Photo of the East Palo Alto City Council on February 4, 2014 during
its discussion regarding the outsourcing of the city's police services.
It might not have been the outcome some members of the city council and the city staff expected, but it was an outcome that most in the audience at the meeting apparently wanted.
The audience burst into applause when the East Palo Alto City Council voted 4 to 1 to veto the idea of outsourcing the city’s police services.
Prior to the vote, council members and city staff heard 25 community members passionately share their views on the issue.
Assistant City Manager, Barbara Powell, acknowledged, even before audience members started speaking on the issue, that there were strongly held views. Her remarks became an apt description of the two-minute speeches that followed.
Twenty-three speakers adamantly opposed the idea of outsourcing, while two speakers said they were open to the idea.
Most of those, who opposed outsourcing the city’s police services, argued that it would be a step backward, since after incorporation the community sought to have its own police force and end what it considered racist attitudes and abuse from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department which provided police services to the city.
Robert Hoover, a longtime community activist, said that when he moved to East Palo Alto in 1959, officers from the sheriff’s department were abusive, disrespectful and racist. “The East Palo Alto Police Department evolved into being a partner with the community. It funded many community organizations." He said that if we lose our police department, we lose PAL [the Police Athletic League] and so many other programs for the youth.
Patsy Character said that East Palo Alto now had less gunshots than ever before and there is a big difference in the city. “This city has been through so much.
‘Why,” she asked, “would we want to go back to yesteryear?”
Other speakers like Braulio Gonzalez cited the understanding that the East Palo Alto Police Department had with the immigrant community and said the sheriff's department and other police departments worked with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and targeted the immigrant community. So, he was fearful that many within the community would be profiled and deported. He said that East Palo Alto was one of the most progressive communities since the city’s police department recognized immigrant ID’s.
Rev. John Liotti argued that it was important for a city to have a police department that understands the community. He stated that many East Palo Alto police officers "provide services above and beyond the call of duty," because of their knowledge of the community and their rapport with the city's residents.
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Reach the author of this article, Henrietta J. Burroughs, at email@example.com.
East Palo Alto Today Articles:
Should East Palo Alto outsource its public safety services - January 31, 2014
New Interim police chief appointed in the December 20, 2013 - January 2014 issue of East Palo Alto Today on the cover page.
Abrica calls for more community input in the November 17, 2013 - December 19, 2013 issue of East Palo Alto Today on the cover page.