Letter to the Editor: Hollow words from the mayor
Since the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, millions of people around the world have taken to the streets to protest brutality done by police and question the unbelievable amounts of money their cities spend on police budgets at the expense of other programs. Chants of “defund the police” have become commonplace as activists have asked that money be diverted into social services, community outreach, and education.
When I read Mayor Joe’s headline on June 18 (Let’s Talk About Policing in Whittier), I thought I knew what to expect. Mayor Joe is not a prison abolitionist or an anarchist. He believes in law and order like Nixon, Reagan, and the Clintons.
After giving hollow talk about peaceful protest and Whittier’s quaker roots, and talking about the hardwork and commitment of the city council, Mayor Joe essentially leaves the reader with a completely out of touch defense of the American prison system and policing. At one point, he decries Californian prison reforms for leaving citizens “at-risk.”
Does Mayor Joe realize that the state of California has roughly half the population of Iran, but roughly the same number of prisoners? Prisons are not a solution. They are a problem. Many Americans have begun to wake up to this sad reality. Many have seen Ava Duvernay’s award-winning documentary 13th (2016), which outlines the problem in painstaking detail. America calls itself the land of the free while maintaining the largest prison population in the world.
But the most upsetting part of Mayor Joe’s opinion piece, is his invoking the name of murdered police officer Keith Boyer. I have heard him do this before. Just last week Mayor Joe confronted a group of college-age protester’s in Whittier’s Central Park. When they asked him about a young Whittier citizen who was killed by police in 2017, the mayor responds with, “Where were you when officer Keith Boyer was killed?” The students explain that they were in high school at the time, but Mr. Vinatieri continues to talk over them in a condescending manner. (The video was posted on Twitter. Note that the Mayor objects to them videotaping without telling him, even though they clearly do at the beginning.)
I did not know Keith Boyer. I feel a deep sadness that he died in the line of duty. I imagine that Officer Boyer thought about the possibility of his own death every time he put on his uniform. But Mayor Joe seems to feel that it is ok to invoke the name of the deceased whenever he needs a political point or snappy comeback. I find it disturbing that the Mayor does this without any thought or tact. A police officer dying in the line of duty is not the mayor’s genie in a bottle to grant his wishes. Keith Boyer is not his magical patronus.
I know that Mayor Joe went and spoke at at least one of the protest’s outside of Whittier city hall in the last few weeks. I know that he remembered George Floyd’s name at a city council meeting. But, like the callous use of Officer Boyer’s name, I have to believe that these are just calculated political moves for the Mayor. A tree is known by its fruit. This is the same man who demonized the houseless population in his bid for re-election. His nostalgia for a fairytale era of law and order, just like that of Nixon, Reagan, and the Clintons, is what got America into this mess. I think that he ought to stop showing up to events and reaching for the microphone, and learn to listen.