Saturday, April 18, 2015

Urgency Ordinance Timeline

In light of the current police actions against the homeless in Humboldt County, which has involved some confusing statements by the police and others in authority, we are posting this photographic timeline of the events of the dismantling of the Occupy Protest in Eureka. The timeline reveals patterns of deception, confusing language from the County and the City, and outright violations of Civil Rights, all culminating with the infamous Urgency Ordinance. It might be the right thing to do, to compare these two municipal actions. Created by Janelle Egger.

J. Decker photo
October 8, 2011-
People began to gather.
Oct 18- Open letter emailed to County: “Occupy Eureka… has been and will continue to exercise its rights of expression and assembly. We appreciate your continued respect…”
Oct 20- County received letter that requested the county allow Occupy Eureka to install a portable toilet.
Oct 25- Letter from County Administrative Officer, “We request that you immediately take down the tents and cease camping.”
Oct 28, 2011- New sign

J. Decker photo
Oct. 31, 2011- 4 pm email from CAO, “Supervisors: There will be NO movement against the Occupy Eureka camp this evening. I can provide details in person, this afternoon or tomorrow.”

J. Decker photo
Nov 2- Email: “The County is requesting that the Eureka Police Department enforce Eureka Municipal Code (and applicable Penal Code sections) related to camping…”
Nov 7, 2011 -

Screenshot from KIEM’s
Early Morning Raid”

Humboldt County photo

Nov 14, 2011- disassembled again in early morning

Mark Sailors photo
Nov 15- EPD memo states “Occupy Eureka may erect one (1) temporary shelter in a pre-designated area…must be of the type referred to as a pop-up canopy.” This was “contingent upon… strict adherence” with ten “non-negotiable conditions.”
Nov 17- Email from County Adm. Officer, “We are getting multiple requests from Occupy groups…”
- Response from Sheriff Downey, “…we do not wish to go down the path of allowing them to return... Stay the course.”
Nov 30, 2011- about 2pm

J. Decker photo
Nov 30, 2011- about 4pm

J. Egger photo
Dec 2- County posted memo from Risk Management placing restrictions on protest activities, including no camping, no structures, and no attaching objects to County property.
Dec 17, 2011- 3pm, new kiosk canopy

N. Wade photo
Dec. 17- 
silent visitors
9:30pm, signs taken
11:30pm, end of last shelter

J. Egger photo

Dec 27, 2011-

 Screenshot from J. Decker video
Feb 3, 2012
Guarding the fence from signs

J. Decker photo
Feb 5- District Attorney met with six people affiliated with Occupy; agreed to review Penal Code regarding signs.
Feb 13- Chief Harpham, email: “Eureka Police Officers will no longer enforce Penal Code section 602(f) at the Court House (attaching signs to the fence…)” States that they will continue to respond to all complaints.
March 6- District Attorney released Prosecution Guidelines, which state that until there is case law that applies, Penal Code 602(f) should not be charged for affixing signs associated with the freedom of speech, assembly and petition.
March 8- Sheriff email: “…suspending all efforts to do anything with the continued assault on the courthouse… due to DA action.” Later tells reporter, “The public needs to give direction to the Board of Supervisors.”
March 20- Board of Supervisors directed County Counsel to “generate language for an alternative interim ordinance dealing with health and safety issues associated with activities on Courthouse Property.”
March 21, 2012-

J. Egger photo   
March 27- Board of Supervisors passed "Urgency Ordinance" immediately adding Chapter 2.5 to the Humboldt County Code. It includes restrictions on signs, shelter, food, tables and other personal property, and presence in front of the Courthouse.
March 28, 2012-
New codes enforced.

Andrew Goff photo

J. Egger photo 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Homeless Issues: Relevant Cases

Allen v. City of Sacramento, No. C071710 
In this case, plaintiffs challenge defendant-city’s camping ordinance, which prohibits extended camping on public or private property without a permit. Plaintiffs assert that the camping ordinance is unconstitutional and that the City enforces the ordinance in a discriminatory manner. Judgment of dismissal is reversed with respect to the first cause of action for declaratory judgment, and affirmed in all other respects, where plaintiffs adequately stated an as-applied challenge to the ordinance based on equal protection.

United States Ninth Circuit, 03/10/2015 
CPR For Skid Row v. City of Los Angeles, No. 12-55289 
In this case, plaintiffs brought suit after they were threatened with arrest and arrested for chanting loudly in protest of an organized walk by public officials and others through Los Angeles' Skid Row. Plaintiffs challenged California Penal Code section 403, which makes it a misdemeanor to "willfully disturb or break up any assembly or meeting that is not unlawful in its character, other than an assembly or meeting referred to in section 18340 of the Elections Code." The district court's summary judgment dismissing the action is affirmed in part and reversed in part, where: 1) CPC section 403 is not unconstitutional on its face; but 2) section 403 was unconstitutionally applied to plaintiffs' activities; 3) the plain language of the statute and its legislative history demonstrate that section 403 does not cover political meetings, as here; and 4) because plaintiffs' activities fell within the exception carved out by Elections Code section 18340, CPC section 403 did not criminalize plaintiffs' conduct.

submitted by Christina Allbright

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Andy Mills Answers Questions About Police Body Cams, the Homeless, and Police Review

On Wednesday night, the ACLU Board was surprised to find Andy Mills, the Eureka Police Chief, as a guest to our monthly meeting. Though most of us were unaware that he was going to attend this meeting, our lack of preparation for this opportunity did not hamper the discussion. Andy told the Board that he was open to any questions, an offer which the Board enthusiastically accepted.

Greg Allen began the discussion by referring to our recent activities in advocating the use of police body cams. Mills responded that the cameras would benefit the operations of the department. The City currently does not have any cameras in use, but they are making plans to implement them. One problem with the use of cameras by all police is that computer storage becomes a problem. The amount of video created by one police department in one day will take terabytes of information. Plans are in the works to upgrade the computers at the department. They also are implementing CAD programs, which will be useful in providing GPS information about crimes and other statistics. These statistics will be available to the public, and might permit online queries to the database.  Software is available which may make video records of arrests available through the internet. There are a few ethical issues, which need to be worked out. One relates to the issue of privacy, which might occur if an officer answers a call to a private residence.

Janelle Eggers and other Board members asked about how the police were dealing with the homeless in Eureka. He revealed that he has a strong mandate to clear up the homeless camps. He said that they are making some efforts to deal with homeless people in a humane way, however. He mentioned a new program, MIST, in which a police officer and an mental health professional work together to identify the mentally ill homeless, and to persuade them to accept services. He would like to expand this program, but the lack of sheltering facilities remains a problem. Steven Bridenbaugh asked if clearing out homeless camps increases the stress of lack of housing, and Mills did not dispute this assertion. He says that he is applying for Measure Z funding. This will make it possible to house homeless people who are displaced, specifically those who are mentally ill. He said that most of the police calls he receives are from citizens demanding he do more to rid neighborhoods of homeless people. This is something the police cannot do, but removing camping areas tends to rout out the criminal element that frequents these camps, Mills believes.

Mills would like to improve the existing Crisis Intervention Program by adding activities which are more meaningful to the police in attendance to training sessions. He mentioned an activity in which he participated in San Diego, where actual cases of police violence against mentally ill or intoxicated people were reenacted. Many of the participants did not see any options other than to use their firearms. Several policemen were identified as being unwilling to look at nonviolent options, and were entered into a reeducation program. He said there are training programs available which specifically teach police to reduce their dependence on firearms. One training that is currently scheduled is deescalation training, in which officers learn to prevent an encounters with homeless and intoxicated people from escalating into violence. Mills gave an example: police sometimes start shouting orders to a suspect, and start shooting when the suspect does not respond quickly enough. This type of escalation can be prevented, he said.

Mills said that he has been spending a lot of time going through the individual files of police officers. He has been systematically analyzing the accumulated complaints which are in these files, and he is trying to assess to what extent these complaints reveal a pattern of violence or misconduct for each officer, if any, and to sort out and validate each accusation, to protect the public from officers with a history of abusive behavior. Mills is also investigating the possibility of hiring a few well-respected experts from out of the area, to clear out the doubts which the public may have about past police behavior, and put to rest any issues which have arisen from the lack of transparency in the past. This would cost about $50,000, which he feels would be well worth the money, though it may take some private fundraising, if it is to occur. He says that he avoids the appearance of protectionism by referring any criminal behavior by police personnel directly to the District Attorney's office.

Another issue which Mills addressed is the possible formation of an advisory group to the Police Department. He thinks that some of these organizations are not always very cost effective, but they can provide an acceptable type of police review, not only for personnel issues, but also for many other police activities. There has been resistance in the past against independent police review, due to municipalities afraid of lawsuits, and police unions protecting their members. He feels that an open-ended board of citizen input could increase fairness and impartiality in cases of police misconduct, and provide guidance to the overall operations of the police department.