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Let’s talk about policing in Whittier

WHITTIER — I’ve been receiving a number of emails – Defund! Defend! – but it is time to move past slogans and hashtags.

 

Our sensibilities have been offended by recent police actions In Atlanta and Minneapolis. And rightly so. The deaths of those individuals were shocking and disturbing and provoked many people to take to the streets in protest. Those actions have started a national dialogue about policing, public safety, justice, race, and change. No community is immune, and every community should have that discussion.

 

In keeping with Whittier’s Quaker roots, our protests were peaceful and productive, and our community has begun the discussion about improving our policing.

 

Finding the proper balance between public safety and social service will take the honest efforts of every resident of Whittier. It is something I know the City Council is committed to doing.

 

We demand a great deal of our police officers. Beyond dealing with criminal activity we expect them to deal with domestic disputes, mental health, drug abuse and vagrancy of the homeless, graffiti and truancy. We expect them to be jack-of-all-trades when it comes to public nuisances. We expect every interaction to be perfect when those they are dealing with are not. Maybe we need to rethink some of those responsibilities.

 

By any objective measure we are short on the police resources we need to adequately protect our community. We are budgeted for 121 police officers. We have only 110 on the payroll and we are down 10 of those due to injury and other absences. 

 

A recent independent analysis indicated that we should have 136 police officers to meet the safety needs of our city. Having too few police officers puts everybody at risk and could lead to the kind of actions and mistakes that we have seen in other cities. That is the last thing we need.

 

In California we have put every community at greater risk for crime with state policies of early release, no bail, redefining crimes as infractions and reducing state prison populations. Today, raping an unconscious person is not considered a violent crime and stealing less than $950 worth of merchandise does not even warrant a ticket.

 

Keeping criminals on the street without adequate supervision, job training or rehabilitation will only cause them to make the same bad decisions over and over again. At the November election we will have an opportunity to vote to Keep California Safe with some common sense reforms!

 

Can we improve our policing policies and maintain a safe community? Absolutely!

Because Whittier has our own police department, we have been able to keep our policies updated and current with the latest thinking about public safety. Many of the policies being advocated on the national level are already a part of our training and policy manuals. We are looking to update those again and we will be looking at broader training for our officers. Our Department has its own unique and positive culture that we want to grow even better.

 

Whittier is a very resilient community. We supported each other after the murder of officer Keith Boyer. We have all supported our local businesses during the pandemic closures. And, we joined hands in solidarity to protest the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers. I applaud all of those who have communicated their ideas to the Council.

 

That sense of community will see us through this current debate about police and the future safety of our City and our residents. I hope you will join us in that discussion.

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