Community speaks out at hearing on violence

Residents of the Western Addition and other neighborhoods plagued by gun violence shouted down police Chief Heather Fong on Wednesday night and demanded the implementation of a community-oriented policing plan.

A joint meeting of the Police Commission and a Board of Supervisors’ committee on ending gun and gang violence erupted during Fong’s address to the panel, just minutes after the meeting’s start.

The meeting, meant to address concerns about violence in the neighborhood just west of City Hall, was held in the gym of the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center. Just more than a month ago, center employee Dante White was shot dead in that same gym in an apparent gang-related execution. Police have not found his killer.

“This community has been severely wounded, and I don’t think it’s respectful to come and not hear the patient first,” said the Rev. Amos Brown, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

As Daniel Langry, chairman of the Western Addition branch of the African American Community Police Relations Board, stood up during Fong’s address and threatened to use a bullhorn if public comment wasn’t opened, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said, “OK, the people have spoken. We’ll do public comment first.”

This was the second meeting at the Ella Hill Hutch Center meant to address the violence plaguing the neighborhood. The first, scheduled for Dec. 6, 2005, was canceled abruptly when an agreement could not be reached on how to implement the police relations board’s community policing plan, which involves more police interaction with the community and the creation of a community policing director within the Police Department.

That plan took center stage Wednesday. For almost three hours, residents of the Western Addition and other activists and concerned citizens called for its implementation and spoke of the need to revamp the way atrisk communities in The City are policed.

“We need to reintroduce police into the community,” Ella Hill Hutch Center director George Smith said.

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