Forum on Possible Police Reform Convenes Thursday

The first of several public forums to discuss potential reforms to the South Pasadena Police Department will be held via Zoom on Thursday, July 16, from 3-5 p.m.
The forum will involve members of a City Council subcommittee, a Public Safety Commission subcommittee and an SPPD task force, all recently formed as part of South Pasadena’s response to an issue that is inspiring a national conversation. The groups plan to review use-of-force policies, identify areas for reform and the potential implementation of eight specific policies advanced by the nonprofit Campaign Zero.
“Collaboratively, the groups will foster ongoing listening and dialogue forums with the community around police reform,” said a statement from City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe’s office. “The policy discussions and future goals of upcoming meetings are meant to be part of an inclusive and dynamic strategy to move forward toward long-term solutions with law enforcement, community leaders, elected officials and social justice organizations.
“Decisions on police reform and use-of-force policies will not be made immediately or without a public process,” the statement added.
Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian and Councilman Richard Schneider are the City Council’s subcommittee members, while Ed Donnelly and Scot Lam will represent the Public Safety Commission.
A number of local residents throughout June joined others in the nation in taking to the streets to demand accountability reforms to law enforcement, a movement crystallized by the May arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in which Floyd died after one of the arresting officers knelt on his neck and back for nearly nine minutes.
Protests and demonstrations arose in major cities nationwide in the days following, with intense media focus on the violence from some protesters and police that occurred in some locales. However, the protests soon spread even to smaller suburban areas, taking place concurrently in all 50 states. Organizers, who frequently align themselves with the Black Lives Matter moniker, have largely stressed nonviolent, “peaceful, not passive” protests.
Local protests were occurring daily at the intersection of Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Street. A large group gathered outside of City Hall in June to demand reforms, and a youth group — South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform — has been hosting its own demonstrations and food drives throughout town.
The ongoing movement represents a milestone in more ways than one. Substantial numbers of elected and appointed public officials have voiced support and solidarity with the protesters, with police chiefs and sheriffs nationwide condemning the manner in which force was used in the Floyd incident.
Early in the movement, South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz expressly condemned the nature of the arrest and the department banned use of the carotid hold, in which restraining officers attempt to subdue someone by restricting blood flow through the carotid artery in the neck. Though this was not the specific technique used in Floyd’s arrest, it was infamously used by New York police officers who were arresting Eric Garner in 2014 for selling loose cigarettes. Garner died during that arrest.
Those who wish to attend the virtual public forum or submit comment should email cmoffice@southpasadenaca.gov.