Inglewood promised residents a police watchdog commission but didn't deliver

Kisha Michael was sitting with her boyfriend in a Chevy Malibu idle in the middle of the road when Inglewood police approached the car.

It was just after 3 a.m., the couple appeared “unconscious” – and there was a gun on her lap, authorities said.

Moments later, five officers unleashed a hail of gunfire. Thirteen bullets struck Michael in the head, neck and back, killing her. The driver, Marquintan Sandlin, was shot seven times and died at a hospital – the fatal bullet striking his head.

In the days, weeks and months after the Feb. 21 shooting, Inglewood police released little information about the shooting, including whether Michael or Sandlin ever reached for the gun or pointed it at officers.

Searching for answers, Michael’s twin sister, Trisha, went to the public body she thought could provide some: Inglewood’s Citizen Police Oversight Commission. But the monthly meeting that March was canceled — just like it was the next month, when she returned. 

Inglewood officials created the commission in 2002 to monitor the police department following a controversial arrest in which an Inglewood officer was captured on video punching a handcuffed 16-year-old boy and slamming him onto the hood of a squad car. The idea was for a citizens’ panel to review the actions of officers in a public forum and allow residents to speak out and seek answers on an array of matters including discipline, police shootings and allegations of officer misconduct.

But it has not worked out that way.

The commission was supposed to hold monthly meetings. But the panel convenes infrequently, meeting only four times this year including a meeting held on Wednesday.

The 11 unpaid members of the Citizen Police Oversight Commission are appointed by the mayor, city council and police chief to represent the diverse concerns of the city, according to the group’s website. The residents who sit on the board are Vaughan, Manuel Tigerino, Gus Ungo, Lee A. Denmon, Carol Willis, David P. Stewart, Adrianne Sears, Matthew Chinichian, Linda Smith, Linda Reyes and Rita Hall.

The Times left voicemail messages for the other commissioners. Only four answered or returned calls. Denmon referred all questions to Falkow. Tigerino said he was told not to talk to the media. Willis said she had no comment, she was out of the country.

Following repeated questions from The Times about the role of the oversight panel, the commissioners placed a motion on the agenda for the scheduled Sept. 14 meeting to discuss changing the name of the group to the Citizen Public Safety Commission.

Like many others before, that meeting was canceled.  

A special meeting was called two weeks later on Sept. 28. The seven commissioners in attendance unanimously voted to change the name, said Vaughan. The proposed panel, he said, is expected to be more visible and encompass more issues that affect residents beyond police oversight such as fire department, sidewalk and road safety, he said.

At the Wednesday meeting, the commissioners discussed a proposal to shrink thepanel to nine, remove commissioners who attended only sporadically, and give the panel a new focus, which included disaster preparedness, emergency response and school safety.

Denmon, the chairperson, said he wanted to build on the recent momentum.

“I am very, very proud of this commission,” he said. “Because what we have here tonight is we have three meetings in a row where we had a quorum.”

With only one resident in the audience, the commissioners applauded themselves.


For Trisha Michael, the commission’s inability to monitor police conduct or press for answers has been frustrating. 

On the day of the shooting, she said, detectives arrived at the family’s home in Carson and said her sister was found dead in a car hours before. They did not say police had shot her.

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