CARLSBAD — Ignited by a local tasing incident and nationwide protests against police brutality, activist groups have begun demanding specific reforms for the Carlsbad Police Department.
The CPD’s tasing and arrest of unarmed Marcel Cox-Harshaw in June served as a jumping-off point for different approaches to local police reform, though Cox-Harshaw has not been in contact with activist groups.
A local racial justice task force of the North County Civil Liberties Coalition (NCCLC), North County NAACP and other organizations responded to the incident in a meeting with CPD on July 15th, calling for more refined procedures, oversight and accountability.
Following their meeting, the groups have been invited to review CPD’s de-escalation policy to address specific tactics used against Cox-Harshaw.
“I feel encouraged by the interaction, but I like to be cautious with my optimism,” NCCLC co-founder Yusef Miller said. “Although we’re satisfied with the fact that they met us, we’re not overall satisfied until we see results.”
The group’s demands include holding regular virtual meetings, increasing racial bias training and enforcing Senate Bill 1421, which allows the public to view officers’ arrest records. Additionally, a citizen review board (CRB) may be implemented for community oversight into the CPD.
But other activists are taking a different approach to reform. In addressing police accountability, some look to the lawsuits: Mayor Matt Hall says the past four or five officers who were terminated sued the city for wrongful termination, which prolongs lengthy and costly lawsuits backed by police unions.
“To dismiss an officer who could have multiple complaints, who in the eyes of their superiors doesn’t deserve to be an officer, [costs] $100,000 for the city,” activist Keyrollos Ibrahim said. “If it goes through appeal, which more than half the time it does, it’s basically a few hundred thousand dollars.”
While specific reforms such as a citizen review board are possible, oversight may simply add another step to the termination process without changing the outcome in most cases.
“What I wanted to be able to do is sit down in a public forum on camera and say, ‘here’s everything we did from A to Z and these are the steps we follow to [determine] if it’s going to result in a termination,’” Hall said. “Then, be able to look at some of those and maybe get a change in law that would get the cities more ability to terminate people sooner.
Adding another layer– another six to nine months that would probably not have any different outcome than what we have today– you’re not going to gain anything.”
This year, CPD has claimed to adopt all eight de-escalation tactics of Campaign Zero’s “Eight Can’t Wait” campaign, a national movement to prevent excessive police force. According to Campaign Zero, employing the eight policies, which include banning chokeholds and warning before shooting, can decrease police violence by 72%.
The officers involved in Cox-Harshaw’s arrest were found to be in alignment with police conduct and have not been terminated. However, Miller says the Cox-Harshaw incident is a “textbook example” of law enforcement’s shortcomings, even with “Eight Can’t Wait.”
Now, the NCCLC, NAACP and partnering organizations hope to expand police reforms and accountability to more North County cities.