Police reform: More than
merely civilian oversight
As an attorney in Pasadena for 40 years and as a mayor and council member for 12 years, I have seen both the good and the bad with the Pasadena Police Department. During my tenure as an elected public official, I fought hard to ensure public safety was our city’s top priority. And as an attorney, I have defended victims of Pasadena Police misconduct and have not been shy about criticizing our department’s shortcomings. I am a strong supporter of civilian oversight.
As the City Council struggles to address civilian oversight of our police department, missing from the current conversation is how to make Pasadena Police Department the model it once was for other agencies to follow.
Under the current leadership of John Perez and the command staff that he has assembled for our community has an opportunity to restore PPD’s former greatness. Chief Perez has demonstrated the insight, instinct and moral compass required to do so. As our community moves forward, here’s what needs to be done…
There was a time when our salary for police officers and police sergeants was in the upper 25% of comparable cities. We now barely break 50%. If we want the best and the brightest, then we need to be prepared to pay for it.
California law sets the minimum standards for a peace officer at only being a high school graduate and passing a psychological evaluation that requires a minimum of two written assessments. We need to raise this bar.
Studies have shown that there are fewer citizen complaints about college-educated officers because they are less likely to use force. College-educated officers are also less likely to be terminated for misconduct. Officers who graduate from college are 40% less likely to use force and 30% less likely to fire their weapons in the line of duty. Pasadena needs to require that all police applicants meet the minimum requirement of graduating from college.
We also need to require a pre-employment personality test that measures conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness and integrity.
Once selected to work for our department, new officers are sent to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Academy, Orange County Sheriff’s Department Academy or Rio Hondo College for training, depending on available slots. After graduation, new officers begin a probationary period with PPD. Training then continues internally and under the leadership of Chief Perez has included immersive training in the use of force and de-escalation.
But there are severe budgetary limitations that need to be addressed.
The comparison of how much required training is mandated for police and fire departments is a contrasting difference: firefighters devote 20% of their workday to daily training while police officers receive a lowly 20% within a single quarterly or sometimes as little as twice a year. Pasadena Firefighters spend four to six hours in training per 24-hour shift.
Just as we want our officers to be properly compensated for the difficult work that they are called upon to perform so too do we want them to be the most highly trained—for their safety as well as our own.
Establishing a daily training schedule for PPD will be difficult, as calls for service (CFS) per day are well over 300. Maintaining a balance with training and daily work commitments needs to be addressed by the city council.
These budgetary constraints also have an impact on PPD firearms training at the indoor shooting facility at the Eaton Canyon Range named after the late Rangemaster Jack Preston. Every October our officers shoot for qualification and those that distinguish themselves with a score of 280 out of a possible 300 points receive a small “Blue Max” badge to wear on their uniform.
But knowing when to shoot a firearm is equally if not more important than knowing how. This is precisely why the current digital scenario screen with laser simulated weapons needs to be upgraded to include implicit bias training and communications scenario training.
As you read this somewhere a young man or woman is hearing the call to serve our nation and our community. Some will answer that call by looking to our military and others will consider law enforcement. And when they answer that call let us make sure that they consider the Pasadena Police Department.
Police departments and cities across our nation face the difficult task of reforming a broken system. Under the leadership of Chief Perez, the Pasadena Police Department has an opportunity to rise to the challenge and become the model it once was. I believe that Pasadena’s City Council will rise to that challenge as well.
~William M. Paparian
Attorney at Law
Invest in arts education
During this uncertain and destabilizing time, I have watched with growing alarm as school districts across LA County propose drastic cuts to arts education programs. While there is no doubt that the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 is forcing leaders to make difficult decisions, I take this opportunity to remind our school board members that California education code legally requires every student to have access to arts education.
Additionally, multiple studies show that arts education increases student engagement, their sense of connection, average daily attendance rates, and thus graduation rates. This cannot be overlooked as distance learning fuels an “engagement crisis” and drop-out rates spike across the state. Evidence shows that students with arts ed are:
• Five times less likely to drop out of school,
• Four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, and
• Three times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree.
This is an issue of basic equity. We know low-income students and students of color face the greatest barriers to the high-quality arts instruction they deserve. And, because the creative sector generates 1 in 10 jobs in the SoCal region, cutting funding for these essential programs will negatively impact an entire generation of students preparing to enter California’s workforce.
If we fail to recognize the importance of arts education, we fail our children. We must invest in the arts programs that will ensure students have the tools they need to thrive. Do not cut arts education funding when our children need it most.
Everyone needs to wear masks
I have just returned from a 2-mile walk in Pasadena and am totally disheartened by the number of people ignoring the governor’s desperate plea for everyone to wear a mask.
Most Pasadenans I know are good-hearted people, but these individuals don’t care about the health care workers, their families, their friends or themselves.
I think they will feel differently when they are lying on a bed in a hallway because all the hospital rooms are full.
Following the money
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign promised to “Make America Great Again” but failed to help Americans. He also declared that the American worker would be his top priority. Yet, nearly three-quarters of Americans report their finances have not improved since President Trump has been in the White House. In fact, just 17% report their personal financial situations are better now. Another 45% think their situations have stayed about the same, while 29% are worse off now.
As a result of his leadership, American wages, overall, have remained flat. Instead of providing assistance to the American worker, Trump sided with business and refused to increase the inflation salary line to $47,500 from $35,300, thus millions of workers were deprived of increases.
Don’t you get it, this president isn’t interested in hardworking Americans, absolutely not! He went with the rich and the corporations, why? These are the ones who support his greedy efforts and his need to increase inequality to benefit the rich. It’s really simple, Trump and Republicans follow the money?
~Lena G. French
Retired Executive Director and Business Owner
Regarding Ellen Snortland, you were making some good points until your last sentence.…then you wrote something which tainted your entire piece and makes one wonder about your ethics and honesty. Never forget that predominantly “Christian” white supremacists are haters of all people.
Haters are not true Christians. They may claim to be, but they are not. Christians get their guide for living from the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament of the Bible. And a true Christian is not a hater of people. Jesus taught us to love all people and follow his example. Read the Gospel of Luke. Your comment is similar to what we used to read about Hitler being a Christian.
If you did this on purpose or for political reasons you should be ashamed for being dishonest. If this was a poor choice of words or fuzzy thought process, you and your editor should be ashamed. Most of us know that racism is morally wrong, but we live in a world where evil exists, and evil people are happy if they persuade good people to follow them. Also, your use of the fist symbol with red flames and bloody looking fingertips looks angry and hateful and would probably not have gotten the approval of Dr. Martin Luther King.