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Armenian group presses City Council hopefuls on creating commission

Forum talks police panel

February 14, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

The majority of City Council candidates at a forum held by the Armenian National Committee Glendale chapter this week said they were in support of creating a police commission.

The push for a police commission is not new, but it has been revived since Armenian police officers filed a discrimination lawsuit against the department, said Berdj Karpetian, chairman of the Glendale chapter's board of directors.

“We're going to start bringing it up more and more,” Karpetian said after the forum, noting that while the city has implemented more diverse hiring strategies in recent years, the advocacy group is concerned about how much upward mobility Armenian officers have.

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Several of the 10 candidates who took part in the forum Wednesday night — including one who served on a police advisory panel for years — said they envision a commission that has more teeth and power to direct the police department to research controversial issues.

The Community-Police Partnership Advisory Committee has quarterly public meetings with about 25 community members and about 20 police officials, but rarely attracts much public participation. Even among the committee members, roll call records show that about 40% of its members are consistently absent, including Elen Asatryan, former executive director of the Armenian National Committee Glendale chapter.

“The [committee] had no teeth. It had no teeth whatsoever,” said City Council candidate Rick Barnes, who served on the committee for years. He was referring to the ability to make directions on controversial issues within the police force.

Candidates Zareh Sinanyan, Aram Kazazian, Herbert Molano, Chahe Keuroghelian — a former police official — and Roland Kedikian echoed Barnes' sentiments after the forum.

While several candidates said they wanted to see a police commission styled more like other city boards — with five members appointed by council, much like what's in place in Burbank — one incumbent up for election said creating such a commission may be the wrong way to go.

“I'm not convinced yet that we need a police commission,” Najarian said after the forum, adding that it may add more levels of bureaucracy and politics, which could “create more issues than it resolves.”

Councilwoman Laura Friedman said she needed more information about the issue before she could form an opinion.

Candidate Sam Engel said he didn't think there was a need for a police commission, but rather a Human Relations Commission. He said he envisions it reviewing issues such as landlord-tenant disputes or City Hall diversity.

A subcommittee of the larger police advisory panel that acted as an outlet for complaints was recently shuttered due to little to no public participation.

Police Chief Ron De Pompa said in an interview Thursday that the current Community-Police Partnership Advisory Committee is well-representative of the community and has several panel members from Armenian organizations.

“The City Council really serves a permanent police commission role and that works very well in a city the size of Glendale,” he said. “I think [the police commission idea] makes for good political diatribe, but in reality, if you look at the number of complaints from the community, it's very minimal.”

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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