Salinas police shootings wound trust of community


The Salinas police chief announced Tuesday that he has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to send a conciliation specialist to Salinas in order to facilitate community dialogue following recent officer-involved shootings.

Police Chief Kelly McMillin made contact with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service on Friday. He is arranging for Conciliation Specialist Marquez Equilibria to come to Salinas next week, but the exact dates are still to be determined, police said.

According to Equilibria, the Community Relations Service is a federal agency that works to “help prevent and respond to alleged violent hate crimes committed on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disabilities.”

Equilibria, based in Los Angeles, said the services are impartial, confidential, and free of charge. McMillin said:

“This is going to be a very important conversation, one that will need time and attention, it will be good to have an expert, impartial third party to help with that.”

The conversation comes after two officers shot a man to death on May 20, only 11 days after two cops gunned down another man on May 9. Salinas police also killed a suspect on March 21.

Chief McMillin said earlier this month:

“I welcome any investigation of any allegation of misconduct … the Salinas Police Department is an open book.”

Salinas police, who are the lead agency in investigating shootings by its officers, forwarded its report to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office to decide if criminal charges would be filed against the four officers involved in the two killings.

Salinas police normally average only one officer-involved shooting out of 4,500 to 5,500 arrests by the department each year, but McMillin said having the recent two killings so close together:

“… piles on the level of the community’s emotion.”

Both of the men killed were Hispanic and news of the officer-involved shooting ignited tensions in Salinas’ Hispanic community, culminating in a large demonstration on May 21, during which a man was shot and killed by what police believe is a civilian suspect.

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