On Sunday, the L.A. Times published an opinion piece by self-styled police watchdog Merrick J. Bobb, who praised a local police chief. Bobb’s commendation gained credibility from Bobb’s apparent status as a disinterested police expert, who seemingly owes no personal allegiance to the chief. What readers weren’t told is that the chief has been Bobb’s (presumably paid) consultant since 2004.
Above: Self-styled police “expert” Merrick Bobb
Praising his own consultant
Bobb’s piece centers around issues of police confidentiality in connection with an officer-involved shooting. After Pasadena police officers shot a suspect, Pasadena P.D. Chief Bernard Melekian sought to reveal the officers’ names at a news conference. A Pasadena police union obtained a court order to prevent the chief from revealing the officers’ identities, arguing that disclosure could subject the officers to retaliation from gang members. Bobb’s piece sided with the chief. From the very first sentence, Bobb heaps praise on Chief Melekian:
Bernard Melekian, Pasadena’s police chief and head of the California Police Chiefs Assn., is a model police executive — honest and forthright, dedicated to building community trust and willing to subject his department and himself to the scrutiny that comes with transparency.
Bobb’s piece repeatedly extols Melekian’s virtues. Bobb says the chief “followed the rules of good policing” and gushes: “[Chief Melekian's] willingness to hold himself and his department accountable to the general public is admirable.” Bobb’s sermon of praise ends with a paean to “transparency.”
How ironic that Bobb shows no “transparency” about his own relationship with Melekian.
Instead, the reader is led to assume that Bobb has no personal interest in defending Melekian:
Merrick J. Bobb is executive director of the nonprofit Police Assessment Resource Center and special counsel monitoring the Sheriff’s Department for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
What Bobb fails to mention, and The Times does not disclose, is that Melekian is a paid employee of Bobb’s consulting firm.* The web site for the aforementioned Police Assessment Resource Center lists Melekian as one of only two “senior advisors” to Bobb’s firm:
Chief Bernard Melekian joined PARC as a senior advisor in June 2004. He is the Police Chief of Pasadena, California, and has occupied that position since 1996.
Melekian’s presence at Bobb’s consulting firm lends Bobb credibility in claiming an understanding of police procedures and tactics. Melekian’s experience is critical, because Merrick Bobb has absolutely no police experience, whatsoever.