Guest Opinion | Public Safety First – Safe Streets and Safe Neighborhoods Mean a Safe Pasadena

first_imgEVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT | FOOD & DRINK | THE ARTS | REAL ESTATE | HOME & GARDEN | WELLNESS | SOCIAL SCENE | GETAWAYS | PARENTS & KIDS 3 recommended0 commentsShareShareTweetSharePin it Every New Year’s Day we welcome the world to Pasadena, and the world catches a glimpse of Pasadena as a cultural destination, center for education, and a great place to eat, work, play, and live. As football and roses fill the air, our commitment to a great quality of life is displayed for all to see, a significant part of which is ensuring that every street and playground in this City is safe and enjoyable. At the April 18, 2016, City Council meeting, I questioned whether Pasadena has strayed from this commitment, and proposed that we must realign the focus of our public safety discussions to prioritize the safety of every neighborhood in the City.I posed this question because there were a staggering 80 shootings in our City’s neighborhoods and parks in 2015. This compares with an unacceptable 38 shootings in 2011 and 43 shootings in 2014. Already this year, as of April 20, 2016, Pasadena experienced 28 shootings.Over the same period, the number of police officers patrolling our City has dipped to a level that is inconsistent with Pasadena’s commitment to keep all neighborhoods safe. While enforcement alone does not ensure the safety of a community, it is an important component to keeping our streets safe. In 2010, Pasadena budgeted for 274 officers, in 2011, our budgeted officers dipped to 251, and our 2016 budget allocated 239 officers to keep us safe—with only 216 currently on the force.To some, these are just numbers. But our neighbors and I can tell you they are much more than that. For example, when the police department was fully staffed there were two Neighborhood Action Teams (NAT) consisting of five officers and one sergeant. Our NAT officers were on bikes and on foot, on the ground in our neighborhoods which allowed them to develop relationships and partner with neighbors to effectively address issues before problems got out of hand. NAT teams also were effective at addressing persistent problems, such as nuisance properties. With the staffing cuts, we lost our NAT teams. Our Special Enforcement Section, the Police Department’s muscle against the worst of the bad actors, dwindled from twenty-three (23) experienced officers to fewer than ten (10). This loss of officers also has meant fewer resources to investigate crime and monitor critical issues in our neighborhoods.I also posed this question because, even as the shootings have increased, our City public safety discussions have focused almost singularly around the issue of police oversight and a possible police auditor. While I support transparency, accountability, and trust, and agree that these issues must be a part of the public safety discussion, I also ask should police oversight receive priority as the sole and primary issue at a time when we are experiencing such an increase in violence and shootings?While some have accused me of “derailing” efforts to implement an Independent Police Auditor (IPA), I ask them why I am wrong for posing the question about prioritizing the safety and security of our City residents and doing all we can to stop the violence. Given the lack of resources and increase in violence noted above, I urge us all to look at the facts that the consultants and proponents of an IPA seem to ignore. First, in calendar year 2015, fifty-two (52) complaints alleging misconduct by Pasadena police officers were initiated and processed by the Department. Twenty-six (26) of those complaints resulted from traffic accidents involving police officers. Pasadena Police Department policy dictates that all traffic accidents involving a police officer must result in a complaint investigation of the officer involved. The remaining twenty-six (26) complaints involved alleged officer misconduct. Of the twenty six (26) complaints involving alleged officer misconduct, as of January 1, 2016 nineteen (19) complaints had been investigated by Police Chief Phil Sanchez who has determined that eighteen (18) of the nineteen (19) complaints had merit and were sustained against the officer. A sustained complaint typically results in the issuance of training or discipline and the record of either is entered in the officer’s personnel file. As of Jan 1, 2016 this left seven (7) complaint investigations to be completed. This is evidence of a Police Department and Police Chief that take seriously resident complaints, ensures they are investigated, and sustains complaints when warranted. Based upon these statistics, I question whether there is a basis for the City to spend up to five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) a year on an IPA instead of policing when we are experiencing a rash of shootings? As a Councilperson and as a resident in our community, I challenge anyone to dispute the validity of the questions I am posing in our City’s public safety discussion.As I have raised these questions on behalf of my family, neighbors and constituents, I recommend that our resources must instead prioritize the rise in crime experienced in our parks and neighborhoods over the last two years. I have hosted too many community meetings this past year and have heard first-hand the anxiety and instability caused by the rise in violence. Parents have shared their concern about the safety of their family; a 6 year old child asked what we are going to do to keep his park safe. I have heard our neighbors question the resources we as a City are putting forth to address the rise in violence. Having heard these voices, I simply will not discuss the subject of public safety which is solely focused on police oversight. So, I propose that we act on these concerns by working together in a comprehensive approach.We all should be engaged in the upcoming City Council budget discussions to ensure that the City’s priority in the next budget is–Public Safety First!– with a comprehensive plan that includes: 1) staffing the police department at a level closer to 260 officers, including return of the NAT teams and a fully staffed Special Enforcement Section—the retention of experienced officers must be a priority ; 2) staffing parks with Park Rangers/Specialists; 3) ensuring our parks and community centers are properly staffed to provide educational, entertaining and healthy activities; and 4) ensuring our community reintegration programs are properly resourced to support our realignment population. These are just a few ideas to include in the discussion; I look forward to hearing more from my colleagues and our neighborhoods.With regard to police oversight, I recommend that the City Council receive quarterly public safety reports from the Police Department. The reports should include information related to the number of personnel complaints initiated against Police Department personnel, type of complaint, and the disposition of the complaint. We need not, nor can we, discuss the name of the complainant or of the officer. This reporting will provide transparency and an opportunity for all to hear first-hand how the Police Department receives and processes’ resident complaints without the need to spend up to five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000). Based upon the facts developed in this approach, our City Council can better determine if another form of police oversight is warranted.As we address these important points, our community should begin addressing the broad brush vilification of police officers that has taken root across the nation. We should recognize the community voices that point to policing issues that should be addressed. At the same time, I urge us to recognize that the great majority of our officers are well-trained professionals dedicated to protecting us and simply looking forward to going home safe to their own families every day.Pasadena is a great City. Let’s redouble our efforts to ensure that it shines every day of the year, not just on New Year’s Day when roses and football fill the air. The safety and reputation of our City depend on it. Community News Subscribe Name (required)  Mail (required) (not be published)  Website  More Cool Stuff Opinion & Columnists Guest Opinion | Public Safety First – Safe Streets and Safe Neighborhoods Mean a Safe Pasadena “We must prioritize our limited resources to ensure all neighborhoods are safe.” By VICTOR M. GORDO, Pasadena City Council, Councilmember, District 5 Published on Monday, May 16, 2016 | 6:46 pm Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. 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