About 50 City and black community leaders gathered at the main fountain in Balboa Park this past Monday (July 18th, 2016) to call for peace and unity between the nation’s police force’s and the communities they serve. This comes after the recent shootings in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge Louisiana this month. Representing the City of San Diego was San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
I asked Chief Zimmerman why this event was important; she tells me, “We need to be an example to the rest of the nation by standing together for peace in our communities.” She also says “that San Diego sets the national standard for community policing.”
Bishop George Dallas McKinney the founder and pastor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral was one of the community leaders who attended the event. Bishop McKinney tells me this event is important to him “because our nation is in crisis” he also says “that this event is a stepping stone in starting a real conversation about the violence in this country.”
I asked Bishop McKinney what he thinks of Chief Zimmerman’s efforts in standing together with the people in his community; he told me “that he thinks the chief is very sympathetic to the issues happen in his community” he also said “that he called the Chief Zimmerman’s office earlier this year to set up a meeting at her office” he said that he “was surprised when the Chief offered to come and meet him for an hour to talk about the issues’s”
I then asked Bishop McKinney how we came to this point and what problems he thinks need to be addressed; he told me “that the frustration that we are having in this country started 50 years ago” he says the problems that need to be addressed are: immigration, injustice in the criminal justice system and education. Bishop McKinney said “that 84% of black men in jail are without fathers” he also says “that black boys who don’t get a good quality education are more likely to go the wrong way in life.”
One black community leader that did not show up to the event was Bishop Cornelius Bowser; he is known for hosting vigils for local victims of violent crimes. According to an interview with KPBS/City News service, he accused Mayor Kevin Falconer of “overlooking vigils, marches and other demonstrations held in response to violence in the city. He also said “the event seemed hollow — officers and elected officials calling for unity, when they have not shown similar interest in tackling incidents of police violence” and said, “I will not let Mayor Falconer use me as a pawn for his political agenda during this time of tragedy.”
The Miller News Service reached out to Mayor Kevin Falconer’s office for comment regarding Bishop Bowser’s comment; we received back a statement that says, “The Mayor has a strong record of standing with the community against violence, seeking justice and encouraging peace and understanding throughout San Diego. He was the first mayor to ever take the oath of office in Southeastern San Diego. Since then, he has made increased diversity of the police department a priority and has made it a point to attend events throughout the black community to open lines of communication to City Hall, including speaking at events such as the San Diego Compassion Project. He continues to meet regularly with members of different groups from across the city, including members of the black community, to personally hear the needs and concerns of all San Diegan’s.”