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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / ‘Thorns on the Rose’ Examines Police Use of Force Against Black Men in Pasadena

‘Thorns on the Rose’ Examines Police Use of Force Against Black Men in Pasadena

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Pasadena chief of police announces no criminal charges will be filed against cops in the 2017 Chris Bellew beating in Altadena

A new independent film from Pasadena Black Pages depicting police brutality in Pasadena, directed by Dennis Haywood and produced by local journalist James Farr, will be released April 8 on Vimeo and Amazon.

The 60-minute documentary, entitled “Thorns on the Rose: Black Abuse, Corruption & the Pasadena Police” shows graphic footage caught on cellphone videos that puts “viewers directly into the intensity and trauma experienced by impacted grieving families and communities,” reeling from the aftermath when Black men in Pasadena are killed by police, according to promotional material for the film on Pasadena Black Pages.

Containing footage from several critical incidents in Pasadena, the film looks back over 40 years of history between the Pasadena Police Department and the Black community. “Pasadena Police have killed and abused dozens of Black men during that span with little to no consequences. ‘Thorns on the Rose’ will bring the viewer to the most recent homicide in 2020,” writes Pasadena Black Pages. That incident, the shooting death of Anthony McClain by a Pasadena officer last August, garnered significant media attention.

Spurred on by the murder of George Floyd and his distrust of Pasadena police, Haywood felt the exigent need to make this film with the help of local activists in the community.

“The film is important at this time because time is up. This city tries to hide its evilness and it’s time it was exposed. Dating back to Mack Robinson, Pasadena has been disrespectful to Black residents. My hope is to get Chief Perez ousted and for the officer who shot Anthony McClain in the back to be prosecuted like any other criminal who shoots an unarmed civilian in the back,” Haywood said.

“Police brutality against Black men in the United States has been on the rise during the past two decades, reverting to the 1950s and 60s when Black abuse was a frequent occurrence. Generations of Black men of that era viewed Law Enforcement as contemporary ‘slave patrols.’ Pasadena is no different. The Tournament of Roses and America’s Stadium, the Rose Bowl stand as a camouflaged backdrop to a growing community problem. The death of Black men at the hands of the Pasadena Police Department has planted seeds that have germinated and blossomed into arrangements of mistrust and fear,” Pasadena Black Pages wrote on Facebook.

Ironically, a day or two before the film’s release, Pasadena Police Chief John Perez announced that officers involved in another high-profile case caught on video tape — the beating of Christopher Ballew in 2017 — will not be facing any criminal charges.

“The PPD review focused on any potential violations of Department policies and applicable laws. Chief Perez determined that two claims against the officers were unfounded, officers were exonerated on a third claim, and a fourth claim was sustained,” the department said in a press release issued Monday. “One of the involved officers failed to turn on his body-worn camera prior to the incident and appropriate disciplinary action has been taken. All of the involved officers continue as members of the Pasadena Police Department.”

“Officers from the Pasadena Police Department very rarely use force during the arrests of suspects,” said Perez. “However, when force must be used in an arrest, the Department has policies and protocols in place to review the incidents internally, and, where appropriate, as here, seek an additional and separate review by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. While instances of use of force can be difficult to watch, our decisions must be based both on law and Department policies rather than on emotions. We continue to train our officers in de-escalation tactics and appropriate use of force.”

The Pasadena Police Department has been connected to many lawsuits and complaints of excessive force as well as racial profiling in the deaths of Leroy Barnes, Kendrec McDade, Reginald Thomas, Matthew Hurtado, Anthony McClain and the arrest and beating of Christopher Ballew — to name a few incidents from 2009 to present day 2021. John Burton, Ballew’s attorney, alleged that the Pasadena Police Department disproportionately targeted Black and Hispanic motorists during traffic stops.

A plethora of protests this year and in 2020 echo the national grief playing out now in courts around the country, particularly in the televised trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis cop who killed George Floyd when he put his knee on Floyd’s neck last May for over nine minutes, choking him.

Seasoned cops, including the police chief himself, testified that Floyd “should not have been kept pinned to the pavement for close to 9 1/2 minutes by prosecutors’ reckoning as the Black man lay face-down, his hands cuffed behind his back,” reports the Associated Press.

Eyewitness video and powerful still images and stories continue to inform communities about racial injustice and police use of force through local newspapers and websites in communities all across the United States.

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