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Pasadena police chief announces retirement amid controversy

Pasadena police chief announces retirement amid controversy
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez announced his retirement Monday from an agency that has been embroiled in controversy in recent months.

In a statement, Sanchez said his decision to step down, effective April 18, after eight years at the helm took "much deliberation and careful thought."

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"Putting on the Pasadena police uniform every day has truly been a humbling experience," he said. "I am proud of the progress we have made as an agency during my tenure."

He cited the department's body-camera program and headway in bringing diversity to the agency to better reflect the community.

Sanchez's statement did not mention several recent controversies, including the federal investigation of a lieutenant who served as his adjutant and was indicted on charges of selling dozens of guns across Southern California without a license.

Lt. Vasken Gourdikian, who formerly served as the department spokesman, faces four felony counts, including illegally possessing a short-barreled rifle and providing false statements while buying firearms, according to the indictment filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court.

The department also came under fire last year after two Pasadena police officers were captured on video hitting a black motorist at an Altadena gas station, causing outrage in a community with a history of complaints about how law enforcement treats African American men.

Videos captured by the police and a bystander show one officer repeatedly striking the unarmed motorist with a baton during the Nov. 9 incident.

Another officer screams at the man to give up his hands and punches him at least five times before slamming his face into the asphalt. Eventually, the officers manage to handcuff the man behind his back.

The motorist, Christopher Ballew, suffered a broken leg and has filed a claim for damages against the city of Pasadena, the Police Department and chief, and the two officers involved.

Twitter: @AleneTchek

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