It has been two hundred ninety-two days since Hector Hernandez was unnecessarily and mercilessly killed on his own front lawn by Officer Jonathan Ferrell of the Fullerton Police Department (FPD). It has been two hundred ninety-two days since Hector’s family, neighbors and community have been clamoring for justice and transparency–receiving neither.
This is why on Tuesday, March 16th, we are coming together in front of Fullerton City Hall to keep our calls for Justice for Hector alive and demand structural change to the way the City of Fullerton seeks to create safety in its neighborhoods.
Our demands, now endorsed by twenty-one advocacy groups, including four (4) student organizations at Cal State Fullerton, begin with the recognition of a simple, incontestable truth: the employment of Officer Jonathan Ferrell, who fired the multiple shots that ended Hector’s life, must be terminated. We also firmly urge Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer to charge Ferrell in order to ensure that his failure to employ appropriate de-escalation tactics prior to engaging in lethal force is fully addressed in a court of law.
We also call on the city to release all unedited sources of body camera footage on the scene of Hector’s death. Assembly Bill 748, which passed in the California Legislature in 2018, stipulates that all video footage of such incidents must be released no more than 45 days after they occur. Despite Fullerton PD’s continued insistence that the footage released in their Critical Incident Briefing video last June adequately relays the totality of the situation, the fact is that the footage issued was partial and did not include video from all officers present at the scene. What has been made public by the department is inadequate, lacking, and does not suffice.
But securing immediate justice for Hector, as essential as it is, is simply not enough–we must look to the past and acknowledge that there are deep structural problems with the way Fullerton relies on antiquated tough-on-crime policing practices. And we must look to the future and ensure deep structural change to our culture of policing and notions of public safety.
That’s why we are also calling on the City to pursue avenues that allow the community to adopt a more active role in public oversight, and to form a task force by the end of April 2021 that will investigate resources that can be diverted from the FPD annual budget–which consists of approximately 40% of the city’s total budget- to other alternative preventative agencies intended to prioritize community health, not state-sanctioned police violence. While the enormity of this undertaking is not lost on us, we owe it to our community to reject the antiquated, ineffective, and indisputably deficient approaches that result in a disproportionate amount of harm for very little in return. Addressing the blatant lack of accountability that has plagued our community for longer than I’ve been alive is a moral imperative that we can no longer allow Fullerton PD to default on.
We also call on the City to immediately terminate its contract with Lexipol. Lexipol, a private for-profit firm that routinely consults the FPD, as well as many other departments across the country, in creating internal policies and procedures, has become one of the most influential players in obstructing attempts for police reform at the federal level. According to various legal experts and civil rights advocacy organizations, police departments’ outsourcing to Lexipol has severely limited community participation in policy creation, resulting in difficulty securing accountability in cases such as Hector’s.
As we approach the tenth anniversary of the murder of Kelly Thomas this upcoming July, I can’t help but think about his final moments on this earth. I can hear his crying out, his fearful pleas, his terror-stricken apologies, echoing in my mind like an incessant reminder that our current system- and its treatment of the most vulnerable populations in our community- is fundamentally flawed.
It is a truth that has permeated my generation’s collective consciousness and motivates our efforts to address these inadequacies before they continue to perpetuate and destabilize generations to come by callously robbing us of our father’s embrace, our uncle’s advice, our brother’s protection, our cousin’s support, our son’s smile.
It’s undeniable: the young people in Orange County and across the country have become increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with the present state of policing, especially toward historically marginalized groups. But we recognize that these feelings are not a liability– they are an asset. When cultivated in solidarity and a vehement refusal to accept injustice as an unquestionable standard, these emotions serve as a foundation, a spark, a catalyst for securing the transformative change we seek.
Unlike Kelly, Hector might not have called out for anyone in his final moments on this earth, but we intend to answer him nonetheless.
Carolina Mendez is a fourth-year political science student at Cal State Fullerton, where she serves as President of the College Progressives and Vice President of the College Democrats. She also serves as the Orange County Regional Director of the California College Democrats’ statewide organization and is currently a legislative intern for the office of State Senator Steven Bradford in Los Angeles. Carolina is committed to encouraging students across the county as they recognize their political power and become more civically engaged, especially at the local level.
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