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Our own Civil War

By James D. Davis



This is the first town I’ve lived in where there is a civil war between a part of the community and the police.  A part of the community thinks it is disrespected, mistreated, and murdered by the police.  The police think they are disrespected, mistreated, and murdered by this part of the community (these are people with dark-colored skin, whether you call them negro, colored, black, African-American or something else, I leave to you; the only thing they have in common is that they are dark).


This community is not able to visit a dying son in the hospital, without great disturbance; or attend meetings to discuss the death of the son, without great disturbance.  They come as a gang of relatives and interested onlookers, not singly or as a small group of grieving family members; they shout and scream, rudely disrupting city officials, calling their relative’s death at the hands of officers “murder.”  They don’t set the stage for useful discussion.  They fairly beg to be ignored.


The police, on the other hand, slough off accountability.  The mother could not see the body. The chief told her it was out of his hands.  Whether she can see the body is the business of the coroner, not the chief.  And the coroner?  He’s unavailable.  The police have not explained why officers thought it necessary to fire more than thirty times at a young man with a replica gun.  What was so scary for the police about this encounter?

The police have not taken the statement of the mother.  She’s welcome to come down to the station any time.  The police have not met with the mother.  (It’s not likely she has any useful information, but it might make her feel better to talk about it (or shout, if she chooses).


I’ve encountered this lack of government responsibility throughout my years in Vallejo.  I was told plainly by a council member that whether or not the chief busts marijuana dispensaries, wasting police resources, is none of the member’s business; it is out of the member’s hands.  When I tried to investigate the officer-killing of another man (Guy Jarreau, Jr.), a few years ago, I was told the police and DA were doing an investigation.  They weren’t sure when it would be done; I was not going to be given a copy of the report anyway.  No one was going to be given a copy.  It was police business.


I don’t blame the complaining community.  They are overcome with emotion, resentment, and victimhood.  They generally lack the sophistication and maturity to deal with the government.  I blame the police department and an incompetent council and city manager.  They should have been on top of this; that is why we have a government.  They are supposed to be the adults in the room, but they are helpless.


This civil war has to stop.  It feeds on itself.  There are ways to stop it.  This should be at the top of the agenda for the newly created Public Safety Committee.  Our city-manager form of government is not working.  The council has no jurisdiction over anyone.  The mayor stays out of it (he “prays”).  And the city manager?  He leaves it up to the police.  No one is in charge.


Note: All opinions expressed in the "Primal Scream" column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.