Youth and Families Come Together to Offer Input on San Jose Police Chief Selection
News Analysis, First Person/Photo Essay/Video • Cesar Flores, Fernando Julian Perez, Octavio Martinez, Richard Babcock
Oct 26, 2010
This October the Coalition for Justice and Accountability began a forum series to bring input from impacted communities to the selection process for the next San Jose Police Chief. The following multi-media coverage is highlights from the Youth and Families Forum held at De-Bug.
Message to the Next San Jose Police Chief Photo Booth
At the Police Chief forum, De-Bug photographers rolled out a red carpet and asked participants to write, and pose with, a message they would like to send to candidates for the next San Jose Police Chief.
Youth and Families Forum Bring Ideas Born from Experience to Police Chief Selection Process
By Cesar Flores
On a nice October evening, De-Bug, in collaboration with the Coalition for Justice and Accountability, held a youth and families forum for the selection of the next police chief. At the forum, roughly 100 youth, families, and youth organizers were in attendance. The event was scheduled to start at 6pm, and it seemed like all of the pieces came together like a puzzle from the community. The event actually started kind of early, people started falling into the De-Bug Community Center at around 5:30 pm. Most of the attention at first was towards the glamorous red carpet that debug had set up -- with one of the many brilliant photographers debug has on deck. Richard Babcock, a long time landscape photographer took pictures of people writing their “Message to Next Police Chief” with expo markers on a white board. Also causing lots of attention was the Nannies Tacos stand located in the front of the event, people were conversing amongst each other,that it seemed like the forum was actually going on outside for the first few minutes. Points were being brought up over tacos like a dinner table conversation.
The ceremony started with a video of David Madrid with his family, talking about the relationship of youth and police in the Eastside. The MC of the event, Marlo Custodio, then told a story of torment that had happened as a result of police misconduct in San Jose where he had gotten tased various times for no justifiable reason. After Marlo's grueling story came Gail Noble, speaking on her son’s experience with police issues as a young African-American male in San Jose.
Lactite, a spokenword artist performed a piece about the topic, that had the audience nodding there heads up and down as if there were listening to a new song that they felt in their souls.
Then came a couple of De-Bug colleagues, who assured everyone that in this dialogue all voices would be heard. I came on after and asked everyone a couple questions from our survey. I had to pose the question asking people to share their reasoning as to why they responded the way the did, and what the personal stories were behind the answers. One young lady came up and spoke, her name was Brittney. There are few people you remember when they speak and she is one of them. Her experience with the police she stated was that, she just moved from San Francisco and thad gotten pulled over. They treated her like a criminal, put her to the floor,had a foot to her neck telling her to “shut the hell up.” She said the incident “stripped my dignity.” The most shocking thing that came out of her story is that when she told the police officer that her parents were both police officers in the SFPD they picked her up and apologized. Her tearful story will always stick to me.
When the questions stopped, Marlo split everyone into small groups. We got a chance to really speak with one another, telling each other more experiences and getting to know each other in different ways. We not only talked about police issues but went deeper into the areas we lived, life situations and all sorts of other personal issues. After a the group sessions where we all got to speak with one another about ourselves, Marlo came out with a series of questions to the groups, asking us what qualifications or “must haves” do we think the next police chief should carry, and what screening questions we would ask to identify the next chief. The sharings were profound both on a personal level, and on a community level as well.
It was already about 8:15pm by the time that was done and people were still going strong. The energy in the room felt as if we had formed a real connection with everyone around us, almost as if we had finally gotten home after a long trip together.
Although the group discussion ended, the party wasn't over. There was still an open mic session going on as people stood around. I gave a nice piece on unity of youth and how we must speak our minds. Afterwards,we caught some nice spoken-word performances from local hip hop artists Ookie, Cola and Society, following a couple of songs, performances, then sending the open microphone over to another spoken word from a talented young man named Oscar. At the same time these performances were going on, still jiving over what we had just experienced,we all exchanged phone numbers, emails, and what not. Knowing that we had just acted upon a greater cause, making history as we kept eating Nannie's tacos while walking down the “red carpet” taking pictures with Richard’s set up, getting a hold of the newly printed shirt made for the event that read “Protect Your People", those "People" that came together that night making history.1 of 1