SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson says he finds, "very powerful indicators of systemic racism" from the conclusions of a report released by his office Friday.
Sparked by protests following the police killing of George Floyd, the Sheriff's Department put together a Unity Commitee in September of 2020. The diverse group of people from the community and the Sheriff's Office met to discuss experiences of racism in San Luis Obispo county, and find strategies to improve the community.
"The goal was to really bring together both statistics and experiences that would be useful for the community with what life is like for people of color on the Central Coast," said Dr. Ryan Alaniz, a Cal Poly Sociology Professor and lead author of the report.
Alaniz said he hopes people who read the report will realize how anyone can form an unconscious negative bias and stereotypes about people of color. Then they can make the effort to make a change.
"We all have biases, including myself," said committee member and SLO County Sheriff's Commander, Keith Scott. "To approach life and others knowing that you have biases and process it prior to making a move or stating something, or thinking that somethings occurring that isn't."
The report highlights individual experiences of people of color living in San Luis Obispo County.
"People do have these very intense experiences just walking around downtown just based on their race and ethnicity," Alaniz said.
The report also provides statistics that show an over representation of white people in leadership positions relative to their percentage of the overall population.
"The positions of power are dominated by one racial group, and that's not on accident," Alaniz said.
The committee's work is not finished with the release of the report. They say they'll work to: increase public exposure of people of color in positions of leadership, investigate and address hate crimes, and develop strategies to address the distrust of citizens and law enforcement in SLO county.
"It's going to take time," Scott said. "But we're going to start it now."
In releasing the report, Sheriff Parkinson wrote, "I invite everyone to join us in improving and correcting our shortcomings to enhance inclusiveness of all."
Unity Committee members include members of the NAACP, Gala Pride and Diversity Center, Congregation Beth David, Cal Poly, faith groups, Sheriff’s Office personnel, and San Luis Obispo county community members.