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City Council Approves Community Police Oversight Commission, Independent Auditor

Published on Monday, June 7, 2021 | 8:51 pm
Brian G. Maxey of Modern Policing. (Screenshot of City Council meeting of June 7, 2021 broadcast by KPAS)

After passing an ordinance establishing the framework of a police oversight commission eight months ago in October, the City Council finally appointed local residents to that commission on Monday.

The City Council voted unanimously to appoint the members of the commission and 7-1 to appoint Brian Maxey independent police auditor.

Councilmember Jess Rivas opposed Maxey’s appointment.

The 11-member commission is composed of seven women and four men, including a retired Superior Court judge and retired Sheriff’s Department lieutenant.

Esprit Jones, Noemi Emeric-Ford, Donald R. Matthews, Barbara Stacy, Raul Ibanez, Patricia Kinaga, Lawrence Lurvey and Phillip J. Argento have been chosen to represent the city council and Mayor Victor Gordo, respectively.

Three community commissioners, Juliana Serrano, Florence Annang and Alexis Abernethy, have already been seated.

“I worry that the Commission may not live up to the public’s expectations, not through any fault of our own,” said Councilmember Felicia Williams. “This is a much deeper problem and I hope to see the Commission’s purpose broaden to address violence and quality of life issues in our city — early childhood development, public and mental health, job training, reintegration, and small businesses. I think this is the way to make lasting change.”

The commission cannot take up cases being investigated by the city or the police department.

Also, the commission will be required to obey all personnel laws.

Ironically two weeks ago, local residents took the council to task for taking too long to appoint the commission. However, on Monday, local residents called on the council to pause and not appoint the group and the independent police auditor.

In public comments, residents intimated that the city was not transparent in selecting Modern Policing for a one-year $75,000 contract.

The IPA’s duties include, among other things, serving as a best-practices adviser to the (Police Oversight) Commission, reviewing categorical uses of force by Pasadena Police Department officers, reviewing investigations of personnel complaints of bias-based policing, and recommending changes to PPD policies, procedures, or officer training,” according to a city staff report.

“The police union had strong feelings about the auditor,” said Vice Mayor Andy Wilson. “They did make some recommendations. We did not interview anyone they recommended.”

Maxey also helped usher the department and the city through the federal consent decree process.

A consent decree is an agreement between involved parties submitted in writing to a court. Seattle found itself under a consent decree after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. The 2012 consent decree demanded the department overhaul its use-of-force practices and modes of discipline and create a civilian oversight commission.

Maxey said he would step down if the commission decided he was not the right person after he met with them.

“If I’m not the right person, I’m not the right person,” Maxey told the City Council on Monday.

In April, city staff recommended the city sign with Michael Genacco’s Office of Independent Review for the IPA work, but that matter was pulled from the agenda and further proposals were solicited.

An ad hoc council committee consisting of Vice Mayor Andy Wilson and Councilmembers Tyron Hampton, Steve Madison, and Felicia Williams conducted interviews with the leading candidates.

Local consideration of forming a civilian police oversight commission dates back to the early 1990s with the L.A. Riots sparked by the acquittal of the four LAPD officers who beat up Altadena’s Rodney King in 1992.

After the riots, local residents Meta McCullough and Karen Hooks Roon called for a civilian oversight commission, but those calls fell on deaf ears at City Hall. One year later, the officer-involved death of popular local barber Michael Bryant, who was killed following a police pursuit, reignited the debate.

The issue returned after each subsequent officer-involved death starting in 2004 when Maurice Clark and LaMont Robinson died 10 days apart in officer-involved incidents and bubbled just under the surface until it made local headlines again in 2012 following the officer-involved shooting death of 19-year-old Kendrec McDade.

The 2020 George Floyd murder proved to be a watershed moment that forced many white residents to acknowledge policing issues in the country and finally move the City Council to approve police oversight.

Several commission members have experienced dealing with policing issues.

Argento was appointed to the Municipal Court bench in 1982 by former Gov. Jerry Brown and served on the Superior Court bench from 2000 up to his retirement in 2005.

“My experience as a judge included oversight of police work such as reviewing applications for search warrants, handling motions to suppress evidence arising from alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment, and accessing police personnel records concerning incidents of excessive force and falsification of records,” Argento wrote on his application.

“I have completed education and training in anti-bias as required by the Judicial Council,” he continued. “I recently completed a 20-hour workshop, “Racism in America: What Is Mine to Do?”

Matthews, nominated by Councilmember Kennedy, said he spent most of his adult life in law enforcement. If approved, Matthews would be the panel’s only Black male member.

“I grew up in South Central Los Angeles,” wrote Matthews, the lone African-American man set to be appointed, in his application. Matthews also served with the L.A. County Marshal’s Department.

According to Kennedy, Matthews’ son was killed in an officer-involved shooting.

“I raised my family and two sons for 44 years in Pasadena. I spent the majority of my adult life in law enforcement related employment. Based on my personal and professional life, I can relate to the community needs as well as the law enforcement needs.”

The commission will have five African-American members, and women will make up a majority of the commission with seven members, namely: Esprit Jones, Noemi Emeric-Ford, Barbara Stacy, Patricia Kinaga, Serrano, Annang and Abernethy.

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