Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Hey PAL!: Community Discussion on Racism and Policing

One reason why I write has to do with the influence such reflections have had on me as a student curious about the lives of people long finished. For example, in my study of archival material, I have been moved by the letters of persons composed decades before my existence, who, in one moment of time, by some vocation, expressed the frustrations and aspirations of not only themselves but also the communities from which they came. In such texts, there also lives a courage. There is little danger to express audacious, ephemeral views in the spoken amongst friendly company. But to cast durable perspectives in the written with the intention to sway the thinking of both ideological friends and adversaries requires moxie.

Furthermore, I germinate into the electronic ether perspectives and observations with the, perhaps vain, hope that after I have long stopped breathing that a similar person, another historian, maybe, into the future will read a meditation or two of mine to get a sense what my community struggled against.

Hence, the below.

On Saturday June 13, 2020, I attended an Oxnard community forum titled, “The Talk…Expression Dialogue and Change.” Subsequently, I watched the Tuesday July 1, 2020 television broadcast of the Oxnard City Council Special Meeting named, “Virtual Panel Discussion on Racism and Policing.” Both events responded largely, but not exclusively, to the merciless Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on May 25th.

On both occasions, I hung on the words of African American residents of Ventura County—attorneys, a retired Oxnard Police commander, managers, and educators—as they reprised their experiences with racist law enforcement officers in and out of Oxnard. Several detailed questionable, if not outright bogus, police stops while driving— such pretenses included the driver “fit the description” sham. Their true trespass for being pulled over by police, however, was most likely driving while Black.

In being questioned by the police if they were either on probation or parole (not if they were), they all detailed being treated, first and foremost, as criminals not citizens who warranted equal justice under the law. Why not? Because they are Black people.

After listening to their testimony of being interrogated by the police, I sensed that they were all one step of way from arrest to be body-cavity searched in jail. That’s how cruel and humiliating they described their detainment.

I also heeded a particularly new insight as participants in both events referenced their experiences with the Police Activities League (PAL) of Oxnard. At “The Talk,” Kingsley Garrick, who worked with PAL for some fifteen years believing he was doing the right thing helping kids, described a culture less than positive for youth mandated to complete community service at his site. In fact, he stated, “We [the police and staff at the PAL program] would perceive them as bad kids.” Then Mayte Alonzo spoke as President of the Youth Directors Council of PAL. Despite her service with PAL, she stated that she always feared the police and continues to do so. This dread was recently reinforced as she was terrorized by the police at a Washington, D.C. demonstration.

This testimony struck me as I wrongly presumed that the two, as having worked closely with law enforcement, were going to present deferential perspectives on the police. After all, a goal of PAL is to improve police relations with the community. Instead, to my wonder, they, and other participants on both occasions, described an entrenched culture of racism in law enforcement. As a result, both discussions left me pessimistic that the present system of unwarranted deadly police force and the mass incarceration of people of color will be dismantled significantly any time soon. Especially by pusillanimous elected officials terrified of being politically targeted by police unions for imagining a updated financial model for public safety.

One other point that struck me was Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney’s July 1st public defense of the use of the carotid restraint (i.e., chokehold) in situations to defend the lives of officers and the community. As a former Division 1 NCAA wrestler, I can say without reservation, there are means to effectively control a person without the use of a chokehold to render a person unconscious, period. I especially oppose the use of the carotid chokehold when there is more than one officer at a scene.

In closing, Oxnard Police Department officers cut short the lives of Meagan Hockaday (d. 3/28/15), Alfonso Limon (d. 10/13/12), Michael Mahoney (d. 8/14/12), Robert Ramirez (d. 6/23/12), and Juan Zavala (d. 6/28/2014). Consequently, any City of Oxnard official, elected and appointed, who condemns the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police must also memorialize their deaths. Especially Robert Ramirez who, like Floyd and Eric Garner in New York, could not breathe as the medical examiner of Ventura County determined his death a police homicide from prone restraint asphyxia—choking.

Only then can we, as a community, have an authentic conversation on police violence elsewhere.

People against police violence established a local Black Lives Matter Ventura County Chapter. For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/blmventuracounty/permalink/991049838001191/

“The Talk…Expression Dialogue and Change”

City Council Special Meeting: Virtual Panel Discussion on Racism and Policing


Unknown said...

Thanks Frank, this great. Hope it was a good event.


Clara said...

Frank, sounds like you have done extensive research on this topic. Your article is well-written. One can tell that you are passionate about his subject and care about your community. Understanding this is your perspective gathered by the evidence you obtained. I do see missing information to make your article complete. Testimonials about Racism and Policing from actual officers, especially law enforcement from diverse backgrounds. Also, the departments offer a ride-along to community members. Wondering if you got an opportunity to gather this information?

Unknown said...

Thank you Profe Barajas