Final Chapter | Oxnard’s Civil ‘Gang’ Injunctions are Unconstitutional

 

 

By Armando Vazquez, Founding member of CORE  & the Acuna Art Gallery and Community Collective                                                         

This is the final; and most important of my editorial series on the Oxnard Civil “Gang” Injunction.  We have come full circle and there is no way around it; as it is written and enforced today in Oxnard, it is unconstitutional!

The 5th Amendment and the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution provide all citizens with equal protection of their right to life, liberty and property.  The Due Process clause in both the 5th and 14th Amendments are meant very explicitly to keep government on a short unambiguous leash.  In 2005 and again in 2006 the Oxnard City Council caved into the ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric and fear mongering.  Ignoring the Due Process clause, they elected to push for the enactment of the two Civil “Gang” Injunctions as a very sloppy and ill conceived, quick fix solution to the violence that was plaguing the community at the time.

The Oxnard City Council and the Oxnard Police Department, desperate and in full blown political panic got in bed with the devil and brokered a deal with the Ventura County District Attorney.  In short order this inept law and order trifecta crudely cut and pasted together the injunction provisions that glaringly circumvented the Due Process clause of the Constitution by cynically creating a “corporations” out of the two gangs they were enjoining in the civil action.  In this evil and sinister play on the word “corporation” the police department’s gang expert could, theoretically, name every brown youth a gang member of the Chiques or Southside a member of a “corporation”.

Who needs the stinking Due Process clause when you can simply enjoin every brown kid in Oxnard by claiming that he/she is part of the Chiques or Southside “corporations”?

As Melanie Ochoa, Attorney for the ACLU of southern California states:

”Gang injunctions turn common behavior into crimes, such as possessing everyday items like cell phones, drinking alcohol on your own front porch or in a restaurant, and associating with people the police also claim are gang members — even your own family. Officers’ gang designations are drawn from stereotypes and preconceptions based on clothing—anything from plaid shirts to basketball shorts to khakis—that they deem “gang attire,” associates, and if someone lives or socializes in alleged “gang areas”—which can include an entire community.”

“Officers use injunctions to circumvent the protections afforded by a criminal prosecution, which is exactly why gang injunctions have been a significant tool in the LAPD’s arsenal despite no evidence they create a significant or sustained crime reduction. What they provide is the justification to stop, harass, and arrest Black and Latino community members.”

“In a class action lawsuit, which included Peter Arellano and Youth Justice Coalition, the ACLU and co-counsel Urban Peace Institute and Munger Tolles and Olson challenged the city’s enforcement of injunctions without first providing a hearing on active gang membership, claiming this practice violated their constitutionally protected due process rights.

“A federal court agreed, finding that the process was prone to error and granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing its injunctions against anyone who has not had the opportunity to challenge the designation in court before they were made subject to the injunction.“

[ Source for the above excerpts:   https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/lapd-gang-injunctions-gave-cops-license-harass ]

This is why the Oxnard Police Department, in 2017, secretly suspended the enforcement of the two injunctions.  They knew that if a class action lawsuit was filed they would probably end up on the costly losing end.

So it is not surprising, but extremely revelatory, that the police department is now desperate to amend their fatally flawed injunction language and protocol that would include some half-baked cop-administered “Magistrate” and hearings to determine active gang participation.  This, internally administered kangaroo court would determine active gang participation, yet it would not meet the privileges or immunities standard of the Due Process Clause and it will not pass constitutional muster. 

It is time that the Oxnard City Council abolish this horrific law enforcement tool of the past 15 years.  It has been used to assault the rights and liberties of enjoined youth and adults.  Our Constitution demands it; and it must come to an end now!

Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.  is Executive Director of  Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition


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One Response to Final Chapter | Oxnard’s Civil ‘Gang’ Injunctions are Unconstitutional

  1. Mark Savalla September 14, 2018 at 8:56 am

    This is called hogwash. What you have here is a bunch of BS by a racist. Gang injunctions are legal, they work and are effective. First of all race has nothing to do with it. You have to be a convicted documented gang member to be included in the injunction. The police don’t drive down the street picking people at random to be included in the injunction. Communists like this guy are using the race card and unsubstantiated hate speech to garner attention and money. The only thing he cares about is getting a contract from a city to employ his room of smoke and mirrors to gain financial profit.

    Reply

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