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by Mary Shelton
Friday, May. 03, 2002 at 6:39 AM
After the arbitrator released his decision to reinstate two of the officers who shot Tyisha Miller to death, the city also decided to offer the two men disability retirements that could guarantee them half of their salary annually for the rest of their lives.
errorArbitrator: Pay Cops for Shooting Miller
City wants to give officers 1/2 salary for life
By Mary Shelton
RIVERSIDE --Riverside city officials have offered disability retirements to two of the Riverside Police Department officers who shot and killed Tyisha Miller, essentially rewriting the history of the controversial shooting that shook the city in 1998.
Michael Alagna and Wayne Stewart would be paid 50 percent of their salary for the rest of their lives, if they accept the retirements, the city said. Their retirements would be applied retroactively to the date they were originally fired on July 13, 1999.
Interim City Manager Larry Paulsen said in a statement that the city approved the retirements requested by both officers who asserted that they were unable to perform their duties for medical reasons. The city reviewed the applications and agreed that the two men were unable to continue as Riverside Police Department officers.
Earlier, an arbitrator had ordered the city to give Stewart and Alagna their jobs back by April 30, and allow them to remain for at least six months before allowing them to either retire or resign.
Community reaction to the news was mixed, but everyone agreed that the officers should not be allowed to return back to work under any circumstances.
Councilman Ameal Moore said that he was not elated about the officers getting retirements, but that the main concern was keeping them from returning back to work.
"The decision not to allow them back on the force will be well received, he said. "I don't know how the decision to give them disability benefits will be received but that's a different story."
However, a criminal investigation initiated by the U.S. Attorney's office is still pending, and even the Riverside County District Attorney's office was asked to take another look at the case.
Ron Butler, Miller's uncle, said that he and community leaders met with District Attorney representatives Randall Tagami and Randall Christianson after contacting District Attorney Grover Trask and asking him to reopen the criminal investigation. Butler said that the family was concerned that new information they received might warrant the case being reexamined.
"There are a lot of conflicting statements," Butler said, in regards to statements taken from the officers during the initial criminal investigation and those they made recently, when deposed for ongoing civil litigation that they filed against Miller's parents.
The U.S. Attorney's office has also decided to take another look at the case it appeared ready to close only weeks ago. Vermont McKinney, a regional director for the Department of Justice's Community Relations Division, had flown out from his Philadelphia office for a meeting, which was later canceled after several family members presented McKinney with new allegations to take back to the attorneys, Butler said.
Thom Muzak, the U.S. Attorney spokesperson, denied that his office planned to make any announcement of its findings.
"The investigation is ongoing, and that is all I'm going to tell you," he said, adding that it was unusual for the attorneys to even announce that an investigation was being conducted, except in certain civil rights cases
Attorney Mark Blankenship, who attended the meeting with Tagami, said that it accomplished nothing in terms of redressing the issue of justice for Miller.
"We know nothing more about what happened to Tyisha Miller today, than we knew the evening that she was murdered," he said. "Mr. Tagami and anyone from the DA office has not been vigilant in obtaining information in this tragedy, from the perpetrators of the tragedy, which were the four police officers who believed it was okay to kill Tyisha Miller."
Tagami and the D.A.'s office did not return numerous phone messages by press time. Blankenship also criticized the city's actions in the aftermath of Miller's death, including the decisions to give the two former officers retirements.
"The city of Riverside has cloaked that information in a veil of secrecy and confidentiality and has not shared any of it, with the public," he said, "In fact, all they have done is pay people off, essentially rewarding them for killing Tyisha Miller."
Bill Howe, a retired police chief, and member of the Community Police Review Commission said that he believed it could cost the city more money to appeal the arbitrator's decisions and they could lose, and the city may have decided it is better to give them their retirements, "though they are not deserving of it."
"Between hiring them back and paying them off, it is the lessor of two evils," he said.
Rose Mayes, who was a member of the Mayor's Use of Force Panel in 1999, said that she was disappointed in the city's decision, and believes that the city should appeal the arbitrator's finding. She worried that the retirements might send a message to law enforcement agencies, both locally and statewide that they could do wrong, and only get a slap on the wrist.
Brian Dunn, the attorney who represented Miller's parents in their civil litigation, said that what happened during the shooting was a "cruel act, a homicide."
"The city needs to take a long hard look at the competency of the officers, whether their actions were justified." he said, before giving them retirements.
Danny Bakewell, founder of the Brotherhood Crusade in Los Angeles, was also outraged by the decision.
"It amounts to them being an accessory to murder," he said. "It's clearly supporting actions of officers who have had blatant disregard for the life of an individual that they were sworn to protect and serve."
Bakewell was one of many national civil rights leaders who came to march in Riverside after the shooting and was arrested with 48 other people at the police station on May 10. 1999.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 28, the four officers responded to a medical distress call, and arrived on the scene to find Miller unconscious inside her car. Within seven minutes, the four officers discharged their weapons at least 24 times into Miller's car, striking her in the back and head 12 times.
Initially, their explanation for the shooting, was that she had fired at them, and they had fired back in self-defense. Upon discovering that the gun was inoperative, the officers then changed their story, to say that she was reaching for a gun on her lap. Miller's family have maintained that she never was conscious.
Afterwards, officers Stewart and Alagna whooped, laughed and reenacted the shooting that had just taken place, according to a complaint filed in 1999 by former officer Rene Rodriguez. Together, they exchanged hi-fives, until Sgt. Gregory Preece warned them to stop so they would not be on the front page of the local paper.
Later at the station, the officers continued to joke about being at home on vacation after the shooting, and Stewart said sarcastically, "I think I'm going to be distraught," according to the complaint.
Bill Hadden, who represents Stewart and Alagna did not respond by press time, but earlier this week, he filed a writ of mandamus in Superior Court on behalf of his clients, effectively ordering the city to reinstate them. At least one resident worried that the truth about what happened on that December morning will never come to light.
"Asking the city attorney and the district attorney for the truth is like asking the fox to guard the chicken coop," Blankenship said.
(c) BlackVoiceNews.com 2002
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Friday, May. 03, 2002 at 7:38 PM
Mary you people wanted them off the job, and now they are. How dare you not like how they are given retirements.
These retrierments were earned, and the Calif Labor Law Codes protect the police from propogandists as yourself.
You appear t be an activist that demands the following of the law in the name of civil rihts, but you dont belive that cops should be able to use their given rights.
Mary, the drug infested DUI gun toten bitch is dead let it lay.
Why are you not complainingg about a 'real' corrupt cop in San Bernardino that raped over 12 women while on duty.
On no, that won't serve my purpose because it wasn't a white cop against only black chicks.
Mary your the worse.
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Sunday, May. 05, 2002 at 8:29 AM
There is no need to protest against Officer VanRossum because he has been arrested, is currently in jail and will be prosecuted. Unfortunately, for Mr. VanRossum, he obviously chose the wrong county to be arrested in, if he'd been a few miles to the south west, he'd be scott free and the Riverside DA's office would likely be apologizing to him for having to bother him at all. He is a white officer, and it's not known about the race of his victims, just the gender, so it's premature to bring 'race' into this situation unless of course, you wish to use it to bait.
In contrast, the four officers who shot Miller 12 times in the back in "self-defense"(interesting, because in their latest account last year, two of them admit that they felt no fear at all when they did it)
I believe that civilians AND police should be accountable for crimes committed, and for wrongful actions, in the civil and criminal courts. You obviously believe that only civilians should face scrutiny, and if necessary, consequences for their actions and that all police officers belong to a protected class.
Unfortunately, it is belief systems like this that contribute to the VanRossums in the profession who are able to commit crinimal acts that will be overlooked or protected by others, in his case perhaps for as long as 11 years on the job.
And I'd be more than happy to 'give it a rest' when society stops paying off and rewarding police officers for shooting people in the back, and then engaging in racist banter and celebratory antics afterwards. And then going amok and engaging in bizarre acts like shaving heads enmasse, simply because a segment of the population has a problem with that.
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Tuesday, May. 21, 2002 at 6:24 AM
The Tyisha Miller Case
An association's perspective of the Riverside shooting
By Andrea Oberle
The major portion of this month's Legal Defense report focuses on the Tyisha Miller shooting that occurred in 1998 and the 3 1/2 year court battle that was mounted for the officers who were involved in the incident.
Although the article offers a complete detail of the facts, the media turmoil that accompanied the incident, and the officers' resulting exoneration, it does not detail the extent of the efforts of the Riverside Peace Officers' Association in supporting their fellow officers throughout their ordeal. That is where this story begins.
In the immediate aftermath of the Miller shooting, the Riverside POA maintained a low profile. Although officers Michael Alagna, Wayne Stewart, Paul Bugar and Dan Hotard were painted as racists by the press, the chief was still supporting their actions.
The association did conduct their own investigation and determined that the officers were justified in their actions. However, once it became apparent that the chief was caving in to public pressure and was going to fire the officers, the association began to take on a much more active role.
"As the media frenzy continued," stated Jeffrey Joseph, detective and then president of the Riverside Peace Officers Association, "it became apparent that this situation would not only affect our entire department, but could have national implications."
The media and select members of the community were attempting to make this a racial issue. Daily newspapers were splattered with headlines of four white officers shooting a black female. One of the key protagonists in this media feeding frenzy was a relative of the victim, who not only gained support from members of his local community church, but was successful in soliciting the help of celebrities within the black civil rights movement including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, a black advocate from New York.
"Our association could not continue to stand by and watch the officers and our entire department become painted with the brush of racism," said Joseph. The association attempted to tell the officers' side of the story. "We were simply denied access to mainstream media," said Joseph. "The media didn't want to hear our side."
In addition to their monthly meetings, the Riverside POA board began scheduling additional meetings to develop a multi-level support plan for the officers and create a strategy for countering the negative media.
"Our board members made themselves available to the officers on a 24 hour basis," stated Joseph. "We gave them our home numbers, cell numbers and pagers." The board also contacted members of the association to contribute to a fund to sustain the officers' level of pay after their termination. Although the officers were able to find other employment, their salary levels had decreased. These donations were the only way the officers could keep themselves and their families financially whole.
"Supplementing the income of these officers was the least that the members of the association felt they could do so that the officers would not have to face any more problems than they were currently experiencing," said Joseph.
However, the association did not stop there. They needed to get the facts of the case out to the community. Because the media would not cover their side of the issue, the association decided to place several full-page advertisements in the local newspaper, the Riverside Press Enterprise.
"We designed the ads as open letters to the citizens of Riverside, detailing the facts, and only the facts, in the case," explained Joseph. "The information was almost antiseptic in its delivery so we would not be accused of bias in relating the incidents of the case."
The advertisements, that included interviews with the officers who were involved in the incident, rallied citizen awareness and support.
Citizens donated thousands of dollars to the campaign. All of the other law enforcement associations in the area consolidated their efforts to organize support for the officers through a grassroots campaign.
One organization, The Combined Law Enforcement of Riverside County (CLEAR), mount-ed a door-to-door campaign throughout one ward in the city. They circulated door hangers asking for citizen support. Each hanger had a tear-off section for citizens to fill out and return to the city council. The city council, however, remained silent to the citizen support of the officers.
In the meantime, the opposition ran a more public and mean-spirited campaign. Weekly protests against the officers took place in front of the Riverside Police Department. Protestors called the officers murderers and racists. They climbed all over a statue that was erected to commemorate officers who had died in the line of duty. "We had to place no trespassing signs around the statue to try and protect it," stated Joseph. "Our officers were very upset at the protestors' actions. That statue represents a very solemn and sacred symbol for us, and the protestors were desecrating it."
Some of the protests took on the guise of a pre-planned and well-rehearsed production. The department was informed that the protest was scheduled. Officers established a booking site to arrest the protestors. The federal department of justice was on hand to monitor the situation. The protestors were systematically arrested, booked and later released. These types of planned protests continued routinely for approximately one year.
Although the Riverside POA received little sympathy from many local and state officials, the mayor was upset with the protests and how the officers and the entire department was being portrayed. He was aware of another incident where the quick action of officers saved the lives of the members of the city council.
"Just two months before the Miller incident," stated Joseph, "we were considered heroes for shooting through the door of the city council and saving them from an armed assailant. Two months later, we were labeled as villains for performing a similar action. The only difference between the two actions, was the outcome."
Due to the public protests, however, the mayor hired an outside consultant to explore the department's training policies and work force requirements. The study resulted in the creation of a use-of-force panel that, through the efforts of Joseph, included one officer.
A shooting policy was established, requiring officers to be more judicious in considering the impact of their actions. The panel also created an early warning system that places any officer, who is involved in two instances where use of force is involved, into the early warning system. This is, supposedly, a non-disciplinary system that is intended to track an officer to see if training or other follow-up is needed.
"I completely dislike the 'early warning system' tag that is placed on officers," Joseph contended. "It is like a danger sign or a mark of incompetence." Joseph was also concerned that any officer who received two complaints, sustained or not, is put on the list.
The panel also expressed a need for more diversity training as well as additional training in less-lethal weapons and tactics.
Although some of the panel's recommendations had merit, Joseph expressed his concern that other recommendations including the "early warning system" labeling provided a disincentive for officers to look for the bad guys. "These decisions have adversely impacted our officers," continued Joseph. "It will make it much more difficult for our officers to want to make those critical decisions on a moment's notice in order to save the lives of our citizenry."
The department and the association have received new hope, however, in the presence of their new chief of police, Russ Leach. "He has made great strides to improve our department," affirmed Joseph, "by providing us with better equipment, better training and increasing the number of officers on the street."
Although the officers' trials have not ended, hopefully they will not only receive vindication for having committed no wrongdoing in the Miller case, but will soon get back to their normal lives as officers. In the meantime, the Riverside POA will continue to stand behind them.
"We were not alone in our support of the officers," offered Joseph.
"All of the local associations, including the Riverside Sheriffs Association, stood 110 percent behind us by walking precincts to garner citizen support. PORAC also rallied behind us, providing financial and moral support.
"This incident has been difficult for the men and women of Riverside POA. We have suffered through this ordeal, and because of it, we have grown closer as professionals. Individually, we will be better and, collectively, our organization will become stronger because of our action in support for our fellow officers."
"This kind of incident can happen to any of us as professionals. It pinpoints our need to be organized. We cannot rely on outside forces. We must stand together to get the truth out there to the community. I think that we have proven to ourselves and to our fellow officers that we are up to the task," concluded Joseph.
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Sunday, Nov. 24, 2002 at 3:54 PM
ll ll ll
Tyisha the drunk, drug infested homoesuxual lesbian, has been in hell now for almost four years.
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by Tyisha the drunk, drug infested homoesuxual l
Monday, Nov. 25, 2002 at 7:47 PM
Tyisha the drunk, drug infested homoesuxual lesbian, has been in hell now for almost four years
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by mary shelton
Monday, Dec. 02, 2002 at 3:36 PM
Hmm, sounds like you've been spending too much time at the branding iron....
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Monday, Dec. 16, 2002 at 6:31 PM
Regardin another black killed by anoother black......
The fatal shooting of a choirboy last week was a "double whammy' for the black community, said Hardy Brown, president of the San Bernardino branch of the NAACP.
"It's going to cause us to look at ourselves,' he said Saturday night before speaking at the organization's Pioneer Awards Banquet at Cal State San Bernardino. "We have to hold our own accountable.'
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