City Committee Reviews Final Report on Death of Reginald Thomas Jr. in Police Custody

Published : Wednesday, February 20, 2019 | 6:55 AM

Reginald Thomas, Jr.

[Updated] A Pasadena City Council Committee today will officially receive the final of three significant reports into the death of resident Reginald Thomas Jr., who died while in the custody of Pasadena police at the end of a confrontation and struggle in Thomas’s apartment on Sept. 30, 2016.

Police oversight activists, along with Thomas’s former girlfriend and his family members and their attorney are expected to attend the meeting.

The $30,000, 10,000-word report produced for the City by the National Police Foundation is intended to identify “lessons learned” and to “make specific action-oriented recommendations” for the Pasadena Police Department.

It concluded that Pasadena police policies, equipment, training related to the use of force and de-escalation, and handling of the administrative review of the incident were all “generally within the standard of care in policing” but went on to make multiple recommendations for improvement by the Department.

Earlier, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office conducted its own review of the incident and concluded the involved officers had not committed any violations of criminal law during the chaotic arrest.

The Pasadena Police Dept. also undertook its own separate administrative review, which found the officers all acted within department policy guidelines.

The Foundation recommended an increase in the training use of tactical decision games. These exercises, the report said, “challenge participants to successfully resolve problems through quick, effective decision making.”

The Thomas situation, the report said, required better non-technical skills from the arresting officers, such as leadership ability, communication skills, situation awareness, and decision-making.

The report called for the exploration of less-lethal alternatives, “that provide greater distance between an armed subject and officers.”

The Foundation said that the Pasadena Police Department’s own use of force review board was thorough, but focused on the individual of actions of the arresting officers while failing, “to probe deeper to determine potential causes of the training or policy shortcomings.”

Though not uncommon in other police forces, the report said, “the hierarchical format of the board structure does not facilitate the level of candor necessary for robust and attribution-free conversation for potential identification of issues that may result in organizational improvement,” which is a long way of saying the set-up makes criticizing the decisions of higher-ups a perilous venture.

These recommendations, the report concluded, “provide tangible steps” that will improve policing practices at the Pasadena Police Department.

But attorney Harper today criticized the conclusions of the 60-page document.

The Foundation took “little excerpts of things that are arguably true and a little vague and they patch them in out of order to give what they are trying to show as a cohesive statement on why they found these officers within department policy,” she said.

The fateful night cost the City of Pasadena $1.5 million after a settlement was reached with the then 35-year old Thomas’s girlfriend and family.

His family expressed two “enduring requests.” The first was that the coroner’s report be made public.

It was. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner conducted an autopsy and determined the cause of death to be, “Effects of methamphetamine/phencyclidine use with bizarre behavior needing multimodal restraint/conducted energy device use.”

The second request was that charges be brought against the six Pasadena police officers involved. They were not.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division concluded that reasonable force, or lawful forces, was used in subduing Thomas.

“I have spoken with the family and they are very disappointed in the report,” said Caree Harper, the attorney who has represented Thomas’s girlfriend and family since his death.

“The Pasadena Police Department should be under a consent decree. They are the most rambunctious, ruthless department that I’ve dealt with and I’m adding LAPD in that list,” said Harper. “They’re going to keep killing young men of color because they make the same mistakes over and over again and they refuse to discipline the officers and make meaningful changes.”

On KJLH 102 Wednesday morning, Harper put out a call to the public to come to the Public Safety Committee tonight “at City Hall and let the City Councilmembers know how you feel.”

The Committee meets in public session at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber of Pasadena City Hall at 100 North Garfield Avenue.

The full National Police Foundation review is available at http://ww5.cityofpasadena.net/commissions/city-council-public-safety-committee/

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