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Councilmembers Want Reform of ‘Pretextual’ Stops, Other Police Policies After Report on Fatal McClain Shooting

Published on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | 6:46 am

Members of the City Council called on the Pasadena Police Department to review some of its policies in line with the recommendations of a well-regarded consulting firm that specializes in the independent review of police practices after the firm’s report was released last week following an investigation into the fatal shooting of Anthony McClain, a resident killed by police in August 2020.

“We ask the Chief [Eugene Harris] to come back to us with a timeline for reviewing and adopting the recommendations that he believes should be adopted, with the advice and consent of the Community Police Oversight Commission,” Mayor Victor Gordo said at Monday’s City Council meeting.  

The Oversight Commission will hear the report by the Office of Independent Review Group (OIR) report this Thursday. 

According to Gordo, any recommendations by the Commission will go to the Public Safety Committee and finally, the City Council for final discussion.  

The Council digested the OIR Group’s report in a public special meeting. The report suggests 27 procedural and policy recommendations for the Pasadena Police Department, including several which Chief Harris has said have already been adopted by the department. 

The McClain incident is the third Pasadena officer-involved shooting investigated by the OIR Group. It also reviewed the deaths of Leroy Barnes in 2009 and Kendrec McDade in 2012. 

The OIR report recommended the Pasadena Police Department evaluate its foot pursuit policy.

Also among its recommendations for the Department is to clearly define the role of police union representative at officer-involved shooting scenes and reconsideration of ‘pretext stops,’ particularly for vehicle equipment violations. 

A pretext stop by police is a traffic stop made by a police officer for a minor traffic violation but with the real intention of detaining a person or persons for reasons unrelated to the traffic violation.

“As indicated, the officers were instructed to police this area because of some crime problems but it was a license plate that was not correct that caused the basis for this stop, eventually the detention, ultimately the use of deadly force,” said Michael Gennaco, Principal of the OIR Group. “All data I have seen from the RIPA (Racial Identity and Profiling Act) suggests that these stops are disproportionate. They tend to be conducted in a way that they impact people of color more than others.” 

At the meeting, Councilmember Jason Lyon urged the City Council to ensure that the OIR Group’s recommendations will be adopted by Pasadena Police Department.

“There were 11 years on from Kendrec McDade’s death and there are all these recommendations that were made before that that are still not implemented… I want to see us commit to here tonight is that’s not going to happen —  that these 27 recommendations become a roadmap for our conversations for as long as they take, and everyone of these turns into a policy recommendation that comes to us to look at,” Lyon said. 

A majority of the Councilmembers said the Pasadena Police Department should reform some of its policies moving forward to avoid a repeat of the McClain incident. 

“I think we can all agree on one thing. This was a terrible incident and we should do everything that we can to learn from it and put in place all policies and procedures that allow us to ensure the public that our police officers can keep us safe and that incidents like this do not repeat themselves,” Mayor Gordo said. “That’s the track that we are setting upon — and we should do that sooner rather than later.” 

“This is a difficult conversation to have but I think we should have had it a long time ago. I do agree with bringing things to us sooner,” said Vice Mayor Felicia Williams. 

“I agree with Councilmembers Justin Jones and Tyron Hampton that we need to evaluate pretext stops and see what role they play in policing and safety, what is the data related to that and what are the other options. All of us seem to have an issue with that, so I’d like to see that come to the full Council,” added Williams. 

Councilmember Jones asked Pasadena Police Department to revisit the policy on the use of handcuffs as he noted that McClain was handcuffed even as he lay mortally wounded. 

“I do think that type of training needs to stop because it is not dignified to handcuff someone who is severely injured. We can evaluate the current policy and hopefully you will return back to us for further discussion.” 

Police Chief Harris assured he will work with the Community Police Oversight Commission and relevant committees in crafting amended policies.

“Every day, we’re constantly getting better in striving to improve police policies, improve police interactions and certainly improve the police-community relationship, which is what we have committed to do,” Chief Harris said. 

“[We will] work in future opportunities with either the Independent Police Auditor, the CPOC, the Public Safety Committee and Mr. Gennaco,” Chief Harris added.

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