The NAACP Stockton Branch recently hosted two community forums to have crucial conversations regarding racism and policing within the community. The goal of the forums was to hold Stockton’s law enforcement accountable for over-policing and police brutality toward Black and Brown people.
Robert “Bobby” Bivens, a long-time president of the Stockton branch, and a panel of law enforcement officials including Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones, Stockton District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, San Joaquin County Sheriff Patrick Withrow, as well as the Tracy Police Chief Sekou Millington and attorneys Mark Harris and Doug Thorn.
Bivens talked about the NAACP’s overall vision at the online sessions held on June 2 and June 9, 2020. “Annually, at our national convention, a vision or statement of purpose is set nationwide for all chapters to use locally,” said Bivens. “We take that direction and share it with residents in our community.
“It usually involves issues such as housing, health care, education, religious affairs and criminal justice. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the activities the chapter has embarked on have been either scaled back or we haven’t been able to address at all. We have been very active with NAACP events since 1931. The Stockton NAACP Branch is older than the Port of Stockton.”
“We started the year with our 5K and 10K run and we used proceeds from that event to bring attention to violence prevention activities in the community,” Bivens told the audience, which included about 260 people each session. “We had approximately 160 runners who participated this year. Our prayer breakfast would have been in March, and we always try to have a speaker that can discuss contemporary issues from a civil rights perspective.
“Our branch has also been involved with living wage issues and attempting to get more African Americans in the trade unions,” said Bivens. Additionally, the Stockton NAACP branch has been supporting the mayor’s initiatives. We’ve sponsored town hall meetings over the past two months, including a series called ‘Saving Our Lives.’
“These conversations included discussions on criminal justice reform, which resulted in our introduction of a Ten Point Plan,” added Bivens. “The Plan was created to improve interaction between local law enforcement agencies and the community.
“The Plan’s goal is to move towards better and safer policing and help build a healthier community for all city and county residents. The Plan has been presented to Stockton’s police chief, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and the district attorney, as well as to the City of Tracy’s police chief.”
“We are also concerned about how people are dealing with civil unrest and protests in the community during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Bivens. “We want to fight for social justice but in the midst of the current environment, it has become difficult.”
“Our police department and the DA’s office have a sensible approach to the protesters with the mindset of, ‘if you don’t need to confront, why confront,’ especially if no one is breaking the law. The DA has taken a position of only arresting protesters that cause damage to properties.” Bivens said.
The Ten Point Plan was presented at the first forum, but there has been no response from law enforcement to date. Bivens is scheduled to meet with the Stockton Sheriff this week and will meet with the other police chiefs sometime next week. While some items of the Ten Point Plan are already in place, Bivens expects a formal response, with everyone in agreement, by next month.
To learn more about the NAACP-sponsored community forum and the introduced Ten Point Plan, visit the Stockton NAACP Facebook page and the website at stocktonnaacp.org. For more information on the Stockton Branch, call (209) 466-7000. To learn how you can take action with the NAACP’s campaigns, visit naacp.org.