Letters to the Editor June 12: Protests

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Ojai Valley News photo by Holly Roberts
“Black Lives Matter” words in chalk on the sidewalk under the Libbey Park Pergola this week.


Citizen reflects
We have asked our police/Ventura County Sheriff’s Office to be social workers, resolve domestic issues, enforce traffic rules, catch drug dealers with high-powered guns, thieves who will run and try to hide, hijacker chases, and mental-health professionals. They are the ones who are first on the lines when there is danger to citizens, not knowing who or what they will encounter. And they must participate in new training all the time. Each one wants to return alive and well to their family every night. 
However, they have also been told sometimes to use force not needed for petty crimes or suspected crimes. Some have the attitude that much crime is performed by minorities so that is who they target, thinking they are getting ahead of crimes. Reporting such actions to their superiors can mean they become targets rather than being able to depend on those perpetrators to have their backs.
These issues are so complicated and often accepted by the citizens and leaders they are to protect. Unions defend these “bad apples” and evidently those rotten apples cannot be removed easily even with multiple complaints against them. 
Do we defund them? Rather than defund, how about reallocating? Officers who put their lives on the line every day should be paid more for those hardships. Lots of CEOs, oil magnates, Wall Street speculators, professional sport players are given huge bonuses — even when they lose games or money for their companies, yet reflect the differences we tolerate (advantages of being the 1%). Salaries should be higher for life-threatening jobs, particularly for ones whose job it is to protect us all.
Reallocation funds from these departments should be invested in our public agencies for mental health, drug rehabilitation, improving schools for minorities, better job opportunities for so many who now have to depend on the government, non-military policing of poorer communities and return to neighborhood gatherings with city and county governments. By caring for these districts, understanding racism with humanity, we can become a better a society. 
Let’s revive empathy for our fellow citizens. 



Not yet
I have been a criminal defense attorney for almost 50 years. I have seen the videos of the death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers. There is no question in my mind that if anyone other than police had participated in the death of a person in the manner in which Mr. Floyd was killed, all four individuals would have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder. As much as the killing of Mr. Floyd itself, it is the failure to immediately arrest all four individuals, and then, initially, to only charge one officer with third degree murder that has led to the demonstrations and the demonstrations getting out of control. Nearly 60 years ago, Bob Dylan asked, “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?” The answer, sadly, is “Don’t know, but not yet.”


Heartening to see
The demonstrations in front of Libbey Park by large crowds showing their empathy for George Floyd are heartening and poignant. 
As a Tamil-American citizen and an immigrant from the island of Sri Lanka, I have seen and experienced riots and state-sponsored pogroms against my community throughout my childhood years. The deafening silence of the majority Sinhala-Buddhists of the country led to a 20-year civil war, ending in the genocide of the Tamils Nation of peoples, and finally, the military occupation and the subjugation of the Tamils in their homeland in the northeast of the island. The Sinhala-Buddhist majority in the country is now facing a dictatorship as a result of their very own silence.
My enduring hope and confidence are that the young people of this country will restore the progress in civil rights that has been systematically dismantled by this administration. “Colorful” people (I prefer to use this more positive term rather than "colored" or "of color"), such as myself and the sacrificial legacy of George Floyd, look to the young people of this country to arrest the slippery slope we are currently in, for a better future for all our people in this, my adopted country. The young people of Ojai are showing us they will prevail.


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