By James Clark
The discrepancy over Santa Cruz City Councilman Tony Madrigal’s remarks on police racial profiling continued at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25. Mayor Reily responded, “I am so disturbed that comments would be made like that with no evidence attached. As your mayor, I want you to know I disassociate myself from those comments.”
Members of the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) also spoke out, accusing Madrigal of perpetuating the myth of racial profiling, and in the case of Officer Bill Azua, calling for Madrigal’s resignation.
The heated disagreement began on Sept. 11, when Councilman Madrigal voted against a new bill that would triple the fines on Halloween, saying that “they unfairly targeted youth and minorities” and that he had observed police racial profiling on Halloween in 2006. Madrigal voted in favor of the same triple fines for New Year’s of that year.
Madrigals comments came after he observed the police patting down several Latino youths on Halloween last year while nearby Caucasians were left alone.
The anger over his remarks surprised Madrigal.
“I wasn’t trying to make accusations,” he said. “I was trying to raise awareness about what I saw and how it felt because we were once again preparing for Halloween … I wish at least a fraction of the energy focused on me would be focused on improving dialogue between the community and the police department, and addressing the real issue of equality in our community.”
Fellow Councilmembers Ryan Coonerty, Cynthia Mathews and Lynn Robinson also spoke out against Madrigal, saying in a public statement, “If Councilman Madrigal was in fact concerned about possible discriminatory treatment, he should have reported it promptly … He did not. Instead, this long-delayed and unsubstantiated charge has been demoralizing to the department and harmful to its reputation in the community.”
When asked why he waited until 2007 to voice his opinion, Madrigal said it was because Halloween was once again approaching and the young men from the previous year just wanted to be left alone.
Zach Friend, the principal administrative analyst of the SCPD, stated that intelligence was received from a gang member who was arrested two or three days before Halloween. This information included a detailed description of gang attire that would allow gang members to identify one another.
The clothes were not based on popular fashion and were meant to be easily distinguishable to fellow gang members, Friend stated.
According to the SCPD, the use of profiling in that case proved successful. They believe that they stopped several incidents from occurring due to the intelligence gathered.
The SCPD worries that crimes committed in the Latino community might go unreported due to an inherent distrust of the police, which may have been worsened after Madrigal’s statement, Friend said.
Members of the SCPD were frustrated by what they saw as a lack of evidence to support Madrigal’s statement. In 2003, countywide law enforcement worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to investigate racial profiling within Santa Cruz.
The testing included monitoring 12,000 traffic stops at five different locations in the city. At that time, no statistical data was found that indicated the use of racial profiling.