Police Reform Recommendations Approved Unanimously by Public Safety Commission | City Council Recommended to Review Changes

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Black Lives Matter protesters line Fair Oaks Ave.. They are one of several groups calling for police reform in South Pasadena

In a short meeting Monday, the South Pasadena Public Safety Commission gave its blessing to both a new commission charter and a long set of operational and policy updates for the South Pasadena Police Department, including a set of use of force policies. The actions were taken with little fanfare or detailed discussion, and the commission received no public comment or testimony on either document.

Besides the use of force issue, the policy adjustments deal with handling non-criminal calls, body cameras, complaints against police, restrictions on “no-knock” warrants and spit hoods, officer training standards, provision of a community forum, SPPD department outreach programs, staffing levels and many others.

Audio during the PSC Commission’s virtual meeting was at times garbled. But Chair Jeremy Ding said, “We were originally thinking about trying to answer some of these questions, but it would just take a large amount of time,” and since the new policies are time sensitive, the commission would simply refer them to the City Council.

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Moreover, local reform groups have not of late participated in the panel’s reform work. In recent months, demands and suggestions for reform have been pushed by South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform, Care First South Pasadena, local members of Black Lives Matter South Pasadena and others.

Commissioner and District 2 City Council candidate Alan Ehrlich said the Commission has been reviewing draft policy updates over its last two meetings. “The public has now had two months to comment on this. We haven’t heard any comments for or against.”

Members of Care First South Pasadena told the South Pasadenan they provided their recommendations directly to city council members, council candidates and to the Commission earlier, and are more focused on SPPD’s overall budget than on specific policy reforms.

Fahren Jones, a high-profile BLM protestor and critic of SPPD’s handling of perpetrators who have spat upon or aggressively confronted protesters, said she had not involved herself in the Commission’s policy work.

Nonetheless, the commission approved all 26 of the policy recommendations.

As for the charter, Ding said most of the negotiation and compromise was hammered through in private meetings among the Commission and Council Police Reform Subcommittees and the city attorney.

Of its seven members, only Ehrlich voted against recommending the charter, which requires that at least two commissioners have a broadly defined “public safety” background. Ehrlich said it should also require an equal number of members have background in civil rights.

The charter was referred for final approval by the city council, while the police department operational, use of force and other policy adjustments were forwarded to city staff so that staff can prepare an informational report to be received and filed by the Council. Commissioner Stephanie Cao said that way, the Council can refer any questions it may have for further research by staff and be represented at a future Council meeting.

District 5 Council member Diana Mahmud, who served on the Council’s Police Reform Subcommittee, said Cao’s suggestion was appropriate. She said historically, the Council does not review updates to the use of force policy. “This is something that typically staff has the ability to implement on its own without bringing it to Council.”

After Oct. 21, only two regular Council meetings are left before the winners of the three seats up for grabs in Nov. 3’s election are sworn in on Dec. 2.

Also during the meeting, Police Chief Joe Ortiz reported he’s been nominated by the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association to serve on the Alternative Crisis Response Subcommittee, a recently-created county panel which he described as a regional group working with the Department of Health to address mental health and homelessness.

Ortiz will be on the regional crisis call center network, one of three “sub-subcommittees,” along with chiefs of police of Hermosa Beach and Claremont. Addressing the homeless and mentally ill has been a topic in the city’s police reform discussions, he noted.

Ortiz also said that in connection with the “8 Can’t Wait” use of force police reform initiative, SPPD will take a three-pronged approach: 1) an informational document on how SPPD has responded to 8 Can’t Wait; 2) A description of what SPPD is doing to address the homeless and mentally ill; and 3) continuing to look at the five-step accreditation process for the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, though he said this will require dedicating a staff member to the process for the first two years.


Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.