The Oxnard Civil Gang Injunctions; The ‘Opt Out’ Provision and The Community Trust

 

 

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

In the months of July and August, 2018, in various settings in the community, Chiques Organizing for Rights and Equality (CORE) has met with the Oxnard Police Department to discuss the future of the two Civil Gang Injunctions that are currently temporarily on “suspended” status pending the outcome of the sober deliberations currently under way in the community at OPD headquarters and at city hall. We are encouraged with the recent outreach engagement efforts by OPD Chief Scott Whitney, Assistant Chief Eric Sonstegard and Jason Benites. They have brought the community and the OPD together.

At the end of the highly informative Community Relation Commission Civil “Gang” Injunction presentations of August 20, 2018 made by the OPD and CORE, Chief Whitney approached me. He suggested that we meet to discuss and potentially work together on some specific aspects of the Civil Gang Injunctions that needed to be revisited and perhaps improved. Chief Whitney had in mind the review and discussion of the Oxnard version of the “Opt-Out” provision of the Civil Gang Injunctions. We agreed to meet the following day, August 21, 2018 at the old Social Security downtown building, our temporary location courtesy of the city.

The meeting was at the old Social Security downtown building was attended by Chief Scott Whitney, Assistant Chief Eric Sonstegard and Jason Benites, CORE members and other interested community residents.  We initially reiterated and agreed that we would attempt to focus on ideas, suggestions and commentary regarding the current “Opt-Out” provision.  The OPD provided an overview of the current “Opt-Out” provisions.  For a variety of reasons the OPD has found that there are relatively few of the 368 enjoined “gang” members who have taken advantage of the “Opt-Out” provisions.  The “Opt-out” provision is the rigorous protocol that the enjoined “gang” member must successfully complete to be “freed’ from the Civil “Gang” Injunction.

The reasons for the relatively few 368 enjoined “gang” members taking advantage of the “Opt-Out” provision appeared be obvious; namely, distrust of the cops and their “Opt-Out” program, continued activity as a gang member, ignorance of the “Opt-out” protocol, and finally lack of communication between the cops and the enjoined “gang” member.  To the credit of the OPD and the community we all agreed that perhaps a trusted independent community organization working with the OPD could help create a “bridge” to the enjoined “gang” members.

This is what CORE will fight to include in the future “Opt-out” provision and program.  The “Opt-out” provision and program must have a robust triage component, consisting of jobs, education, legal aide, community restorative justice service, health (physical/mental)  services, art/cultural, counseling, long term professional support and other rehabilitative services.  CORE, the Acuna Arts Collective, Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health Collation (OMMH) and other trusted community based organizations have a local history of providing long term local and successful “social triage” services to accurately identify the at-risk population in the greater Oxnard area.  We don’t expect the cops to provide this triage, but we must expect the cops to provide whatever available information they can to make the “Opt-out” triage assessment robust and complete.  We must never work irresponsibly and set up or mislead the enjoined “gang” member.  Once we betray our mission of transparent fidelity we will lose the trust of the entire community forever!

Make no mistake about it CORE vehemently opposes and will continue to oppose the Oxnard Civil “Gang” Injunctions.  We have argued that they are constitutionally flawed; and we believe the state’s courts will continue to render crushing legal defeats to jurisdictions, like Oxnard, that stubbornly fail to read the writing on the wall and continue to pursue a police policy that has long been rendered constitutionally infirm and obsolete as a law enforcement “tool”. 

We are all in complete and total agreement with all parties; the OPD, CORE, residents of Oxnard, and all those folks at the periphery of our local society that long for social justice and equality.  We agree that our universal goal is to make Oxnard the safest, most humane and prosperous city that we can craft through our collective intellect, love, justice and hard work.  This is a historic time in Oxnard, let us dispel the fear and loathing that drives and divides many of us in our community.  Let’s begin to open our hearts and minds to help our various populations in need and crisis, to maximize their full potential.  Only in this way can we truly make Oxnard the city that really cares about safety, equality and prosperity for all.

 

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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