Editorial: Policing forum a good start

We commend the Los Altos City Council for organizing last week’s town hall on policing. The forum offered an opportunity for dozens of speakers to sound off on the troubling issue of racial profiling – a problem arguably reinforced by the recent release of police data indicating that a disproportionate number of Blacks, Hispanics and nonresidents were arrested or cited by police officers.

The virtual meeting also gave residents a chance to voice support for local police. Speakers pointed to several instances in which officers provided helpful service and praised them for giving them a sense of security in a low-crime community.

Local activists have urged city leaders time and again to listen rather than react and defend. We believe the council – and Police Chief Andy Galea – did just that at the July 28 town hall. Now comes the hard part: what to do next?

Mayor Jan Pepper said the council will meet later this month – Aug. 25 is the next scheduled meeting – to determine next steps.

As is typical with such meetings – a similar forum took place recently in Palo Alto – the discussion was long on redefining the problem and short on tangible solutions.

Two specific areas could be addressed: alternatives to police responding to calls involving mental illness or homelessness, and alternatives to school resource officers on local campuses. It appears all are open to discussing options.

No answers are forthcoming – yet. But as long as the calls for change persist, our leaders will have to respond.

LaDoris Cordell, retired Santa Clara County judge and moderator for last week’s forum, offered a blueprint for residents and leaders to follow: “To the residents of Los Altos, insist that your city leaders’ actions be rooted in what is right and what is good; and to the city leaders, ensure that what you do inspires others.”

Actions must come from a place of honesty and a real desire to do better, not from a need to placate so that the voices go away. Let’s do the right thing.

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