Less than a week after the Pasadena City Council voted to begin the process of deciding whether to appoint a citizen panel to oversee police, mayoral candidate Councilman Victor Gordo has proposed the creation of an independent auditor/inspector general’s office to oversee police, as well as other city departments and the City Council.
“I continue to believe that oversight is the responsibility of elected officials who are directly accountable to the people of Pasadena. While I remain open to the ideas and models brought forth by others, I strongly believe that we need an Independent Auditor/Inspector General Office with oversight review powers not only over the Police Department but also over our city departments, city staff, and even the City Council. All should be subject to the same ethical standards and scrutiny. I know that we all have significant opinions, and I’m committed to listening to all of us across our city,” Gordo wrote in a column appearing on the online news site Pasadena Now.
“I know that with our community voices coming together, Pasadena can serve as a model for reform that holds its elected representatives accountable for improving, overseeing and ensuring there is accountability in policing and all levels of city governance.”
Other than the police chief’s advisory board, the only group currently overseeing police budgets, activity and conduct is the council’s Public Safety Committee (PSC), headed by Councilman John Kennedy and comprised of three other council members, including Mayor Terry Tornek.
The PSC was scheduled to meet Wednesday to open discussions on police reform. The committee is expected to report back to the full council on Aug. 10.
Tornek, who is running for re-election against Gordo in the November election, has also advocated leaving oversight to elected officials. But now, in the wake of the social unrest sparked by the officer-involved deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and numerous others in the past few years, Tornek said he welcomes appointed people performing in an oversight function.
“It’s clear to me now that no matter how hard we try there remains a certain mistrust in authority in general, but in the Police Department in particular in certain segments of our community, and the only way we are going to mitigate that is if there is a feeling that when there is a problem there will be intervention by people other than insiders, and further that there is a kind of ongoing scrutiny of the way police operations work,” Tornek said.
In his column, Gordo explained his desire to create a separate city office to keep an eye on police.
“As a community, we must take concrete action so that the death of George Floyd is not in vain, but results in real and lasting change. We need change that not only improves law enforcement in Pasadena, but also addresses the larger racial, social and economic inequalities in our nation and in our community,” Gordo wrote.
“Policing is one of the most important and sensitive subjects in all municipalities, as it involves public safety and the potential use of force, even deadly, against the very residents sought to be protected,” he went on.
In a second interview Tuesday, Tornek said he always thought community oversight would be a good idea. “The problem is all of the models that we looked at, when you actually drilled down and saw how they are working, most of them don’t seem to be working that well,” Tornek said.
“My fear was, in an effort to satisfy a yearning to deliver civilian oversight we would not be delivering genuine reform; we would just be shifting that level of dissatisfaction from one arena to another. I supported John (Kennedy’s) call for some sort of body, but the problem was we hadn’t found a model the I really thought was beneficial.
“The difference now is the world has turned. We absolutely have to respond to the fundamental problem, which is we don’t have the trust of all the segments of the community and portions of Black and minority communities, that they are not getting a fair shot, and they are not. So we have to satisfy that fundamental hole in the fabric. We need to do something to address that need, even if it’s not perfect. We need to address that issue and the only way to do that is with some form of civilian oversight.”
In an interview Tuesday, Gordo acknowledged his proposal “needs fleshing out,” which he is doing by talking with people about his idea.
Although most of the conversation with PW was off the record, Gordo did say, “That’s the framework for right right now. I know what I want. I just want it to be complete.”