Dear Mayor Haskew and City Council Members,
I am writing to you to express my concerns with the actions of the Walnut Creek Police Department during the recent protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. After the tragic murder of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, the murder of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department, and countless known and untold stories of brutally racist acts carried out by law enforcement in our country, it is imperative that the Walnut Creek Police Department take steps to address systemic racism and implicit bias through the institution of common sense reforms, demilitarization of the police, and diversion of funds into community public safety and investments. Walnut Creek has an opportunity to take proactive steps to institute policies and training requirements to address these issues and better prepare law enforcement officers to respect the human rights of people of color in our community.
I have observed the events of the last two weeks and have been very disappointed in the actions taken against protestors by the Walnut Creek Police Department. On June 1, 2020, Walnut Creek police officers used tear gas and police dogs to disperse protestors. I was not at these events in person but I have watched a very disturbing video during which a line of armed police officers kneeled down, put on gas masks, and then proceeded to approach a crowd of protestors and fired tear gas into the crowd. It has also been reported that police dogs were utilized and at least one protestor was bitten by a dog. The Police Department claims a large rock was thrown. As I was not there, I am unable to comment on whether the rock was in fact thrown, but based on what I saw in the videos, I feel the use of tear gas and dogs was unwarranted. I am concerned that the police were too quick to resort to such techniques for dispersing crowds. These actions indicate a lack of training and awareness.
At a time when one of the main issues at hand is the behavior of law enforcement and systemic racism that exists that leads some law enforcement officers to commit brutal and murderous acts against people of color, it is very concerning that the police would decide it is appropriate to use such force against individuals who are protesting these very issues.
I also feel the actions taken by the Walnut Creek Police Department and the physical equipment that they have and deployed at the protests indicate that the police need to be demilitarized. I strongly urge the Walnut Creek Police Department to return equipment they have received from the US Military. The very possession and display of this equipment raises the chance that crowds and individuals will feel threatened by the police and act in ways that endanger them including running from the police.
Among calls to defund the police, I feel Walnut Creek should consider reforms that will divert some law enforcement funding into community public safety, affordable housing, community education, and other upstream community investments that will improve quality of life for all community members.
In addition, there are several reforms that the Walnut Creek Police Department can implement to help prevent racial bias and police brutality, which I have outlined below. I strongly urge the Walnut Creek Police Department to implement these polices and program changes to address these issues.
- Ban chokeholds and strangleholds
- Provide training on and require the use of de-escalation techniques for situations in which an officer is confronted with an individual experiencing a mental health crisis
- Require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force
- Ban shooting at moving vehicles
- Implement a use of force continuum to minimize the use of lethal force
- Require comprehensive reporting of any use of a firearm by a police officer, including pointing a firearm at a civilian
The time to act is now. We cannot continue minimizing the systemic racism that harms our communities and people of color every day. We must take action to improve community safety and to ensure that every person who lives in Walnut Creek or visits Walnut Creek is safe and protected by the very people who are supposed to prevent harm.
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