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Revised Plan to Hear Brutality Complaints Fails

September 22, 1988|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — A proposal to create a public safety commission to investigate complaints of brutality by police officers has failed to win a City Council majority for the second time in little more than a month.

The council, which narrowly rejected a public safety commission proposal by Councilman C.L. (Clay) Bryant on Aug. 15, split, 2 to 2, on a similar motion Monday night.

Councilman Mark Nymeyer, who had opposed Bryant's measure last month as being too vague, did not attend this week's meeting. Bryant said he will bring the measure up again Monday night to be heard by the full council.

Growing Number of Complaints

Members of the city's black community and officials with the Pomona Valley branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People have argued that a public safety commission is needed to investigate a growing number of complaints against police officers.

They charge there have been several incidents of racially motivated harassment and brutality since last month, when the council decided a commission was unnecessary.

Last week, residents complained to the council of two recent incidents of alleged harassment against two people who were not charged. One involved Michelle Teel, a young woman who said she was stopped by police engaged in a crackdown on drug dealers in her neighborhood. Teel said police handcuffed her and pushed her roughly against a car before letting her go.

The other complaint was made by Ruby Williams, who said her son, Todd, a student at Cal Poly Pomona, was pulled over without due cause by police, who twisted his hand and arm.

Police Chief Richard Tefank said the department is investigating both incidents. He added that the department's internal investigative process has proven itself thorough and fair, making a public safety commission unnecessary.

"This is a process which I feel has a high degree of integrity to deal with complaints," Tefank said, adding that residents need to show faith in the process by reporting incidents. "If people don't come forward, we'll never know if there's improper behavior."

The Rev. Walter Cooks, president of the NAACP's Pomona Valley branch, warned council members before they voted that the problem of "police brutality and disrespect for law-abiding citizens" is getting out of control.

"It seems that some policemen think they are above the law and that they need not answer to anyone. That's not right," Cooks said. "We don't want the council to be naive to the fact that there is a tremendous amount of mayhem in this city. I get reports daily, and there must be some truth in some of them."

Unlike Bryant's previous proposal, which offered no specifics on the powers of a public safety commission, the motion he made Monday presented two models for such a body, drawn from existing police boards in Oakland and Dallas. Bryant asked the council to approve the commission "in concept" this week and decide the type of commission it wanted at its first meeting in October.

However, Mayor Donna Smith and Councilman E.J. (Jay) Gaulding staunchly opposed the measure.

"I can't sit here and adopt a concept," Smith said. "I'm sorry, (but) to me, it's a word game. I'm not going to approve a commission unless I know what it's going to do."

Bryant angrily denied that his revised proposal was still too vague.

'Commit to Fairness'

"If that's not thorough and detailed enough for this council, I don't know what is," Bryant said. "I know of no reason under God why people wouldn't commit to fairness toward other people."

Councilwoman Nell Soto reminded Smith of statements the mayor made last week to a black women's group, pledging her support for issues concerning the minority community.

"I really think that if we make those kinds of statements publicly, we have to follow them up with action," Soto said. "Talk is cheap."

Smith responded by questioning the council members' motives.

"It's really a shame that this item has become a political issue instead of an actual concern for the community," she said.

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