SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon to review police procedures

June 4, 2020

Mayor Heidi Harmon

Statement by San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon

This is a day of mourning in this country. The family and loved ones of George Floyd lay their beloved son, brother, father, and friend to rest. I have asked that all of the flags in the city be flown at half staff to honor his life. A life that was ended too soon at the hands of a racist police officer.

I have been listening to all of your voices and I hear you. This statement was written in collaboration with local young black leadership and in particular with Xavier Moore, Jalen Hamler, both Cal Poly students and with Tianna Arata; recent Cuesta graduate and future University of Sacramento student. Together, we are implementing the demands of justice. I had the honor of walking with these leaders in a peaceful protest on Wednesday and their leadership is something to be commended and celebrated. I want to start by acknowledging and affirming how tragic, unacceptable, and heartbreaking the recent killings of black folks at the hands of the police are.

I understand that the murders of recent weeks are but a few of the centuries-long history of racism and violence against People of Color in this country. What is happening today is a direct result of our country’s racist beginning, a wound we have never committed to healing- and we must make that commitment to healing now through action, through policy, through dialogue and collaboration.

Over recent days, thousands of people within our community have boldly and peacefully stood in solidarity to protest racial injustice that has plagued our nation and our world. I stand with you. I hear you and I want to take this opportunity to positively impact social change- a change that looks like prioritizing black voices, equity in leadership, a world where parents don’t live in fear when their black children leave the house, and a San Luis Obispo that does not leave anyone out.

We have heard over and over again from people of color that they do not feel welcome here and it is time to step up and be willing to do the difficult and necessary work of changing that. It is up to us to do the work to educate ourselves in order to create a community that is welcoming, equitable, and kind. A budget is an expression of values and I want the city’s budget to express the value of standing with people of color.

I am glad to say that at this week’s City Council meeting we set aside $160,000 to go toward policy and efforts to better serve communities of color and create more equity in San Luis Obispo. This effort will center people of color who will lead and advise us as to meaningful steps we can take as a city on anti-racism work. We will be immediately putting this funding towards meaningful and concrete steps we can take as a city on anti-racism work. With meaningful efforts, we can create a city in which tear gas, foam bullets, and pepper balls will never be used when people are peacefully demonstrating. I am open, interested, and ready to listen to your suggestions as to the best way to implement and use this funding.

The incident on Monday in which tear gas was deployed by local law enforcement is greatly disturbing and I have heard from many of you that you are deeply upset as well. To be clear, I was not involved in any way in the decision to deploy tear gas to disperse the protesters. Our role on City Council is one of policy and not of operations. In my role as Mayor, I do not have a position of command or control over multi-jurisdictional law enforcement. I am, however, responsible for taking on the call, and demanding that we do better. We can do better and I am committed to learning from this incident in order to gain clarity on what policies we need to pursue to ensure that we don’t have an incident like that ever again in our city.

I am calling for the police department to conduct a Critical Incident Review that includes the statements of protesters on what happened so that all of us can understand exactly what led up to this situation so we can learn, make changes, and do better. I have signed on to President Obama’s pledge to de-escalate police violence.

In addition, I have asked the following questions to Chief Cantrell to seek clarity and to assess what the critical next steps need to be:

  • Are the police officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department being trained to de-escalate altercations by using peaceful conflict resolution strategies?
  • Are the police officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department forbidden from using carotid restraints (chokeholds, strangleholds, etc.) and hog-tying methods? Furthermore, are they forbidden from transporting civilians in uncomfortable positions, such as face down in a vehicle?
  • Are the police officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department required to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force? Will officers be reprimanded if they fail to intervene?
  • Are the police officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department forbidden from shooting at moving vehicles?
  • Is there a clear and enforced use-of-force continuum that details what weapons and force are acceptable in a wide variety of civilian-police interactions?
  • Is there a clear and enforced use-of-force continuum that details what weapons and force are acceptable in a wide variety of civilian-police interactions?
  • Are the officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department required to give a verbal warning to civilians before drawing their weapon or using excessive force?
  • Are the officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department thoroughly vetted to ensure that they do not have a history with abuse, racism, xenophobia, homophobia/transphobia, or discrimination?
  • Are the officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department trained to perform and seek necessary medical action after using excessive force?
  • Are the officers in the San Luis Obispo Police Department trained to perform and seek necessary medical action after using excessive force?
  • What are the educational requirements of our officers?

At our next City Council meeting, I will be presenting a proclamation to these young leaders in honor of Juneteenth; the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. I call on the people of San Luis Obispo to join me in celebrating Juneteeth by sharing some of the tremendous wealth in this community by providing scholarship funding to Cal Poly so that more first-generation students have a chance at a good education and a chance at being part of the fabric of this community. To give young people of color a chance to be commended for their intelligence at Cal Poly, instead of the majority of admissions of black students having to be within athletics. And I call on the media to commit to unbiased reporting and to take responsibility for the crucial role that media often plays in stoking the flames of fear and distrust.

Racism is a social system with multiple dimensions. Racism causes persistent racial discrimination in housing, education, employment, and criminal justice; racism is a significant social determinant of health as we have seen throughout the COVID pandemic and violence against people of color. It is crucial that we name this in order to fully and meaningfully address this crisis. This is why at our next city council meeting I will be asking that the City of San Luis Obispo asserts that racism is a public health emergency affecting our entire society. And I am calling on Governor Newsom to do the same.

As an activist myself, I appreciate the impact that activism can have on policy, and the work it takes to be in the streets. Your activism has made a difference. I implore you as we move into tomorrow and the weeks and years to come, to continue to listen, ask questions, and do the important work that is before us. Do not look away. We are a caring and compassionate community. And we are a caring and compassionate community of privilege and we are called to use that privilege to create a more fair and just world for all. We need to come together to all stand in support of peaceful and radical action against systemic racism. I stand in grief and support and believe that we must come together to end the discrimination and violence of black and marginalized communities everywhere.

A world exists in which we no longer have to protest injustice because injustice no longer exists. A world where riot gear goes rusty and policing becomes obsolete. A world where black men run and black women sleep in their homes in safety. A world where George Floyd and Breanna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbrey are still alive, walking hand in hand with Xavier Moore, Jalen Hamler, and Tianna Arata. Let us create that world together.


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derasmus

What a disappointment this mayor is, on so many levels…


Downtown Bob

Holy crap! She called certain people “black folks” ?! Isn’t that condescending? Also, why would any department require verbal warnings before….drawing their weapon? Seriously, Mr. Criminal, I am going to draw my weapon and point it at you! No uncomfortable positions during transport? That is pretty much any trip to jail from what I can tell. Seeking medical attention before using “excessive force”? Um, there is no policy in using excessive force you vacant goofball.


The idea that the specific losers she worked with to lecture us on the proper way to address the privileged class, POC, May or may not even be from this area.


As far as I care, Harmin can take her corrupt ass and her little friends and return to whatever nuthouse they came from. Don’t care Harmon. Go away.


Gordo

You see Bob, in Heidi’s little circle of pseudo intellectuals and swimming pool communists, there exists the perception that Black people need enlightened White people, such as themselves, to protect and guide them through life. This is allows them to take certain liberties around Black people and get away with it; things like calling them “black folks” and breaking into a southern accent when “preaching” at them.

This same arrogance makes them the world’s foremost authorities on whatever the issue is that has gained the media spotlight at the moment. It also allows them to say and do stupid things without ever being called on it.


LeroyMoo

Spit-balling and hypocrisy by Harmon. Heidi alienates the police with a Critical Incident Review of the tear gas incident, but Heidi doesn’t need an investigation into the number of cases of racism in SLO or has any statistical data to back up her speculation/assertion of local racism. She mentions racism 10 times.

In any large company a investigatory team would ascertain the causes or precursors to target the systemic recurrent problems. Then a second team would weigh feasibility and score the multiple interventions using something like FACES: Feasibility, Acceptability, Cost, Effectiveness and Sustainability. How on earth can the SLO City Council pluck $160k out of their backside when there is no feasibility study first? Is $160k the average figure for interventions for progressive little towns to spit-ball fixing a speculated problem that they have no formal report which says it’s even broken?


gjoralemon

Mayor Harmon,

With all due respect to your position as an elected official, the nature and tone of your inquiries into the actions of Chief Cantrell and her officers is of great concern to me. Have you met privately with Chief Cantrell and reviewed your concerns? If not, it appears that your publicized concerns are a mere political maneuver to appease your base. Had you simply met with Chief Cantrell I suspect she would have satisfactorily alleviated most if not all of your concerns. Yet, you apparently skipped that reasonable step and opted to publicize your concern for obvious political purposes. I suggest that you would be hard pressed to find a more progressive and community-oriented law enforcement executive than Deena Cantrell. She and her officers set the standard for professionalism and patience during the protest and subsequent deployment of chemical agents. Further, Chief Cantrell is an appointed official who works at the leisure of you and the City Counsel. To suggest that you were completely uninvolved and helpless in the deployment of chemical agents and unable to control your police department is frankly an insult to reasonable and informed people and an amateurish attempt to divest yourself from the sometime unpleasant business of protecting the public and maintaining the peace. Please don’t attempt to portray yourself as a victim in all this. If this is a task that you find abhorrent, perhaps leading a municipality and police department (after all, you are where the “buck stops”) isn’t the job for you. You can’t, with any credibility accept praise when your police department does something you find politically favorable but condemn them when they are forced to do something you find politically objectionable.


aye-caramba

It is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…..


Robert1

She looks like a thrift store shopper half the time, garage sale queen the way she dresses, I really miss the flower in her hair, :)


womanwhohasbeenthere

Maybe she has realized that having a flower in her hair to channel Eva Braun isn’t really that cool anymore.


BTW Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress, why Heidi wanted to be identified with the most racist monster in history is beyond me.


commonsenseguy

Oh my gosh, what a complete train wreck. What an embarrassment. Complete incompetence. I see that the $100.000 has already increased to $160,000 in a day. Hold on to your asses SLO citizens. The citizen’s of your city aren’t paying you to be an activist. If that’s your desire, then resign from your position as mayor, put another flower in your hair and pursue your desire as a narcissist activist. And take your Chief Police with you. I’m so glad I don’t live in SLO. I encourage the Police, Fire, and all of the various classified employees groups take a vote of “No Confidence” for both and present it to the city council ASAP. What a self-righteous piece of work she is. It seems her cognitive thought process may be effected by a debased mind. Maybe she attended one too many of her so called community “pot-lucks”. From her long winded bloviated self-centered message, to the repeating of several of her request for the Police Chief, makes me question HER clarity of mind.


Robert1

Wait until the annual bill comes out to support the wish list!


obispan

What does any of this have to do with the San Luis Obispo Police Department, or Paso for that matter? Nothing. Heidi is supporting the Antifa insurection as a loyal SLO Progressive.


ratherbefishing

The University of Sacramento, a private Catholic university, closed in 2011.


Myself

First off we don’t fly flags half mast for just anyone that dies, but I see lately that doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

Doesn’t this ninny understand the words unlawful gathering disperse and go home, when people don’t obey the command and start doing what they want things will happen, tear gas was the 2 or 3rd thing the police used on the protesters, I guess they could use more bean bags and rubber balls those hurt, rock salt works pretty well also.

Now if she would start to listen, we the taxpayer don’t want these protesters in town disrupting our livelyhood blocking our streets and getting on a state hwy, go home and stay home, we are still under a travel quarantine but if the virus count goes up because of these protesters I’m sure the mayor will think its all right.


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