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Anaheim residents tell city what they want from new police chief

A special community meeting was held at Anaheim City Hall on Wednesday seeking residents’ advice on the hiring of a permanent police chief. KPCC’s Ed Joyce tweeted updates from the forum, which you can read below.

The meeting comes just over a year after two Latino men were killed in separate officer-involved shootings in Anaheim on the same weekend.

The July 2012 shootings sparked protests and scattered rioting. At one point, nearly 1,000 people filled downtown streets after they couldn’t get into a city council meeting to discuss the shooting deaths of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo.

Since then, the Anaheim Police Department, led by interim police chief Raul Quezada, has taken steps to improve its relationship with the 340,000-resident community.

Previously: Little more than a year after a pair of officer-involved shootings sparked protests and rioting, the city of Anaheim has scheduled a community meeting Wednesday to get input into the search for a new permanent police chief.

Fourteen months ago, Anaheim saw nearly 1,000 angry protesters fill downtown streets when they couldn't get into a city council meeting held to discuss the officer-involved shooting deaths of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo. The council chamber was at capacity and nearby viewing rooms were filled too.

While most of the protesters were peaceful, some resorted to vandalism and broke windows at some businesses. 

Since then, the Anaheim Police Department, led by an interim police chief, has taken steps to improve its relationship with the community of 340,000. 

"If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say it's probably dialogue," said Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn. "There's been a lot of dialogue between the citizens, the city, and the police department, and we've done a lot of listening. In this 14 months, we've taken it to heart. We've listened to a lot of what the citizens brought up." 

Dunn said the department has moved community outreach programs from police headquarters into Anaheim neighborhoods - including the two where the officer-involved shootings occurred in July 2012. 

He said an August 2013 report details many of the changes taken by the police department since the shootings. 

Lynda Santos owns Healthy Junk, a small restaurant in downtown Anaheim just down the street from city hall. She remembers last year's demonstrations. While she regrets the scattered rioting, she says the protests helped move the city on a path toward solving its issues.

"People everywhere around here that live here, they thought 'what a shame that this happened.'  But they want to see also that it doesn't happen again," Santos said. "I think it's a start." 

Anaheim resident Jose Moreno agrees.

"What we've seen over the last 14 months is a police department that has put its foot forward in a much more proactive way. We have seen more engagement," said Moreno, who is president of Los Amigos of Orange County.  The group was among those most critical of the police department following the shootings and pushed for an independent investigation into them.

Moreno said Wednesday's meeting to hear what the community wants in a new police chief is a positive step. 

"The officer-involved shootings and resulting protests rocked the Anaheim political establishment," said Moreno, who is also one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the city's at-large municipal election system. "And now that there is so much attention, the city council is asking regularly, 'how is our police relations?' They don't want it to hurt them politically."  

Previous Anaheim police chief, John Welter, announced his retirement months before the shootings and riots. 

Moreno credits interim police chief, Raul Quezada, for continuing Welter's community policing policies and for creating neighborhood advisory councils. 

But he said Anaheim has still not created a police citizens oversight committee. A promised pilot-project for such a committee never took flight.

The legal challenge to the city's at-large voting claims the system is discriminatory.

With council members elected at-large, rather than by districts, many ethnic neighborhoods feel they're not being represented. The current Mayor and four city council members are white. Anaheim's population is 53 percent Latino. 

The city council rejected a citizens committee recommendation to have a citywide vote on whether to change to district representation. 

Wednesday's public meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Anaheim City Hall.