Sixty-five years ago, Emmitt Till, a 14 year-old Black teenager in Mississippi, was accused of looking and flirting at a white girl in front of a neighborhood grocery store. Emmitt Till was lynched for this thus setting the stage for the American Civil Rights Movement
In 2012 Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old Black teenager in Florida, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman was arrested, charged with murder, and later acquitted. This acquittal launched the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, a movement committed to “struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every black person has social, economic, and political power to thrive.”
On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis Police Officers arrested George Floyd, a Black man, outside a neighborhood convenience store. While under arrest and in handcuffs, one of the police officers applied his knee on George Floyd’s neck while he was on the ground and George Floyd subsequently died due to neck compression. The murder of George Floyd sparked several days of protest across the United States and here in Hayward.
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) historically have organized together and protested against laws and policies that treat BIPOC unfairly. I have put myself in the shoes of my Black Brothers and Sisters and I am listening. I am aware of the historical relationships between the police and BIPOC communities. While keeping to my own principals, I believe Hayward families deserve to live in the safest places possible and I believe families deserve to live in neighborhoods that are free of racism and any other type of hate based on race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation and identity, and immigrant status. Since the George Floyd murder, I have had many conversations with children, students, and parents in Hayward. Everyone supports protesting and they have participated in protests themselves from time to time at City Hall. They have taken this opportunity to learn about issues, teach their kids about social issues, and even to protest against city policies and practices.
After listening to neighborhood concerns, I supported and voted for Hayward’s new policy to independently investigate all officer involved shootings that result in death. And, at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 council session, my office with City Council Members and neighborhood leaders asked the City Manager and the Chief of Police to do the following:
- To convene focus groups of Hayward neighbors, collect substantive survey data from diverse neighborhoods and families, and clearly define the problem we need to fix in Hayward.
- Pause discussions to build a new police department.
- To work with the Community Advisory Panel to the Chief of Police, conduct community conversations, and actively listen to the lived experiences of BIPOC communities.
- To designate a city website to this issue and connect families to information so families can stay current and up-to-date on information and on policy progress.
- Evaluate police department budget and with community stakeholder input produce an investment plan for equitable protection services.
- Work with the Community Advisory Panel to the Chief of Police and stakeholders and generate a plan to better match service calls to patrol officers and appropriate professional staff.
I have received lots of email and calls from neighbors. Regardless of political affiliations, neighbors are concerned and feel there can be policy changes. Neighbors want Measure C funds applied to what voters voted for. And, they feel police officers and professional staff can be matched better to service calls. Today, police officers are dispatched to virtually all service calls. They are dispatched to calls concerning crime and safety and they are dispatched to calls concerning for example mental health, homelessness, and children. People feel police officers should be dispatched to calls involving serious criminal behavior. And, mental health professionals and other professionals should be dispatched to mental health calls and calls concerning homelessness and children. I agree.
By December 2020, my office, the City Manager, and the Chief of Police will have a path moving forward. For over twenty years, I have taught Ethnic Studies at the college\university level and I have committed my academic and policy careers to anti-racist principles, education, and equity. Black Lives Matter and today it’s time to make sure city policies achieve what the BLM Movement calls for: struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every [Black, Indigenous, and Person of Color] has social, economic, and political power to thrive.