CHICO – Law enforcement and local policing were in the spotlight on Thursday night during an open forum hosted by Concerned Citizens for Justice at the Chico Women’s Club.
Observer candidates invited to participate in the forum included District 3 Supervisor Debra Lucero, District 2 Supervisor Tammy Ritter and one of Lucero’s challengers, Carl Jeffries.
District 2 challenger Peter Durphy and District 3 challenger Mary Murphy-Waldorf were unable to attend the event due to prior engagements.
The forum included questions from CC4J, residents present and the press. Each candidate gets two minutes per question to give his answer, opinion and statement.
Topics included reform, funding and training. Molly Paul conducted the program.
The first question asked Thursday evening was what kind of police reform is needed in Butte County.
Lucero was given first response and led with training in what he saw as one of the most important aspects of law enforcement.
“I think the most important aspect is training,” Lucero said. “You can put cameras on the body, you can have different policies, but it really always comes down to training because when you’re acting in the moment, you’re going to be doing what you need to do. was trained to do.”
Lucero said she would also consider reforms based on the types of calls she typically receives in requests to law enforcement.
Ritter spoke on the culture surrounding the training as well as the training, adding that additional support from outside resources is important.
“I think it would be beneficial for us to bring in outside trainers,” Ritter said, adding that she wants to see how law enforcement deals with substance use. “We shouldn’t assume we’re the experts at this and you should rely on experts to help you see things that we might not see ourselves. So I’d love to see behavioral health services expand, I would love to see significant incident training but one area where I think we have a bigger call for law enforcement to answer is related to substance abuse.”
Jeffries said he hopes to see collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the Department of Behavioral Health in homeless situations.
“Every time it seems like we’re using all of our resources to care for the homeless,” Jeffries said. “I think it would be better if we had a different kind of response. Maybe there’s a reaction from the behavioral health side that can go around with a van or something like that. We can go to different people And talk to them and find out the problems.”
After approving the use by the city of Chico at a previous council meeting, candidates were asked about their opinion on the use of military equipment by law enforcement agencies.
Ritter said the issue has legitimacy on both sides and depends on the type of police.
“I think in everyday policing, and if we’re really moving toward a community policing model, that’s not the image we need to portray,” Ritter said. “I believe there are times when it is absolutely appropriate. I know there have been calls to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office where I am very grateful that they have the equipment they have because it helped our officers. Kept safe and helped resolve the situation without causing any harm. It should not be all or nothing.”
Jeffries expressed his concern over the use of military equipment by law enforcement.
“I don’t like the idea of military equipment being used by our police,” Jeffries said. “It’s still a very friendly community and most of our issues don’t go to that level. I think when we have an incident where you have violent criminals that what you have should be enough I want to make sure our police stay safe but I don’t want everything to go well.
Lucero took a similar stance, saying she understands where use may be necessary but that it needs to be implemented carefully.
“I think these types of vehicles and militaristic guns, they all make an impression,” Lucero said. “So we have to decide what kind of society we want to be. If we want to live in a society that is not full of fear…
The candidates were asked about their opinion on community law enforcement oversight boards and whether they believed in the effectiveness of these groups. The idea found support from all three candidates.
Ritter said he favors a resident oversight board and that it could go a long way in improving relations between communities and law enforcement.
“I think if you have people who are meeting regularly with representatives of our law enforcement agencies then we’re going to have a better relationship and we’re going to have better communication,” Ritter said. “And I think that can only benefit the community.”
Jeffries said he favors boards and discussions that are open to public input.
“I support the inspection boards in every way,” Jeffries said. “I think what inspection boards open to the public is that they are not just a government operating in a vacuum. All questions and answers can be brought together on one platform.”
Lucero said she thought they were a good idea and wanted to create a community oversight board before legislative action could take place.
“I’ve always wanted to look at these things before they become law,” Lucero said. “Law had to be enacted to open public records. I want to see it before making law, so it has been done on a voluntary basis. When it is done between the public and police agencies, I think your results will be better.”