During the May 5, 2021 Lodi City Council meeting, several citizens called in to voice their opinions on LUSD School Resource Officers (SROs).
The issue on the agenda was to adopt a resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a School Resource Officer Memorandum of Understanding with Lodi Unified School District (LUSD). This would place four School Resource Officers on elementary, middle, and high school campuses within city limits between September 1, 2021 – June 30, 2024 for a total of $946,230. According to the City Council’s agenda, School Resource Officers look after 20 schools and are called five to ten times per day for various issues.
Lodi citizen Vine Sanchez pulled the item and was the first to comment. He said the idea of School Resource Officers was to have a safer environment for children, and to protect those in elementary, middle, and high school. However, they do not create a safer environment. “They create a more scary, intimidating, and traumatizing environment, especially for BIPOC students” (Black Indigenous People of Color),” Mr. Sanchez told the Council. He went on to say, “…[SRO are] not making any of these students feel safer, it’s making them have to think about ‘do I have to walk a certain way, do I have to talk a certain way, do I have to act a certain way so I don’t just get tackled or tazed right now?'”
Mr. Sanchez ended his comments by asking the City Council to vote against SROs remaining on Lodi Unified School District campuses. Instead, the nearly $1 million should be invested in mental health professionals on the campuses to prevent potential crimes from occurring.
The City Council had no response to the comments by Mr. Sanchez. City Clerk Jennifer Cusmir then asked if the Council would like to move to comments before voting. Council Member Doug Kuehne said no, unless there were hands raised before.
“It’s not a dialogue, it’s a public comment time,”Council Member Doug Kuehne
The City Council then voted unanimously in favor of keeping School Resource Officers. But that’s not the end of the story.
The next issue was speaking on the possibility of a low-bar or no-bar homeless shelter. At 1:00:23, a citizen by the name of Josue Herrera spoke out and gave his support for the proposed shelter, but before he left he had one additional comment. Mr. Herrera called Council Member Kuehne a coward for not allowing others to comment on the issue of School Resource Officers. He ended his comment by saying “I really don’t think you deserve to be on the council, thank you.”
“You are a coward, sir. If you’re not willing to listen to the public, you should not be on the council.”Josue Herrera
It appeared as if Council Member Kuehne attempted to respond to the aggressive comment, but his microphone was muted at that time and his comments went unheard. The Council continued on with the original issue of the homeless shelter.
But that’s still not all! At 1:44:25, a citizen by the name of Janessa called in and wanted to know why the City Council wasn’t taking any other comments for the School Resource Officer issue. She claimed the council was acting like dictators, and that they need to listen to the opinions of the people. Council Member Kuehne then responded by saying
“I apologize if I cut people off in that particular line of thought. My bad.”Council Member Doug Kuehne
Comments are taken by the City Clerk once an attendee in the online zoom conference meeting raises their hand. Council Member Doug Kuehne did not want to have a dialogue with new people raising their hands after one had spoken, but instead wanted all who wished to comment on an issue to raise their hands immediately or not speak out. Given the fact that the Council did not have any comments in response to Mr. Sanchez’s original comments, it would only seem fair to allow others to speak out before the Council voted on the issue. What are your thoughts on the heated debate from May 5th’s regular meeting? Leave a comment below!