Several members of a North County social justice task force convened Thursday just outside Carlsbad police headquarters to discuss a meeting with law enforcement in the wake of a controversial arrest of a Black man in June.
During the arrest, Carlsbad officers used a Taser on Marcel Cox-Harshaw, 27, of San Diego, who refused to let them put him in handcuffs. The incident occurred on June 11 after paramedics responded to reports of a man lying face down on the sidewalk at Ponto Road and Carlsbad Boulevard.
Carlsbad police released videos on June 13 showing the contentious arrest in which Cox-Harshaw repeatedly shouts "I'm not doin' nothing!" and "This is what you stand for!" The videos were stitched together and included footage shot by a passerby that made waves on social media after it was uploaded.
"Open lines of communication between the police department and the community are more important now than ever," the department said in June in a statement about the incident. "That's why we are providing a detailed chronology of this incident." At that same time, police reformers criticized the arrest, demanded accountability for the officers' actions involved and sought a dialogue with law enforcement.
Last week, the North County Civil Liberties Coalition's Yusef Miller and other members of a task force, including Robert Jenkins, the executive vice-president of North San Diego County NAACP, met with Carlsbad Assistant Police Chief Williams and Captain Peter Pascual to discuss the arrest and a variety of other police reform measures. Miller said on Thursday that the initial request for the meeting had been made to CPD Chief Neil Gallucci, who did not attend the meeting.
"We had a very open discussion -- there were a lot of things that needed to be worked on but law enforcement was open to those suggestions and we appreciate it," Miller said on Thursday about last week's meeting. "We discussed the incident in various ways … CRB -- this is the civilian review board, and it is designed to make sure there is oversight and community input on law enforcement engagement in the community. Carlsbad department was very open to this suggestion, and we're going to meet in the future on forming this board. They were also open to the request of AB1421, which is the community's right to know the background of officers involved in incidents such as this."
For his part, though, Jenkins said there was still much work to be done. He said was told by Williams at the meeting that officers undergo racial-bias training every two years. Jenkins said he thought that training should be more frequent "in this time of heightened police brutality and racial injustices among people of color, specifically, African-American men."
Jenkins also stated on Thursday that Williams said during the meeting that the police body cams, which temporarily fell off during the incident, were secured with magnets and that the department was exploring ways to ensure the body-cams would be more securely affixed in the future. Jenkins said he wanted a time-frame set for a solution to that problem, since body cams are "supposed to provide an undisputed record of the truth, thereby holding our officers accountable."
Jenkins was also critical of Gallucci for not being at the meeting.
"We were a little disappointed that Police Chief Neil Gallucci wasn't able to meet with the task force," Jenkins said, then quoted from a 2018 interview with Gallucci in which the chief was quoted as saying he "really enjoyed helping individuals and the community, and partnering with the community to solve problems and promote public safety."
"Well, we as a community have a problem, which is to eradicate police brutality based on racial bias, and if a police chief don't have time to sit with us, is he a part of the solution or a part of the problem?" Jenkins said.
Responding to a question later, Miller, the North County Civil Liberties Coalition spokesman, said that Cox-Harshaw has not been in touch with the task force but "this is a bigger issue than Mr. Cox-Harshaw and we want to make sure that all Carlsbad residents are safe, and its visitors."
"So this is a work in progress, it's not going to happen overnight but we're going to stay here for the long haul," said Miller, who added that he hoped to get a town hall meeting, which he said the Carlsbad police had agreed to participate in, on the calendar in the coming weeks.
"Although we're satisfied with the fact that they met us, we're not overall satisfied until we see results, and that's where we're cautious," said Miller, a sentiment qualified by Jenkins: "We're far from being satisfied with all the answers we received from the police chief but we look forward to an ongoing relationship."
Miller also said "we're on the schedule" in regards to meetings with other police departments in additional North County cities.
NBC 7 reached out to Carlsbad police for a comment regarding last week's meeting and received the following statement:
"We would like to thank Mr. Miller of the North County Civil Liberties Coalition for reaching out and taking the time to meet with us. As always, we welcome the opportunity to meet with the community to discuss issues of importance. We understand that a relationship of confidence and trust with the public is essential to effective community policing. We will continue to work to ensure Carlsbad is a safe place for all and we will strive to ensure our policies support our mission to protect and serve the community with integrity and professionalism."
NBC 7 also asked the department why Chief Gallucci was unable to attend the meeting but has not yet received a response.