Letter to the Editor

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Transparency aids ‘our understanding

 

This is in response to Police Chief Medrano’s article in the July 16, 2015 edition of your newspaper, “GDP responds to release of office-involved shooting videos.”

Transparency aids ‘our understanding

 

This is in response to Police Chief Medrano’s article in the July 16, 2015 edition of your newspaper, “GDP responds to release of office-involved shooting videos.”

We are lucky here in Gardena to have Chief Medrano as our chief. I have seen him numerous times at city council meetings, where he was called on by our elected council members for clarification of various issues. The Chief does not send underlings to these meetings. He attends them himself. I give him a lot of credit for his responsiveness.

Chief Medrano wrote an explanation of the shooting of two unarmed Hispanic men in the July 16 edition of the GVN.

He is the only person in our city to express regret and sympathy for what happened two years ago. The city council members have remained silent yet have discussed this shooting behind closed doors even after the issue has been settled. Even now that the film of the event is public, the city is pursuing the case of the release of the tapes to an appeals court.

I like the Chief’s discussion of various moves he’s making regarding the training of our police officers including “techniques to slow down fast-moving events.” These training sessions are the appropriate response to this tragedy.

However, the Chief states “that everybody who needed to see the videos has had the opportunity to do so.” This is not accurate. There are two groups the Chief left out of his statement. The press and the public also have a right to view this film. The press brings issues to the attention of the public and they were denied the opportunity to view the tapes and had to sue in court for the right to see them. A federal judge agreed that the press had a right to view the tapes. The public, or taxpayers, also have rights to view the tape. After all, it’s the taxpayers who pay the salaries of the police. At the June 23 meeting of the city council, the council paid over $500,000 to purchase 115 body worn cameras. That is in addition to other purchases of cameras in the police vehicles. That is tax-payer money. Taxpayers have a right to see how their money is spent especially on an important issue where the police shoot and kill and wound two men in front of Carrow’s Restaurant on Redondo Beach Boulevard.

Part of the reasoning for objecting to making the videos public deals with ancillary issues and assumes the public will view the tapes without knowing the details from the perspective of the police, and privacy concerns. If an individual is on a public street and there is a video taken, there is less concern for privacy than there would be for a video taken in a private residence. There is also the assumption that the public can’t understand what it is they are looking at. We are talking about adults. Most of us understand that mistakes are made. Each of us has made mistakes. The public understands mistakes. But we are suspicious when our government hides videos saying we don’t understand what it is we are looking at.

There were major mistakes made in this incident. The officers were told that the theft of a bicycle was a robbery. This person started what ended up the most tragic event in our city’s history. What action has been taken to see to it the reporting of a crime to police officers is accurate?

The major error by the police officers was not taking cover behind the police vehicles. The Chief has conducted new training for our officers including the need to take cover.

The public has seen many reports on TV of police shooting and killing unarmed individuals in the last two or three years. These people are usually African American men and Hispanic men. We need to look into why this is happening. The vast majority of these killings are of men who are not armed. It seems to me that officers should not be able to shoot to kill unless they see a suspect holding a gun. The officers wear protective gear, which is totally the right thing to do. Unarmed civilians rarely if ever have this protection.

The public needs to know what the policy is regarding the use of force. This policy needs to be in writing and needs to be reviewed by the police and by the public. I would hope our elected city council members would be open to have public discussion on this and related topics. It bothers me there is so much silence and secrecy on this issue even after it has been settled. The council members have gone in closed session to discuss it, but not one single word has been said in public by them. Openness and responsiveness is certainly to be expected by those officials elected by the voters.

—  Terry Kennedy

Gardena

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