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Councilmember Decries Council Focus on Police Oversight, Says Priorities Are Wrong

"If we were going to set aside for the full City Council to discuss a public safety matter, then the discussion should be that there were 80 shootings in 2015, and 26 so far this year," Gordo said Wednesday

Published on Thursday, April 21, 2016 | 7:04 am
Pasadena District 5 Councilmember Victor Gordo seen at a community event earlier this month.

As the City Council considered a consultant’s report on police oversight Monday night, District 5 City Councilmember Victor Gordo seemed obsessed with a completely different subject: the epidemic of shootings in parts of Pasadena.

The police oversight debate waged, but every time Gordo spoke he returned to the same subject: the rise of shootings in Pasadena.

Gordo’s focus was so sharp Public Safety Committee Chair John Kennedy at one point refused to let him continue talking in order to ask City Attorney Michele Bagneris to rule if Gordo was out of order in discussing shootings instead of the police oversight matter being considered.

Bagneris ruled Gordo could continue. He did — and again spoke about the shootings.

“It’s unacceptable,” Gordo explained in an interview Wednesday, “that in 2015, we’ve had 80 shootings in the city of Pasadena. Since December of 2015 we have had 26 shootings in the city. At this point the situation requires the direct and immediate attention of the full City Council. That’s the point that I was making Monday evening.”

The oversight study notwithstanding, Gordo said, “As opposed to anything else, I just found the discussion on Monday to be the wrong priority for the city at this moment in time.”

“Our priorities are upside down,” Vice Mayor Gene Masada had agreed Monday night, echoing Gordo.

The plague of shootings erupting primarily in the northwest neighborhoods of Pasadena is “an urgent and important matter,” Gordo said, “because it involves the safety of children and families in their neighborhoods, and in our city parks. And beyond that, it involves the image and reputation of the City of Pasadena. So, for all of those reasons, especially the safety reasons, I believe that this matter deserves to be at the top of the list in our public safety discussions.”

“If we were going to set aside for the full City Council to discuss a public safety matter, then the discussion should be that there were 80 shootings in 2015, and 26 so far this year,” Gordo elaborated. “If we are going to prioritize anything outside of the budget process, it should be towards curbing the violence and shooting that is occurring.”

Gordo’s focus on the shootings seems to reflect the community’s angst seen in comments on social media after each shooting occurs.

A car-to-car shooting last Friday evening triggered a flood of reactions from Pasadena Now readers.

“City Councilmembers must begin to address what’s happening in their areas, enough is enough. Last night I sat with my family in my yard and heard the sirens, my comment was — there goes another shooting. This was in John Kennedy’s district, but Tyron Hampton, Victor Gordo and Margaret McAustin — what are you doing??” one reader wrote.

“I would like to see some emergency meetings to address the recent gang activities. Tyron Hampton ran his election on fighting crime. And [Councilmember] Margaret McAustin thinks we live in a bubble — wake up!” commented another.

A third: “What the hell is going on, it’s like the 90s all over again…”

Gordo said Wednesday that the City Council needs to reprioritize.

“We need to … make this the number one subject in our upcoming budget discussions. That discussion should focus on safe streets, safe neighborhoods and safe parks,” he said.

“In 2009, we had 260 budgeted police officers on the force; this year, we have 240 officers budgeted, but we actually only have 216 active officers on the force now,” he pointed out. “We need to return to pre-recession police staffing.”

Gordo also wants to see the return of the police Neighborhood Action teams in “impacted areas,” officers on bicycles working in designated areas. Prior to 2008, there were two six-member bike teams in the City.

“They acted as cops on the beat,” Gordo explained. ‘They chased away criminals before things got serious, and they were very effective, and we need to return to that model.”

Gordo also dismisses the idea that the city is involved in any type of gang war or skirmish at the moment, saying, “There are simply too many guns on the street” and not enough police.

Since last December, Pasadena Police have taken 40 guns off the street., Gordo said.

“The shooting that we had two Fridays ago, with the suspect shooting at officers in broad daylight, he was a convicted felon out on bail for carrying a loaded weapon, which had been found and confiscated by the officers, and here he was again with a loaded weapon, shooting at police officers, and towards homes.

“This is why I said … to the Council that our priorities were absolutely wrong,” said Gordo. “There’s no urgency in discussions about a police auditor when we only have 26 complaints filed against officers. Twenty-six complaints and we are prioritizing that over 80 shootings in our neighborhoods and parks? Something is absolutely wrong there.”

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