(CHINO, CALIF.) The Chino Police Department held a community forum event June 24 in which panelists from the department and local churches discussed the stigma surrounding the police force, as well as how the department can try to keep its longstanding relationship with the city of Chino.
Moderated by Lieutenant Aaron Kelliher, who oversees the CPD’s Special Operations Bureau, the 90-minute event had over 15 attendees, including Mayor Eunice Ulloa and Councilmembers Walt Pocock and Christopher Flores. The event was organized by Captain Kevin Mensen.
“I took away an understanding of some of the historical issues from our country and other countries that have contributed to a lack of trust between some members of our community and law enforcement in general,” Pocock said in an interview with NewsBreak.
Officer Monica Menendez, Chief of Police Wes Simmons, Corporal Ryan Tillman and Sergeant Jesus Jacquez all represented the CPD during the event. Lead pastors from the Loving Savior Lutheran Church in Chino Hills and two Chino churches — Transformation Church IE and The Bridge — also spoke on the panel.
Why some ethnic groups do not trust law enforcement
Jody Moore, the lead pastor of the Transformation Church IE in Chino, said that each story has a historical narrative.
“We have to understand that people respond from the trauma they’ve experienced historically,” Moore, who identifies as Black, said at the event.
Rev. Dr. Andy Wu, the pastor of the Loving Savior Lutheran Church and a Chinese-American, spoke on the perspective that some Asians in America have of the police due to experiences in their homelands. Wu noted that the police are “authority” and “power.”
“Nobody wants to see the police, even if they’re in danger,” Wu said at the event.
In Hong Kong, for instance, the police force was previously respected until protests started to get out of hand. The respect was lost when the police force began using pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas in an attempt to control the citizens who were protesting the extradition bill, which would allow Hong Konger suspects to be sent to China.
CPD Sergeant Jacquez, a first-generation Mexican American who has worked in the department for 13 years, said he was raised in a family who viewed the police as corrupt — a view common in some Latin American countries like the Dominican Republic.
Amnesty International, an organization focusing on human rights issues, released a report in 2019 in which 46 Dominican female sex workers who identified as cisgender or transgender stated that they had been sexually assaulted by members of the police force.
Four years earlier, the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices found that Mexico had numerous instances of officers committing torture, killing civilians or being involved in disappearances.
“We (the Hispanic and Latino communities) don’t trust the police department,” Jacquez said during the event. “In fact, we want as little interaction as possible.”
Jacquez noted that when he joined the police force, many members of his family “saw it as a form of betrayal.”
“As a Mexican-American, it is my responsibility to change that mentality,” Jacquez said in an interview with NewsBreak. “I want to show our Hispanic community that the police in the U.S. (are) a resource. We are here to serve and protect. Our police (are) not corrupt, and we have laws and policies in place that regulate our actions.”
Changes made to California’s law and the CPD’s procedures
In response to the death of George Floyd in May 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two major bills into law at the end of September 2020. One bill, AB-1196, banned the use of chokeholds and the other, AB-1506, requires California’s attorney general to conduct investigations into shootings where an officer killed an unarmed civilian.
Chief of Police Simmons credits these changes and those made to the department itself to the youth. The department’s changes were made after a Chino High student organized a June 2020 Black Lives Matter rally that ended at the CPD’s headquarters and was attended by hundreds of people.
“We have to be willing to acknowledge the issues that are occurring so we can address them,” Simmons said at the event.
Among the many changes made to the CPD was the retraining of its officers, especially with the use of de-escalation. As of December 2020, the department’s policy manual states that a certain amount of force can be employed if the situation calls for it. Any excessive force that an officer witnesses and does not agree with must be reported to a supervisor, who will send all of the necessary information to a lieutenant to review.
The department also added Sherry Dudick, a mental health specialist from the County of San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health. Dudick joined the CPD’s Quality of Life team, which is dedicated to helping the homeless and any individuals with a mental health crisis.
Improving trust, communication and respect between residents and the CPD
Every year, the department hosts and attends various community events in order to try to heal and preserve its relationship with the Chino community. Mark Lohman, the lead pastor of The Bridge in Chino, agrees with this decision.
“They see your uniform, but they need to see your humanness,” Lohman said at the event.
For at least 5 years, the department has attended National Night Out, an event typically held in August where police departments visit the neighborhoods they serve and spend time with residents. The 2021 event will be held Aug. 3 with locations to be determined once the registration window closes.
Aside from hosting community events, the department also has its own programs available to the public. The Chino Police Explorer Program is geared towards the youth, who have the opportunity to assist in events relating to community service and also undergo physical fitness and testing. The Citizen Academy and its Spanish alternative, Spanish Citizens Academy, strive to teach participants about law enforcement.
Additionally, Corporal Tillman, a Black man who has worked in law enforcement for eight years, founded Breaking Barriers United. The organization is dedicated to connecting with students and changing how they view the police while also learning what generates their viewpoints.
A recording of the event will be shared on the CPD’s social media accounts at a later date.
An earlier version of this article stated that Mark Lohman was the founder and lead pastor of The Bridge in Chino. Lohman did not found the church, so a correction was made to say that Lohman is the lead pastor of the church.
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