In this unprecedented phase of our history, we are all experiencing extremely disturbing times and events. From the devastating effects of the Covid 19 pandemic, with an almost complete economic downturn, to the recent national protests and political unrest; from the forest fires we had in the city last week, which could have been much worse; to the fighting spirit and tragic deaths of people near Paso Robles – it has depressed us all. These very important issues require a lot of thought, discussion and sensitive understanding, which cannot be adequately addressed in the space provided for this article, but I will try to initiate a conversation here that I hope will continue throughout our community.
If we want to believe that we are heroes, we have to speak out, ask questions, think and reconsider, as happened recently in Minneapolis between police officers and George Floyd. In connection with these issues, the city has of course received many requests and comments about our policy of violence. Anyone who has access to the internet can visit the police department’s page on the city’s website, which contains a wealth of information, including the full police policy manual and Chief Jerel Haley’s information on our department’s policy on the 8 Can’t Wait initiative.
Some of our friends and neighbors feel that they have become victims of racism here in Atasquadero. I think we should all worry, because this is much more than a police problem, it’s a public problem. We must not tolerate racism, either individually or collectively. We must strive to uncover our unconscious prejudices and learn how to change them. Verna Myers, an advocate of diversity, warns that our internal, unconscious prejudices can be dangerous and that we should all strive to find them by acknowledging our discomfort and then stepping aside, not by pushing ourselves aside for what might be uncomfortable. We need to broaden our circle and build relationships. Finally, when we see something, we have to say something – we have to learn to speak when our friends, family, or colleagues say or do something that may be biased. I invite you to watch a video with Miss Myers about overcoming our prejudices.
I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to ask that all our friends, neighbors and visitors be treated with the kindness, care and understanding that our community takes pride in; and to speak out when that expectation is not met. I believe that each of us should be able to demand that he or she has more attention and knows how our actions can be perceived by others, and that he or she should try to make those actions benefit everyone. I believe that everyone who lives, works or visits our city should expect and always receive equal, fair, honest and respectful treatment. Our society must not tolerate any form of racism and discrimination.
I also feel obliged and very proud to say that the police force of Atasquadero consists of men and women who do their best to serve each member of this community in the most professional and thoughtful way. Our police have developed a culture that does not tolerate racism and excessive use of force. Surveillance cameras and cameras in police vehicles enable the service to monitor any incident involving the use of force and, if necessary, to take appropriate action, whether disciplinary, advisory, training or other measures.
I don’t know if we as a community have ever sufficiently understood or acknowledged everything our policemen usually do for us. For example, over the past few days, we have asked men and women of the Atasquadero police to ensure the safety of the demonstrators and the local counter-attacks, even though some of them defended themselves to slander the police; to help more than 300 young people finish school safely by organising a festive parade; to stand in front of a vegetation fire to evacuate the residents who were on their way; as one of the first police officers on the ground, injured by gunfire, helping to protect our neighbors in Pa Our officers fully acknowledge and accept the responsibilities and dangers inherent in their role of service and protection, and I think they do so admirably every day.
The men and women of the Atasquadero police, like none of us, are not perfect, but each one of them is committed to doing good and protecting everyone every day, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or protection status. They’re real heroes. I strongly advise anyone who has problems with our police service to go to a national party or have a coffee with a police officer when such events are allowed again, or simply ask for a serious conversation with one of the men and women in the service who work hard every day for each of us.
As a community we are strong and resilient. We’re one of the most powerful communities on the central coast. With all the trials ahead of us, Atasquadero still stands and remains a small town full of caring and conscientious people who really care about each other. I’m very proud to call this community my home.
Written by the Mayor of Atasquadero, Heather Moreno.
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