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OPINION -- Police Must Take Part in Any Meaningful Reform

The following letter was sent last Thursday by Erika Aklufi, president of the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA), to Interim City Manager Lane Dilg:

Dear Lane,

I write today on behalf of the Santa Monica Police Officers Association to express serious concerns related to Council’s adoption of the Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee recommendations, specifically, the creation of a police oversight commission.

Though I write to you primarily as a representative of the 219 members of the Santa Monica Police Officers Association, the topic is one of vital importance to every employee, sworn and nonsworn, within the Police Department.

Our concern is not the creation of a police oversight commission, but rather the specific exclusion of public safety personnel in its conception. The members of the Santa Monica Police Officers Association know that now is the time to reimagine our ideas about Public Safety.

We don’t just want to meet this moment, we want to lead it. We want our department to be a model of the kind of meaningful reform that can be achieved through community collaboration; however, currently we simply aren’t represented.

Moreover, if we are to achieve systematic change, we certainly aren’t going to get there through unilateral imposition. We need to get there together.

As we have all learned during this pandemic, addressing public health issues without the counsel of public health experts is a fool’s errand. Likewise, addressing public safety issues with the absence of public safety professionals will not produce the best outcome for our community.

In June, Mayor Kevin McKeown stated, “The four points of review, engage, report, and reform create a blueprint for our community to come together, making sure all voices are heard and all facts are considered, as we implement deep and long-lasting change to eliminate institutional racism.

"This is a task we cannot delay. Our work will be swift, it will be inclusive, and it will reflect Santa Monica’s long history of caring about all members of our community.”

We agree. However, we ask, do the members of the Santa Monica Police Department not count as part of our community? If our City is committed to inclusion, then the voices of the SMPD must be heard.

Without representation or a meaningful role, the knowledge and professionalism of 423 of the most committed and passionate employees in our organization is effectively dismissed and excluded.

Your office issued a staff report that read, “In response to the demands for reform, the City of Santa Monica is committed to reviewing its City policies to ensure that public safety in Santa Monica employs best practices that recognize the humanity and dignity of every person.”

The staff of Santa Monica Police Department wholeheartedly shares this sentiment, and we ask that you give us an opportunity to stand with you and our fellow community members in the unwavering pursuit of this vital ideal.

We are of the belief that there’s much more that binds our community together than separates us and we want to foster a sense of connectedness to the people we serve. We implore you, give us an opportunity to stand with our fellow community members to enact meaningful reforms that will make Santa Monica a leader in community driven public safety.

Respectfully,

Erika Aklufi
President, Santa Monica Police Officers Association

 


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