MV council moves one step closer to formation of Public Safety Advisory Board

STORY BY CARLY HELTZEL, PHOTO BY EMILY MCNALLY

The Mountain View City Council recommended the appointment of seven civilian community members to the Public Safety Advisory Board during its March 16 study session, the latest development in the city’s effort to streamline police reform. The recommended appointees will be confirmed in a final vote during the council’s April 13 meeting. 

The council’s recommendations include Mountain View residents Cleave Frink, Derek Langton, Joan Brodovsky and Kavita Aiyar for four-year full terms. Eva Tang, Jeannette Wang and Kalwant Sandhu were recommended two-year half terms.

Before voting, council members each gave a brief overview of their personal criteria for candidates, all of which were largely based on the criteria outlined in the study session’s memo. 

“What I was looking for was a broad representation of different neighborhoods, ethnic groups and stakeholders,” Vice Mayor Lucas Ramirez said. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t have Latinx candidates, but I’m hoping in the future when people see the good work they are able to do there will be more interest.”

Similarly expressing her concerns about a lack of Latino representation, full-term appointee Joan Brodovsky said that her relationships with individuals in Mountain View’s Latino community could help the advisory board gather this missing perspective in the future. 

Still, the applicant pool featured a diverse group of candidates as Ramirez had hoped, with backgrounds ranging from an ex–police officer and a high schooler to a chemist and a neighborhood association leader.

During the study session, Mayor Ellen Kamei facilitated the interviews by asking each candidate what makes them unique, which of the recent policing discussions they have attended, what they think the role of the advisory board is and how they think it will make an impact on the relationship between the police department and community members.

The council listened to the responses and after hearing from all 13 applicants, each council member had seven votes to give to candidates.

As one of the two candidates who received a vote from every council member, Cleave Frink discussed how his unique perspective comes from both being a Black man and watching his father run an earlier version of a civilian advisory board in the 1970s. 

“It’s important to make sure that the body doesn’t become a complaint board,” Frink said. “It has to be a deliberative body to figure out how to help the police department and the city serve its community in the way that they want to be served.”

The other of the two unanimous appointments, Kavita Aiyar, said she has already been working on reform with the police chief, including piloting discussions with the public and focus groups. During her interview with the council, Aiyar described the board as a “bridge” between community concerns and the police department.

Among these concerns is the police response to mental health–related issues, with which Eva Tang described her first-hand experiences. Before her father’s passing in January due to COVID-19, he was afflicted with mental illness and Tang said she saw the often-negative impact of police presence during his crises.

“He had a lot of crises before he was diagnosed that were handled by police, and as his daughter, it was a very scary and vulnerable time,” she said. “I wonder how that could’ve been handled better.”

Tang said she is grounded in equity as a teacher in East Palo Alto who has watched the effects of the school-to-prison pipeline, and decided to see through her commitment to police reform by applying for the advisory board after advocating for its formation in the first place.

“I’m here as a mediator to take the raw emotion and anger from the community which you have heard over and over in public comment,” Tang said. “And take that and do the dirty work of digging in and actually turning it into something tangible for the community.”

Echoing this sentiment, Kamei said she hopes people feel included in directing discussions made possible by the PSAB’s future outreach.

“I find it a point of hope,” Kamei said. “This is an opportunity for us to build that community trust.”

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