In plain sight
Community members want civilian review board reinstated to watch police
By André Coleman 08/09/2012
Following a number of allegations of misconduct leveled against local law enforcement officials, the Pasadena branches of the ACLU and NAACP as well as community activists on Monday renewed calls for the formation of a civilian oversight board to keep an eye on the Pasadena Police Department.
“We know that when you have oversight that people who are afraid to file claims will file them,” said Pasadena Community Coalition member Martin Gordon. “You want an ordinary, reasonable person providing oversight to police practices in Pasadena. It is unreasonable for the police to be policing the police.”
The department faces half a dozen complaints, most centering on Officer Kevin Okamoto, who has been placed on paid leave while allegations against him — including the withholding of exculpatory evidence and attempted bribery — are investigated by the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
Critics of civilian oversight of the Police Department say most of the incidents being investigated stem from 2007, three years prior to Chief Phillip Sanchez’s taking over the department. Some of those critics also say the city already has a civilian oversight board — the Public Safety Committee of the City Council. That four-member board is made up of Council members Jacque Robinson, Gene Masuda, Margaret McAustin and Steve Madison, the committee’s chair.
The four council members assumed sole responsibility for overseeing police after the city’s last civilian review board was disbanded in 2010. The end came after city officials refused to make public the names of the oversight board’s members, a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, which governs open meetings. According to police officials, members of the citizens’ board were wary about having their identities revealed.
Members of that body were required to complete training at the citizens’ police academy before sitting on the board. Gordon said he completed the training shortly before the board was disbanded.
Despite accusations that the citizen oversight board served as a rubber stamp for the department, the board took up misconduct and use-of-force issues, including incidents involving LaMont Robinson and Maurice Clark, both of whom were killed in officer-involved violence in 2005.