“The policeman on the street is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system. If he is in the grip of some grim private impulse or carries with him some bigoted private agenda, he can- all on his own- take your life, beat you and choose to lie about your guilt or innocence. If the rest of the system then elects to accept his word without question, you are utterly at his mercy.”
-From, “Journey to Justice” By: Johnnie Cochran
For decades Black people have been getting harassed, beaten and shot by the Pasadena Police for reasons as simple as being Black.
I remember one night when I was 17 or 18, I was at my aunt's house on Raymond and Claremont and I saw the Pasadena Police shoot David Laster in the back with a shotgun. At the time I didn't know who it was the PPD that had shot him, but I found out the next day. That was back in 1985 or 86 and my consciousness hadn't risen yet, so I stayed out of it even though I had grown up admiring David. He had gone through some things at college and returned a different person, but he was harmless. At the time, his brother was a Pasadena Police Officer.
The overuse of force didn't stop then. Shortly afterwards Michael Zinzun lost an eye at the hands of the PPD for being a community man.
Since that time the PPD has assaulted and/or killed Leroy Barnes, Kendrec McDade, Reginald Thomas and others, while never having to suffer consequences other than paying out a small amount of money to the families of loved ones lost like Kendrec McDade's. No amount of money can add up to the life of a young Black man that we had no ideal of what he could have become.
Now in 2017, we have footage of the Pasadena Police beating 21 year old Altadena resident Christopher Ballew, the former John Muir High School Basketball Star for 45 long excruciating seconds.
How and why the incident started is still unclear, but what is clear is that he was being compliant while being assaulted at the Mobile gas station on Fair Oaks and Woodbury. PPD said that he became combative, but that wasn't the case - just look at the footage. Every Black man who gets pulled over by White police officers in today is scared for his life, even if it's for a minor traffic violation.
The PPD says Christopher had multiple traffic violations when they pulled him over and after his combativeness, a fight ensued. Now if you view the footage that led to him having a broken leg and multiple contusions on his body, What do you see? Do you see Ballew being combative or do you see the PPD as the aggressors?
Of course there is silence from Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and this is a disturbing pattern when it comes to police violence against Blacks in our city. The names of the officers have not been released as of yet.
The question I have is, why is he refusing to respond to this footage? Did he not give the officers his license and registration? It was a traffic stop, so that's all they needed. There are no reports on file that Chris is or was a criminal of any kind, so where did the aggression come from? Or did one of the officers have a bad night at home and wanted to release some of his own frustrations? The police can say whatever they want and from that point on it's up to the citizen to prove otherwise, no matter if the police are lying or not. Chris got beat and put in jail on a $50,000 bond while the officers are still roaming these streets like legal thugs, ready to terrorize any random Black man in their path.
We will wait to see if Chief Sanchez has anything to say and if the officers will be disciplined for their blatant display of disregard for the life of a Black man. These are the type of incidents that change peoples lives and I can't see how Christopher Ballew could ever trust the police again after being beaten during a routine traffic stop.
Pasadena Police officers assaulting Chris Ballew