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Police Killing of Teenager Andy Lopez Ignites Latino Community and Youth

Protests continue to demand justice for Andy Lopez, the CA 13-year-old murdered by police office.

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Sheriff Steve Freitas and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors chair David Rabbitt have expressed "complete confidence in the investigation" by the police departments of Santa Rosa and Petaluma. But might that produce a "code blue" response of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours?"

Perhaps Gelhaus was following his office's procedures. If so, such Wild West "shoot first and ask questions later" protocols need to be changed, or yet more innocent people will be killed. Officials seem to be in "damage control" rather than communicating more openly with those they represent. Perhaps they are "closing ranks" to support the Sheriff's Office?

The public demands more than "patience." It continues to mount a non-violent campaign for justice. After the killing of African-American children in the South, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was not patient and did not back off. He came forward with more than patience -- with determination and peaceful direct action. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were also patient at appropriate times and militant at other times.

Some suggest that more law enforcement officers wear video cameras. "We ought to demand that the sheriff's office start using these," writes Sebastopol resident Jonathan Greenberg. "This is about accountability, transparency and bringing an out-of-control, militarized, over-armed police force into the expectation that the people who license and pay their salaries need and expect."

A New York Times article of August 21, 2013, reports that the use of these cameras in Rialto, California, reduced the "use of force by officers by almost 60 percent" over "the previous 12 months." During that time "the number of complaints against officers fell by 88 percent."

The public and authorities can restrict the police more in response to this and other violent actions. Otherwise, it is likely that as more veterans return from wars and go into law enforcement, American police will become more militarized with more deadly weapons and act more violently, as they bring overseas wars back home.

The Sheriff's Office has broken the trust of the community it is supposed to protect, especially its people of color. Many law-abiding residents are saying that they fear law enforcement officers more than criminals.

"What about the corporations that make and profit from deadly toys and a society that accepts this?" asked Berkeley public school teacher Larry Stefl. "What do such modern toys say about our culture? Who benefits? What are we teaching our youth?"

Shepherd Bliss teaches college, farms and is a member of the Veterans Writing Group. He can be reached at

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