Stockton, CA / Bilingual Weekly
The Stockton Police Department (SPD) is experiencing an unprecedented low on public relations these days: their seemly insensible, unyielding position on salary raises and overtime, billboards meant to scare Stocktonians into opposing officers’ layoffs, and now the questionable shooting of an unarmed Juvenile Hall escapee and carjacking suspect.
Bilingual Weekly asked what the City, as SPD boss and supervisor, can and will do to rebuild community’s trust on its Police.
“First (on the suspect’s shooting) we will be watching that the (investigative) process is correct, fair, and that justice is served. We are going to go into the community —me and the Chief of Police— to answer their questions, to address their concerns,” said Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston, “we will invite representatives from the different groups and ethnicities to City Hall to express their concerns to me. We need to hear… how we can improve the (citizens’) level of trust.”
“I would not agree that people have lost faith on the police; lots of people still trust them,” assured District 1 Councilman Elbert Holman Jr. —whose district includes the area where the Thursday, July 23rd police shooting ocurred— “But I, too, will meet with people of my district.”
Aside emotional outbursts, speakers complaining about the death of carjacking suspect James Rivera on the Tuesday, July 27th Council Meeting demanded mostly one thing: transparency in this and any future police-related death investigation. We asked —is the Council going to ask for this inquiry to be any different that the standard intra-police investigation?
“No, unless there are problems with it,” said Johnston, “we have to make sure that the investigation is fair and transparent, that it takes into consideration testimonies from all witnesses.”
Actually, City officials have no control over it, period, states Holman, who is a retired District Attorney Deputy. “This protocol —approved and signed by all County law enforcement chiefs to abide by it in the late 1980s— is conducted by the District Attorney to pursue any investigation of incidents that involves police officers resulting in severe injuries or death of a civilian,” adding this was done to keep policemen from investigating themselves. “The City has no influence on how this is done or anything else,” continued Holman, “at any rate the process becomes public record.”
You were in law enforcement and a DA. In these investigations… is the Police ever wrong? “Yes. The Police have been wrong,” said Holman.
The idea of a Citizens’ Police Review Board has been tossed at the City Council several times. We asked… Does it have any hope of being considered?
“This idea was explored back in the 1990s,” said Johnston, “we need to look into what other cities have done it, what authority a review board should have, and if they should be used only on incidents of a critical nature.”