Saida Maalin | Contributor
The San Bernardino Superior Court county officials and leaders held their first virtual town hall meeting July 30 to discuss racism and civil unrest in the community and how each agency will take action towards these issues.
“I have long been on the receiving end of some of the issues on the table for discussion today,” said Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzalez. “I can definitely speak to the challenges well camouflaged either within our working environment, living environment and entertainment environment and want to be very cognizant of the fact that as leaders we are aware of the changes that take place in our environment. We all know the only constant element in life is change and we also know as judicial, executive and legislative leaders and representatives of the people we have the responsibility to enable and implement said change.”
The host and moderators of the virtual meeting were SBSC Judge Khymberli S. Apaloo, Judge John M. Pacheco and Judge Winston Keh.
Panelists who participated in the virtual town hall included supervisor Gonzales, 47th District Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, District Attorney Jason Anderson, Public Defender Christopher Gardner, Undersheriff Shannon Dicus, Assistant Executive Officer CaSonya Thomas of Health and Human Services, and San Bernardino County Bar Association President Eugene Kim.
“This has been an opportunity for us to listen, in particular my office to listen to the community. One of the things I want to point out that I’m proud of what we’ve done since I’ve been in office for a year and a half our mission statement already includes the words ‘equal justice for all.’” said District Attorney Anderson. “We have started for the first time ever in SB County an independent review of all officer involved shootings that occur in our county and we’ve also established a community commission that will begin right away with 17 members in the community selected by the supervisors in the county.”
According to Anderson this was not done in reaction to anything and is being done because it is the right thing to do so that community members who are not normally involved in the justice system have a chance to examine, have a say and give feedback.
“Not everything law enforcement does is right, not everything that happens in the community is right,” Anderson said. “We’re here to try to manage injustice in whichever form it takes in terms of what I believe the role of the District Attorney’s office is.”
According to Public Defender Gardner, lawyers and staff have been put through implicit bias training over the last few years because they believe it is important if they are going to represent people who look different than them to understand and make sure they are taking care of the defendants and understand what they are going through as much as they possibly can.
“Just a couple weeks ago we went through a program with the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association where our entire staff went through a ‘race and bias and white fragility in the courtroom’ 2-day program,” Anderson said.
San Bernardino County declared racism a public health crisis and the Public Defender’s office is in support of the board of supervisors decision.
“The Sheriffs support racism as a public crisis which was recently a resolution brought by the board of supervisors,” said Undersheriff Dicus.
It is important for the community to know what community leaders are doing to implement the changes needed to overcome civil unrest and racial injustices. Panelists covered programs and policies with each department to help understand the structural threat of racism within our community.
Each agency answered questions submitted beforehand by participants.
The SBSC intends to host future virtual town halls. Visit https://www.sb-court.org/ for additional information.