Today, over 140 civilian oversight committees are in operation at a local level across the United States, according to the national Associaton for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. Pasadena is a
progressive city yet has failed to implement anything close to a Civilian Oversight model.
What Pasadena has at present is a Public Safety Council Committee with no teeth to hold police accountable. This committee includes the City Manager, the Mayor, CommiGee Chair John Kennedy, and Councilmembers Steve Madison and Tyrone Hampton. This committee is structured to react to events and answer complaints, not to enforce accountability and transparency within the culture of the police.
The bells of reform now ring louder. The May 25 murder of George Floyd, aVer a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, is not what caused the bells to ring.
The bells were ringing long before that terrible day. It took a cell phone video for people from coast to coast to march and call for reform. However, here in Pasadena, community residents have repeatedly raised their voices over many episodes of police brutality.
On November 9, 2017, Chris Ballew was stopped by Pasadena Police for a traffic violation, then beaten and left with a broken leg. On March 24, 2012, Kendrick McDade was shot to death by Pasadena Police.
On September 30, 2010, Reginald Thomas died at the hands of Pasadena Police aVer experiencing a mental or medical emergency. On February 19, 2009, Leroy Barnes, Jr., was shot to death by two
Pasadena police officers.
After these episodes of police brutality, and many others, community residents are calling for change.
Responses by city and police officials, however, have not resulted in meaningful change.
Now is the time for Pasadena to establish civilian oversight of the Pasadena Police Department. This would not be another committee that listens without the power to do anything about what they hear.
Following best practices, this Community Civilian Oversight Commission would have an Independent Police Auditor who has subpoena power. The goal of this Commission is to bring community and police together to face, learn from, and challenge one another to be better. The commission will include processes for transparency and communication. Data and reporting will be accessible to everyone in the community.
Elected officials, who are voted in by “We the people,” may have a hard time accepting these demands.
It may be easier for them to disregard this proposal and say they know what is best for us.
They may come forward with toothless counteroffers.
They may say let’s just hire an auditor without a Commission
They may offer to set up yet another committee that has no independent auditor.
They may say let district councilmembers and the Mayor choose the auditor and commission members without community input or more community members added chosen by the community.
No. No. No.
Here is what constitutes a Yes:
The City Council should create a Community Police Oversight Commission, to be made up of city residents, and hire a paid, full-time Independent Police Auditor. The auditor would have subpoena power, select the Commission staff, and report to the City Council. The Commission’s and Auditor’s duties would include: (a) holding public hearings, (b) public review of the Department’s purchase and use of surveillance technology, and (c) issuing quarterly and annual comprehensive reports on police officers’ use of force or threats to use force and on all officers who have had complaints against them for excessive force, racial profiling or other abuses. These reports would include all disciplinary actions against sworn officers, the amounts spent to settle lawsuits against police officers, and the officers involved. These reports should be available to the public to the maximum extent permitted by California law.
To our elected officials: For eight minutes and 46 seconds, the nation watched in horror an act of police brutality. In the eighth minute, 47th second, the world shifted. We boldly declare, do not water down our demand, do not cut it in half, do not remove subpoena powers, but make it a Police Oversight Commission that is effective, transparent, and accountable. Make it happen. As uncomfortable as it may be, that is what change is.
To community residents in Pasadena: Raise Your Voice and Demand a Community Civilian Oversight Commission for the Pasadena Police Department. Following the lead of the late John Lewis, let us make noise and get into good trouble, necessary trouble.
Click here to sign the letter to Pasadena elected officials.