Letters to the Editor
In case you missed it June 2, you were railroaded. It was all caught on video at the City of Alameda’s video archive at http://alameda.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=2611
In that meeting, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and her crew conspired to put a repeal of 1970 Measure A on November’s ballot.
You can jump right to the scene of the crime at 4:00:00 on the video where Mayor Ashcraft gives her big speech. She tells us, pandemic or no pandemic, the time is now to skip the process. She explains why the repeal of Measure A is an answer to homeless people sleeping in cars. Even more surprising, she says the repeal of Measure A is an answer to “the travesty of Minneapolis.”
Don’t try to find any discussion on the video about what is Alameda’s population limit on an island that just added 15,000 people in the last six years. Don’t look for any plans to renovate our aging transportation infrastructure.
Behind the big pronouncements, I think what the Mayor and Planning Director Andrew Thomas really care about is the tax revenue that development brings. City government has a thirst for revenue that can’t be quenched.
47 years ago, Alamedans faced the same evils of unbridled development and went about gathering signatures to place Measure A on the ballot to take back control from the developers. Well, the developers are back, and they’re looking at your street.
As heartening as it was to see the lively turnout for Friday’s protest, I was stung by the disgrace that even now, in 2020, it is necessary to proclaim the obvious, that Black Lives Matter. But then I noticed that the rally on the steps of City Hall took place beneath a huge rainbow flag.
When I first moved to Alameda in 1994, the city rejected a making a simple statement of support for the LGBTQ+ community (fewer initials back then) during Pride month. Alameda, it has taken decades, but we have changed and we will continue change: our attitudes, our assumptions, our policing. There is hope.
The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter along with the mayor, city council, city manager and police chief.
The incident of police violence that occurred on May 23 along with the continued killing of Black people by the police nationwide, has opened up a long overdue conversation about how we can take action to dismantle systemic racism.
Please listen to the voices of our Black community members and be open to envisioning better ways of serving all our community. During this envisioning process we also must gain a deeper understanding of the shortfalls of our current policing system by including how disability intersects with police violence.
On May 23, Alameda police officers were responding to a call about someone potentially experiencing a psychiatric crisis. The way the officers handled themselves is not how you approach a situation where someone could be having a psychiatric crisis. The officers’ aggressive and authoritarian approach escalated the situation and created a crisis. The gentleman dancing in the street was not experiencing psychological distress, he was experiencing racism.
It’s terrifying to think about how the scene would have played out if this gentleman dancing in the streets, in addition to experiencing racism, had been experiencing a psychiatric crisis and/or had a disability that limited his ability to respond.
I have attended meetings where Alameda Police Department (APD) has talked about the training that their officers go through in handling situations involving people experiencing a psychiatric crisis. The training is not working. Police are not mental health providers, yet we keep tasking them with responding to psychiatric crisis.
If you read the police blotter that appears in the Alameda Sun each week, you will notice that one of the most consistent police actions taken daily is people detained for psychiatric hold. A conservative estimate would be about 2 people detained for psychiatric hold per day by APD. The legal requirements of putting of person on a psychiatric hold are very stringent.
In my early 20s I worked for the Mobile Crisis Unit for the City and County of San Francisco, whose sole purpose is to evaluate people experiencing psychiatric crisis and determine if the person meets the legal requirements to be detained. In that job I got to see how many people actively experiencing psychiatric crisis do not meet the standard for psychiatric hold.
If APD are averaging two people detained for psychiatric evaluation a day then they must be responding to a lot more than two calls per day for people suspected of being in psychiatric crisis. Consider the number of officers involved in each call and the fact that once the person is detained the officers must transport the person to a psychiatric hospital off the island and wait with the person to be admitted to that hospital. This is a statistically significant portion of APD’s daily operation.
The funds spent by APD on responding to psychiatric crisis would serve our community better if used to give all community members access to trained mental heath professionals through a mental health clinic that offers drop-in and emergency services including mobile wellness checks.
Please use this moment to envision how we can create a community in which “Everyone Belongs Here” moves from a motto to a reality. This is not going to happen by putting a Band-aid on the systems that are not working. We need youto have the courage to try create new ways of approaching things.
In addition, I urge you to deny APD’s spending requests for additional license-plate-reading technology and redirect those funds into initiatives led by our Black community.