An organizational assessment of the city’s police department prioritizing the identification and implementation of procedural improvements and best practices within the law enforcement industry is expected to be completed and reviewed by City Council in the summer; however, an external analysis by a local coalition provides possible insight into the need for the assessment of SPPD.
On Jan. 18, City Council approved a contract amounting to $99,500 or less to Raftelis, a local government management consulting firm, to conduct the assessment of the police department and give recommendations to city officials. Objectives for potential contractors were outlined by the city and SPPD Police Chief Brian Solinsky in a request for proposal document.
Aspects addressed in the objectives of the contract pertain to advising the police department on approaching public safety services and delivery from a racially equitable lens, facilitate feedback from the community on public safety in various ways, provide legal and academic research-backed assistance to the city manager about best industry practices and more.
Care First, a coalition of residents focused on reimagining the city as a more inclusive community, Occidental College Professors Seva Rodnyansky, Jorgen Harris and students, collaborated in producing the findings from the coalition’s public records requests in 2021.
“As to the report from Occidental/Care First, the city is aware of it, and certain information was requested and context drawn, used to create a report. … The city is undergoing an operational assessment of the police department at this time, more to come,” Deputy City Manager Domenica Megerdichian said.
The California Public Records Act, passed in 1968, requires that government records be disclosed to the public, upon request, unless privacy or public safety exemptions prevent the request, according to the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. As identified by the state legislature, exemptions to CPRA primarily pertain to privacy of public service personnel and individuals, investigative records, pending litigation and other criteria.
Following the collection of the public records requests, spanning from 2012-2021 — key findings, which can be found on Care First’s website, that were identified by the coalition and partners include:
- SPPD funding has increased, but arrests and dispatches have decreased;
- Disproportionately higher arrests of Black and Latino individuals compared with the city’s population of the respective race;
- Possibility of more transparency.
Though all points are topics of consideration, dialogue and consideration from city officials and residents, the first two primary points remain the most relevant to the objectives identified in the city’s requirements for Raftelis.
Nearly half, or 48%, of the 2022-23 city budget is allocated to public safety, composed of the fire and the police department. According to the city’s adopted budget document from the Finance Department, the police department saw an estimated amount of $10,684,973 for expenditures and revenues while the fire department’s anticipated expenditures and revenues amounted to $6,635,280 for both “fire” and “emergency preparedness.” Projections for the city’s 2023-24 budget is expected on Feb. 28, with City Council adoption expected on May 31.
Within the years of the respective public record-requested documents, one major point in the Care First Report published in June 2022 stated: “From 2017-2021, the number of police dispatches per year has declined by 20%, from 25,752 in 2017 to 20,525 in 2021. During this time period, the number of arrests per year has declined by 65%, from 853 to 299.”
Furthermore, within a five-year period, from 2016 to 2021, only 2.4% of dispatches resulted in arrest; even among violent crime, only 9% resulted in arrest, according to the analysis. Among other data points, Care First’s analysis highlighted that these “important findings should lead South Pasadena city leaders to consider carefully SPPD’s share of the budget and its growth year over year.”
The arrest data also shows that “Black and Hispanic arrestees are significantly overrepresented relative to South Pasadena’s population, making up 12% and 54% of arrestees respectively,” while “Asian and white arrestees are underrepresented relative to South Pasadena’s population, making up 5% and 27% of arrestees respectively,” according to the document.
The arrest data shows that there has been a slight increase of Black individuals arrested within the respective years, from 10% to 15%, and a decrease in Hispanic individuals from 61% to 56% of total arrests.
Despite that finding, the document goes on to say that “Black and Hispanic individuals are overrepresented relative to their share of the population in all charge categories, their level of overrepresentation varies considerably by charge. Hispanic arrestees made up 69% of all arrests for traffic violations, considerably larger than their share of the population and of their share of total arrests. In contrast, they made up only 36% of arrests for violent crime.
“While the increased share of Black arrestees is accounted for in part by the decline in the share of arrests targeting Drug Crime and Traffic Violations, the share of property crime arrests of Black arrestees has increased from 16% to 21%, matching the overall increase in the Black share of arrests,” the analysis reads.
The document clarified technical information and explained that “data provided to us by the South Pasadena Police Department in October and November 2021, Hispanic origin was not identified. Instead, all arrestees of Hispanic origin were classified in police records as white. As a result, the initial data showed that 81% of arrestees were White, 12% were Black, and 5% were Asian.”
To remedy the confusion, the research team utilized national census records and identified the “1,000 most popular surnames in the United States” with relation to Hispanic identity. “We classified an arrestee as ‘Hispanic’ if more than 70% of individuals with their surname identified themselves in the Census as being of Hispanic/Latino origin,” the document said.
The report’s research team found that Hispanic individuals make up 54% of all SPPD arrests, no matter the charge.
“SPPD released the 2020-2021 Biennial Report, which included information on the racial and ethnic demographics of arrestees,” the document reads.
“This report states that Hispanics made up 36% of arrestees in 2021, while our data show that Hispanic arrestees made up 54% of arrests. Care First South Pasadena requested the records underlying SPPD’s reporting. The city did not provide the underlying data sets.”
Megerdichian said the city manager’s office is working with all the departments to conduct operational assessments to include review of staffing, resources, workflows and products, policy review and to provide general actionable recommendations in making improvements.
“A community working group worked on the [request] for the contract, and we had representation from Care First, SP Tenants Union, Public Safety Commission and staff on the working group, and everyone worked together to ensure community outreach and input is a big part of this work product and consultant direction,” she said.