Santa Rosa City Councilman Gary Wysocky doesn’t just disagree with Mayor Ernesto Oliveras about charging for parking at Howarth Park. (Click here to see that story.) He also disagrees with him about the controversy over Santa Rosa SWAT team members allowing children in the South Park neighborhood to handle automatic weapons.
Wysocky said he was in Southern California on business when the Santa Rosa story was teased on a Los Angeles television station. “They were teasing it for 45 minutes,” he said.
Wysocky said he is still “unsettled” about the issue and is hoping to get some answers from the Police Department about how this event meshes with the city’s community policing program.
“The children were just playing with them like toys,” said Wysocky. ““That’s not educating. That’s desensitizing.”
Mayor Olivares said on Thursday that he supported the decision by police to allow children to handle the weapons at the Aug. 13 event. Oliveras, a retired Santa Rosa police lieutenant, helped organize the first such event three years ago which was spearheaded by the mayor’s gang prevention task force. He said such interactions offer “teaching moments” that allow officers to present positive messages.
But Wysocky said he questions what they are teaching. “Like I said, I want to know where the education aspect of this is,” he said. “To me, it doesn’t seem wise. … How is this part of community policing?”
“Those are automatic weapons. I can’t believe that’s safe,” he said. “I don’t know how (outreach) is served with 10-year-olds playing with guns.”
Today’s City Council meeting has been canceled, but don’t’ be surprised to hear Wysocky bring this issue up at the next council meeting on Aug. 30 – when the council members are slated to talk about charging for parking at Howarth Park.
- Paul Gullixson