News

Guest opinion: Reform MVPD now

Deputy Police Chief Chris Hsiung speaks with a colleague at the Mountain View Police Department on Aug. 5, 2019. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

It’s time for local leaders to rise to the moment: The country is still reeling after the murder of George Floyd, and the levers of change are in the hands of our local leaders. City Council alone controls police reform and budgeting, and Mountain View residents came out in droves to call for police reform at recent council meetings.

But local leaders threw cold water on the ask and instead agreed to defer funding for police toys like drone accessories and 3D laser scanners. These items will still be funded in February 2021.

Why are our local leaders so noncommittal about substantive reform? Per Mayor Abe-Koga and Councilwoman Lisa Matichak, the Mountain View Police Department is already “top-notch,” and so any reform would be supererogatory.

But MVPD’s internal regulations are far from “top-notch.” MVPD’s existing use-of-force policy is verbatim identical to four of the five police departments in California that have killed the most civilians per capita, per California’s DOJ.

As our city grows, so will the risk of tragedy, and if we wait for tragedy to strike before we carry out bolder reform, we will be too late. There are already disconcerting signs of misconduct.

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Last year, three MVPD officers unlawfully forced a 5-year-old girl into a traumatic sexual examination. Taxpayers paid $600,000 to settle the ensuing lawsuit.

"Given MVPD’s subpar internal regulations and given the lawsuits they’ve faced, we’re playing dice with tail-end risk if we don’t reform MVPD now."

-Salim Damerdji, Mountain View resident

Last summer, Officer Kroutil sent a man to the hospital after wrongly assuming he stole a car. Despite the hospitalization, MVPD listed this as a “minor” injury in their use-of-force statistics, and MVPD has not released the body camera footage.

Police Chief Bosel has been sued for sexual harassment. He won the lawsuit but lost his moral credibility: the court documents contain overwhelming evidence that Bosel led a team with a deeply broken culture, featuring hazing, indecent exposure, and assault. Any other institution would fire such a leader; he was promoted.

The above five cops made over $1.4 million last year. Add in the settlement, and these five officers cost taxpayers $2 million dollars in one year. All five were given raises last month.

Police enjoy generous compensation with little accountability, thanks to unions and qualified immunity. Given MVPD’s subpar internal regulations and given the lawsuits they’ve faced, we’re playing dice with tail-end risk if we don’t reform MVPD now.

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There’s no shortage of good ideas for reform. To improve community oversight, we could start with data transparency: the police should release body camera footage after officers use force; track each officer’s false positive rate per race when making stops; and publish each officer’s complaints and any resulting discipline.

We should also follow San Francisco’s lead in hiring unarmed social workers to respond to nonviolent calls, e.g. those involving the homeless and youth. A somewhat similar program in Eugene, Oregon, diverts 17% of 911 calls, freeing police officers to focus on real crime, not wellness checks. A 4% cut to MVPD’s budget would sufficiently fund a program as large as Eugene’s program, which is estimated to pay for itself seven times over by diverting so many police and ER calls.

Council members, don’t let this moment pass you by. Many young residents are participating in local politics for the first time, and this will shape their views of local engagement for years to come. Hear them out, be responsive, and act. We need your help to make sure reform is responsible and smart, but we also need your commitment to serious reform.

When George Floyd’s daughter Gianna was asked what her father did, she exclaimed with glee that “Daddy changed the world.” We owe it to Gianna to prove her right.

Salim Damerdji is a Mountain View resident.

The Voice accepts guest opinions of up to 600 words and letters to the editor of up to 300 words. Send signed op-eds and letters to [email protected] by 5 p.m. Monday and noon on Tuesday, respectively.

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

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Guest opinion: Reform MVPD now

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Sun, Jun 28, 2020, 7:37 am

It’s time for local leaders to rise to the moment: The country is still reeling after the murder of George Floyd, and the levers of change are in the hands of our local leaders. City Council alone controls police reform and budgeting, and Mountain View residents came out in droves to call for police reform at recent council meetings.

But local leaders threw cold water on the ask and instead agreed to defer funding for police toys like drone accessories and 3D laser scanners. These items will still be funded in February 2021.

Why are our local leaders so noncommittal about substantive reform? Per Mayor Abe-Koga and Councilwoman Lisa Matichak, the Mountain View Police Department is already “top-notch,” and so any reform would be supererogatory.

But MVPD’s internal regulations are far from “top-notch.” MVPD’s existing use-of-force policy is verbatim identical to four of the five police departments in California that have killed the most civilians per capita, per California’s DOJ.

As our city grows, so will the risk of tragedy, and if we wait for tragedy to strike before we carry out bolder reform, we will be too late. There are already disconcerting signs of misconduct.

Last year, three MVPD officers unlawfully forced a 5-year-old girl into a traumatic sexual examination. Taxpayers paid $600,000 to settle the ensuing lawsuit.

Last summer, Officer Kroutil sent a man to the hospital after wrongly assuming he stole a car. Despite the hospitalization, MVPD listed this as a “minor” injury in their use-of-force statistics, and MVPD has not released the body camera footage.

Police Chief Bosel has been sued for sexual harassment. He won the lawsuit but lost his moral credibility: the court documents contain overwhelming evidence that Bosel led a team with a deeply broken culture, featuring hazing, indecent exposure, and assault. Any other institution would fire such a leader; he was promoted.

The above five cops made over $1.4 million last year. Add in the settlement, and these five officers cost taxpayers $2 million dollars in one year. All five were given raises last month.

Police enjoy generous compensation with little accountability, thanks to unions and qualified immunity. Given MVPD’s subpar internal regulations and given the lawsuits they’ve faced, we’re playing dice with tail-end risk if we don’t reform MVPD now.

There’s no shortage of good ideas for reform. To improve community oversight, we could start with data transparency: the police should release body camera footage after officers use force; track each officer’s false positive rate per race when making stops; and publish each officer’s complaints and any resulting discipline.

We should also follow San Francisco’s lead in hiring unarmed social workers to respond to nonviolent calls, e.g. those involving the homeless and youth. A somewhat similar program in Eugene, Oregon, diverts 17% of 911 calls, freeing police officers to focus on real crime, not wellness checks. A 4% cut to MVPD’s budget would sufficiently fund a program as large as Eugene’s program, which is estimated to pay for itself seven times over by diverting so many police and ER calls.

Council members, don’t let this moment pass you by. Many young residents are participating in local politics for the first time, and this will shape their views of local engagement for years to come. Hear them out, be responsive, and act. We need your help to make sure reform is responsible and smart, but we also need your commitment to serious reform.

When George Floyd’s daughter Gianna was asked what her father did, she exclaimed with glee that “Daddy changed the world.” We owe it to Gianna to prove her right.

Salim Damerdji is a Mountain View resident.

The Voice accepts guest opinions of up to 600 words and letters to the editor of up to 300 words. Send signed op-eds and letters to [email protected] by 5 p.m. Monday and noon on Tuesday, respectively.

Comments

Reality vs fantasy
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:51 am
Reality vs fantasy, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:51 am
22 people like this

ANOTHER one? Though this latest writer doesn't mention it, in the last week, Voice readers had a prior Opinion piece on the same theme Web Link plus a featured editorial letter Web Link .

All these writers share both passionate rhetoric, and inability to step back and examine the assumptions and implications of the criticisms they advocate. Steps prerequisite to influencing real-world outcomes. Where the measure of success is what actually happens, not what sounds good right now to you or your friends.


Just in case
Old Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:42 am
Just in case, Old Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:42 am
23 people like this

Just like the police have assault rifles and drones "just in case", so too do we need better transparency and accountability, "just in case".


hiiii
The Crossings
on Jun 28, 2020 at 11:05 am
hiiii, The Crossings
on Jun 28, 2020 at 11:05 am
15 people like this

@Reality vs fantasy -- have you considered that the fact that so many people are laying out different arguments that reach the same thing means perhaps large parts of your community disagree with you?

It seems like you need to reflect on your own "inability to step back and examine the assumptions and implications" of what you believe. They seem to have already questioned the basic assumptions our society ingrains into us (like that police are generally good or our city council generally represents us)


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 28, 2020 at 11:22 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jun 28, 2020 at 11:22 am
12 people like this

Great that questions are being asked. Candidates for city council often seek police (and fire) union endorsements and then ask few questions as office-holders. I suggested early on that anyone with a specific complaint about the MV police (who is willing to be known) should write the city council - not the police department. The complaint will then go to the police department for a response and become part of the public record that can be accessed by activists and voters. As to changing policies and procedures, study is required. Do not expect any councilmember endorsed by the local police union to seriously consider mandating any changes. Unless there are some candidates who favor changes, there will be no debate and no choice of any candidates who might be better councilmembers (on these subjects) than we have.


Reality vs fantasy
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 1:08 pm
Reality vs fantasy, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 1:08 pm
18 people like this

hiiii: Have YOU in turn considered that three Opinion pieces hardly bespeak "large parts of your community?" You could equally (and with greater numerical weight) have pointed out the many more Voice comments lately supporting MVPD, offering positive anecdotes, and questioning bizarre offhand suggestions for "reform." Even if you (or everyone you know) is persuaded as you are, that's far from any consensus whatever (however much human ego prefers to perceive it so).

The history of public-policy discussion (and these same Comments pages) is CROWDED with earnest proposals that would, and sometimes actually do, lead to ineffective, even counter-effective, results -- and even though their flaws or outright fatuity were obvious from the start, to those seeing them from outside the reassuring bubble of being swept up the blindness of your own convictions.


Observer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 2:42 pm
Observer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 2:42 pm
29 people like this

The writer is a 24 year old who mostly has lived in Los Altos. This is an example of a lack of perspective. These inexperienced kids don't know the amount of social services budget there is in the state of California. Comparison to Eugene Oregon is completely invalid, because in California we have a large social services network provided at the county level. Our police officers aren't the only interface to homeless on the streets. In fact, in Mountain View the city has directed that the police department treat vehicle dwellers with kid gloves and avoid interactions with them. Only recently through a genuine uproar from the citizenry has the city council sought to address the congestion of months-long vehicle dwelling on city streets. The chief argument has been that these dwellers ARE NOT causing many problems and NOT taking much police time to manage.

The author provides no research to suggest that police in Mountain View are engaged in social services support, e.g. mental health interactions, arrests or referrals. Yet there is this assertion that it might reduce 17% of its calls like Eugene Oregon did. There is no basis to believe this. In this county, people needing help for non-criminal matters don't have to call 911. They can call 211 and be referred to a huge array of services which avoids their need to fall back on the police. One would really need to collect data and analyze it before making such recommendations blindly about how to redirect the MV police budget.

Sorry, Mountain View is no Eugene Oregon. The average yearly income in one is THREE times that in the other and there is a corresponding difference in tax revenue and social services budgets. The unfortunate could always use more help, but the argument that it would cost effective to divert the police funding to any degree needs careful analysis, largely because there is so much greater public dedication to social services ALREADY. And, then there is the private resources from agencies like CSA or CHAC which is PRIVATELY FUNDED due to the largesse available through the high incomes of the local residents. Consider that the low income safety net here is much less dependent on police spending.


Reality vs fantasy
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 3:18 pm
Reality vs fantasy, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 3:18 pm
13 people like this

But Observer, you are applying hard facts and healthy skepticism. Those aren't the currencies of most local advocacy I've seen lately on this topic (such as this Opinion piece's author). Those advocates will probably dismiss your analysis too, because they don't like where it leads.


Mt View Resident
Blossom Valley
on Jun 28, 2020 at 3:48 pm
Mt View Resident, Blossom Valley
on Jun 28, 2020 at 3:48 pm
22 people like this

As a 10 year resident of Mountain View, I would like to chime in my support for the Mountain View Police Department. I had occasion last year to see the MVPD in action dealing with an urgent situation, and they were professional, exemplary, and very effective. Reading about all the chaos around the country after the horrible murder of George Floyd, I am very thankful to live in a city with an effective, professional police force. I have spent significant time in a country that does not have a credible police force. Anyone who earned any wealth for their family became an immediate target of local crime rings, and those rings operated with complete impunity with regard to the police. I would like to thank John McAlister and the City Council for maintaining the MVPD budget.

I understand that a number of residents are speaking passionately about de-funding the MVPD. They certainly do *not* represent my views as a 10 year resident. I encourage the Council to maintain funding levels for the MVPD, and to continuously and proactively look for ways to make it even more safe, fair-minded, and effective.


Steve
Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 28, 2020 at 8:55 pm
Steve, Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 28, 2020 at 8:55 pm
20 people like this

I would like to echo the support of the Mountain View police department. I have seen no evidence that they are anything but professional.


Observer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 12:06 am
Observer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 12:06 am
10 people like this

Another thing to consider is that state law began to require training for all Peace officer in the state as to the issue of implicit bias. Then last year
that requirement was strengthened and expanded so that training happens every 2 years. Some of the local twentysomethings talk about how things were when they were in high school, which would be before this training and this realization started to be manifested within police departments. Also, since 2013, besides the many state-wide sources of social services funding, Santa Clara county has had an extra 1/8 % sales tax


Joe
North Bayshore
on Jun 29, 2020 at 12:42 am
Joe, North Bayshore
on Jun 29, 2020 at 12:42 am
9 people like this

I was pulled over a few years ago by a Mountain View PIG. His buddy stood 20 feet behind my car with his hand on his GUN while I gave my license and registration. I hadn't done anything wrong, and no ticket was issued. He just wanted to yell and bully. [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Fred
Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2020 at 8:42 am
Fred, Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2020 at 8:42 am
8 people like this

Increased police funding. Police are not the problem. No matter how nasty police have been, they are only reflecting the directions of our leaders. Police are victims of the same systems that victimize the rest of us. Many decades ago Richard Nixon, for purely political reasons, told the nations police to crack down on those pot smoking hippies. With long hair and an old truck I was pulled over with surprising regularity by COPS of every city on the peninsula. It was very educational. While a bit infuriating at times I felt sorry for most. They were simply doing what the president of the United States was telling them to do. The Highway Patrol and the Palo Alto police remained professional, courteous and business like. The rest did what they were told to do. Most who did attempt to harass seemed uncomfortable with the task. Some may have enjoyed being mean and nasty but I still felt sorry for them.
Please consider watching this TED talk, "End the War on Drugs for Good | Christina Dent | TEDxJackso"
And please support our local police. They are our employees, we are their employers. We are responsible for their wellbeeing.


Jake O.
Rengstorff Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:05 pm
Jake O., Rengstorff Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:05 pm
10 people like this

It’s always entertaining to read stories and comments from people, that have no clue on how law enforcement works, giving their opinion on how they should be doing their job.


Bobbo
Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2020 at 5:44 pm
Bobbo, Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2020 at 5:44 pm
2 people like this

All I know is that over the years, I've had at least three of my Latino employees stopped and held for questioning, with no real reason for stopping them other than wanting to know what they were doing walking in the area. Or the standard abuse excuse by many police departments, "You fit the profile of someone we're looking for". Regarding the latter, I've told employees to ask an officer to verify an ongoing case number should they be stopped in the future.
As much as I appreciate the protection and actions of MVPD, as related to my business (caught a person who vandalized my business), more work needs to be done on the profiling by certain officers in the ranks.


Rodger
Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 6:50 pm
Rodger, Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 6:50 pm
6 people like this

Stop hammering away on the police
It’s a super difficult job dealing with problem people or trying to stop crime
Do you ever make mistakes, you do of course, well the police can make mistakes as well and remember they keep criminals at bay and will response when you need them. Yes when I was young they stopped me a few times some of which there seemed to be no reason, in every case I understood and didn’t get upset. I just talked to them and made them laugh and seldom got a ticket but always I learned something.
Help the police, if they have less money for staffing in some cases you will have to defend yourself
Are you willing to be always on the alert and respond with just right of legal force to protect yourself and subdue the person who is about to steal from you or worse
You wouldn’t have a chance of accomplishing the exact correct way to stop crime
Stop writing nonsense letters


Old Fuddy Duddy
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 7:56 pm
Old Fuddy Duddy, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 7:56 pm
2 people like this

Sure, MVPD had been doing a great job and we can praise them and be proud of them and be thankful for them. Suggesting a reform of their policies and procedures doesn't need to be predicated on any failures, but it could be a good proactive step to take. Recent events external to MV highlight a need in this country to self examine. This is not a bad thing. It could be a great opportunity to avoid future problems. This is an opportunity. And as patriotic Americans, this is a responsibility we have to work towards a more perfect Union, establish Justice and ensure domestic tranquility. So let's not round up the wagons. Let's conduct a review, ask for public input, etc. Maybe we'll find out how awesome our MVPD is, and also maybe there are a couple of things we can do better.


LongResident
another community
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:56 am
LongResident, another community
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:56 am
6 people like this

The premise in this piece is premised on a lie or at least a misleading premise.
Look at the Police budget for Palo Alto. 85 Million recently cut to $77 Million. It's a smaller city and Stanford has its own peace officers. Mountain View's police budget is about half as big. So, you could maybe divert 10% from the police budget in Palo Alto, because it has so much more than Mountain View.

Consider Berkeley. They too are talking about diverting 9% of their budget to social programs. Their budget? $75 Million, again nearly double what is the budget in Mountain View. The population in Berkeley is 120,000 which is larger than Mountain View but 40,000 are part of the UC Berkeley campus which has its own
police department. So there again, a cut to $75 Million is not the same as a cut to $43 Million, where the population is roughly the same or even slightly larger.

So this blind talk of "reform" is really mostly premised on budget diversions to social programs, where there is not enough budget to divert. Plus there are already many social programs in Mountain View but they are part of various county budgets,
as opposed to any department of the city.


psr
The Crossings
on Jun 30, 2020 at 4:09 pm
psr, The Crossings
on Jun 30, 2020 at 4:09 pm
7 people like this

As is typical, when we have any issue regarding the police, activists want to burn the entire system down. I would like to remind those people that we have 800,000 law enforcement officers in this country. They put in about 1.5 billion hours of work every single year to keep people safe. Every single day, they go to work knowing that it is possible that they won't make it home that night. Their reward for those risks are to be verbally abused, spit on, turned away from restaurants and many other forms of abuse that you wouldn't tolerate toward ANYONE else. The vast majority of those officers good, decent people who dedicate (and sometimes sacrifice) their lives to protect others. Is it really, in any way, just to punish all those people for the actions of one man?

It is about time that we start realizing that there are bad apples in EVERY profession you can name. NOBODY I have spoken to in the last weeks condones what happened to George Floyd, not one single person. The officers involved in the incident need to to be held to account and they will be. However, I do not understand how any sane person could attempt to justify punishing the officers of the MVPD (or any other department, for that matter) for the actions of those four men. If you want to throw around phrases like "Defund the Police" then you had better be prepared to deal with the same situations we are seeing in places that have actually moved in that direction. I would prefer NOT to have a five-fold increase in homicide because someone thinks it's a good idea to punish good cops for the actions of bad ones.



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