Calistoga is a small, ethnically diverse community that has been spared the violent protests associated with the murder of George Floyd by a police officer. Still, residents were motivated to stage peaceful protests on Friday and Saturday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation and the globe.
About three dozen demonstrators turned out over the weekend, starting at Pioneer Park, where they chanted and carried signs to the Lincoln Avenue Bridge. Many of those driving by honked and shouted their support.
Mayor Chris Canning, speaking to the crowd at the park, praised the protesters, saying, “It’s good to get out of our little bubble.”
He also said he has been receiving texts and phone calls regarding the nation-wide call to defund police departments. Such a measure is not needed in Calistoga, however, where there has been no escalated procurement of military-type equipment within the department.
Canning also spoke in support of Police Chief Mitch Celaya, who came to Calistoga after a 30-year career as police captain at UC Berkeley.
“You could not find a more progressive police chief,” he said.
As an example, Calistoga was the first police department in the county to adopt body cameras for its officers. Since video of police encounters has become available, arguments of police brutality have steeply declined in the city, Canning said.
Celaya also spoke briefly to the protesters, saying the department is very community-centered.
“I’m blessed to work in this supportive community. Not all communities are like that,” he said. There is room for improvement across the nation, “But we’ll get there.”
Celaya also said the issue of police brutality hits close to home. He has two African American sons whom he worries about when they go out in the world, he said. “This is something that needs to be brought out there and paid attention to.”
Canning also noted that his brother is a police officer on the East Coast.
The mayor also spoke to the national push to implement ‘8 Can’t wait’, or eight use-of-force policies to reduce violence. He outlined many that have already been in place within the department including a de-escalation process, a ban on chokeholds, a duty to intervene, extensive reporting requirements, and “the last resort is hostility,” he said.
Asked if the city has a civilian review board, Canning said one hasn’t been needed, with next to no incidents where the city has had to intervene with officer conduct.
Canning also noted with the population almost 50/50 Hispanic and Caucasian, “We are by far the most diverse population in Napa County. We live in a special place and are not impacted (by recent violence.) We work collectively to take care of one another,” he said.
You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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