Published in the May 9 – 22, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

David Swing

On the evening of April 27, a group of juvenile attendees from Morgan Hill chose to disrupt the Britton Middle School Carnival. This deliberate action on their part resulted in the arrest of eight juveniles, injuries to two Morgan Hill peace officers and a significant response from law enforcement agencies from the surrounding area to include, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Gilroy Police, San Jose Police, Morgan Hill Fire Department and Rural Metro Ambulance.

The events culminated in cancellation of the family-oriented event due to the gravity and volatility of the situation. First and foremost, I am grateful that no one was seriously injured in the attacks on the responding officers, those who came to keep the peace, those who were present to enjoy the evening and even those who chose to be disruptive. I am also thankful for the prompt response of our partner agencies and the school district who helped us quickly restore order.

I am especially thankful and proud of the professional response and restraint shown by the initial officers on scene who sustained verbal and physical abuse by the assailants. These officers responded with the lowest amount of force possible — even while being assaulted. Watching the use of force commonly invokes an emotional response — especially to the untrained eye. When I watched the video posted online for the first time I, too, had an emotional response; my emotional response was anger at seeing someone attack one of my officers without any provocation. I was then filled with pride seeing how the investment of our time in training allowed the officers to swiftly regain control of the situation, preventing it from escalating even though the crowd nearby was growing in size and hostility.

Regrettably, once on Keystone Avenue, the crowd continued to be hostile and additional arrests were made due to the behaviors of a few.

Officers acted quickly to regain control after making those arrests by issuing an order to disperse. The crowd complied and dispersed for the evening.

By the time the crowd broke-up, the school district and police decided to cancel the carnival for the remaining two days. This difficult decision was made to ensure public safety and prevent further altercations.

Since this incident, members of our community have expressed their support and appreciation through calls, texts, social media posts and even bringing sandwiches to the police department on Saturday. It is an honor and privilege to serve a community that genuinely cares for their public servants. Thank you!

My goal, as your chief, is that parents use this opportunity to engage in conversation with their children about the role of police in society. To reinforce that we as peace officers are here to help and the best way we can help each other keep Morgan Hill a safe place for all to enjoy is to respect each other and to adhere to the directions of those placed into positions of authority — parents, teachers, and officers alike.

Remember as Sir Robert Peel, the father of the modern municipal police force, said, “The police are the people and the people are the police.” Meaning only by working together and depending on each other can we ensure the safety of our community.

I look forward to building on the strength of our relationship as we continue to partner together to keep Morgan Hill the safe community we all enjoy.

David Swing is the Morgan Hill police chief. He wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.

 

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