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View other events for the week of 4/29/2017
Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper on Police-Community Relations
Date Saturday April 29
Time 1:30 PM - 4:00 PM
Location Details
Resource Center for Nonviolence
612 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Event Type Speaker
Organizer/AuthorSteve Pleich
Emailspleich [at] gmail.com
Stamper Appearance Energizes the Police Review Board Discussion

Forum Raises the Level of Public Debate


On Saturday, April 29th from 1:30 to 4:00, the ACLU of Northern California, Santa Cruz County Chapter, will host a forum at the Resource Center for Nonviolence on Police-Community Relations. An outstanding panel will explore: “How do police officers and community members forge an authentic partnership in policing the city?” “How do police officers and residents of Santa Cruz build trust and mutual respect?” “And how can police oversight agencies be used to increase transparency and accountability of law enforcement?”

The panel will include Samara Marion, staff attorney for the San Francisco Department of Police Accountability (formerly the Office of Citizen Complaints), current Santa Cruz City Council Member and former police review board member Sandy Brown, local journalist and former police review board member John Malkin and former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper. The forum, and particularly the appearance of former Chief Stamper, has energized not only the local concern about the “warrior cop” mentality and militarization of law enforcement, but has also raised the level of public discussion on the issue of the reconstitution of a police review board in Santa Cruz. As I have written previously:

“In my time as a Santa Cruz resident, I have seen a growing concern for public safety, coupled with an expanding public mandate for law enforcement to use whatever means and methods they think best to curb the reported rise in the local crime rate and particularly property crime. Indeed, one does not need to be a social scientist to understand that the dynamic balance between the community’s concern for public safety and the operational mission of law enforcement to maintain public safety has shifted dramatically over the past few years. I have watched our elected officials support a marked and noteworthy increase in the number of sworn officers serving in the police department, while evidencing little concerned about the chilling effect that heightened police presence inevitably has on the community at large. But it is not the expansion of the police department or the overarching presence of law enforcement in our city that concerns me most. Rather, it is the lack of citizen participation in the development of these policies and the complete absence of citizen oversight of this ever-expanding aspect of our community that prompts these observations.

It is often observed that police officer training is almost entirely devoted to intelligence gathering, weapons proficiency and police procedure. They are only tangentially trained in nonviolent conflict resolution and community relations. And here I will say that this is not entirely their fault. The officer on the street is only as good as the training he or she receives. And clearly, they are not receiving the kind of training and input that would create not only an enlightened police force with a clear understanding of the challenges of modern day law enforcement, but a more efficient one as well. Every incoming police administration in recent times has called for a policy of positive engagement to bridge the perceived divide between law enforcement and the greater community. In point of fact, if this chasm were not real and existing, there would be no need to call attention to it as a matter of departmental policy. But what the police department has failed to recognize is that we as citizens also know a few things about public safety and the protection of individual rights. We know that law enforcement alone cannot make the community safe and we know that true public safety can only be developed and sustained in an atmosphere of trust, accountability and inclusiveness.”

Norm Stamper observes:

“In many American cities, the wall between community and police might as well be made of poured concrete and rebar. Instead, it is constructed of paramilitary-bureaucratic structure-and mentality, as rock-ribbed and impermeable as that new Zetix anti-car-bomb, blast-proof fabric. Informed by a military-like anatomy and trappings-top-down, ‘command-and-control’ decision-making, military titles, a reflexive us-them mindset, an over reliance on SWAT, and arcane, military influenced nomenclature-the archetypical law enforcement agency is designed to keep citizenry as far removed from the inner workings of the agency as possible. And its undeniable success in doing so will continue until such time as we develop the wisdom and the will to change the system, fundamentally. Unless the citizenry is willing to engage in a searching, systematic analysis of the organizational influences that lead to the event-and to then work with all stakeholders to reengineer that system-it’ll never change it. A year or two from now, we’ll be agonizing anew over how this “something bad” could possibly have happened again.”

Many members of our community, including longtime activists like Simba Kenyatta, have continuously called for a real discussion of the issues of police accountability and transparency and the positive impact of a Citizen Police Review Board composed of representatives of neighborhood groups, advocates for people experiencing homelessness, mental and behavioral health advocates and social service providers and charged with review of police policies and procedures and tasked with oversight of our police department.

The time is right for such a discussion. The Stamper appearance at the ACLU Forum might be just the catalyst our community needs.
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Added to the calendar on Sunday Apr 23rd, 2017 11:04 AM

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