by Dave Waddell
Akin to this year’s killing of George Floyd nationally, the gunning down of Desmond Phillips by Chico police in 2017 outraged and galvanized a community. That local movement came together last week to unveil what is called a plan for transforming policing in Chico.
The eight-step proposal for reform of the Chico Police Department includes calls for greater community oversight of the police and better use of de-escalation strategies in mental health and other crises, among other priorities. Emily Alma, coordinator of Concerned Citizens for Justice (CC4J), spoke Thursday (Sept. 24) of the group’s aims, standing in front of the sculpture of hands outside City Hall and while flanked by a couple dozen supporters.
“Our intention is for Chico to make the deep changes we need … to transform local police culture so that all Chicoans feel safe, no matter their life circumstances,” Alma said.
Alma said that Chico PD’s leadership has “consistently praised” the department’s policies and practices and its complaint system as “robust” during meetings of the Police Review Ad Hoc Committee, formed by Mayor Ann Schwab shortly after Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. The committee includes new Police Chief Matt Madden, Sgt. Omar Peña, and officer Jim Parrott, who is president of Chico’s police union.
“Out on the streets, however, many Chicoans report traumatic experiences of police bullying, pulling their guns when there is no danger, and stories of intimidation,” Alma said. “It is common for people experiencing such situations to resist filing a formal complaint with Chico PD due to fears of retaliation, some type of backlash, or simply dismissal of the complaint.”
Though not mentioned by Alma, after an incident partially captured on a video that went viral in 2016, then-Chico State student Madeline Hemphill filed a formal complaint against officer Steve Dyke for retaliation and other officers for excessive use of force. Hemphill says she never heard from the Police Department again.
Author Anthony Peyton Porter also spoke Thursday, addressing the experience of people of color. (Read Peyton Porter’s statement here.) Also speaking in favor of police reform were Lisa Currier, a mental health advocate, and Addison Winslow, a homeless advocate.
CC4J’s eight reform steps include:
Dave Waddell is a contributor to ChicoSol.