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Santa Marians hold protest after SMPD arrest video goes viral

A rally was held at Santa Maria City Hall for police accountability and transparency after a video surfaced of officers arresting a suspect.

Critics are saying the Santa Maria Police Department used excessive force.

“We were shocked by the images that we saw in the video,” said Santa Maria CAUSE policy advocate Abraham Melendrez.

Neighbors upset by the video protested in hopes their voices will be heard by city leaders.

“So we are calling on people to go to the next city council meeting and voice their own personal concerns,” said Melendrez.

The community advocate group CAUSE helped residents organize the event. CAUSE says critics want an independent investigation.

“A lot of community members feel it is unfair for the police department to be investigating itself,” said Melendrez.

The video shows a suspect face down on the ground. Police then shoot a substance at him. An officer then climbs on his back and appears to punch him before a K-9 is released and bites the man’s leg.

“Even if the perpetrators of the violence have a badge, that shouldn’t protect them from justice,” said Santa Maria resident Cody King.

SMPD is investigating if the use of force was justified in this case. Experts we consulted pointed out that the video only shows a portion of the arrest. They noted the dash-cam video and witness accounts should be assessed before making a final determination.

“When anyone is harmed or hurt we all need to come together to heal,” said restorative practices facilitator Leonard David.

CAUSE says residents want the SMPD to get implicit bias training and start wearing body cameras.

“We are hoping we can both come together and come up with ways and systematic changes to make sure the trust is rebuilt and that this doesn’t happen again,” said Melendrez.

We reached out to the police department about the rally for comment but did not get a response.

KEYT 2019

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