• two entrances and a courtyard

      South Pasadena City Hall entrance to the left and SPPD entrance to the right (Photo – SouthPasPD)

      South Pasadena will be hiring a new city manager and new police chief over the next few months, and it should be in that order.

      By Editorial Board

      The previous police chief, Joe Ortiz, abruptly retired after he was criticized for inviting uniformed officers to attend a prayer vigil at city hall. An extremist religious group opposed to both LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement had organized the vigil. The matter is under investigation, including the potential depth of prejudice within the Police Department.

      When it comes to hiring a new police chief, however, this is the question: is it appropriate for the acting city manager to hire the new chief, or should the hiring decision belong to whomever is hired as South Pasadena’s new, permanent city manager.

      Acting City Manager Sean Joyce said early last week that he intended to hire a new chief after having indicated earlier that he may or may not do so. Joyce’s latest statement of his intention to pick a new chief directly contradicts what some City Council members have been saying in the community, which is that the new city manager will hire a new chief.

      To his credit, Joyce has sought to gain community input on the qualities South Pasadena residents want in a new chief. That’s a breath of fresh air compared to the lack of any community input when Ortiz was hired. It is important that the new chief reflect the values of the community.

      Joyce is an experienced city manager, including eight years at South Pasadena’s helm from 1996-2004 and later as Irvine city manager until his retirement in 2018. He argues that he would make a good selection because of his experience and because South Pasadena’s next city manager may never have served as a city manager and so will have had no experience in hiring a police chief.

      Things have changed a lot in South Pasadena

      Even though Joyce is experienced and has taken time to listen to residents in his interim role, things have changed a lot since his earlier service as South Pasadena City Manager, both in the city and across the nation. This is particularly true in the areas of policing and public safety.

      Joyce’s sudden assertiveness in hiring a new chief comes amid widespread speculation that he may hire Interim Police Chief Brian Solinksy on a permanent basis. Solinsky is liked by many, and he has been on the city’s police force for more than 30 years. After a nerve-racking year during which city police showed blanket favoritism when it came to equal enforcement of the law, however, it seems to be time for a fresh start.

      Under Ortiz, the police largely failed to enforce Los Angeles County’s Covid-19 health orders. For instance, a local pub owner was allowed to stay open on St. Patrick’s Day a year ago after repeated complaints. Police did not close down a raging party at the bar until the County Health Department arrived, even though the County-wide shutdown order had been issued and was being followed by other local businesses.

      In advance of the November election, police failed to cite or arrest a man who drove his truck across three lanes of traffic and onto a curb where Black Lives Matter supporters were demonstrating for an end to racial hatred and police abuse against Blacks. Next, among other problems, pro-Trump supporters demonstrating in the city assaulted a young student, but they suffered no consequences.

      A new leadership to reflect the sensibilities, aspirations, and values of a new generation

      Given this unfortunate history, it’s questionable how someone who’s been an officer and leader on the force for so long could effectively change the culture of a police organization in which he has spent most of his career. It is also questionable that Joyce, who is friendly with the city’s old guard and says he is a friend of Solinsky, should be the one to choose the next chief.

      Instead, it seems the city would be better served by a new city manager hiring a new chief in a city that no longer resembles the South Pasadena of 20 years ago. In short, it is time for the old guard to loosen the reins and allow new leadership, which hopefully would better reflect the sensibilities, aspirations, and values of a new generation of South Pasadenans, to pick the next police chief.


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      Contributor

      Comments

      1. Yvonne LaRose says:

        The reportage here is very good.

        Your recommendation to wait for the new City Manager to be hired and then conclude the search for a new chief of police *sounds* like a good idea. That thought is rife with hazards that should be avoided.

        True, a new City Manager will start the job *without* the baggage of the existing culture bearing down on decisions and governance. However, the Interim City Manager is a better option for leading the decisionmaking process. The Interim Manager may be blinded by current practices but there are some saving factors.

        The more residents speak up for what they want, what they need, and the pitfalls that are plaguing the city and dragging it back into the dark ages of pre-Civil Rights South Pasadena, the more pressure will be put on existing government that is aware of the tools and levers to use for assuaging the impending doom.

        It was impressive that the Interim Manager held a town hall seeking input for the qualities desire for a new chief. My misgivings relate to the Search Committees that were formed. There is/was a strong likelihood that their decisions could be couched in the inculcation of the changed standards [from 1990s into present practice], in which case the decisions could be based on the growing pre-Civil Rights South Pasadena.

        The fact that a town hall meeting was held *before* the search commenced was a major step in the right direction.

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