El Cajon Mayor, Faith Leaders Meet To Talk Community-Police Relations
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Photo by Tarryn Mento
San Diego County faith-based leaders said they were hopeful Wednesday after a productive meeting with the El Cajon mayor regarding tensions between the police and minority communities, but said more progress needs to be made. The talk comes more than one year after the fatal police shooting of Alfred Olango that sparked protests and prompted relatives to file lawsuits.
Cornelius Bowser, pastor at Charity Apostolic Church, said the discussion with Mayor Bill Wells and representatives of various religious institutions was "constructive."
"We just want to make a connect with him and try to build a relationships. We also wanted to see what his vision and priorities are within the city of El Cajon but also with community policing," Bowser said at a news conference after the meeting.
However, Shane Harris, founder of National Action Network San Diego, said he was frustrated over Wells' refusal to launch a citizens' review board to investigate police misconduct, which he said is necessary because community members may feel more comfortable sharing their concerns with a neutral body.
"We brought it up to him and I brought it up very candidly and very clearly that it's egregious when people have to complain to the police about the police, often times it is a conflict of interest," Harris said.
He said the group would continue to push for change over the next year.
“At the two-year Alfred Olango mark, we should be in a different place than we were today standing here and that is the goal or else we’re going after political leadership," Harris said.
Wells, who was critical of Harris' remarks about voting leaders out of office following their "polite" meeting, said El Cajon doesn't need a review board because it receives about two to three complaints over police each year.
"Two or three complaints does not justify the politicization of a citizens' review panel and all of the problems it would bring along with it," Wells said. He also said he has not heard that community members are uncomfortable voicing their complaints about the police.
Wells said he was open to participating in a town-hall style event proposed by the group, but would need more information.
"I'm always open to meeting with people. I'm always open to talking with people. I would have to see the parameters of it and see what we're going to talk about," Wells said.
Alfred Olango's brother Apollo, who did not attend the meeting because of pending legal matters, said at the news conference the group's recap of the meeting gave him hope.
"To have a gentleman like Bill Wells open up his doors to sit down with faith leaders, faith leaders that want to see progress and justice served in the name of people, in the name of righteousness, gives me great hope in the future of what we have begun and are looking forward to start moving with," Olango said.
San Diego County faith-based leaders said they were hopeful after meeting with the El Cajon mayor to talk about a citizens' review board and community relations.
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