The Porterville City Council was met with a packed house on Tuesday evening, with most of the audience members in attendance waiting for a chance to address the Council during oral communications.
As the Council began their meeting, they opened with presentation of six employee services awards. Receiving an award for five years of city service was Cody Martin with the Porterville Police Department (PPD). A ten year service award went to Ryan Smalling, who works for PPD and has worked for Animal Control through the police department. One 15 year service award was given to Dominic Barteau for his service with PPD, and three 25 year service awards were awarded as well. The first of the 25 year awards went to Wendy Ferguson, who works for the City of Porterville. The second went to David Smith for his work with both the City of Porterville and the Porterville Fire Department (PFD). The final 25 year service award went to Shannon Styles for his work with both PPD and PFD. At the end of the awards, City Manager John Lollis mentioned that a member of the city’s staff, Patrice Hildreth, had also been with the city for 15 years.
The Council gave their routine reports about the various meetings they had attended over the past two weeks, before the time for oral communications was opened.
The first to speak was Fred Beltran. Beltran gave some brief background about the group of cyclists that organized a ride on Saturday. The riders were to meet with a relatively well know cyclist in the community, and they were to ride around town together as a large group. As the group approached Main Street, they were stopped by PPD. According to Beltran, PPD acted unjustly and “attacked” some of the young bicyclists. He said that he felt the kids were treated with no respect, and that he did not witness any misconduct by the children that would cause such a reaction from the police. HE stated that he was scared by the way the police were acting in the situation, but felt he needed to be a voice for the kids.
Next to speak was Savannah Beltran, who was very emotional and couldn’t hold back her tears while she was speaking. She said she felt the police assaulted the cyclists, and that they were doing nothing wrong. She is now terrified for her brother, who was a member of the cycling group, and fears that the group of young kids will now have no respect for law enforcement. She requested that PPD make a public apology for the way they behaved during the incident.
Barry Caplan approached the podium to address the Council about the incident, for he says that he witnessed it as he was eating at a restaurant on Main Street. He stated that he was observing the group, and did not witness any misbehavior. He said that all of the group was riding properly, and that there was no justification for the way the officers acted.
Ro Cortes was the last to speak, and although the room was full of upset cyclists, Cortes spoke about her encounters with the regular groups of riders that ride around town routinely. She said that she has not had positive encounters with the riders in the past, and that they have cursed at her and flipped her off. She also stated that she has witnessed the riders riding in the middle of roads, impeding traffic by causing cars to swerve around them.
At the closing of oral communications, most of those in attendance left the building.
PPD was not given a chance to respond at the meeting, but released a press release addressing the incident later Tuesday night. See the full press release on page A2 of today’s paper.
Before the meeting was adjourned, the Council was given the opportunity to address any other matters they saw fit. Council member Milt Stowe stated that he supports PPD and wishes people would get the facts straight before addressing the Council. Council member Daniel Penaloza agreed with Stowe, but also said that it is important for the Council to listen to all comments made by the public.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for October 1, beginning at 6:30 p.m. inside the Council Chambers at City Hall located at 291 N. Main Street in Porterville.