Some East Salinas Residents Worry More Cops Could Mean Harassment
March 5, 2013
Talks over a possible tax measure to hire more police officers hit East Salinas yesterday, prompting a heated discussion about how the police treat the Latino community.
At a community meeting at Cesar Chavez Library last night several residents spoke out against the possible “police tax,” citing concerns of police abuse.
Former teacher Francisco Estrada said he believes increased law enforcement presence would create animosity between the community and the police.
"What I would support more than police—more repression, more suppression—is intervention," said Estrada, who no longer lives in East Salinas. "Intervention so that our kids have more things to do. Busy children have little time to go astray."
Other residents, speaking in Spanish, told stories of times they felt intimidated by police.
“We’re harassed by the police simply because we are Latino,” said 68-year-old farmworker Juvenal Ibarra, who spoke through a translator. He added, "We're tired of measures and taxes without seeing results."
The meeting at Cesar Chavez yesterday was one of several put on by the Salinas Police Tax Committee. In January, Steve McShane, a Salinas councilman and the committee secretary, said the group supports the creation of a temporary quarter-cent sales tax to fund the construction of a new police station and another possibly permanent sales tax—either a quarter or half-cent—to fund additional police officers.
Now the funding mechanisms are less clear.
“It’s going to be something that looks like a tax, and very possibly there will be a sales tax component,” says Bob Perkins, the commitee’s chair. “How much that’s going to be is not something that anybody has decided."
Perkins added that a steering committee has been formed to explore whether there are any viable alternatives to a tax. He prefers the title “Salinas Public Safety Funding Committee” to “Police Tax Committee.”
"We don’t know what the solution is going to be,” he said.
Not everyone at yesterday’s meeting was opposed to hiring more police—but some took a cautious stance.
“I don’t want to pay more taxes that’s for sure," said Jack Alisea, pastor at Church of the Rock in Salinas.
His primarily Latino congregation agrees that there's a trust issue between citizens and officers, he said.
"But to say that we don't need more officers when there's crime, it doesn't make sense," he said.