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Close to Home: How to reduce police violence

“This death culture cannot imagine solutions that do not bleed.”

— Poet Diane di Prima

In May 2000, the California advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report on our local law enforcement. It contained many recommendations to reduce the violence coming from that law enforcement.

If our sheriff and police departments had taken this seriously, instead of hoping we'd forget, might Andy Lopez be alive today? Might Jeremiah Chass? The many others?

I am proud to have a letter to the editor, printed by the New York Times and written in 1932 by my great-grandfather John F. Schindler, which states that sheriff's deputies should not be issued guns, because deputies would end up killing innocent people.

And let me point out, there has not been a killing of local police or deputies in Sonoma County in 15 years and only seven in 125 years. The first occurred in 1888 — during the ambush of a stagecoach.

The United States has always preferred force for dealing with its “problems,” but not all countries have followed that path. Last year, in Iceland, law enforcement killed its first civilian ever. The man was armed and was firing at police, yet the police department immediately issued a statement of regret and offered its condolences to the man's family.

Some will say that is because Iceland has a homogeneous population. I say one of the reasons our law enforcement resorts to force so often is not because we are diverse but because we fear our diversity.

I also have a photograph of my great-grandmother Isabelle Campbell Schindler marching for the vote for women. I can be certain that there were times, during completely peaceful marches, when she encountered that era's equivalent of our SWAT teams — armed police on horseback.

Why would police or deputies greet peaceful marchers with a display of weaponry, as they have recently in Sonoma County? Because governments consider their citizens and change to be their enemies.

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