I don’t understand the recent antipathy being shown to the Richmond Police Department by four of my six City Council colleagues. We ask the community to trust and cooperate the men and women who risk their lives daily to make Richmond safe, then they send a message that the Police aren’t to be trusted after all, and that civilian oversight must be ramped up to be the most stringent in the entire United States.
With one exception, the entire City Council approved a number of changes to the Police Commission ordinance, including extending the time that an individual can submit a claim against a police officer from 45 days to 120 days, changing the name of the Police Commission to the Citizens Police Review Committee, giving the Police Commission the final say in accepting a late complaint, and ensuring that each complaint was forwarded to the chief of police and each member of the police commission. Several housekeeping changes to make the ordinance consistent with California statutes were also included.
Then, the City Council moved from consensus to contention. The two additional changes proposed by the Richmond Progressive Alliance bloc were not based on improving the Police Commission review process but instead were based on the premise that the Richmond Police Department cannot be trusted. The first item, a move to re-open the Perez matter was also based on the premise that neither can the district attorney nor an independent investigator retained by the City be trusted. All this was on the same day that it was publicly announced that the Perez family had given up their right to a civil rights jury trial in federal court in exchange for a monetary settlement. That jury trial could have brought out all the facts and all the testimony that some people believe should be made public , but now it will never happen.
The second item, a plan that would require mandatory Police Commission investigations into all deaths and even serious injuries, whether a complaint is filed or not, was clearly based on the premise that, in the future, the Police Department has erred until proven otherwise.
The two motions were so radical that they drew the following comment from former Police Chief Chris Magnus, writing from Tucson:
I can say with absolute confidence that NO other cities are following this model. It seems that no finding will suit the agenda some folks have unless it validates their preconceived notions about how that incident occurred. This has nothing to do with fairness or independence, but rather is entirely political. There are so many ways meaningful civilian oversight could be better achieved, but this is a huge step backwards for a city that could do so much better.
All three of the RPA sponsors of the proposal plus Councilmember Myrick stated that their support, in one way or another, was based on a lack of trust in the Police Department by the community and that the Police Department cannot ever be trusted to police itself, a conclusion that is not supported by the facts.
Since 2003, not a single complaint made to the Richmond Police Commission has been sustained. The number of complaints filed with the Police Commission has dropped off in the last two years to one a year, hardly an indication of widespread concern.
In the Richmond Community Survey for years 2007 through 2015, residents’ rating of police rose from 38% excellent/good to 59% excellent/good, an increase of 55%. People’s confidence in the Richmond police is clearly rising dramatically, not declining. Similarly, in t(see below), the top priority was “reducing crime.” Investigating the police was not even mentioned.
And, we still have the Police Commission, with updated processes and procedures, as avenue for citizen complaints.
Richmond is committed to remaining on the cutting edge of technology, training and strategies to prevent use of force in the field. In 2015, the Richmond Police Department became one of the first agencies in California to issue body cameras to patrol officers. Interim Police Chief Allwyn Brown was of 10 law enforcement leaders in the nation who traveled to Scotland with the Police Executive Research Forum where he coordinated on strategies to prevent use of force. Just last month the City Council accepted a $150,000 grant from the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Assistance, to expand the use of body cameras.
In September 2015, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Richmond to praise the Richmond Police Department as a national example:
During her public comments, Lynch highlighted the Richmond Police Department's early adoption of body cameras, which went into effect this winter; training on implicit bias; and programs such as Operation Ceasefire, which addresses gun violence by pulling in police, probation officers and community groups. "It's clear to me that Richmond is working toward a holistic and comprehensive approach to criminal justice that is more than just an arrest but is trying to identify many of the causes that lead people to connect with the criminal justice system in the first place," Lynch said. (http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_28877262/richmond-u-s-attorney-general-loretta-lynch-visiting).
The City of Richmond and the Richmond Police Department continue to work diligently on effective de-escalation techniques and violence prevention strategies which have proven successful in reducing the use of deadly force.
Richmond is not Mayberry, and policing Richmond is a challenging task. Richmond on the list of the top 10 most dangerous cities in the Bay Area with more than 25,000 residents. The police need our confidence, not our criticism.
Richmond streets are awash with guns. Below are examples of guns taken off the street by the Richmond Police Department just last month.
January 30, 2016 - Richmond Police Officer confiscated a gun and drugs off a student at a local high school. RPD School Resource Officer (SRO) Hernandez was working at Richmond High School when he received a tip about a student who was possibly armed with a firearm. The officer quickly gathered enough information to identify the student. Officer Hernandez and school security guards located the student during lunch period and escorted him to the administration office. There, the student admitted to having marijuana in his backpack. Some of the marijuana was individually packaged for sale. The student was searched and a .32 caliber Beretta semi-auto pistol and a bindle of methamphetamine was found on his person. The student was arrested for the violations. The department is relieved that the students and staff were not harmed in this potentially volatile situation.
January 26, 2016 - Richmond Police Officers turned a pedestrian stop into an arrest for Human Trafficking. RPD Bravo (Foot & Bicycle) Officer Llamas contacted a young woman on 23rd St. for loitering for the purpose of prostitution. During the long conversation with the female, Officer Llamas learned about her history of being sexually exploited throughout her life. Based on information learned from the victim of human trafficking, RPD's Domestic & Sexual Violence Unit (DSVU) Detectives responded and continued to work with her. After hours of hard work, DSVU Detective Fonseca obtained an arrest warrant for the pimp at a local motel. RPD officers and detectives swarmed the motel and arrested the suspect - 30 yr old Richmond resident Troy Brewer. During the search, a firearm was also found. Human Trafficking charges, along with several other other violations have been filed against Brewer and he is being held on $1.4 million bail. The department is proud of the officers' and detectives' display of compassion, patience and tenacity that resulted in saving a young woman from Human Trafficking.
January 21, 2016 - Richmond Police Officers turned a pedestrian stop into an arrest for Human Trafficking. RPD Bravo (Foot & Bicycle) Officer Llamas contacted a young woman on 23rd St. for loitering for the purpose of prostitution. During the long conversation with the female, Officer Llamas learned about her history of being sexually exploited throughout her life. Based on information learned from the victim of human trafficking, RPD's Domestic & Sexual Violence Unit (DSVU) Detectives responded and continued to work with her. After hours of hard work, DSVU Detective Fonseca obtained an arrest warrant for the pimp at a local motel. RPD officers and detectives swarmed the motel and arrested the suspect - 30 yr old Richmond resident Troy Brewer. During the search, a firearm was also found. Human Trafficking charges, along with several other other violations have been filed against Brewer and he is being held on $1.4 million bail. The department is proud of the officers' and detectives' display of compassion, patience and tenacity that resulted in saving a young woman from Human Trafficking.
January 19, 2016 - Richmond Police Officers turn another traffic enforcement stop into the recovery of two guns off the streets of Richmond. Richmond BRAVO (Foot and Bike Unit) Officers Therriault and Melgoza were on patrol in the city's Southern District when they saw a car fail to stop for a stop sign. The pair of officers made a traffic enforcement stop on the car for for the traffic violation. When the officers contacted the three occupants in the car, they learned that one of them was on probation for a violent assault and he had a search clause as condition of his probation. All the occupants were asked to exit and the officers searched the car. The searched yielded not one, but two fully loaded firearms under the passenger seat - a .40 caliber Springfield XD40 and a Taurus 9MM semi-auto pistol. Oh, there were also a couple of 30-round magazines inserted into each of the guns. All three occupants were arrested and of course, the guns were not registered to any of them. The department is relieved that the occupants listened and complied with the officers' instructions and nobody was injured.
January 10, 2016 - Richmond K9 officer responded to a call of shots fired, sniffed out the suspect and the gun. RPD K9 Officer M. Brown and his four-legged partner - Odin, a 3 yr. old Belgium Malinois, responded to the city's Southern District on a call of shots fired. Several officers responded to the area with Officer Brown. During his search for a victim, suspect or crime scene, the K9 officer went to the Greenway Path and saw the suspect. As soon as the suspect saw Officer Brown prepare to contact him, the suspect ran away. Officers surrounded the immediate area. With the assistance of Odin's nose, Officer Brown searched the area and found the hidden suspect. The suspect chose to wise up and gave up without meeting Odin up close and personal. Odin also sniffed out the suspect's gun (Glock 23 - semi-auto .40 caliber) which he discarded along his flight path.
January 9, 2016 - A traffic enforcement stop yields two guns taken off the streets of Richmond! RPD Officer M. Bailey, supervisor of the Richmond Rangers, was in the city's Northern District when he saw a car fail to stop for a stop sign and the driver wasn't wearing his seatbelt. Officer Bailey made a traffic enforcement stop on the Mercedes and contacted the driver. When the driver rolled down his window, Bailey smelled a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the interior of the car. The driver was asked to exit the car. Officer Bailey did a pat-down on the driver and found a loaded and stolen Walther .380 caliber pistol on his person. The driver was immediately taken into custody. A search of the car revealed another loaded gun - a .45 caliber Glock pistol. There were also two additional loaded .45 caliber magazines under the driver seat. The driver was arrested for firearms violations.
I hope the Richmond City Council will reconsider these draconian actions and find more effective ways to make sure Richmond gets the policing it deserves.