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Law enforcement says it’s ready for peace or war

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Law enforcement says it’s ready for peace or war

<www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2003/March/20/local/stories/02local.htm>

March 20, 2003
By CATHY REDFERN
Sentinel STAFF WRITER

Law enforcement officers in the county are more likely to face protesters than terrorists, but say they are ready for both.
Officers have been trained for scenarios stretching from bioterrorism to civil disobedience, said Sgt. Stephen Seibert of the California Highway Patrol.
“Here the concern with protesters is probably the biggest issue,” Seibert said. “It is the goal of all law enforcement to keep everyone safe, including the protesters, and our anticipation is not to make unnecessary arrests.
“But arrests will be made if roads are blocked.”
California has been on heightened terrorism alert since President Bush issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein on Monday.
Santa Cruz police are well-schooled in crowd control and have a number of contingency plans in place, Sgt. Steve Clark said.
“We did the same thing during the Gulf War, but we are better prepared now,” he said.
“We run out different scenarios. One is to just sit and monitor (a protest), depending on the mood of the crowd, but we hope that the actions of peace demonstrators are congruent with that of peace activists.”
Santa Cruz offers potential targets for a small-scale terrorist attack, Clark said.
Those include tourism destinations such as the Boardwalk and the Municipal Wharf, as well as UC Santa Cruz and government-defense contractor Lockheed Martin Missiles in the Santa Cruz Mountains and at least one semi-conductor manufacturer, he said.
National intelligence reports indicate an increased possibility of smaller, local attacks, he said.
“We realize the community at large may be naive about the possibility of such an attack,” Clark said, “but from a law-enforcement perspective we can’t afford that luxury.”
Local law enforcement agencies have beefed up staff, calling in all available officers and canceling their time off. The Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol have gone from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts.
CHP officers have also increased scrutiny of commercial trucks and have started looking for explosives or hazardous materials, officer Sam Courtney said.
Meanwhile, CHP aircraft are patrolling the skies. The division stretching from Ventura to Santa Cruz has two planes and one helicopter stationed in Paso Robles.
“We have every plane up 24 hours per day,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office has a 26-person Rapid Response Action Team that has been in intensive training this week, deputy Kim Allyn said.
The specially trained team has an arsenal of “less-than-lethal weaponry” and other tactics should protests get out of control, he said.
Watsonville Police don’t know if they will see any protests, but are ready, Capt. Kim Austin said.
They have tightened security at the Police Department and other city buildings, she said, and could be called to help officers in other cities from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, or even to Los Angeles.
“Hopefully everything will be OK, but you never know,” she said.
UC Santa Cruz police have been working with other county law enforcement agencies, spokeswoman Liz Irwin said.
“Obviously, there is heightened vigilance, and police are intent on doing what is best for the university,” she said.
“But we don’t expect expressions of opinion on campus to be anything but peaceful.”
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Contact Cathy Redfern at credfern (at) santa-cruz.com
 
 


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