In the next few months we will have a new San Diego Chief of Police and I hope that whoever gets the job can do something, for me, no one has been able to do: create an environment wherein I don’t find myself squirming a bit every time a police officer rolls up behind me or next to me. I just can’t help it, though, with my life’s experiences.
Now, hey, don’t get me wrong, I’ve known some good police officers — parents at my schools, guys I grew up with, dudes I’ve toked and toasted with, played ball with — it’s just that the bad seeds among them can be downright scary at times.
Police-community relations have concerned me enough that I’ve tried, every now and then over the years, to make our police department more humane.
I’ve spoken to wannabe officers at their academy; lent my voice to a “How Y’all Can Be Better” kind of video; played a role in an ACLU lawsuit against the police and city schools for using undercover cops on our campuses.
I took those actions after some of our finest put me in a situation where if I had sneezed or reached or leaned or reeled or hiccuped I would have been blown away.
I unleashed my rage from this dangerous and humiliating encounter in a scathing letter to the police department and then Chief of Police Bill Kolender answered me in a way that pretty much said I needed to be a better citizen and not to bother him with that crap. And he was considered a topnotch chief of police. But damn sure not by me.
Up to then in my life I hadn’t thought that much about what I would want a chief of police to be like, but since then I’ve been very interested in the position and who holds it.
And I have a concern because our next chief will be chosen by a “secret panel” and that makes no sense to me. None at all.
In a world where way too many of my people are rolled up on when they’re just going about their day, having committed no crime or seen a crime or been anywhere near a crime, a world where we are relegated to carrying ourselves in “Don’t Shoot” postures and attitudes, and marching with “Black Lives Matter” signs – in that world I want my chief of police chosen in absolute transparency.
I want the people making that selection to be either of my mind or understanding of my mind so that they can have the insights to choose a police chief who is comfortable with all who walk the streets of our city.
We need someone who has a reputation for being respectful to and understanding of neighborhoods of color; someone who would provide a “sanctuary” for all law abiding people; someone who is versed in the very best humane techniques for making peace and arrests in all kinds of situations; someone who just won’t tolerate police officers who are more interested in the power of the gun and the badge than with truly keeping people safe and secure.
Along these lines, citizens have made it loud and clear in many community forums that they want to see a number of important changes in police practices in San Diego.
Who is selected to lead those changes is crucial to its happening, and instead of a secret panel finding that person the ACLU is suggesting that we demand that Mayor Faulconer replace the panel with a transparent 15-member committee consisting of youth members, the Gang Commission Chair, Community Review Board Chair, Citizens Advisory Board on Police Practices/Community Relations Chair, Human Relations Commission Chair, and nine Community Stakeholder seats with one community seat appointed by each Councilmember.
This makes perfect sense to me.
We can call the mayor at (619) 236-6330 to ensure that our voices are heard and taken seriously. It’s a must that our new chief of police is chosen through transparency, not secrecy.
For the safety of our city.