I was a public defender in Ventura for nearly 30 years. After I retired I became more active in the Ventura County Chapter of the Southern California ACLU (ACLU-SC). In September, 2012, I was elected to the Ventura County ACLU board. I soon became disillusioned about making any difference in my community through the local ACLU ("ACLU Angst," Jan. 29).
Our board was comprised of professional, intelligent, concerned people. We met monthly, set up programs to inform residents about current issues, and attempted to assist people in need of help. Two examples show the lack of interest of ACLU-SC in Ventura County:
I attempted to put together a public forum about police violence in Ventura County. Two prominent local attorneys representing victims of police violence agreed to participate. I attempted to secure the presence of the ACLU-SC police violence expert. Despite multiple calls he never once responded. I was told at one time by an ACLU employee that he would appear, but that appearance was cancelled. The ACLU-SC sent two newbies who spoke about "the rights of students to education, privacy, due process, and freedom from discrimination" — nothing about police violence.
In another incident I was asked by the local newspaper to make a statement about the position of the ACLU on civilian drones. I was told that I needed ACLU-SC approval before making a public statement. No one at ACLU-SC would respond to me so I had to decline.
Perhaps ACLU professionals are reluctant to trust volunteers, regardless of their background. I believe, however, that the major problem is that the big city ACLU is uninterested in their podunk backyard. No doubt the ACLU does good for our country, but it disregards the smaller communities.
I resigned from the Ventura County ACLU in August, 2013.
Susan R. Olson, Ojai