If the City Council wants to seriously hear from the African American, Latino, and Chumash communities about developing a better relationship with the police department, don’t ask the City Attorney’s office. Ask existing community organizations that represent these marginalized communities and whose leaders are from these communities.
Basis for my comments:
I have brought thoughtful and powerful African-American voices, such as Pastor David Moore from Santa Barbara, to my congregation. As a result, we created a group led by Pastor Moore and myself that planned and helped to facilitate several serious conversations with members of the Santa Barbara Police Department and individuals from the African-American community.
In addition, Pastor Moore and I have brought programs dealing with racial and religious bias to Bishop Garcia Diego High School and to new recruits to the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Moreover, I am compelled by my Jewish tradition to weigh in heavily in support of fundamental teachings that clearly confront racism, “You shall love the stranger and love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18,34). The Jewish Scriptures command us 36 times to show our concern for those treated as marginalized among us. Our creation myths with one set of parents in the Garden of Eden remind us of the common origin of all human beings. This teaches that all people are descendants of a single set of parents so that no person can say, “My ancestor is greater than yours.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught that racism is a “treacherous denial of the existence of God.” The Torah teaches the equality of all human beings created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Suggestions based on my belief that a community organization is best suited to more effectively provide forums for community input rather than a city agency. Such a community organization should be:
1) A well-know existing community organization that already has a strong and respected reputation for bringing together voices from those marginalized along with other groups in our community.
2) That the leadership of this community organization clearly and strongly includes known leaders from marginalized communities within Santa Barbara
3) And that that organization have proven engagement techniques that allow for community input in civil, respected,
and an honest manner to maximize the opportunity for all voices to be heard
Some organizations to consider could include: Fund for Santa Barbara, Healing Justice, Common Table, El Centro.