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Riverside Police Chief Leach gets Special Treatment in DUI

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

Questionable investigation results say Riverside, California, Police Chief DUI case not handled inappropriately by fellow police officers-video footage just released shows special treatment of Leach, officers' boss, who was under the influence of prescription pills and approximately 11 alcoholic drinks while involved in an accident and driving only on rims.
Police Chief Leach pled guilty and resigned after drunken driving with .22 and crashing his city-owned car, following an evening at a topless adult club. Initially Russell Leach's lawyer, James Teixeira, was in court to enter the guilty plea to one Misdemeanor count of driving under the influence (DUI). Prosecutors had agreed to drop a second part of the drunken driving charge, as part of a plea agreement the Riverside Police Chief had made.
The terms of the Police Chief, Leach's sentence were only 30 days of home detention monitored with an ankle bracelet, three years of probation and enrollment in a six-month alcohol abuse program. He also paid approximately $1,700 in California state fines and fees. After the court hearing, Leach resigned as Police Chief for medical reasons, stating he regretted his drunk driving actions. "He [the former Police Chief] wants everybody to know he wants to move on with his life, take care of his medical issues, and he's very sorry for what he has done," Leach's attorney had said at the time.
Leach, who had faced up to six months jail time for the drunk driving charges, did not attend the hearing. Investigators said the former Riverside Police Chief had taken prescription drugs-and had additionally at least 11 alcoholic drinks-before he crashed his car February 8. What lands everyone else in jail apparently does not apply to a Police Chief. Leach was actually driving on the car's rims and not tires, when his own Riverside city police officers stopped him while driving, three miles from the accident site. Prosecutors alleged that the Police Chief's blood-alcohol level (BAC)was an estimated 0.22—nearly three times the legal BAC limit in California.
Riverside city was investigating whether the police officers involved in the DUI stop of the Police Chief had violated procedure, when officers totally failed to arrest own of their "own". Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Weissman claims prosecutors did not offer the former Police Chief any special treatment. "If the chief had been arrested that night [of the DUI stop], brought in [to jail], booked [at jailo] and handled as any other DUI, what would his sentence have been?" she said. "That was what we offered [as the plea bargain in the DUI case]." The Riverside Police Chief has since resigned from the police force, and pleaded guilty in the DUI case. His guilty please still means that questions remain over the DUI incident involving Police Chief Leach. Inland Empire Bureau Chief Rob McMillan received the results of the investigation--along with new video of the DUI stop, including Leach, the police officers of Riverside, and incident. The Riverside police officers who made the traffic stop, that night of Leach's DUI, said they knew it would become a political nightmare [for the city, Leach, and police department] and (according to a report released Wednesday) that the officers had good reason to believe that political "nightmare" would ensue.
The report said it should have been quite clear to everyone at the scene, the night of Leach's DUI, that the former Police Chief was under the influence of alcohol and that officers should have arrested Leach on the spot rather than let one of his police lieutenants drive him home instead. Newly-released video footage from the Riverside Police Department in California shows former Police Chief Russ Leach being pulled over just before 3.a.m. on February 8. Riverside Police Officers approached Leach's car-and the driver, Leach, immediately flashed a police badge. Moments later, officers found that the man behind the wheel was their own boss.
"How are you doing sir?" asked the Riverside Police Officer at Leach's window. "Fine, I've got a flat tire," said Leach. "Something's wrong with the car." "Do you need some help getting home?" asked the police officer.
Apparently, the former Riverside Police Chief had already been in a car accident three miles away and before being stopped by officers. By the time he was stopped for suspicion of DUI, there was heavy damage to Leach's vehicle. Even though police officers could smell alcohol, no field sobriety tests, PAS or breath tests were given in investigating Driving Under the Influence (DUI).
"OK [says the police officer], you can't drive. You've got no tires, so do you want to call a friend or someone to get you?" asked the Riverside policeman. According to the CHP report, that's when Leach called Riverside Assistant Police Chief John de la Rosa, who then got on the phone with the sergeant on scene, Frank Orta, asking him, "If it wasn't the [Police] Chief and it was anybody else, what would you do?"
Orta replied, "I would arrest him and store [impound] the vehicle." But none of that happened: Riverside, California, police officers took a different approach with their boss, despite obvious DUI. "BOTH tires are gone or just one?" asked Chief Leach, who was still in his car while talking to the police officer. "I think it's totaled, sir," said the Riverside police officer. Still appearing to believe his car was drivable, despite officer statement to the opposite, Chief Leach got out of his vehicle to survey the damage himself.
A CHP report says Leach appeared unsteady on his feet, swaying from side to side. Ultimately, the decision was made by officers to to tow the car, and drive the Police Chief personally to his home-because that time is also how California tax dollars should be utilized. Orta wrote the police report, saying Chief Leach had made an unsafe turn and was on the wrong side of the road during the wreck. Just a few essentials were missing from that report: nowhere was Leach cited for hit and run, or DUI at all.
Despite these omissions, Orta appeared to have misgivings about how things would be handled from that point on, saying, "I am going to make a copy of this [police] report because I don't trust what's going to happen here." Even Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel, who eventually signed off on the police report said, "I don't want to sign this thing. I'm not comfortable with it."
Chief Leach later retired, pleading guilty to Driving Under the Influence. His DUI case closed and the spotlight then turned toward the Riverside Police Department. Four months later, independent investigator Grover Trask has decided there was, "no evidence of a cover-up, only tragically deficient decisions by police management." The Riverside city manager said in the statement that there will be disciplinary action and there will be changes made to the policy manual to give police officers a better idea of how to handle situations like the one with the former Police Chief.
What, exactly, does a Police manual have to do with anything? This was a straight DUI case that was provided preferential treatment because it involved a police officer-or Chief-rather than a regular citizen.

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