Last summer, the relationship between the local California Highway Patrol and the citizens of Plumas County was arguably as bad as it could get.
One year later, two of the men who were at the center of conflict — Quincy Area CHP Commander Bruce Carpenter and Quincy resident Dan Hanna — said things are getting better.
Carpenter and Hanna called a meeting Wednesday, July 18, with Feather Publishing to outline steps they are taking to change the adversarial relationship between the CHP and county residents.
They are members of a committee called “Plumas Team for Public Safety.”
The committee was formed in February and includes representatives from the CHP, sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office and local citizens.
“I want to give credit where credit is due. I think some important improvements have been made by the CHP,” Hanna said.
Hanna became a focal point for the complaints about the CHP after his son was pulled over by CHP officers outside Quincy in August 2011.
Hanna said he was disappointed by the way his high-school-age son — who he said didn’t drink or use drugs — was treated by the CHP officers.
The officers didn’t cite Hanna’s son. But the incident prompted Hanna to write a letter to the CHP — which he later read aloud in a meeting attended by CHP leaders.
Since then, Hanna and Carpenter have been working side by side as part of Plumas Team.
The team also includes District Attorney David Hollister, Sheriff Greg Hagwood, Assistant Sheriff Gerry Hendrick, CHP Sgt. Jim Wheaton, committee chairman John Breaux and residents Ron Horton and Dr. Ross Morgan and Cindy Edwards.
Carpenter said the committee, which meets monthly, is an important new link between the citizens and law enforcement.
“We want to emphasize, as a team, that we are looking to move forward,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter and Hanna said Plumas Team is not meant to be an oversight committee.
“If people have complaints, those need to be referred directly to the specific department — whether it’s us or the sheriff’s department,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter added that he personally addresses every complaint directed to the local CHP. He said he is still reaching out to citizens who voiced complaints at the first meeting a year ago.
“It’s the one-year anniversary of that first meeting,” Carpenter said. “My goal has been to contact as many of the citizens as I could. I’ve been following up with people who were involved in the previous meetings. And they have expressed to me that they feel things have gotten better.”
Carpenter said he realized some people would likely always have complaints about officers. But he said he wants to hear about them.
“Absolutely. That’s what I want,” Carpenter said. “I want to hear from people if they are unhappy or happy. And I am getting both kinds of calls. I appreciate that. I want that to continue.
“I would emphasize that timeliness is very important. Because as time goes on, information becomes less familiar. I’m not saying I want to dissuade someone from coming forward that had something happen to them a while back, either. We will still look into it, either way.
“Ultimately, I am responsible for the actions of the officers assigned to my command. And I take that responsibility very seriously,” Carpenter said. “It is our responsibility to achieve a balance between the concerns raised by the citizens of our community and maintaining safety on our highways.”
Hanna said he was “very optimistic” about the direction the CHP is heading in the community.
“I believe the real unsung heroes in this situation are Lt. Carpenter, his supervisors, and others in leadership within the local CHP office, working quietly behind the scenes during the past year to improve the approach and tactics of some of the officers,” Hanna said. “And also some of the officers themselves, who accepted the counseling and advice of their superiors regarding how their tactics in the field were being perceived by our community.”
Carpenter said he wants to continue improving the dialogue with citizens and local officials.
“We have developed long-range community relations plans in which involvement in community activities, organizations and schools will be emphasized and expanded,” Carpenter said.
Hanna said Plumas Team’s next meeting is set for Sept. 5. He encouraged people with ideas, questions or comments to contact one of the committee members.
He said the committee isn’t intended to be a clearinghouse for complaints about law enforcement. Hanna said complaints would be directed to the appropriate departments.
“The mission of Plumas Team is to use education, open communication and transparency to foster a cooperative and open relationship between the citizens of Plumas County and public safety agencies,” Hanna said.
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