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Santa Rosa council to discuss police outreach program

A Santa Rosa police officer chats with youths at South Park Day and Night Festival (ATTILA NAGY)

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The public will have the chance to weigh in Tuesday on the wisdom of a Santa Rosa SWAT team exhibit that allowed children to handle automatic weapons.

The City Council will hear a recap of the events held during Gang Prevention Awareness Week, Aug. 5-13.

One event, the South Park Day and Night Festival, included an exhibit that has drawn fire for allowing young children to handle an automatic rifle and other weapons used by the city’s Special Weapons and Tactics team. The display also included a tank-like vehicle.

The Santa Rosa Police Department and Mayor Ernesto Olivares have defended the exhibit as a way to help “demystify” the role of police in the community as part of the city’s broader effort to combat gangs.

Critics, however, have questioned whether letting children from a high-crime neighborhood handle such weapons was the right way to break down barriers between police and the community.

Photos taken at the festival show a child aiming an M-16 style automatic weapon and others reaching for a riot gun. The guns were unloaded and locked and a Santa Rosa police officer was monitoring the display, which also included other SWAT gear.

The photos and story spurred hundreds of comments on The Press Democrat website and numerous letters to the editor on both sides of the issue.

Olivares said he wasn’t originally planning to have a staff briefing on the week’s events but added it to the agenda after media coverage of the event focused on the gun issue.

“My concern was that everyone lost sight of what we were trying to do that week,” Olivares said.

Aware that the public and council members might have questions, Olivares said he wanted to make sure Gang Prevention Task Force staff were on hand to put the event in context and answer questions.





6 Responses to “Santa Rosa council to discuss police outreach program”

  1. sean says:

    I sure hope that those who are in support of the police will take the time to come show their support before City Council. Unfortunately, this will probably be another parade of the usual suspects with nothing better to do.

  2. Alex says:

    God forbid the council decides to do something about allowing illegals to drive in this city and kill children in crosswalks. They are so anti-police. I would LOVE to see who Wysocky is going to call if he gets robbed or shot at…call a florist?! Got a joke for ya….what do you get when you have a CPA trying to be like a cop? Answer: Oakland

  3. Money Grubber says:

    I, for one, am happy that the City Council is looking into this matter.

    Thank you, Councilman Gary W.

  4. John says:

    This will be fun to watch. Especially Wysocky.

  5. End of the Line says:

    There are politicans and residents in Santa Rosa that would much prefer the police were unarmed. In fact, they wish the whole society possessed no guns of any kind.

    Well, given the fact of human nature, that is just not going to happen. There are evil and mentality ill people in the society that think nothing of killing their fellow human being.

    The SWAT team letting kids see and hold guns will not make them killers or criminals anymore than television will make them violate the law. The kids are seeing real life as they see it every day on their streets.

    If it helps them see the police in a new light, more power to the police who are trying to do something positive in the community. Talk is cheap. Taking action is hard. Criticism from the left is always easy, but misplaced. If the left really care about the families and kids in the poorer neighborhoods, they would have long ago proposed something beyond more welfare.

  6. Joseph says:

    As I said before, no-one was harmed at this event and as far as I know none of these weapons have been used in the commission of a crime. However during the time of this debate, two officers in the state have in fact been shot by youths, one killed in San Diego. Another young man just killed a city counsel man in a town bordering our county. And we have had the tragic death of a young four year old due in a large part to the gross negligence of the city and its police force by failing to impound a car on the second violation.
    Seems the counsel has a lot on its plate without throwing this Red Herring out for public discourse.