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Opinion: Pasadena PD’s Response to the OIR Report – Another Disagreement-Posing-as-Agreement

Published on Monday, December 7, 2015 | 3:58 pm

Chief Phillip Sanchez’s Response purporting to agree with the OIR McDade Report Recommendation #5 – a Recommendation to conduct administrative investigations in police shooting incidents — is a disagreement masquerading as agreement, just as his Response to Recommendation #20 to give feedback to involved Officers that we discussed in our last Op-Ed is a faux agreement.

The PD Response on conducting an administrative investigation is the Orwellian stratagem “investigation is “non-investigation”

The PD Response’s agreement with OIR Report Recommendation #5 to conduct administrative investigations in future police shootings is actually a disagreement. The PD agrees with the Recommendation #5 only by an orwellian redefinition of an “administrative investigation” as a “non-investigation.”

The OIR Report at pages 23-28 sets out the fact that the PD did not conduct an administrative investigation but rather only an administrative review; the administrative review relied upon the previous fact-finding in the criminal investigation rather doing any new fact-finding. By “administrative investigation,” the OIR Report clearly means additional fact-finding after the criminal investigation and by “administrative review” it means the review that the PD did in the McDade case which did not do additional fact-finding but rather solely relied upon the criminal investigation. The investigation the OIR Report says should have occurred would have reinterviewed the involved Officers, would have reinterviewed two witnesses, and would have gotten answers to the OIR Report’s identification of at least 23 unasked and unanswered questions about the McDade shooting.

The PD Response asserts that it did an administrative investigation in the McDade shooting despite the OIR Report criticizing it for not doing one. The PD’s ostensible agreement to doing an administrative investigation in future police shootings thus is only an agreement to do again what it did before – i.e., an administrative review but not an administrative investigation. The PD Response does not commit to its next administrative review involving the PD doing further investigation – meaning additional fact-finding after the criminal investigation. Instead, the PD Response disingenuously conflates an administrative review with an administrative investigation. This weasely use of words thereby redefines an “investigation” as a “non-investigation.” While the totalitarian State in George Orwell’s 1984 would pride itself on using language to make opposites identical, it is a misuse of language in 2015 Pasadena.

Renaming the non-investigation as an investigation started with the City Attorney’s Office in the PRA lawsuit

The OIR Report criticized the Pasadena PD for not conducting an administrative investigation; it described the PD’s administrative review as just repackaging the information from the criminal investigation. The strategy of renaming the administrative review as an administrative investigation, even when there was no new investigation in the administrative process, did not start with Chief Sanchez. When Chief Sanchez spoke to an ACT Steering Committee meeting about two years ago, he was quite precise in referring to what the Department did as an “administrative review.” We looked at Chief Sanchez’ past public statements and could not find his renaming the administrative review an administrative investigation before the Police Union initiated the Public Records Act lawsuit trying to block release of the OIR Report. But from the outset in that PRA suit, the Pasadena City Attorney – and the declarations it wrote for Deputy Chief Qualls and for Sergeant Grisafe – never referred to an “administrative review” but rather always referred to what the City had done as an administrative investigation. Conflating an administrative review with an administrative investigation was the City Attorney’s rhetorical strategy in the PRA lawsuit to try to palm off the administrative review as being more than repackaging old information. As far as we can determine, Chief Sanchez did not start using that rhetorical ploy to falsely claim that the PD was accepting OIR Recommendation #5. until he needed to in his December 3 Response to the OIR Report.

The price paid by debasing language

Whether to call the PD’s process an administrative investigation rather than an administrative review is not semantic nit-picking; it is a battle over whether language will be a useful instrument to solve problems or whether it will be used to deny and avoid problem-solving. George Orwell’s iconic “war is peace” had the State merge opposites for a reason central to his 1984 vision. The state in 1984 debased language by obscuring opposites to destroy critical analysis; renaming “war” as “peace’ normalized the militarization of the 1984 society by destroying language’s ability to accurately describe phenomena. The City Attorney’s and the PD’s renaming a non-investigation as an investigation similarly misuses language. The City Attorney renamed a non-investigation as its opposite for the purpose of giving false weight to the administrative review. Chief Sanchez renamed a non-investigation as an investigation for the purpose of avoiding accountability for the PD’s failure to conduct any new fact-finding in its administrative review, to deny and deflect the OIR Group’s criticisms rather than answering them, and to claim agreement with the OIR’s Recommendation #5 when in fact he has not agreed to it. The price of their debasement of language, if it is not called out and rejected, is avoiding critical self-assessment rather using it to self-improve and thereby to avoid the next tragedy.
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. The Pasadena PD’s response to the OIR Recommendations can be accessed at the following link as “Staff Report”:

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