Lesson Learned From the Killing of Andy Lopez

Letter to Editor published in Santa Rosa Press Democrat
October 31, 2013

To The Editor;

Once again we are confronted with the anguish of another killing by law enforcement. Once again we are asking why, after all of the investigations conducted by police and District Attorney, do they keep happening?

The problem is that these are secret criminal investigations, asking only if enough evidence exists to charge the officer with a crime. Ignored are our community’s questions: Was the officer properly trained? Were the most effective procedures used? Did the officer follow them? Should the officer be disciplined? How can we prevent these killings from reoccurring? Why can’t the investigation be conducted in a transparent manner so public can learn what happened?

These questions have only been independently examined once, when the U.S. Civil Rights Commission held hearings here after numerous deaths by law enforcement. The Commission recommended that independent community review boards be established that could issue subpoenas and take testimony under oath. This recommendation has been ignored by our local governments and fought by law enforcement. And the deaths have kept mounting. It is time to follow the Commission’s recommendation and establish community review boards. It is time to end the secrecy. We cannot afford to wait as more lives are taken.

Steven Fabian