Re: Police brutality and the facts, editorial, 9/6

Although I agree that facts, and not emotion, must be the driving force of rallies, demonstrations and calls for change in our local police departments, I amicably differ with you on how the facts stand. And I certainly differ on the need for a disciplined, regulated police. I am a law-abiding citizen and victim of crime who was nearly shot by a police officer who erred in thinking I was breaking into the residence I live in. Luckily, I am alive today to write about it.

You end your editorial stating, “The last thing we would want to do is enact laws and regulations limiting what officers can do to protect the public at large, which may in turn leave us vulnerable and defeat the purpose of protecting our civil rights.” First, let’s clarify: Civil rights are not the job of the local police to enforce. That domain rests with Congress and the federal courts, up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court! And all too often, the federal courts are called on to protect citizens from violations of their civil rights perpetrated by the very police you want to give carte blanche to. That is exactly why police powers must be limited and controlled. The job of the police is to maintain the public order by enforcing city, county and state penal and traffic codes, and not to violate our civil rights while doing so.

I certainly have no use for drug dealers or addicts, but Gonzales’ civil rights were violated by OPD [Oxnard] officers who contributed in great degree to his unwarranted death. Why didn’t they summon the paramedics first, restrain one arm and sedate and transport him to a psychiatrist in compliance with Laura’s Law? Or they could have used bean bags or rubber bullets or a tranquilizing dart. There are many nonfatal means to control a person in mental crisis; beating generally serves to escalate. And pepper spray should never be used on a mental patient because it can cause a hyper-reaction. The police could have just let him be and kept watch. He was not armed nor injuring anyone. Unfortunately, many police these days act as judge and jury all rolled into one, and death is always the result.

Millions of dual-diagnosed and mentally disabled citizens among the baby boomers can’t shake off drug addiction and, like Gonzales, are at risk of running into a deadly police policy. It’s time for the old-guard rogue officers to be removed from all police departments in favor of good, hard-working and honest ones.

Ventura Chief Ken Corney needs to carefully examine the officers in his department. It was one of his people who nearly shot me in error. And on his watch that the mugging, unnecessary K-9 attack and false arrest of D. Fields, along with the vandalism of his girlfriend’s apartment, the coverup of his officers’ use of excessive force all happened, irresponsibly setting the city of Ventura up for what may be an expensive lawsuit.

We seem to forget that unchecked use of excessive force by police and failure to curb excess police power by laws, rules, commissions and citizen police review, as well as a failure to limit what people with guns can do, helped bring about the rise of Heinrich Himmler. We in the U.S. don’t need Himmler-like chiefs who clean the streets by force. Yet an unchecked police power is the gateway to their rise. When police have that much power, we risk the rise of a police state, with labor and extermination camps soon to follow.

To prevent such a destruction of our civil rights, I suggest: (a) A top-to-bottom shake-up of local P.D.s, including removing the bad apples. (b) A new ADA police policy for disabled suspects like Gonzales and the disabled victims of crime, to replace the liability-prone policy currently causing the lawsuits we read about almost daily. (c) Follow Cam Sanchez’s (Santa Barbara chief) layoff of unfit and dishonest officers rather than defending their excesses with million-dollar legal expenses and multimillion-dollar settlements. (d) Annually review officers and let go of the ones who score liabilities with their conduct. (e) Recruit college-educated applicants who pass a federal background check and are emotionally stable and, once recruited, vet them twice a year to avoid their becoming walking liabilities for our cities. (f) Retrain liability-free veteran officers so they can be role models, to serve and not oppress the citizens who pay their wages. (g) Establish an independent citizens police review commission.

In this way, the civil rights of citizens will be protected from bad police and the police will be protected from high-emotion campaigns against them, and most importantly, the deaths of disabled and non-disabled persons at the hands of rogue cops will come to a calm and quiet end.

The writer sent the letter via the post office and no name was signed on the letter. Given the nature of the discussion, on this rare occasion we felt it was important to allow this person to express his or her opinions without a first and last name.