By Ernie McCray
I attended a meeting the other night at the Malcolm X Library about a proposed Amendment to the City of San Diego Charter to create a Commission on Police Practices.
I couldn’t help but think of Malcolm throughout the evening because he would be pleased at the very idea of why we were gathered together, considering that he relentlessly tried to keep an eye on the police, especially in black communities where they have, throughout our country’s history, practically run rampant in black neighborhoods: cruising up and down the street flashing “the look”; messing with folks for giving them “the look”; taking somebody out because of “how they looked.”
And Malcolm would appreciate that the proposed commission would be devoted to holding the police department accountable for their interactions not only with communities of color but with all of the folks they’re supposed to “serve and protect” – like the members of Women Occupy San Diego, most of them white, who were mistreated by law enforcement officers at a protest a few years ago.
These women, in fact, created the proposal. From their experiences, they know that our city needs a commission to oversee the police department that’s independent of the department and the City Attorney.
A commission with real power, in other words: subpoena power and the power to receive and review all complaints and decide how they’re disposed.
This would be right up Malcolm’s alley, supporting what Women Occupy has proposed, as he often said “I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against”; “whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
Well, the goal for the evening was dedicated to promoting something that would benefit humanity, getting as many people as possible to attend a San Diego City Council Rules Committee meeting in the 12th-floor committee room at City Hall on Tuesday, July 11th at 1PM.
And the goal for this meeting is to ensure that the police practices amendment is not tabled and that at least three members of the committee vote to send it to the full City Council to be voted on by them and then placed on a ballot for the November 2018 Election.
The members of that committee are: Myrtle Cole (firstname.lastname@example.org 619-236-6644); Mark Kersey (email@example.com 619-236-6655); Barbara Bry (firstname.lastname@example.org 619-236-6611); Chris Ward (email@example.com 619-236-6633); Chris Cate (firstname.lastname@example.org 619-236-6616); Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer (email@example.com 619-236-6330).
These politicians need to understand that because we’ve had too many cases locally, over the years and recently, that have raised grave concerns about police behavior that it’s way past time we had a commission of people who can monitor and help our police department practice the ideas of “procedural justice” so that they can better treat all members of our community fairly and impartially.
Such ideas have never been expressed as a priority of theirs but now would be a good time for them to correct that and play a vital role in helping build trust between the police department and people it serves. They could look to the city of Oakland for guidance as to how to go about this as they have created a Community Police Review Agency that has teeth and is making progress in increasing understanding between the community and the police department.
But, just in case they’re not up for the task, as many people as possible need to show up at the Rules Committee meeting and let them know how urgent this is for the well-being of our city in today’s negative political environment.
Malcolm would say, regarding our attempt to keep hope alive in our city, that “Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”