Rally in MLK Plaza Expresses Support for Local Law Enforcement

October 4, 2020 at 9:14 pm

Stockton Police Officers' Association President Chuck Harris at a rally Saturday in support of local law enforcement.

Stockton Police Officers' Association President Chuck Harris spoke at a rally Saturday in support of local law enforcement.

Calixtro Romias/Stockton Record

On Saturday, dozens of people rallied across the street from Stockton City Hall in support of the Stockton Police Department, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, and other local law enforcement groups. Speakers included San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti, former Stockton Citycouncilmember Ted Gonzalez, Stockton Police Officers Association President Chuck Harris, and congressional candidate Antonio Amador (CA-9). Many of those present did not abide by Stockton’s mask mandate or follow common COVID-19 safety protocols.

Police departments across the country have been faced with increasing pressure to hold officers accountable for instances of violence or brutality on the job, with many facing the possibility of having funding diverted to other programs designed to curb crime.

Amador, a former Los Angeles police officer, warned that divesting from the police in Stockton would spread to other cities in San Joaquin. He also encouraged people to multiply their numbers the next time a pro-police rally was held.

Harris expressed that Stockton’s officers should not be responsible for the bad deeds of the police elsewhere. “In all of the millions of contacts that the police have every day, it’s one instance, which isn’t good. That’s too many, but it’s one.”, he said.

Harris also singled out the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office of being too lenient on crime. District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar recently came under criticism from the police union for leading chants at protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

In September, Verber Salazar also helped found the Prosecutors Alliance of California, a progressive group of district attorneys which seeks criminal justice reform. This move also provoked criticism from the union.

The month before, she signed a letter from prosecutors around the country that stated that they would not seek further endorsements or donations from police unions for their campaigns. Verber Salazar is not up for reelection until 2022.

The most concerted effort so far to defund law enforcement in Stockton has been in Stockton Unified School District, where a measure to remove the police department and implement new mental health programs was introduced by Trustee Lange Luntao in June.

Stockton Unified School District Police Officers’ Association President Dave Rose called the measure “shortsighted.” “I think we have resources and I think we have finances available to the district without eliminating our essential service.” he said. The board later adopted a resolution that expressed support for the district police.

The Stockton Police Department has experienced large funding losses before. During the 2008 financial crisis, when the city went bankrupt, the department’s budget was slashed by $14 million. The number of officers was reduced by a quarter. However, police shootings continued, with 27 between 2009 and 2014.

Police Chief Eric Jones took additional measures to improve community relations, including volunteering Stockton as one of six cities for a national police reform initiative in 2014. Harris has also pointed out that Stockton’s primarily young group of officers means that there is little blind obeisance to veterans, which may have been what kept more inexperienced officers from intervening when George Floyd was killed.