SALINAS, Calif. - A social divide in need of repair. That's the claim being made by Salinas' top cop as he asks the federal government to get involved. It's a situation, he calls a crisis. This, as skepticism and outrage continue over two recent officer-involved shootings. The police department's plan is to fix some broken relationships.
Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin admits relations between the police department, residents living in East Salinas and some community leaders have broken down. He said it's time to bring in some outside help.
From last week's increasingly vocal protest following the Mi Pueblo and North Sanborn officer-involved shootings earlier this month, to last Wednesday night's violent protest against police, tension continues to boil over. McMillin is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to send a community relations specialist to help repair the damage.
"I think it's really a good idea to have an outside facilitator who is dispassionate, removed from the process, to come in and just moderate things, provide us a road map and a way forward," McMillin said.
McMillin said a Los Angeles-based DOJ representative will likely spend a few months in Salinas, speaking with community leaders, including the police department.
"He'll learn the lay of the land, he'll assess the situation, start to learn who stakeholders are," McMillin said.
In part, the DOJ said the service is deigned to help prevent and respond to alleged violent hate crimes committed on the basis of race, color and national origin. The service is impartial, confidential and free, and the representative doesn't have any law enforcement powers.
"An efficient and effective communications process that really starts to get at the root causes of what the anxieties are in this city," McMillin said.
McMillin said the Department of Justice representative will be in Salinas sometime next week. McMillin said he doesn't know if the rep will be readily accessible to the general public.