Guest Opinion | William Paparian: Only Justice Department Can Fix Pasadena’s Police Department

Published : Monday, January 22, 2018 | 6:42 AM

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There’s a thin line between fiction and reality. In Pasadena, unfortunately, that line happens to be blue.

The vast majority of the men and women of the Pasadena Police Department conduct themselves with the highest degree of professionalism. Unfortunately,

there are unbridled rogue elements within the department that have been allowed to run amok in our community because of a “we are the police and we can do whatever we want” philosophy.

More and more that philosophy has been on display since a heavily redacted Veritas audit of the PPD was released in April of 2015. Sadly, our former Police Chief mendaciously said this about the audit’s damning conclusions: “… No one is in prison who is not supposed to be there.” The current Police Chief continues to parrot that outrageous statement saying: “…No one was placed in prison wrongfully.”

The gap between the two faces of the department has become clearer following the Nov. 9, Rodney King-style baton beating of Christopher Ballew. During the detention and arrest of the young man, gang unit officers beat Ballew, breaking his leg and causing other serious physical injuries. Like the Rodney King case, much of the brutal event was captured by a bystander’s camera phone.

And, as it has become with many such scenes of police violence and brutality, the bystander’s video found its way onto social media feeds around the world in the days before our annual Rose Parade.

Because of the universal outrage expressed toward the officers’ conduct, city officials sought to limit the outcry by releasing body camera video from Ballew’s tormentors themselves.

Rather than stifle the outcry, the release fed the growing and righteous outrage. In large part that’s because the officers involved should have been suspended for their brutal and uncalled-for conduct. Not only is it becoming clear that won’t happen, but it seems that any subsequent internal affairs investigation will be a mere charade. We’ve seen it before.

The absurdity is only furthered by the actions of Councilmen Victor Gordo and Andy Wilson, who have been among the police department’s staunchest supporters. In 2017, the Pasadena Police Officers Association donated $29,780.63 to Gordo and $28,111.91 to Wilson.

Gordo and Wilson’s contribution to the continuing failure of leadership in Pasadena has stymied attempts to root out the cancer that is eating away at the very soul of the Pasadena Police Department. Together they have prevented any efforts to restore the department’s once great reputation.

Given these circumstances, Pasadena can’t police its police department. At this point only an investigation by Department of Justice will help begin the healing process.


Attorney William M. Paparian is a former mayor of Pasadena.



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