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City Hall News : PASADENA : Council Backs Plan for Civilian Police Boards

March 31, 1994|RICK HOLGUIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an action that seemed to disappoint supporters and opponents, the Pasadena City Council on Tuesday tentatively approved Police Chief Jerry Oliver's plan to place civilians on advisory boards to review complaints against the department and recommend discipline against officers.

The council's 5-1 decision, opposed by Vice Mayor Kathryn Nack, would establish three panels to review use of force, disciplinary actions and property damage involving police officers, including police car crashes.

A key part of Oliver's community policing plan, the review boards would include up to five officers and three civilians who live or work in Pasadena.

The civilians would be chosen from those who have completed a 45-hour department training program called the Civilian Police Academy.

Several residents complained that the advisory boards had no enforcement authority and too few civilians. Police union spokesmen said they did not have enough input into the plan and were not happy about having civilians on the boards.

The council members, noting Oliver first proposed the panels in 1992, said they will re-examine the plan in six to eight months.

"No legislation is engraved in stone," Councilman Bill Crowfoot said. "We ought to get off the dime on this one."

Under Oliver's plan, the boards reviewing use of force and property damage would advise Oliver whether officers acted within department policy.

The chief would make the final decision on disciplinary action against officers.

Disciplinary cases would go before the third panel, which will render recommendations ranging from suspension to demotion to firing. Again, Oliver would make the final decision on discipline.

Members of all three boards would keep findings confidential.

In 1993, complaints resulted in internal investigations of 52 cases for possible disciplinary action, a spokesman said. The department does not release the findings of those personnel actions.

A handful of residents argued Tuesday for an independent citizens police review board to investigate complaints of police misconduct and advise the council on police issues.

"Under the chief's proposal, the citizens have no power," said James Lomako, a member of the city's Human Relations Commission, which has recommended the independent review board.

Under the commission's proposal, the review board would have no authority regarding the discipline of officers, but it could make its findings public.

Dennis Diaz, president of the 173-member Pasadena Police Officers Assn., said his group is opposed to civilian participation in ongoing investigations that could result in discipline of police officers. The association has proposed a civilian board to review disciplinary decisions made by the chief.

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