All over the country people are talking about police overreaction and violence. Here in little Eureka Ca., we’ve had mostly public silence and fear that greeted the news of young Tommy McClain being gunned down in his own yard. One can look squarely at the example Eureka’s Chief of Police Andrew Mills, who has not only condoned this unjustified killing, but promoted the responsible Sergeant Brian Stephens, to Captain. While Mills may have curried favor with the old guard in the department, the signal he sent out to the community was that if you don’t have the right socioeconomic status and live in the wrong part of town, your life is a risk from the people charged with protecting it.
Amid the nationwide tumult over recent instances of police officers using deadly force against unarmed people, Bay Area cities like Berkeley and Oakland have been riveted by impassioned protests that have at times turned violent.
But a different kind of protest popped up in Richmond on Tuesday, and at the vanguard of the gathering calling for a reduction in police violence in communities of color was an unlikely participant: Richmond’s police chief.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, not in Richmond, not anywhere,” said longtime resident Mary Square, who stood on the north side of Macdonald Avenue watching the protesters on the south side of the street. “All these police, and the police chief, holding signs calling for an end to police violence. … I’m going to tell my kids.”
About 100 protesters lined Macdonald Avenue at 41st Street by noon Tuesday, holding signs and listening to a stereo that boomed speeches by Martin Luther King Jr.
Police Chief Chris Magnus, who has drawn acclaim for his community-policing approach and helping drive down both crime and use of force by his officers in recent years, was front and center, facing the street while holding a white sign that said “#blacklivesmatter.” The photo quickly went viral on social media, the image of the uniformed chief with the popular hashtag a stark contrast to the anti-police sentiment many associate with it.
“I spoke with my command staff, and we agreed it would be nice to convey our commitment to peaceful protest and that black and brown lives do matter,” Magnus said after the protest. “And to help bridge the gap that we understand sometimes exists between police and community around certain issues.”
Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown, a few paces away, said the chief’s participation sent a clear message.”We get the conversation about use of force, we get it,” Brown said. “This is an opportunity for all police departments, including ours, to look inward and examine our approaches and get better.”
Info and quotes from Contra Costa Times