Guest commentary: The Fabricated Crisis — The Oxnard Civil ‘Gang’ Injunction; Oxnard’s equivalency to Trump’s wall

February 21, 2019
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Courtesy photo.

By Armando Vazquez / Guest contributor

On February 19, 2019 in the Superior Court of Ventura County the Oxnard Police Department (OPD) and the Ventura County District Attorney (DA) requested, before Judge Kent Kellegrew, the approval of significant and compelling amendment changes to the original Oxnard’s Civil “Gang” Injunctions (OCGI). The OPD and the DA had previously filed a motion at the end of 2018 to amend the OCGI. The local law enforcement decision to file for the amendments was due to a recent adverse state-wide court ruling against law enforcement and the continued pressure exerted by community based activist groups like Chiques Organizing for Rights and Equality (CORE) in challenging the constitutionality of the OCGI.

At the heart of the ongoing state and Oxnard injunction battle between law enforcement and the local activist communities is the due process rights of the individuals enjoined. Specifically the way that individuals were initially (beginning in 2006)  enjoined to the gang injunctions was unconstitutional because these individuals were not given a chance to contest (in a local court) their alleged gang membership before they were formally rolled up into the ranks of the enjoined and deprived of critical constitutionally protected rights and liberties.

Never forget that the OPD has enjoined over 1000 individuals since 2006. What is really being revealed, highlighted, and argued now in the Ventura County Superior Court is whether the originally enjoined were deprived of their constitutional due process rights due to the unlawful initial OPD and DA method of service. In a shameless effort to bury their past illegal and unconstitutional questionable actions the OPD and the DA are now before the court admitting that they “may” have illegally served and enjoined thousands of individuals from Oxnard over the past 15 years; ‘but it’s OK judge, we are now mending our unconstitutional ways, and getting it right after 15 years’. This is a systemic, racist and illegal outrage and lawsuits should follow to assure that this grossly sloppy, ill-conceived, and unconstitutional police action never occurs in Oxnard again.

At the February 19, 2019 court hearing Judge Killegrew authorized the Oxnard police to contact six suspected members from Colonia and Southside about amendment changes to the original OCGI. The judge ruled that the “new and improved service” proposed method designed by the DA and the OPD to spread the word among the gangs about the proposed amendments to the original OCGI was legal. Additionally the judge indicated that the proposed method of “service” provided the suspected individuals with written intent of  action by local law enforcement and gave the suspected individuals the chance to challenge and participate in the court proceeding. We will monitor how this “new and improved service” by the OPD plays out and how the suspected individuals are actually contacted to assure that their due process rights are not trampled on again.

The Civil “Gang’ Injunctions of Oxnard were secretly and horrifically crafted by a fast and loose out of control law enforcement juggernaut  in the early 2000’s that wanted to capitalize and exploit  the fears and ignorance of the community. 15 years later the unconstitutional sins and legal transgression of the OCGI are being revealed. Thousands of “suspects” were targeted, served and enjoined by a law enforcement “tool” that violated the constitutionally protected due process rights of every single one of the thousands of Latino individuals that were rolled up by the OCGI.  The cops and the DA are now saying in effect, ‘My bad’ and want to move on with their “new and improved” method of legal service and advice.

The Latino, for that matter the entire Oxnard community, must never forget, there has to be public accountability and reparation to those adversely affected by the OCGI. The Oxnard Civil “Gang” Injunction has done deep and irreversible harm to the community for a variety of reasons. The OCGI and the law enforcement accomplices have created this local horrific myth that without the injunction, “gang” lawlessness will once again terrorize the community. Creditable studies have proven over the decades that Oxnard continues to be one of the safest cities (for its size) in the nation.

At the very critical period of 2003-2006, the OPD and the DA were shamelessly reporting that there were over 3000 active gang members in Oxnard. We know now that this OPD assertion was false and misleading. Nonetheless this was the damaging and irresponsible narrative that the OPD used to “sell” the PCGI to the residents of Oxnard.

When the OPD suspended the enforcement of the injunctions in mid-2108 there were approximately 625 enjoined “gang” members. All 625 enjoined today were suddenly “freed” from OCGI prohibitions and conditions by the OPD and the DA. Why? Because the cops and the DA now publicly admit they have trampled on the due process right of all 625 formerly enjoined individuals. Now, with revised injunctions and short term, the cops want to go after 28 “active and dangerous gang” members, they will start with 12 individuals and rollout their “new and improved” constitutional service protocol. The math stinks to high heaven. The fact is there was no, and never has been, an out of control “gang’ problem that could not be addressed by conventional OPD policing.

The OPD and the DA made a pact with the devil way back in 2003. The cops would get another “new, hard-hitting and innovative” policing “toy/tool”, impressive funding law enforcement streams, recognition as a local innovative tough on gang law enforcement partnership for the country to emulate, universal local unquestioned support, and little to no accountability.  Who could resist such a deal? The devil is not a good bed partner and now the horrific sins of this partnership are being revealed. Thousands of lives horrifically disrupted by the OCGI, millions of taxpayer dollars squandered, little to no impact on the quality of safety in community.

Perception seems to be everything, the OPD has sold the community a highly questionable community safety bill of goods, and the community has bought it. This is Oxnard equivalency to Trump’s wall; a false, divisive, costly and harmful reality. Oxnard we can do much better, let us invest in social justice, education, employment, the arts and a social net that catches and help the at-risk, the needy and the disenfranchised of our community.

— Armando Vazquez, M.Ed., founding member of CORE and the Acuna Art Gallery and Community Collective.

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