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City Releases Police Oversight Report, Reveals Wide Disparity in How Police Are Viewed Throughout Community

Document's research reveals widely diverse views of police held by Pasadenans, recommends both independent auditor and accountability commission

Published on Friday, April 15, 2016 | 4:30 am
Police oversight consultants Barbara Attard and Kathryn Olson of Change Integration shown last January addressing the first of two community meetings about Pasadena police oversight. Their recommendations for Pasadena were released by the city Thursday night.

[Updated Friday, April 15, 2016 | 7:30 a.m.]  The city released a report Thursday night recommending a police oversight plan for Pasadena created by a consulting firm it hired late last year as a precursor to possibly creating such a mechanism for the Pasadena Police Department.

Change Integration Consulting (CIC), comprised of police oversight specialists Kathryn Olson and Barbara Attard, has recommended a two-part solution to oversight of the Pasadena Police Department: the establishment of an Independent Police Auditor, who would provide professional oversight, and a Police Accountability Commission made up of local citizens, which would “positively influence police matters and enhance communication with the public.”

Read the full report. Click here

In its report, CIC documented the wide range of attitudes toward the police in Pasadena, with communities of color predominantly residing in Northwest Pasadena holding a negative impression of the police while a deep level of support for the police exists in other Pasadena neighborhoods.

The group developed its report from a series of community meetings held last December and January, as well as interviews with Mayor Terry Tornek and members of the City Council, the former and interim City Managers, Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez and his command staff, and members of the Pasadena Police Officers Association.

According to the CIC, “many stakeholders expressed their support of the Pasadena Police Department (PPD) and their belief that PPD is doing an effective job of policing, while other stakeholders related negative personal experiences with the PPD, or expressed their opinion that PPD officers do not treat communities of color fairly.”

Many residents, according to the report, who oppose the need for oversight of the Pasadena Police said that “oversight is a solution in search of a problem.”

One recurring theme cited in the report — from those who support oversight — is that “oversight is needed to enhance communication between the PPD and the community, and that outreach, transparency, and accountability are also important.”

The report also said many in the Pasadena community felt that the issue of oversight was being “instigated” by a small group of activists that “do not represent the City of Pasadena.” Those same community members also felt that the desire for oversight stemmed from the 2009 police shooting of Leroy Barnes and the 2012 police shooting of Kendrec McDade, as well as policing problems nation-wide which do not necessarily exist in the city of Pasadena.

They also questioned the lack of hard data substantiating the need for police oversight in Pasadena, and reasoned that ample oversight is already provided by the City Council, the City Manager and the Public Safety Committee.

According to the report, many residents felt that the discussion of oversight is causing low morale in the PPD.

At the same time, however, according to the report, community members of color and their representatives often felt “under siege and alienated from the PPD,” thus necessitating the need for oversight.

Despite the negative opinions by those who favored oversight, community perceptions of the police in Pasadena are actually better than the nation as a whole, according to one recent study.

“Community Perceptions of Policing,” a 2015 report by Lisa M. Graziano, of the School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics at Cal State LA, reported that “a strong majority (78%) of residents demonstrated belief in the PPD, expressing confidence in the department’s ability to do its job well, make decisions in their best interests, and protect people’s rights.”

This confidence rating is higher than the national figure, which was cited at 60%.

In addition, almost half of Pasadena residents surveyed felt that the PPD was more likely to treat whites and the wealthy better than minorities and the poor. Again, this figure was less than the 60% who hold this position nationally.

The CIC report also stated that a model similar to the one they are proposing is now being “piloted” in the City of Anaheim. The consultants felt that monitoring the experience of Anaheim could “provide helpful information regarding structural and procedural details” of this type of oversight in Pasadena.

While not providing specific costs in Pasadena, the report did provide cost information on 19 other California oversight models throughout the state but emphasized that “no two oversight entities are identical, even if they share the same name, such as ‘commission’ or ‘police auditor.’”

Yearly costs for the various models cited ranged from $80,000 for an external auditor in Anaheim; to $115,000 in San Diego for a citizens’ review board with an executive director and an assistant; to $6 million for a police commission in Los Angeles, with an inspector general and a staff of 30.

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee will meet on Monday evening, April 18, as part of the weekly Council meeting, to discuss the report and its recommendations.


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