LOCAL VOICES: Another street gang summit waste of resources
Merry-go-round of street gang summits will not impact the problem; making a significant investment in human capital development, will By FR. GARY LEON DANIELS As I read former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley's response to the call for
Merry-go-round of street gang summits will not impact the problem; making a significant investment in human capital development, will
By FR. GARY LEON DANIELS
As I read former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley’s response to the call for a street gang summit (“Local Voices: Compton Gang summit; An Observation,” July 15, 2016), I contemplated whether or not to respond. I am too old to get caught up in the politics of being perceived as taking sides. But Compton simply deserves much better than the merry-go-round of yet another gang summit.
Having had the opportunity to work for both the Bradley and [Eric] Perrodin administrations, in several capacities, I saw directly the challenges Compton faced and currently faces. I headed the Juvenile Behavioral Health Services program — a program Bradley fought to implement through the then Compton Police Department — and served as the administrator for the joint U.S. Department of Justice/City of Compton Weed and Seed initiative.
As a bi-vocational Anglican priest and mental health therapist and researcher, I have to concur with what the former mayor writes. We have to put an end to the perpetual merry-go-round of gang summits and talks. No amount of marches, summits, candlelight vigils, and law enforcement saturation is going to have an impact — stay out of the newspapers and get into the community. Much of the city’s violence isn’t even related to gangs.
This isn’t supposed to be a “feel good” story about Omar Bradley. It is what very few people have heard. I did not know it then, but I would find myself spending many hours with the former mayor. No matter the time of day Bradley, former Chief of Police Ramon Allen, and I would be at every homicide and critical incident that occurred in the city. Whether it was incidents like one on Willowbrook Avenue where a young infant was killed by gang gunfire; the taxi cab that attempted to outrun the Blue Line train, ending in the horrific deaths of six occupants after the train plowed into the cab or the victims of the trailer park fire on Atlantic Boulevard.
For every victim’s family, the mayor always made it clear that whatever they needed to please leave their requests with me. I would literally sit outside of the mayor’s office door to get a personal check or take the last of the money in his wallet to buy groceries for the families, clothes for a funeral, or a motel room for victims displaced after a fire gutted their home.
I would see the anguish on Bradley’s face as he sought to make sense out of the senseless community, family, and gang mayhem. The mayor called it like it was. He never backed down from discussing Black-on-Black crime. Further, he refused to do “things” just to appease residents. He wanted real solutions and answers to difficult entrenched and seemingly intractable problems. That is why he employed the under- and uneducated, as well as the unskilled and put them in construction and street maintenance jobs. He wasn’t undervaluing them. He knew how important it was for the young men to feel a sense of worth by taking care of their families. And that went for the young women too.
Mayor Bradley had a grasp of social pathology. What he knew instinctively, I recognized and understood academically and from working years with families and children as a former social worker for the City of Long Beach and as a therapist for Long Beach Child Guidance Center. The reality is you don’t treat gangs, you treat individuals.
Compton has to make a significant investment in human capital development. We are leaving far too many people behind. All of the jobs in the world aren’t going to help anyone if they don’t have the skill-sets to perform them.
One thing that very few people knew is that the former mayor struggled with the education of Compton’s young people. He didn’t want to start a turf war between the city and school district, but he continually expressed his frustration with this issue. He recognized that Compton’s renaissance couldn’t happen unless the schools improved. One of his last proposals was to appoint an assistant city manager to head an Office of Community Resource Development to find ways the city could promote vocational and academic achievement. He was concerned about the lack of 21st-century skills.
These are difficult issues. Unless city leadership possesses the expertise to address these problems, the city will perpetually to the trough of the federal government seeking funds for violence prevention and additional law enforcement.
I leave you with these words I read every morning from my Holy Orders: I have come to serve and not to be served.
Fr. Gary Leon Daniels is a bi-vocational Anglican priest and mental health therapist/researcher.