EL PASO, Texas -- Members of a group calling for police accountability marched on the streets of El Paso, calling, among other things, for Police Chief Greg Allen to be held accountable.
That march came just one day after city staff presented city leaders with a plan to eliminate racial disparities and arrests by El Paso police.
Dozens of protestors marched on the streets of the city carrying makeshift caskets. The group's spokesman said each casket represents 33 El Pasoans.
They had a goal and a message.
"To bring justice to the families that were impacted by the violence by the police department, especially the police officers as 33 El Pasoans have died while in custody of police officers,” said Fernando Garcia, the group’s co-chair.
Just a day prior to the march, city staff unveiled a comprehensive plan aimed at eliminating racial disparity in the city, including arrests made by El Paso police.
“The public safety area is under attack, literally and figuratively. And so its important that we show our support and our level of accountability,” said city manager Tommy Gonzalez.
City staff looked at four U.S. cities of comparable size to El Paso, examining population, ethnic makeup, size of police force, as well as accountability task force groups within each city. Those comparison cities included Henderson, Nevada; San Diego, California; Tucson, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
While the study showed El Paso’s police budget is similar to those cities, the officer to citizen ratio - a police officer for every one thousand citizens - is better than some of those cities, but less than the somewhat larger community of San Diego.
Two of those cities do not have equity reporting.
“So as you can see, Tucson and San Diego, they are on the same track as we are. We know that we need to take action.” Said Denice Sepulveda, who is with the city’s management and budget department.
Leaders of the group of marchers saw the same staff report and said it also falls short on including a key component of the community.
“Those internal review boards of the police department, they’re still part of the police department. They are not independent. So we don’t trust them to monitor themselves, to police themselves. We need an independent body.” Garcia said.
The group also wants Allen held accountable. That too was not part of city staff’s presentation, or even discussed.
The city staff task force was asked to return with more recommendations. Tops among those was to go back and look at those same cities El Paso was compared with - to see if any of them have police body cameras, a key tool city representatives have been asking police officers be equipped with.