Orange County supervisors this week added law enforcement appreciation events to the official county event calendar, after saying they want to show their support for police amid the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement.
The move comes on the heels of protests across the nation, including Orange County, demanding accountability for police killings of unarmed Black people and calling for a shift in spending from law enforcement and towards mental health response teams and other services.
The law enforcement appreciation events were proposed by supervisors’ Chairwoman Michelle Steel, who along with the other four supervisors didn’t discuss it at their public meeting Tuesday where they approved the events unanimously.
Steel did speak about it earlier this month, when she and Supervisor Andrew Do proposed establishing Aug. 11 as Orange County Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, which supervisors approved unanimously.
“The men and women in law enforcement have answered the call to public service and have chosen a profession that puts their lives on the line for us and our community every day,” Steel said at the July 14 supervisors’ meeting, reading prepared remarks about her appreciation proposal.
“We have seen reports of injuries to officers during recent protests. But it is important to recognize that these incidents are the exceptions, and [it’s] more important than ever to show our local law enforcement the support they need and make them feel safe in the performance of their duty by building a stronger relationship between law enforcement and the community they serve.”
This week, the five supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to add Orange County Law Enforcement Appreciation events to the county’s official events calendar.
County officials did not disclose what the law enforcement appreciation events were that supervisors approved. The single page about it in the agenda said only that the item was brought forward by Steel and would add Orange County Enforcement Appreciation events to the county calendar, along with adopting unspecified findings under state law.
Over the past decade, Orange County supervisors have cut tens of millions in unrestricted dollars from public health and social services while more than doubling such spending on the Sheriff’s Department, mostly for pay raises for deputies whose union is the supervisors’ largest campaign spender.
The appreciation vote on Tuesday brought out several speakers, including Black Lives Matter activists who called for a shift of police spending to health services, while other residents criticized the BLM movement as extreme and dangerous.
“Why doesn’t this board deem necessary the real social needs within this county, like health, education, the needs of the physically, mentally, and financially handicapped and aged persons. This board has already spent millions – hundreds of millions – on law enforcement. Law enforcement appreciation events – really?” asked activist David Duran, whose comments were read aloud at the meeting as part of new procedures in the pandemic.
“My ongoing demand is that all of this board resign in order to make room for others more qualified,” he added.
“Police are being called to handle way too many situations that they don’t have proper training for,” including mental health crises, said Anaheim resident Stephanie Stuck, who was speaking in person at the meeting.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected].