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Pasadena’s New Police Chief with the Reputation

Police Chief Bernard Melekian is leaving the Pasadena Police Department to take a job with the United States Attorney General's Office in Washington D.C. When the announcement that came down, my phone began ringing with callers asking what can we do to stop Deputy Chief Christopher Vicino from becoming permanent chief?

Last year Melekian moved to the City Manager's office until a permanent manager was found. This short term appointment gave Vicino the responsibility to manage the day-to-day operations of the department until Melekian's return, but instead, Melekian gave him full range. With Vicino in charge, within weeks he transferred numerous employees to other areas, a veteran Black commander was asked to retire, another Black commander immediately announced his retirement, and a Black lieutenant was reduced in rank for Vicino's perception of duty problems. Because of their ranks, none of these employees were union protected and served at the peril of Vicino. Complaints were made to Melekian in his role as City Manager about Vicino, but not wanting it to appear he had no trust in his selection; he took a back seat approach saying that he turned over the department to Vicino.

Prior to leaving the City Manager's position, however, Melekian hired a law firm to investigate the complaints against Vicino. The outcome of this investigation is not known since the City has taken the position of an attorney-client privilege. But we do know that several employees voiced strong objection to Vicino's control and abilities to lead the department. In discussions with Black employees in the department, there is no support for Vicino as the interim and/or permanent police chief. They have basically said if you don't walk and talk like Vicino, then you must go.

We now see Vicino running to the Black churches trying to gain their support as the new police chief as he did back in 2008. It is clear Vicino is trying to shed his criminal past from the charges brought against him previously from the District Attorney's Office for excessive force against the late community activist Michael Zinzun. However, by many accounts, the Black community views Vacino as the most hated cop in Pasadena, because of his involvement in the incident that took out the eye of Zin Zun. The African American community has never forgiven Vicino for his involvement in the beating and maiming of Michael. White folks always forgive other white folks for what they do to Blacks, so it is no surprise that Vicino is being considered the new chief, as the Friday, October 16, 2009 article in the Pasadena Star News implies. Vicino says he did not put Zin Zun's eye out, but he was there participating with the officer who did, just like the gang of LAPD officers in Simi Valley who beat Rodney King, as he lay on the ground, being beaten.

The arrogance of Vicino expecting to become chief is astounding if the history of this country didn't have so many examples of race related incidents like his. In my opinion, Vicino has been groomed to become chief by Melekian for a long time, as Melekian sought to find greener pastures in other cities. I would suggest, as for being chief, there are thousands of other cities for Vicino to apply to. Pasadena has spawned many chiefs in cities like San Marino, San Gabriel, and many other places.

What city needs a chief who every time he steps up to speak there will be whispers, "This is the man that put out Michael Zin Zun's eye out, and this city still made him chief?" Every time there is an excessive force case and the finding is justified, it will be seen as par for the course under a Chief Vicino, not to mention the numerous complaints filed against the city of Pasadena. People are asking when the meeting will be to express themselves. I can't answer that but I expect a meeting will probably take place on the City Hall steps, with protest signs. In a sense, the meeting has already been held, and the answer is "No to Vicino!"

Maybe he should move on while he has some reputation to save. Of course if there is such little respect for the Black community, the city may need to hire more than one consulting group to help the reputation of Pasadena, and also hire more attorneys for the numerous lawsuits expected under Vicino's command for his brand of excessive force cases.


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