In this moment in history when we are looking for leaders with vision and understanding, it was especially discouraging to read the June 12 Op-Ed by Escondido Councilmember Mike Morasco demonstrating neither.
First, he seemed to miss the point of the June 3 Take a Knee event at City Hall, which he did not even attend. I was an organizer and the comments of every speaker at that event were welcomed, appropriate, and shared truth about how they felt and what was an appropriate response to what is happening in our society. It was a chance to listen and a chance to be heard. Encouraging dialogue was the point.
The focus of the event was to come together as a city, grieve together, and to lay the important groundwork for the next steps we need to take. We also took time to explore actions that we could take, in all quarters, to address and end systemic racism and to move forward in unity. The EPD took up this charge seriously as well, announcing a few hours later that the carotid restraint would be banned in Escondido.
The fact is Councilmember Diaz’s recommended “Action Plan” for policing reforms was exactly on-point. As she has always done, she used her prodigious intellect, problem-solving skills, and policy experience as a true leader of all people in this city to offer effective, sensible, and fact-based recommendations.
Ms. Diaz is to be thanked by all of us for her framework for constructive action. Her reasonable requests such as releasing racial statistics on traffic stop data, unconscious bias trainings, diversity in staffing, community involvement in key hirings, and citizen’s oversight committee can only serve to improve our city services—and our collective safety.
Her clinical dissection of the budget for the education of the public was critical to deeper understanding and should be applauded. Her approach, in both content and process, to make government including the police, more open, accountable, and reflective of the community is exactly the direction our city needs. To do any less, is to be tone-deaf to the moment.
Second, it not just a “premise” that Escondido has a history of racism. Escondido, for a fact, has a long and painful history of racism. Let’s not forget 2006, when there was a very different scene in the Escondido City Hall Plaza when then-leaders attempted to turn landlords into de-facto ICE agents. Or, when Escondido pioneered Operation Joint Effort, the first in the nation partnership between police and ICE, to work against Latino residents.
And, the traffic checkpoints that targeted our residents of color for years. Thankfully, due to lawsuits, legislation, and changes in leadership, some things have improved. But, we cannot just brush away our past. As a city we have a lot to own up to and we can do better.
Last, the call to re-imagining policing and public safety is not “inane.” It is part of a healthy response to the unabated systemic racism that manifests, too often, in police actions. It is a worthy endeavor to consider how we can let our police be guardians and not warriors. I hope everyone will join the dialogue.
I urge us all to be open and unafraid of change. Old ways of being, such as continuing a society rife with unaddressed systemic racism, depleted social programs, and divisive leadership cannot be way of the future.
Everyone, especially us white people, need to hear things that may be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make them less true. It is time for us to listen. It is time for us to change. If we can do it together, we can find a way forward where we encourage thoughtful proposals like this one, Equal Justice Initiative, and others build a new path to the future that works for everyone.
LAURA HUNTER, Escondido