Santee’s new COMPOC members seated for next meeting

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Photos by Brooke Binkowski Hundreds of people gathered in the parking lot at the Cameron Family YMCA in Santee June 7 in advance of a march supporting an end to police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement and civil rights. Passing cars honked in approval as the march made its way from the YMCA on Riverwalk Drive to the Santee sheriff’s station on Cuyamaca Street.

Mark Foreman, Troy Owens, Linda Roach and Brenda “B.J.” Forbus were  publicly introduced as recent additions to the Santee Community Oriented Policing Committee on June 22.

They were added in answer to Mayor John Minto’s May 13 city council request for additional representatives on the committee following two separate May incidents during which two men were seen in Santee stores wearing attire considered racist and anti-Semitic.

The purpose of the policing committee is to make recommendations regarding crime prevention, drug awareness, education programs, neighborhood watch programs, law enforcement staffing and other issues regarding the city’s overall policing effort, according to the city.

Minto said the committee is designed to uncover problems in the community but does not have investigative powers.

“The COMPOC is designed as a group to hear complaints and talk about different ideas. We want to collect information and maybe see where things are going wrong,” Minto said in a follow up phone call.

The mayor said there might be pocket areas of Santee where racism exists. He compared the city to a triage situation following a plane crash where some areas need immediate attention while other areas remain unscathed.

“If we were to find things that were absolutely illegal we would take action through law enforcement. For example, when we had those two incidents in the stores, we talked to an attorney and there was just nothing to prosecute. It’s a delicate balance. I know we have some places in Santee where they openly display symbols of racism and we have to find out the motive behind that,” Minto said.

During introductions, newcomer Foreman said he is a retired San Diego Police Lieutenant as well as a trained doctor of psychiatry who has worked with trauma in first responders.

“What I’ve chosen to do in this stage of life is bring all of my  experience, I’m not coming on as a cop or as a psychologist or as a dad of two adopted African American boys. I’m coming on with all of this because none of it is going to be simple,” Foreman, who is white, said.

Foreman later said the things needing change didn’t happen overnight so they aren’t going to change overnight.

“Because we’re all human we’re supposed to feel… Cops are rule followers and we can’t legislate our way through what we need to feel our way through. If we shut down, we disconnect. Being on a committee like this, I can keep using my voice,” Foreman said.

Owens is another newcomer who retired from San Diego Police Department after 28 years on the force. He now serves as pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Spring Valley, where he said he focuses on love and  relationships as a pastor.

Roach said she is a retired educator who first worked as a classroom teacher then in administration. She currently serves as a workshop facilitator with the Anti-Defamation League.

“I have a passion for social justice… I’m here as a Santee resident, not with the ADL. I’ve lived in Santee since 1977 and there is no place for hate,” Roach said.

Last of the four newcomers to introduce herself during the meeting, Forbus said she is a legal advocate for victims of crime, has worked with sexual assault and shelters, and is trained in helping survivors with victimology.

Forbus said she was raised as an adopted child by a lady born in 1900, her grandfather was a freed slave and she lists her Choctaw background as part of her self-described “mess of colors”.

Minto later said he was considering a few possible additions to the committee when he met Forbus during a recent COVID-related outreach project to a mobile home community in Santee. He later asked her to join the group in part because of her personal experience with race in the community.

Following introductions, Minto said his long term goal is to have all 21 members of the committee take a good, hard look in a mirror.

“We’re going to talk about things that maybe we have done that have not always encouraged people to be tolerant of one another and come up with a plan we can implement that will teach people how to look at themselves in the mirror,” Minto said.

Minto said he looks forward to in-person meetings where the public is welcome to attend and give feedback to the committee that can then be submitted to city council in the form of suggestions. Until then, public comments can be submitted online during virtual meetings.

The next public COMPOC meeting will be held virtually on July 13 and can be accessed through the city of Santee’s website at: cityofsanteeca.gov.