Pasadena City Council Makes Modest Police Reforms while South Pasadena Approves Increase in Police Funding

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Written by Will Hoadley-Brill

After about a week of sustained protesting as a result of the murder of Anthony McClain at the hands of Pasadena Police, the Pasadena City Council has unanimously voted to hire an independent police auditor (IPA) with subpoena power and establish a civilian oversight body. Activists in Pasadena have criticized these efforts as moderate steps toward seeking justice for Anthony McClain and all those who have been harmed or killed at the hands of the police. 

According to Pasadena Now, the IPA’s findings will not be able to be considered in determining disciplinary actions nor personnel decisions in the police department. Additionally, the IPA will report to the City Council and be hired by the City Attorney. Members of the City Council and the Pasadena NAACP chapter say that there is room and time in this process for this structuring of the IPA and citizen commission to be revised.

Some Pasadena activists criticize the IPA’s place in city government as the role of the City Attorney is to protect the city, thereby creating a conflict of interest in the oversight process. The specifics of who this IPA will be and if they will be a part of a larger third party organization has yet to be determined.

Meanwhile at the August 19 South Pasadena City Council meeting, the Council unanimously voted to approve the purchase of three fully outfitted motorcycles for the South Pasadena Police Department amounting to $114,338 (Agenda item 10). This decision was not made without community dissent via a public comment signed by 73 South Pasadena residents which can be viewed in full on page 144 of the meeting packet. The public comment cited the already large police vehicle fleet and the markedly lower need for traffic enforcement due to limited mobility of city residents. 

Additionally, the Council unanimously voted to accept a $165,000 grant from the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments Homeless Grant Award program to be used for “a prevention and diversion program to prevent city residents from becoming homeless.” $55,000 of this grant will be used in police activity associated with this homlessness diversion and prevention program including encampment cleanups and other direct police contact with unhoused members of the South Pasadena community. The originally proposed amount in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was $65,000 to be directed to police activities, but the Council elected to move $10,000 of those dollars to the outreach and housing vouchers program as a compromise with a public comment signed by 75 community members. 

The public comment read, “Strategies involving the police to address homelessness are ineffective, as officers are not professionally trained to provide housing, mental health, and other social services.” The residents went on to demand that, “No amount of funding from these grants should be made directly to the police department. None of the funded activities from these grants should involve the police department. The City’s Project Manager for this MOU should not be from the police department. Maximize funding for housing vouchers, eviction prevention assistance, housing navigation services, and case management services. Allocate funding to make South Pasadena’s housing navigator a full-time position, rather than sharing her services with other cities.” The full public comment can be read on page 156 of the meeting packet

As Pasadena attempts to reckon with the violence performed by their police department, South Pasadena has decided to expand its police budget two weeks before the second anniversary of the killing of Vanessa Marquez at the hands of South Pasadena police.

Contains information sourced from Helen Tran and Ella Hushagen

This article represents the views and opinions of the author solely and does not express the opinions of all ARC members.

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