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Monday, February 26, 2018
Pasadena Mayor Tornek Responds to Altadena Town Council Request to Restrict Pasadena Police in Altadena; Altadena Town Council Chair Reacts
Pasadena Mayor Terry Tomek has responded to a request by Altadena’s Town Council for restrictions on two Pasadena police officers involved in the violent arrest of Altadena resident Christopher Ballew during a November 2017 traffic stop in this unincorporated part of Los Angeles County.
The request came in the form of a February 10 letter sent by Town Council Chair Okorie Ezieme, in which he also asked Mayor Tornek and Police Chief Sanchez to review policies and procedures on use of force, racial profiling and investigatory stops.
“The Altadena Town Council, along with the residents we represent, will not tolerate brutality or racist practices, by anyone including law enforcement,” Ezieme wrote.
In his February 23 response addressed to Ezieme, Mayor Tomek said the Ballew incident is being “properly investigated to determine whether any policy violations were committed on the part of the Pasadena police officers involved. These policies represent best practices and are similar, if not identical, to those adopted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff. While state law prohibits the public disclosure of the findings of the investigation, I believe that the internal affairs review will be thorough and fair.”
Ballew, 21, suffered a broken fibula and head wounds during an encounter with Pasadena police officers, Zachary Lujan and Lerry Esparza, on November 9, 2017. He was booked for resisting arrest, but the LA County District Attorney declined to file charges. The officers struck Ballew with a police baton multiple times and punched him during the scuffle in which Ballew grabbed ahold of the baton.
In his letter to Ezieme, the Mayor said: “Officers Esparza and Lujan remain on active duty and will be expected to conduct themselves in the same fashion as all Pasadena police employees, wherever their duties take them.”
Tornek also included a consent letter between the Pasadena Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department requested by then-Sheriff Lee Baca from 2011, and copies of the Pasadena Police Department’s “Policy 100 Law Enforcement Authority,” which governs extra-jurisdictional activities.
Ezieme said Monday afternoon he is reviewing the letter to see if there is the need for an additional response but was, he said, appreciative that Mayor Tomek responded quickly.
“There were a few things that we were hoping that would have taken place,” Eziemie said. “Because of the lack of confidence of the people of Altadena… I’m speaking [for] Altadena not me, I am hearing that they don’t have the confidence that Pasadena will be able to investigate itself properly.”
While expected that law enforcement from different areas should work together, Ezieme said, the concern was that the Pasadena police are “not coming in on a high-speed pursuit, or to serve [a] warrant. My understanding is that they are actively patrolling. Again, I’m just going to say some of the comments that I’ve heard — that they are here looking for trouble and looking for some of the things that they shouldn’t be here looking for. These are just things that I’m hearing repeatedly.”
“If that’s the case,” Eziemie concluded, “I think they should be restrained and allow law enforcement within the Altadena town limits to do their job.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger released a comment today after reviewing Tornek’s letter.
“I respect the concerns of the Altadena Town Council and their right to share them with the city, and I agree with Mayor Tornek that a full investigation of the incident is required prior to passing judgment,” Barger wrote. “As Supervisor, I am proud of the fact that our Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez work cooperatively because crime does not respect jurisdictional boundaries.”
Ezieme’s original letter to Pasadena officials, dated February 10 said, “In an effort to uphold the safety and quality of life of each and every one of our Altadena residents, [Altadena residents] have voiced the following requests of the Pasadena Police Department. That Officers Larry [sic] Esparza and Zachary Lujan be restricted from conducting any police business within Altadena [town] limits. Pasadena Police Officers continued presence in Altadena has resulted in at least one additional harassment incident since the incident on November 9, and poses a continued safety concern to all residents of Altadena.”
Ezieme had continued by saying that Altadena residents have expressed deep concern over the Ballew incident and have felt unsafe regarding interactions with Pasadena police officers inside Altadena. His letter also claims the incident exhibits a lack of training by the officers and demands that officers “should have less heavy-handed practices” when they are in Altadena.
The Town Council holds no decision-making power over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies who patrol Altadena, or the Pasadena Police Department and legally cannot prohibit Pasadena police officers from patrolling the town.