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CHP to investigate Riverside police chief’s early morning car crash

February 9, 2010 |  6:31 pm

Riverside Police Chief Russell Leach crashed a city-owned vehicle about 3 a.m. Monday, going off the road and hitting a light post and a fire hydrant, authorities said Tuesday.

"Chief Leach was driving on Central Avenue and allowed his car to drift off the road," said California Highway Patrol Inland Division Chief Jeff Talbot. "I understand that two of the tires were down to the rim."

The CHP is investigating the incident, but Talbot said it was too early in the investigation to determine the cause of the accident or whether alcohol was involved.

"As far as any impairment, I have no idea. We will have to rely on statements from the Riverside police officers who were at the scene. There was no arrest," he said. "We will have the vehicle in here tomorrow, and I have some officers going out to the scene."

Riverside's city manager put out a brief statement Tuesday saying Leach had been involved in a single-car, non-injury crash. Leach has been placed on medical leave, the statement said.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Jaybee Brennan would not comment except to say there had been an accident. She referred all questions to City Atty. Greg Priamos, who did not return calls for comment.

Talbot said Riverside Police Deputy Chief John De La Rosa contacted him Tuesday and asked the CHP to investigate the accident.

"He thought it would be in the best interests of everyone for us to do it," Talbot said. "They wanted us to come in because we are completely unbiased."

The CHP often handles such investigations when they involve other law enforcement agencies.

Leach recently helped lead a massive assault on the notorious East Side Riva gang in Riverside. And last Wednesday he warned against drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday.

"Designating a sober driver should be on the top of everyone's Super Bowl party list," he said. "It's just one of several easy steps to help save lives."

-- David Kelly