STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN AND GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN
Formed in August in reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement and increased conversation around police reform, the Los Altos Citizen’s Police Task Force is charged with presenting the City Council recommendations for changes to the school resource officer (SRO) program at Los Altos High School, and the citizen’s complaint process.
Council Member Neysa Fligor spearheaded the push for the creation of the task force along with Mayor Jan Pepper, and the two currently sit on a subcommittee acting as the Council’s liaisons to the task force. The Post spoke to Fligor about her thoughts on the task force as well as Los Altos’ role in the BLM movement, ahead of the task force’s final recommendations to the Council next week.
Note: Parts of the interview have been cut or relocated for clarity.
Since May, the issue of Black Lives Matter has been very contentious, both nationally and in our area at least online. There’s a lot of tension, and I’d imagine as elected representatives, you’re also being very much pressured to go and make changes.
And as you’ve said before, whatever you’re talking about is out in the open in these meetings. But have you gotten a sense that there’s maybe any tension between the Council regarding these issues?
I think we’ve all been pretty transparent in our meetings about where we stand on the different issues raised.
Maybe in Los Altos a lot of times people will say it’s divisive — and it is — but maybe in other cities, the divisiveness is evident on the council. If you watch our council, even though this is a divisive issue … it has not risen to that level that I’m sure you’ve seen in other parts of the country.
What kinds of conversations have you had with constituents outside of town hall meetings … specifically about Black Lives Matter?
I’ve heard from residents who are supportive of some form of reform. I’ve heard from residents who don’t think we need any police reform. I’ve heard from different people, different friends, different voices expressing different things. And so there’s not just one voice.
The voting demographic of Los Altos is — generally speaking — on the older side, often white. So that group of people tends to be a group that might be a little skeptical of some of these social movements and anything discussing things like scrapping SROs.
Given that those make up a large portion of the Council’s constituents, how confident are you that the Council will actually listen to some more drastic action if it’s presented by the taskforce?
I can’t speak for my colleagues; I have no idea. For anything to happen, we need a majority of the five council members; I have no idea what will be presented and how they will go.
I will tell you that it was unanimous for us to form this task force, and so for me, it’s more about what the recommendations are: Will they really make a positive difference? What’s the basis for the recommendation? And then I’ll go from there and make my decision.
And I’ll tell you, you just described the demographics of Los Altos. But many of the people in that category that you just described support making positive change. And so if there are really issues identified and ways we can make it better for residents, then I know most people in that category you just described will support it.
Given those same demographics, do you think that we as a city might actually not be as aware of these sorts of social movements?
I think you can be aware of the broader issues nationally, and not realize that they’re happening locally.
And so I separate that. And I also separate that from assuming that because they weren’t aware of it happening locally, that they don’t care about. There are many residents that once they realized that some of this is happening here in Los Altos they cared and they really wanted us to do something.