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SLO City Council approves After Action Review of SLOPD's response to June 1 protest

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Posted at 11:19 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 02:19:07-05

San Luis Obispo City Council members approved and filed an After Action Review of the police department's response to a protest last June.

Council members decided to continue the discussions to Tuesday's meeting after taking public comment on the report until almost midnight last week. City leaders addressed the concerns raised during last week's meeting before ultimately deciding to accept the report tonight.

Last week's city council meeting quickly became a heated discussion.

"We are not children to force your will upon and we are not animals for you to mistreat and muzzle. If we were animals, I believe you would have treated us better," Lilly Martinez, who says she was among the crowd on June 1st, said.

San Luis Obispo City Council members were deciding whether to approve and file the after action review of the police department's response during the June 1 protest where tear gas, pepper bullets, and zip ties were used to disperse protesters.

"I read the report — I looked at it and I have empathy for everyone involved in particular the officers who are out there," Jim Gardner, a former member of law enforcement, said.

The nearly 100-page document included 10 action items the department will implement in order to improve their response.

Two of those items: a new loud speaker (LRAD) and new batteries for body cameras became a focal point during both council meetings.

Community members raised concerns about the potential damaging effects the loud speaker could have, something Interim Police Chief Jeff Smith said was misinformation.

"Military grade LRAD is a very large speaker that would be mounted on top of a vehicle and could cause some of the damage that was mentioned last week. What we have purchased is not a military grade LRAD, it's just a louder speaker," Smith explained.

Smith says the extra batteries for body cameras was something the department was already considering.

"So we did already have a plan to have additional batteries installed in the patrol vehicles; that way if an officer was having a particularly busy day and a high use from their camera, they could switch out their battery," Smith said.

Each council member also took time to address some of the disparaging remarks made during the previous meeting's public comment. Several said they wish they would have stepped in during what they considered attacks on city staff and police officers.

"So if it felt, and I know that it did, that there was an exception made and there was potentially bias on my part, I would say there might be some truth in that and I want to own that," Mayor Heidi Harmon said regarding the explicit public comment.

"I do want to be clear, the answer is not going to be to take away the needed resources or 'defund' the city department charged with protecting the public's safety. This is not going to happen," City Council member Carlyn Christianson said.

Council members say they are continuing to work toward modernizing the department. They pointed to the recent hiring of a homeless response manager instead of having police respond to incidents involving the homeless.

The city posts all of its meeting on its YouTube channel if you would like to rewatch the discussions.

The next city council meeting is next Tuesday, March 2.