Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 29, 2021

Our collective shame

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

I have not watched the video yet. I have read the transcripts auto generated by Youtube of the dispatch calls but that’s about it. I have had people tell me what’s in the video and I have read media reports of what is in the video as well. So that’s sort of where I’m at with all of this which maybe allows me to be more detached than simply enraged about what happened.

I know there’s a lot of focus on getting accountability through punishing the individual police officers but what we’re seeing here in Alameda and elsewhere are institutional problems. If we keep focusing on individuals and classifying police officers into good apples and bad apples we don’t get to the root of the problem: the institution of policing itself.

I was going to wait to write about Alameda’s missed opportunity last year to make immediate changes until after the Special meeting on the 8th but the more I pondered the issue the more frustrated I got and I don’t want the City Council majority to punt again. So I’m going to remind folks that we had the opportunity in July of last year after the Mali Watkins incident and in the wake of all the other national tragedies to pivot to do something more than just the status quo.

In July 2020, then Vice Mayor John Knox White and then Councilmember Jim Oddie placed a referral on the agenda to declare racism a public health emergency. Using that lens they had explicit asks with deadlines to make immediate changes, for example:

The Alameda City Council commits to identifying up to 42% of the City Police Department budget to reallocate towards programs that support public health, wellness and resilience and can respond to emergency calls for which the Police are not necessary as identified by Alameda’s Chief of Police. The Council also commits to reviewing the budget again based on the recommendations of the community-led steering committee and based on the outside audit described below. These cuts will be proportional to the 42% reduction in services that the Department has historically responded to and identified to shift to other departments. The City Council directs the City Manager to begin an outside audit of the activities of the Alameda Police Department, to be made publicly available, including the time spent on activities overseen by the Department in the last 12 months, the time and staffing provided for these activities and City policies that may need to be changed in order to meet the goals and objectives outlined by the community-led steering committee on safety and security for all Alamedans. Additionally, the budget reallocation will explore the following areas: 

A. A workplan by July 31, 2020 for a top-to-bottom change in the community service culture in the Alameda Police Department that reestablishes community member safety and well-being as the City’s primary goal and commits the entire department to long-term, ongoing anti-racism training and outcomes to ensure the training is changing behavior.

B. The identification, development and implementation of a crisis intervention and management program to divert calls for emergency services away from the police and towards crisis intervention programs that are well-suited to handle mental health emergencies.

C. The identification, development and implementation of a homeless intervention and support program.

D. A restructuring of the City’s Traffic Safety Enforcement Division to focus on a short-term strategy of targeting street safety-related behaviors: red-light running, stop sign running, speeding, illegal and unsafe turns, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and cellphone violations. A long-term strategy of seeking State Law changes to allow for unarmed, non-sworn community traffic safety personnel to focus on red-light running, speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians as already exist in other parts of the State and country and have been found to reduce the disparate enforcement impacts on communities of color while making real strides in street safety.

This all might possibly had been in place at the time that the 911 call was made to report Mario Gonzalez “not doing anything wrong” just “scaring” someone’s wife.

Instead, the City Council majority punted and asked citizen volunteers to do the heavy lift of figuring all this out before they were willing to take action. The thing is, we could have done both. We SHOULD have done both. We could have put in place the plan outlined in the referral AND had the subcommittees meet and talk about how we can improve Alameda public safety and race relations moving forward.

The shame of it all is that it may take the loss of someone’s life for this City to take action that should have been taken nearly a year ago.

11 Comments »

  1. This is infuriating, and totally not surprising. Can we at least take their goddamn tank away now?

    Comment by Rod — April 29, 2021 @ 10:05 am

  2. The white folks of Alameda doubling down by backing the blue, and even made a “Shout Out to APD” post on NextDoor to celebrate them after a man died in police custody. Imagine if national outlets were to get ahold of this entire thread to know how our town is behaving.

    https://nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=185126831

    Comment by WTF Alameda — April 29, 2021 @ 12:20 pm

    • Well, sure, that “shout out to APD” and “back the blue” makes us look horrid. I’m not sure Alameda is alone in that look, however, judging by the comments of many friends and strangers across the country in response to this and other deaths in custody.

      Comment by NothingNewHere — April 29, 2021 @ 12:29 pm

  3. I watched the video a couple of times and have to say that it was very different than what went down with Mr. Floyd. The problem here, and just about everywhere is accepted police procedure and tactics, as well as the way in which our society handles mental illness and addiction as criminal, not social, behavior.
    These officers were much more polite and certainly when the man went limp, immediately started medical intervention and called for medical assistance. While pressure was applied to the man’s back and briefly to his neck (police procedure) it was not done for a long time as with Mr. Floyd, nor did Mr. Gonzalez ask for relief – he was too deep into his inebriation to do so.
    I know i am going to get yelled at for saying this, but this appears less racist and uncaring on the part of the officers than it does that their following police procedures for dealing with a super inebriated person, who was not aggressive or dangerous and should have been dealt with by medical/social intervention. Calling them racist murderers is not in order.

    Comment by Kate Quick — April 29, 2021 @ 4:34 pm

    • Good comment. The death of Mario Gonzalez is tragic and unnecessary. While it was caused by police intervention and the “karening” of an unthreatening person, the video does not show any obvious intention by the officers to harm the victim.

      Comment by 1jamesr1 — April 29, 2021 @ 6:09 pm

    • @laurendo Yes! Thank you. City Council has been negligent in taking action on reforming police in Alameda. Now some of the council members want to capitalize on this tragedy to be the pro-reform members of the Alameda City Council. I would include in this negligence, City Manager Eric Levitt. Change should have and could have happened already.

      @Kate Quick The officers had no right to put their hands on Mario Gonzalez. Why aren’t you defending the rights of the man they murdered instead of defending the police?

      Comment by ActivelyAnti-Racist — April 30, 2021 @ 11:40 am

      • I am not so much defending the police, especially as you suggest that that means i care nothing for Mr. Gonzalez, which is ridiculous. I am saying that this horrible thing, which resulted in a needless death of a human being not able to respond or make choices due to a deep state of inebriation happened not so much through murderous racism as by police officers employing training and methods which are inappropriate for dealing with impaired mental capacity. I do not believe these officers set out to commit murder because this man was not white and they believed his life did not matter. The issue is being framed wrongly. It is the larger problem of police training and protocols that must be our focus. I do not see the meanness, nor the disregard for the human life so clear in the George Floyd case. I am not defending the police and know this man, a human life, rights were ended wrongly. My argument is that the officers did not appear to have intent.

        Comment by Kate Quick — April 30, 2021 @ 5:38 pm

  4. I’m deeply saddened by Mario Gonzalez’s death and for the loss and suffering his family is experiencing.

    The one thing we’ve all learned from Dr. Martin Tobin in George Floyd’s trial is that the placement of one’s knee on the neck and back of someone for a length of time, can cut off one’s oxygen and restrict their breathing – and could cause loss of consciousness and death.

    It appears police have been uniformly trained in the “knee on the neck and back method” to restrain someone. This method killed George Floyd and it appears to have killed Mario Gonzales. We’ll know for sure once the autopsy is complete.

    We all want to be safe in our neighborhoods. Several years ago, I awoke around 1:00 am in the morning when I heard someone trying to break in my home. We had erected scaffolding around our home to paint the exterior of our house. It was a Victorian, and the scaffolding was needed to reach the highest levels of the house.

    I could see a man had climbed up the scaffolding and was trying to open one of my windows. I was terrified – and I called the police. The police dispatcher kept me on the phone and told me to find somewhere safe in the house until the police arrive. My two children were asleep in their beds.

    Moments later, the police arrived and detained the man that tried to break into my home. I was so grateful. First because the police arrived within 5 minutes of my call, second because they stayed on the phone with me and kept me calm until their arrival, and lastly because they kept me and my family safe.

    We never know when we’re going to need to call the police — and I can tell you we’re fortunate to have responsive police when we need them.

    But I also know another thing – Mario Gonzales should not be dead today. I think police reforms should include finding other methods to restrain someone — the Dr. Martin Tobin testimony in the George Floyd trial has revealed how fatal this method is.

    Comment by Karen Bey — April 30, 2021 @ 9:53 am

  5. In 2018, police officers pinned Shelby Gattenby to the ground at Buena Vista and and Oak in Alameda. He died.
    The officers in Alameda were “cleared of wrong doing”, but the city paid $250,000 to the family.
    No weapons were involved, again.
    The call? “Suspicious circumstances” https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Video-exclusive-Navy-vet-who-died-8-days-after-15364030.php#photo-19595296

    Comment by lucy gigli — May 8, 2021 @ 4:07 am

    • The George Floyd legislation passed by the House (H.R. 1280) bans chokeholds. Hopefully it will get passed by the Senate in the coming weeks.

      Comment by Karen Bey — May 10, 2021 @ 6:01 am


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