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Working to secure public safety in society is more complicated than just policing. Public safety is not just secured by the police force of a community. Individuals and policymakers should look at the public risk in the Middle East or Northern Africa to see that societies are defined by cultures, economics, environment and government and how individuals interact with these elements within society.
Many individuals in the United States are expressing their discontent of the social breakdown occurring in our inner cities and the recent events happening across our nation. Elected leaders and police officers across the country are upset due to these recent tragedies. Police officers are selected to protect and serve our communities and a small percentage of them are not achieving the standards they are supposed to uphold in their communities.
Identifying the causes and providing solutions for these challenges should not and will not be determined by the state Legislature. I am surprised and disheartened that the California Legislature has passed a bill that establishes an oversight committee composed of politicians to gather and evaluate data that is intended to help improve public safety in California. The role for the California Legislature is to support policies that improve education, build infrastructure to improve the economy and enhance our environment.
My experience, having served in local government for seven years, is that the best way to address racial and economic inequality is at the local level. Local leaders (parents, city council members, school board members, pastors, teachers, Little League coaches and Boy Scout leaders) need to take ownership in defining their communities.
When local leaders identify the unique challenges in their communities, appropriate and meaningful solutions can be found. However, when policy-makers dictate a process that is skewed by politics (members from racial, ethnic and LGBT caucuses) to oversee 39 million citizens and hundreds of communities in California, solutions will not be found and developed and divisions will be amplified.
As a member of the Oceanside City Council, I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful community leader named Concha Hernández Green. Green lost her son to gang violence and decided to contribute to the safety of her community by cleaning up local parks so children had a safe place to go and would be less inclined to join local gangs.
When I met Green, the park in her community was run down and littered with graffiti. She passionately demanded that the city replace light bulbs in streetlights, build basketball courts and soccer fields that would provide a positive outlet for at-risk youth. She worked with the Oceanside City Council, the Oceanside Police Department, parents and various community leaders to accomplish this task. After establishing a safe outlet for at-risk youth in her community, the gangs stopped having such a major effect. Green did not blame the Oceanside Police Department for the loss of her son; instead she decided to provide a meaningful solution to the problem of gang violence. I learned a lot from working with her, and I encourage policymakers to find local community leaders, like her, that will have the courage and dedication to work with local community groups to ensure the safety and prosperity of their neighborhoods.
Police officers are not the problem in society; they are part of the solution. Individuals and communities need to refrain from blaming this essential group of personnel for some of the shortfalls in various elements of public safety of our society. We must take ownership of our communities and work with city managers, school districts and police agencies to build and manage healthy communities across California.
Making emotional and passionate speeches on the Assembly floor on social inequality and establishing a statewide oversight committee managed by members of political organizations is not beneficial to building healthier and safer communities in California. The best course of action for enhancing the public safety of all communities across California is to assist and provide resources to local community leaders in creating outreach programs that will establish productive and meaningful policies that keep the community leaders engaged in all neighborhoods.
Rocky Chavez represents the 76th Assembly District in the California Legislature, and is a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Chavez’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.