'A step backwards'
NAACP opposes decision to allow sheriff to investigate officer-involved shootings
By André Coleman 04/09/2014
The NAACP Pasadena Branch has voted to oppose Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez’s decision to call in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to investigate officer-involved shootings.
NAACP President Gary Moody made the announcement in an email on April 2.
“This is a step backwards, not forwards,” Moody said. “There is a serious issue of trust for the Sheriff’s Department. It would be better for the Pasadena PD to continue to be accountable for its own investigations than to inject Sheriff’s Department officers into Pasadena.”
Calls for more police oversight began shortly after the Kendric McDade shooting in 2012. McDade, 19, was shot and killed by two Pasadena police officers after a short foot pursuit. The incident began after a 911 caller told police that he had been robbed at gunpoint by two African-American men. He later admitted he lied about the weapon to get a faster police response.
The officers have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the department, the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department. A final investigation by the Office of Independent Review is ongoing.
Moody also announced that the organization voted to support a suggestion by ACLU Senior Attorney Peter Bibring to create a police auditor that would report to the Pasadena City Council’s Public Safety Committee (PSC).
According to Moody, the NAACP supports the position because council members do not have the time and resources to effectively monitor the Police Department. According to Moody, a full-time police independent auditor who has the power and resources to investigate, audit and monitor the Police Department would strengthen the ability of busy PSC members to conduct effective oversight.
The NAACP also voted to join an ACLU-led community coalition advocating increased civilian oversight of the department.
“An extra set of eyes and ears for the PSC would be helpful at this time given the challenges they face,” said attorney Elbie J. Hickambottom Jr., the NAACP’s representative to the coalition. “We have a part-time city council and a part-time Public Safety Committee, which makes it particularly important they be given as many tools as possible to do the job. I think progressive cities have started considering civilian oversight and we need to have that discussion here.”
Sanchez announced at a PSC meeting on March 17 that he would use the Sheriffs Department to investigate all OIS incidents. At that meeting, Sanchez said use-of-force incidents during arrests have dropped by about 33 percent since 2012. Last year there were 35 such incidents during 6,630 arrests. That number is down from 52 and 53 use-of-force incidents in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The decline in the use of force during arrests has resulted in fewer complaints against officers.
In 2013, 57 investigations were launched against officers, down from 89 the year before.
Allegations made by members of the public against officers have included rudeness, refusal to take a crime reports and false arrest.
Of those 57, 12 officers faced disciplinary action. Five were suspended. Five received verbal warnings and two were ordered to undergo additional training.