Chief Perez Details Plans to Restructure Police Department

To create a faster, leaner more transparent force, the Chief started in the neighborhoods and worked outward

Published : Monday, September 9, 2019 | 5:04 AM

Pasadena Police Chief John Perez. Photo by James Carbone

Eighteen months after stepping up to lead the Pasadena Police Department, Police Chief John Perez says he knows just what he wants to see – a leaner, faster, more responsive, and more transparent force.

He wants to accomplish this against the backdrop of what he describes as a stubborn homeless crime problem, the increased scrutiny of police departments, and a nation now witnessing an epidemic of mass shootings.

Dressed casually last Friday morning, 30 year-plus veteran Perez and his Adjutant, Commander Jason Clawson, sat down with Pasadena Now to discuss Perez’s ideas for creating a more responsive and increasingly trained police force.

Setting the stage, Perez said, “I think in society, we’re looking to up our game when it comes to our safety and our living conditions. What are we doing next? How much effort are we willing to put into it?”

Current draft plan for the restructuring of the Pasadena Police Department. Courtesy City of Pasadena.

One of the most immediate ways the department can be more effective, said Perez, is the creation of neighborhood policing districts — small six-man teams, led by a lieutenant, which will specialize in a specific neighborhood.

Perez explained these teams can better understand how to respond to service calls more precisely.

“It’s going to take some time before we get there, in early next year,” said Perez, “but we’re evaluating calls for service, how we’re deploying, and how we’ll respond to calls. We have to really re-evaluate how we’re dispersing resources in the community and look at where the calls are coming from, and ask, do we have enough officers where we need them?”

“I want each one of our lieutenants to be the experts in their missions, in the delivery of services and strategies, and to really analyze,” Perez continued. “And we can’t do that if our managers, our lieutenants who are very experienced, are doing different work or too much administrative work, where they can’t get to analyzing the problems with their sergeants.”

Which brings Perez to his major effort, which is reorganizing the Department to keep more officers on the street and responding to calls, and less time dealing with paperwork.

“We’re decentralizing the decision-making process,” Perez said, pushing decision-making closer to street level.

“Why not have that lieutenant have the ability to catch (problems) way before they reach us? That gives that lieutenant the decentralization to really be able to make their own decisions, to go after their problems, and develop their solutions,” Perez said.

According to a draft reorganization plan shared by the Chief with Pasadena Now, much of the time-consuming paperwork and incident data followup will be accomplished by the office of the Executive Administrator. This office would handle Records, the Jail and Property section, and Communication, freeing up officers for more work in the field.

Out in the field, three separate commanders will handle Patrol, Special Operations and Criminal Investigations. (See chart.) The Patrol Division Commander would supervise four area lieutenants, who would handle Field Training, Canine, and the Reserve program.

The Special Operations commander would be responsible for supervising three lieutenants handling Air Operations, Traffic and Special Event Planning.

The Criminal Investigations Commander will handle the Violent Crimes, Major Crimes, Neighborhood Action, and Special Investigations Sections.

How would the new responsibilities and command restructuring affect the average resident? What would they see?

“A few things,” said Perez, readily. “One, a better relationship with their police department.”

Perez said he wanted neighborhoods to know their active officers and lieutenants, and that the department would concentrate on disseminating that information on social media.

According to Perez, a key to better police response and better communication in the community is keeping officers working the same streets consistently.

“We’re going to really be focused on keeping the lieutenants in the same policing districts for two to three years,” said Perez, “so you can know who that person is in that two-to-three-year span. We want a better connection to do that.”

Perez also wants an increasingly better-trained officer on Pasadena’s streets.

“We want better-trained officers, who know how to identify problems,” Perez explained. “ I think residents will see officers who are better equipped to give referrals, not just for police services, but referrals out to the City, if you have a light bulb out on a light pole, or see shrubbery that’s hanging too far over an area. We’ll get Public Works to take care of that.”

What Perez calls “Crime prevention by environmental design,” will also loom large in the Department’s future, he said.

That catchphrase refers to a new multi-disciplinary approach for reducing crime through the design, management and use of built environments, deterring offender decisions that precede criminal acts

“This is going to be important to us,” explained Perez, “not only by officers, but by volunteers. We have 130 active volunteers and we think that we could train them on crime prevention by environmental design, to go out and identify [hazards].”

Perez called the idea “a force multiplier.”

Commander Clawson also noted the importance of having the Department “condition” local businesses to work with its officers.

“For instance,” Clawson explained, “we will go to a grocery store a dozen times in a week for whatever related issues. And so that’s taking a police response away to address whatever the issue is. Shoplifting, and petty theft to fights. But that store can do a lot better to stop those processes from occurring.”

Said Clawson, “If a store is getting hit every day by people stealing a certain type of vodka, right? You can eliminate that vodka. And then nobody will come and steal that vodka because it doesn’t exist. That was what we want to do. We want to address the infrastructure that’s generating an excessive response for the officers.”

Addressing Pasadena’s seemingly intransigent homeless problem, Perez also looks toward the traditional idea of working closely with community members.

“Community services is really the foundation of our partnerships with the community. Perez notes that he has several 25-year plus relationships with a number of community partners which have also expanded their roles in the community.

“It’s like, wow, this really has paid off,” said Perez. “So [the Community services section] is the base of our community partnerships and relationships that we have.”

“I think this approach is really going to be different.”


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