ANAHEIM (CBSLA.com) — Residents in Anaheim will get their chance Thursday to weigh in on the recent officer-involved shootings that have sparked widespread protests.
KNX 1070′s Mike Landa reports the Anaheim City Council has agreed to hear comments from the public before a special closed-door meeting to discuss a lawsuit seeking to increase minority representation on the council.
A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit is challenging the citywide election of council members and calling for the establishment of districts that could increase Latino representation on the council.
Community activists are calling for fair political representation to empower Latino residents — who make up 53 percent of the population and 33 percent of the electorate — who argue that current districting allows elections to be dominated by mostly white Anaheim Hills voters.
Joanne Sosa of Take Back Anaheim said the solution is to elect city council members by district rather than at large.
“We need the dollars to be there, we need help, we need to make it safe for the kids to play, we need dialogue, communication, we need classes, we need that empowerment of the people,” said Sosa.
Mayor Tom Tait met with officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI last week after both federal agencies agreed to conduct an independent review of two fatal shootings that left two reputed gang members dead and the community outraged.
Manuel Diaz, 25, was shot and killed by police on July 21 after he and two companions fled as he was approached by officers about 4 p.m. in the 600 block of North Anna Drive. An officer eventually caught up to Diaz and he was shot, according to police.
Diaz is described by police as a documented gang member from Santa Ana, a characterization his family’s attorneys and loved ones deny.
“I want everybody to know that this was police brutality, and he didn’t deserve this, he didn’t deserve this at all,” said one friend.
Pastor Arturo Ferraras offered a different perspective.
“We’re not canonizing Manuel, we’re saying ‘no’ to police violence and gang violence in our community,” said Ferraras.
The following day, Anaheim police shot and killed 21-year-old Joel Mathew Acevedo at the end of a stolen car chase after police accused him of firing at officers before he was shot.
Acevedo was the fifth person to die in an officer-involved shooting in Anaheim this year.
A sixth person who was shot survived when an Anaheim officer opened fire at a burglary suspect early last Friday, but no one was injured.
Tait has personally met with families who live on Anna Drive and said residents have been left feeling vulnerable in the wake of the shootings.
“Maybe people felt that they’re kind of forgotten a little bit, I suppose, and maybe a loss of hope, and when that happens, it creates a ripe environment for gangs and crime,” said Tait.
Activists have also called for an agreement between the U.S. Justice Department and the Anaheim Police Department — known as a consent decree — to root out any patterns of abuse or corruption.
But former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton told KNX 1070′s Charles Feldman that while he understands the call for federal oversight of the Anaheim Police Department sounds reasonable, residents may be better served by help closer to home.
“It was both a help and a hindrance,” said Bratton, who served as police chief while the LAPD operated under a consent decree between 2000 and 2008. “It was a necessary catalyst to get the department and the city moving in a new direction.”
Experts say that while federal supervision seems unlikely in the near term, the state of California may be able to offer improved oversight of Anaheim police.
The city also wants the Office of Independent Review in Los Angeles County to evaluate the city’s policies regarding the use of force by police. The office was also hired by Fullerton officials following the in-custody death of schizophrenic transient Kelly Thomas last year.
Today’s meeting will start at 1:00 p.m. at the Anaheim City Hall Council Chambers at 200 S. Anaheim Boulevard.
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)