The Goleta City Council unanimously voted Monday afternoon to adopt a resolution condemning police brutality and declaring racism a public health emergency.
The resolution is in response to the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, at the hands of former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin, an incident that has led to protests and outcry for reforming police departments across the U.S.
Rather than its amended version, the council adopted the resolution in its original form, which doesn’t refer to the March 28, 2015, killing of Oxnard resident Meagan Hockaday in the “whereas” section, or the killings of Sean Reed at the hands of Indianapolis police on May 6, 2020, and Tony McDade at the hands of Tallahassee police on May 24.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown sat in on the council’s virtual meeting and explained that the killing of Ms. Hockaday was adjudicated as a justifiable homicide and that the cases of Mr. Reed and Mr. McDade are still being adjudicated, so they ultimately weren’t included.
Subjects discussed during the council’s three-hour meeting ran the gamut from the militarization of the police force to setting up citizen review boards to investigate police misconduct, and the possibility of restricting the chokeholds, a technique that has again come under intense national scrutiny since Mr. Floyd’s death.
Sheriff Brown remarked during the meeting that using the chokehold is a very rare occurrence for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. He estimated that the agency has used it only three times in the past five years.
The sheriff advised the council to be careful in making any “absolute” prohibitions against certain law enforcement tactics that have been suggested for banning, such as shooting at a moving vehicle. While he admitted that shooting at moving vehicles isn’t often effective, he said there have been instances where it has been useful and stopped further loss of life.
Recalling the county’s most recent case of a vehicle being used as a weapon when a perpetrator in Isla Vista ran people over with his vehicle while going on a shooting rampage, Sheriff Brown said the violence was brought to a halt by deputy sheriffs shooting the killer while he was driving.
“Had they not engaged him and done what they did, there would very likely have been more murders committed that day,” he said.
He added that the world of law enforcement is “not black and white” and that there are sometimes “rare gray circumstances” where deputies need to be authorized to act quickly to stop dangerous individuals.
“I don’t want a deputy to ever hesitate to become engaged in a situation like that if it were to happen again,” he said.
The council also voted unanimously to send a letter to the sheriff requesting a list of actions be taken in law enforcement agencies throughout Santa Barbara County.
These actions include demanding transparency and accountability from police departments, disbanding internal department investigations of police misconduct and instead creating a civilian review board, prioritizing mental health services and rehabilitation before arresting black people, updating police departments’ use of force policies to center and focus on de-escalation, stopping the isolation and quarantine of inmates attending court or waiting to be contacted by their lawyers, reducing jail admissions by redirecting people to community-based mental health treatment facilities, and demanding institutional support for an annual Juneteenth celebration.