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City Council Hears, Discusses Proposed Police Oversight City Charter Amendment

Published on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 | 4:20 am

The City’s Independent Police Auditor Richard Rosenthal made the very point on Monday that could prevent the City Council from placing a City Charter amendment on the ballot that would give him more powers in sworn police officer personnel matters.

The new enhanced oversight would see the auditor function change into a monitor function.

The monitor would actively weigh and make recommendations during personnel investigations instead of upon the completion of investigations.

But Rosenthal also pointed out that with that new responsibility, his appearance of independence would be put in question.

And that is the problem, according to Mayor Victor Gordo.

“The closer you are to the decision making the less independent you will be perceived,” Gordo said. “I am looking for you to be critical if it results in a better city and a better police department.”

Since the presentation was an information item there was no vote on the proposed City Charter amendment.

But a majority of Councilmembers — Gordo, Vice Mayor Steve Madison, Gene Masuda and Felicia Williams — appeared to be opposed to a City Charter amendment adopting the monitor model.

However, the discussion could continue at the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.

“It’s kind of a solution in search of a problem,” Madison said.

As a police monitor, Rosenthal would be able to participate in use of force and discipline review boards and provide an outside perspective to Police Chief Gene Harris.

The department would not be obligated to follow Rosenthal’s advice, but would have the opportunity to make their decisions with the full benefit of any input provided by the auditor/monitor.

Although under the monitor model, Rosenthal would continue to be structurally independent, but, Rosenthal said, if the police department followed his advice, the monitor would have an incentive to justify and, possibly, defend the department’s decisions in cases where the department followed the advice.

Also, the monitor would no longer have the benefit of “hindsight” due to recommendations being made during the course of investigations and administrative review, instead of after.

If the voters were to pass the item, it would change Pasadena’s City Manager form of governance, according to Assistant City Attorney Javan Rad.

The Independent Police Auditor reports to the City Council and the Independent Police Auditor would be providing direct input in (not just auditing) sworn police officer personnel matters.

Currently, the City Council is not allowed to get involved in personnel matters.

The recommendation was made after the City Council passed a motion requesting that the Independent Police Auditor and Police Oversight Commission look at the issue of police oversight with the Independent Police Auditor to provide a report to Police Oversight Commission and then to the Public Safety Committee or the City Council to discuss whether or not there should be a strengthening of oversight.

“Independent Police Auditor Rosenthal’s report reviewed the differences between models of oversight where the Independent Police Auditor provides after-the-fact reviews, and, separately, where direct input is provided by the Independent Police Auditor during police personnel matters,” according to a staff report in Monday’s agenda.

But independence is not the only roadblock to the amendment.

If the Council were to submit a City Charter amendment to Pasadena voters, the City would be required to meet and confer with labor unions “prior to arriving at a determination of policy or course of action” on matters affecting the “terms and conditions of employment” under the collective bargaining requirement under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), which gives public sector employees the right to collective bargaining.

The meet and confer would need to take place prior to a vote to place the item on the ballot by the City Council.

Councilmember Tyron Hampton said he supports more oversight for the department, but added that there was not enough time to get an amendment to the ballot. 

The Pasadena Police Officers Association also said there was not enough time to place an amendment on the ballot.

“The members of the Pasadena Police Officers Association are grateful for the Mayor and City Council’s thoughtful discussion this evening,” said David Llanes. Councilmember Hampton is correct in stating, there is not enough time to complete the necessary processes to present a Charter Amendment to the voters, on the November 2024 ballot.We look forward to continued discussions to implement the oversight model that best serves our community while respecting the rights of our Officers and bolstering morale within in our ranks.”  

Neither staff nor City Council have total control over the timing of the meet and confer session and the City Council would have to vote to place the item on the ballot by early August. 

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