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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / What to Do With Old Pasadena Police Records Is Stalemate for City Council

What to Do With Old Pasadena Police Records Is Stalemate for City Council

by Pasadena Independent
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-Courtesy Photo

-Courtesy Photo

By Nick Kipley


It is policy for the officiates of the Pasadena Police Department’s (PPD) Department of Internal Affairs (IA) to police PPD officers and their adherence to departmental policy.

In other words: PPD’s IA acts as a sort of “legal HR,” which operates independently of—but simultaneously in concordance with—the PPD for the sake of providing accountability and transparency to the entire department.

That in mind, Resolution #11 of Monday night’s city council agenda was pulled from the Consent Calendar and discussed following concerns by some that the piece of legislature originally suggested to the Public Safety Committee was not in Pasadena’s best interest.

If adapted, the resolution would authorize, “Chief of Police [Philip Sanchez] to destroy internal affairs files regarding investigations and non-hire background files,” from 1997 through 2009, and would further authorize the chief to destroy the files of the potential police candidates that the PPD never hired (through-to 2009).

Seated on the dais, Sanchez’s presentation broke down the language of the ordinance for the benefit of the citizens crowded into the council chamber not familiar with state law.

“First off,” the Chief began, “State law requires that the City Council approve by resolution the destruction of Police Department non-hire background files,” and then noted that such files are normally kept for a minimum of two years pursuant to State law, before clarifying with, “I cannot move forward with the destruction of any files without the consent of City Council.”

Furthermore, the Chief explained that the Council must also approve by resolution the destruction of the Pasadena Police Department’s [Department of] Internal Affairs Investigation Files, which must be kept for a minimum of five years, also pursuant to California law. Chief Sanchez explained that files gathered by IA in regards to investigations dealing with PPD officers involved in instances of sexual misconduct, allegations of an officer’s lapse in integrity, cases of dishonesty on behalf of an officer, and any officer-involved shooting, would not be destroyed.

Speaking during public comment on behalf of the ACLU, Ms. Michelle White voiced concern that the language of the ordinance allowed for the destruction of files of officers who still may be on the force. White alleged that there are currently 56 officers on the force with misconduct records (mainly pertaining to abusive language and behavior and sub-standard performance) and also claimed that the excuse made by the PPD in the past about how the files are being shredded for the sake of physical space could be easily fixed by simply digitizing IA’s investigative and disciplinary paperwork.

Mr. Ed W. commented that the destruction of the files pertaining to use of force should be maintained given the Pasadena Police Department is in the midst of preparing itself for an exterior consultant whose job will be to assess whether or not the, “the need for police oversight,” is needed in Pasadena.

Towards the end of the discussion, Councilmember Victor Gordo claimed that the reason that the old files are periodically shredded is in concordance with the Peace Officer Bill of Rights, and this periodic slate-cleaning allows officers out on the job freedom worry that some very old complaint against them might suddenly resurface and compromise their position.

Then the roll was taken by City Clerk Jomsky, the ordinance failed, with four “yes” votes, and four votes, “no.”

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