Seattle, Denver, Portland ban tear gas/CNN photo

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE POLICE

No, we’re done with that — talking. Without action. (Same for a lot of other things needing to be addressed here in SM.)

Been talkin’ “400 years,” sang Peter Tosh of the Wailers, nearly half a century ago.

“And it’s the same, the same philosophy

Look, how long, and the people they still can’t see

Come on, let’s make a move, make a move, make a move

I can see time, time has come

The youth is gonna be strong

So, won’t you come with me, come with me

I’ll take you to a land of liberty

Look how long, four hundred years, four hundred years, four hundred years

Way too long!”

It’s the backdrop that can’t be ignored, to all the issues of racial injustice and inequality in America, that are now being legislated in the streets. But I think that backdrop is often invisible to folks of the Caucasian persuasion.

SOME ISSUES AND INCIDENTS

Are just too obvious and inarguable, and should be acted upon immediately, without waiting for a six-figure, maybe six-month “study.” A lot of talk, a lot of debate, while people are dying in the streets. Not Santa Monica streets… Not yet.

But aren’t these the reasonable things responsible leaders do, trying to properly find solutions to intractable societal problems? Got to get all the facts and info, can’t rush into this, too important, too complex.

Breaking News: “reasonable” is over, in favor of reason, common sense, necessity, and what you see in front of your face. What more do you need to know?

The exploration, the fact finding has been done. Do you dispute that people of color have suffered and died at the hands of police, all over this country, for centuries? (And that they die from coronavirus in higher proportions, that their health care, education, job opportunities and so many other options are limited.) Maybe you know it, but how much do you care? Are you watching Faux News instead of Fauci? Do you support the White Supremacist in the White House, for any reason? Is that why you won’t wear a mask, and cite ridiculous conspiracy baloney?

Seriously, how long does the death list need to be? Just this year! And continuing, weekly, despite the floodgates of attention being trained on police brutality. People of color being strangled, choked, I Can’t Breathe, even in places where it has just been outlawed.

BUT — SANTA MONICA?

Is not like the rest of the country, not even like LA, you argue. We don’t have brutal cops here.

I’m not saying we do. I may have missed something but I can’t recall, in 34 years here, reading about an incident of brutality from our police force. Maybe we’ve just been lucky. But don’t we want to keep it that way?

One month ago our police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of predominantly peaceful protesters on Ocean Avenue, mostly Santa Monicans, exercising their First Amendment “ right of the people peaceably to assemble.” I’ve experienced tear gas, in the Army. It is really, really nasty. Meant only for war. What are the SMPD guidelines for its use? Were they followed?

Rubber bullets? Thank God I’ve never yet encountered those. But some of our residents did, 5/31, fired by SMPD. Rubber bullets can maim and kill. Studies have shown that 15-20 percent of those hit by rubber bullets suffer permanent injuries. And yes, some die. What are the SMPD guidelines for its use? Were they followed? Rubber bullets, fired at your fellow residents, peacefully protesting? Good lord. And you think we don’t have a problem here?

TEAR GAS CAN KILL TOO

Ruben Salazar was an LA Times reporter covering a Vietnam War protest march in East LA in 1970 when he was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by an LA County Sheriff’s deputy, and died instantly. A coroner’s inquest ruled the shooting a homicide, but the deputy was never prosecuted. The family sued the sheriff’s department for not using “proper and lawful guidelines for the use of deadly force,” and won, awarded the highest settlement in LA County history at the time, $700,000 — $4.6M in 2020 dollars.

No one I know here hates the police, our police, and that’s not the point. While a thorough study should be made to determine just what happened, and why, that last weekend in May, that’s not what we need now.

Someday we will return to normal, a new normal (probably not until the middle of next year, if that). But if we do it without taking the great opportunity now to correct the things we’ve been doing wrong, like racial, gender, voting and income inequality, looming climate disaster, inadequate health care, and an economic system that strangles all but the 1 percent, we may never get another chance. There is no time to waste, on studies and half measures. We must do what obviously needs to be done, now.

OUR CITY COUNCIL

By a unanimous vote (aww), authorized staff “to explore implementation of the #8CantWait action items.” Three weeks ago.

You do know SM has two unsavory but deserved reputations: for moving glacially as a political/regulatory entity, and for not enforcing our laws. In today’s world, moving glacially is perceived as an unwillingness to act until everything has blown over.

#8Can’tWait. How much do you need to explore, to discuss and debate before simply banning chokeholds? Banning shooting at moving vehicles? Requiring de-escalation, exhausting all alternatives before shooting and warning before shooting? Requiring officers to intervene if they see procedures not followed, which could cause possible lethal outcomes?

How about having the courage and competence to simply ask for a unanimous Council vote to make these eight items part of SMPD procedure immediately, with further study of all our policing methods and policies? That would send a message. Other cities have done it. It could even prevent another death of an unarmed person of color, and wouldn’t that be nice?

How about a Council vote on a commitment to transparency? Symbolic, but then you would have to live up to it. To residents first? (Always ask, of all City business, who does this benefit?) A vote to acknowledge that density is the friend of a pandemic and the enemy of the health and well-being of people, and call a moratorium on all new building?

There’s an expression — lead, follow, or get out of the way. Our local elected leaders have had way too much time to choose the first two. What’s left?

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com