It’s time for Eureka citizens to have a role policing the police

Eureka’s current Community Oriented Policing under Harpham and Mills (Murl Jr.)

Eureka’s current Community Oriented Policing under Harpham and Mills (Murl Jr.)

Now that the campaign season is starting to heat up, the Examiner staff has decided to bring up an issue to Eureka voters that seems to have been forgotten. It’s apparent to us that when important issues are completely ignored for long enough, the voting public seems to get disenfranchised and give up on them. Well, enough is enough.

The Eureka Police Department has been involved in numerous officer involved shootings with questionable circumstances over the past several years. There have been officers arrested, and millions in judgments against officers for unlawful conduct.

Gunshot wounds to Cheri Moore

Gunshot wounds to Cheri Moore

Where is the outrage? EPD killed women and children, a Chief and Lieutenant were indicted for murder, lawsuits abound???? It was around in 2007, according to the Times-Standard:

“EUREKA — The Humboldt Buddhist Peace Fellowship is sending a letter to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and the Eureka City Council asking for a police review board.

The letter became public after the fourth police-involved shooting in the past eight months occurred Thursday, but the letter was written before the most recent shooting.

”The members of the Humboldt Area Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship are alarmed and disturbed by the three fatal shootings in the past eight months by officers of the Eureka police, and by the behavior of members of other law enforcement agencies in Humboldt County,” said the letter.

The letter states that data from Bureau of Justice Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, indicate that Humboldt County should have roughly one police-involved shooting every three to four years.

”We’ve had three in eight months,” said the letter.

”We believe it is urgent that civilian institutions with substantial powers of investigation be created and assigned the task of reviewing the behavior of law enforcement officers in Eureka and throughout Humboldt County,” it reads. “We would like to see a civilian police review board be created by the county and/or the city, and provided with subpoena powers.”

If officials at the county or city fail to take action, the group says, it will take the case to the Grand Jury.

”While we commend law enforcement officers for the protection they provide us all under sometimes difficult conditions, we still believe civilian review is imperative. We must all take responsibility for the manner in which our government enforces laws.”

Mitch Trachtenberg, a member of the group, said the calls for police review are not an attack on police.

”Law enforcement is the responsibility of everyone,” he said. “When the police are behaving appropriately, there’s no problem with civilian oversight. If someone is worried about police review, then perhaps they’re behaving inappropriately.”

Eureka Police Chief Murl Harpham said he doesn’t see a need for a police review board. “We do a pretty good job of policing ourselves,” Harpham said.

He said the last three people fired from the department were fired for things discovered from internal investigations, not from a citizen’s complaint.

”We see a problem, we take care of it,” Harpham said.”

Murl Harpham was afraid of a review board. Obviously, he was worried about the EPD skeletons being made public. Chief Nielsen was hired in 2007 and started taking steps to ensure civilian review. He was fired by the council (including Mike Newman), mostly because of his perceived liberalism and progressive ideas. Now we have the conservative and religious Chief Andy Mills, who came from an agency with a civilian review board. The goal of his former agencies board seems pretty reasonable:

The purpose of the Board is to empower an independent citizens group to assure the public that complaints against San Diego police officers are investigated thoroughly, completely and fairly; and to recommend and advocate for policies which promote fair and humane policing of the city.

Mills talks a good game about being accountable to the public. Will he support the formation of a functional review board that includes real oversight and the ability to look into citizen complaints? We don’t know. However, it would be nice if the city council candidates took this issue seriously and looked into implementing real change in local law enforcement.

Newman has certainly talked a good game about hiring a forward thinking Chief, while forgetting to mention that he fired a progressive Chief Nielsen and replaced him with Murl Harpham, who was still stuck in the 50’s. Albin probably would have done the same.

Now we have a chance with Natalie Arroyo and Kim Bergel to move the city and EPD forward in a positive direction. So what will be Kim and Natalie’s stance on a Civilian Review Board in Eureka?


23 thoughts on “It’s time for Eureka citizens to have a role policing the police

  1. Sometimes I feel like the hoi polloi are all just spiders in a jar to EPD. If you are Someone Important That Has Been Inconvenienced, they’re all over that s#!+……

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “We do a pretty good job of policing ourselves,” Harpham said.

    Then you should have nothing to fear from a civilian police review board. So, no excuses.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I believe Atkins was supportive of a review board when she ran in 08. Would she still support such a move within the city?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You say, “Now we have a chance with Natalie Arroyo and Kim Bergel …”

    Be nice if you knew for a fact that these two would make a difference, wouldn’t it? Why don’t you?

    While the city council is important, Chief Mill’s boss is the City Manager. How do you plan on fixing that problem? Or maybe I should say, getting that problem fixed?


    • Newt:

      The City Manager serves at the “pleasure” of the City Council. When the City Council no longer finds the experience pleasurable… they get rid of him.

      Firing the wrong people could cause the City Council such unhappiness. That Mr. Tyson kept his job meant tacit approval of the council.

      As for Arroyo and Bergel… you are right. Somebody should ask them about the Police/Citizens of Eureka divide and listen to what they have to say.

      I have to admit I’m curious myself.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey mola your only half right Tyson’s contract stipulated he could only be fired by 4 out of 5 council members. That’s a steep hill to climb.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks re:peat for the information. I did not know that.

      Does the current City Manager have that deal too? Because if so… well then THAT does need fixing.


  5. “The City Manager serves at the “pleasure” of the City Council. When the City Council no longer finds the experience pleasurable… they get rid of him.”

    Is that kind of like the way the with the City Council, at the peoples pleasure? Sadly the people have kept the same kinds of people elected for decades.

    “Firing the wrong people could cause the City Council such unhappiness. That Mr. Tyson kept his job meant tacit approval of the council.”

    My point exactly, which meant the City Council had exactly the Police Chief and increasingly militarized police force “they” wanted – people be-damned. I’m not sure if you noticed, but Ferguson, MO has the same governmental setup as Eureka. A police review board, while worth something, is really only a band-aid on a boil. It is the impunity, “looking forward, not backward” that is the boil.

    Listening to what they have to say is nice. How about getting them to commit? Then when they lie, recall them.


    • A review board would still be a step in the right direction, I believe. Even so, I agree that City Hall, including the Council, needs a complete overhaul.


    • Newt:

      I’m not sure what you are advocating here… the City Council does serve at the “Pleasure of the People,” and the people’s pleasure is (up to now) to keep in office the kind of politicians they currently have.

      You aren’t advocating torches and pitchforks and angry mobs storming City Hall like the peasants attacking Frankenstein’s Castle, are you?

      I anticipate two possibilities (perhaps there are many more and better to fix the situation: 1). Elect the Police Chief like we elect the County Sheriff. 2). Have elections where people of the Wards vote on their own candidates to represent them… not having at-large voting as you do now to force the choice on the Ward, whether they like it or not.

      I can’t see number one being much of an improvement (see Sheriff Downey). Number two could work, but every time that’s been tried in the past the City has gone back to the system you have now.

      As for candidates making commitments… once they say something on camera that’s pretty much a commitment. I can’t see what you are asking for there either.

      I feel your frustration… but offer us more than frustration. Offer possibilities for solution.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it tanked a year or so ago, members were appointed by the county supervisors.. maybe it was just for the county and I remember wrong. Anyway there was at least one public resignation and I think the board was disbanded. It had morphed into something other than its purpose.


    • Hi JP, the forum didn’t give me a reply-to link for you so I am replying to me. See June 5, 2013 McKinleyville Press on the “mission drift” of the county Law Enforcement Liaison committee. It was county level, I apologize. The T-S wrote about it too. Something about employees of the department complaining about each other and the board’s purpose in doubt. McKinleyville Press paints it as the board creating a forum for complaint and some not liking it, but if I recall there was dysfunction on the committee as well and the mission of “informing the public” may not have been what anyone hoped for. An EPD review board.. they had all those public meetings and divided the city into those zones and then came the “is crime really down?” Statistical adventure. What is the next step? File a complaint against the zone system, I think. A board would probably chew on itself a la the county liaison.


  7. What’s my solution? It should be obvious. Select and elect people you can trust.

    What ambiguous about impunity, Mola?


  8. I didn’t think anything Mola. I just go with what’s said. You said, “I can’t see what you are asking for there either.” That’s really not my problem.

    I just don’t appreciate people putting words in my mouth and trying to tell me how “frustrated” I am and that I’m “arguing” when they don’t know a fucking thing they admittedly are talking about. I won’t converse with you anymore, at least not until you learn to be civil and decent.

    By the way, I did not change the subject. Mola did.


    • “I won’t converse with you anymore, at least not until you learn to be civil and decent.”

      Wow. Someone who’s above all of the negativity. I like it.

      “when they don’t know a fucking thing they admittedly are talking about”

      Whoops. There went “civil and decent”. Nice try, but utter failure. This post is about a civilian review board, not your ego.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Newt:

      I’m sorry you misinterpreted what I was attempting. You were making broad statements that meant little… I was hoping to get things to a more productive level.

      I think we all “get” voters might be the problem here. I was hoping you had more to offer. I was mistaken.

      It’s no sin to be either “frustrated” or “argumentative.” That’s why we are here. That was hardly an accusation of misbehavior on my part. As for being uncivil and indecent… if I was, it was not my intent and I also apologize for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A Citizens Review Board has been fought for by the local ACLU long before the Buddhist’s letter. ACLU went face-to-face numerous times against Sheriff Renner in the supervisor’s chamber to no avail.

    25 years later, a new “Humboldt County Law Enforcement Liaison Committee” was formed, its members appointed by the supervisors. At least half the members are current or former law enforcement personnel.

    The HCLELC was exposed in the current Grand Jury Final Report as potentially becoming another CYA service, (Cover Your Ass) for county law enforcement, demonstrating why we need an actual Citizen’s Review Board.

    The GJ Final Report reveals how law enforcement lacks critical intervention training for handling children, yet, law enforcement is the primary agency first to respond to calls involving distressed and indigent children!

    Except for the unanimous disagreement by local advocates and experts that handle children, law enforcement sees no problem in repeated public handcuffing and isolation at juvenile hall or Sempervirens for suicidal kids.

    This kind of byzantine “spare the rod, spoil the child” crap by law enforcement has already been banned in most CA communities, (another cause of this county’s under-reported and record-high crime rates?).

    Currently, many local agencies and organizations are being required to formally respond to the Grand Jury. It will be interesting to read how many refer all public concerns (and outrage) onto the HCLELC that claims in the GJ Final Report to have been offering to fund Critical Intervention Training appropriate to children for willing officers, although, the HCLELC is barely a year old!

    Little wonder that the County is refusing to pay to have the GJ Final report published in hard-copy in the local newspapers.

    If the Tuluwat Examiner reports on the GJ, it will be the only local media source to do so, thus far.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My personal experience with a citizen’s police review board was interesting, as the FBI was involved locally (and at least one was on the committee to develop the citizen’s review board)(it was his shoes that gave him away), like Ferguson, but another time, another place.
      The sheriff’s dept had been seriously looked at and shockingly exposed for their thuggish ways, reminding me fully of the EPD in recent years. All EPD needs is a helicopter.

      I have thought from the beginning that hiring Mills was an excellent choice, and a concession to the failures and excesses of the EPD.
      Hiring Mills I bet was a hoped for way to calm everybody down, cool the Grand Jury, and prevent such atrocities as a police review board and any FBI look see. And credit for that, so far..

      We several citizen’s formed a ‘police review committee’ and dogged the agencies in public meetings and gadflied and leafletted…and just soon/weeks after we were doing that they revamped their entire approach going to a distributed community policing type system, before it was named that I think. The worst thug leaders were reassigned to abuse elsewhere.

      So I am saying it works to a positive degree no matter how much sniping and sabotage and invective is hurled at it, the police don’t want such a committee ever. If they are saddled with it, they will work to co-opt and confuse it, and especially more likely to succeed if the public elected officials are involved with any such appointing..which is why the ACLU has probably had whatever success they had had here.

      And as far as we know the FBI isn’t involved here in any investigations. (yet)(see the LA Times article about the sheriff/FBI investigation of jail abuses there). And of course there might not be a notice in the paper that they were investigation the sheriff’s jail work or the EPD thuggery.

      Between the good old person network here and the low turnout voters the ACLU is the best we will get, but it can’t hurt to try, I fully support any citizen’s police review board effort..

      My only qualm is that I think making the ‘threat’ of a police review board’ and election year issue would be great….for the police and the good old person network maybe. OMGOMGOMG hippies! communists!! Kenyan socialists!!!

      But if not now when there is at least the slight attention being paid to politics before an election. there will better time, so….still, I think it too preliminary to saddle such new candidates with this so divisive an issue, they are pretty smart and savvy.

      Maybe instead we can just start a citizen initiative to elect Newman and Chet for life, briar patch them.

      Did TE staff think this thru?…I hope so, I hope you are right.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Short of a major catalyst, little progressive change is possible in this County, nor has there ever been much, as long as the vast majority of eligible voters continue to abstain, paving the way for a tiny cabal to control every elected and appointed office forever.

    They know this, it’s their primary source of confidence required by the insurance agent/Realtor/police officer/business owner/waitress/auctioneer, radio host, in effect, the average citizens that the speculator industry anoint and win, with few exceptions.

    Average citizens on the left don’t stand a chance.

    It’s the same rule that motivated Meg Whitman to spend $140 million. She was no fool, just another rare exception.

    And yet, a critical issue sweeping the nation promising to engage tens of millions of voters fails to put our local unions, democrats, greens, progressives, liberals, grass root and left-politico elites in the same room to canvass Eureka to actually change this corrupt political legacy, (disaster).

    Measure “R” is an opportunity this county’s political critics haven’t seen in decades. Too bad they’ve been too demoralized and humiliated by the right wing to change a failed strategy and fight back.

    The effectiveness of yard signs, endorsements, media, consultants, and voter tracking, is dependent upon the amount of money you can spend on them….our opponent’s strength.

    Educating and motivating the majority of non-voters by going to their homes is inexpensive and the only effective tool against an entrenched and corrupt political machine.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I realy dont understand the reason in why are the officers/officer not being held to answer question ok I dont believe the officer murdered that poor boy. But involuntary manslaughter fits


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