Reversing a resolution it passed last month, the City Council has voted against forming a Public Safety Commission to receive complaints of police misconduct from residents.
The council last week voted 3 to 2 in favor of Councilman Mark Nymeyer’s motion to reconsider its previous stand on the issue. Nymeyer had cast the deciding vote Sept. 26 in favor of the commission on the condition that it would not function as a police review board and could not recommend discipline for officers.
In an interview this week, Nymeyer said he changed his position after consulting the City Charter, which empowers Pomona’s Community Life Commission to receive residents’ complaints about police and forward them to the Police Department. The charter specifically prohibits the Community Life Commission from acting as a review board.
Commission Is Adequate
Nymeyer said the Community Life Commission is an adequate remedy for complaints of brutality, considering the scope of the problem.
“In my mind, we have five (or) six officers who possibly exceed the bounds of necessary force in dealing with people,” Nymeyer said. “If we had a problem that was department-wide, (a Public Safety Commission) would be a viable and legitimate response.”
Mayor Donna Smith and Councilman E.J. (Jay) Gaulding voted in favor of Nymeyer’s motion to abandon the idea of a Public Safety Commission. Smith and Gaulding had voted against the proposal for the commission last month.
Councilman C.L. (Clay) Bryant, who along with Councilwoman Nell Soto had been the commission’s main proponent, harshly criticized Nymeyer’s change of heart.
“He’s doing a disservice to the people of Pomona,” Bryant said. “He doesn’t hear the calls for help that I get from the community.”
Man Killed by Police
The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People had demanded some type of civilian review over police since October, when a black resident was killed by Pomona officers.
The Police Department reported that the man, 21-year-old Patrick White, had fled from officers who pulled over the motorcycle on which he was a passenger. Officers said White discarded what appeared to be rock cocaine. White was later shot during a scuffle in which he attempted to grab an officer’s revolver, police said.
NAACP officials have charged that some officers routinely harass innocent residents, particularly in predominately black or Latino neighborhoods. They have said a Public Safety Commission is necessary because many residents are intimidated to go to the Police Department with their complaints or believe their complaints will not be investigated thoroughly.
Bryant, accusing a few officers of “goon squad” behavior, had introduced a motion to create the commission three times since Aug. 15. The proposal was initially voted down, 3 to 2, with Nymeyer saying the wording of the resolution was too vague. The council later split, 2 to 2, with Nymeyer absent, on a revised proposal.
Police Chief Richard Tefank, who has argued that the commission was unnecessary, said he was pleased with the council’s decision to scrap the idea and encourage residents to use the Community Life Commission.
“If a citizen feels they are unable to make a complaint to the Police Department, they have always had this avenue, but this might serve as a more formal reminder that this avenue exists,” he said.
The police chief acknowledged that few residents have complained about police to the Community Life Commission but said this is because “there has not been any general hesitancy among individuals to make a complaint (directly) to the police deparment.”