Sunday marked the beginning of “National Police Week” in San Leandro. Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter issued the proclamation to the city’s chief of police last week. But with the controversy over the killing by police of 33-year-old Steven Taylor still swirling, the tribute was met with resistance. In particular, from a large number of students who belong to San Leandro High School’s Social Justice Academy.
“After the murder of Steven Taylor, it pains to know that I can be gunned down right here in the community that I supposedly felt safe at,” said Josiah Harris, a senior attending San Leandro High School. Harris said his cousin was killed by Oakland police officer in 2015. “As we look for justice, and my family hurts to this day. It doesn’t help that it’s being relived now for the Taylor family.”
The city’s proclamation for police officers is typically a perfunctory honor made by the San Leandro City Council. Many other local municipalities in the East Bay do the same every May. Cutter acknowledged the fatal April 18 shooting of Taylor at a local Walmart by San Leandro police prior to offering the proclamation.
Cutter reiterated the city and Alameda County District Attorney’s office continues to investigate the incident. But added, “I don’t want to take that away from the service that the police department gives us day-in and day-out,” Cutter said. “We have a great police force. I believe they do really great work and they try really hard with their community involvement.”
After several San Leandro High School student urged for the officers involved to be held accountable, a teacher at the San Leandro Social Justice Academy, Erica Viray Santos, said, “Officer-involved murder of black people is not a new story. It is one that we have all been de-sensitized to. You all have the power, the opportunity to make San Leandro the difference, the exception to all the other cities across the country where this has happened. You could be the one that did not allow the officers to get away with murder.
“You could take San Leandro out of the shadows of its racist history and give justice and peace to Steven Taylor and his family,” said Santos, who is also a San Leandro High history teacher.
The state’s new law, which gives guidelines for police officers to use deadly-force only when “necessary” to protect the life of others, was violated in the case of Taylor, Santos said. “There’s no question both police officers should be indicted.”