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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / An Interview with Pasadena Chief of Police Phil Sanchez

An Interview with Pasadena Chief of Police Phil Sanchez

by Terry Miller
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Sanchez acknowledges the 58 recommendations of the audit while at the same time commends his dept. for exemplary police work during his tenure. – File photo by Terry Miller

By Nick Kipley

After this Monday’s meeting of the Public Safety Committee, there was much deliberation by Pasadena residents over the Performance Audit of Detective Operations issued by the Veritas Assurance Group, Inc.
The comprehensive report outlines weaknesses in the current policies and procedures that the Pasadena Police Department follows; and the audit report makes sure that the remedies to adjusting these policies pack a certain heft to them.
In interviewing Police Chief Sanchez of the Pasadena Police Department, one of the first things that became apparent is that the Chief is grateful that the audit was able to expose so many weaknesses in the Pasadena Police Department.
When asked about how the filing of complaints against officers was brought up in the audit, Chief Sanchez responded with robust confidence: “It’s very thorough.” He said, illuminating the whole process, “… after a complaint is processed, documented and submitted, there’s a board that assesses each complaint comprised of me (the Chief), the Deputy Chief, three Commanders (or Captains), the Lieutenant of Internal Affairs, and the Lieutenant of the Subject Employee [who falls on the receiving end of the complaint].” What the report was discussing was the thoroughness of the procedure, he explained. From the panel, four classifications of the complaint-at-large can be reached.
Chief Sanchez explained that the complaint can be “sustained” (meaning the officer in question did do what the complaint is suggesting), the complaint can be “not sustained” (meaning that it cannot be proved whether the officer did or didn’t do what is being alleged by the person filing the complaint), the complaint can be exonerated (meaning the what happened in the complaint did indeed happen but it wasn’t illegal), or the complaint can be declared “unfounded,” meaning what was alleged never happened.
Chief Sanchez explained that some of these procedures were built from policing models presented to them by the firm Lexipol: “They [Lexipol] suggest us some things and we might accept them, or we might not. If Lexipol says, ‘Hey, on Tuesdays your officers should wear flip-flops to work,’ I might say, ‘Great, sounds good,’ you know? Or I also might also say, ‘Well you know, I feel our officers need to be up to a certain standard in their policing so wearing flip-flops might not be prurient,’ and reject the policy. To give an extreme example.”
Lexipol is an organization which provides thousands of public safety agencies throughout the country with policing procedures and Chief Sanchez refers to Lexipol as a “constitutionally based best-practice policy model.” He claims that there are certain policies within his police department that are “Lexipol Pure.”
For instance, the Pasadena Police department’s Policy #402—Pasadena’s Racial or Biased Based Profiling—is “Lexipol Pure,” whereas the SWAT ordinance is “more of Pasadena’s.”
“Deadly force and use of force boards are mine,” says Sanchez.
Explaining the “use of force boards” so that a “seven-year-old might understand it” as was requested by the Independent, Chief Sanchez obliged: “Officers go out to a call for domestic violence. The bad guy is told he is going to go to jail, so he punches one of the officers without warning or provocation. His partner Tasers the ‘bad’ individual after issuing a verbal warning to him. After the suspect is cuffed, the officer who used the Taser calls in and says, ‘This is Officer Smith [etc.] I have had to deploy use of force.’ His supervisor then comes out, takes pictures for a report, and that report goes to the use of force board (which operates much like the complaint board mentioned above). The officer who used force’s administrator or section lieutenant then provides the reason for use of force to the board. The Chief (me) then listens to the board as to whether the use of board was in policy.”
What was striking about Chief Sanchez was his willingness to explain any situation in terms that anyone in the community might understand. He welcomes comments and wants to engage with those who feel that there are ways in which the Pasadena Police Department can improve.
“I have some extraordinary police detectives,” he said, “they are highly trained, motivated, skilled, and tenured. And we need to continue to try to attract diverse and professional individuals so we can provide the best policing possible.” Chief Sanchez believes that because of this willingness to explain things to the community, to grow from criticism, and to constantly analyze new policies, The Pasadena Police Department he commands “is second to none in respect to the quality of Policing Services they deliver.”

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