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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced that the Riverside Police Department (“RPD”) has fulfilled the conditions of a court-enforced judgment reached in 2001 between the Attorney General, the City of Riverside and the RPD. This judgment required the department to implement wide-ranging reforms to prevent law violations and improve police service. In a hearing this morning before Judge Sharon J. Waters of the Riverside Superior Court, attorneys from the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section requested and received formal approval for the judgment’s dissolution.
“Not long ago, the Riverside Police Department had lost community support, and become less effective, because many officers frequently disregarded the rights of the public they served,” Lockyer said. “Over the last five years the department has made real and substantial progress at reform. Its officers and supervisors are being properly trained, employees are being held accountable, and it is listening to the needs and concerns of the community rather than ignoring them. The judgment has served its purpose, and now it’s time for the city and the community, without my direct involvement, to oversee the RPD once again.”
In the wake of the December 1998 shooting death of Tyisha Miller by four RPD officers, the Attorney General launched a civil rights investigation into the policies and practices of the RPD. The investigation revealed that the RPD had established a pattern or practice of violating the statutory and civil rights of the public and also had failed to uniformly and adequately enforce the law.
The results of the investigation prompted Lockyer to file what is believed to be the first court-enforced judgment to reform a police department ever obtained by a state attorney general anywhere in the country. The judgment, filed with the Riverside County Superior Court on March 5, 2001, required the RPD to immediately implement numerous reforms and make specified progress in other areas over a five-year period. It also called for the appointment of a monitor who would work on behalf of the Attorney General to ensure that the RPD complied with the judgment’s terms. Joseph Brann, a nationally recognized expert on community-oriented policing, former police chief, and former director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in the U.S. Department of Justice, was selected by Lockyer for this task.
After reviewing the final report provided by Brann and an assessment by his Civil Rights Enforcement Section, Lockyer determined he would not seek to extend the judgment because the RPD has fulfilled its obligations and significantly improved its policies and practices.
“No judgment alone can or ever will create a perfect police department, but it can create a solid foundation for growth,” Lockyer said. “The future success of the RPD will depend upon the willingness of the department and local policy makers to build upon these reforms and fully implement community policing. I strongly urge the City to continue to implement all plans, policies, and procedures that were required by the judgment, especially the Strategic Plan, and to adopt and implement the recommendations that are set forth in consultant Joseph Brann’s final report to me.”
The 2001 judgment required the RPD and the City of Riverside to implement numerous reforms relating to training, accountability, supervision and management, as well as the development of a strategic plan for the implementation of community policing. In each of these categories, Lockyer said, the RPD has complied with the terms of the judgment either by implementing and enforcing new policies or establishing procedures that will ensure continued improvement.
Training. The judgment required the RPD to develop training programs to ensure that line officers and supervisors were adequately prepared to properly respond to critical situations and protect the rights of the public. In each category, the RPD complied with the terms of the judgment by implementing the training programs within a year after the filing of the judgment. Among the programs required by the judgment was diversity training to foster greater understanding of important racial, ethnic, cultural and religious issues. The judgment also mandated training on laws designed to prevent racial profiling. RPD’s existing management has assured Lockyer it intends to maintain and expand these training programs.
Accountability. The judgment required the RPD to implement numerous reforms to ensure all officers and supervisors were held accountable for their job performance. Among other reforms, the RPD continues to collect and analyze data on the race and gender of all persons stopped by patrol officers and the reasons for the stop. In addition to new policies on the proper handling of public complaints, audits are now conducted to ensure that complaints are properly investigated and resolved. To improve the quality of direct supervision over line officers, the RPD was required to extend the probationary period for sergeants from 6 months to one year. Audio and mobile video recorders (MVRs) have been installed on 13 field vehicles, and efforts are being made to equip up to 120 more vehicles with MVRs. Further, all officers have been trained on proper use of force protocols, and when and how to use less lethal methods of force.
Supervision and Management. One of the major problems the Attorney General discovered at the RPD was its failure to provide adequate supervision for field officers to ensure that department policies were followed. As a result, the judgment required the RPD to maintain a staffing ratio of at least one supervisor for every seven officers in the patrol division. Also, lieutenants or higher ranking officers must serve as Watch Commander, with limited exceptions, to ensure experienced oversight of field operations.
Strategic Plan. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the judgment called for the RPD to develop a “Strategic Plan” for the implementation of a community oriented policing program. This plan was developed by the RPD after direct consultation with the community and local policymakers. The purpose of the plan is to provide a roadmap for the RPD to ensure that the reforms generated by the judgment will continue and evolve as appropriate in the future.
A copy of the original 2001 judgment, a 2004 amendment to the judgment, and the monitoring consultant’s final report can be found at the Attorney General’s website: http://ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/index.php.