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Bill Lockyer to Riverside: sign agreement or go to court

by mary shelton Thursday, Feb. 22, 2001 at 11:34 PM

California's state attorney general bill Lockyer issued an ultimatum to Riverside's City Council: sign an agreement to reform the police department or he'll see them in court. Mayor Ron Loveridge urged the council to sign but council member Ed Adkison says he'll have to think about it.

Last night, Mayor Ron Loveridge urged members of the City Council to sign a legally binding agreement with the State Attorney General's office to reform the beleagured police department. Immediately, council members Ameal Moore, Maureen Kane and Laura Pearson agreed to sign. However, Ed Adkison said that while he believes the department needs to be reformed, he believed that the state is interfering in the process because it has no faith in the Council's leadership.

Community members filled the council chambers and spoke both for and against the agreement. Mary Figueroa, who served on the Mayor's use of force panel which implimented a series of reforms said that because she supported the agreement, did not mean that she was anti-police. "I have many dear friends in the police department," she said. "It is time for the city to do the right thing for the community." Jim Martin said that oversight by an outside agency was necessary, because "during a crisis, the city buckles under." He spoke of the need for the police officers to abide and uphold the constitutions of the state and the nation, talking about an incident that took place on Nov. 15, 1999 that involved 14 police officers pulling a man out of a group of peaceful protesters, and holding him in a wristlock for 20 minutes while issuing him a citation for crossing against a don't walk signal.

Other community members spoke against the agreement. Susan Holladay said she was against the attorney general butting into Riverside's affairs. Another woman spoke in favor of videotaping so that the public would see what officers have to go through for "having the temerity to make a traffic stop."

Police Chief Russ Leach praised the reforms and said the department would go further than what he considered the 'bare minimum.' The audience applauded, when he said that a written reprimend against whistleblower Lt. Jim Cannon, the department's highest ranking Black officer would be purged from his file. Cannon had provided councilman Moore with information about racist behavior that had occured by officers involved in the 1998 shooting death of Tyisha Miller.

Reforms include improving the training and supervision of officers, such as requiring sergeants to be on probation for 12 months instead of six. And ensuring that all watch commanders will be lieutenants. The roll call sessions will be videotaped and witnessed by a watch commander, Leach said. "Zero tolerance for ethnic, racial and sexual slurs within the four walls of the department," he said. Lockyer had told council members in his presentation that racist and sexist jokes had taken place during roll call and the sergeants had participated in the banter, rather than reporting or stopping it. Improved diversity training will be developed and signed off on, by Lockyer's office. And a consultant who will be paid out of the department's budget will supervise the progress of the reforms.

The council votes on whether to sign the agreement, next Tuesday, Feb. 27, in open session at 2 p.m.
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