Crime & Justice

Pasadena activists push for police auditor

City of Pasadena Police Officers attend the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade Presented by Honda on January 1, 2014 in Pasadena, California.
City of Pasadena Police Officers attend the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade Presented by Honda on January 1, 2014 in Pasadena, California.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

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Pasadena activists will try to convince city leaders Tuesday the police department should have additional civilian oversight – a six-year debate that’s gained some momentum over the last few months.

Mayor Terry Tornek is expected to participate in a forum at the Fuller Seminary Campus at 7 p.m. It's being put on by the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police, a group of activists advocating for a police auditor. 

The call for civilian oversight of the Pasadena Police Department first gained momentum after the fatal police shooting of Leroy Barnes in 2009. It's drummed on, but grew louder after the 2012 police shooting of 19-year old Kendrec McDade, who was unarmed.

Some council members have argued in the past that the Council’s Public Safety Committee is sufficient civilian oversight for the police department. It holds public meetings and can direct the Pasadena police chief to give details on department policy and projects.

Kris Ockershauser, who's helping organize Tuesday's forum, said the council members on that committee are spread thin. They also oversee the fire department, she said.

“They can’t really do very much in terms of robust, effective oversight," she said.

Ockershauser said an independent police auditor could review and monitor the police department’s complaint system and inspect systemic issues such as management policies and officer training.

Although the answer from City Hall in the past has mostly been “no” to additional civilian police oversight, the Pasadena City Council in June set aside $50,000 to study what models the city might consider.

But that study hasn’t been completed yet.

Tuesday's event will be moderated by Larry Wilson, Pasadena Star-News Public Editor. Other participants include Stella Murga of Adelante Youth Alliance, Gary Moody of the Greater Pasadena branch of the NAACP and Rev. Kerwin Manning of the Pasadena Clergy Community Coalition.

Meanwhile, the City Council last month decided not to appeal a recent state appellate court decision that said an independent report on the McDade shooting should be released to the public.

That document has been tied up in court for months.

The Pasadena Police Officers’ Association sued to the city to keep the report entirely secret but failed to get a court to rule in its favor. It has until October 20 to decide if it wants to appeal the recent ruling to the state Supreme Court.