SMPD Case Goes on the Road
The Santa Monica Police Department’s extended effort to make a case against Oscar de la Torre would be ludicrous, if it weren’t deadly serious.
According to the police, several months ago, two youths, a black and a Latino, got into a fight near the Pico Youth and Family Center, which de la Torre founded 12 years ago, and directs.
Someone alerted de la Torre. According to the police, he went outside, watched the fight for 59 seconds and then intervened and stopped the fight.
Bravo! Right? Wrong!
The police were not there. They based their case on bystandders’ videos of the incident. Apparently, they did not see a citizen doing a good deed, they saw a possible felony:”child endangerment.”
When does ending a fight constitute “child endangerment?”According to the SMPD, when the alleged “perp” waits 59 seconds before intervening. The District Attorney disagreed.
The police spent several months making their case, but, according to one report, the DA rej ected the 42-page report on reading it, and refused to file charges against de la Torre.
In addition to being founder and director of the Center, he has been a member of the Santa Moni ca-
Malibu Unified School District Board of Education for eight years, and board president for two years.
He is currently running for re-election.
De la Torre, who grew up here. was student body president at SAMOHI and a community leader, has devoted his life to ending teen/gang violence, but, as far as we know, he is the first and only teacher, school official, social worker or any other in loco parentis to be charged with child endangerment for not stopping a fight, much less not stopping it fast enough.
What’s going on here?
The City Manager has sent the case out of town for review by a panel of law yers, thus.relieving local officials of the need to deal with this intensel.y, uniquely local issue. But why should our elected and
appointed officials be allowed to avoid the tough decisions?.
City Hall claims this approach ensures “objectivity.” But what we need is accountability – from everyone.