As was the case for last year’s State of the City address by Mayor Terry Tornek, this year’s edition is expected to be accompanied by protestors demonstrating outside and in the audience.
At issue, again, for those raising the standard of dissent, is the question of police violence.
In a joint Jan. 15 statement, the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police (CICOPP) and Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP) said they will use the occasion of the Mayor’s address to call for reform of the Pasadena Police Department’s Use of Force policy.
“Why does the current Use of Force policy give no clear guidance to officers about when they may use force?” asked CICOPP spokesman Vincent de Stefano. “Policy sets the standards and should be the first reform the department makes for public safety.”
The activists cited the notorious encounter between Altadena resident Chris Ballew and two Pasadena Police Department officers in November 2017. Police dashcam video and a passerby’s cellphone video recorded Ballew’s controversial and violent arrest, during which he took possession of one officer’s baton and the officers responded with such force Ballew’s leg was broken.
“Why has it been over a year since the outrageous beating by PPD officers of Chris Ballew at a traffic stop for tinted windows, and, CICOPP’s demand for a new policy mandating de-escalation in interactions with the public that may lead to violence, and still no policy change?” questioned de Stefano of CICOPP in the press release.
The groups also cited the Jan. 11 shooting of an armed man who fled police officers and, more generally, “the department’s long history of overreaction using violent force.”
The Pasadena Police Department responded to the CICOPP/POP statement the same day it was issued.
“State law under Penal Code 835(A) defines when an officer may use force in the performance of his or her duties,” said police spokesman Lieutenant Jason Clawson. “That is spelled out in our policy 300.3.1 so the press release is not accurate.”
Policy 300.3.1 says in part: “[N]or shall an officer be deemed the aggressor or lose his/her right to self-defense by the use of reasonable force to effect the arrest, prevent escape or to overcome resistance.”
“The Ballew incident is still under review,” Clawson added, “but as you can see, Policy 300.3.5 defines de-escalation and places mandates on our officers dealing with violent, assaultive or resistant subjects, again the press release is not accurate.”
Section 300.3.5 considers the use of pepper spray, taser, or baton as de-escalation techniques. The video of the Ballew incident shows the officers using a baton on him.
Use of Force statistics released by the Pasadena Police Department at a Dec. 3 public safety meeting show a decrease in such incidents. In 2016, the number of force incidents was 45. That number held mostly steady at 44 in 2017, but such incidents in 2018 saw a significant decrease to 28, a 30 percent reduction.
Planning to join CICOPP and POP during the demonstration will be members of Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, Interdenominational Ministerial Association of Greater Pasadena, Indivisible Pasadena/Altadena, Jewish Temple Social Justice Committee, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Pasadena, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Neighbors Building A Better Pasadena, Pasadenans Organizing for Progress, and Young Women’s Christian Association.
Mayor Tornek’s 2019 Annual State of the City address will take place Thursday, January 17th at 6:30 p.m. at the Pasadena High School Gymnasium, 2925 East Sierra Madre Boulevard. It is open to the public.