(Forwarded from SURJ)
Please email, forward and share!>>>>
Did you know that the Ojai city council has opted to have closed door sessions to negotiate their critical contract for VCSO police services? There was only ONE public meeting in which then Mayor Johnston allowed public comment in the summer of 2020, and since then an ad hoc committee, made up of Ojai city councilmembers, the city manager, and city attorney, has been negotiating the contract for the first time in 40 years with no public input! At 3.5 million dollars, it’s the biggest expense the city has in its budget. The city of Ojai spends more per capita for police services than any other city in the county at approximately $10,000 per day. Only to have deputies let inmates die in our jails and send undocumented people into ICE custody at alarming rates, while social services go underfunded.
See below for an email template with email contacts so you can copy/paste/edit and send in an email of support for the demands and demand community involvement and transparency in the negotiations!
Ojai City Manager, Mayor, and City Council:
email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com ;
Ventura County Board of Supervisors:
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is (your name) and I am speaking as a (teacher/educator/business owner/parent/student/resident/concerned constituent) . I (live/work/spend time/shop/go to school/etc) in Ojai.
I am writing because I am concerned that the community of Ojai has not been informed or included in the current negotiations for the police services contract with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO). I am also concerned that the city council has opted to have closed door sessions to negotiate this critical contract after having only one meeting in which then Mayor Johnston allowed public comment in the summer of last year. The current entity handling our negotiations is the Sheriff’s Contract Review Committee; an ad hoc committee composed of City Manager James Vega, Councilman of District 1 Ryan Blatz and Councilman of District 3 Bill Weirick. This review committee only consults with the city council and does not answer directly to the people when negotiating this contract. I am worried about this process of negotiating our police services because _________________________.
Since that one and only public meeting last summer, there have been no updates on the ongoing negotiations for a contract which commands upwards of 30+% of the city’s budget. At 3.5 million dollars, it’s the biggest expense the city has in its budget. The city of Ojai spends more per capita for police services than any other city in the county at approximately $10,000 per day. Yet deputies let inmates die in our jails and send undocumented people into ICE custody at alarming rates. I believe that this money would be better spent on __________________ to help the community of Ojai.
I stand in support and solidarity with the following demands:
- The city should pass, by either ordinance or resolution, the creation of a city commission composed of community members of diverse skills, backgrounds, and ethnicities, to control the negotiation with the VCSO for police services in our community.
- The VCSO must obtain and obligate all deputies working for the city of Ojai to wear body-worn cameras, and they must be used by all deputies while on duty.
- The conditions of the Ventura County jails and those currently incarcerated must be improved, including improvement of healthcare administration and the handling of mental illness within the jail. A plan must be created with public input, and civilian oversight should be implemented to execute these measures.
- The formation of an unarmed crisis intervention team should be created to specifically deal with calls relating to mentally ill subjects and those dealing with substance abuse. One example of this type of program is the CAHOOTS program in Oregon, which has been operating for 30 years. They have had to call for police backup less than 1% of the time, and the program has saved the police departments over $15 million a year. Other examples of programs are “Cure Violence” and “Advance Peace”.
- The release of all documents and communications between the ad hoc committee negotiating the new contract with the VCSO for absolute transparency.
- The creation of a Civilian Oversight Board with subpoena power to handle all complaints against deputies and other staff, and that can investigate use of force incidents and reports of misconduct. The terms of this Civilian Oversight Board shall be guided, supported by, and in accordance with, the recommendations outlined in a 1998 grand jury report regarding civilian complaints against law enforcement officers done county wide.
- Create a separate department of unarmed, specialized officers who lack arrest power to serve the community doing traffic patrol.
- Remove all Blue Lives Matter symbols, stickers, flags, clothing, masks, or any other likeness from the Ojai Police Department office, officer uniforms and clothing while on duty, and from patrol vehicles.
- End all voluntary collaboration and transfers between VCSO and ICE.
I believe that the Ojai community deserves to be informed and directly involved in these negotiations for police services which affect each of us as community members and affects our community as a whole. I am asking that these demands be discussed as an official city council agenda item and that current negotiations be halted until the community is informed, these demands are discussed, and the concerns and comments of the community members be taken into account as part of the negotiations.
I believe in a brighter future, one in which the dark injustices of the past die in the light of day. Let’s band together and reshape our public safety. Let’s stand strong as a community and address the issues we all face-together.