El Cajon City Council gets an earful at open comments

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Tuesday’s El Cajon City Council meeting was well attended, but not as much as I thought it would be. Planning for a larger crowd, the City provided outside speakers for those who came, but it was not needed. But inside, it was standing room only and almost everyone was there to put in their opinion on the shooting of Alfred Olango by El Cajon Police Department Officer Richard Gonsalves.

Tuesday’s El Cajon City Council meeting was well attended, but not as much as I thought it would be. Planning for a larger crowd, the City provided outside speakers for those who came, but it was not needed. But inside, it was standing room only and almost everyone was there to put in their opinion on the shooting of Alfred Olango by El Cajon Police Department Officer Richard Gonsalves.

It was a close 50/50 between those who supported the ECPD, the steps that City Council, the police department did in attempting to be as transparent as possible. And then on the other side, people that are still looking for answers. Many questions on both sides brought about many things to ponder on.

Several people believed that the shooting was justified, with one retired ECPD officer calling it a “suicide by cop” incident. On the other hand, many community leaders disputed the ECPD’s actions during protests where a few unruly protestors drove them to the decision of unlawful assembly and the actions taken afterwards. Those there at the protest said these actions were unnecessary as the protests were peaceful and the few could have been handled without affecting the whole.

A particular comment made was one that I could not ignore, and believe that I am not the only one. Gonsalves, already with a bad reputation due to his sexual harassment, which in turn brought allegations against the police department for institutional sexism. With everything there handled internally, Gonsalves was demoted, but continued to serve on the force. With this being known, it was stated at the meeting that if the ECPD and the City had handled this properly at the time and fired Gonsalves, then Olango might still be alive today. And this is a very strong point.

In any other job, Gonsalves would have been fired for his conduct. But as part of the police department and handled internally, his job was kept secure. Could his firing have changed the outcome of this shooting if another officer had come to the scene first instead? It is food for thought.

There are still to many questions unanswered and the public addressed all of them during open session. The ECPD needs an oversight committee to help them, especially when it comes to highly contentious actions such as these. It is also in question why it took the ECPD so long to reply to the call for help from the sister and why wasn’t a Crisis Intervention Team sent to help mitigate the incident? These are all questions and suggestions that the City of El Cajon and the ECPD need to deal with quickly. And once they do, the ECPD needs to do some damage control in the El Cajon communities. This goes far beyond their continuous presence and participation at the City’s local events, but means becoming a more diverse police force and working on the sidewalks getting to know the community that they serve. This is a proven technique that has been used in the most volatile neighborhoods in America. And the difference in being a part of the community instead of just policing them has turned around many neighborhoods and brought back trust to those that they serve.

Right now, things are peaceful, but as said by several people at the meeting, if answers are not provided, the leaders of the community cannot guarantee that they will stay this way. There are too many people that now have a total lack of respect and trust for our local law enforcement and this has to change from the streets to the leadership. Make the right decisions. Take action where it is needed and most of all think more about the community at large than the officer involved. It is my firm opinion that Gonsalves should have been fired a long time ago. I do not believe that he committed murder as a few people stated, but in what evidence I have seen so far, there is the possibility of other charges that could be made against him. So keep the information flowing quickly and precisely. Also take action (one way or another) on the other concerns that the people and leaders of the community made. It can make a tremendous difference in the future trust of the citizens of El Cajon.

El Cajon City Council gets an earful at open comments