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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This Heidi person just keeps on harmin’ the community.

Sounds like every mayor in every failed city in the country.

Heidi is a politician first, citizen second. We all agree. But let’s all be real; our local police force be it sherriff or city cops, within the last 5 years, have cost us tax payers millions of dollars in payouts due to police neglect, criminal behavior etc. Let us not forget Slo police chiefs recent cover up and prosecution of what seems to be a decent family, the recent discharging of weapon on the bubs the dog in slo in a neighborhood, Paso PD scandals, Morro Bay police chief falsely arresting a person then resigning, Atascadero Police chiefs family scandal, drunk Coroner; the undersheriff, harrassement, stating false laws and on and on, lastly, millions in pensions and inflated salaries. Paramedics make less than cops. That isnt ok. Parkinson takes in 250k a year, add it all up. Holland’s payout for his death was millions, of our dollars. And I support only peaceful protests that dont hinder peoples freedoms of movement and commerce.

I agree with you completely but I would add that these things reflect incompetence and lack of integrity, not rampant institutional racism.

As part of their operating budgets, cities and counties carry insurance policies for the type of operations they have. For example the county carries medical malpractice insurance because it operates a public health agency, a mental health department, clinics and a jail hospital.

When a city or county settles a suit or is found liable in court the money paid to the plaintiff is paid out of one of the insurance funds, not out of the operating budget.

All government agencies need to do better in risk management, especially law enforcement and fire services, because it IS our money they fund their operations with and use to pay those insurance premiums.

The Holland settlement was paid out of the county’s medical malpractice fund because county mental health refused to follow a judge’s order to remove Holland from the jail and take him to a treatment facility. The jail was ill equipped and unprepared to deal with Holland, the jail staff made some stupid decisions and Holland died as a result, but the initiating event of that tragedy was the county’s failure to provide medical care.

As to wages and benefits, the free market determines what different jobs are worth. A fireman in SLO with a high school education makes more than a licensed clinical social worker with a master’s degree. Social workers perform valuable services to the community, but no one expects them to run into a burning building to save a child. This is also why heart surgeons make more than plumbers and plumbers make more than the guy working third shift at your local Wendy’s. As to the unfairness of this wage disparity I can only add that if a person wants to make more money then they should pursue a higher paying job and be willing to attain the education/training/ certifications required to attain it, rather that sit around whining about it.

God forgive her for she knows not what she does. Her megalomania knows no bounds.

Every organization and business would do well to let Heidi review their procedures. She’s a smart, compassionate woman mayor.

That makes her an expert on procedures of all types: police, medical, environmental, fiscal, etc.

Who else do you know that can “make an inclusive and equal community” with just 140k?

I detest Mayor Heidi using a line of questioning to assert allegations of wrong doings by OUR law enforcement. Shame on Mayor Heidi for unjustly conveying insult to OUR law enforcement. Where is the love?

She reminds me of a teenager who gets their first credit card and keeps charging because it keeps working before the first payment gets received. Or someone who keeps writing checks because there are stills checks in the checkbook.

Feels good while you are doing it!

Some day the chickens will come home to roost, but by then, she will be gone.

The mayor appears hell bent to destroy the City she says she loves so dearly. Her hatred of the police and disavowing any connection to the law enforcement response expected from a third grader, not a responsible adult. Seems simple enough to me: throw rocks and fireworks at the police and they shoot tear gas in return. From the footage, the problem quickly disappeared as the offenders scattered like mice. Those who weren’t throwing rocks were advised that it was an unlawful assembly prior to the tear gas. If these “kids” can’t understand or comply with a lawful order, than there isn’t much that can be done to help them.

While proud of our police force, I am distraught by the lack of support they receive from the elected officials. Harmon is clearly one of the leaders who is promoting more hatred by her anti-police activism. It is easy to promote hate and apparently to big of a challenge to build relations within the city. By that approach, all of us lose.

Then why the hell does she let Cantrell still run the force if she hates cops so much? She’s part of the system, she fronts as a politician, she’s a good ol boy!

God forgive her for she knows not what she does…

I beg to differ. She knows exactly what she is doing.