Gap between Hispanics, MLPD is bigger than anyone thought

We knew we had a problem.

We just didn’t know how far Mammoth has to go in building trust between the Hispanic population and the Mammoth Lakes Police Department.

Let’s just say it’s a very long way.

In a presentation Tuesday in front of the Mammoth Lakes Police-Community Hispanic Advisory Committee, Village Lodge manager Luis Villanueva came back with some disturbing news.

After meetings with employees from Mammoth Mountain Ski Area who work in hotels, he reported a consensus among Hispanics that police profiling is rampant, that Hispanics feel they don’t get a fair shake and they have a deep level of mistrust for the officers on the force.

“Obviously,” said Police Chief Dan Watson, “we have a long way to go.

“But we’ve got a process started, and we’ll go forward. This meeting was very helpful.”

This was the second meeting of the Hispanic Advisory Committee. Watson formed the committee in December, and he said he hopes to make it a regular, monthly meeting.

One of the ways to do that, he said, is to move the discussion from committee level to a more open, town level.

Though the committee set no dates, it recommended a general “Town Hall” meeting for sometime soon, so that Hispanics and members of the MLPD can discuss issues in a more open environment.

In addition to Villanueva’s report, the committee heard from America Hernandez on her planned ride-along with a police officer.