Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Copwatch: Santa Cruz

Human Rights abuse in itty-bitty Santa Cruz [link]

2013-04-23 "SCPD cop Vasquez slams drunk homeless man's face into concrete"
posted by subcommondante [youtube.com/user/subcommondante] [youtube.com/watch?v=1Tyj3yxwy-o]:
At about 1am on april 22, 2013 Downtown Santa Cruz, Pacific Avenue. I rode my bike past two guys sitting passively on a bench at night downtown. Then a cop stopped and one-thing-led-to-another and the officer hand cuffed one of them and "spun him" ... slamming the mans face with great force into the sidewalk.
Great news! We've just had a report from the hospital that Richard is doing "better"... we don't know specifically what that means but it may mean no brain damage.
If a police officer slams a homeless man to the ground fracturing his skull and someone isn't there to video tape it, did it even happen?
2013-04-24 observation: 48 hours later the blood is still caked on the street in front of Del Williams, what's up with that? I have lots of thoughts about the right of a person to sit peacefully and calmly without complaint and to be left to do so.... even if that person is drunk as a skunk. All businesses were closed and those two men were taking care of eachother. The charade of "which one do I take to jail and which one goes to the hospital" angers me. That is your suped up authority for no reason thing. A parade of police cars, fire trucks, ambulances... and maybe even a hearse. For what??
2013-04-25 UPDATE!!!! Richard Hardy has been released from the hospital. He had many sutures in his for head and his face and eye look deformed still. He must have a head made of steel. He watched the video and is very appreciative of the care people have been showing. He was very fatigued in his body. He says he has been on morphine since he was admitted. He was very upset about what happened to him.
2013-04-26 "The Artificial Creation of Crime and For What?" by Doug L. of Santa Cruz
Yesterday I watched the Youtube video of a drunk homeless man being accosted by law enforcement I couldn’t help wonder what other options could have been employed by the persons responsible for public safety (homeless persons are included under the definition of the “public”). Let’s explore the options: the police could have walked by, smiled and kept moving. This would be my favorite. They could have questioned the duo, and then moved on, realizing they were drunk and minding their own business and harmless – number two on my list. They could have arrested them and when they got belligerent, “tasered” them, saving the one guy from a potential brain damaging blow to the head from a cement collision and resolving the situation – not the best option but better than a hospital stay. Apparently this dangerous situation called for backup and a physical confrontation.
 According the Santa Cruz police department there were 3 homicides, 33 rapes, 83 robberies, 313 aggravated assaults, 527 burglaries, 2792 acts of larceny, 264 auto thefts and 21 acts of arson. That makes 11 of these types of crime per day. So I am just wondering if police time could be better spent on these types of crimes. Sitting on a bench drunk didn’t make the list for 2012 but there will be at least one offence for 2013. The good news is the Santa Cruz police department has launched Twitter and Facebook Pages and has a Mobile App for iPhone and Droid!
 Back to the dynamic duo. So let me get this straight, there are two guys on a bench, drunk, but doing a whole lot of nothing, and not really in any condition to walk, let alone able to creating mayhem. So pretty much the sum total of their transgression is akin to speeding or jay walking – it appears to me these two guys were totally harmless...so, here's the result, the police initiate a confrontation, then the situation escalates, the two become belligerent (they weren’t belligerent before the cops arrived, begging the question what’s the catalyst?). This results in a booking, hospital visit, jail time for one, costing the tax payers tens of thousands of dollars, issuing nuisance citations that will never be paid, generating arrest warrants (again costing more money), the officers will get paid 1.5 their pay for overtime and retire at 45 with a healthcare benefits and a generous pension...and the City of Santa Cruz gets sued into oblivion (again) by a smart young attorney ...not to mention the guy got his face bashed in and potential brain damage and pain...and for what? Who wins here? The man was belligerent. Who gives a shit? My kids are belligerent and so are my employees. So what? Adults handle these situations with common sense. The new buzz issue these days is bullying, but this is worse than bullying, it’s brutality. The standard justification for acts like this is how hard the job of the police is – as if this justifies assault? Being a doctor is a hard job. Working in the fields is a hard job. Having a hard job doesn’t justify being an ass hole. This is crime creation, not law enforcement. And they could have just walked by.
Response by Robert Norse of "Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom [www.HUFFSantaCruz.org]:
Nicely put, Doug.
I wouldn't suggest tasering, which can also be lethal and tends to be misused as curbside punishment for less-than-swift-compliance. But rather calling for a few more cops to help move the guy into the squad car.
The new strategy seems to be to use fear and punishment if people don't fully cooperate, seems like.
I'm normally not a fan of megacopping on Pacific Avenue--I've seen half a dozen instances of it in two weeks around things like "leaning against the railing of the fence near the New Leaf Market" (an incident involving Brent Adams and Officer Ahlers), 4 squad cars blocking traffic on the street while a fifth parks across the street (near community TV) to handle one drunk on the sidewalk who's already handcuffed (and may have also been slammed down--I got their late and his face was bleeding). Actually both these and a third happened on the same day--I witnessed the first, got a first hand account of the second, and a more distant account of the third--I think it was Friday April 5th.
Maybe there's a "message" police are trying to send out to drunks similar to the message their vigilante cousins are sending out to homeless people: "get out of town or get hurt". Just wonderin'.
Finally, the cops also often use this "drunk in public" charge to haul people in, seize their property, and sequester it for days--notably homeless people and their backpacks and blankets, when folks simply have an open container or are mildly buzzed and "have the wrong attitude". They are then held in a cell for a few hours and released in the cold wee hours without charges.
It looked like Richard Hardy--the name of the man assaulted by Officer Vasquez--was perhaps too drunk to take care of himself--the actual definition of drunk in public, rather than the police misusage above. So perhaps he had justification, but what really tells is the subsequent behavior of the cops ("Are you all right, Richard?") where they attempt to whitewash their brutality for the watching videocamera and the cover-up of the matter by the SCPD (not aware that Vasquez has been relieved of duty pending investigation). Also with the Copley decision of a decade ago, there's no public revelation of any disciplinary consequences unless someone leaks it.
Hardy, by the way, was reportedly released from Dominican yesterday, but I'm not sure if that's because they're cheap, or because he's truly recovered.
The aggravated anti-homeless climate in Santa Cruz (I got another report yesterday of 4 guys jumping a man named Gabriel as he headed for Cabrillo College--which you may have heard on the radio--report to be posted soon) is ramping up and solidifying this long-time police corruption.
I'm hoping to begin creating a video on-line library of such local incidents and turn them into a well-edited video that demonstrates both police brutality locally and the abusive anti-homeless laws to pass on the public in another of my (often seemingly ineffectual) Calls to Conscience.
Thanks for your analysis.

2013-02-01 "Officer Ahlers is a Bad Cop"
by brent is found guilty [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/02/01/18731166.php]:
Today I was found “guilty” of sitting on the sidewalk and ordered to pay $300.
 The only problem is that I didn’t sit down....
Photo showing SCPD Officer Travis Ahlers:

Today I was found “guilty” of sitting on the sidewalk and ordered to pay $300.
 The only problem is that I didn’t sit down until SCPD officer Travis Ahlers ordered me to sit down on the sidewalk.
 I had been walking south on Pacific Ave. near the intersection of Laurel St. when I saw officer Ahlers talking to a man who was sitting on the ground. He said, “may I search your backpack?” At which point, from a distance of 10’ away I told the man that he didn’t have to allow the officer to search his belongings. “Tell him NO,” I said. Officer Ahlers turned towards me and told me to sit down and produce my ID. I asked him what the charge was and he said, “For sitting on the ground.”
 “I wasn’t sitting down until you told me to sit,” I retorted. He said, “that’ll be for a judge to decide.” Later I found out that the man who was sitting down was under formal probation and was able to be legally searched even without being told before-hand. I didn’t know this when I was reminding him of his 4th Amendment right to the privacy of his person and all of his stuff. Had I known this, I would have said nothing to him.
 Well today was my day in court. Since this is an infraction and wouldn’t be heard in a regular court I had commissioner Kim Baskett disqualified so that the case would be heard in a regular court and the officer would have to be sworn in. Finally, on my 5th visit to the courthouse since September on this matter the case was seen by judge Timothy Volkman. I was charged with: "9.50.012 SITTING DOWN ON SIDEWALKS IN DESIGNATED CITY ZONES.No person shall sit upon the following enumerated portions of a public sidewalk: (b) Within fourteen feet of any building."
 The officer said that the ordinance included “squatting” and then offered to tell the judge what the dictionary definition of “squatting” was. The judge declined hearing the definition. I read the ordinance aloud to high-light that it clearly reads “No person shall sit..” The officer said that my buttocks were within 8” of my heels.
 With this, the judge found me guilty of sitting on the sidewalk and ordered that I pay $300. The judge said, “this will teach you to leave the police alone while they’re conducting their business.” I said that I’m not being charged with Obstructing an officer, but instead, Sitting on the ground which I obviously didn’t do. The judge said, “I’m siding with the ‘people’ that your are guilty.”
 I said that I don’t have the money... I don’t have $10 and I can’t pay. Then I said “I won’t pay. This is not justice. This is a bad cop and you’re a bad judge.” I refused a payment plan or a work program.
 I then left the court when the bailiff who was escorting me out said, “If you don’t pay it’ll be twice as much.”
 It is true that at the end of this frustrating hearing that I lashed out in classic Brent Adams style. I really couldn’t believe my ears when I was found guilty. Yes, it is just an infraction and yes, its just $300 but isn’t it the principle of the thing? I had not been sitting and yet I was found guilty of sitting down. It is true that I don’t have the money to pay. I will check with the clerks office and try and get on a payment plan or a work program.
 I am truly frustrated.

2013-02-02 "Thoughts" by Robert Norse [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/02/01/18731166.php?show_comments=1#18731209]:
The indomitable and irascible Robert Norse hosts in studio guests, on-the-street interviews with the houseless, and listener call in's at (831) 427-FRSC or 427-3772. Phone HUFF (831) 423-4833 if you want to be a guest or have comments. If you get the voicemail, leave a message with phone or e-mail.
 Broadcast Schedule Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
 Free Radio Santa Cruz is also reportedly picked up by pirate broadcasters and is relayed at 101.3 FM around the Santa Cruz area.
 Brent got screwed because he challenged the authority of the cop by watching and commenting. He was obviously not really obstructing or interfering (or he would have been charged with that misdemeanor crime). Nor was he sitting. Leaning and squatting--according to the 2002 debates on the Sitting Ban (which specifically considered that question) rejected "leaning", much as fashion-conscious merchants wanted to include it.
 The Sitting Ban has nothing to do with obstructing the sidewalk, obstructing officers, or public safety. It has to do with obstructing poor and counterculture folks (or anyone the merchants find unsightly) and giving maximum discretion to the police so they can move people along. That's why Measure S was recently defeated in Berkeley. The Berkeley service providers, three members of the Berkeley City Council and the local ACLU mobilized against it.
 Of course, we haven't heard a peep from Ken Cole (head of the Housing Authority), nor Monica Martinez (Executive Director of the Homeless Lack of Services Center), nor the local ACLU, nor--of course--any City Council members. Our City Council unanimously voted to increase the penalties and scope of the Ban in 2009.
 Copwatching is legal and important. I spoke with two observers who witnessed the entire "trial". Judge Volkman reported reprimanded Adams for his copwatching activity, suggesting it was a "lesson" for him. If "shut up, close your eyes, and keep moving" is the lesson, I suggest we fire the teacher.

 The current Sitting Ban (so-called since it bans sitting in 90% of the sidewalk in business, downtown, and beach districts) is a nasty ordinance which has never had a real constitutional challenge (as Berkeley's did).
 9.50.012 Sitting Down on Sidewalks in Designated City Zones: In the C-C community commercial, C-N neighborhood commercial, C-B commercial beach, CBD central business district, and R-T tourist residential zoning districts, no person shall sit upon the following enumerated portions of a public sidewalk: (a) At any bus stop; (b) Within fourteen feet of any building. Where any portion of a building is recessed from the public sidewalk, the fourteen feet shall be measured from the point at which the building abuts the sidewalk; (c) Within fifty feet of any ATM machine or cash disbursal machine, or any other outdoor machine or device which disburses or accepts coins or paper currency except parking meters and newspaper vending machines; (d) Within fourteen feet of any fence that abuts a public sidewalk; (e) Within fourteen feet of any drinking fountain, public telephone, public bench, public trash compactor, information or directory/map sign, sculpture or artwork displayed on public property, or vending cart; (f) Within fourteen feet of any street corner or intersection; (g) Within fourteen feet of any open air dining area or cafe extension; or (h) Within fourteen feet of any kiosk.
 Since most sidewalks are 10' wide in all other places than Pacific Ave, this simply bans sitting where there are buildings--period. It's designed to "clear away the riffraff" and give us the Shopping Mall look. The latest 2009 twist was to include "sculptures" and "directory signs" as creators of 14' forbidden zones. As well as increasing penalties on "unattended" tickets to create both (a) a new misdemeanor crime (MC 4.04.015) and (b) the right to charge every subsequent infraction crime, no matter how petty or irrelevant as a misdemeanor ((MC 4.04.010(4)).

 Other ordinances that involve the creation of "forbidden" zones have warning provisions. Benches, for instance, have a ridiculous 1-hour restriction.
 On those benches that still remain that is--three have recently been removed on Cooper St., perhaps at the behest of the noxious Nextspace, a Coonerty-founded business.
 For instance 9.50.12, Sitting down on Public Benches in Designated Zones, which forbids you to "sit down upon or otherwise occupy a public bench or use a public bench to store property for more than a total of one hour during any given twelve-hour period" has a second provision that "No person shall be cited under this section unless he or she has first been notified by a police officer, public officer or downtown host that he or she is in violation of the prohibition in this section, and thereafter continues the violation."
 Not so with the Sitting Ban.

 For more fun fuck-you-over ordinances, check out "Deadly Downtown Ordinances--Update" at [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/08/29/18657087.php].
 For another account of the fun-loving Officer Ahlers, see "Selective Enforcement and Harassment by Santa Cruz Police on Pacific Avenue" at [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/09/13/18721560.php]

 Since we have a hopeless City Council, responding to the agenda of Take Back Santa Cruz, the SCPD, the SC Neighbors, and the DTA, I've fond the best response is to do what Brent tried to do: point out the abusive behavior of the police, hosts, and private security thugs.
 When you do this, I suggest you address passersby, keep at least 10' away from the incident. Take a step back if asked. Document what you're doing with a phonevid or some other device, and try to have a second witness with you. Often cops will stop and park their running squad cars in the middle of the street to deal with the "emergency" of a "criminal sitter".
 Alerting the public walking by to this has often, I've found, shortened the police action and encouraged them to move on to more sensible priorities.
 It's also quite appropriate to fine a formal Internal Affairs Complaint with the Professional Standards Unit of the SCPD or contact the City's so-called "Independent" Police Auditor with your concerns. You don't have to be the target of the abuse. You just have to witness what you felt was wasteful, abusive, or uncalled-for police behavior.

 An on-line form to fill out when you witness or experience abusive behavior of any kind from the SCPD can be found at [http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=9334]. Just make sure you check #5 at the end, indicating it's a "complaint" and not a "Comment" or any of the other classifications that are essentially irrelevant.
 Robert H. Aaronson is the auditor. He wanders in occasionally from his roost in Palo Alto to collect 20Gs a year or more, never bothering to issue a written report that I've heard about. Still it makes a record--and that can count later for others who want to make Pitchess Motions in court challenging an officer's credibility or violent behavior in a future case. Aaronson's e-mail is not given, but is on the City website as a form at [http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=983]. His phone is given as 650-565-8800.
 Again--the purpose of these is not to expect any kind of justice or accountability. Rather to simply make a record. If you do complain to either Aaronson or the SCPD, please post a copy on line as well.

1 comment:

  1. I am always confused by this.
    If I slam a drunk person to the ground, opening a gash on his head and cheek, and possibly fracturing his jaw, I would be arrested and charged with battery, at least. The penalty could be thousands of dollars in fines, and possible loss of my freedom.

    When a cop does the exact same thing, he is charged with nothing, and, at the most, might get a few days suspension.