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“Tell us how to talk to our children so they won’t be wrongly accused,” said Mark Whitlock, pastor of Orange County’s Christ Our Redeemer AME Church to Orange County law enforcement.
Whitlock is also founder and chairman of the Oden Commission, named for Olympic medalist Beverly Oden who was wrongfully detained by Orange County police officers.
“Tell us how to deal with our children so they won’t be pulled over and sat on the side of a curb,” he said at a forum Saturday November 3 in Irvine, where the commission called Orange County to accountability for what they called continuous racial profiling of African Americans.
Their latest efforts stemmed from the tragic death of COR church member and forty one year old husband and father Kevin Powell who was shot and killed by officers from the Santa Ana Police department a little over a month ago.
“They shot in his car twenty times. He brandished no gun. He didn’t use his car as a weapon,” Whitlock said.
“They shot him and killed him in cold blood. And so we are raising the question of why are African Americans treated in such a manner.”
Saturday was the commission’s second meeting. The first was in May of this year, after the Oden incident.
“She was put in the back of a police car for two hours,” Whitlock explained.
“They thought she had robbed a bank and then they let her go without telling her why she was done that way. So we immediately called the sheriff’s department and had a huge forum to determine why are African Americans profiled. We had about five hundred people show up dealing with the same issues. For four hours they testified about poor police practices in Orange County.”
There are thirty one different cities in Orange County and most of them have their own police departments.
Saturday’s meeting was emotionally charged with Powell’s widow angrily addressing the officers and law enforcement officials there. In the wake of her husband’s murder, news reports had painted him as a drug addict and a parolee, which she vehemently denied.
“After she said that the public information officer who was responsible for putting that story out there tearfully apologized for ‘humiliating the family,’” said Whitlock.
Officers from Irvine and Huntington Beach came to Saturday’s meeting and Orange County’s top cop, Mike Carona who is currently facing federal charges for accepting bribes of cash and gifts and public corruption. Conspicuously absent were the Santa Ana police.
“We felt bad about that,” Whtilock said, “because they were the ones involved in the shooting.”
Orange County Sheriff’s Department has made some changes, according to the commission, which is now part of a task force to go in and retrain the new officers and old officers, sensitizing them to the challenges that African Americans face.
Officers are using testimonies of the Oden Commission in their training sessions.