Cop Talk

Seaside Police Chief Abdul Pridgen notes that it’s not just policing that has roots in racism: “The institutions of America were founded in racism,” he says. “Every aspect of America – schools, hospitals, companies – it’s everywhere.”

ALONG WITH THE REST OF US, local law enforcement officers watched the news of the breach of the U.S. Capitol unfold on Jan. 6. Some, like Seaside Police Chief Abdul Pridgen, had an extra layer of insight; he was part of the presidential inauguration security detail in 2005 when George W. Bush was sworn in for the first time. (At the time, he was an officer in Fort Worth, Texas, and joined hundreds of police from across the country in flying in to help staff big events.)

“That’s the first thing that came to my mind: How did they get to where they were?” Pridgen says. “It really was shocking that they were able to get to where they were, without more barricades and staffing to prevent that. I am just dumbfounded that more security measures were not in place.”

The tactical failures are already being scrutinized, and led to the resignation of the U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund, who earned a degree in Homeland Security at the Naval Postgraduate School. But for many, there’s another failure on display – the disparate treatment of the mostly white group compared to Black Lives Matter protesters who were tear-gassed in Washington to make way for a presidential photo opp, and who all over the country had violent encounters with police officers.

“There are people who had their shoulders separated and who lost an eye, and then at [the Capitol on Jan. 6], you’ve got cops taking selfies with these people,” says Jon Wizard, a member of Seaside City Council and Black Lives Matter organizer. “It’s a separate reality.”

For Black Lives Matter activists who have been calling for system-wide reforms, the permissive police treatment of the mob is glaring evidence of why their calls for reform have been needed all along – that police do not treat all people equally. Wizard and BLM organizer Tyller Williamson, a Monterey City Councilmember, both note positive relations with police during local protests, including during an unscheduled march through the streets of downtown Monterey; police blocked off traffic to create a safe route. But the events of last week – and more recently, news that rioter Jacob Chansley wants organic food in jail – provide proof that systemic reform is needed.

“The hope out of this experience is that we have more people involved in creating policies that are beneficial for our community,” Williamson says.

Pridgen is not so sure this is a turning point. “I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist,” he says. “We’ve had other seminal moments in our country, where people hoped that was a moment, only for things to pass by and go back to a semblance of normalcy.”

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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