A Year of Racial Tension

The last year has been a watershed moment across the nation in the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. I clearly remember, almost exactly a year ago, watching images on my television of Ferguson burning. That was followed by too many other incidents of questionable, if not outright deplorable, treatment of minorities by those sworn to serve and protect us. The public reaction has run the gamut, from denying there’s a problem, to making excuses, to rallying for change to advocating violence against law enforcement officers.

On the other side of the equation, recent actions by undocumented immigrants—including the shooting of a girl in San Francisco, the multiple carjacking and murdering of law enforcement officers in Placer and Sacramento County, and a shootout that led to a door-to-door manhunt in Roseville neighborhoods—have done little to improve the public’s and law enforcement’s perception of Latinos in our community.

To read comments on social media or on news stories is to delve into the murky swampland of anti-immigration diatribes, racist stereotypes and the categorizing of a diverse Latino community under a simplistic and disparaging banner.

Tension and mistrust between law enforcement and minority communities that have been smoldering for generations have caught fire, sometimes explosively, throughout the nation. It is critical for our community to not ignore our smoldering tinder, but rather work to extinguish it before we follow suit with what has been happening in other communities.

Whether or not you believe we have a problem locally, there is a perception that we do. Caused by actual local events or mere exposure to national headlines, minority communities mistrust law enforcement. And law enforcement has preconceived ideas of how our community will act. If you’re a young Latino who thinks you’ll be subjected to police brutality when you’re pulled over, chances are you’ll run. If you run, chances are the police officer will think you’re hiding something and chase you, and most likely not treat you with kid gloves when he catches you. Perception leads to reality, whether or not that reality was originally the case.

Roseville PD Chief Daniel Hahn, LLC board member Virginia Valenzuela, LLC executive director Elisa Herrera and Roseville PD officer Carlos Cortes at one of the Latino Leadership Council's monthly community meetings.

Roseville PD Chief Daniel Hahn, LLC board member Virginia Valenzuela, LLC executive director Elisa Herrera and Roseville PD officer Carlos Cortes at one of the Latino Leadership Council’s monthly community meetings.

The only way to begin to change perceptions and address this issue is by having an honest, open and direct conversation between all those involved.

The Latino Leadership Council will be hosting an event September 9th, titled A Forum on the Latino Community: Reflecting on a Year of Racial Unrest and Fostering Community Trust. It will be a conversation between law enforcement, community members and organizations working in the community. Our keynote speaker is the Honorable David De Alba, California Superior Court Judge and law enforcement policy expert. A panel of law enforcement officers and community members who have experienced profiling and harassment by law enforcement will sit at the table and share their experiences.

This is not an opportunity to attack, hurl insults or vilify either side. This is a valuable opportunity to sit together and address an issue that is of critical importance to all of us. It is an opportunity to seek collaboration and solutions. It is an opportunity to build relationships and trust.

The event will be held from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM at the Flower Farm in Loomis. The forum is free, but you must register in order to attend. You can register online by visiting http://latinoleadershipcouncil.org/event-registration-form/ and RSVPing before September 4th. Last year’s event filled up, so don’t wait to register.

This is an important conversation and we want your voice represented. Do not miss this opportunity to improve the safety and quality of life of our Latino community and those who protect us.

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