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Time for change 

Local law enforcement needs new leadership

We need not look any further than the three local law enforcement figureheads/leaders' recent actions to see that systemic racism, irrational behavior, and actions and personal bias are very much alive and present here:

• SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson openly supported gun-toting vigilantes in Arroyo Grande who stood on a rooftop with assault rifles and then ranted on Facebook with extremely specific racist and violent threats directed at peaceful protesters. The gunman had to protect his karate mats? There are no charges forthcoming. Why would Sheriff Parkinson feel the need to stop and visit and support this vigilante who was openly threatening unarmed people seeking justice? In other cities where armed threats were made against peaceful protesters, charges were levied against gun-toting vigilantes. Not here. Here, our sheriff seeks this gunman out as one of the members of his "posse."

• SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow—who vowed at a local rally to be a "sanctuary county for worship and praise"—proudly declared that he wouldn't enforce the state's health mandate or the Supreme Court's recent ruling that declared churches are not exempt from following public safety orders. This defiance of enforcement of the laws—and the significant risk it poses to those parishioners and the public at large—is not only unwise, it also is not the DA's job to decide what laws he will enforce or to mix church beliefs and values into our government. Does this also mean, that we can expect DA Dow to be more lenient when prosecuting a fellow Christian, or more punitive when prosecuting an atheist? Your job is to be indiscriminate. Stick to doing your job and not using public speaking engagements to spread your personal views.

• SLO city Police Chief Deanna Cantrell, who likes to portray herself as "aligned with the cause" and stands in support of local protesters, quickly overreacted and unleashed a very questionable and intimidating arrest and prosecution of no less than five felonies and several misdemeanors against a 20-year-old Black woman who tried to swing her flagpole at a car that was endangering her fellow marchers, after earlier watching another enraged "inconvenienced" driver rev his engine and drive recklessly into the marchers, which enraged the frightened mob. At least this time the police did not resort to tear gas, a banned weapon of war, to quell the crowd.

Is this justice? Or is this a sign that the local leaders of law enforcement, like many others, have taken their own stubborn and selfish views and indignant stance to defend what power they think they hold.

Why is it that people who feel oppressed, who can't seem to "catch a break" for equity, march and interrupt our lives? Rather than trying to listen, be empathic, and understand what they are talking about, we respond with denial, legal pressure, and intimidation.

Hmm, seems like the sheriff, DA, and city police chief all just made our case: The system is not equitable.

Don't we deserve more even-handed justice and leadership? I think we do. Δ

Bruce Berlin wrote to New Times from Arroyo Grande. Reach him through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter in response for publication by emailing it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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