By Anna Buss, CCN’s Writer | [email protected] | @annaCCN | Toni Meed, CCN’s Reporter
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip L. Sanchez talked with Crown City News’ reporter Toni Meed in Central Park. On this exclusive interview, during a Peace Rally and March that took place in honor of Michael Brown last week, Chief Sanchez explained the best way to handle a police stop, says he will sanction officers for misconduct, and that he welcomes community complaints.
First, Chief Sanchez began by saying that demonstrations are very important to the community because they allow people to show an opinion that help the landscape of how to look at issues.
“I think it’s critically important that we have these kinds of peaceful demonstrations to express our concerns, our observations, provide feedback to local government, to law enforcement, peacekeepers,” he said.
Pasadena, for him, is a place that is different from other parts of the country because of the makeup of the community, which allows for better communication, mutual respect and trust.
“We have a rich, rich, diverse community, and that’s reflective in local government,” he said. “My department is very diverse, and we appreciate all the avenues of interest and all avenues of opinions and recognize, again, that that can help us to be strategically about how to be collaborative with our community and hopes that this might inspire other peaceful dialogue about the issues that face us nationally, and here locally as well.”
And as part of the communication process, Sanchez says the PPD offers programs to engage the public and the young people to the work of the department.
“I want for them to be informed about what are their rights, so we have a program called ‘You and the Law,’ he said. “And in that program, we’re able to teach, show and expose our young people about what are their rights, what’s the best way to engage the officer, right there at the moment when the officer is giving you information, or giving you orders. That is not the time to obstinate, or to be resistive.”
However, anytime a community member feels there has been wrongdoing, he/she should file a complaint with PPD’s internal affairs through its website.
“I welcome those complaints, I investigate those complaints,” Sanchez said. “And if I the officer was engaged in misconduct, I’ll sanction the employee, and I’ve demonstrated that over the years.”
In fact, Sanchez said that last year out of the 7,000 arrests made by PPD, only in 35 of those police had to use force, and it had 56 complaints filed total.
“We’re using force about half a percent of the time when we make an arrest. I think those numbers are extraordinary,” he said.
This hasn’t stopped the community from feeling tension with the police. Since 2012 Kendrec McDade’s shooting, several other shootings over the years, and most recently the role of the police in Ferguson, MO — where 18-year old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police — several community members and organizations have been proposing that civilians oversee the police’s work.
“I think at the end of the day the question becomes, ‘Do we need more accountability, or effective accountability?,’ Chief Sanchez asked. “And I think we need effective accountability. Here at the PPD I think we have that.”
In fact, during a July forum held in the Central Library, Councilmember Steve Madison and ACLU-So Cal’s Senior Staff Attorney Peter Bibring discussed the issue. Madison said that PPD did an excellent job of policing itself on a regular basis with internal investigations and with LASD, when necessary.
For Chief Sanchez, it also comes down to moral accountability. “I am accountable to my public, I am accountable the community I serve, I am accountable to my officers,” he said.
Sanchez said he makes reports concerning the conduct and behavior of the PPD and its officers to the City’s Safety Committee routinely, and that all this information is posted in its website.
When asked to comment on the Michael Brown’s case in Ferguson, Chief Sanchez said he didn’t have enough information about it. What he said he believes in is that this case brings to light extraordinary and profound questions.
“What I know is that there are multiple opinions and multiple perceptions. And what I think is important is that we set a framework and a foundation, so that we can hear what the different opinions and discourse and dialogue might be with respect to Mr. Brown.” He continued, “I think that violent confrontations between law enforcement officers and our young people sometimes occur because it’s an outcropping of some societal failures.”
Chief Sanchez said he believes that violent outcomes come from several factors: lack of jobs, affordable housing, mental healthcare, public school, or viable, strong education opportunities for young people and minorities.
“I am a man of color, I am Latino, and I am proud of that heritage. And I think that when you’re looking at young men of color, or young women of color, how do we equal the playing ground, so that everybody has the same opportunity for those kinds of staples of life that help form the American dream?,” he asked.
“I think that as a society we need to look at what our priorities are: are they education, jobs, affordable housing, affordable healthcare? Are those the kinds of things that we want to examine, and have the courage to prioritize. And I think that if we do that, then collectively we’ll reduce violence. Not just violent encounters with peacekeepers, but violence, overall.”
You may watch the full interview with Chief Sanchez to our reporter Toni Meed here: