We Demand The Right To Know Who Really Polices Our Communities

By Daniel Mendoza, CURYJ Community Organizer

As I anxiously landed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for the RIPA board meeting and press conference I prepared myself to hear the powerful testimonials of families who had their loved ones tragically taken from them too soon. From the moment we got into our Lyft headed to Compton for the conference I had some time to reflect and I thought to myself that the rate of people of color getting their life cut short by law enforcement is alarming. This is not only a problem in my community, but it is also a problem throughout the country.

Why is it that our nation has excelled in so many aspects, yet continues to allow this police terrorism to happen? Too often I turn on the news to see another Black or Brown face that has had their life taken away by law enforcement. That’s what made this trip so surreal for me, because it could have been my family at the conference speaking aboutmy life being cut short.

Being there and hearing those families talk about their loved ones being killed at the hands of police I was reminded of somebody I knew personally named Alex Nieto who had his life taken by San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) at the age of 28. He’s not the only one, in fact there are so many individuals and families negatively affected by officers that were never suited to uphold the law, yet we continue to allow repetitive behaviors that harm Black and Brown communities.

This country cannot allow this to keep happening, there needs to be changes to our police departments locally, statewide, and nationally. It should be obvious, yet on a daily basis their are stories about officers not properly de-escalating situations, as opposed to shoot first, ask later. More than that we need to change the hiring process when employing police officers so that departments can properly assess prior issues and offer training for less harmful alternatives.

I bring this up because every other civic sector has rules to enforce accountability, so why not law enforcement? In fact they should be held to a higher standard because they have the power to take a life. As of now when officers violate a law or act in an unprofessional manner there is little done to hold them accountable.

SB 1421 the Right to Know Bill will allow basic rights for the public regarding access to information on law enforcement in California, which has some of the harshest rules when it comes accessing police records — confirmed cases of sexual assault and serious job-related dishonesty — perjury, providing false statements, and planting or destroying evidence. SB 1421 would be a step towards changing the “justice system” that often protects and hides the bad behaviors of law enforcement. We must begin to hold law enforcement accountable so that no other families will have to endure trauma and pain.