A couple of weeks ago an article appeared in The Sun newspaper that read, “Lawsuit settled over SB police shooting.” The family of Jerriel DeShawn Allen, a 19-year-old African American youth who was killed by police, settled with the city of San Bernardino for $575,000 which saved the city from going to trial. Believe it or not the article stated that the judge recommended they (the city) settle because it was a bad case for the city. DeShawn was shot 13 times and the police said he had a gun which was never found. It brought back memories of the Tyisha Miller shooting in Riverside who was shot 12 times by four White officers that cost the city $3 million to the family.
I had heard of other shootings in San Bernardino by watching the council meetings and listening to SB City Attorney Jim Penman, expound about needing more money to defend police abuse cases. Then this past week, I read another article where the new police chief wants to organize a team of leaders to fight crime in the community but no involvement from the citizens of the community.
This prompted me to go to the Internet and look up some information on police shootings and abuse incidents in San Bernardino that I was somewhat familiar with. I found some and now wonder how many of these incidents involve the same officer or officers.
These names of cases came to light: Jonneshia Reese, police used excessive force in 2005; Arlene Brooks, police killed in 2006; Jamora Allen, police killed in 2007; Terrell Markham, police used excessive force; Edward King Jr., shot by police and the officer said he had a gun which was not found; Cedric May, police killed in 2009; Francisco Joaquin, police used excessive force; Donavan Parker, police forced his way into the man’s apartment. The man was handcuffed and placed into the officer’s car before the officer recognized the man was telling him the truth, that he was blind. So instead of taking the man too jail, he took the man to the hospital so as not to be embarrassed. James Brown, police used excessive force; Mason, killed by police in 2009; in the shooting case officers claim that the victim had guns or was reaching for a gun that they never found or has been reported.
In all of these cited police abuse incidents, they carry a set aside monetary cost of nearly $2 million to the citizens of the city. As soon as these families find out they can get more in these wrongful deaths of police killings, the settlements go up. Police in New York killed Arlene Brooks and it cost over $4 million to settle. In the case of Tyisha Miller, it was Johnny Cochran that made the price tag go up.
I know that the city will try to prevent the public from getting all the information on police involved shootings, misconduct against citizens, use of excessive force against citizens, or officers that have been involved in repeated shootings against the public but I am still going to request it. If the public pays the salaries then the public has a right to know who the bad employees are and what is being done to correct that behavior to reduce the cost to the city.
We have a right to know who is defending or protecting overzealous or untrained staff members running around our city with badges and guns. We pay the officers, they live outside the city, they fund political campaigns of elected officials, these officials pay outside law firms to defend them and the taxpayers pay for all of it.
Now as a former police commissioner I know that officers have to make split second judgments but to use the same excuse of the victims were reaching for a gun and said weapon never being found is old. I want to know why it is that some officers work a lifetime and never pull their gun at civilians let alone shoot while other officers shoot civilians on a regular basis? Then to have the District Attorney’s office always find the officer justified in their actions is getting old as well. I take that back, I am aware of one incident where the DA took the officer to trial, this officer was Black.
I am aware that the clergy association is implementing a coalition to tackle this issue in the city. It was the clergy in Riverside that took up the justice banner for Tyisha Miller and brought about much needed reform in that police department with outside help from the U. S. Justice Department and then California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
It is time for the City of San Bernardino to establish a citizen’s police review or accountability board with responsibility and authority to oversee police actions and to replace the current police commission. To Police Chief Handy, I do not think your new initiative of experts will do what you want it to do without citizens from the community if you want to get rid of the police-killing field.