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Experts and community organizers weigh in on potential long term impact of PD use of force incident

Many questions about a use of force arrest in Santa Maria are still up in the air.

What started as a traffic stop violation turned into a viral video capturing the moment a man was getting arrested by Santa Maria Police on Sunday.

“My first reaction was: it wasn’t a good look for the Santa Maria Police Department,” said local former FBI agent Dan Payne.

“The video seems to show excessive use of force,” said community organizer Abraham Melendrez from CAUSE.

But at the same time, some say it may be too early to draw conclusions.

“It’s difficult from a single angle to see everything that’s going on,” said Santa Maria City councilman Michael Cordero. “It’s literally impossible for anybody right now to draw any conclusive answer until [police] has a chance to do all the interviews, and really critique the video that they do have.”

“The smart thing is to wait until the investigation is complete,” said Payne.

Payne says use of force is justifiable in certain circumstances.

“When you go into any arrest situation you definitely want the upper hand, you wanna be able to control the situation,” he said.

While the retired agent thinks the K9’s involvement might’ve been unnecessary, he adds that the man appeared he wasn’t following officers’ commands.

“He wouldn’t expose his hands, he was laying on them, wouldn’t show his hands,” he said. “I don’t know how incapacitated he was from being under the influence.”

SMPD says the man at the center of the video faces charges for DUI and resisting arrest.

As with any case involving use of force, SMPD has launched an investigation on the matter. It could take weeks or even months.

Payne says in similar cases, the FBI has gotten involved.

“They look to see if the arrestee’s civil rights were violated,” he said.

Melendrez says CAUSE is waiting for the investigation’s results before drawing conclusions as well, but he wonders if the incident could’ve been prevented.

“We really do think that had they heeded the community’s concerns, maybe this could’ve been avoided. We’ve been talking to them about having more policing deescalation practices, biased training similar to what Santa Barbara PD has done,” he said.

The organizer says the incident could have long-term effects on PD’s relationship with the community.

“I think it’s unfortunate because I know our police department has been doing a lot of good work, and this could potentially throw that out the window.”

“Well it’s certainly putting a strain on [that relationship],” Payne added.

​​The ex FBI agent also says in his experience, punishment for unjustifiable use of force can include leave with or without pay, and in some cases, termination.

SMPD’s investigation will determine whether any policies were violated.

Organizers are planning to rally on Friday, October 25th to “ask for transparency and accountability.” An event description says they “will rally peacefully to demand a thorough and independent investigation.”

The demonstration is taking place at City Hall at 5 p.m.

KEYT 2019

Article Topic Follows: Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County

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