The Town is hosting several community forums on the topic of Becoming a More Inclusive Community. On September 29th, the first forum on policing had over 80 participants with robust and constructive commentary and conversation. Heidi is an "anti-racist" who attended two of the Black Lives Matter protests. She is also in full support of Chief Decena's leadership of the Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department (LGMSPD). She has attended several Zoom calls hosted by many different organizations to identify the specific meaning of "reform the police". Heidi has also participated in LGMSPD ride-alongs as part of Leadership Los Gatos, learning about police operations in Town. She brings a balanced perspective on the issue of policing in Los Gatos and has several specific ideas for implementation. These ideas have support from the leadership of both the Los Gatos Anti-Racism Coalition and the Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Foundation. (The Foundation is a 501.c.3 non-profit and as such does not engage in political activity. However, these concepts were socialized with leaders of the Foundation and they liked the concepts on an individual, personal basis.)
1. Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department is an exceptionally well run organization with very few public complaints. During the Community Forum, Chief Decena reviewed the history of complaints and their resolutions. It was impressive to see how few complaints had been lodged. However, one improvement to the process would be to have an external review capability. Currently, the police investigate all complaints themselves, but this is a challenging arrangement due to the obvious conflict of interest. Heidi Owens backs Chief Decena who was in support of the development of an external investigative capability.
2. The police department undergoes several types of training on de-escalation techniques, diversity, and other topics. Heidi Owens supports the expansion of this type of training for the current force to expand sensitivity.
3. Many people are unaware of the role the Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Foundation plays in raising funds for important programs at the police department. The Foundation pays for the Canine Program. They also fund training for civilians volunteers to respond to non-emergency calls. The Foundation pays for much of the sensitivity training that is already in place. The Foundation, as a non-profit organization, is not allowed to engage in political activity. However, Heidi Owens is in full support of the work of the Foundation and if elected, will support the Foundation in its work to fund special programs at the department.
4. Many activists would like to see the pairing of a social worker and a police officer in response to a mental health call. The idea is that a uniformed, armed officer might agitate a person experiencing a mental health emergency, while a social worker may elicit a calmer response. One challenge is that social services are typically funded and provided through Counties, while law enforcement is usually funded and provided through Cities. Collaboration between County and Town is already happening more than many people realize and Heidi Owens supports the efforts to bring the right resources to every call. It should be noted that Chief Decena said the department has an open position for a social worker. They have had difficulty identifying someone willing to take shift work and/or a 24 hour on-call work schedule. The Council has no influence on staffing issues, with the exception of the appointment of the Town Manager and Town Attorney. However, because the position has been difficult to fill, Heidi Owens will help with the recruiting effort through her network of friends and family throughout the region if she is elected.
5. The police department is highly diverse and represents the diversity of the surrounding community, with the exception of the percentage of women on the force. This is due to the fact that a smaller percentage of women pursue careers in law enforcement. Heidi will personally participate in recruiting efforts to hire more women into the police force for uniformed duty, assisting Chief Decena in his efforts to create more gender diversity in the organization.
6. The Town contracts with LGMSPD to provide policing services through a document called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Heidi has reviewed the MOU and has no concerns about the language in the agreement. The MOU states that police personnel policies will be updated and are included within the MOU. Most of the police personnel polices are publicly available with the exception of nineteen policies that are redacted to protect police privacy and obscure investigative procedures. It is important that these policies, including the Officer-Involved Shooting Policy, are reviewed by the Town Council. If elected, Heidi Owens will request access to these policies and during the next contract negotiation period will ensure the policies are consistent with the community's expectations of how LGMSPD personnel should handle law enforcement within the Town.