A town hall meeting on Chino Hills police relations with the black community took place Tuesday night with social distancing and mask wearing in the Chino Hills Community Center.
The city opened the facility as an exception during the pandemic because of requests from residents for information about use-of-force procedures and training after the police killing of George Floyd, a black resident of Minneapolis, on May 25.
Capt. John Walker said deputies and staff care about the community and consider Chino Hills their second home.
“Hold us accountable for what we do,” he said, “not for what other police departments do.”
The captain said the Chino Hills police department has been doing an excellent job but “even a championship winning team has room for improvement.”
The city contracts with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for police services. This year’s cost was $15.9 million.
Capt. Walker said community policing is one of his main priorities as evidenced by cops assigned to beats to establish relationships and the quality of life meetings held on a regular basis to gauge issues important to residents.
The captain went over the #8cantwait demands made by residents at the last few city council meetings and discussed the responses developed by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
He addressed chokeholds (now banned at the governor’s orders), de-escalation training, warning before shooting when practical, the use of lethal force for protection from an immediate threat of death or injury, duty to intervene to stop unreasonable force by another officer, and shooting at moving vehicles except when necessary such as the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino where it saved lives.
The captain cited statistics showing 17 use of force cases by the Chino Hills Police in 2017: 15 in 2018, and 10 in 2019, a 41 percent reduction from 2017 to 2019.
He said assaults on deputies are on the rise.
From 2015 to 2018, assaults on San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies (department-wide) increased 91 percent.
In Chino Hills, there were 8 assaults on deputies in 2015; 12 in 2016; 9 in 2017; 14 in 2018; and 13 in 2019, a 63 percent increase from 2015 to 2019.
He said there were no non-fatal lethal force encounters in Chino Hills from 2017 to 2019, and one fatal lethal force encounter in July 2019 when three Hispanic deputies were involved in the killing of a Hispanic suspect walking through traffic with knives on Pipeline and Descanso avenues.
He said officer-involved shootings are now called lethal force encounters.
The captain said Chino Hills is a safe city, but crime is on the rise because the community is affluent and geographically connected to three counties.
He said although ambitious, his goal for response time is 3 minutes and 30 seconds anywhere in the city.
He encouraged residents who have complaints to call the watch commander at 465-6837.
“Get a hold of the watch commander that day,” he said. “Don’t stew over it.”
He said residents can also go to the police lobby or the website for a complaint form.
He said he is available 24-7 and responds to emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deputy Kayla Peters, a sheriff’s academy instructor, explained the difference between implicit and explicit bias. Implicit bias consists of unconscious thoughts and feelings that may influence an individual’s perceptions, decisions and actions and explicit bias is when a person is aware of their bias and acts on it.
She said the goal in training is to change implicit bias and replace it with non-biased associations.
New social worker
Lisa Ramos, a social worker stationed at the Chino Hills Police Department, was introduced as part of the San Bernardino County Behavioral Health Community Crisis Services.
She is a member of the Triage Engagement and Support Teams (TEST) that began operations in 2015, funded by the Mental Health Services Act.
Ms. Ramos started her job at the police station in April.
Capt. Walker said Ms. Ramos will not go out into the field until law enforcement deems it is safe.
“Social workers are unarmed and don’t have training in law enforcement,” he said. “We have a lot of mental issues in the community with kids and adults and I know she will help.”
Questions submitted by residents while registering for the meeting were read by Sgt. Laura Addy and answered by the captain to ensure the meeting did not become contentious.
When asked about racial profiling, Capt. Walker said, “My staff is going out doing the right thing for the right reasons and I preach that every day,” he said. “We don’t discriminate when pulling people over.”
When asked about police racism against black residents Capt. Walker said, “I don’t think we have it. If we do, I can almost guarantee that the community would have told me about it.”
He said the protests in Chino Hills have been peaceful.
“Each time we had a protest, we were waiting in the wings ready to go because we’re here to serve the community,” he said.
He said the police station has been blessed with an outpouring of support since the police killing of Mr. Floyd that resulted in nationwide protests and calls to defund the police.
He said residents have brought in gift cards, snacks, posters, and handmade cards to show support.
Only 50 residents could attend the town hall meeting because of social distancing.
Most of the audience was white.
Statistics from the Southern California Association of Governments show the Chino Hills population was 83,159 in 2018 with 4.6 percent black residents; 28.8 percent Hispanic; 33.3 percent Asian, and 30.2 percent white.
The black population decreased from 5.3 percent to 4.6 percent between 2000 and 2018.