Pasadena City Council Moves on Police Oversight in Wake of Anthony McClain’s Death
Demandsfor police oversight, protests continue to evolve after massive public outcryover recent police shooting fatality
At a record-breaking,lengthy City Council meeting Monday, councilmembers finally agreed,unanimously, on an outline for the creation of a Police Oversight Committee.
During Monday’s council meeting, the predominant issue was the police shooting and killing of a Black man on Aug. 15 as he ran away from police during a routine traffic stop. Frustrated residents have been trying to address the disconnect in Pasadena for years.
Since theshooting of Anthony McClain last Saturday, the peaceful protests have remainedin Pasadena. However, on Sunday an estimated crowd of about 70 Black Lives Matterprotesters took their frustration to Los Angeles City Hall for more visibility.
Ahead ofMonday’s meeting, residents sent in numerous letters to voice their concern. Councilheard over three hours of public testimony demanding police oversite inaddition to multiple requests for an independent investigator.
Pasadena residentJennifer Collins wrote in a letter: “McClain’s death is a tragic and timelyreminder that we cannot rely on police to supervise themselves, or on thoseconnected to police to be unbiased about police actions. Law enforcement’s pro-slaveryorigins continue to influence how police interact with Black people. Byestablishing a Community Police Oversight Commission and an independent auditorfunction, Pasadena has the opportunity to fight the legacy of anti-Black racism.”
Anotherresident, Ruben Martinez, said: The events of last week and the murder ofAnthony McClain by Pasadena Police officers show the need for oversight morethan ever before. The police cannot police themselves. This has been provenover and over again. The oversight model you are putting forward is not strongenough. We need a Community Police Oversight Commission that is made up of cityresidents. If the duty of the Pasadena Police Department is to serve theresidents, then it should not be at all controversial for the residents to havea say in the actions of the department. You also need to hire a paid, full-timeindependent police auditor who selects the oversight council, has subpoenapower, and reports to the City Council. How many more Black people have to dieat the hands of the Pasadena Police Department before the city government stopsserving itself and instead serves the citizens it is supposed to protect?”
This week, CongresswomanJudy Chu said, “Upon hearing of Anthony McClain’s death, my office beganreceiving calls from residents concerned that yet again another member of theBlack community had been killed at the hands of a police officer. I share theirconcerns, their frustration, and their anger. We depend on our law enforcement,and we need to trust them to protect our community as well as responsiblydeescalate violence. This incident is not about an individual’s personalhistory, but whether or not the use of deadly force on a fleeing person wasjustifiable. I support the independent investigations into this matter and Iexpect that they be conducted transparently, quickly, and that they be releasedto the public as soon as possible. I also expect them to provide solutions sothat future police interactions avoid adding to the growing death toll of Blackmen in our country. I hope that such actions will result in positive change andbring some peace to the family of Anthony McClain.”
Videos of the McClain shooting showed a Pasadena police officer fire at least two shots at him as he fled. McClain held what police believe was a “ghost gun,” though the family’s lawyer believes it was a belt buckle.
Pasadenapolice have released bodycam footage, video from the dashboard camera on thepatrol car and surveillance video from a business. The officer who shot McClaindid not have his camera turned on until after the shooting. Police did notexplain why his camera had been turned off. The only bodycam video ofthe shooting was taken by the shooting officer’s partner on the scene, who didnot fire at McClain. Police also released photographs of a handgun recoveredat the scene.
While somecitizens are calling for release of the names of the officers’ involved, othersare requesting they be terminated from the department. Additionally, oneresident has called for the resignation of Pasadena Police Chief John Perez.
“I am ablack man and a parent of three teenage boys. I am teaching my children torespect our laws and elders and to honor our faith. I do not want my childrento fear for their lives. Therefore, I support the proposal for a communitypolice oversight commission as presented by the Public Safety Committee. Afterthe officer involved shooting event of Aug. 15, it is of utmost importance thatthe council approve the proposal. There must be some accountability! AsCouncilmembers Steve Madison and Victor Gordo do their best to politicize thecivilian oversight issue, the community will no longer sit back and saynothing.
“OurCommunity is crying for justice! The Pasadena Police department will appreciatethe Civilian Community Oversight and an independent auditor — we will learn towork together. This proposal is a step in the right direction and a basicplatform on which the City Council will be able to improve.
“I amhopeful that each member of our City Council will stand on the right side ofhistory and vote YES for the proposal submitted by the Public Safety Committee,”said Julian Spratling, a Pasadena resident.
According tothe City of Pasadena, the commission’s stated purpose “would be, through publicmeetings, to review and make recommendations to the chief of police, citymanager and City Council regarding the ongoing operations of the PoliceDepartment; receive community feedback and complaints and refer them forfurther review; monitor and receive reports on hiring and training; monitor andpublish statistics on uses of force, complaints, and outcomes; provide input onpolicy recommendations prior to adoption; receive reports from the IndependentPolice Auditor regarding critical incidents, policies, and other matters; andproduce a publicly available annual report.’’
Mayor TerryTornek insisted details of the process would be worked out when the ordinancecomes back before the council in 30 or 60 days.