Councilman Kennedy and Chief Sanchez exchange letters on police oversight
By André Coleman 10/30/2013
In one of two letters addressed to Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and copied to City Manager Michael Beck, Mayor Bill Bogaard and other top Pasadena officials, District 3 City Councilman John Kennedy called on his colleagues to set policies that would firmly establish how the Police Department should behave in the wake of officer-involved shootings.
Kennedy’s calls come just days after an Oct. 18 police shooting in which an allegedly armed man was shot and severely wounded at the Kings Villages housing complex, located near the corner of North Fair Oaks Avenue and Washington Boulevard, in Kennedy’s district. The recently elected councilman’s missives were written two weeks after he tried — and failed — to convince his council colleagues to form a civilian oversight board to keep tabs on local police activities.
The only trouble with Kennedy’s proposal is those post-shooting polices, all set by the Police Department and not the council, are already in place, and have been for many years.
“The overview, questions you pose and the request for protocols, timelines, and process are clearly defined and established within the department,” Sanchez wrote.
Despite the response, Kennedy told the Pasadena Weekly that he still is not satisfied with the department’s current protocol.
“The City Council is the policymaker,” Kennedy said. “Right now, the policy is being set by the Pasadena Police Department. It’s not just about this latest shooting. It is about all shootings going forward.”
The council has rejected ideas to form a police commission to oversee local police, with members of the council’s Public Safety Committee maintaining they are all that is needed to oversee and address any questionable police practices.
“The City Council loudly rejected even the notion of studying a police oversight body and reserved to itself that role,” Kennedy wrote in one of two letters to Sanchez, dated Oct. 19 and Oct. 20. In the Oct. 19 letter, Kennedy continued, “I call upon my colleagues to carry out their duty and to establish a regular and set process [or to review a process proposed by the Police Department] with respect to officer-involved shootings.”
In that letter, Kennedy proposes establishing a process in which the council designates which internal and external review boards would be used in officer-involved shootings, the criteria established for an external review, and development of the initial questions to be used in the review process. Kennedy also suggested the city create an anonymous witness hotline for citizens wishing to talk to police about shootings involving police officers.
But, again, all of those protocols are already in place, according to Sanchez.
In his response to the letter, Sanchez outlined the department’s policy following a shooting, which includes: a comprehensive investigation by the department, including interviews with all witnesses; an internal investigation, which includes reviews of the officer’s state of mind, tactics used, training utilized and procedures and equipment employed; and the use of external independent bodies, including the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“The overview questions you pose and the request for protocols, timelines and process are clearly defined and established within the department,” Sanchez wrote.
Despite the speedy response, Kennedy told the newspaper that he is still not satisfied with the current protocol.
Bogaard confirmed for the Weekly that the department’s policies were not established by the council, but rather by police after “careful thought out considerations, and are modified over time and are constantly being reviewed within the department.”
“There is no plan to bring the policies addressed by Mr. Kennedy to council at this time,” Bogaard said. “However, I will be meeting with the city manager to confer on these issues and [find out] how he would like to consider them.”
Kennedy penned his first letter to Sanchez on Oct. 19, the day after Pasadena police officers shot Paris Holloway, 23. Officers allegedly attempted to make contact with Holloway on Sunset Avenue in Northwest Pasadena. Holloway then fled into the nearby Kings Villages housing development, where he allegedly brandished a weapon. One officer fired several rounds, leaving Holloway severely wounded. Police officers say they found a gun in close proximity to Holloway, who was rushed to Huntington Hospital. There he underwent surgery for a collapsed lung. He is expected to recover from his wounds.
Holloway, who is currently on parole, has been charged with assault with a firearm on a peace officer, possession of a stolen firearm, possession of stolen property and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was transferred last week to Los Angeles County-USC Hospital, where he remains. A bullet particle has apparently lodged near his spine. He met with his attorney Kevin Lahuh on Saturday. An arrest warrant was served on him in the hospital. So far, there are no immediate plans to arraign Holloway, according to Lahuh.
“When he is well enough, he will be arraigned in the criminal case,” Lahuh told the Weekly. “The doctor has to sign off on him and it will happen when he is well enough.”
Shortly after the shooting, rumors began circulating regarding Holloway’s treatment by police. Consistent with department policy, Holloway was handcuffed after the shooting to make sure that he could not reach the gun or a secondary weapon.
The shooting came just weeks after the council overwhelmingly rejected previous calls by Kennedy to discuss funding a study examining citizen oversight of the Pasadena Police Department.
In that instance, Kennedy’s calls for the study came on the heels of investigations by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Pasadena Police Department, both of which ultimately cleared Officer Kevin Okamoto and Detectives Keith Gomez and William Broghamer of claims that they either individually or together attempted to influence witness testimony, inappropriately used an informant and failed to provide a copy of a search warrant when asked. Other claims against the officers included harassment, unlawful arrest, submission of a misleading police report and inappropriate recording of a jailhouse conversation.
The department is also waiting for the results of a probe being conducted by the Office of Independent Review into the March 2012 officer-involved shooting death of unarmed Kendrec McDade, 19, who was killed by police officers Matthew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen.
Regarding the most recent shooting Kennedy wrote:
“I have received a large number of calls from constituents over the recent shooting, some with legitimate questions, some expressing anger. Because there is no process,” Kennedy wrote to Sanchez, “I have nothing to tell them in terms of who will review the shooting, where they can have questions answered and what will the city do to insure that the rights of all, including the police officers involved, were protected.
“As I see it there is no process,” Kennedy wrote. “[It] is not fair to the community or to the police officers involved. I look forward to providing policy directive and input, in conjunction with my colleagues on the city council, as the city works through this most difficult police matter.”