Councilmember McAustin Opposes ‘Politicized’ Police Oversight

first_img CITY NEWS SERVICE/STAFF REPORT Pasadena Will Allow Vaccinated People to Go Without Masks in Most Settings Starting on Tuesday [UPDATED] As Pasadena residents and elected officials continue to discuss the way forward on police oversight, Councilmember Margaret McAustin told Pasadena Now on Tuesday she opposes the model by Mayor Terry Tornek and John Kennedy, because she worries the result would be a politicized commission.In an interview Tuesday with Pasadena Now, McAustin said she did not think members of the commission should be chosen by the City Council.“It’s inherently political if council members appoint,” she said. “I think the idea is for regular folks [to] evaluate these things without the filter that we have by sitting on the council. This time, I think it’s important that community folks be on the board.”McAustin proposed that interested parties take the 30 hours of training and then enter a lottery system for a seat on the commission.“Maybe that won’t work. Maybe it will,” she said. “Maybe there’s a hybrid of that, but I think [the selection process] should be completely detached from the city council.”McAustin did say the framework provided by the Mayor Tornek and Kennedy provided a really good start.And called it one of many actions the city will be taking in the coming months.The City Council has been discussing oversight in the wake of the George Floyd death, the Black motorist who was killed by police after he was accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill in May.An officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes during that incident.Floyd’s death led to protests around the country, including several in Pasadena.McAustin told Pasadena Now that she would like to see people impacted by their encounter with police on the commission, along with women.“I’m doing this as an older, white woman. My experience with the police department has been very different from a lot of other people’s,” McAustin said. “I just want to be mindful of the fact that my experience is not maybe the typical experience, certainly not for a Black or brown person.”Tornek and Kennedy’s proposal would lead to an independent auditor under the authority of City Manager Steve Mermell and a 13-member commission chosen by City Council members, the City Manager, the Police Chief and three by community groups with specific qualifications.That plan was opposed by Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton, who is seeking a body independent of the City Manager’s office with subpoena power.At Monday’s City Council meeting, Hampton called on the city to hire a city prosecutor, a position that would carry subpoena power.Any effort to start a commission independent of Mermell’s purview would require a change to the City Charter, which requires voter approval.“Subpoena power offers a person the ability to subpoena private personnel records, which comes into conflict with a lot of existing protections for police officers,” McAustin said. “There are laws on the books relating to this. It’s a very serious power. And some people feel that without that power an auditor or a commission would not be able to get the information that they need. I don’t believe that.”On Tuesday, Tornek told Pasadena Now subpoena power is a red herring.“I think that the subpoena power is misunderstood. If the format that Councilmember Kennedy and I have proposed is adopted, the subpoena power will not be necessary because the independent auditor would be lodged in the City Manager’s department, or in council member Hampton’s version, in the City Prosecutor’s office, [who] has access to all the information without the subpoena power,” Tornek said.“The subpoena power reference that keeps being made is for an auditor or a commission that doesn’t otherwise have access to sensitive information. The example that keeps being referenced is in L.A. County and the reason that they required the subpoena power in L.A. County is because the Sheriff is independently elected.”In Pasadena, the Police Chief is hired by the City Manager and could be fired for refusing to cooperate with an investigation.McAustin’s move towards oversight is a major change in direction. For years, the three-time elected councilmember sided with a super majority of her colleagues that did not support civilian oversight of the department making discussion of the topic at Council meetings all but impossible.“The goal of police oversight was really brought home after the murder of George Floyd and all the subsequent protests and actions and everything,” according to McAustin.“In my view, the goal of what we’re doing is to provide a role for the community in a meaningful way to have some oversight over how the police department acts and to have a better understanding of what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and to provide information back to the council and to the rest of the community and to the police chief, if they see problems so we can correct those problems,” she said. EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT | FOOD & DRINK | THE ARTS | REAL ESTATE | HOME & GARDEN | WELLNESS | SOCIAL SCENE | GETAWAYS | PARENTS & KIDS Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m. Community News Make a comment More Cool Stuff Government Councilmember McAustin Opposes ‘Politicized’ Police Oversight Long time councilmember doesn’t want commission chosen by councilmembers By ANDRÉ COLEMAN, Managing Editor Published on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 | 3:17 pm STAFF REPORT First Heatwave Expected Next Week Your email address will not be published. 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