by Irma Widjojo from "Vallejo Times-Herald" :
[Northbay Copwatch asks: Why do I get a feeling the following is just a
feel-good measure to mollify
Vallejo's people, and find witnesses of police brutality to investigate
and harass? Because that's what the Vallejo Police have done to
witnesses. They kill, harass, tear-up voter registration cards,
brutalize senior citizens and teenagers of all races...]
---The U.S. Department of Justice on Saturday will lead the first in a series of meetings to address, in part, a controversial spate of Vallejo officer-involved shootings in 2012.
Saturday's community meeting, the first of many, will address specific issues for the Lofas-Lakeside neighborhood in North Vallejo, said organizers, who added that issues in many other neighborhoods will be addressed in future sessions.
The first meeting will be in the same neighborhood where the most controversial officer-involved shooting, that of Mario Romero, occurred last Sept. 2. On the program are a number of concerns raised since that incident about police-community relations.
The meeting will include a presentation by the Vallejo Police Department, a brief question and answer session, and an open dialogue with community members. All meetings will be facilitated by a mediator from the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service division. The mediation is provided at no cost to the city.
"They are not here as an investigative body; they are here to facilitate," coordinator Liat Meitzenheimer said of the Justice Department.
The meetings are meant to help rebuild the relationship between the community and the police department, she said.
"It became clear there's a gap in a lot of issues," Meitzenheimer said. "The more recent police-related shootings brought (the gap) to the forefront. ... The larger problem is the distrust in the community of the police department."
Police representatives plan to attend and address some concerns, said Vallejo Lt. Sid DeJesus.
"With the change of (police) administration, we realize the importance of restoring that relationship with the community," DeJesus said. "It was lacking for a long time, which is why we are here now."
Late last spring, Police Chief Robert Nichelini retired. He has since been replaced by Chief Joseph Kreins, who has promised a number of reforms to improve the relationship between local residents and police.
DeJesus, who will be one police representative Saturday, said he will discuss changes ranging from an information dissemination process to those involved in officer-involved shootings, as well as how citizen complaints are handled. The citizen complaint form is now available in the lobby of the Amador Street headquarters.
"We don't want to talk about what we can't do anymore. But, what we can do," DeJesus said.
Information from the community meetings will be compiled into a report for the City Council, Meitzenheimer said.
Although Saturday's meeting is open to the public, Meitzenheimer advised residents to attend meetings organized in their own neighborhoods.
All the meetings, which will cover most of the city, are planned to continue until the end of summer.
Future meeting dates and locations will be posted on the city's website, www.ci.vallejo.ca.us, she added.
For more information, contact Meitzenheimer at Liat132@comcast.net or Carol Russo of the Department of Justice at Carol.Russo@usdoj.gov or (415) 744-6584.
If you go:
What: Community meeting addressing Lofas-Lakeside neighborhood
When: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Where: Union Baptist Church, 128 Encerti Ave., Vallejo.
Contact: Liat Meitzenheimer at Liat132@comcast.net or Carol Russo, of the Department of Justice, at Carol.Russo@usdoj.gov or (415) 744-6584.