Protests across the United States remain mostly peaceful in recent days, upheld by the protection of the First Amendment, punctuated by free speech and the right to assemble.
Taking notice since demonstrators filled the streets in cities large and small, protests against racism since George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man killed on Memorial Day by a Minneapolis officer, has been South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz.
Although scheduled protests continue to occur in town “most appear to be peaceful,” insisted Ortiz, explaining that South Pasadena residents should feel safe in wake of the protests mourning the deaths of black Americans. “We don’t have any information that leads us to believe that civil unrest or demonstrations turning destructive will happen in our city, but being prepared is always important.”
He said being proactive and installing added security features are always encouraged. Fears of destruction as seen in some major cities prompted some South Pasadena business owners to take safety measures.
“Although most of our businesses in town have removed the boards from their storefronts, there are still a few businesses that have their storefronts covered while they remain closed for business,” explained Ortiz.
He insists the City of South Pasadena is safe, “and we have not experienced civil unrest as our neighboring cities have,” he said. “During these challenging times and current [coronavirus] pandemic, the police department and most agencies in the San Gabriel Valley were all on tactical deployment. As the civil unrest appears to have quieted down a bit, most agencies have since gone to a modified, tactical deployment.”
In recent days, peaceful protesters have gathered at Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Street, many holding signs in front of honking motorists, and smaller demonstrations, free of unrest, taking place in other parts of the city. “SPPD has provided mutual aid to Alhambra, Pasadena, and San Marino police departments,” explained Ortiz, saying no arrests were made. “Plans are in place, in the event protests escalate into criminal behavior. The police department is also prepared to provide resources via mutual aid requests.”
In the event of civil unrest or a situation that becomes destructive, Ortiz says the South Pasadena Police Department has a tactical plan and sufficient personnel to quickly address the incident. “In addition to our front line officers, we have a great working relationship with police officers from our mutual aid partners in Area C,” he said. “In emergency services, mutual aid is an agreement among emergency responders to assist across jurisdictional boundaries.”
Area C member agencies, noted Ortiz, include the cities of Alhambra, Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Fernando, San Gabriel, San Marino, and the County of Los Angeles.
In the event additional resources are required from the National Guard, a request would be made to the state’s liaison, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Like millions, the South Pasadena Police chief has watched as Floyd’s life was taken when Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds while the handcuffed man was lying face down in the street, begging for his life, repeating the words: “I can’t breathe.”
“When the video surfaced of Mr. Floyd losing his life, I was horrified in disbelief,” said Ortiz. “The (police) chief in me began asking questions, ‘How and why is this type of force being deployed, and for so long?’ When the demonstrations turned to looting and destruction of property, I felt sadness and disappointment.”
As a result of recent events, Ortiz said many officers have been working 12-14 hour days without a break over the past 10-12 days.
“I want to thank the entire community for their support and prayers of and for their public safety teams,” he said. “The current climate of protest and the potential damage and looting to our city required tactical deployments of staff from the police department. Added personnel and apparatus from the fire department were also needed. Although we are tired, please know there is no place else any of us would rather be than here, in this city, providing our community a safe place to live.”