This month marks six years since a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office deputy killed 18-year-old Moonridge resident Yanira Serrano in the heat of a chaotic call for help. To honor her memory and attempt to change how law enforcement engages with people suffering from mental illness, brother Tony Serrano has joined with the Half Moon Bay Latino Council to seek a new program on the coast.
The Latino Council, which acts as an advisory board to the elected Half Moon Bay City Council, presented the Yanira Serrano Presente! Program to elected officials on Tuesday night.
“It’s to start the conversation,” Tony said.
On June 3, 2014, a deputy shot and killed Yanira Serrano at her residence south of Half Moon Bay as she walked toward him while wielding a knife. She had a history of mental illness. Her death sparked outrage in the community and people demanded better crisis intervention training for law enforcement.
Tony Serrano said he’s yet to see much change from the Sheriff’s Office.
“It seems like they did not learn anything from what happened with my sister,” he said. “We have seen an increase in crisis intervention training, but that is about it.”
"Yanira Serrano Presente!" involves several components. The first asks the City Council to raise funds for mental health services that are culturally and linguistically relevant for communities on the Coastside. Other requests include an outreach program that provides an orientation for all new Sheriff deputies on the Coastside os that they may meet community leaders and Spanish-speaking residents. Tony said he envisions an organization such as Ayudando Latinos A Soñar facilitating the orientation.
“It’s so critical for the officers to know the community,” he said.
Additionally, the Latino Council would like to create a bilingual call line to offer resources to report interactions or abuses by authorities and ask that the Sheriff’s Office adopt the “Eight Can't-Wait” policies that are a matter of discussion across the country.
The Latino Council created an online petition asking residents to sign in support of the program. Tony said so far he’s received about 300 signatures.
“This is not only to honor my sister’s memory but to create a safer and more understanding community,” Tony said. “It is time to rethink and reform interactions with law enforcement. The time is now.”