Solving San Bernardino’s Violence Problem

Solving San Bernardino’s Violence Problem
Hardy L. Brown. Photo by Benoit Malphettes

Hardy L. Brown. Photo by Benoit Malphettes

"You are the ones who can solve this," said Rev. Norman Copeland of St. Paul AME Church as he addressed the mayor and city council at Mondays council meeting in San Bernardino. He was acting as one of the many speakers during a presentation by Inland Congregation United for Change (better know as ICUC) regarding Measure Z tax money for violence intervention and prevention. Sergio Luna, an ICUC organizer, presented the council several documents with over 1,000 signed petitions from voters demanding a change in the direction the city leaders are following to fight crime and violence. 

I wish to add my voice as a member of the community to the calls for the mayor and council to act and not wait for other cities to solve our violence problem. We did not elect you to wait on other cities to solve their violence problems before you attempt to solve ours. While I understand the need to gather information and data, no two situations are alike, and this urgent situation requires your action now. Some of you have even stated you have visited other cities but that “more study is needed before any commitments could be made.” According to Ryan Hagen of the Sun Newspaper, “you have a city that has over 44 homicides this year which is one more than were killed all of last year, including the 14 killed in the December 2nd terrorist attack.”

Rev. Norman Copeland

Rev. Norman Copeland

As I watched the televised council meeting from home I found myself agreeing with Rev. Copeland’s remarks, “ We are the ones dealing with the pain of the loss to grandmothers, fathers, nieces” from these senseless killings. Rev Copeland is speaking to you also as a pastor of St. Paul AME Church with a 112-year history of service and activism in this community, and almost half of his members reside in every ward of the city. So when he says we are the ones who can solve the problem he is speaking from a reference point of proven history of people who are willing to lead and not follow.

According to the city’s website: the voters of San Bernardino approved Measure Z on November 7, 2006. The measure enacted a .25% district tax for a period of 15 years, beginning April 1, 2007. Voters also approved the advisory Measure YY, which stated that the proceeds of Measure Z "be used only to fund more police officers and support personnel, and to fund anti-gang and anti-crime operations, including drug resistance education and supervised after-school youth activities." Measure Z Citizens Oversight Committee Members are: Andy Machen, Gary Walbourne, Robert "Bob" Evans, Matthew Martel, Rev. Bronica Martindale, John Maxwell, Phillip M. Savage III and Howard Grossman. 

In the Oversight Committee agenda meeting of 3/4/2015 it appears that 100% of Measure Z money in the year 2012 was used to help fund the Police Department’s budget, with none being spent on intervention and prevention programs, which is not what the voters wanted to happen. 

Having been a leader in both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, a board member of the Boys and Girls Club, a Sunday School teacher, raising four children of my own with their friends included, and having served 12 years on the Board of Education, I know the value and investment of intervention and prevention programs. 

I do not think the request made by ICUC is unreasonable. 

In my years as coordinator of Kaiser Permanente’s Summer Youth Employment Program I learned the quickest way to get a student to learn the value of education and being a productive citizen in the community was getting a paycheck. I would like to see a collaborative effort by the city, school district, and private companies that do business in the city, establishing an employment program for city youth allowing them to work in various departments in the city, especially the Police Department. It is time we grow our own employees who want to live, work, raise their family, and spend money in the city. 

Now that you know the problem and have done your research, now is the time to put a plan of action together and ACT to address the concerns of the citizens you took an oath to protect. Like Rev. Copeland said, you can solve this problem.

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