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Answering Grief With Guns: What the Anaheim government must do next

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Message Kimberly Wilder
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Anaheim Police Department symbolThe Anaheim Police Department killed a totally unarmed man last weekend. Then, the Anaheim Police attacked the people mourning and protesting his death. And, then, the Anaheim Police killed another Latino man in a questionable incident.
The response? The Anaheim government and Mayor Tom Tait basically say wait for the investigations. The Anaheim Police demean the community, demean the mourners and protesters, attack the Occupy movement, defend aggressive policing to the hilt, and inject more weapons (ie: police officers armed with lethal and nonlethal weapons) into the scenario. (See article: here.)
What the heck?
There is a whole universe of other ways to solve problems and create order. Doesn't anyone in that whole government or police department have one ounce of "wisdom" among them? Haven't any of them studied conflict resolution? Or, read a history book? When people are justifiably angry and protesting, you don't disrespect them and descend upon them with weapons. Not a good plan.
Here are some ideas about helpful, positive things, which the Anaheim Police and leaders in the Anaheim government should be doing to return order to Anaheim:
Have a survey of residents. The Anaheim Police have said that gang members are inserting themselves into groups of protesters and stirring things up. Well, if the police truly think that the regular people are not being heard, focus on listening to the residents. (Instead of using the claimed mixture to dismiss and attack everyone.)
-What about a survey mailed to the homes of residents? Sure, it takes time. But, if they would have done this four days ago, they might have had a dialogue going by now.
-Also, the city government could look for feedback. Hundreds of people showed up at a City Council meeting. Any government official, before, during, or after the meeting, could have politely pulled people from the crowd, and had an individual conference to ask their concerns. It would be a kind of lottery survey of grassroots sentiment.
-Have the Anaheim government hold an informational meeting for residents, where people show (easy) proof of residence at the door.
-If the Anaheim Police truly feel that outsiders are confusing the community, then there are many, compassionate ways to get genuine community feedback and/or one-on-one feedback from residents.
Address true problems, such as children who were traumatized from having witnessed the shooting. Part of the angst in the community, is because great harm has been done to children. Either the police -- or probably better, the city government -- could try to take some of the sting out of the situation, by repairing damage done.

-What if the city government offered any child pictured in the shooting video to get three sessions of trauma counseling and a visit to Disneyland?
-There is probably a government health clinic. Maybe you could just educate the residents, and not even pay extra?
Admit the consequences of the shooting, and try to fix some of them BEFORE the investigation. The waiting will make things simmer. Children who saw police shoot a man's brain's out could be potential, future violent gang members. Their parents are probably feeling very angry and helpless right now.
Give support and an outlet for mourning residents. If the Anaheim Police cannot see basic human principles at work in the shooting, maybe someone in the city government can? The people of this community had a friend or relative who was killed before their eyes. Whether the police were right or wrong, it is a trauma to those people. And, they will probably have wild feelings in their cycles of grief. Instead of attacking mourners (who they are calling protesters and agitators), and inserting armed officers into the environment, how about try, in some manner to redirect the mourning energy?

-What if the City Council, right now, started the process of building some memorial in the place the man was killed? People could decide what to write on it after the investigation is over.
-Or, what if, the people in the government or community who have education, privilege, and knowledge, counseled some of the family and friends on how to invent a project in honor of the lost man's life, and raise funds for it. Must the man and his family be forgotten and ignored, in order that everyone in power steer public opinion and the investigation in the police's favor?
Quit with the "gang" rhetoric. It dawned on me rather late, that saying someone is a member of a gang, does not mean that person was ever violent or carrying a weapon. What is a gang? If a bowling team wears their shirts, and goes out on a Saturday night, is that a gang? I am not sure the police understand the big picture. Because, if they don't have language that differentiates between groups of kids who stick together out of fun and a sense of belonging, and groups of kids who do crime and are probably led by older people, then, how can the police manage the situation?
Create excellent, productive youth activities in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. Youth programs are a time-tested way to discourage gang violence. Give the young people a place to go, and positive things to do. So, instead of the police, government, and community being harsh and oppressive and dumping money into more policing, use some of that money (maybe instantly) for a youth center, youth programs, sports program, or art program for teenagers in that community.
Be fair and unbiased. The government and police say on one hand, that the officers must be on paid leave, and the police department cannot release details, because investigations are ongoing. On the other hand, the Anaheim Police have released allegations that the first man killed last week was associated with a gang. The Anaheim Police cannot be so arbitrary and unfair. If the police officers (who still have the gift of life) are protected, then the dead man's privacy should be protected as best as possible. The injustice and hypocrisy is part of what fuels the unrest.

The Anaheim Police and the Mayor of Anaheim have been releasing statements which seem to profess a desire for order in the community. Though, actions speak louder than words. So far, in Anaheim: Grief has been met with guns. Mourners have been portrayed as gang members. Supporters traveling to Anaheim to help and comfort, have been labeled as agitators. And, the victim's basic dignity has been violated, by labeling him a gang member, shortly after his untimely death.
It would be wonderful to discover that the Anaheim Police had truly taken the shooting of an unarmed man to heart. Do the Anaheim Police understand now that young men -- who may or may not belong to gangs -- are as human and fragile as they are? Do the Anaheim Police understand that the way to address crime is not to hunt people down in the middle of a neighborhood, where children must observe brains splattered on a lawn? Does the Mayor of Anaheim yet see that his bully pulpit could educate and nurture mourners, instead of scold and threaten them?

The response of the Anaheim Police and the Anaheim government to this tragedy has so far been shameful and flawed. A quick observation of their words and actions after the shooting shows that they are arrogant and uncaring towards the community they are supposed to serve. Will they ever open their eyes and change direction so they can truly create order, and genuinely serve and protect the community?
Time will tell.
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Kimberly Wilder is a poet, musician, teacher, greenie, and peace activist. Kimberly and her husband live on Long Island, New York. They have two family websites: and

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