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Proposal Would Bar Officers from Riverside Police Review Panel

June 22, 2004|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

The Riverside City Council will consider a proposal to bar law enforcement officers from serving on the city's Community Police Review Commission, an effort that one commissioner says is aimed at removing her because of her complaints against Riverside police officers.

Commissioner Sheri Corral said some officers have accused her of being a turncoat for serving on the commission, which was created to review complaints against the police after the controversial death in 1998 of Tyisha Miller, who was shot to death by Riverside police.

Corral, a law enforcement officer at Riverside Community College, already has filed a complaint with the city saying that she has noticed increased police patrols near her home and while on duty has had difficulty receiving assistance from the Police Department.

The police officers' union, which has opposed the commission since its inception, in May demanded that Corral be removed for making "slanderous" comments about officers. This past municipal election, the union supported candidates who opposed or questioned the role of the review commission.

Councilman Frank Schiavone, the author of the proposal, said he was not targeting a single commissioner; rather, he said, he wanted to set a policy about whether law enforcement personnel ought to have a place on the commission.

"There are some people in the community that think that the commission could lack credibility for that reason, because it's supposed to provide civilian oversight," Schiavone said.

Councilman Steve Adams also supports the measure.

Corral says she is the target of the proposal since she is the only active-duty, full-time officer on the commission. Corral and some community activists say the proposal is the first step toward disbanding the police review commission.

"This is just a steppingstone for them," Corral said.

The Riverside Police Officers' Assn. urged city officials to remove Corral after she reported being treated "differently and unfairly" by Riverside police in an April article in a local newspaper, the Black Voice News.

Patrick McCarthy, union president, wrote in a May 11 letter to the commission's executive director that Corral's statements show bias and prejudice against Riverside officers.

The commission's executive director, Don Williams, replied in a May 17 letter that only the council has the power to remove a commissioner.

The City Council created the police commission in 2000 at the urging of a mayoral panel that scrutinized Riverside police after four officers shot and killed Miller in December 1998.

Miller, 19, was killed after she passed out in her car with a loaded gun on her lap. Police, seeking to get her medical aid, shattered a window, and three officers said she reached for the gun. Officers fired 24 times, killing Miller and sparking a furor in the city's African American community.

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Times staff writer Sandra Murillo contributed to this report.

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