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By Miriam Raftery

June 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon City Council members received hundreds of comments sent via email on the city’s proposed budget, nearly all weighing in on police funding following a nationwide wave of protests over police violence and racial injustice issues.   

Many of the commenters argued for “defunding” or shifting some funds away from police into investments in the community or alternatives to handle mentally ill and homeless people, though many others voiced support for El Cajon Police and supported raising the department’s budget.

The Council unanimously voted for a $120,000 increase for the police.

“The motivation is to keep all the citizens safe,” Councilman Gary Kendrick told ECM.

Part of the funds will be used to hire a company to transport those arrested to the county jail downtown, allowing police to stay on the street. He says the majority of residents are concerned about police protection.  “I don’t want to see another Seattle,” he said, referencing an anarchy zone set up in several Seattle blocks after police were forced out of their station by protesters. “I don’t want to have buildings burned down,” as happened during a riot May 30-31 in neighboring La Mesa.

Kendrick notes, “We’re a community of about 70 different ethnic groups and we get along extremely well. That’s why I started America on Main Street, to celebrate our diversity.”

The city drew criticism from some back in 2016, when Alfred Olango, an African immigrant, who suffered a mental health breakdown. Confronted by police, he pulled out a vaping device that resembled a gun and assumed a shooting stance. He was shot and killed by an ECPD officer, sparking protest marches, though the District Attorney later ruled the shooting was justifiable. (photo, right: Alfred Olango).

But Kendrick notes that ECPD officers have used non-lethal weapons to save lives in other tense situations.  “There was a minority man who was going to throw his little boy over a pass above highway 67. They shot him with beanbags and were able to save the little boy without using guns.”

El Cajon has taken some steps to address calls for reforms. The city recently banned chokeholds by police.  Officers now wear body cameras.

Officer Mike Murphy recently opted against arresting taggers, instead finding a place for them to create a work of art. (Photo left, via ECPD)  Kendrick praises most ECPD officers as “kind-hearted” and says, "That's one of the reasons we don't hae problems like other jurisdictions. But he adds, “Everybody deserves to feel safe.”

But some disagree. Many sent variations of a form letter which noted that El Cajon uses 50% of its budget on police, but only 4% on community development and 11% on public works. 

“Public safety must include an investment in housing, health care, food, good jobs, education, free public transit and resources for small businesses,” Victor Brown of El Cajon wrote in his public comment.  “As issues of police brutality and state violence against Black communities and communities of color are highlighted, we need to talk about what real safety looks like. Community safety is equitable access to housing and healthcare, ot tear gas and rubber bullets.” 

His letter and many others called for reallocation a sizeable portion of police funds to create mental health resources independent from the police. Brown stated, “We will never forget that Alfred Olango was murdered by police in 2016 for simply having an emotional breakdown. I ask that we decrease the police budget and invest in our communities by funding services that strengthen our communities.”

Summer Wappler, a homeowner and mother in El Cajon, noted that the homeless crisis is “out of control” noting, “We could offer drug counseling, temporary housing, and job placement assistance.” She also called for “creating community safety and crisis officers, unarmed officers that can response to non-violent requests will help with the overload that our officers currently face.”

But other residents bristled at the thought of reducing funding for police.  “I am appalled, disgusted,” Steve La Marca wrote.  “I have interacted with ECPD folks for over 30 years and found them to be some of the best cops in the County.”  He fears that if police were defunded, citizens would be left to fend for themselves when crimes occur.  In addition, the notes, “I know agencies have a hard enough time recruiting and keeping officers, in this climate of hatred toward them.”

Carol Babbitt wrote, “I love our police. We need to support them,” adding that police are getting a “bad rap” because of “several rogue cops who should have been reprimanded and lost their jobs.” 

Sarra T. Young denounced both the “tragic and horrifying misuse of power by Mineeapolis police officers against George Floyd” but also the “chaos, civil unrest, destruction, theft, arson and otherwise riotous activities” that ensued including the burning of buildings in La Mesa (photo, right, by Jake Rose). She views increasing tools and training for law enforcement as the solution to better policing.

Some sent in anonymous comments, including a student who wrote of facing discrimination in  El Cajon, while another praised El Cajon police as “heroes.”


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What shocked me was that El Cajon spends 50% of its budget on the police. And they want and are getting more. I checked about percentages other cities budget for police. The highest was Oakland 41.2%. Others: Atlanta 29.7%; Chicago 38.6%; Detroit 30%. Why is El Cajon more dangerous than Chicago and Detroit? What are the funds for? How much civilian oversight is there? I have never had any problems with the El Cajon Police, but this militarism with more SWAT is not the answer for community policing.

Top News: EC City Council approves additional funding for Police

I believe your ever-so-short story failed to mention that 1400 cookie-cutter emails were received by the City Clerk and it was obvious they were sent from other than City residents. We were able to hear what the letter said and 1399 followed the exact same wording. Your story eludes that fact and sounds like the Council ignored what the majority wanted and that was definitely not the case as letters were read 5 at a time by each Councilperson for a grueling hour and 140+ emails read aloud. Those read actually came from City residents although some were of the cookie cutter variety citing an incident from several years ago in El Cajon. I believe this and another story reflected obvious bias and am seeing more and more of that in your articles this year. Please at least attempt to give unbiased, factual information.

I read all of the comments sent in.

The clerk sent them all to me and there were many on each side, but nowhere near 1400 identical emails.  It was also impossible to tell in most cases where they came from because many were anonymous or listed names but no city of residency.  However quite a few of those calling for a decrease in police funding did state that they are El Cajon residents.   We pulled a few representative samples on each side for our report, which does not draw any conclusion on the merits or the council's ultimate action.  If people want to watch the entire meeting to hear every comment read, the video is available on the city's website in the city council section.  

I sincerely doubt the author

I sincerely doubt the author had access to the El Cajon City Clerk's e-mails, so how is not knowing a "failure to mention"? How was it obvious that El Cajon residents didn't e-mail them? Many people use "cookie cutter" messages when they all want to say the same thing. That does not qualify them to be discounted. Sorry, I don't see any bias in the article, just in your comment. No misrepresentation of facts either. If you have an example I'd like to hear it.

Not all correct

I find it strange that all of a sudden so many people are so interested in the city budget, I hope those same people go out and vote too. I was very proud that there are so many citizens really paying attention to what is going on in the city. But how come, not even half of that number had anything to say about the other important items on agenda? I would like to know if anyone has any information on where on agenda it stated we were thinking of defunding the police department or where they heard it was on agenda?? I think some type of rumor or misinformation might have been put out there to the citizens, because the budget showed half the budget going to the police department, so where did "defunding" come from?? Not that many people misread the agenda. Please get back to me. Something doesnt seem right with that. Oh and the police have been wearing body cams since back in 2017 I believe.

The proprosal on the agenda was to increase police funds,

But public comments were split, with some arguing in favor of that, while others argued that funding should be decreased.  The article is accurate on this, but as you note, not everybody reads agendas and attachments closely.