September 22, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

City Manager Takes Responsibility for Messy Police Investigation:

Santa Monica’s City Manager, Rod Gould, has publicly taken responsibility for the police department’s questionable investigation of a local school board member.

“As always, I fully accept the responsibility for the actions of the entire City staff, including members of our police department,” Gould said in a report before the city council at its Feb. 22 meeting.

Gould’s report comes in the wake of an independent review of the Santa Monica Police Department’s investigation into Santa Monica-Malibu School District Board member Oscar de la Torre, who is also the executive director of the Pico Youth and Family Center.

In December 2010, Gould called on the LA County Office of Independent Review (OIR) to evaluate SMPD’s investigation following considerable media attention and public concern. The OIR found that although the police department was correct to investigate de la Torre for child endangerment in regard to his involvement in breaking up a March 16, 2010 fight between two 17-year-olds, and that the department was correct for bringing that case to the district attorney, the manner in which the investigation itself was carried out did not comply with the “just the facts” orientation of common investigation practices. The report cited failures in witness interviewing techniques, witness follow-up, and report writing conducted by the police department.

“This investigation has been very hard on me. The consequences are severe,” de la Torre said before the council. “But the intent behind the investigation was malicious: it was to ruin my career. First to put me in jail, to make me a felon, to force me to defend myself and leave me bankrupt, and in the end, to defame my character and the character of my organization.”

Beyond the investigation, the OIR took issue with the police department’s report, which it described as “an unusual mixture of fact and advocacy.” To the OIR group, it could not be interpreted as “merely a dispassionate rendering of the facts… The report appears to advocate a position, which may not be the best reporting practice.”

“This matter upsets me,” Gould bluntly declared at the meeting. “After careful review of the report, I regret that although our police department was correct to investigate the incident, the way it was handled unfortunately casts a shadow over the investigation,” he later added. He also said that the whole incident “has the potential to create the appearance of bias and thus put the effectiveness of the police investigations, and public’s confidence in them, at risk.”

Although he is shouldering the weight of responsibility, Gould refused to give in to calls from the community to hold a public inquiry into the detective in charge of the investigation, Sgt. Dave Thomas. “That cannot happen,” Gould said, adding that Santa Monica’s city council/city manager form of government (as set forth in the City’s charter), requires that all personnel matters be handled administratively and not by the council. Additionally, state and local civil service laws, including the police officer’s bill of rights, place limitations on, and set clear procedures for, how personnel actions are handled. Conducting an inquiry in a public forum into an employee’s conduct could run afoul of constitutional rights, Gould said.

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis also defended the council’s inability to exercise some additional oversight by outlining how that type of power could also be used. “If we can review the police department, then we can control the police department, and I don’t think anyone wants a situation where the police becomes a political arm of the city council,” she said. “That’s why it is very important that we respect our city manager form of government and allow this matter to be handled internally within the procedures we have legally set forth.”

Gould reiterated his and Chief of Police Timothy Jackman’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the OIR, which were to develop a detective’s manual; implement more training on techniques for witness interviews; develop a report-writing manual, training, and establish standard report format, even for unusual cases; consider witness bias and document it in reports; emphasize caution in providing counseling and advice when conducting interviews of minors and parents; and implement a more robust review process.

Furthermore, Gould promised a progress report on the implementation of the OIR recommendations within 90 days. He also called on the police department to conduct an internal review of this matter and to determine what additional actions, if any, are called for.

“I want to acknowledge the work of the city manager, because I know this is not an easy task to hold employees accountable and to make sure we work for an honest and transparent government,” de la Torre said during public comment at the council meeting.

Despite Gould’s largely praised actions, some were not satisfied that de la Torre has been given an official apology, despite calls for one. “The [OIR] offers seven recommendations, urging training and better guidance, but it seems to me that it stopped short. I believe Mr. de la Torre is owed a public apology,” said Tricia Crane, a special education activist, who spoke before the council.

“It is very rare that I find that being a council member constrains my ability to express what I think and feel,” said Council member Kevin McKeown. “This is one of those rare situations, because of the legal situation we sit in here. There are particular processes that have to be followed through, individual rights to be protected, and I think we are all trying very hard to respect that and at the same time indicate how deeply concerned we are and have been about this matter.”

in News
Related Posts

Will Los Angeles County See Another Spike in COVID-19 Cases?

September 22, 2020

September 22, 2020

County health officials keeping close eye on data this week By Sam Catanzaro Los Angeles County health officials are monitoring...

Edify TV: Santa Monica Fire Department Fighting Blazes Across State

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

The Santa Monica Fire Department has been busy helping combat wildfires burning throughout the state. Learn more in this video...

Lawmakers and Residents Take Steps Towards Police Reform

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

Santa Monica residents will soon have more control of policing after local lawmakers took significant steps to reform the Santa...

2020 Census Due September 30th: Santa Monica Beat – September, 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * 2020 Census Due September 30th * Bobcat Fire Reaches Historical Size...

UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica Offers Free “Living With Diabetes” Zoom Patient Conference

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

By Staff Writer Although the novel coronavirus has dominated the health space this year, other diseases — like diabetes —...

SMa.r.t. Column: Spending and Pension Policies Are Undermining Our City’s Future

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

Our guest columnist this week is Marc L. Verville. He is a native of Santa Monica, now lives in Sunset...

4.6 Quake Felt in Santa Monica

September 19, 2020

September 19, 2020

4.6 magnitude quake recorded Friday night By Sam Catanzaro A 4.6 magnitude earthquake struck the San Gabriel Valley Friday sending...

Edify TV: Miramar Santa Monica Redevelopment

September 18, 2020

September 18, 2020

The Santa Monica skyline may look different in the future with a major redevelopment of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel &...

‘Fresh Prince Of Bel Air’ Mansion For Rent On AirBnb

September 18, 2020

September 18, 2020

Today on Westside Cribz, 30th anniversary of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” Airbnb is renting out the mansion for...

SMMUSD Kindergarten Enrollment Down 20% : Santa Monica Beat – September, 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * SMMUSD Kindergarten Enrollment Down 20% * As Covid-19 Cases Drop Will...

Edify TV: Sit-down Dining Safety?

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

Despite a recent CDC report stating the risks of in-person dining, many Westside restaurant patrons feel the experience is safe....

Sur La Table Closing Santa Monica Location

September 16, 2020

September 16, 2020

1930s building listed for lease By Sam Catanzaro Sur La Table, the popular kitchenware retail chain, is closing its downtown...

Death by Suicide at Santa Monica Place

September 16, 2020

September 16, 2020

Man dies by suicide Wednesday morning By Sam Catanzaro A man died by suicide at Santa Monica Place mall Wednesday....

Santa Monica Partners With Local Elementary Schools to Provide More Outdoor Spaces

September 16, 2020

September 16, 2020

Playground Partnership agreement goes live By Toi Creel The City of Santa Monica and local schools are working together to...

Charges Filed Against Man for Sexually Assaulting Elderly Victims

September 16, 2020

September 16, 2020

Juan Victor Mendoza faces four felony charges Prosecutors have filed charges against a man for sexually assaulting elderly victims at...