Crime & Justice

Pasadena police chief lashes out at McDade shooting report

Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez outside of City Hall on December 22, 2015.
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez outside of City Hall on December 22, 2015.
Frank Stoltze / KPCC

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Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez has nothing good to say about an independent consultant’s report sharply critical of the 2012 fatal shooting of Kendric McDade by two of his officers.

In his most extensive comments to date on the report, Sanchez told KPCC that the auditor’s analysis “really doesn’t carry weight.”

Parts of the report were released last month after a protracted legal battle that pitted the McDade family against the city, police department and officers’ labor union – all of which fought to release only a more heavily redacted version of it. More of the report was released this month.

The analysis by the Office of Independent Review Group (OIR) was requested by Sanchez himself  amid angry protests over the shooting of McDade, an unarmed 19-year-old black man police believed had a gun. They shot him seven times after he “turned suddenly” and “reached for his waistband” during a pursuit, according to police.

At one point when the report was being prepared, Sanchez promised to implement whatever reforms were recommended.

In the end, the OIR report faulted the officers’ tactics as well as the department’s investigation into the incident. It said the department should have initiated a separate internal affairs investigation into the shooting. Sanchez dismissed the criticism, noting a judge said the department’s administrative review was sufficient.

“That satisfied the need of the police department’s ability to look at state of mind, equipment, tactics,” he said. Sanchez called the OIR’s concerns “an opinion.”

The officers have not been disciplined, he said, “because they did not violate any policy.”

The OIR report found Officer Jeff Newlen and Matthew Griffin failed to communicate with each other during the pursuit and engaged in tactics that placed them in “a precarious position” that left them with no other choice but to shoot McDade.

In addition, the report faulted department investigators for not asking the officers about why they didn’t turn on their lights and sirens, which would have activated cameras mounted inside the patrol car and possibly captured the shooting.

In defending the officers, Sanchez said they were responding to a report of an armed robber who supposedly had fled the scene.

“The crime had already occurred,” he said.

As for concerns raised by the OIR about one officer firing his gun only because his partner had fired – that it was a case of “contagious” or “sympathetic” fire – Sanchez said the conclusion is wrong.

“There was no sympathetic fire in the McDade shooting,” he said.

As for concerns raised by the OIR about one of the officers driving with one hand as he held his gun out the window in pursuit of McDade - Sanchez responded that "officers drive with one hand plenty of times."

Sanchez said he's instituted no major policy changes in the wake of the McDade shooting. Instead he "re-sent training bulletins" about foot pursuits and other tactics to all officers.

The shooting of McDade brought calls for the creation of a civilian panel to watchdog the Pasadena Police Department. Sanchez said his officer’s rarely use force - 19 times last year during an estimated 5,600 arrests - and he questioned the need for an oversight panel.

But Sanchez said he would be open to new oversight under certain conditions: “It has to be a cooperative model. It can’t be adversarial.”

The Pasadena City Council has asked for a report on various forms of civilian oversight and is expected to discuss the issue in the coming months, according to Sanchez.