Friday, November 21, 2014

Letter from the Chapter Advocating Body Cams

917 Third Street
Eureka, CA 95501

November 20, 2014

Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
Eureka City Council
Arcata City Council
Redwood Empire Municipal Insurance Fund
Eureka Times Standard
Lost Coast Outpost
North Coast Journal
Mad River Union

Ladies and Gentlemen:

On November 18, 2014, the Board of Directors of the Redwood Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California unanimously adopted a resolution calling for all peace officers in Humboldt County to wear body cameras while on official duty. In a study conducted by the Rialto Police Department and reported in the New York Times on April 6, 2013, entitled "Wearing a Badge, and a Video Camera," it was found that body camera use by police reduced use-of -force incidents by 60%, and reduced citizen complaints against the police by 88%.

In the past ten years, police in Humboldt County have killed Cheri Lyn Moore, Christopher Burgess, Martin Cotton, Gabriel Cuevas-Maldonado, Jonni Honda, Zachary Cook, David Sequoia, Robert Garth, Eloy Infante-Toscano, Peter Stewart and Tommy McClain. Clearly, change is needed. The death of Cheri Moore did prompt some reforms in how police handle mentally ill people locally, and those reforms are to be applauded. We believe that introduction of mandatory body cameras will benefit both citizens and police.


The Redwood ACLU Board of Directors

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Larry Glass attends ACLU Board, supports Police Body Cams

Just before the Board meeting this Tuesday, I went out to my car for a few things, and recognized Larry Glass. "What have you been doing with yourself?" I asked him. He said that he has been trying to keep under the radar, since he sold his business, and is no longer involved with politics in Eureka. He said that he intended to go to the Board meeting. I told him to go right in, a few members were already there, and the meeting hadn't started yet.

Larry told the Board that he was very upset about the last police shooting incident, in which Tommy McClain was shot by police because he possessed an unloaded BB replica handgun. (see North Coast Journal, Larry said that he feels qualified to raise questions about the actions of the police because he was trained in a police academy in Los Angeles, and worked for several years with teenage gangs.

The investigation of the incident is ongoing, but Larry sees a lot of red flags appearing out of the information that is publicly available. (see Justice for Tommy McClain, He believes that the officers involved did not follow police procedures, and that there are glaring discrepancies between how they reported the incident, and what relatives of Tommy McClain are saying.

According to Tommy's relatives, Tommy was upset about the activities of the neighbors next door. The house was in fact, being watched by police for drugs and other criminal activity. The police observed Tommy arguing with one of these neighbors, and reported that they saw that he had a gun.

Larry feels that the officer in charge was irresponsible for leaving his car, not turning on the camera, and approaching Tommy on foot, and drawing his own weapon unnecessarily. If he felt that McClain was dangerous, he would have approached him more carefully. It is unlikely that McClain would make a grab for his own gun, since it was unloaded. Since the camera was turned off, the officer's statements are less likely to be challenged. But their actions as police officers was questionable, to anyone familiar with established police practices, Larry asserts.

Greg Allen, Chairman, told Larry that the ACLU Board has been discussing the value of police body cameras, and that we are advocating their use in this area. Mr.Glass said that he agreed that body cams would be very effective for preventing a lot police violence, and would lend his name to our effort to advocate their use.  Peter Martin, Board member, said that the Eureka Police department has already lost a lot of money to victims of police killings, and stands to lose its current insurer after an incident such as this. The adoption of police body cams might become necessary to retain this insurance, he concluded.

--Steven Bridenbaugh, Redwood ACLU Board member