By Sarah Young, Kathy Nicholas and Emily Green
Every crisis presents an opportunity, but only if we seize it. Like many cities in our country struggling with tension and violence, La Mesa finds itself at a turning point – address the city’s shortcomings or conduct business as usual. We believe the choice is obvious.
In recent years, tensions between the police department and the community have resulted from incidents where LMPD officers used excessive force against a child, wrongfully arrested a man at a trolley stop, and escalated conflicts at a protest resulting in serious injuries. We acknowledge the experiences of many members of our community.
To move forward, we must ensure the safety of all community members. We must choose a path towards trust, cooperation, accountability and transparency, which is why La Mesa must create an independent citizens oversight board.
An independent board is pro-community, pro-resident and pro-police when created thoughtfully and deliberately. As La Mesans, we deserve greater access to information and the ability to offer recommendations to our police department.
Authentic citizen oversight has proven to protect civil rights, manage risk, save taxpayer dollars, support effective policing and increase confidence in law enforcement, according to the National Association of Citizens Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE).
A 2016 Grand Jury report recommended that La Mesa “establish [an] independent citizen commission for oversight of police behavior.”
Dedicated community members have been working since at least 2018 to research and recommend best practices. The La Mesa Citizen Public Safety Oversight Task Force has met since January, striving to create a permanent oversight board. So far, the La Mesa Police Department has shown a willingness to take part and engage, and we applaud their efforts.
Civic participation is a patriotic right. A La Mesa Citizens Police Oversight Board is long overdue. We must work to restore trust in our police department, and we call upon our City Council to have the political willpower to make our city fair and just.
If we do it right, La Mesa can be the city that truly rises from the ashes.
Sarah Young, Kathy Nicholas and Emily Green are members of La Mesa Activists for Good Governance.
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