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Riverside police department's promotions mixed bag

by mary shelton Sunday, Mar. 11, 2001 at 10:15 AM

Last week, Riverside Police Department Russ Leach promoted nine men, including two men of color and two white sergeants who sued the city citing reverse discrimination, and forced a former police chief into retirement.

Chief Russ Leach of the Riverside Police Department promoted nine officers, including one captain last week, ending speculation about who would fill the newly vacated positions.

Controversy had arisen with promotions made by former chief, Jerry Carroll in 1999, when he promoted a Native American man, a Latino man and a white women to fill lieutenant positions, incurring the wrath of nine white male sergeants who filed law suits against the city citing reverse discrimination. Two of those men received lieutenant promotions.

Sgts. Mark Boyer and John Carpenter had been among the officers involved in the litigation, which ultimately forced Carroll into retirement after it was revealed during city employee evaluations that City Manager John Holmes had secretly been negotiating with the city attorney, Stan Yamamoto and attorneys representing the nine officers to grant promotions to three of them, including Boyer and to offer financial settlements to the rest, including Carpenter.When Carroll found out, he retired, necessitating two national searches for replacements that year and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries for Carroll and the two replacement chiefs including Leach.

Leach also promoted several officers of color, including one to fill a captain’s position, vacated by the department’s highest ranking female officer, Audrey Wilson when she was promoted to Deputy Chief by Leach. Lt. Dave Dominguez, who worked with the department for seven years, after a stint at a different agency, was his choice. Black officer, Sgt. Darryl Hurt, who recently received a medal of valor for his role in responding to the City Council shootings was promoted to lieutenant. In 1995, Hurt filed a discriminatory law suit with two other officers, Alex Tortes and Ron Orrantia, who were the targets of the white sergeants wrath when they were promoted last year, against the city, for unfair promotion practices involving officers of color.

Officers promoted to sergeants, included gang investigator Frank Assuma, who once assaulted an eight month pregnant woman during a probationary search of another member of her family, causing a miscarriage. Formerly a track runner, he once said, that he liked to give perpetrators a head start so he could run them down. He was a prominent presense at Tyisha Miller rallies with his video camera, looking for marchers whose probations and paroles could be revoked, sending them to prison for exercising their rights to free speech and assembly.

Cliff Mason, also a gang investigator was promoted as well, as Mike Perea, Brian Kittinger and Mike Cook. Earlier this year, Leach promoted Guy Toussaint to sergeant saying he was a good officer, and would make an excellent sergeant. In 1994, Toussaint and another officer, Lawrence Gonzalez were involved in a killing of a white man, in his bathroom, by hitting him with a flashlight and using the controversial carotid hold. They tried to blame it on drug use, but in May 1999, a jury during a federal trial in Los Angeles awarded the family members of Derek Hayward .1 million in damages for wrongful death committed by the officers, and the city of Riverside. Toussaint also showed up to take a hate crime report on a swastika posted on a sign next to where the editor of a black –owned newspaper had parked her car. His response, was “we support those who support us” as he criticized the paper’s coverage of the department in the aftermath of the Miller shooting, while jotting down notes about the crime.

No women were included in the promotions.

The candidates for each position take written and oral exams, and the five captains, all white, all but one male, compose lists of their favorite candidates to give to the chief, who makes the final decisions.

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