At the City Council meeting on Tuesday during the public safety report, a Council member brought up an incident in La Cañada Flintridge that was revealed in a recent Los Angeles Times guest column involving residents of the community.
This is the second time the column was mentioned at City Council. The first was last week at the special City Council meeting during a public comment from Kyle Sears, the pastor at the La Cañada Congregational Church, who offered his perspective on the issues raised in the newspaper.
The L.A. Times piece, published on Aug. 20, was written by LCF resident Brian Williams involving an incident between his son, a young Black man, and an older white man. Williams’ column laid out the incident that took place on July 28, when he said a white man in a truck stopped to question his son while parked outside the family home. A separate opinion piece, published on Sept. 1 in the San Francisco Chronicle, described the state requirement to build housing and the city’s alleged failure to do so. The two articles have since circulated the community amid varied responses.
On Tuesday, Councilman Kim Bowman directed his comments to Capt. Robert Hahnlein from the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, which reportedly was contacted about the incident published by the L.A. Times.
“So let me preface this by saying that I am not going to be asking questions specific to that case [or] those individuals,” said Bowman. “I think at this stage it is inappropriate to talk about the individuals named, or for that family, especially, if there’s potential for further investigation.”
Bowman also said he wanted to differentiate between what is deemed as suspicious and what is considered a crime. He asked Hahnlein to specify what residents should do if they think they see something suspicious happening.
Hahnlein said that the first step for residents is to call 911 and proceed by taking a mental picture of what a person is witnessing if it is safe to do so.
“If you can make a mental picture or get a license plate number, a look at the vehicle, tell us what kind it is, because the city has exorbitant amount of Flock cameras around it,” he said. “So, once you give us the vehicle description, we can check the camera’s history and look for that vehicle, and it’ll give us a license number if they have a current license plate.”
Bowman asked if a resident should confront a person if they think they are doing something suspicious.
“No,” Hahnlein answered, emphasizing that people should call 911 first and take the mental picture of the situation. Even if it might turn out to be nothing, he said, it is better for the Sheriff’s Station to respond rather than a resident.
Those guidelines apply to all residents, even those part of a neighborhood watch group, Hahnlein said.
Bowman further questioned if people should confront, detain or question anyone they find suspicious, and Hahnlein reiterated no one should ever do this.
“And now this last one, and I think this is absolutely a public safety question that I can’t believe I’m asking, but I’m going to ask,” said Bowman. “Someone being suspicious is not on the basis purely of their race, is it?”
Hahnlein answered “No.”
“If I see someone who is a person of color, that does not make them suspicious?” Bowman asked.
Hahnlein said no.
“It’s illegal, it’s improper, it’s completely immoral,” said Bowman. “So again, from your law enforcement, from your officials, from a commonsense perspective, suspicious activity in the sense of criminal conduct is something that should be reported, then documented if safe, but not confronted, questioned or detained.”
At the end of the meeting, Bowman concluded his thoughts on the L.A. Times piece.
“We all desire an inclusive community that has diversity, in every respect of that word … racial, socioeconomical and so many [other] things,” said Bowman.
“We want that for the people who live here, who visit here, who work here, we want that for the people who know us up close, but for those that learn of us from afar too,” he added. “Like many communities in this area, our town, the one that eventually became La Cañada Flintridge, the town has a history of intentional redlining and racial policies. And this is like having a splinter, like having a piece of wood stuck in your finger. Time does not heal that. It just covers up over it and it continues to hurt and fester.”
In mentioning the town’s history of redlining and racial policies, Bowman said the issues should be discussed.
“Our community, and in fact, our whole nation, were founded on documents that were imperfectly written, and their visions have been imperfectly realized,” he continued.
“In order to form more perfect communities, a more perfect union, we have to acknowledge the contradictions and omissions from our own history,” said Bowman. “We have to be honest about those things because we have to be honest about how much more work there is to do, too. We have to do that work together. We have to continue that work today.”
He said that individually, residents can start to make a change in the community by removing racial covenants on the deeds of their homes.
For more information on how to do that, he encouraged residents to visit the website lavote.gov/home/recorder.
PASTOR SEARS SPEAKS AT SEPT. 12 MEETING
Sears spoke at the special City Council meeting on Sept. 12 about concerns he has for the community and rescinded his application to join the Planning Commission.
“I appear before you tonight with concerns that have been building slowly over the past year in regard to the city’s philosophy that governs the way it operates,” said Sears. “For lack of a better term, I call this perspective the doctrine of exclusion. While not an official city policy, there nevertheless seems to be an ongoing commitment to maintain a La Cañada that ‘was’ in spite of state mandates and a housing crisis that extends across our region.”
He decided to make the comments before City Council, he told the Outlook Valley Sun, after the two opinion pieces were published in the L.A. Times and the San Francisco Chronicle that mention the city by name.
“Now we find ourselves mentioned in prominent newspapers in the state,” said Sears. “Embarrassing images of landmark churches now follow headlines about race-based rejection of new neighbors. Closer to home, we read of harassment of Black citizens and a sheriff’s response that could be called complacent as best. I understand that commenting on existing legal matters is all but impossible with our current organization. But while you lament, we citizens must carry the shame that belongs on our leaders’ shoulders.”
Sears talked about his ideas for making a change in the city that promoted inclusivity so that all people to feel welcomed, adding that such a campaign was not supported.
“We have the means to create an inclusive community,” said Sears. “ … We can create inclusive spaces for LGBTQ people who have found our city’s reputation to be closed-minded, and indeed [we] even have current City Council members who threatened me with ramifications when I worked to create those inclusive environments.”
Sears ended his comments by retracting his application to the city’s Planning Commission, a position that he thought would be a way to get good work done.
“However, with the recent high-profile exposures of our unwritten, yet unyielding doctrine of exclusion, I find that I can no longer attach my name to the silent and shameful complacency that claims to represent me,” said Sears. “And so I would like to formally rescind my application to the planning commission. I choose instead to continue to work among the margins with those who are committed to transforming our community into a place where all can be welcomed.”
The pastor has strongly advocated for a more inclusive community since he arrived through the church in 2016. His efforts included welcoming members of the LGBTQ+ community to LCCC, having “open and honest” conversations through his monthly Dinner and Discussions and holding various events with speakers to talk about race and diversity.
LCCC’S DINNER AND DISCUSSIONS
In light of the two recent published opinion pieces, Sears said he has found the need to hold a forum for discussion where community members can express their thoughts on the matter.
The two articles were laid out on tables for residents to read.
Sears said he thought it was important for residents to visualize the change they would like to see in the community.
Local residents shared their experiences related to race-based incidents and the actions of their neighbors, thinking of ways that the community could change for the better.
About 25 people took part in the conversation, and the majority said they were not shocked to read about the incident detailed in the L.A. Times piece.
“I was really disappointed after reading both articles — it’s not the kind of town we chose to live in when we moved here,” Jennifer Kindhouse, a six-year resident, told the Outlook Valley Sun. “I wasn’t surprised, however, when we first moved here, I think I was a little naive and had blinders on as to how perfect our town was. La Cañada has been a beautiful place to live for me, but over the years I’ve realized that is not the case for everyone.”
Kindhouse has attended several Dinner and Discussions to meet other residents who aren’t afraid to have hard conversations.
“Not talking about ‘touchy subjects’ or not wanting to ‘rock the boat’ is what allows a lot of racism, hatred and exclusionary practices to thrive,” she added.
Meanwhile, Anne Tryba said she had not heard about the two articles and was shocked to read the L.A. Times editorial, specifically.
“It was disturbing to me that many of the people at the dinner said, ‘Oh, it didn’t surprise me at all,’ because it did surprise me,” Tryba, a 30-year resident, told the Outlook Valley Sun.
SHERIFF’S, WITNESS STATEMENTS
The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station sent a statement to the Outlook Valley Sun on Sept. 7, detailing their efforts involving the incident laid out in the L.A. Times piece.
“On August 21, 2023, the Sheriff’s Department became aware of an opinion piece written by Mr. Brian Williams published in the Los Angeles Times on August 20. The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station reached out to Mr. Williams to obtain further information related to his statements; however, the attempts to contact him went unanswered. Despite not hearing from Mr. Williams, the Sheriff’s Department initiated a review of the incident and the allegations of Mr. Williams based on the article.
“The interaction with Mr. Williams was captured on the responding deputies’ body worn cameras. A review of the incident and body worn camera footage revealed at no time did the deputies who responded decline to take a report nor was the availability of security camera footage, as referenced in the Los Angeles Times article, ever mentioned by Mr. Williams or any other individual during their interaction.
“The Sheriff’s Department documented the incident as a call for service on July 28, 2023. The Sheriff’s Department and Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station take each call for service seriously as well as the safety and security of all the community members it serves.”
Williams and his family also sent a statement to the Outlook Valley Sun on Sept. 19 regarding the situation.
“The deputies did, in fact, decline to make a report and used words to the effect that ‘no crime was committed,” the statement said. “What we did request was that the deputies investigate the incident. An earnest investigation would have led them, as it did us, to review our security video. Notably absent from the Sheriff’s statement is our suggestion — also captured on their bodycams but conveniently left out of their statement to the Outlook — that the deputies should review the city’s Flock Safety camera footage, which might have revealed just how long the truck driver had been stalking our son.”
In regard to the CV Sheriff’s Station’s statement, the family responded:
“First, we encourage the Sheriff’s Department to release a full transcript and bodycam footage of their deputies’ response, rather than cherry-picking words or parsing what was or wasn’t said,” the family said. “Their response seems focused on defending themselves instead of answering ‘who, why, and with whose support,’ Black people are being harassed.
“Second, our goal was never to criticize the Department, but to get them to investigate the stalking and intimidation of our son,” the Williams said. “As they acknowledge, we did not file a complaint against the Department and are not interested in pursuing such a complaint.”
The family mentioned a previous incident they experienced with the CV Sheriff’s Station regarding a cyberbullying investigation, during which they said crucial information was withheld from them.
“Finally, our recent experience with the Sheriff’s investigation of race-based cyberbullying and doxing that targeted us — a ball that was dropped inches before the goal line — was so distressing that we consider it pointless to complain or ask the Department to investigate itself. In that instance, subpoenas were issued to unmask the culprit, and the perpetrator identified, only for the Department to reassign the investigation to a detective who reprimanded us for ‘going after a good person with no criminal record.’”
First published in the September 21 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.