EL CENTRO — The Imperial Valley Social Justice Committee and Black Lives Matter Committee were present at an El Centro City Council meeting, December 20, to publicly demand detailed information regarding an incident occurring during the arrest of Elizardo Saenz, 23. The incident between Saenz and several El Centro police officers captured national attention after a social media video of went viral.
“Our department is aware of a video depicting merely a portion of these events which have been posted to social media sites,” read a statement released by the El Centro Police Department.
Marlene Thomas, president of the Imperial Valley Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was the first to approach podium.
“Black Lives Matter is a nation-wide movement, as well as international throughout the world,” said Thomas. “It is a human rights movement and we are just here speaking out and trying to bring forth awareness to law enforcement excessive abuse. We are not anti anything, we believe victims as well as police both have rights and we want them both protected.”
“I’m here on behalf of the community,” said Hilton Smith, coordinator of Imperial Valley Black Lives Matter chapter. “Public trust is an essential element in good policing and in bridging the gap between the community and the police. The criminal activity of Mr. Saenz is by no way being condoned. Our criminal justice system is well suited to deal with his illegal acts under our system of law.”
A series of California Public Records Act Requests were formally submitted to the city clerk.
“The intent of the CPRAR’s that have been submitted is to identify and utilize the appropriate measures to gauge the human and monetary cost of police brutality in our community. We are asking to agendize the following items for a roll call vote at the next city council meeting,” announced Raul Urena, an elected member of the Imperial County Democratic Central Committee. Those items include:
-Body and dash cameras be available and released immediately to the public for public review.
-An outside investigation be conducted to ensure that an unbiased and objective analysis of the incident be conducted that will not compromise the integrity of the investigation.
-The city council to vote upon a moratorium of the swearing in of dogs or any other animals as a fully-fledged police officer.
-The city council to vote upon creating and properly funding a citizen’s oversight committee to prevent and address instances of police brutality in the city.
-The City Council to vote to officially call upon the Department of Justice or the California Attorney General to properly investigate the evidence of abuse and excessive force of the Saenz case.
– For the Council to place all officers involved on administrative leave pending the result of the investigation.
El Centro mayor Alex Cardenas had a prepared statement in response.
“The city attorney has advised me that I may respond very briefly on behalf of the City Council and the El Centro Police Department. This city takes the matter of use of force very seriously. We are looking forward to receiving the results of a thorough and independent investigation now being conducted. It would be premature and ill-advised to comment before the conclusion of the independent investigation. Updates regarding the independent investigation will be provided by the El Centro Police Department Public Information Officer, Commander Sawyer when they become available.”