By Carmen E. Rodríguez
Many El Pasoans who have not had run-ins with the police may think local protests against our El Paso Police Department are unwarranted and that protestors are trying to address problems that we simply don’t have in our friendly and safe city.
Although we have not seen a local video of an egregious police killing, that does not mean it hasn’t happened. Recent data and incidences of severe police failings show that needless deaths of our fellow citizens have occurred. Further, if there is no true acknowledgment or effort to address the problem, these incidences will continue to rise.
The case of Erick Salas-Sanchez has drawn attention to the excessive force used by police officers when attempting to apprehend individuals suffering from mental health crises. Salas was shot twice in the back in his own home in 2015 in the presence of his family. His family’s lawsuit is pending in federal court. The cases of eight other individuals who died at the hands of EPPD were cited in a recent court order in that lawsuit.
We have also become aware of statistics that indicate Black individuals who are stopped by police are searched at much higher rates than Whites. And then there is the dangerous and excessive use of force exhibited against protesters recently at Memorial Park and Downtown.
Further, Police Chief Greg Allen publicly declared the Black Lives Matter movement to be a “radical hate group.”
Those who are unable to accept the precept, Black Lives Matter, refuse to accept the reality that this country has a problem with racism, and more importantly, that we have an obligation to eradicate it.
On the contrary, those who repudiate the movement, like President Trump and Vice President Pence, further exploit matters by framing everything as “us vs. them” conflicts.
It is well known that police officers expect Chief Allen to have their back after a police shooting. Such loyalty-based supervision by the bosses, including the city manager and mayor, certainly reflects a culture of “us vs. them.”
Moreover, the divisive rhetoric that people of color, protestors, and others are foes to be subjugated inspires extremists to arm themselves, attack and kill innocents as we saw in our own city.
In the wake of the sudden re-awakening of the populace that police should not possess the kind of power and impunity that allows these incidences to keep occurring, our city leaders fail to meet this challenge.
The Community First Coalition, an organization which advocates for transparency and accountability in local government, does not believe city leaders understand what is happening in our country and community. As such, we support local efforts by Black Lives Matter and Justicia El Paso to bring transformational change to local law enforcement.
Carmen E. Rodríguez is a semi-retired attorney; co-coordinator of Community First Coalition; past member of Democratic Party Executive Committee; and past member of numerous organizations and boards; longtime activist and supporter of several community based non-profit organizations. She is currently supporting Veronica Carbajal for mayor.
Cover photo: El Pasoans marched to call for an end to police violence against African-Americans on Sunday. (Michaela Román/El Paso Matters)