Demands for police oversight, protests continue to evolve after massive public outcry over recent police shooting fatality
At a record-breaking, lengthy City Council meeting Monday, councilmembers finally agreed, unanimously, on an outline for the creation of a Police Oversight Committee.
During Monday’s council meeting, the predominant issue was the police shooting and killing of a Black man on Aug. 15 as he ran away from police during a routine traffic stop. Frustrated residents have been trying to address the disconnect in Pasadena for years.
Since the shooting of Anthony McClain last Saturday, the peaceful protests have remained in Pasadena. However, on Sunday an estimated crowd of about 70 Black Lives Matter protesters took their frustration to Los Angeles City Hall for more visibility.
Ahead of Monday’s meeting, residents sent in numerous letters to voice their concern. Council heard over three hours of public testimony demanding police oversite in addition to multiple requests for an independent investigator.
Pasadena resident Jennifer Collins wrote in a letter: “McClain’s death is a tragic and timely reminder that we cannot rely on police to supervise themselves, or on those connected to police to be unbiased about police actions. Law enforcement’s pro-slavery origins continue to influence how police interact with Black people. By establishing a Community Police Oversight Commission and an independent auditor function, Pasadena has the opportunity to fight the legacy of anti-Black racism.”
Another resident, Ruben Martinez, said: The events of last week and the murder of Anthony McClain by Pasadena Police officers show the need for oversight more than ever before. The police cannot police themselves. This has been proven over and over again. The oversight model you are putting forward is not strong enough. We need a Community Police Oversight Commission that is made up of city residents. If the duty of the Pasadena Police Department is to serve the residents, then it should not be at all controversial for the residents to have a say in the actions of the department. You also need to hire a paid, full-time independent police auditor who selects the oversight council, has subpoena power, and reports to the City Council. How many more Black people have to die at the hands of the Pasadena Police Department before the city government stops serving itself and instead serves the citizens it is supposed to protect?”
This week, Congresswoman Judy Chu said, “Upon hearing of Anthony McClain’s death, my office began receiving calls from residents concerned that yet again another member of the Black community had been killed at the hands of a police officer. I share their concerns, their frustration, and their anger. We depend on our law enforcement, and we need to trust them to protect our community as well as responsibly deescalate violence. This incident is not about an individual’s personal history, but whether or not the use of deadly force on a fleeing person was justifiable. I support the independent investigations into this matter and I expect that they be conducted transparently, quickly, and that they be released to the public as soon as possible. I also expect them to provide solutions so that future police interactions avoid adding to the growing death toll of Black men in our country. I hope that such actions will result in positive change and bring some peace to the family of Anthony McClain.”
Videos of the McClain shooting showed a Pasadena police officer fire at least two shots at him as he fled. McClain held what police believe was a “ghost gun,” though the family’s lawyer believes it was a belt buckle.
Pasadena police have released bodycam footage, video from the dashboard camera on the patrol car and surveillance video from a business. The officer who shot McClain did not have his camera turned on until after the shooting. Police did not explain why his camera had been turned off. The only bodycam video of the shooting was taken by the shooting officer’s partner on the scene, who did not fire at McClain. Police also released photographs of a handgun recovered at the scene.
While some citizens are calling for release of the names of the officers’ involved, others are requesting they be terminated from the department. Additionally, one resident has called for the resignation of Pasadena Police Chief John Perez.
“I am a black man and a parent of three teenage boys. I am teaching my children to respect our laws and elders and to honor our faith. I do not want my children to fear for their lives. Therefore, I support the proposal for a community police oversight commission as presented by the Public Safety Committee. After the officer involved shooting event of Aug. 15, it is of utmost importance that the council approve the proposal. There must be some accountability! As Councilmembers Steve Madison and Victor Gordo do their best to politicize the civilian oversight issue, the community will no longer sit back and say nothing.
“Our Community is crying for justice! The Pasadena Police department will appreciate the Civilian Community Oversight and an independent auditor — we will learn to work together. This proposal is a step in the right direction and a basic platform on which the City Council will be able to improve.
“I am hopeful that each member of our City Council will stand on the right side of history and vote YES for the proposal submitted by the Public Safety Committee,” said Julian Spratling, a Pasadena resident.
According to the City of Pasadena, the commission’s stated purpose “would be, through public meetings, to review and make recommendations to the chief of police, city manager and City Council regarding the ongoing operations of the Police Department; receive community feedback and complaints and refer them for further review; monitor and receive reports on hiring and training; monitor and publish statistics on uses of force, complaints, and outcomes; provide input on policy recommendations prior to adoption; receive reports from the Independent Police Auditor regarding critical incidents, policies, and other matters; and produce a publicly available annual report.’’
Mayor Terry Tornek insisted details of the process would be worked out when the ordinance comes back before the council in 30 or 60 days.