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Riverside police raid homeless camp; investigation launched

October 4, 2010 | 12:37 pm

Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz is investigating whether his officers were overzealous in cleaning up a homeless encampment in the Santa Ana River after several of those rousted complained that their personal belongings were destroyed.

Officers raided the riverbed camps last week, breaking personal items, crushing canned food and throwing clothing into the water, an advocate for the homeless told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Police also slashed the tires of some of the campers' bicycles, said Ruth Record of the Come As You Are Ministry, who added that there was no reason to show "that kind of rage."

Cities often confiscate and destroy property during cleanups of makeshift camps, but activists are urging the homeless to fight back.

The ACLU and a group of Fresno attorneys sued that Central Valley city in 2006 after it confiscated clothes, medicine, bikes and documents from homeless encampments. 

The homeless plaintiffs won a $2.3-million settlement from Fresno in 2008. Some cities store belongings for 90 days, and others provide sturdy bags so transients can pack up their own things.

Riverside police were not immediately available for comment.

-- Catherine Saillant