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2nd Reading on CPRB

The Santa Cruz City Council is calling for a 2nd Reading regarding their ongoing plans to axe the Citizens' Police Review Board, a panel of citizen volunteers whose intended purpose was to oversee police activity in the community. Members of Downtown for All and Cop Watch are all-too familiar with the repressive behavior of the local police, and oppose this board being shut down.
From: "J. Albert Ross" <drivera (at) sasquatch.com>
To: <citycouncil (at) ci.santa-cruz.ca.us>
Subject: 2nd Reading on CPRB
Date: Saturday, February 08, 2003 1:00 PM

Mayor Riley and Members of the City Council:

I strongly urge you to say NO to a second reading re. killing the CPRB and replacing this all-volunteer board with a highly-paid attorney purportedly to be hired by City Manager Wilson. Oversight of ANY police body needs ultimately to be in the hands of the community's citizens if our form of governance is to maintain any semblance of a democracy. Such critical oversight MUST NOT be placed in the hands of staff insiders, unless this Council wishes to further alarm a growing number of citizens from all walks of life who already suspect that we are, indeed, rapidly heading down a steep decline toward a Police State. Furthermore, such an excessively expensive policy step in light of a severe budget crunch is particularly offensive in that Council and highly-paid staff members have recently entered into excessive ad-hoc committee meetings out of sight and sound of the public in order to cook up what amounts to just another "done deal."

But to return for a moment to the aforementioned suggestion of a "Police State...." Consider these recent observations on my part: only a short time after the public was permitted to hear the bells tolling the imminent demise of the CPRB, and even before the recent Home Defense "Terrorist Threat" color upgrade from yellow to red, the police presence on Pacific Ave. began to increase at a rate that soon measured at least three-fold, with larger numbers of uniformed officers than on any weekday or weekend in previous months (both from SCPD and SCO ranks) clearly seen patrolling on foot even on week-days (a.m. and p.m.); and SCPD motorcycles parked singly or in pairs at intersections or patrolling tandemly, and squad cars also parked at intersections up and down the mall, as if riots were expected momentarily.

If this City government is endeavoring to send a strong message to those who come regularly to downtown Santa Cruz for whatever civilized reason -- be it shopping or walking, eating or talking, sharing food or ideas or laughter or music -- that message seems to this observer and writer to be extremely ominous, Excessive police presence during normal peaceful ongoing affairs of life between and among ALL the members of society smacks of a POLICE STATE! In that respect, I urge the Mayor, the Council, the City Manager and the Chief of Police to seriously reconsider the negative effect their policies are having across the board on this community and those who visit here.

Sincerely,

J. Albert Ross


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Comments

Response to Mr. Ross

It is unfortunate that you find the mere presence of our city police downtown in the numbers you noted to be "extremely ominous". I have lived and worked in the downtown area for over ten years and do not find their presence to be excessive, threatening, intimidating or contributing to the appearance of a "police state". To the contrary I have found them to be helpful, courteous, respectful and professional. Prior to the recent efforts of our city council to address problematic, uncivil, rude and illegal behavior downtown I and everyone I know had essentially written off going downtown for anything unless it involved an essential activity. It was frankly, quite depressing. I realize that the residents of our city have a wide and diverse sense of values concerning what is appropriate downtown but in my opinion the downtown has become a far more friendly, clean and safe place to live and recreate than in years past. I'm sorry that you are apparently not comfortable with these recent changes but as a resident downtown I assure you they were necessary. I am also left with the impression from your letter that the demise of the CPRB is somehow related to the refreshing police presence downtown. That is understandable in that it is quite clear from the minutes of the CPRB in 2002 that the CPRB had degenerated into a toxic waste dump for the opinions and efforts of those who disagreed with efforts to make the downtown a place for all, instead of a theme park for the voluntarily disenfranchised. Finally, I completely agree with your opinion that out city police department requires civilian oversight. I am absolutely sure that our elected officials will succeed in creating an oversight structure that is fair and effective. Perhaps when this is accomplished you will feel more comfortable downtown. I sincerely hope so.
 

Stand Up for Strong Community Control of Police!

Citizens-Police-Review-Board-In-Exile Schedules
1st Public Meeting 8 PM City Council Tuesday Night


In November and December, the Citizens Police Review Board challenged the Santa Cruz Police Department to finally address issues of Racial Profiling long ignored or sidelined by Police Chief Steve Belcher. It
asked City Council to declare itself against Selective Enforcement--the policy of giving police the power to
single out and harass members of the community they do not like.

In early January without inviting any members of the Citizens Police Review Board, the public, or the media to
its closed Financial Crisis Committee meeting, Mayor Reilly and Vice-Mayor Kennedy recommended cutting 2/3 of the CPRB budget and moved the CPRB be “restructured.”

On January 21st, without inviting any CPRB members to testify, Council unanimously passed that recommendation--unchanged, giving the public only two minutes per speaker.

In private consultations with City Manager Dick Wilson in the next week, Reilly and Kennedy worked out a four-point death sentence for the CPRB, including abolition of the entire CPRB law. No CPRB members or members of the public were invited to these discussions, nor, according to Mayor Reilly, was any formal meeting actually held.

On January 27th, Council unanimously passed the 4-point recommendation. Reilly refused to allow organizations
their usual speaking time, and cut short individual speaking time to two minutes. She ignored a presentation by
the black Chair and Vice-Chair. They disputed supposed savings that eliminating the Board would produce
and suggested racial discrimination was a factor in their firing.

On January 29th, in violation of existing law, City Council shuttered the offices of the CPRB to the public and transferred its functions to a single out-of-town Palo Alto attorney, Bob Aronson. Even if Council votes a 2nd and final vote eliminating the CPRB Tuesday night, it still has legal existence until 3-13, requiring continued operation of the CPRB. Instead staff quickly removed all current complaints from CPRB offices to SCPD custody.

CPRB staffer Jenny Lausten failed to send to City Council the CPRB’s December “end selective enforcement” resolution saying she was “too busy.” The premature and illegal closure also stopped the regular February CPRB meeting preventing a public challenge of Council’s rushed unilateral action.

Several days later, City Clerk Leslie Cook announced 90% of the CPRB audio tapes of its monthly meetings since 1995 would be destroyed (“recycled”). City Council member Cynthia Matthews ignored a request to save the tapes and put them in the public library

On February 11th shortly after 8 p.m., City Council has a final Public Hearing on the demolition of the Citizens Police Review Board. It is likely individuals will get three and organizations five minutes to speak. While the matter is a done deal, it is still an important avenue of communication to the community. Chair Halfmoon and Vice-Chair Fousse have asked members of the community to
speak out in favor of a stronger board and against the weak “auditor” model, which ironically will be more expensive than the volunteer Board which is being forcibly disbanded.

Chair Halfmoon will hold a press conference at the Council meeting and announce the first public meeting of the Citizens-Police-Review-Board-in-Exile. That meeting in mid-February will address problems of Racial Profiling, Selective Enforcement, Undocumented Use/Display of Force, & Biased Investigation in the Santa Cruz Police Department. Those interested in assisting the CPRB-in-exile Project can contact Halfmoon at 457-9754 X1788, e-mail him at markhalfmoon (at) yahoo.com

THE CHAIR AND VICE-CHAIR OF THE CITIZENS POLICE REVIEW BOARD INVITE YOU TO COME TO CITY COUNCIL ON FEBRUARY 11TH AT THE 7 PM SESSION (Item #24 will actually come up sometime after 8 PM).

BRING TWO FRIENDS. SPEAK OUT AGAINST CITY COUNCIL’S SURRENDER TO THE NATIONAL “POLICE FIRST!” MENTALITY THAT IS SWEEPING THE COUNTRY. SPEAK OUT AGAINST UNDEMOCRATIC PROCESS THAT SHUTS DOWN THE ONLY OVERSIGHT BODY (WEAK AS IT'S BEEN) INDEPENDENT OF THE POLICE FORCE.
 

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