The death of George Floyd was an event that traumatized our whole nation. We were shocked by the arrest of a man by an officer who exercised his authority in a callous, brutal and almost cruel fashion. The act was universally condemned and not just by citizens, but by police officers who felt betrayed by this officer’s egregious disregard towards another human being.
Scotts Valley reacted. 300 people gathered at Siltanen Park and marched to City Hall where for over two hours they expressed their thoughts on the whole spectrum of racial injustice in America. The event was sponsored by Scotts Valley High students who wanted a forum for us to convey our anger and personal stories of bias, racism and subtle discrimination. After a few words from Chief Walpole, I spoke and told everyone in attendance that we are here to listen and engage in a dialogue and conversation. And what we heard from our own citizens was both moving and poignant. Towards the very end a woman questioned why Scotts Valley spent such a large percentage of its budget on police and law enforcement. The sub-text of the comments became clear a few days later, when my emails were flooded with demands to “Defund the Police.” That is a topic worthy of discussion.
“SVPD is overfunded and ineffectual, and often wastes money on programs that foster racism and reduce community involvement.” This was one of many of the arguments made by those who wrote me to request that defunding the police was a logical response to the events that have occurred in the past few weeks. I respectfully disagree. Community policing is different in every city and our current and past Scotts Valley chiefs have instituted a culture that promotes citizen participation and transparency. Recently you may have heard of a transformative document known as “8 Can’t Wait.” It speaks to the reforms that focus on reducing the amount and type of force used by police. Policies like banning chokeholds and strangleholds and requirements of de-escalation are important in reducing violence while enforcing the law. Scotts Valley’s police policy already adheres to these 8 reforms, but Chief Walpole is committed to revisit these policies and review with each officer their importance. We are mindful that whether it is a drunk driver on our roads or a battered spouse being threatened or a prowler in your yard late at night, we depend on our police to respond. We are thankful for their presence.
The Scotts Valley Police Department approaches public safety with a community-based mindset. Our officers reinforce community connections all year round by getting to know residents, businesses and community institutions on a personal level. Our Chief is a mainstay at many community and school events and is active in civic organizations that help Scotts Valley thrive. And it is from that basis of engagement in our community that our department delivers on public safety. From proactive patrols in neighborhoods and business areas, to the extra traffic enforcement in the first week of school, the Scotts Valley Police Department goes beyond the basic assurance of safety. Its underpinning is community and its policing is led by the community. I believe that our relationship with our police department is good and they are a trusted asset in keeping us safe. Steve Walpole and I are always open to hear about your experiences and your concerns. We want to foster open communication that leads to the best implementation of what community policing can be.
Randy Johnson has lived in Scotts Valley for 30 years. He works as a local insurance agent, is married and has 3 children. Randy is also a former teacher graduated from Westmont College and UC Riverside. His initial community involvement helping pass high school bond 1994.