The fuzz is getting a bad rap lately. Witness YouTube, where thousands tuned in to watch a rogue New York City cop shove a cyclist or the tasing of a young Florida man at a 2007 John Kerry speech. Police and law enforcement officer brutality has come to the forefront of national attention lately, prompting activist groups to form around the country, and the North Bay is no exception.
The Police Accountability Crisis Hotline (PACH) is a recent volunteer effort to make police forces accountable to the community after a spate of killings of unarmed citizens in Sonoma County last year. Volunteers for PACH take turns monitoring calls day by day, interviewing callers and recording the complaints, says member Marty McReynolds, which are then filed in order to establish patterns involving specific agencies or officers.
McReynolds says the fledgling hotline does not work directly with police stations—at least not yet—and though PACH does not function as a legal referral service, it tries its best to put callers in touch with a lawyer if needed.
"We're still in the process of learning how to take in reports and deal with callers involved in stressful situations," McReynolds says. "The main thing PACH can do is act as the public's ear—listen to complaints and record them so they don't get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle.
"Plus, it often helps someone to be able to talk with a sympathetic listener after a traumatic experience with law enforcement," he continues.
Protest groups like the Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, based in both San Francisco and Sonoma County, are plentiful in the North Bay and supported by handfuls of unnerved citizens. The Coalition's March and Rally to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation on Oct. 22 of last year drew crowds dressed in black all over the streets of Santa Rosa. The crisis hotline prefers a quieter approach, providing a support system for those affected by law enforcement abuse instead of picketing police stations.
Currently, PACH is seeking nonprofit status and hopes to be able to solicit tax-free donations once the process is complete, says McReynolds, but it also has a long road ahead to consider.
"My personal opinion is that it's too early to consider PACH a success," McReynolds says. "We have a lot of work to do, but we have people who are excited about what we're doing and willing to donate their time and money to make it work."
For more information on PACH, or to report an incident, call the hotline at 707.542.7224.