By Lela Panagides
As a provider of business services to law enforcement and a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, I know that the vast majority of our police officers are driven by a noble sense of service and duty to their communities. I cannot fully express the gratitude I feel for the officers who keep our neighborhoods safe.
In Carlsbad, we are incredibly lucky to have one of the most responsive departments in California when it comes to community feedback.
Recently I hosted a town hall with a police captain of one of the largest police departments in the nation. He shared that within the law enforcement community, courageous and honest conversations are happening to respond to the calls for police reform. He recognized that police have an opportunity for self-reflection and can leverage this moment for transformation to build trust with communities of color.
It saddens me that some people are using this issue to exploit division and label critics as not being supportive of law enforcement. I reject that notion.
Police leaders all over the country have been having these tough conversations—acknowledging the work that remains to be done—and looking within to increase transparency, change their use-of-force policies, and implement community policing strategies.
In fact, our Carlsbad Police Officers Association recognizes the importance of the evolving nature of policing and released a statement to that effect. In the statement they said that they “welcome and encourage a review of their department’s policies in response to calls for reform.” I’m very much a supporter of the Carlsbad police and will work with them along with the community to ensure that their vision and the community’s vision are aligned.
We also do a disservice to police departments when government doesn’t fully fund other services that can prevent public safety issues. Police departments cannot do their jobs properly if the fire department, social services, homelessness outreach, rehabilitation, substance abuse and mental health programs aren’t fully funded. All of these jobs end up falling on police officers. It’s not fair to ask that of anyone.
There is also a role for City Hall to play in ensuring our police departments have the resources and training they need, as well as have the support they need from other agencies. The responsibility of public safety is a shared one.
In Carlsbad, public safety extends well beyond police. At the time of this writing, California has 28 active fires and Carlsbad has 670 reported cases of COVID-19. With limited resources, city leaders must prioritize and direct support for immediate or anticipated threats to public welfare and safety.
I am an active member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Ready Carlsbad Business Alliance, which focuses on emergency preparedness, response and recovery. I have also spent time with our Carlsbad firefighters and know that the majority of 911 calls are related to medical emergencies, which necessitates additional ambulance resources to meet growing needs.
Public safety requires a comprehensive approach and forward-looking vision to ensure we are addressing root causes. Elected officials, community leaders and public safety officials need to work hand-in-hand to move forward and make the necessary changes to increase public trust, treat our communities and our peace officers fairly, and make sure our neighborhoods stay safe and healthy.
Lela Panagides is president of her own leadership consulting business and is a candidate for Carlsbad City Council, District 2, in November.