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BenitoLink Connects: Perspectives on local policing

Hollister resident Luis Burguillo and Police Chief David Westrick share their thoughts about police practices
Hollister resident Luis Burguillo.
Hollister Police Chief David Westrick.

In the premiere edition of the BenitoLink Connects video interview, Hollister resident Luis Burguillo and Hollister Police Chief David Westrick speak openly about their backgrounds and how they each developed an interest in the role of law enforcement in their community. Through the lens of their life experiences, they shed light on situations they’ve encountered and bring valuable perspectives to the community of Hollister.

Aware that his questions might be taboo or controversial in a small community, Burguillo acknowledges that not everyone shares his same experiences with law enforcement. As police chief, Westrick offers insight about Hollister Police Department (HPD) policies, and also shares concerns about opinion articles that call into question its motives.

Over the last year and a half, Burguillo has posted to BenitoLink’s “Opinion” section to question and — at times — critique, some Hollister Police Department policies. In response to an article titled, “The significance of the figure 2,223 and its relationship with Measure W and the city council,” Westrick posted on his personal Facebook page and critiqued Burguillo's assertions. In an effort to shift the conversation from social media to BenitoLink and encourage a constructive discussion, we created a platform, BenitoLink Connects, where both men can provide information and foster an open dialogue.

It’s important to note, Burguillo’s commentaries reflect his own opinions and have not been assigned or paid for by BenitoLink. Any resident of San Benito County or local public official is encouraged to submit articles. BenitoLink publishes opinion articles as long as they adhere to the site’s Terms of Service.

The following is a brief recap of our first interview series "BenitoLink Connects Burguillo and Westrick":

Burguillo, a former congressional staffer and White House political appointee and former director of government affairs in the cities of Chicago and Washington, D.C., shares his perspective about law enforcement. He grew up in Spanish Harlem in New York City, holds a law degree from Howard University and has worked on Capitol Hill. Between the early stages of his life and today, he explains in the interview, he has emphasized the value of civil rights in making sure laws are applied equally to everybody, regardless of race, national origin, or skin color.

Burguillo explains what compels him to write about such topics. In the interview, the seven-year resident of Hollister says that during his career, he has witnessed police departments around the country become militarized after 9/11 and has seen citizens in some communities characterized as enemies. He explains the purpose of his posting opinions on BenitoLink is to improve the quality of life in Hollister and to prevent the community from becoming a police state because of, he explains, “the politics of fear and loathing."

Westrick, a former police officer in Los Banos and Redwood City, describes his life experience as a devotion to public service. Since the early stages of his life, he has been involved in community service. In the interview, he reflects that as a resident of Hollister for the past 13 years, his dedication in giving back to his community can be seen through his involvement in Boy Scouts of America, Rotary Club of Hollister, United Way of San Benito County, Hollister Gives Back, and many other nonprofit organizations. He explains that his life experience has allowed him to understand that he moved to a place where community service is important.

Westrick shares his concerns about Burguillo's HPD criticisms by saying it is incumbent on him to make sure that if there are people presenting information related to his agency, that the information is correct. In particular, regarding Burguillo's claims that moving violations are a revenue-generator for police, Westrick states, “Citations are an important part of what we do in our mission because what we are trying to do at the end of the day is change driving behavior and our officers understand that.”

Regarding revenue from tickets, Westrick states, “You know we are talking less than 1 percent most of the time. Most of the time it’s less than 1 percent of 1 percent that returns back and that revenue does not go to the police department.” He elaborates that the revenue from moving violations goes to the General Fund of the city of Hollister, and clarified that none of these funds go directly to the Hollister Police Department.

Burguillo, in the interview, agrees that the HPD doesn’t get the money from moving violations directly “because they have to go through the city council and request for a budget.”

Burguillo's articles intend to raise questions about the dramatic increase in moving violations locally over the years. In addition, he questions the need for expenditures on gadgets, cars, dog kennels, and other equipment for the police department. Burguillo has asked about the demographics of those who are being stopped and why they are being pulled over. His opinion pieces have also asked about the demographics of the police officers in the HPD and questioned how much money is being generated for the General Fund from tickets issued by police officers.

There has not been an official response to Burguillo’s claims or questions, but both Burguillo and Westrick have agreed to meet and discuss these issues together in a second sit-down interview with BenitoLink in the near future.

Editors’ Note: BenitoLink reminds the community that everyone is invited to voice their opinions and express their thoughts either through opinion pieces such as Burguillo submits or in comments on stories published on our site. Whether you’re a government official or a citizen, your opinion matters. With this in mind, BenitoLink extends an invitation for anyone to write, comment, and share your opinion.

 

 

 

About:
Raul Ceja (Raul-Ceja)

A storyteller and San Benito County native with expertise in online communications and branding, Raul excels in community engagement. With a BS from UC Riverside in Business Admin & Marketing, he studied Global Emerging Markets at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

Comments

Submitted by Robert Gilchrist Huenemann (bobgh) on

Thank you for telling us that Luis Burguillo is "a former congressional staffer and White House political appointee and former director of government affairs in the cities of Chicago and Washington, D.C." This explains why he will never stop boiling the poisonous pot of identity politics.

First, let me say that the quality and format of this presentation were excellent and I thought both sides were given a fair opportunity to make their points.  These issues are not science, they are social and personal and like every social and personal issue people see them from their own life experiences.

As a retired Army vet, I can say that I agree with Luis on his concerns about the militarization of the police nationally; I don't think it makes for better policing-community relations.  The rules of engagement cannot co-exist, incidents where the police fire scores of rounds in marginal situations show too much of a battlefield mentality.  We need better training to avoid these situations while STILL enforcing the law.

On the other hand, I disagree wth Luis about technology such as license plate readers and CC cameras, they are here to stay in the public arena; however, I am concerned bout privacy protections of the information not related to a crime and far too little attention is being paid to that important issue.

The Chief and the men and women of HPD have a difficult job, there is no easy way to decide if a car load of young men cruising around the the same block 5 times late a night are looking for a parking space or the home of a rival gang member.  HPD has done a good job of trying to sort this out - much of it is has to do with how you treat people.  The community, in general, trusts the department, that is the the ultimate measuring stick.

Extreme exaggeration and use of inflammatory language and mental images to make your point, as Luis often does in his articles, is a dangerous practice.  You can be vigilant without being reactionary.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (Nick Brown) on

Thank you Benito Link for allowing a discussion that allows both sides of a topic. Myself, I'm a transplant from Chicago. From the perspective of living in a big city and seeing policing that often abused civil right and a police department desperately attempting to control rampant crime there is reason for Mr. Burguillo to make us aware of what can happen when the relationship between citizens and poloce becomes fractured. Having experience both excellent responce from Hollisters police on a petty theft crime at my home and complete over-reaction to a domestic dispute on my block where a heated argument definately needed one or possibly two officers to respond and corect a situation. Over 15 minutes time there were five squad cars assigned to stop a dispute between two people, no weapons involved no drugs or alcohol-fueled fighting.

When citizens get involved monitoring police actions and are willing to make us aware when the people we are paying to protect and serve us might be crossing a legal civil rights line, we should welcome there public input of what appear to be legitimate concerns. Chief Westrick seems willing to listen and help. I'm sure he wants to avoid the situation like Chicago where numerous citizens have been awarded millions of dollars each when clearly outrageous policing caused a serious mistrust issues and deaths. The people willingness to work with police to solve crimes starts with trust. Use of unjustifiable and illegal PD force erodes the bond creating a divide and us vs. them situation. This is a small town community and police can easily gain trust as several have done with me. BenitoLink has welcomed both sides of an issue to be addressed and is willing to facilitate an open dialogue. This is great! Keep it up!

Submitted by Robert Gilchrist Huenemann (bobgh) on

I lived in Chicago from 1960 to 1970. I marched with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the north side to protest housing segregation. The police kept us separated from the locals but did nothing to stop them from throwing large rocks at us. I was lucky. Others were not.

I also had a couple of contacts with Chicago police as a result of minor traffic violations. I was ticketed and paid the fines. The officers were professional. Just some facts from an earlier part of my life.

As to your observations about HPD's handling of a domestic dispute: The numbers are clear. A response to a domestic dispute always puts officers into a dangerous and unpredictable situation. I side with HPD on this one. In today's world, every available unit is going to respond to a domestic dispute. You are entitled to be unhappy about it, but that is now standard police practice, and it will not change.

Submitted by (Alex Amaral) on

The concerns addressed during the discussion are concerned that the entire nation is facing with police departments. I ask Mr. Burguillo what makes the city of Hollister different from the City of Lawndale in California's South Bay, or different from the City of Selma in Central California. Policing gadgets are necessary in our country to help ensure the safety of the city's residents. However, the militarization of police is something we are addressing as a whole in the nation. San Benito County and Hollister itself is an emerging city growing in population and commerce. Proper police equipment are essential in order to monitet a growing city. As stated above, it is difficult to differentiate between a car circling the neighborhood in search of a parking space or in search of a rival gang members house. HPD would not be doing it's job of it did not take precautionary measures to ensure that the car was actually looking for a parking space. If during the stop they uncovered other possible violations, they have done their duty to serve the community in order to keep drugs or weapons of the street.
On the contrary, demographics of the department and statistics on the traffic stops should be public records. The chief should contribute with the public in order to release such information. However I disagree with Mr. Burguillo on his statement that traffic citations are a directly in-direct method of allocations of funds to the police department. As anyone who is involved with any sort of budgetary business knows, the request of a budget goes beyond the want for funds. It must be reviewed and approved by the budget comittee. Therefore if HPD is granted a larger budget is it actually Cheif Westrick who is responsible for the approval or is the budget committee in question?

Submitted by (Andy) on

Interesting and informative article. How about some more? In light of some of the comments I would like to see a community based citizen/police group issues. This was tried under former Chief Sanchez. It last exactly one year. The Hollister Police Citizen Review Group was not popular with the Chief and was doomed to failure. It was never given the opportunity to prove itself. It seems our current Chief might be more receptive.

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