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Opinion: 23 Unasked and Unanswered Questions Identified in the McDade OIR Report

Published on Friday, December 4, 2015 | 1:00 pm
Op/Ed authors Dale Gronemeier (left) and Skip Hickambottom

Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez is dismissing the Office of Independent Review Group (“OIR”) Kendrec McDade shooting Report’s criticism that his PD did not conduct any post-criminal investigation fact-finding. The OIR Report’s analysis of this failure points out that criminal investigations focusing on whether the shooting was criminal ask different questions than administrative investigations that focus on policy, training, and disciplinary issues. The OIR Report is especially critical of the facts that the Pasadena PD did not reinterview the two officer who shot the unarmed Kendrec McDade and that the Pasadena PD either failed to interview or reinterview two civilian witnesses who might have confirmed or disconfirmed the Officers’ story that Mr. McDade ran two blocks holding the waistband of his pants and so they believed he had a gun. The OIR Report again and again and again identifies relevant questions that were not asked, that it repeatedly told the PD it should ask these questions, and that the PD refused to ask.

Chief Sanchez’ dismissal of the OIR Report criticism is anchored in the claim that the criminal investigation was so thorough that it answered all of the relevant questions. The falsity of his assertion is evident unless Chief Sanchez and his staff could answer – not speculate on the answer – to all of the following 23 unasked and unanswered questions or categories of questions set out in the OIR Report that its authors say should have been asked:

1. The witness who was telephonically interviewed “was not asked whether he observed Mr. McDade holding his waistband while running as the officers described.” (P.21)
2. The victim of the theft “was not asked whether during the time he followed and observed Mr. McDade running he ever saw him reaching for his waistband or holding something in his waistband area.” (P.22)
3. The Officers were not “asked whether they intentionally responded to the radio call without lights and sirens.” (P.24)
4. The Officers meant they were not asked “…follow up questions [that] could have determined whether the officers considered manually activating the in-car video camera without lights and siren.” (P.25)
5. Officer Newlen was not asked “whether he intended to split from his partner to go into foot pursuit or believed his partner would follow on foot.” (P.25)
6. Officer Newlen was not asked “whether he intended to close the distance with the suspect he was chasing. (P.25)
7. Officer Newlen “was not asked what his understanding of optimal tactics were when in foot pursuit of a suspect he believed to be armed.” (P.25)
8. Officer Griffin was not“asked if, when he drove past the suspect and cut him off, he considered the vulnerable position he and his partner might be in if the suspect did something other than stop or run westward.” (P.25)
9. Officer Griffin was not asked “questions concerning cross-fire and background, that is, whether either officer anticipated the problems of pursuing in such a way as to place the suspect between them and have to potentially point their weapons in one another’s direction.” (P.25)
10. “Additional potential questions that were not asked was whether either officer considered warning Mr. McDade that they were about to use deadly force if he did not stop his perceived aggressive actions.” (P.27, fn. 15)
11. “The statements of Officer Griffin raise the question that if there was so much concern about the vulnerable position the officers were placed in…then why did he decide to do so?” (P.36)
12. “The involved officers were not asked about their failure to broadcast the collision.” (P.36)
13. Officer Griffin meant was not questioned about his tactical decision to unholster his weapon and steer with one hand. (Pps.36-37)
14. Officer Newlen was not asked whether he had his gun out prior to the foot pursuit. (P.37, fn.21)
15. Officer Newlen “was not asked (a) whether he considered attempting to contain the suspect rather than apprehend him.” (Pp.40-41)
16. Officer Newlen was not asked “whether his intent was to apprehend him.” (Pp. 40-41)
17. The involved Officers were not asked if information known to the dispatcher that the victim knew the suspects was communicated to them. (P.41, fn.22)
18. Officer Newlen “was not asked about his decision to take his gun out of his holster when he was in foot pursuit” ” (P.41, fn.23)
19. Officer Newlen “was not asked whether he considered the potential safety issues of running and pursuing while carrying a firearm.” (P.41, fn.23)
20. “It would have been helpful to learn why the involved officers chose not to” respond Code 3 which would have automatically activated the in-car video system. (P.50)
21. The “officers should have been asked during the administrative review whether they considered manually activating the camera.” (P.51)
22. “[T]here was little follow up questioning as to whether there was a lack of “air time” during the whole portion of the vehicle pursuit” for the involved officers to radio in information about their pursuit. (P.53)
23. “[T]he Review Board should have been asking” questions to the Officers involving how their pre-shooting tactical “decision-making may have played a role in the eventual outcome” [question(s) in the following 40% of a page that is/are redacted]. (P.67)

The recent unredactions of portions of the OIR discloses that the Pasadena City Attorney’s over-redactions attempted to suppress the fact that the PD admitted that at least 2 of these 23 questions (#4 and #21) should have been but were not asked. And there are probably additional unasked questions identified in the remaining redactions constituting approximately 11 pages in the OIR.

Chief Sanchez’ unreasonable dismissiveness needs to end. Even if it is belated, Pasadena deserves his finishing the unfinished business of getting answers to these questions. And Chief Sanchez needs to explain why they weren’t answered rather than ducking the issue with a false explanation that there is no problem. As times seem more dangerous, the Pasadena PD and City administration need to start building trust rather than continuing to destroy trust by denying the obvious.
Dale Gronemeier and Skip Hickambottom are local civil rights attorneys who represent Kendrec McDade’s mother and Pasadena police oversight organizations and activists in the Public Records lawsuit that obtained the maximum legally-permissible release of the full OIR Report.

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