On Thursday, October 28th, 2021, at the still-new Jackie Robinson Park Recreational Center located in the heart of Northwest Pasadena as well as the scene of a shooting only two days prior, Pasadena's District 3 Councilmember held an emergency meeting with only a day's notice to address the fears and jeers of locals, many of whom were parents of Pasadena Giants players that were present at the park the day the shooting took place. In addition to councilman Kennedy, Deputy Chief Cheryl Moody, Outgoing City Manager Steve Mermell, Department & Recreation Director Brenda Harvey-Williams, gang liaison Rickey Pickens, and mayor Gordo.
The tension, anger, and disappointment by the community was felt by all in each of the statements and questions that were raised by attendees. Most of the statements were addressed towards Moody and the Pasadena Police Department for their lack of presence whenever there's an incident at that particular park. Moody told the audience that the police were nearby during the shooting, but the audience were not impressed with her response. Many attendees argued that the city is not doing enough to prevent these incidents and is only investing in reactionary methods. One hot topic in this regard was the recent vote my city council to approve the implementation & use of a Shot Spotter system, technology used to approximate where gunshots where fired from within 82ft. Though Kennedy stated that he voted against the approval of implementing the technology in Pasadena, he is hopeful that the system will produce positive results and will be the first to criticize it otherwise. One mother expressed her concern that the inaccuracy of the technology will only fuel and increase racial profiling by police.
Kennedy mentioned that, "We cannot arrest our way to peace", a sentiment well-received by a crowd that strongly believes that the Pasadena Police Department are highly capable of creating more problems than they solve. Since I was also in attendance, I personally asked Deputy Chief Moody how often does the Pasadena Police do any internal investigating and police work and how can the community be assured that our own police department isn't very much a direct part of the problem. This question stems from the fact that lieutenant Vasken Gourdikian was just one of the Pasadena Police Officers investigated and arrested by federal agents for the illegal sales of over 100 guns as well as falsifying legal documents, a case that also lead to a disgraceful early retirement of former City of Pasadena chief-of-police, Phil Sanchez. The fact Gourdikian was not just a high-ranking officer but also a spokesman for the department leaves many community members questioning the integrity of the department as a whole. Though Moody stated that those involved are no longer with the department, she definitely did not answer the question in regards to how the department holds itself accountable. At best, this means that if there is any misconduct or criminal activity going on within our city's police department, the Pasadena Police Department will be the last to know.
As a possible fix to the problem, Mermell mentioned to the audience that being considered was the possible change to Morton Ave. which runs along the west side of the park. The change proposed was converting Morton Ave. into a northbound one-way street with no parking on the west side and diagonal parking on the east side.
Department & Recreation Director, Brenda Harvey-Williams, was the last of the speakers to address the audience. To address those demanding more programs four local youth, she explained that the city still has some great programs available. She also stated that the regular fees for most of their programs have been reduced to just $10 to help get more youth involved. In addition to the lowered fees, she also announced that the Summer ROSE Program is now called the ROSE Program and has transitioned into a year-round program. It was also said that each and every one of these programs still had openings, so please check them out for more information or if anyone you know is interested.
Mayor Gordo spoke the least at the meeting due to the fact that he was likely the most out-of-tune with what's really happening in our city. Though he has been on council for 20 years as a representative for the underserved northwest community, he has never once identified with the plight of Black and Brown residents outside of an election season and is very unlikely to genuinely start caring now.
The main takeaway from the meeting was that WE AS A COMMUNITY are the only real solution to senseless violence in our neighborhoods. We cannot and should not demand the safer community that is each of our own responsibility to create. There is no shortage of ways to improve the world around us, but there's definitely a shortage in the action we take to prevent many of the tragedies that can be avoided. We must all learn to do better and hold ourselves accountable in order to see any of the positive changes we want.
To better educate yourself and become familiar with the dynamics behind the gangs and violence in our city, please take the time to check out the film, "PASDENA; Exploring Solutions To Reduce Gang Violence". After viewing the film, I challenge you to take some kind of action towards being part of the solution, such as mentoring, sharing your expertise by speaking at a local school, volunteering, or by simply writing a check to an organization already doing great work. There are absolutely no limits to the ways you can help make our city safer and better for everyone, but it all involves taking some sort of action.
The meeting closed and ended in prayer around 8pm.