Pasadena police plan reforms in response to ’09 shooting

By Victoria Kim (LA Times)
February 6, 2010

The Pasadena Police Department will institute a host of reforms and order new tactical training for its officers in light of a watchdog report on a fatal officer-involved shooting last year, police officials said in a written response to the report.

Two police officers, whose names have been withheld by court order at the request of the officers’ union, fired 11 shots at Leroy Barnes Jr. during a traffic stop in February 2009. Several of the shots were fired as Barnes was prone on the ground. Barnes, an admitted gang member on parole at the time of the shooting, was armed with a gun.

In its report released in October, the L.A. County Office of Independent Review made more than a dozen recommendations and identified areas of concern about the shooting and the investigation that followed.

Among other things, the Office of Independent Review report found that the officers had put themselves in a tactically questionable and precarious situation that might have heightened their fear, and recommended that the department do a better job of examining previous shootings involving the same officers.

According to the report, one of the two officers had been involved in three shootings more than 10 years before last year’s incident.

The report had also criticized the department for releasing inaccurate information immediately after the shooting. Police officials initially told reporters that Barnes had stepped out from the back seat of the car and fired at the officers, but later said he never fired his gun and that the officers fired shots while struggling with Barnes inside the vehicle.

The Pasadena Police Department, in the response released Friday, said it would begin additional training for its officers this month, including scenario-based training regimens involving high-risk situations, sometimes under simulated gunfire. Officers will also participate in community policing projects to improve relations with residents, officials said.

Pasadena officials also said they had changed policies and procedures to adopt most of the report’s recommendations, such as increasing oversight of personnel interviews and changing policy to better track an officer’s shooting incidents.

Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review, called the response “thorough and transparent” and said it appeared to address all the concerns raised in the report.

Joe Brown, Pasadena branch president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, welcomed the news of additional training, saying it was “long overdue.”

“That was a quite a stinging report for the City of Pasadena,” Brown said of the Office of Independent Review report, acknowledging that the police have taken recent steps toward reform. “We’ve had far too many instances in Pasadena where there has been use of deadly force.”

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which also reviewed the shooting, concluded in October that the police officers had “acted in lawful self-defense and defense of another.”

In the police union’s case to keep the officers’ names secret, The Times and the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. filed court papers this week asking a judge to allow disclosure of the officers’ identities.

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