Altadenans Voice Concerns Over Police Jurisdiction ‘Borders’

Residents question Pasadena Police presence in their town, but legal experts say there are no police jurisdiction boundaries

Published : Thursday, January 25, 2018 | 6:48 AM

Altadenans have increasingly become concerned over the presence of Pasadena police operating in their town since the videotaped violent arrest of Christopher Ballew inside Altadena by Pasadena officers on November 9, 2017.

Ballew, who resides in Altadena, suffered a broken fibula, lacerations and a bloodied forehead. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office declined to file charges against Ballew, whose attorney has filed a complaint for damages against the City of Pasadena.

The entire incident, from start to finish, occurred north of Pasadena, and inside Altadena’s borders.

At a January 16 Altadena Town Council meeting, residents showed up “en masse” to vent their ire at what many characterized as Pasadena police brutality and profiling, according to Council Chair Okorie Ezieme.

“Altadena will not tolerate any form of police brutality on our citizens, and as a matter of fact, on any citizen,” Ezieme told Pasadena Now Wednesday night.

“The recent incidents have been very troubling for our community and as a result of that we will be doing whatever we can to bring it to a stop or some form of control,” Ezieme said. “We are in the process of notifying [Pasadena’s] Mayor, the City Manager, also Supervisor Barger’s office… to basically say we don’t want any form of profiling or police brutality in our community … especially coming from Pasadena.”

At that Town Council meeting Ballew’s attorney, John Burton, asked Altadena residents to send a letter to Pasadena officials telling them to require Pasadena police to “stay out” of Altadena.

Altadena resident Monica Hubbard said she was angry.

“The beating Chris Ballew suffered at the hands of Pasadena police officers and captured on publicly-released PPD video cams has done nothing to protect Altadena residents, to help us feel safer in our own neighborhoods, and to strengthen trust between law enforcement and the people law enforcement officers purport to serve and protect,” Hubbard said in an email.

Altadena resident Laura Monteros points to a “disconnect” between her community and outside law enforcement.

“We in Altadena work very closely with our Sheriff’s Station to make sure that they’re involved in the community and they work with the community and attend the Town Council Meetings. We’re trying very hard to maintain a good relationship with them,” Monteros said. “So how can we do that if any agency, any law enforcement agency can come into Altadena? Jurisdiction should mean something because we could work with the people who are patrolling our jurisdiction.”

Not all Altadenans seem to agree.

Altadena resident Sandra Brown added that there was a “misunderstanding of jurisdictional authority” by some residents, and that “Altadena was not and should not be involved in a Pasadena police issue.”

Altadena Councilmember Victoria Knapp took the tack that “[police] are enforcing the law and they have the right to enforce it regardless of what city they are in,” adding, “One thing I have learned is criminals don’t obey city limits. So they go where they go and law enforcement has to catch up with them wherever they happen to be.”

Many area residents believe police cannot operate across local jurisdictional borders except during pursuits or mutual aid request situations.

While the general rule across the United States is that a law enforcement officer only has jurisdiction to effect an arrest within the geographical boundaries of the municipality for which he works, not all states follow this rule. California doesn’t.

Despite the concerns and claims of some Altadena residents, any police officer in California is technically a commissioned officer of the State of California, and the popular notion of police “jurisdictions” among the state’s 509 various police departments does not really exist.

As Pasadena Police Lieutenant Jason Clawson explained, “State Penal Code 830.1 covers the jurisdictional operations.”

“We operate over ‘jurisdictional boundaries’ even though we’re employed by the City of Pasadena,” Clawson said.

While Altadena and Pasadena have no formal cross-jurisdictional agreement with each other, such an agreement is not necessary, agreed Captain Vicki L. Stuckey of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Altadena Station.

Said Stuckey, “We all work together, brothers and sisters, tan and green, navy blue, whatever color that law enforcement wears as a uniform. We all work together. We communicate with one another because criminals do cross various borders, city and county lines.”

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