Council hears more talk of police harassment
by By John Saiz
Aug 13, 2007 | 895 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

For the second meeting in a row, residents complained to the Patterson City Council on Tuesday about police harassment.

Three teens said a deputy yelled and swore at them after pulling them over a couple of weeks ago for having a modified exhaust.

After the meeting, Mayor Becky Campo said she would like to see police Chief Tyrone Spencer replaced.

“Leadership is lacking,” she said Wednesday. “No offense to the chief, but because he’s in his last few years, I don’t think his heart is in it. If we had someone with more vibrancy, I think they’d come up with something new.”

Spencer said he had nothing to say about the matter and referred questions to the city manager.

The teens who complained Tuesday said they had been driving to Save Mart Supermarkets when a deputy pulled them over for having a modified exhaust — but the exhaust was stock.

“He called us stupid punks and said that he could pull us over at any time because of the modified exhaust,” said Brieanna Cuellar, granddaughter of Councilman Sam Cuellar.

The deputy should have cited them if there was a violation, Brieanna Cuellar said, not made vague threats about being able to do whatever he wanted to them.

When the teens went to file a complaint at the police department, Cuellar said, they were told they could not do so because there was no sergeant in the office.

People are supposed to be able to fill out a complaint form regardless of who is on duty, Spencer said during the meeting, and then a sergeant will conduct an interview to get more details. He said the clerks might have misunderstood the procedure and assured the council he would look into it.

The teens’ allegations followed discussions of two other incidents July 17. At the time, Patterson residents Violet Wells and Albertina Reynoso talked about their children being harassed by deputies.

Reynoso said her 17-year-old son and his friends had been searched by a deputy, though none was on probation, while chatting outside Reynoso’s home. Wells said her son was playing basketball at Creekside Middle School when a deputy questioned him and a group of friends about a suspect and made intimidating statements for no reason.

At the July 17 meeting, Reynoso asked that the matter of police harassment be put on the council’s agenda so the council could take action at a future meeting. By law, the council cannot act on matters that do not appear on the agenda.

Police harassment issues were not listed on Tuesday’s agenda, and the teens made their complaint during the public comment period. However, the council also discussed the subject at length during the “other matters” portion of the meeting.

Councilman Sam Cuellar said he didn’t want the discussion named on the agenda to “minimize getting mired in a contentious issue.”

During their discussions, council members decided to try to resolve the complaints outside of a public forum. Cuellar and another council member will talk with Wells and Reynoso privately and may host a workshop for people to talk about police issues.

Reynoso said she would rather see the matter addressed in a public forum, saying handling it behind closed doors would be like “going back to square one.”

“They don’t want a big circus,” she said. “I don’t want one either, but other people have their own issues. Why can’t we work together? It’s a community situation.”

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