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The Night The Trust Went Out In Riverside

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We are members of the Eastside Think Tank, an organization created in 2002 following a particularly violent period in the history of the Eastside community.

We had just experienced the killing of two young men and the countless shootings of several others due to gang violence.

Chief Leach at the time brought in the United States Department of Justice “Community Policing Consortium” to conduct their successful “Community Engagement” model. We, the Eastside Think Tank are a product of that community engagement. This engagement model brought together the stakeholders in the Eastside community to identify the issues facing the Eastside violence and to also bring resolution of those needs to the community. To this end, we experienced an unprecedented and unique partnership between the Eastside Think Tank and the Riverside Police bDepartment, much of it attributed to the vision and leadership of Chief Russ Leach.

Now with Russ Leach having been charged and pleading guilty for his actions in the bearly morning hours of February 8th, the attention must turn to what we deem as the greater tragedy of that night: the attempted cover-up of the Chief’s actions.

We have waited once again, like we did in the days after the shooting of Tyisha Miller, for the established leaders of this city to come forward with some “leadership” to guide our community toward understanding and the subsequent healing process that will lie ahead. We do not want City Hall to hide behind the implication of a confidential investigation. The community requires full disclosure and transparency in knowing what actually happened that night.

We as a community should know and we are entitled to know; WHO actually made the fateful decision that morning to handle the Chief differently than any other community member who might have been pulled over under the same circumstances; who knew and who was involved in the decision; who was warned or alerted to the fact that a “coverup” was in process; at what time did they find out and what did they do about it when they were notified!

We however, have been told by the City Manager Brad Hudson that the Peace Officer Bill of Rights prevents the community from being made privy to what will happen to those individuals, who were involved in the attempted “coverup”.

Yet, the privilege of confidentiality under the Peace Officer Bill of Rights is held by the officer and may be waived.

(Davis v. City of Sacramento (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 393.) In the interest of justice and the needs of our community, THAT would be the right thing to do.

We as a community do not want to see the patrol officers, the Sgt or the Lt. be the ones totally held with the responsibility for this cover-up. To believe that the patrol officers alone could have orchestrated such a conspiracy, defies reason. What we do know is that the ones at the lowest level of responsibility are always the most vulnerable.

Discretionary decision making has been alluded to in the handling of Chief Leach on February 8th. However, by its very definition, the handling of the Chief by his own subordinates seems to contradict the concept of discretionary.

Additionally, when discretionary decision making finds its way into law enforcement use, those that have suffered the most behind its use are often the every day hard working men and women who have the least resources and the least options. Case in point: the Eastside community has been subjected to DUI checkpoints, time after time. Staged with the use of grant funding for DUI enforcement, the individual predominately apprehended has not been the DUI driver. These individuals have seen their one source of family possession band only avenue toward accessible work income, taken away and impounded, many times costing them more than the value of the vehicle itself. Yet, their harm was not driving under the influence, rather discretionary decision making never considered them worthy enough or deserving enough of preferential treatment.

We applaud local news media for following through on the “public request for information” on the phone records of those involved. It is indeed unfortunate that the public request does not allow for disclosure for the private phones these individuals also possess. To have done so, might have brought forth another aspect to the scenario.

However, the question now turns to why are individuals who are implicated in the “cover-up”, placed or remain in leadership positions instead of relieved of duty and placed on Administrative Leave?

What City Hall must understand, is that the community will no longer stand by and “trust” that they are going to handle the investigation appropriately. City Hall can no longer maintain that they have the best interest of the community in their handling of this matter. They have proven a lack of impartiality and fairness, not only in the current process, but historically in the micro-management and interference with the police department.

For years the community has suspected that the police department has been controlled, not by the Chief’s office, but by the 7th Floor at City Hall. Once the State Attorney General’s Stipulated Agreement ended, so did the demonstrated support toward the concept of “Community Oriented Policing”. Police personnel for years now, have been directed to terminate contact, interaction and participation with the community to which they serve. Partnerships which were established and had proven successful were abandoned or limited.

Individuals in the police department, who did not fall in line with the new concept, were either pushed out of the department all together, or simply denied promotion.

We acknowledge that a City Charter Amendment would be necessary to remove responsibility from the City Manager into the final decision of selecting the next Chief of Police. We acknowledge that based on the time limitations of the upcoming decision, the removal of that responsibility is not going to happen. However, we will go on record as making this a formal request for such consideration. The City Manager has not demonstrated to this community that he has the best interest of its members. The City Council and Mayor have not held the City Manager accountable for those actions and as such, the City Council and the Mayor have also contributed to the current crisis in Riverside.

An independent outside investigation is required, that would bring its results to the community: a community to which City Hall remains accountable. While the highly regarded integrity and reputation of Grover Trask is acknowledged, the implication has already been established that the community will not be the receiver of the information in that investigation.

City Hall can not investigate and remedy the recent and past issues involving the police department, especially when City Hall itself is implicated in the micro-management and interference with the only department authorized with the ability to protect and take a person’s freedom. At this time, nothing short of an independent outside investigation into what really happened the night the “trust” went out in Riverside will do.


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