CHICO — Law enforcement and local policing issues were under the spotlight Thursday night during an open forum hosted by Concerned Citizens for Justice at the Chico Women’s Club. Supervisor candidates were all invited to attend the forum, which ended up featuring District 3 Supervisor Debra Lucero, District 2 Supervisor Tami Ritter and one of Lucero’s challengers, Carl Jeffries. District 2 challenger Peter Durfee and District 3 challenger Mary Murphy-Waldorf were unable to attend the event due to prior engagements. The forum consisted of questions from CC4J, residents in attendance and the press. Each candidate received two minutes per question to provide their answers, opinions and statements. Topics consisted of reform, funding and training. The event was moderated by Molly Paul.
The first question asked Thursday evening was in regards to what kind of police reform is needed in Butte County.
Lucero was given the first response and led with training being one of the most important aspects of law enforcement in her eyes.
“I think the most critical aspect is training,” Lucero said. “You can put cameras on bodies, you can do different policies, but it really always comes down to the training because when you’re acting in the moment, you’re going to do what you were trained to do.”
Lucero added that she would also consider reform based on the types of calls that are generally received in requests for law enforcement.
Ritter spoke on training as well as the culture around the training, adding that additional aid from outside resources are important. “I think it would be beneficial for us to be bringing in outside trainers,” Ritter said, adding that she would like to see advancement in how law enforcement deals with substance use. “We shouldn’t assume that we are the experts in this and you should rely on the experts to help us see things that perhaps we don’t see ourselves. So I would love to see an expansion of behavioral health services, I would love to see critical incident training but one of the areas where I feel like we have a huge call for law enforcement to respond is related to substance abuse.” Jeffries said he hoped to see collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the Behavioral Health Department in homelessness situations. “Every time it seems like we’re using all of our resources to take care of the people that are homeless,” Jeffries said. “I think it would be better if we had a different kind of response. Maybe a response from Behavioral Health that could go around with a van or something like that. We can go around to different people and talk to them and find out the problems.” Military equipment Candidates were asked about their opinions on the use of military equipment by law enforcement agencies after the city of Chico approved the use at a previous council meeting. Ritter said that the issue has validity on both sides and depends on the type of policing in question. “I think that in everyday policing, and if we are really moving towards a community policing model, then that is not the image that we need to be portraying,” Ritter said. “I do believe that there are times when it has been absolutely appropriate. I know there have been calls to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office where I have been very grateful that they have the equipment that they have because it kept our officers safe and helped resolve a situation without loss of life. It does not have to be all or nothing.” Jeffries expressed his concerns over the use of military equipment by law enforcement. “I don’t like the idea of military equipment used by our police,” Jeffries said. “It’s still a pretty friendly community and most of our issues don’t go to that level. I think that when we do have this occurrence where you do have violent offenders that what you have should be enough. I do want to make sure that our police are safe but I don’t want to see everything ramped up.” Lucero took a similar stance adding that she does understand where use could be necessary but it needs to be carefully implemented. “I think that vehicles like this and guns that are militaristic, all of that makes an impression,” Lucero said. “So we have to decide what kind of society we want to be. If we want to live in a society that is not filled with fear … then we need to rethink how we deploy some of this equipment.” Oversight board The candidates were asked about their opinions on community law enforcement oversight boards and whether they believe in the effectiveness of these groups. The idea garnered support from all three candidates. Ritter said that she was in favor of a resident oversight board and that it could go far in improving the relationship between communities and law enforcement. “I think if you have folks who are meeting regularly with representatives from our law enforcement agencies we are going to have better relationships and we are going to have better communication,” Ritter said. “And I think that can only benefit the community.” Jeffries said he is in favor of boards and discussions that are open to public input. “I support oversight boards in every way,” Jeffries said. “I think that oversight boards open up to the public that they’re not just the government working in a vacuum. Everybody’s questions and answers could be brought to a forum.” Lucero said she felt they were a good idea and that she wanted to see community oversight boards created before there is legislative action in place. “I would always like to see these things done before they’re legislated,” Lucero said. “It took legislation to open up public records. I would like to see it done before it’s legislated so it’s done on a voluntary basis. When it’s done between the public and the policing agencies, I think you’re going to have a better outcome.”
Moderator Molly Paul appears on stage next to supervisor candidates Carl Jeffries, Debra Lucero and Tami Ritter on Thursday, May 5, 2022 at the Chico Women’s Club in Chico, California for an open forum on law enforcement issues. (Jake Hutchison/Enterprise-Record)