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Did officers go easy on Police Chief Leach?

February 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach has retired just days after crashing his city-owned vehicle.As the CHP continues to investigate the crash involving Russ Leach, the City of Riverside has turned its investigation toward the officers who handled the crash. The goal is to determine whether those officers acted properly, or whether they went easy on their boss.

In the police report, one officer wrote "It was evident that he was unaware that he had a collision and that his vehicle suffered major damages."

Leach crashed his city-owned Chrysler 300 into a fire hydrant and light pole, destroying both tires on the vehicle's left side, which sustained major front-end and side damage.

The accident happened at Central and Hillside avenues, early Monday morning. He was finally stopped by his own officers three miles away at the intersection of Arlington and Rutland avenues.

"It appears like he did not focus well on what was happening," said Riverside City Council member Mike Gardner.

Like many, Gardner is questioning the former chief's state-of-mind early that morning. Even the police report says Leach "was unable to provide a statement regarding his traffic collision."

Investigators even called it a "possible hit-and-run traffic collision," but Leach was not cited.

"I've heard from some people that their concern is that the officers in the field were told what to write and how to write it," said Gardner. "That they were told what to do, in terms of whether to do a field sobriety test, which was not done."

That's another question. The report notes HBD, or had-been drinking, but still no sobriety test.

"We don't know why the officers did what they did," said Gardner. "That's what the investigation is for."

It's amidst these circumstances that the chief ends his 10 year career with the City of Riverside.

"He's brought leadership and professionalism," said Mayor Ron Loveridge. "If you examine and review his record it's been a good record, but given the circumstances of last Monday, it was the right decision to retire."

Leach attributed the crash to disorientation from prescription drugs, but would not disclose what medication he was taking.

A final report is expected to be issued next week, according to CHP Lt. David Lane of the agency's Inland Division.