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By Terry Miller
ACLU Praises Chief Sanchez’s Effort to Track Officer Misconduct
Pasadena Chief Sanchez -Photo by Terry Miller
In recent weeks implications have made by a local newspaper that intimate Pasadena’s Mayor Bill Bogaard has little confidence in Police chief Phillip Sanchez regarding recent publicity of two police officers’ alleged misconduct. The newspaper claimed the mayor “wondered whether Sanchez has been too busy socializing while his department has seemingly grown out of control.”
While the story was not using an actual quote, Mayor Bogaard said in a telephone interview Thursday with this newspaper that he has always stood by Chief Sanchez from the beginning of his time here in Pasadena and does so now, completely. The mayor added that the alleged comments were not a direct quote and never said had he said he no confidence in Chief Sanchez’ running of the Police Dept. Bogaard added that he was in a meeting (at his request) with Brian Charles and Frank Girardot in the Star News recently with the hope of fostering better communications between local reporters and the city.
Andre Coleman of the Pasadena Weekly perhaps said it best in the headline of his story in last week’s Pasadena Weekly article: “Vote of Confidence – Bogaard Denies Questioning police chief’s leadership.”
In a telephone interview Thursday Chief Sanchez told the Independent that he never “socializes” or drinks alcohol when at these events in Pasadena. “ I’m always wearing my uniform and I’m always on duty.” Sanchez said.
The allegations ( involving police officers Okamoto and Gomez and others) that have come to light, some of which are a decade old, via attorneys Michael Kraut and Caree Harper, involve a number of cases that have actually since been closed and /or complaints proven unfounded. However, each complaint has to be dealt with according to the law, Sanchez said.
Following police protocol, a period of internal review, Sanchez has turned over the complaints against these officers to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigations dept.
Last Thursday the PSN said “Community leaders on Wednesday called for sweeping changes in the city’s police department as allegations of gross misconduct continue to surface”
The article went on to cite only two people who are saying the dept. needs to have these “sweeping” changes to ‘restore confidence in the dept.’
Actually, when we spoke to city leaders and officials we got the opposite story and many believe that Sanchez has done an excellent job and continues to do so throughout the efforts to track any officer misconduct in his dept.
Robin Salzar, who owns Robin’s Woodfire BBQ, a 30 year resident of Pasadena has seen a lot of police chiefs come and go. Pasadena Independent spoke with Salzar Thursday for his take of the issue.
Salzar said “Chief Phillip Sanchez is the most proactive, effective chief we’ve had in this city for 30 years.” Salzar added “ Sanchez has set the Gold Standard for community outreach, openness and transparency. His leadership is unparalleled.” We asked Salzar what he thought of the alleged comments made by the Mayor and Salzar said “I’ve known the Mayor for a long time and know he would stand by his Chief of Police .” Salzar added “ If he didn’t agree, he’d discuss the matter privately with Sanchez first.”
“Like any organization or restaurant like mine, you may have a bad apple or two…you have to deal with this and carry on. Police Chief Sanchez has done exactly this, ” Salzar added, however, that if in fact, any of the allegations against these officers is true, then the department needs to relieve them of duty in the appropriate and legal matter.
Salzar reiterated his uttermost faith in Phillip Sanchez as the helm of the Police Dept. by saying “Sanchez has truly set the Gold Standard in Pasadena.”
Dave Peterson, an East Pasadena resident and owner of several up and coming marketing businesses agrees with Salzar and said that he has “ One hundred percent faith in the way Chief Sanchez is handling the personal issues, after all, that’s exactly what they are – personal issues.” Peterson went on to say that he believed if there is wrong doing in the dept. that he too wants to know. However “ allegations, insinuations and pure name calling is childlike behavior.”
Peterson should know, as a former teacher, he’s dealt with many such issues in his tenure. Peterson also spoke highly of Mayor Bogaard and said he “doubted very much that Mayor Bogaard would damage the reputation of Chief Sanchez.”
In the coming weeks we will look closer at how Internal Affairs works in the Pasadena Police Dept., and how investigations such as those Chief Sanchez is now dealing with get handled.
During a Public Safety Committee Re Police Oversight meeting held in the basement of city hall Monday,
Members of the committee heard from several in the community who have concerns and comments on the way the Police dept. is handling the investigations of officer misconduct.
On Monday afternoon, Kris Ockershauser, ACLU-SC Pasadena/Foothill Chapter, read a statement to the Safety Committee regarding Police Oversight during their regular scheduled meeting:
“The ACLU’s experience with citizen oversight boards is a rather mixed bag . Studies of such boards have shown that over time, the citizens on the boards tend to end up seeing things from the police point of view. After all, the police have the staff, the time, the interest to influence citizen members to their advantage. That seems to have been the experience here in Pasadena with the previous oversight boards. The research shows that oftentimes the officer members of the board are harsher in their punishment of misconduct by fellow officers.
So, how can elected officials and police leadership assure the citizenry that police will be held accountable for misconduct, and that the process will be transparent to the public?
First, independent investigative capacity of any serious use of force misconduct is critical. The Public Safety Committee could hire an independent investigator, freeing the Committee from dependence on the police investigating themselves. The L.A. County Office of Independent Review would be a respected additional entity to assure quality investigation and independence.
Additionally, to provide greater transparency, the Public Safety Committee could, as LAPD has, require regular reports on citizen complaints, the use of force, and officer discipline. LAPD, e.g., provides to the Board of Police Commissioners written summaries of serious uses of force that keep the officers anonymous. Regular and substantive reporting can go a long way to keeping Committee members and the public informed.
These suggestions would be, in our opinion, a good beginning to bring greater transparency and accountability to our police department.
I would like to commend here Chief Sanchez’s effort to track officer misconduct with a new tracking process he announced at the July Committee meeting. Establishing a reliable record can give the Department and those responsible for oversight a better handle on things than we seem to have now.”
Joe Brown from the NAACP was a little more firm in saying he felt “there is something wrong with the (Police) Dept.” However, Brown added that there needs to be more community participation in these committee meetings and at a more agreeable location at time to accommodate more than city council people. “They should not have it in the basement of city hall at 4:30 in the afternoon…the average working man or woman would be unable to attend.”
Brown told Beacon Media Tuesday morning.
Brown also said that the committee has failed to give a single report of their findings to any local media.
“The residents of Pasadena are not dumb people. This is serious,we need an oversight committee to report and make those suggestions more accessible.” Brown told the Independent.
While saying the dept. (police) needs to be more transparent Brown conceded that citizen input is vital. However Brown said he feels there is a cancer in the police department and wants to know.