Letter to EcoNews: Police Reform and the Environment

Police Reform and the Environment

I recently read an interesting opinion piece in EcoNews from Matt Simmons, (Redwood Coalition for Climate and Environmental Responsibility), titled “The Link Between the Environment and Police Reform”.  It was a great letter and well worth the read.  Because of the space limitations they were only able to list a few instances of the long and disturbing history of police abuses and protection of extraction industries throughout Humboldt.  However, the overall assertion for the need for Civilian Review of Police is totally correct and we need more people to speak out to our elected local officials to make this happen.  

As a former employee of both the Sheriff’s Office and the Eureka Police Department, it is my absolute belief that accountability and transparency are vital for our local agencies.  As a police officer, I had witnessed officers lie and use unlawful force.  I complained internally. Often nothing was done, and I faced serious reprisals. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in our local Law Enforcement community.  Whenever an incident of potential police misconduct has happened in the past 20 years, there has never been an “independent” citizens review of the incidents. 

I won’t go through all of the most recent allegations, but if you take time to do an internet search for theft allegedly committed by Humboldt County Sheriff’s/Coroner Office, you will see that even the State Attorney General’s Office doesn’t always investigate fully, or act in a transparent way when they are asked to investigate crimes by our local Law Enforcement.  Afterward, you can search for the Eureka Police texting scandal.  From that search you will see that any “independent” review of the anti-poor, racist, misogynist and disgusting texts will be handled by a firm paid by the City and only accountable or transparent to the Police Chief and City Manager.

Civilian Review Boards come in many formats.  I won’t suggest which format the community should have. However, at the very least there should be a straightforward and known way for citizens to be able to lodge complaints, review investigations, and have at least a modicum of independent investigation of our local police.

Incidentally, I aligned myself with your Executive Director Larry Glass when he was on the city council while he was conducting his campaign to reform the Eureka Police Department.  I hope someday Law Enforcement work can be seen in the light of truth, as opposed to the current obfuscations and deceit displayed by the local Chiefs, Sheriff and their departments. 

By Adam Laird, Retired Eureka Police Sergeant, Current Licensed Private Investigator