On Monday, I wrote the following letter to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors supporting Supervisor Perez’s resolution condemning the brutal murder of George Floyd and request to review the polices and practices of the Sheriff’s department.
My letter stated, “Like most communities throughout Riverside County, in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, we have a long history of racial segregation and exclusion, racial violence, racist city policies and policing, and injustice and disparities in our community that exist today. These have real and long-lasting effects on our residents’ daily lives and last for generations.” This is a factual statement based on data we have access to, including the Loma Linda Health Assessment showing racial disparities in health outcomes for our Black community.
The Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association has condemned this statement and my actions, sending me multiple emails demanding that I meet with them today and stating: “The Palm Springs Police Officer’s Association would like to meet with you ASAP over the contents of this letter. We ask that you come prepared to explain the “Ongoing history of Police Brutality directed at black communities and communities of color” by the Palm Springs Police Department. We also ask that you show how the Palm Springs Police Department has “[an ongoing history of] racist city policies and policing.” They then emailed me a follow up stating, “We will not allow this to go another day without it being addressed publicly.”
As I was drafting a response on the same day the request was received, they sent out a press release condemning my letter and my actions.
I respect our police department, I have worked closely with our officers over the last two and half years on city council, and I appreciate that our officers are working on the front lines and have difficult and dangerous jobs, and that is why we work so hard to keep our officers and department and our resident safe. I have campaigned for self imposed tax increases to fund public safety and have worked on the subcommittee for the new downtown park in order to bring a police substation in downtown. I have participated in ride alongs and have spoken to community members about their interactions with our police force.
I welcome a transparent, open, and honest public conversation about the history of racial discrimination, racist city practices, and existing practices of racial discrimination that affect our residents today. Our residents who elected us to govern and oversee the city and the police department are calling on us to have a conversation about the racial history and policing methods in our communities.
We need to look internally at all of our policies as a city to review our past and current actions and policies, ensure there are not racially disparate impacts, ensure that we are getting the entire community’s perspectives, and ensure we are doing everything we can to improve as a city and in every department.
If the POA appears to be unwilling to even address our history, let alone any of our existing practices across the city, I expect that will be a significant problem for the public. We cannot shut down any attempt to look internally at our practices and this appears to be an overreaction to a minor criticism of the city as a whole.
The tone and demands contained in these emails and the response in the media concern me that we will not be able to have an open and honest dialogue as a community. I would also ask if the POA would send this letter with the same tone to the mayor or other men on council. I have never before been summoned to meet on the same day and to provide proof of racism over our 80-year history when we had openly racist former mayors.
The response by the union and their comments to the media about to our elected officials in their official capacity raises significant concerns about how we can have this conversation as a community and how our residents can be heard.
We are all doing our jobs to the best of our abilities to represent the residents of Palm Springs and keep our communities safe. I understand this is a difficult time and a highly divisive time. It is in part my job to ensure that the residents and the police department work together well, and I think we all have the same goals there and we want the same outcomes. My belief is that by addressing unjust policies and practices, we can move forward together and have more productive relationships and a safer community.
We are all in this together and we are stronger when we stand together.
- Stronger together: Shutterstock