By John Coleman, Community Photographer
RIVERSIDE, CA- The Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability held it’s 8th Annual Community Meeting and Awards Ceremony at the Kansas Avenue Seventh Day Adventist Church in Riverside on Feb 27.
Riverside Police Officer, Cheryl Hayes, received the RCPA 2017 Bill Howe Award for Police Accountability in recognition of her career roles in law enforcement since 1985, including her employment by the Riverside Police Department.
Tanya Humphrey, RCPA Member/Community Activist, received the RCPA 2017 Ray Lewis Award for Police Accountability for providing police accountability training and education; and for her community outreach and service.
In recounting the history of the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability, Michael Dunn, the (RCPA) spokesman reminded that the coalition formed rapidly in the furore following the Riverside Police shooting of Black, American, female, adolescent, Tyisha Miller, 3 days after Christmas, 1998. Over the days, weeks, months, and currently, after almost three decades, the Coalition continues the struggle with Riverside City officials & the RPD over ‘real’ police accountability.
In the wake of the Tyisha Miller shooting, by a 60 percent vote and over the powerful opposition of the police union, the people of Riverside, supported the Coalition “in the creation of the Riverside Community Police Review Commission and equally remarkable, authorizing a CPRC role in Officer-Involved Death (OID) Case Evaluations.
Times have changed. The City of Riverside ‘Home Page’ reports the role of the Community Police Review Commission is, “when deemed appropriate by the Commission or Manager” to conduct an independent investigation…. (then)…..”provide citizen input to the Mayor and Members of the City Council…”
In fairness, the City reports: CRPC investigation of all officer-invoved deaths “is a work in progress that will become stronger and more effective only if the community has the political will to stay involved with it.”
At this community meeting of the Coalition for Police Accountability the Mayor and members of the Riverside City Council, to whom the Riverside City Police and other city employees are accountable were not in attendance. No current or retired Chief, Riverside Police Dept was present.
There were 2 retired chiefs of police in attendance. One, William Howe, began his law inforcement career as a Sheriff in Riverside County before becomming Chief of Police for over 6 years in Corona, CA and Chief of Police at UC Riverside, from which he retired in 1988. Howe introduced the scheduled 8th Annual Community Meeting, Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability, Keynote Speaker, Oliver Thompson, PhD, Professor, Police Science/Criminal Justice, Riverside Community College, Riverside,CA.
Dr Thompson, following 27 years background and wide range in assignments and responsibilities in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for more than 5 years as Chief of Inglewood CA Police Department believes that police accountability is a great idea. A goal worth pursuing. A project sometimes planned, but seldom met. He may even agree that the RCPA and it’s offspring, the RCPRC may, at times be able to ask ‘accountability’ questions and demand answers. (Despite the increasing pace of people moving in and out of our communities, Riverside continues to be ‘blessed’ with numbers of civically engaged people whose voices still can be heard).
Dr Thompson also has the perspective of almost 40 years teaching community college students to become police, sheriffs, security and other guards and following their careers and experiences; sees some complete college classes continuing to believe in “protect & serve,” but complete police academy convinced they have and ARE ‘the authority’ in most situations. (And have the badge & tools to prove their superiority). They become molded into the ‘police culture’ of their fellow officers, superiors and Commanders, whether the mold produces oppressive or responsive and responsible law enforcement.
He spoke of communities where many families earn less than $30,000 to less than $50,000 per year; but officers, recent grads, start at $60,000 with ways to ‘take home’ more; and circumstances where
officers who shot and killed someone not only were not investigated, despite unanswered questions, but were enabled to take early ‘disability retirement’ BENEFITS.
The major factor which Dr Thompsom identified and considers a force, super strong, much, like a weight, always there, like gravity. It’s ever present, all around, You feel it’s effects, but you can’t see
where it begins or ends. In the US, Black folks and other People of Color identify it as ‘racism; Women, as ‘sexism or ‘mysogeny’, This takes many forms/names. Oppressed people often feel the weights that keep them (as an identified group) down. They know their needs, their humanity is disregarded by others who claim superiority.
The standard for full & high status in the US was set early, over a century BEFORE the writing of the US Constitution, which established the bases of US laws and justice/injustice. Some ‘standards’ are
written into law. Much are un-written. ‘Police’ are among those ‘society’ empowers to ‘chose’ who fits where and gets what ‘treatment’.
In summary, Police also are an ‘identified group’, operating under rules imposed on and within law and custom and ‘Society’. ‘Police Accountability’ will emerge as law, custom, and ‘society’ permit. Congratulations for all RCPA has accomplished.