Link to Special City Council Meeting Agenda for Tuesday January 26, 2021
I am speaking on behalf of Friends of Scott, Alexis, and Taun Hall (FOSATH), a group of citizens who came together to ask the city to make changes after Miles Hall was killed by Walnut Creek police while in the midst of a mental health crisis.
In October of 2019, FOSATH conducted a large community forum, to share our grief over Miles’s death and to hear what our community wanted to do to address this tragedy.
During this session we heard about unequal treatment based on race in our community, and the profound ways in which Miles’s death impacted so many of our neighbors.
While the idea of community listening sessions to address the harm and subsequent damage to trust resulting from Miles's killing had been presented to the City by FOSATH before that October, the interest in pursuing these sessions in collaboration with the City was only strengthened by what we heard and experienced during our community forum.
We continued to push City leadership to create Listening Sessions, feeling that a city-wide effort would be beneficial for City leaders to listen to citizens and neighbors talk freely, outside of the strict limits of public comment periods, about their experiences with racism and law enforcement responses to mental health crises in Walnut Creek. To deeply listen and not defend, and from that listening, make substantive changes that start to make Walnut Creek a safer place and create a culture of belonging, accountability, equity, and healing.
FOSATH is proud to have initiated this effort and to have worked in often difficult collaboration with the City laying groundwork for rebuilding trust in our community, particularly for those most affected by mental illness and racism.
We are grateful that the City dedicated time and resources to conduct these Listening Sessions. The Jason Seals & Associates report is for the most part comprehensive and contains recommendations which could be profoundly helpful if made actionable. We are pleased that the Listening Sessions lifted up voices that are not often heard. We particularly note that the Listening Sessions reinforced the need for 24/7 mental health crisis support. We appreciate the City Council’s leadership in continuing to advocate for the crucial services that will help ensure that what happened to Miles never happens to another person in Walnut Creek.
In addition to the call for more robust mental health crisis support, we wish to highlight the following key themes and insights from the consultants’ report:
The need for an increased willingness by City leadership to address the needs of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other people of color.
A more explicit recognition of systemic issues that lead to racial bias and a lack of real racial equity and justice.
We also wish to draw attention to the following analysis and recommendations from the consultants’ report:
Following recent events, there is a growing distrust among some community members, City leadership, and law enforcement. Viewing these community members as a ‘vocal minority’ and discounting their voices perpetuates the marginalization of these community members and also neglects the impact this distrust has had on the collective tone of Walnut Creek.
Keys to rebuilding trust are transparency, ownership, and community building.
It is critical that City and WCPD leadership take a position that acknowledges the existence of systemic racism in our city and society and how it appears in the form of implicit/explicit bias, the disproportionate treatment of minoritized racial/ethnic groups, and the social inequities correlated with rates of crime, arrests, and imprisonment.
We anticipate the City will commit to taking deliberate action on the recommendations of the Jason Seals and Associates Report. We hope that your process of creating and prioritizing those actions will follow the report’s strong recommendation to include voices from across our community to co-create and implement real change. According to the report, it is critical to success to include the incoming Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, the Chief Community Advisory Board, FOSATH, members of WCPD, and others.
FOSATH and the City agree that Miles’s death was a tragedy. But we still disagree on responsibility and accountability for his tragic killing. We feel that we have divergent narratives regarding Miles’s death, specifically around police accountability, the timing of officers being returned to active duty, and the need to improve police use-of-force policies and training.
The Listening Sessions, and subsequent actions taken by City leadership as a result of this report, could provide a chance to recalibrate our relationship and for the City to rebuild trust with the community. We are encouraged to see the potential for movement.
We welcome you to join in a meaningful partnership with the Miles Hall Foundation to create positive initiatives that the City can support, champion, and help lead as you do with other non-profit organizations working for the good of the community.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Hall family for their loving persistence in protecting families from the painful loss of future Miles Halls. Thank you Taun, Scott and Alexis Hall for turning pain into purpose.
In closing, we pause to honor the life of Miles Hall by saying his name. MILES HALL!