Notes on a tragedy
No quick answers in McDade shooting probe
By André Coleman 04/19/2012
Kendrec McDade’s shooting death is a tragedy that transcends politics. Sadly, rallies, lawsuits and investigations won’t end the grief McDade’s parents — Kenneth McDade and Anya Slaughter — will experience for years to come.
It’s been said before, and it bears repeating: This terrible event must be used as a teaching moment, not just for kids, but for parents. We have to ask our children where they are going at night and who they are going to be with. If we don’t like the answers, or if they don’t like the questions, we need to tell them to keep their butts at home.
If the police are hell bent on killing young black men — as some would have us believe — that is all the more reason to teach our children how to behave when they encounter police officers.
Anxious for answers
Don’t expect to get answers on the McDade shooting anytime soon. Investigative reports on the Maurice Clark, LaMont Robinson and Leroy Barnes Jr. officer-involved deaths all took about one year to complete.
Contrary to published reports, the FBI has not opened a probe into the legality of McDade’s shooting. Rather, the US Justice Department is investigating whether McDade’s civil rights were violated. That review could take a year or more.
And the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review’s (OIR) probe of the incident currently won’t be completed for six to seven months, at the earliest, according to police officials.
More OIR …
The OIR rarely places blame on people in its final assessments of most shooting incidents involving law enforcement officials. Anyone who carefully read the OIR’s summary of the investigation into the shooting death of Barnes in 2009 remembers that, although the independent group criticized the officers’ approach to the vehicle that the armed Barnes was riding in and even said the officers put themselves and the innocent driver of the vehicle in danger, OIR never said the officers or the department were wrong.
Instead, the agency made recommendations for more training and suggested policy changes in how the department handles witnesses and the media.
Letter of the law
If five members of the eight-member Pasadena City Council had signed the letter penned by Mayor Bill Bogaard and Councilman Chris Holden, a candidate for Assembly (Please see Page 6), it would have been a violation of the Brown Act, which governs open meetings. Under that state law, a quorum of council members cannot meet and take action without first giving the public proper notice. Any meeting on the letter would have to first be put on the council agenda. Knowing that, and hoping to get the message out as early as possible, as opposed to waiting for the council’s Monday night meeting, other members opted out of signing the letter if some of their colleagues could not sign.
NAACP Pasadena Branch President Joe Brown says the community is going to remember that certain council persons were not quick to respond regarding the McDade tragedy when voters next go to the polls. I doubt it. This issue probably won’t cost anyone a council seat. Actually, more people seem interested in the growing rift between the Pasadena Police Department and the NAACP — a division that Brown should quickly work to close before it becomes an irreparable chasm. African Americans have no hope of police policy change that could improve interactions between young black men and police without a united front between the local NAACP and the Pasadena Police Department.
More NAACP …
Within hours of demands by Brown and McDade family attorney Caree Harper for 911 caller Oscar Carrillo-Gonzalez to be arrested and for release of the names of the officers who shot McDade, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez held a press conference announcing Carrillo-Gonzalez had been arrested. Sanchez also released the names of the officers involved and played portions of the 911 call. Even after that, he met with several community groups and appeared on camera and radio to discuss the case. Yet people still said the Police Department wasn’t being transparent enough. In my opinion, he may have held too many meetings.
The calls for the release of every piece of information before the investigation is complete are unreasonable, in my opinion. So are some of the attacks on Sanchez. That includes those posted by former Pasadena police officers on the Pasadena Weekly Web site. Not surprisingly, many of those same top officers refused to comment during the Clark, Robinson and Barnes affairs.
Another interesting question
One of Harper’s first statements at a March 28 press conference at NAACP headquarters was a demand that police arrest Carrillo-Gonzalez, because she said his false report “triggered events that caused my client to be killed in the street like a dog.”
So why isn’t he named in the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Harper on behalf of the McDade family? The allegedly false statement he made to the 911 operator about McDade and a 17-year-old male being armed put both McDade and the minor at risk.
Looking back …
On the night of April 29, 1992 — 20 years ago next week — much of Los Angeles was in flames in the wake of the acquittal of the four LAPD officers who brutally beat former John Muir High School student Rodney King.
I was a 27-year old sportswriter working at the Pasadena Star-News at the time. What I have never forgotten is the number of white employees at the paper — many of whom did not believe beatings like that really happened — who were dumbstruck by the video shot by bystander George Holliday.
Twenty years later, we are still having conversations about issues related to basic equality and the interaction of police and minority communities. Hopefully, 20 years from now we will be talking about something else. But don’t count on it.