles Times article about officers in the LAPD who had committed three or more onduty shootings. Rhetts has had four, including one in the Riverside Police Department. One of his statements which stood out in the article, was that it was his current belief that he should have never, ever been a police officer in the first place. That statement was approximately 20 years in coming.

Rhetts had not been the only police officer who had allegedly made racial comments after the Miller shooting.

Former officer, David Hackman made comments about “Watts death wails” and caricatured the behavior of Miller’s grandmother, Joan Miller, in association with the grieving being done by Miller’s relatives at the gas station where she had died. Hackman received a suspension for those comments and resigned from the department in May 2000. His troubles followed him up to Hollister where he served a short stint as a county deputy, before retiring on a medical disability. They followed him down to Anaheim where he was involved in an incident at a baseball game which involved in felony charges being filed against him. In 2005, the county of San Benito paid $21,000 to settle a civil rights law suit filed against Hackman and the last agency he had worked for as a law enforcement officer.

Update on David Hackman

Former sergeant, Gregory Preece also was fired in 1999 in part for comments he made at the scene of the Miller shooting. He had compared the arrival of Miller’s family after the shooting, to a Kwanzaa gathering. Several years later, an arbitrator overturned his firing, but gave him 30 days suspension for the comments. He received a physical disability retirement and currently works for the FBI as a crime analyst. Irony, indeed.

In 2001, Preece had received an award from the city for his role in the rescue of the city council and mayor who were held hostage by a former city employee. In a chamber filled with hundreds of police officers, he received the loudest applause of anyone there, except for perhaps the Medal of Valor recipients. He was, it appears, the first award recipient to have referred to people of color as “animals” as in “animals are coming by the busload,” at some point before winning his award. Unfortunately, as I was recently reminded, he won’t the last to receive an award after making those type of comments. Not even a five-year court mandated reform process that cost the city over $22.5 million has changed that. Throwing money at that kind of problem has never made it go away.

Other RPD officers made comments in the locker including one who said that all the officers should turn their radios to rap stations in memory of Miller.

Earlier than that, former Sgt. Christine Keers had filed a sexual discrimination, harassment and retaliation law suit, alleging among other things that officers had created a “hostile working environment” for women by making sexual and sexist comments in their presense, showing pornography films in the roll call room and leaving fliers depicting sexual cartoons on her work desk and in other places. About twenty of those fliers were attached to her law suit as exhibits in that case. She filed a law suit and it eventually settled for a large sum of money.

There were also the comments cited in Sutton’s law suit, about bringing alcohol to the students at a career day held at Sherman Indian High School to soften them up because the only way they, American Indians, were going to see police officers was from inside a jail cell. Comments made in roll call about “Ty-i-shit” and how it was impossible for a Black woman to be a UCR student, because well, she was a Black woman were made by the sergeant who led those roll call sessions. This individual’s image of a Black woman on welfare surrounded by kids was obviously etched in his mind to represent all Black women. Stereotypes seemed paramount in the RPD, mostly involving men of color and women.

There were jokes about Jews, including one where one person asked another, what was the difference between a Jewish person and a pizza. The answer was, a pizza doesn’t scream when you put it in the oven. Jokes about women and the “scoot marks” they left behind as they paired off with other female officers on a workshift and drove off in the “lesbian” squad car. Even Italians weren’t spared. According to the Sutton law suit, there was a video tape floating around that stereotyped Italians as mafia men.

Often those attitudes of racism, sexism and homophobia were expressed through actions, as State Attorney General Bill Lockyer noted in a speech he gave in San Diego several years ago. Those collective actions and the resultant investigation led to his office’s decision to sue the city of Riverside in order to get it to reform its police department.

Bill Lockyer talks about Riverside

“I decided there were systemic problems with the Riverside Police Department,” Lockyer said.

“There were a lot of instances in which African-Americans were beaten, Hispanics beaten and tossed in the lake, and Gays and Lesbians harassed and beaten. I spent a year and a half negotiating with the Riverside Police Department for such basic demands as psychological evaluations for officers before they are hired, up-to-date training, community relations boards, availability and training in use of non-lethal weapons, TV cameras in the chief’s office and the squad room and video and audio recording in police cars.”

The intent of these reforms, Lockyer said, was to break the macho culture of the police department and the racism and sexism that went along with it.

Since the stipulated judgment has been dissolved and that “macho culture” is apparently a thing of the past, it is puzzling to learn that this type of behavior certainly does not appear to hinder and probably helps officers get lauded even today. It is puzzling why management makes the decision to honor some of the individuals keeping knowledge about their behavior private when those behaviors include those they condemn in public particularly when they are speaking in predominantly Black and Latino communities like the Eastside, for example.

The department’s representatives can talk about cultural diversity training out of one side of the mouth, then through their actions, show that they are the ones who need it the most. They do so every time they hold up those individuals and laud them, including Preece and that other guy.

The third time isn’t the charm

November 17, 2006

Another day, another video although at least this time it’s not one involving the Los Angeles Police Department’s officers. Another law enforcement agency’s police chief is in the hot seat this time.

Today, the incident in question was one caught by an individual’s cell phone involving UCLA police officers tasing a student who had refused to leave the library.

UCLA police officer videotaped using taser

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23, was seen on the footage falling on the ground in pain as he was tased by police officers.

Earlier, community service officers had made their rounds of the library checking to make sure that those still present in the building after 11pm were students or authorized to be there, a practice conducted for student safety according to the university. They had asked Tabatabainejad for his photo identification card and he refused to show them. Police officers then came to the library later and asked him to leave the library “multiple times”, according to police.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times article)

“He continued to refuse,” the statement said. “As the officers attempted to escort him out, he went limp and continued to refuse to cooperate with officers or leave the building.”

Witnesses disputed that account, saying that when campus police arrived, Tabatabainejad had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack. When an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, the witnesses said, Tabatabainejad told the officer to let go, yelling “Get off me” several times

One student who witnessed the incident expressed his opinion on the matter.

“It was beyond grotesque,” said UCLA graduate David Remesnitsky of Los Angeles, who witnessed the incident. “By the end they took him over the stairs, lifted him up and Tasered him on his rear end. It seemed like it was inappropriately placed. The Tasering was so unnecessary and they just kept doing it.

Remmesnitsky said that about 50-60 people had gathered and asked the police officers to stop tasing the man and asked them for their names and badge numbers. He added that officers had told him that if he did not leave, he would be tased as well.

The UCLA police chief and administrative officials have said the incident will be investigated and admit that Tabatabainejad was tased multiple times by their officers .

(excerpt)

UCLA Assistant Police Chief Jeff Young said Wednesday that he had viewed the video of the campus incident on the Internet and would view any other videos that were shot.

We will gather as many samples as we can find, from different sources,” Young said. “We’ll use it for our own administrative investigation.”

UCLA Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams said in a statement that university police are investigating the incident and the officers’ actions.

“The investigation and review will be thorough, vigorous and fair,” he said, adding that compliance with the ID policy is “critical for the safety and well-being of everyone.”

To the east of UCLA, the Los Angeles Police Department is still grappling with two incidents that were caught on video tape involving its police officers and aired to or on media outlets earlier this week.

Chief William Bratton is currently mulling over whether or not the department’s policy in terms of the use of pepperspray should be modified, according to another Los Angeles Times article.

Chief ponders policy change

The article states that Bratton was concerned enough by the video involving a man getting peppersprayed while handcuffed inside a squad car, to immediately place the involved officers off active duty.

Bratton, who is set to decide on the fate of the officers(though one has left the department for a job out of state) in several days, said that several things bothered him about the incident.

The chief said he was uneasy that the officer shut the door of the patrol car, leaving the handcuffed suspect alone inside, after administering the pepper spray.

The closing of the door “was one of the reasons I had concern,” Bratton said.”My interest there is: Was that pepper spray used to control the behavior of that individual or was it used punitively?” he said.

“If in my judgment the individual ceased to be a threat to the officer and other tactics could have been used, then I could conceivably find the officer out of policy. That whole case really comes down to that issue. And also the closing of the door.”

The LAPD also was recently graded once again on its progress under the recently extended consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice and received a mixed report card.

LAPD gets mixed grades on progress under decree

Surprise, surprise, one of those areas that needed improvement was the department’s investigation of use of force incidents. According to the report, out of 13 reports that came up for investigation, the department failed to address discrepencies in its investigations. The department also failed to immediately initiate investigations into five other use of force incidents.

The department also needed to evaluate an officer’s past history when investigating these incidents, the role of the supervisors and to address a failure to refer officers involved in fatal or near fatal incidents to psychological counseling.

The decree was extended six months ago by a federal judge in part because the department had failed to enact about 30% of the 191 required reforms. But it had made progress in other ways including how it handled citizen complaints.

Despite the events of the past two weeks, Bratton was happy with the monitor’s comments.

“Everything is going very well from my perspective,” said Bratton, who planned to discuss the report over dinner Wednesday night with Cherkasky. “Fortunately for us, things are progressing well.”

On to Riverside.

An unidentified individual named “Billy Jack” has claimed at the California CCW Forum that the Riverside Police Department discriminated against him when he applied for a CCW permit. He is seeking out other people who have had similar problems here.

(excerpt)

I want to stress how important it is for denied applicants to the Riverside Police Department to come forward and contact me. We have a team that can assist you with your appeal. RPD’s policy, and I use the word loosely, is illegal and violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution as well as the two case law suits previously discussed here. Do not walk away, do not take this lying down. The abuse has to stop!

This department has one of the most outrageous policies in California and I have seen most of them. Their policy is illegal at almost every step. They are even charging more for the psych test than allowed by statute. Heck, if you are going to violate the Constitution, why not the California Penal Code as well?

Someone should remind Mr. Jack that the original version eschewed guns. Then again, the department apparently approved a CCW permit for Asst. City Manager Tom De Santis even though he did not live inside the city limits. It withdrew it and he later received one from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. What he’s done with it since then is open to debate.

Also, a local blog, here covered issues pertaining to Riverside County including several pieces involving grand jury investigations into the practices of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Contacts and contracts

November 14, 2006

Another day, another LAPD video tape. The week, indeed had just begun.

The Los Angeles Times has written another article about another incident captured on video tape. This time, it was a man sitting inside a squad car who was peppersprayed by an officer. The officer, who was only identified as “Guiterman” has already left the department for a job out of state and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has dropped charges of resisting arrest and battery of a peace officer against the man in the car.

Video of pepperspraying incident dismays officials

This incident has already been the subject of an extensive investigation by the department. Apparently, department heads were “livid” when they viewed the tape of transient Benjamin Barker being peppersprayed after being handcuffed and shoved in a squad car.

(excerpt)

The videotape shows Barker in handcuffs as he is bent over a patrol car. As the officer pushes Barker into the car, Barker can be heard saying, “Why am I going to jail?”

Once Barker is in the back seat, he starts shouting “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! Don’t spray me!”

One officer is heard saying: “He knows what’s happening.”

Another officer takes the pepper spray canister from his belt, shakes it and leans in to apply it to Barker’s face. The officer then closes the doors of the patrol car and steps back. Barker is seen holding his face up to the car window, his features contorted in pain.

Like in the case involving William Cardenas, the department again grappled with reconciling the differences between what it watched on video and what its officers produced for the written record.

(excerpt)

In the arrest report, the officer described Barker as combative, and said pepper-spray was used after Barker spat on him once and attempted to spit on him when he was in the patrol car. The video is shot at an angle that makes it difficult to determine whether Barker spit at the officer, but there is no physical assault seen from Barker. The tape shows the officer take the pepper spray out of its holster the raise toward Barker’s face, but the actual spraying is obscured by shadows.

The exact location of the incident also initially differed in the police report written by a supervising sergeant, in comparison to what was shown on the video tape.

In the arrest report, Guiterman said Barker sat in the back of the patrol car but with his feet on the ground outside the car.’Barker remained rigid and took a deep breath and began to spit at me. I moved my head to the left an avoided the spit,” he wrote. “If I had not moved it would have struck me in the face.. The spit landed on my right chest/arm pit area.”

He said Barker then cursed at him.Fearing that Barker might spit at him or kick him, he said he sprayed Barker twice with two one-second burses of the pepper spray.

A sergeant supervising the scene said in the initial police report that the incident had occurred as they stood at the rear door of the car. But the report was later corrected to say it took place inside the car.

And the week’s still getting started.

In Riverside, two memoranda of understanding between the city government and the Riverside Police Officers Association go to the city council for a vote today, Nov. 14.

This contract came after more than six months of arduous negotiations involving both the union’s police unit and its supervisors unit. Talks broke down during the summer, when the RPOA alleged that the city had acted in “bad faith” after members of the city management team divulged information regarding the RPOA’s negotiations to the city’s other unions during similar talks. In response, the RPOA filed a law suit in August and later filled the seats in the city council chambers with its membership at a city council meeting. Soon after, it was alleged that the city council had asked Assistant City Manager, Tom DeSantis to excuse himself from the process and the process went more smoothly after that, finally resulting in an agreement. Most of the city’s unions agreed that this was the worst summer of negotiations in recent history as unions either held strike votes, filed civil litigation or showed up in large numbers at city council meetings asking for fairer treatment.

At a later city council meeting, members of both the RPOA and the city government expressed a huge sigh of relief.

City Council Agenda, Nov. 14

Click item #19a(addendum)

Available in laserfiche or pdf format

Some of the terms of the contact for rank and file officers and detectives include the following:

Salary increases:

4% raise on Sept. 8, 2006

4% raise on July 1, 2007

3% raise on July 1, 2008

Medical benefits(including dental) over 2006, 2007 and 2008:


Single: $471 $471, $480

2-party: $705, $775, $850

Family: $935, $1024, $1122

Premium Pay:

Bilingual, motor and METRO team: 3%

Collateral METRO, sniper team and hostage negotiations team: 1.5%

POST certificates: 7.5% for intermediate and 12.5% for advanced

Community Policing incentive: $1,500(one time)

Canine handlers pay to increase to 15 hours overtime pay

City’s contributions to retirement trust fund:

$50/month for active participants on July 1, 2006 to be increased to $100 on Jan. 1, 2008. Officers with 15 years in the department who take industrial disability retirements will be eligiable to receive benefits from this fund, once established.

Supervisory Unit contact negotiations were also completed. The following are some of the terms of that contract.

Salary Increases:

4% raise on Sept. 8, 2006

4% raise on July 1, 2007

3% raise on July 1, 2007

Medical benefits(including dental) over 2006, 2007 and 2008

Single: $471, $471, $480

2-party: $705, $775, $850

Family: $935, $1024, $1122

Premium Pay:

Motor and METRO Team sergeants: 3%

Collateral METRO sergeants, sniper sergeants and Hostage Negotiation Team sergeants: 1.5%

POST certificates, Intermediate, 7.5% and Advanced, 12.5%

Community Policing incentive: $1,800

City’s contributions to retirement trust fund:

$50/month for active participants on July 1, 2006 to be increased to $100 on Jan. 1, 2008. Officers with 15 years in the department who take industrial disability retirements will be eligiable to receive benefits from this fund, once established

The negotiations between the city and the Riverside Police Administrators Association appear to be ongoing. The law suit filed by the Riverside Police Administrators Association last July comes up for discussion in closed session at the city council meeting today as well.

Pursuant to a memorandum between the city and the RPAA in March 2004, the salary range for a top step lieutenant will be maintained at a level 29% higher than that of a top level sergeant and the salary range for a top step captain will be maintained at 15.74% higher than a top step lieutenant. This memorandum was the basis of the law suit filed by the RPAA.

Speaking of contracts, the city council voted on Nov. 7 to approve a motion authorizing City Manager Brad Hudson to sign a professional consultant agreement with former AG consultant Joe Brann and Associates, LLC that will not exceed $150,000 and will expire June 30, 2008. Brann’s role according to the city council report will be to issue quarterly reports to the city council as well as review and evaluate the progress of the police department’s implementation of the Strategic Plan. He will also assist the department in creating policies, protocols and staffing requirements for the Audit and Compliance Bureau.

Report on contract

When pictures and words collide

November 14, 2006

Another day, another LAPD video tape. The week, indeed had just begun.

The Los Angeles Times has written another article about another incident captured on video tape. This time, it was a mentally ill man sitting inside a squad car who was peppersprayed by an officer. The officer, who was only identified as “Guiterman” has left the department for a job out of state and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office dropped charges of resisting arrest and battery of a peace officer against Barker.

Video of pepperspraying incident

This incident was the subject of an extensive investigation by the department. Apparently, department heads were “livid” when they viewed the tape of transient Benjamin Barker being peppersprayed after being handcuffed and shoved in a squad car.

(excerpt)

The videotape shows Barker in handcuffs as he is bent over a patrol car. As the officer pushes Barker into the car, Barker can be heard saying, “Why am I going to jail?”

Once Barker is in the back seat, he starts shouting “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! Don’t spray me!”

One officer is heard saying: “He knows what’s happening.”

Another officer takes the pepper spray canister from his belt, shakes it and leans in to apply it to Barker’s face. The officer then closes the doors of the patrol car and steps back. Barker is seen holding his face up to the car window, his features contorted in pain.

Like in the case involving William Cardenas, the department grappled with reconciling video footage that differed from what was in the written record.

(excerpt)

In the arrest report, the officer described Barker as combative, and said pepper-spray was used after Barker spat on him once and attempted to spit on him when he was in the patrol car. The video is shot at an angle that makes it difficult to determine whether Barker spit at the officer, but there is no physical assault seen from Barker. The tape shows the officer take the pepper spray out of its holster the raise toward Barker’s face, but the actual spraying is obscured by shadows.

The exact location of the incident also initially differed in the police report in comparison to what was shown on the video tape.

In the arrest report, Guiterman said Barker sat in the back of the patrol car but with his feet on the ground outside the car.’Barker remained rigid and took a deep breath and began to spit at me. I moved my head to the left an avoided the spit,” he wrote. “If I had not moved it would have struck me in the face.. The spit landed on my right chest/arm pit area.”

He said Barker then cursed at him.Fearing that Barker might spit at him or kick him, he said he sprayed Barker twice with two one-second burses of the pepper spray.

A sergeant supervising the scene said in the initial police report that the incident had occurred as they stood at the rear door of the car. But the report was later corrected to say it took place inside the car.

And the week’s still getting started.

In Riverside, memoranda of understanding between the city government and the Riverside Police Officers Association goes to the city council for a vote today, Nov. 14.

This contract came after more than six months of negotiations involving the union’s rank and file division and its supervisors unit. Talks broke down during the summer, when the RPOA alleged that the city had acted in “bad faith” when it divulged information regarding the RPOA’s negotations during similar talks involving the city’s other unions. The RPOA filed a law suit in August and later filled the seats in the city council chambers with its membership. Soon after, it was alleged that the city council had asked Assistant City Manager, Tom DeSantis to excuse himself from the process and the process went more smoothly after that.

City Council Agenda, Nov. 14

Click item #19a(addendum)

Available in laserfische or pdf format

Some of the terms of the contact for rank and file officers and detectives include the following:

Salary increases:

4% raise on Sept. 8, 2006

4% raise on July 1, 2007

3% raise on July 1, 2008

Medical benefits(including dental) over 2006, 2007 and 2008:


Single: $471 $471, $480

2-party: $705, $775, $850

Family: $935, $1024, $1122

Premium Pay:

Bilingual, motor and METRO team: 3%

Collateral METRO, sniper team and hostage negotiations team: 1.5%

POST certificates: 7.5% for intermediate and 12.5% for advanced

Community Policing incentive: $1,500(one time)

Canine handlers pay to increase to 15 hours overtime pay

City’s contributions to retirement trust fund:

$50/month for active participants on July 1, 2006 to be increased to $100 on Jan. 1, 2008. Officers with 15 years in the department who take industrial disability retirements will be eligiable to receive benefits from this fund, once established.

Supervisory Unit contact negotiations were also completed. The following are some of the terms of that contract.

Salary Increases:

4% raise on Sept. 8, 2006

4% raise on July 1, 2007

3% raise on July 1, 2007

Medical benefits(including dental) over 2006, 2007 and 2008

Single: $471, $471, $480

2-party: $705, $775, $850

Family: $935, $1024, $1122

Premium Pay:

Motor and METRO Team sergeants: 3%

Collateral METRO sergeants, sniper sergeants and Hostage Negotiation Team sergeants: 1.5%

POST certificates, Intermediate, 7.5% and Advanced, 12.5%

Community Policing incentive: $1,800

City’s contributions to retirement trust fund:

$50/month for active participants on July 1, 2006 to be increased to $100 on Jan. 1, 2008. Officers with 15 years in the department who take industrial disability retirements will be eligiable to receive benefits from this fund, once established

The negotiations between the city and the Riverside Police Administrators Association appear to be ongoing. The law suit filed by the RPAA last July comes up for discussion in closed session at the city council meeting today as well.

Pursuant to a memorandum between the city and the Riverside Police Administrators Association in March 2004, the salary range for a top step lieutenant will be maintained at a level 29% higher than that of a top level sergeant and the salary range for a top step captain will be maintained at 15.74% higher than a top step lieutenant. This memorandum was the basis of the law suit filed by the RPAA.

Speaking of contracts, the city council voted to approve a motion authorizing City Manager Brad Hudson to sign a professional consultant agreement with former AG consultant Joe Brann and Associates, LLC that will not exceed $150,000 and will expire June 30, 2008. Brann’s role according to the city council report will be to issue quarterly reports to the city council as well as review and evaluate the progress of the police department’s implementation of the Strategic Plan. He will also assist the department in creating policies, protocols and staffing requirements for the Audit and Compliance Bureau.

Report on contract

Here and there

November 10, 2006

The city manager’s office has apparently taken yet another strike against the Community Police Review Commission which has had very little breathing space since last year’s sustained finding in the Summer Lane shooting case.

City manager bars CPRC executive director from meetings

Commissioner Brian Pearcy explained at a Wednesday outreach committee meeting that he spoke with Assistant City Manager Tom DeSantis to discuss the issue. DeSantis has instructed Payne to leave outreach efforts to the commissioners, Pearcy said. One concern was that Payne might not be attending a sufficiently broad spectrum of meetings, he added.

Payne said that is inaccurate. But, he said, if he has overlooked some groups they should try to expand his outreach efforts, not shut them down completely.

The fabulous Dan Bernstein chimed in here on the issue, taking the city to task for this latest action.

(excerpt)

Who are the brain surgeons who have severed a vital connection between this voter-approved commission and ordinary citizens? The usual suspects. Assistant City Manager Tom DeSantis, who doesn’t even burp without the written consent of his boss, Brad Hudson. These guys don’t even go to community meetings unless their concealed weapons are tucked under their armpits. And they’re worried about creating appearances?

As usual, DeSantis was unavailable for comment, but he’s also been scarce in public in the last several weeks, perhaps still recovering from his alleged removal from the labor negotiation process involving several city employee bargaining units and unions a month ago.

Commissioners and community members discussed this issue at the CPRC’s community outreach meeting on Nov. 8, two weeks after this topic had been placed on the agenda at the CPRC’s October general meeting. Several commissioners at that meeting, including Pearcy and Chair Les Davidson expressed reluctance to hear comments from concerned community members because they said that they were not privy to the situation and had not been informed.

After protests from several people who attended the meeting, the commission finally voted to hear from the public on the pulled agenda item, as DeSantis sat in the audience and listened to people talk.

Commissioners continued to express the importance of the role of executive director in outreach, a job responsibility which is included in the current job description. Dr. Pedro Payne has done an outstanding job as executive director in all areas including outreach, convincing even this initial skeptic that he was more than up to the task.

Commissioner Bonavita Quinto-MacCallum said she was displeased that Wednesday was the first she had heard of the change. She said she was concerned because Payne has served as the commission’s key representative to the community.

Quinto-MacCallum and Pearcy both said they were concerned that the commissioners — who have full-time jobs — would not be able to devote the amount of time to outreach efforts that Payne has.


“I believe very strongly that our executive director must be out in the community,” Quinto-MacCallum said
.

That’s a sentiment that many community members agreed with in their comments, as they keep close tabs on this continuing situation. In other news, the CRPC is also being sued along with the city of Riverside, by Officer Ryan Wilson. The city has claimed that the commission is being erroneously sued by Wilson, who through his litigation is asking the court to either order the city to compel the CPRC to nullify its sustained finding against him on the Summer Lane shooting or to grant him an administrative hearing.

The city’s brief in opposition is due in mid November, according to court records.

The commission also lost one of its members, Frank Arreola who resigned last month for unknown reasons.

As for city manager, Brad Hudson, life is never dull at City Hall now with him at the helm, what with a city employee siphoning funding from the construction of the new police station on Magnolia Avenue to landscape his own home. No wonder it took so long for that station to finally be finished. It was probably due to lack of available funds.

Police looking for city employee

If you ever need some subsidized office space for your business, just contact City Hall and someone there may give you a nice tour of its basement, where apparently at least one private business has been housed. This situation led to a complaint filed with the county grand jury and is currently being investigated.

Bargain basement deal is probed

Then there are complaints to the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Commission about discriminatory practices against people of color employed in City Hall and strike votes, litigation and rallies by city employees during one of the most turbulent labor negotiation periods in recent memory.

It seems like with all these issues, not to mention breathing more air to inflate the Riverside Renaissance project and seizing many of the small businesses downtown though eminent domain, that Hudson and his sidekick should have little available time to make life more difficult for the CPRC. But apparently they do their best, with what they have with the apparent blessing of the entire city council.

Another day, another videotaped incident involving Los Angeles Police Department officers who are being investigated for using excessive force against another man of color. In this incident, two officers were arresting William Cardenas last Aug. 11, an action video taped and posted on the internet. The Los Angeles Times wrote an article on the incident in question.

LAPD, FBI investigate violent incident on video

(excerpt)

The video of the Aug. 11 arrest in Hollywood shows an officer sitting on 23-year-old William Cardenas as a second officer places his knee on the man’s neck and punches him six times. Cardenas is lying on his back, waving his arms and yelling, “I can’t breathe!” Cardenas’ attorney, B. Kwaku Duren, said his client was treated at a hospital for black eyes, a split lip and facial bruises.

Cardenas is being prosecuted for resisting arrest, and currently, the two officers, Alexander Schlegel and Patrick Farrell are assigned to desk duty. The FBI launched a probe into the incident after the video surfaced on a YouTube Web site.

Chief William Bratton said that he found the video disturbing but that it only portrayed part of the incident.

“It is very graphic video,” Bratton said Thursday. “But as to whether the actions of the officers were appropriate in light of what they were experiencing and the totality of the circumstances is what the investigation will determine.”Bratton added, “It is quite clear while struggling, one of the officers struck the individual in the face but that is not life-threatening.”

So, why the force used may or may have not been excessive, it wasn’t lethal. Gotcha, Bratton.

He also addressed the latest video-taped incident in the LAPD’s official online blog.

On CBS news, a lawyer for the two officer defended their actions, which included Farrell punching Cardenas numerous times in the face.

Gary Ingumenson, a lawyer advocating for the officers, says they were within the bounds of LAPD policy as they apparently used “distraction strikes” a tactic for subduing suspects who have refused to surrender.

CBS: FBI probe into videotaped incident

Apparently, there are quite a few video cameras operating in Los Angeles and more than a few of them are aimed at the LAPD, even as that department is in the process of purchasing video recorders to place in its squad cars. Several months ago, the agency had its federal consent decree extended by a judge for at least two more years. Now, one of the arms of that agency is once again investigating the LAPD.

Brown: Who said what?

November 9, 2006

The Community Police Review Commission has begun the process of discussion and review of its investigation into the Lee Deante Brown shooting, but it is clear from what was disclosed last night, that a lot of investigative work still lies ahead.

Butch Warnberg, from the Baker Group, presented part 1 of his investigation into this shooting. Part 2, which includes a reenactment of the shooting will be presented in January, a decision made last night which no doubt means that this will be the third recent officer-involved death which commissioners will race against the clock to get the process done and a finding reached before the statutory deadline. State law requires that law enforcement officers be disciplined for any sustained misconduct within a year of the date the incident occurred.

Recent cases that have approached or passed that deadline.

Summer Marie Lane:

Shot and killed: Dec. 6, 2004

CPRC finding: Nov. 9, 2005

Reason for delay: CPRC investigation was completed March 2005 and the department’s officer-involved death investigation was completed a month later. The delay was attributed to the appointment of two new commissioners who needed to be brought up to speed on the process before the case was discussed in September 2005

Terry Rabb:

Died: Oct. 2, 2005

CPRC finding: Oct. 25, 2006

Reason for delay: The department’s OID investigation took until May 2006 to be provided to the CPRC. The Internal Affair Division’s administrative review was not completed and forwarded to the CPRC until the middle of July 2006.

Lee Deante Brown:

Shot and killed: April 3, 2006

CPRC finding: TBA

Reason for delay: The department’s OID investigation came to the CPRC last month. There are at least three separate criminal probes into this shooting. The CPRC investigation is still ongoing and the next briefing will not be until at least the middle of January 2007.

The briefings on both the Brown shooting and the Oct. 19 shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill were attended by community members including relatives of Brown and Hill as well as members of the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability. Also in attendance were Capt. Pete Esquival who is the liaison between the commission and Chief Russ Leach’s office and Riverside Police Officers Association president Ken Tutwiler, this time without the union’s attorney. Capt. Jim Cannon who gave the initial briefing on the Hill shooting stayed for the Brown briefing.

Assistant City Attorney Susan Wilson also attended, as she has attended all CPRC meetings addressing incustody deaths currently being litigated by the city.

Part of Warnberg’s presentation included an interesting analysis of the statements made by Officers Terry Ellefson and Paul Stucker as well as those made by police investigators and by Cannon at the department’s initial briefing on the Brown shooting last April 12. Readily apparent are the discrepancies between the various versions of events by key players during key moments of the shooting incident.

What was happening when shots were fired?


Officer Paul Stucker:

“…and I pull out my extendable baton, extend it, and I hit the suspect on the lower part of the leg, below the knee, twice. And as I’m preparing to do it again, I hear two gunshots.”

Officer Terry Ellefson:

“…and as I moved away, the suspect stood-kind of pushed forward and lunged toward directly at me with the taser.”…”As I was pushing away, I saw that he was bringing the taser towards me. And I drew my duty weapon and fired two shots towards his center body mass.”

Sgt. Kittinger:

“Officer Ellefson told me he fired two rounds in a downward direction.”

Sgt. R. Shubert:

“Officer Ellefson advised me he had fired two rounds in a southern direction and the trajectory was downward.”

Capt. Cannon:

“Mr. Brown was now in a squatting position, started to stand up and advance towards Officer Ellefson.”


In what position was Brown shot?

Stucker:

“He was either squatting or sitting on his butt with his legs in front of him.”

Ellefson:

“…the suspect stood…lunged forward at me with the taser.”

Cannon:

“…Officer Ellefson, who was backing away from the advancing Mr. Brown discharged two rounds…”


Who was Brown pointing the taser towards?

Det. Medici: “Pointing the taser at you?”

Stucker: “Yes.”


Ellefson:

“…I saw that he was bringing the taser towards me. And I drew my duty weapon and fired two shots.”

Cannon:

“Fearing for their safety because the power indicator light for the taser was on, Officer Stucker hit Mr. Brown with his expandable baton.”


Brown’s position after he got shot:

Medici: “…And then right after he’s hit, does he remain on the ground?”

Stucker: “Yes, he remained –remained on the ground, fell forward and with his back to–to where Terry and I were standing.”


Det. Cobb: “The suspect is–still got the taser in his hand. Are you…and/or Officer Stucker still giving commands to him?”

Ellefson: “…I’m–I was giving commands for the suspect to get on the ground.”


Officer Anderson: “…I arrived and saw that Officer Ellefson and Officer Stucker had their duty weapons drawn and were giving verbal commands to a subject that was laying on the ground in front of them.”



Confused? You wouldn’t be the only one.

The investigation into the Brown shooting continues but already it’s apparent that there are serious problems involved in trying to sift through the multiple versions provided by the witnesses, the officers, their supervisors and Cannon’s briefing given last spring. Not to mention the different versions of events that Ellefson shared with an unknown officer while being recorded by his own equipment, similar accounts reported by two different supervising sergeants and the different statements made in his interview with Det. Medici and Det. Cobb.

Hopefully with further investigation, a definitive chain of events that led up to and included the shooting can be reached and the multitude of questions that arise each time this troublesome incident comes up for an airing will some day be outnumbered by answers provided. Then it may be time to start dealing with the substantive issues of this case, like how should police officers be trained to interact with the mentally ill, including paranoid schizophrenics like Brown.