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Indybay Feature

Urgent Public Mtg Wed about Police Spying

Wednesday, March 29, 2006
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Event Type:
Location Details:
Santa Cruz City Hall on Center Street

With barely enough legal notice, the Santa Cruz City Council's Public Safety Committee scheduled a special meeting Wednesday to create a new policy for the Santa Cruz Police regarding police spying on community and political activities.

Special Public Safety Committee Meeting on Police Spying
Wednesday, March 29th at 7PM, at City Hall
Pre-Meeting Protest and Strategy Session at 6pm

We need the largest show of support we can muster. Be prepared to make a public comment to the Committee. Insist that the policy they create puts limits on police power and gives strong and explicit protections for first amendment activities and people's civil liberties.

A Lack Of Public Input

While the Public Safety Committee promised public input in drafting the new policy, we can be sure that they will attempt as much as possible to create a new policy behind closed doors. This meeting on short notice limits public involvement. Feel free to give Mike Rotkin a call at 423-4209 and ask him to put off the meeting until next week.

You can expect a new policy to give the police the latitude to do what they are already doing, spy on groups and individuals when they challenge any aspect of the status quo.

Late last year when the SCPD was infiltrating a peaceful parade planning group and compiling dossiers on organizers (and a few people uninvolved in organization), there was no policy on their books. After the spying came to light, Chief of Police Skerry presented a new policy that allowed police to monitor any group "in which the group or any individual within the group has committed or is planning to commit criminal activity." Any criminal activity. So if any member of your group has an unpaid parking ticket, the police give themselves permission to photograph, record, infiltrate, and disrupt your meetings.

Expect to see a thinly veiled rehash of this massively inadequate policy from the Public Safety Committee.

A Bare Minimum For 1st Amendment Policy

As early as February, we put model policies from other cities in the hands of all of the council members. Any policy created by the council must have as a bare minimum:

* Explicit protections for First Amendment activities
* Definition of first amendment activities
* Limits on police powers regarding first amendment activities
* Steps the police have to take before considering monitoring a group
* Rules of conduct
* An auditing requirement (we've seen what happens when the police police themselves)

A broad coalition of artists and activists in Santa Cruz are pushing the local city council to take decisive action to put limits on police power and protect people's civil liberties. We expected to have a draft policy to deliver to the Council based on San Francisco and Washington D.C.'s successful policies protecting first amendment activities. However, this meeting on short notice attempts to bypass that effort.

You can check out the San Francisco first amendment policy posted on Indymedia, and the Washington D.C. policy at Compare these policies to the one-page hastily thrown together cover-your-ass policy put together at the 11th hour by the Police Chief It's Skerry.

Auditor Determines SCPD Violated Civil Rights

Last Tuesday, the police auditor's independent investigation into Santa Cruz police spying was released. This focused on an undercover police infiltration of a group planning an unpermitted New Year's Eve parade in Santa Cruz, California.

The conclusion that Bob Aaronson, the police auditor, drew was that while the SCPD officers may not have violated any local laws or policies, they more than likely violated the civil rights of parade organizers. "In my opinion, the Santa Cruz Police Department violated the Last Night DIY Parade organizers' rights to privacy, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in the manner in which they went about obtaining information about the organizers' activities,” the report read.

Additional conclusions in Aaronson’s 34-page report were that SCPD administrators made a hasty and ill-advised decision to infiltrate the group, with little consideration for first amendment rights, little oversight, and no meaningful re-evaluation of the operation. The report also said that while the organizers contemplated an act of civil disobedience, the minor infraction of parading with a permit does not justify a violation of anyone’s civil rights.

This is what we are trying to prevent with a strong policy to protect our civil liberties. If we are going to have their cops on the street, we should at least insist that they put limits on their power.

Useful Information:

Public Safety Committee Chair: Mike Rotkin
Home: 423-4209
Office: 420-5023, 809 Center St. Room 10, Santa Cruz
UCSC: 459-4601

City Manager: Richard C Wilson
Home: 465-0636, 225 9th Ave, Santa Cruz
Office: 420-5010, 809 Center St, Room 10. Santa Cruz

Chief of Police: Howard Skerry
Office: 420-5800, 155 Center St., Santa Cruz

Added to the calendar on Sun, Mar 26, 2006 12:43PM
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