Chief Quezada’s photo op, Ximena’s Killers, and the “Cholo” Problem.




Among the many council candidates’ mailers, one with a picture of the fairly new Chief of Police caught my attention.  My first reaction was that it was tactless or perhaps naïve of the Chief to allow his picture to be used by one of the city’s most polarizing politicians.   I waited for the end of the campaign to see whether his picture would be in the flyers of the opposing candidates.  I’m pretty sure it never happened.

As an important local figure, Chief Quezada must have pictures taken with many folks.  Nobody can control how a picture is going to be used.  One of my friends doesn’t like having his picture taken because he fears that it may fall into the hands of a bad “santero.”  If his woman gets mad at him, his picture may end up full of needles, placed to cause him pain and suffering. This friend of mine is pretty old-fashioned, and most of our circle don’t believe in superstitions… but just in case we avoid Facebook, and we also keep the names of good santeros and sobadores.

In this age of digital photography people don’t generally worry about their pictures in the way my friend does, but public figures are subject to the power that images convey.  Chief Quezada’s picture with a politician who symbolizes many of our city’s most abusive policies sends the wrong message, especially to the community affected by these policies.  Let’s assume that Quezada was not aware that Kris Murray had inserted his picture in one of her flyers (given how irresponsible and insensitive some politicians can be.)  Still the political use of the chief’s image hinders the progress being made to establish a trusting relationship with the police, in the mostly poor Latino neighborhoods.

The swift capture of two suspects in the recent fatal gang warfare brought a much needed sense of confidence in the police, and a renewed attention to deal with the gangs’ activities. In doing so, the natural tendency is to propose harsh measures against the individual criminals and /or paint in the same brush an entire section of the community. The OC Weekly  presented an interesting conclusion on this tragedy:

“But the biggest tragedy of Ximena’s early death is that Aquino and Cruz shouldn’t have been roaming free at all — especially not together. Instead, California’s Byzantine sentencing laws and a lenient court let the cholos escape jail time despite violating the law and their probation again and again, a Weekly investigation has found.”

The word ” cholos” tends to have a negative connotation, especially in this context.  I understand it is used by Gabriel and Gustavo to specify the two individuals and not all the people culturally identified as cholos.  In the words of a cholo friend, the two presumed killers of young Ximena are “Pinche Putos,” to be punished to the maximum extent allowed by the law.  And the idea of California having Byzantine sentencing laws and lenient courts is belied by efforts like the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, which “seeks an end to excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society.”

We all share the pain of Ximena’s family. There are plenty of studies dealing with the causes of crime, criminal justice and prison reform.  Anaheim has a Gang Detail unit, which scope and current statistical information is from the 2008 calendar year. Many cities actively involve the community to deal with this problem. Recently the San Diego city council members approved a three-year strategic plan that addresses anti-gang initiatives. The city has a Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention. Members are made up of clergy, schools, law enforcement, social work and non-profit groups who studied for years gang prevention, intervention and suppression.(1) No matter where we live in the city, we all condemn gang violence. In Ximena’s memory, a commission could be set up to assist crafting comprehensive policies for our city.



About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly.