By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Council hears pro, anti-cop sentiments
Placeholder Image
A polarized gathering of Ceres residents turned out at Monday's City Council meeting to express both support for and criticism of the Ceres Police Department.

A light amount of business on the council agenda allowed residents to vent their feelings regarding published criticisms of the department's handling of a Sept. 8 loud party call. Comments lasted approximately 45 minutes.

At the Oct. 15 City Council meeting, party-goers like Adolph Estrada and Breanna Garcia told the council they felt officers were heavy handed in dealing with approximately 50 youth who were at the party in which the stereo was cranked up and alcohol was being served in the 3100 block of Burton Drive.

Seven persons were arrested for a variety of criminal complaints, mostly for resisting arrest and attempting to incite a riot.

An internal investigation is being conducted in response to six citizen complains filed against Ceres Police.

Two officers have been singled out as being rough, particularly dragging women out of houses by their house and striking and tasering Mario Armendariz. Estrada said Armendariz, who just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, was also maced while he sat handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.

Police said Armendariz was tasered because he was resisting arrest.

Those who attended the party expressed disbelief that the investigation would be conducted in a fair manner.

Daisy Mayorga said she has had positive experiences with police in the past but told the council: "They really mistreated us." She said she read the police report of the incident and said "I saw a lot of lies on there and that really bothers me."

On Monday, Armendariz's father showed up to praise his son's exemplary war record. He stated that four uncles in the family who are in law enforcement expressed dismay at how the incident went down.

He said his son was hospitalized after being thumped in the head by officers.

On Monday Estrada, the son of a Ceres Police Department community services officer, accused officers who wrote the report of "fabricating" and "embellishing" details. He asked why the seven who were originally arrested had charges of inciting a riot added later.

Garcia called for the city to improve relations with the youth in the community. She said having a Latino community liaison in Enrique Perez does nothing to help

Marilyn Alvarez, another who was arrested that morning, broke down in front of the council. She said the incident will be on her record as she seeks to become a probation officer.

Robert Hall told councilmembers that he was a witness to the character of Estrada. He went on to say that the Ceres Courier's reporting made race the central issue when it was not.

Two representatives of the NAACP charged on Oct. 15 that Ceres Police had a history of discrimination against Latino youth. One of them, John Mataka, accused police of an "all out war against the Mexican youth and the Mexican community." He also charged that Ceres had a history "against people of color."

The council listened in silence to all who spoke but held back comment. However, Mayor Anthony Cannella said many positive things had occurred since the Oct. 15 meeting, such as sitting down with the NAACP. He rejected, however, a suggestion from that group that the city form a "citizens oversight committee," saying such a panel would have no power and would be "waste of time."

He noted that residents did go to the panel that does have power - the civil grand jury.

"We are interested in the truth coming out," said Cannella, who added that he has "faith in the integrity of the police department" to accurately investigate complaints.

Lourdes Perez offered her kudos for Ceres Police, saying the incident can be traced back to a generational disrespect for police. She suggested the city educating the community to gain greater respect among Ceres' youth.

Dee Kim, a substance abuse counselor praised police and her neighborhood for working together on decreasing crime on her Hollister Street. She accounted for the differing views of what happened the morning of Sept. 8 as due to alcohol, saying it often "skews" views of how events happen.

Irma Rodriguez, a Ceres pastor and police chaplain, said she has never seen police disrespectful to anyone on her numerous citizen ride-alongs. She said "communication is not the only thing ... we also need to be involved."

John King, a 28-year Air Force veteran, drew on his experiences in the Watts riots in the late 1960s to declare that open communication is needed on both sides. "It will make it a little easier," he said.

Earlier in the meeting, King presented Police Chief Art deWerk with a U.S. flag which flew aboard an Air Force helicopter on a combat mission. He offered the flag as a way of saying thanks to Ceres Police for keeping Ceres safe for his wife, Karen, and family while he was serving duty in Afghanistan.