Santana: Will Anaheim Invest in Youth & Police Oversight Before It’s Too Late?

How did Anaheim Police last week decide so quickly to arrest two Latino teenagers and release a white, off-duty LAPD officer who had just been involved in a neighborhood fight with them – and discharged his weapon amidst a crowd of youth walking home from school?

That’s the central question that some sort of independent entity has to quickly answer to keep Anaheim’s streets from boiling over.

I doubt the city’s Public Safety Board – up for public review itself on Tuesday – can come anywhere near close.

In fact, I doubt the panel survives this entire affair.

It’s time for a real, independent citizen’s police review board in Anaheim.

It’s the best way ultimately to protect people’s faith in the system as well as ensure officers’ a fair review of difficult incidents.

Both are in serious jeopardy right now.

Last week, after watching an ugly viral video of the off-duty LAPD officer dragging a young Latino across a neighborhood hedge stirred deep feelings, certainly on my part, but most importantly on the streets on Anaheim.

Many smart, young adults that I’ve engaged with at civic events in Anaheim and Santa Ana, like election debates, were out on the streets, with a different tone, a really angry one. While monitoring Facebook and talking to sources that night, I truly feared things would take a dark turn.

It wasn’t long ago, 2012 to be exact, that Anaheim streets did take a turn for the worse after a series of officer-involved shootings triggered riots.

At the time, there was a lot of soul searching and analysis. Indeed, the Public Safety Board – reporting to the City Manager’s Officer – was set up as a direct result in 2014.

I even recall there was a big consultant study that concluded more funding needed to be directed at youth.

Yet this past week made me wonder whether either one really happened over the past five years?

“This is a child that got choked and then shot at,” said Gabby Hernandez of Chicanos Unidos last week during protests over the incident.

“Instead of the city and law enforcement being compassionate about that…No. Not that. The response was to arrest this kid, charge him with the most they can and release the officer,” she said.

How’s that for change?”

Frankly, it does seems like much of the city’s bureaucracy and council majority has spent the past five years fighting change – such as resisting district elections as well as questions about where city infrastructure investments are being made – while instituting tax breaks for select big businesses like Disney and hotel interests.

How much attention, in turn, has the city budget given area schools?

And what about the Public Safety Board?

Without subpoena power, independence or any investigative muscle, its public reviews are less than stellar.

Meanwhile, more and more young people don’t believe that police are held accountable in their communities.

And the challenge for city leaders is that they are largely correct.

Thanks to the implementation of the Police Officers Bill of Rights, most attempts at civilian review in California have come up short – in terms of being able to offer the public timely independent assessments of law enforcement decision-making in tough incidents.

Yet during times like these in Anaheim, city leaders need to be able to look at young people and credibly say that there are answers coming quickly.

Not just big gatherings to assess feelings.

Accountability.

Now, there are internal reviews being conducted at Anaheim PD and LAPD.

But the public isn’t likely to get much out of either of those anytime soon.

We would from a real, independent civilian police review board.

  • B Bailey

    Get rid of these useless gang bangers-deport them all. I don’t care how old they are, ship their parents with them. They can’t even behave in Walmart; what do you expect the way they are raised.

  • B Bailey

    Time to flush the toliet of all these illegals.

  • Kellye Williams

    This Corrupt Cop will walk just like Ramos walked after killing Kelly Thomas! This guy needs to be Fired ASAP! Bad Cop’s make it Bad for Good Cop’s!

  • Jim Viquez

    Basically what it came down to was the off duty was engaged in “unlawful restraint” holding the kid against his will and moving him from place to place without his consent. He (which was never heard on video) never said he was placing the kid under citizens arrest. After numerous request of the kid to let go of him the off duty refused also said he “didn’t care that the kids dad was a cop” you could also clearly hear the cop say he didn’t care if the kid was going to sue him. It’s surprising how well you can hear things when wearing headphones. So there’s alot of he said and nobody cares just because he’s a kid and disrespectful at that but stop and put yourself in the kids shoes……if you had some big thug dragging you around would you put up with that crap ? Even if the off duty wasn’t a cop and just an average person he still doesn’t have the right to man handle anyone. It just goes to show how the off duty didn’t have any control or restraint just because he thought he heard a threat which was unfounded. Off duty has no right carrying a badge or gun if he can’t follow protocol or show restraint. He knew he was planning on confronting the kids why else would he have taken his gun and tucked it in his waist band ? When s**t hit the fan and he realized he screwed up and things were spiraling out of control all he could do was discharge his weapon, wrong move buddy. Hopefully this is a lesson for all on control & restraint.

  • kburgoyne

    Just by way of some clarification of understanding, and BY NO MEANS as some kind of defense of anyone… It would be true that the APD would expect to be able to easily find the LAPD officer later if necessary. Now I’m not going to claim whether that was or wasn’t on the APD’s mind at the time, but it does happen to be a possibility.

    Is that legitimate grounds for treating the individuals differently? That’s certainly a debate to be had. It’s not unlike the debate over using money (bail) as a mean of getting out of jail while awaiting trial. There is a certain logic to it, but it’s also discriminatory in that it favors the wealthy over the poor.

  • Becks Torres

    The comments today are very civil which is refreshing. One small comment and not to defend the cop’s actions. Today’s youth need to be taught respect which starts in the home. Respect people, property, authority, etc. The Martin Luther King, Jr. movement comes to mind which demonstrated positive and non-violent protests which brought about change. My husband has been racially profiled by the APD more than once, but I still say respect and he agrees with me.

    • Curtis Mamzic

      Your comment is unnecessary and misguided.
      The problem here isn’t kids being disrespectful, it’s a dangerous, bigoted, off duty cop with a gun picking on kids because he thinks, apparently rightly so, that he can get away with.
      And a police department that let this cop get away with it.
      Those are the problems, not the kids.

      • Becks Torres

        Your comments about my comments are unnecessary. MY opinions and comments.

  • Rested Durrow

    Anybody see the interviews and footage of the protest after the incident? The bar is set pretty low for these kids.

  • Paul Lucas

    The author of POBOR wanted to repeal it because of situations just like this. And he was a Republican. POBOR must be repealed.

    • LFOldTimer

      As long as the democrats, who have the super-majority in the state legislature, continue snatching money hand over fist from their buddies in the police unions POBOR is here to stay.

  • verifiedsane

    Title: “Will Anaheim Invest in Youth & Police Oversight Before It’s Too Late?”

    Should read, will Orange County’s police, sheriff, and government bodies invest in any kind of independent oversight before it’s to late?

    Of course the answer is that it is already too late…..we have all witnessed the ongoing political gamesmanship the continues to transpire, while county wide corruption has become entrenched & institutionalized throughout orange county governmental bodies and their subordinates.

    Without credible outside intervention, a deep and thorough house cleaning from top to bottom, and some actual open and public accountability. I suspect, that is just a bridge too far pipe dream for the foreseeable future.

  • LFOldTimer

    “It’s time for a real, independent citizen’s police review board in Anaheim.”

    Of course that’s the answer for the City of Anaheim, City of Santa Ana, City of Fullerton, and the County of Orange. There should be four independent citizen’s police review boards. But the city councils and the Board of Supervisors will fight it because all of them are in the back pockets of the police unions and would rather have the cops abuse citizens than watch their public safety endorsements and big fat police union donations dry up.

    Several years ago after the OIR was established VOC did a story and linked a video of a motorcyclist named Kevin Halliburton who got into an accident with an OCSD patrol unit in south county. The cops tried to frame Halliburton for the accident when it was obviously the fault of the OCSD patrol officer. They tried to make him pay for the damage and criminal charges were recommended – until Halliburton obtained the dashcam through public records – at which time the county attorneys dropped the case and the county paid for the damage to Halliburton’s motorcycle. Everyone was outraged. Pat Bates and other BoS members said that the OIR would investigate it. ha. Yet there was no public documentation of Stephen Connolly doing anything. Apparently he sat on it. And the cops who tried to frame Halliburton all kept their jobs. ha. That’s oversight county style.

    All you need to do is research cities and counties throughout California that have implemented independent citizen police review boards. They work great and keep the police powers in check. The incidence of police abuse cases fell sharply after the citizens boards were established. And there are no legal obstacles for citizens to sit on those boards in the State of California. So they can’t use that excuse any longer.

    Otherwise you see lap dogs like Stephen Connolly appointed as window dressing to appease the people – but in the meantime the cops know that there’s no effective oversight or consequences for their actions so the big scandals continue.

    As long as our politicians do the ‘pay to play’ game with the police unions – nothing changes.

    • Jacki Livingston

      You have spoken out about the lack of educational requirements for police in the County, and I have to agree with you. College doesn’t just have you sitting in classes. It expands your contact and knowledge of people, the world and life. It broadens the mind and adds maturity. The fact that police officers are paid so much money, are put in danger, are given deadly weapons and are so little educated is a recipe for disaster. The incident that happened should have ended with the immediate dismissal of the officer involved. Those kids were kids, hopefully, they will grow up and wise up. He was the adult and the authority figure, and he should have known far better. They will grow and learn…clearly he has not.

      • LFOldTimer

        Forbes publishes a list of the most dangerous and deadly jobs in the country:

        (1) Loggers
        (2) Fishermen
        (3) Aircraft Pilots
        (4) Roofers
        (5) Garbage and refuse workers
        (6) Iron and steel workers
        (7) Truck drivers
        (8) Farmers and ranchers
        (9) Power line workers
        (10) Landscapers

        Police officers are not even in the Top 10 – yet are compensated like medical doctors and get to retire at age 50-55. And as you alluded to, most police entry requirements only call for a high school degree or GED. OCSD for sure. Go look at an application. Does that make any sense to you?

        And you will never see a caravan of cars block traffic for 2 hours when a roofer dies on the job.

        I agree that the biggest blame falls on the shoulders of the cop in the Anaheim incident. He used very poor judgment. But kids need to learn to respect the rights (to include property rights) of others. Had they not walked through the cop’s yard none of this would’ve happened. There are no innocent parties here.

        • Jacki Livingston

          But there are young and immature parties here. Hopefully, the kids will grow up, wiser. The cop? I don’t think so.

          • David Zenger

            “Hopefully, the kids will grow up, wiser. The cop? I don’t think so.”

            Perfectly succinct summation.

        • Curtis Mamzic

          Sorry, but when I was a kid we walked through yards on the way to school or to play or as a short cut the times and it was no big deal.
          Of course we were white kids living in white suburbia nut …

  • knowsomethings

    The cop lied and lied. There are too many witnesses that heard him call the girl the C word. Then as he starts to choke and drag the kid away ( he never said he was a cop ) the kid says he is going to sue the guy assaulting him and attempting to kidnap him. Remember, he didn’t detain or arrest him, he just started grabbing and dragging that boy like Jeffery Dahmer.

    • Jacki Livingston

      I agree. On the first lie to his superiors, the cop should have been fired. You can fix many things, but you cannot fix a lack of ethics.