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Pasadena Police Department Needs Civilian Oversight

McDade Shooting Report Cries Out for Independent Citizen Oversight of Pasadena’s Police Department—Kris Ockershauser

Pasadena Police Department Needs Civilian Oversight

The Pasadena Police Department’s refusal to conduct an administrative investigation, its violating the City’s contract with the Office of Independent Review Group (OIR) by excluding it from the administrative review, the OIR Report’s repeated documentation of the Police Department’s refusal to conduct the reasonable investigative steps that the OIR Group told them it should take, and its refusal to discipline or even counsel the Officers who killed Kendrec McDade because it might “single them out” are shocking evidence that internal controls in the PD are not working.

Such citizen oversight must have independent professional staff in order to monitor the PD and insure that it is employing best practices in the future rather than resisting them as demonstrated in the OIR Report.

Even a long-time watchdog and critic of the Pasadena Police Department like me could never have anticipated that the OIR Report would again and again and again throughout its 70 pages indict the department’s resistance to best police practices. Any objective reader of the report has to conclude that it is unacceptable to leave reform to the good faith of a department whose management has demonstrated that it will not act in good faith to implement best police practices.

The OIR Report cries out for independent citizen oversight of Pasadena’s Police Department; such citizen oversight must have independent professional staff in order to monitor the PD and insure that it is employing best practices in the future rather than resisting them as demonstrated in the OIR Report.

Our Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police (CICOPP)* for over a year has advised the City Council’s Public Safety Committee–the nominal oversight entity of the Police Department–that it needs experienced, professional help in carrying out its oversight responsibilities because currently the Committee is dependent on the Police Department and the City Manager for information and direction.

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Having an Independent Police Auditor who is well-grounded in police science, who can investigate, monitor, and audit the functioning of the PD, who can identify and address in real time failures to have and implement best police practices, who cooperates with but is not subject to control by the City Manager and Police Chief, and who reports directly to the Public Safety Committee can strength the Pasadena PD and insure that the out-of-control conduct set out in the OIR Report is reined in. Only serious reform like this is going to restore the Pasadena PD to the top-flight police department that the City deserves.

The City leadership now faces the consequences of lack of oversight that has allowed a failure to investigate and cover up of the true story of what happened in the McDade killing. In April 2012, former Mayor Bill Bogaard and former City Councilman Chris Holden sent out a reassuring letter to Pasadenans concerned about the shooting of the unarmed Kendrec McDade. The letter was based on the promises of City Manager Michael Beck and Police Chief Phil Sanchez that the police department would “fully cooperate” with all investigations; the letter specifically mentioned the OIR investigation.

The OIR Report shows that City Manager Beck and Police Chief Sanchez made a mockery of that promise, misleading the public and betraying the trust of Mayor Bogaard and now-Assemblyman Holden, who each went out on a limb to vouch for their hollow promises. As the OIR Report points out, public trust in the police is fundamentally damaged when a department is shown to be untrustworthy by its actions.

As Pasadena tries to repair this damage, there is a clear need for independent citizen oversight, best implemented by hiring an Independent Police Auditor who can, with community input, review and recommend changes in all policies and practices of the Police Department to the Public Safety Committee, as well as investigate misconduct. The City must act now.

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Kris Ockershauser

*CICOPP is a coalition formed in 2013 that consists of Pasadena community organizations and churches–the Pasadena and Altadena Chapters of the NAACP, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, All Saints Church, the ACLU So Cal Pasadena/Foothils Chapter, ACT, the Democrats of the Pasadena Foothills, the Pasadena Latino Forum, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (“CLUE”), Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Pasadena Community Coalition. CICOPP advocates better oversight of the Pasadena PD, including specifically an Independent Police Auditor reporting to the Public Safety Committee.