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Police officer talks about new rules

Police officer talks about new rules


September 12, 2002
Sentinel staff report

Many Santa Cruzans are confused about downtown rules that go into effect today.
“I have no idea what these rules mean,” said a panhandler who calls himself Ugly Jim. “I don’t know if I’m standing in the right place or not.”
Since changes depend, in large part, on police enforcement and direction from the city, the Sentinel asked Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker to talk about the rules and how they will be implemented.
The ordinance revisions ban Hackey Sack on downtown sidewalks, extend an after-dark panhandling ban to include sign-holding beggars, ban blocking sidewalks with personal belongings, and keep panhandlers and sidewalk sitters 14 feet from storefronts, crosswalks, kiosks and benches.

SENTINEL: Will the public notice major changes after the rules kick in? And will there be a “sweep” this month?
BAKER: No. It’s way more subtle than the press is making it seem. It’s better delineating the uses of the sidewalk, creating more of a defined walkway. ... There will be the same amount of cops. We’ll try to get them used to it, but we won’t “educate” the same person over and over. We’ll cite them. ... The bottom-line goal is to correct the behavior. The bottom-line goal is not to have to write any citations. None.”
S: How will the panhandling scene look different?
B: After dark you can’t panhandle with a sign. You can’t panhandle after dark now, verbally (according to an existing rule). And during the day there is a 14-foot requirement (away from building fronts, kiosks, drinking fountains and benches). The No. 1 complaint to the city is panhandling. It trashes the area, according to people who complain to us. It looks bad.
S: Does this mean all panhandlers standing within the 14-foot zone will be cited?
B: Obviously we’ll give people a higher priority if they are being really aggressive or subject to a complaint. ... You have to have a standard. People say it’s “selective enforcement.” There always will be some sort of selective enforcement but not the way (protesters) are saying. If you see someone who has no idea they are in violation, you just correct the behavior, and there’s no more than a warning. But if they meet other criteria, they’re also doing three or four other things, then you will weigh that into your decision. ... We don’t run into a lot of people in three-piece suits out soliciting. I’m sorry, but a lot of the enforcement involves people who are homeless, but we are enforcing it because of behavior.
S: The city just postponed some rules affecting street musicians who seek donations, and political tablers. A criticism was that the changes would have eliminated some popular areas for them. Would the space rules have cleared out those groups?
B: The conspiracy theory that we are trying to take away musicians is false. Even under the new laws, we can’t touch the musicians. We are not dealing with musicians. They need to be soliciting, doing something other than music. If a guy is standing there with an (open) case, we won’t consider that a display device. If they have a sign, that is technically a violation (of panhandling rules), but even then it’s at the discretion of the officer.
S: What will happen to those who violate the rules on purpose as part of a protest?
B: They will be cited, or arrested, like anyone else who (repeatedly flouts the rules).
S: Where can people get copies of the rules?
B: They will be available through the downtown hosts, the police and the downtown information center as soon as this is all finalized.
S: How will the panhandlers know they are in violation of space rules?
B: Each tile on the sidewalk is approximately 2 feet. Count seven tiles out from the front of the building and you have a pretty good chance that’s 14 feet.”
S: Critics say the rule don’t address drugs and violence. Do the ordinances have anything to say about those problems?
B: “It’s kind of the broken-window theory. One window gets broken and if you let it stay that way too long, the whole property goes downhill. The ordinances are just another tool. ... If someone is selling dope on the corner, what does that look like? They are storing personal belongings, they are blocking entrances. The small stuff, it’s part and parcel with the big stuff. Most drug arrests start with contact over an infraction. Believe it or not, guys don’t try to sell you dope when you are wearing a uniform.
S: The ban on Hackey Sack mentions “liquids.” Is the city going to ban bubbles?
B: Absolutely not. We are not going to write up bubble blowers. We never were. That has to do with other obnoxious things you can do such as spitting or (shooting) a squirt gun at people.
S: Why ban Hackey Sack downtown?
B: You get crowded (blocked) sidewalks. We have a picture showing a group of eight guys, blocking 100 percent of the sidewalk. That’s illegal.
S: What if those who commit infractions refuse to pay fines or appear in court?
B: If they rip them up, if they refuse to appear, a warrant goes out for their arrest. I give you roughly 30 days to contact the court. You can set up a date to fight it, or pay the citation. If you fail to do it, a bench warrant is issued by the judge.
S: If the new ordinances don’t specifically target lewd sexual remarks or harassment on the street, what recourse do victims have?
B: Some of these things are free-speech issues. But last month I arrested someone who was very verbal, and he pleaded guilty. He was threatening a female (stranger). As far as (sexual heckling), it’s wrong, I believe, but not illegal. In a sense the ordinances address it because if someone is doing it now, it will make the area where they can’t be in a little bigger.

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Baker is full of shit

Baker is spinning the press again. I'm glad he and the Sentinel feel compelled to say *something* about the absurd complexity of the new ordinances, but some of what he says is outright false, such as the below.

Baker says:
>The conspiracy theory that we are trying to take away musicians is false. Even under the new laws, we can’t >touch the musicians. We are not dealing with musicians.

This is false. There was a concerted effort by the SCPD against the musicians. If they're backing off now, great, but read about the harpist from Aptos that got ticketed here: or the guitarist busted 3 times for an open case with CDs and his class action suit, here: There's also Michael Masley, the hammered dulcimer player from Berkeley >, who says that even though police had walked past and ignored him for years, he has been driven off by police twice recently. "Not dealing with musicians", huh?

There's numerous other stories you can get if you spend more than 5 seconds downtown trying to get the true story. Baker's spin indicates the police can lie to us and call it Public Relations. Baker also did this by chaperoning Ken McLaughlin of the SJ Mercuty News around Pacific one day. Nothing but Baker quotes in the next day's article. They both had walked right by a Food Not Bombs feed of 30 people and didn't even glance their way. Among the servers and crowd were folks who had witnessed a recent violent arrest of a man for feeding bread crumbs to pigeons. Baker's quotes in McLaughlin's story were directly maligning those who were speaking out against the behavior of the police at that incident. McLaughlin, by not talking to *any" FNB folks that day, and consenting to be led around by the nose by Baker, shows that he's not interested in balanced reporting. Baker obviously had his own reasons for keeping a reporter away from witnesses.

Sentinel asks:
>Is the city going to ban bubbles?
Baker says:
>Absolutely not. We are not going to write up bubble blowers. We never were.

Baker doesn't know shit. Specifically, the ordinance only excepts *bubble performances*. Amateur blowers beware. Whether Baker writes up bubble blowers or not, the ordinance gives the police, (or someone making a citizen' arrest), the power to do so. . This particular ordinance section could also be used against Food Not Bombs if desired, for their serving of soup ('dispersal of liquid into the air').

The corporate press and the Santa Cruz Police Department have too cosy of a relationship with each other. I'd prefer to hear an attorney, preferably someone in the D.A.'s office, explain what the laws "mean", rather than some little manipulative shit of a cop. Wasn't this the same Baker who was charged by 9 women for sexual harassment during their arrests, and despite this, was made cop of the year? And why is Baker the SCPD mouthpiece, anyway? Why doesn't Police Chief Belcher ever say anything?

We appear to have very little control over the SCPD in this town, especially when they're able to lie and manipulate the press to such a degree.

Welcome to Police State Santa Cruz...

Oh, yeah, by your silence, you're giving your consent to this type of behavior.


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