A forum will be held this Tuesday July 22 at the Pasadena Central Library Auditorium from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The title of the forum is "Policing Law Enforcement: Should There Be Increased Oversight of Pasadena's Police Department By A Police Auditor Reporting to the Public Safety Committee?"
It is sponsored by Pasadena ACT and co-sponsored by organizations such as the Pasadena NAACP, ACLU SoCal Pasadena/Foothills Chapter, All Saints Church, and other groups.
A debate will take place between Pasadena Councilman Steve Madison and ACLU attorney Peter Bibring. The debate will be moderated by former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.
Pasadena is well known for its many citizen boards, making it difficult to understand why certain officials would resist establishing an independent police commission or oversight committee, one that would help represent the views and concerns of all of the city's residents.
Along with many other police agencies across the country, the Los Angeles Police Department, which for many years was seen as an occupying force in that city's poor, minority communities, especially in the 1980s, has a police commission, one comprised of well-known and competent members.
Under the heading "The Function and Role of the Board of Police Commissioners," the LAPD Web site states: "The Board of Police Commissioners serves as the head of the Los Angeles Police Department, functioning like a corporate board of directors, setting policies for the department and overseeing its operations. The board works in conjunction with the chief of police who acts as a chief executive officer and reports to the board. There are five civilian members who make up the Board of Police Commissioners."
Why is the city of Pasadena so far behind on this issue, especially if there is really nothing to hide or fear with regard to the conduct of its police officers? Why do certain city officials object to this idea?
What really needs to occur are changes in policies regarding community policing and procedures involved with the racial profiling of minorities, especially young people. These and many other issues, including procedures used in investigating police shootings of minorities, need to be addressed.
Some elected officials have said they provide independent voices on the City Council's Public Safety Committee, and that the job the committee does in overseeing police behavior is good enough. But many disagree. The current committee members include Council members Jacque Robinson, who serves as chair, John Kennedy, Steve Madison and Gene Masuda. Almost half of the population in the city of Pasadena is Latino, but not one Public Safety Committee member is Latino or Latina. What a shame.
Some people have said that if residents are allowed to be part of a police commission, they would then be thugs, or they would at least be representing thugs. That is a racially biased mentality, with people inferring that all minorities are potential gang members themselves, or have gang ties.
Then there are those who erroneously believe that people with accents would not be competent enough to serve on such a commission. That is discriminatory, racist and just plain ignorant. Being bilingual is a plus in our society. Having an accent should not be perceived as a negative. If anything, being able to habla español should be viewed as an asset.
We have many upstanding people who could be part of a city police commission. Of course, they would need to be representative of our community in terms of diversity.
Just as Pasadena prides itself on hosting Caltech, the Rose Bowl, the Rose Parade and many other outstanding institutions, the mayor and City Council should look into adding a Pasadena Police Commission to its list of community treasures.
Such a move would show to the world that Pasadena is a city of intellect and political transparency, one that supports and protects the civil and human rights of its residents. A city that does not target, monitor, and conducts illegal surveillance of its residents and activists.
The blatant targeting of minority youth can no longer be tolerated. This is not a developing country, a dictatorship or some authoritarian regime.
This is the United States of America, where all of our constitutional rights must be protected by any means necessary. A good joint effort at protecting our rights would be the formation of a city police commission.
Let us not debate this important issue for another decade. It is time to implement an independent oversight commission.
Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the book The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7. Web-site: WWW.RANDYJURADOERTLL.COM