Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada took center stage at a town hall last night hosted by the East Street Community Renewal Initiative (ESCRI). Residents gathered at the Eli Everything & More thrift store to hear him out on gangs, policy and oversight just months into the job. On the home turf of her nonprofits, former councilwoman and current mayoral candidate Lorri Galloway introduced the Anaheim Police Department's first Mexican-in-Chief as "history-making" with such glee it's as if she's trying to become the first woman of color mayor in the city–oh wait, she is!
Vacuous identity politics aside, the bilingual chief alternated between English and Spanish introducing himself as being raised in Pico Rivera. The town hall was dubbed "Increase the Peace" a throwback slogan that dates to when Quezada started out as a Los Angeles Police Department officer in the early 90s.
Although the intent of the evening was to underscore how far Anaheim has supposedly come since its troublesome summer of 2012, APD's police chief said the city's biggest problem remains street gangs. Violent crime is down as of last year, he added, but gang activity is up this year, stating his opinion that the problem "begins in the home."
The chief touted a number of intervention programs like Cops 4 Kids offered by APD that police departments "aren't structured to do." The Weekly learned prior to the forum that Gang Unit expenditures check in at $3,598,372 alone. Youth prevention programs have $2,286,281 in department funds to spread around.
Stating one of his main aims was to engage the community to build trust, Quezada touted a number of changes under his tenure including posting policies online, the formation of a Neighborhood Advisory Committee and Coffee with a Cop. (What? No horchata with la chota?) But is it all enough?
Flanked by his Deputy Chief, Julian Harvey, Quezada mentioned that officers now have digital audio recorders (DAR) on during all police contacts. A resident posed a question about cameras. "The video recorders are coming," he said. "It's a matter of dollars." For now, it's just DAR, and policy states that media can request audio files from the police chief himself, something residents themselves aren't entitled to. The Weekly followed up on that point after the forum.
"Send in the request," Chief Quezada says, "and we'll see what happens."
The timing of the event came in the recent aftermath of the department's first fatal officer-involved shooting in a good, long while when Robert Moreno, Jr. was killed late last month near La Palma Avenue and Citron Street after the department said he shot at probation officers and cops.
Quezada confirmed that Michael Gennaco of the Office of Independent Review (OIR) was on scene for what his contracted firm calls "real-time review," but tells the Weekly that since the city has no pilot Public Safety Board in place yet, there's nowhere to relay preliminary information gathered on the shootout.
No rank of officer is exempt from using the audio recorders according to the chief, not even the SWAT team members called in to help find Moreno in hiding. Was the lead-up to the barrage of bullets captured unlike the controversial fatal shooting of Manuel Diaz, when officer Nick Bennallack only turned his DAR on after firing twice on the unarmed man?
"We'll find out," Quezada says, "when the investigation is complete."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz