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Home / John Kennedy

Council Debates Police Staffing in Wake of Recent Shootings

Chief Phillip Sanchez revealed that the police department does not have the resources to fund the additional manpower required by the investigation. – Photo by Terry Miller

By Gus Herrera

The Pasadena City Council’s first meeting of the year began with a special briefing from Police Chief Phillip Sanchez regarding the recent shootings on Jan. 6 and 7 that left two dead and three more injured.

In the following days, Pasadena PD ramped up its patrols, subsequently arresting “10 armed suspects, believed to be connected to local street gangs,” according to a statement released on Jan. 9.

The arrests were made over the span of three days, without incident, and, in each case, police seized multiple loaded firearms. All arrests were made by the Pasadena Gang Enforcement section and eight out of the 10 arrestees are residents of Pasadena.

According to Chief Sanchez, “Pasadena Police Detectives and Gang Officers are working extended hours to identify evidence, witnesses, or persons connected with the shootings.”

The chief also informed the council and mayor that the department is currently spending “between $16,000 and $20,000 to deploy the officers” for the extra service required under these circumstances.

All incidents are still pending further investigation and the “Pasadena PD will maintain … current deployment strategies for the immediate future,” said Chief Sanchez. It is believed that the shootings are gang-related and retaliatory in nature.

Upon conclusion of the police chief’s comments, deliberation over how best to proceed split into two general schools of thought – the first of which supported the police’s increased activity and sought to ultimately provide the chief with the resources necessary to continue.

“I fully support and appreciate the extra patrols on the streets and manpower devoted to the investigations,” said Mayor Terry Tornek.

Council Member Victor Gordo got straight to the point, asking the chief, “Are you comfortable that you have the overtime budget and resources that you need to properly … staff the police patrols in our city, in situations such as this?”

“Well Mr. Gordo, I don’t have the overtime budget for that … ” responded Chief Sanchez.

As the issue of police staffing was not officially on the evening’s agenda, Gordo requested that the subject be formally agendized as an action item, either for the city council or finance committee, so that the city may “provide the overtime budget that’s needed to properly staff patrols and the special enforcement section, as the chief deems necessary.”

City Manager Steve Mermell revealed that the current total budget for the police department is approximately $71 million and that proper funding might be a matter of moving around “certain line items … that [are] within [city] staff’s authority.”

“If there’s a need to increase the budget to address this need, we’ll certainly bring this back,” concluded Mermell.

On the other side of the coin, certain council members did not see additional policing as a solution to the underlying problem.

“I am hoping that the community will rise up and demand and offer solutions from ourselves, and where appropriate government, as we deal with the root causes of this type of violence and the resolution of conflict in a nonviolent manner,” said Council Member John Kennedy in a statement released Monday.

“What other things can we do besides policing? Everything is not a policing issue, otherwise we’re going to look at you, Chief [Sanchez], to solve all the problems in the City of Pasadena,” argued Council Member Tyron Hampton.”

Council Member Andy Wilson invoked a much more fundamental response, calling upon the residents of Pasadena to re-invigorate neighborhood watch programs, “As much as we’re eager to make sure we have sufficient staffing, the citizenry of this city is our first defense … I ask the public to continue to take on that role so [the police] can fry some bigger fish.”

Several speakers during public comment also spoke out against additional policing –  Attorney Dale Gronemeier argued in favor of “smart solutions, not kneejerk reactions” and suggested that the city focus its efforts on maintaining and properly training its officers, rather than increasing the police budget and potentially drawing funds away from other city programs/departments.

Local activist Jasmine Abdullah Richards had a much different perspective on the police’s increased activity, claiming that officers were “antagonizing people as if [it] was an occupied area … pulling over everyone.”

“Give us resources in Northwest Pasadena, stop treating these kids as criminals – the whole community is grieving – what you see as a thug, I see as a baby trying to find his way,” she said.

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