By John Moreno
March 24, 2017
Stockton, CA – After weeks of being promoted as an event to “build community trust” and show other cities how to do it, hardly anyone showed up and the actual community members who did weren’t allowed inside. As part of its ongoing participation in the National Police Initiative program the Stockton Police Department was selected to be part of (a result of its contentious relationship with the black and brown community in Stockton), the city hosted this event meant to highlight their gains in “restorative justice” and “community trust building”. However, some of those who have seen first hand what their practice versus preaching looks like, including battons to the face;
and city council meetings closed to the public after riot police physically forced everyone out despite only one person being asked to leave;
or mayor Tubbs having riot police escort him to his car three meetings in a row;
we’re not allowed inside despite wanting to pay the $50 fee. Dionne Smith-Downs was one of those activists not allowed inside and told it was a “private” event.
While some members of the community were denied entry up front, others like Aaron Paradiso made it in through the back disabled entrance as he is bound to a wheel chair. After speaking briefly with a few attendees he was then told to leave. He says only about 15 people were even inside. This claim is supported by Michael Tubbs’ own posts which conspicuously do not show the audience size beyond the front seats. This also means the city paid to use the larger auditorium for a pre-registered group that could have easily fit in one of the much smaller and less expensive meeting rooms.
While not being allowed inside Smith-Downs used the opportunity to talk with attendees who were leaving early and explain a narrative that is 180 degrees different than what the mayor and chief of police were telling attendees inside, including their not being invited or allowed in.
She also left them with fliers of facts regarding SPD and the community including cause for action in which they are protesting.
In addition to not allowing community members in mayor Tubbs also took the opportunity to make statements to the press that not only disregarded Black Lives Matter, but which were also contrary to the facts. Both these moves surprised activists especially since Tubbs had just had a private meeting with them three days prior. Yet in his statement when asked about the unrest at city hall by a reporter he claimed the protestors did not represent the community and that they had nothing they were asking for as if they were insignificant and had no purpose behind their actions.
Smith-Downs questioned why they were allowed to meet with Tubbs in private, but not allowed to attend the public meeting?
The next day both Tubbs and Jones promoted a narrative trying to minimize the okie doke sensed by residents wondering how they can build community trust without the actual community and when community police relations are worse than they’re perhaps ever been:
“Proud to be Mayor of our City!
Please read this op-ed written by the City Manager and Police Chief around the reconciliation and reform work we are doing in our police department. There’s been a lot of misinformation and attempts at thwarting this important work, but it will continue. Would love to hear your thoughts. Please share with family and friends!
‘In 2015, the SPD began a process of listening in a new way. When large numbers of people were ready to talk, we listened by holding a series of large town-hall-style events all over the city. When some voices were drowned out by the larger, sometimes raucous settings, we looked for another way to listen. As City Manager and Police Chief, we conducted a listening tour, for anyone at all, individually or in small groups, in their living rooms or our offices, and anywhere in between, to listen to our community.
In building trust, it is critical that your police chief hears from the communities with the most mistrust. So, as police chief, that’s what I’m doing. Over the past few weeks, additional small-group gatherings have been held with representatives from a range of communities in Stockton such as minority groups, youth, survivors of violence, mothers of murder victims, and others geared toward supporting our active listening efforts.
None of this is a fix-all. We’re not so naive to think we can shift community mistrust overnight. It’s a process. But police and communities share more common ground than either of us often realize. We are part of the public, and we’re proud to say the Stockton Police Department is committed to building trust and keeping our neighborhoods safe.’
#ReinventStockton”- Micheal Tubbs
Anyone paying attention can see something is not adding up here, except maybe the grant money coming into SPD and the non profits like Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, they are using to further their agenda. But what good is that agenda if it does not genuinely address the outstanding issues in the community? The first step in building trust is being honest.