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Selective Enforcement and Harassment by Santa Cruz Police on Pacific Avenue
by Bradley Stuart Allen (bradley [at]
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 1:52 AM
On Wednesday, September 12, at approximately 7:45 p.m., Santa Cruz Police officers Travis Ahlers (Badge # 144) and Brian Warren (Badge # 154) parked the police car they were using on Soquel Avenue at Pacific Avenue. The officers recognized a homeless man who was on the Pacific Avenue sidewalk in front of New Leaf Market, while other people performed music. The man appeared to be walking south on the sidewalk when officer Warren called out "Frank" and told him to stop.
[Pictured above: SCPD officer Brian Warren writes a ticket for smoking on Pacific Avenue.]

Upon seeing that the man was being detained, I decided to compose photographs. Officers Ahlers and Warren saw and recognized me, as I observed and photographed them detaining Frank. Less than two weeks ago, on Saturday, September 1, I took photos of officers Ahlers and Warren after they detained a homeless man on Cedar Street.

On the evening of September 12, I was standing an adequate distance away from the spot where Frank was being detained by the police. I did not say one word to the police or Frank. I was observing the detainment and had taken a single photograph when officer Travis Ahlers decided to turn his attention and harassment on me. Officer Ahlers, a large man and armed, walked away from officer Warren and Frank, and placed himself within inches of where I was standing while looking over my shoulder.

When officer Ahlers stood that close to me, I took steps to my left. Officer Ahlers then proceeded to take more steps in my direction, again placing himself within inches of where I was standing. The behavior exhibited by officer Ahlers at me is a form of bullying.

Wikipedia defines bullying as a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power. It can include verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. The "imbalance of power" may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "target".

Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.

Bullying ranges from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more 'lieutenants' who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his or her bullying activities.

Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. It is even a common push factor in migration. Bullying can exist between social groups, social classes, and even between countries.

I asked officer Ahlers to give me some space, but he did not back up. I took another step back, and began recording video. As the video begins, you can see officer Ahlers taking steps towards me. I again request to officer Ahlers, "Can you please give me some space."

Officer Ahlers did not back up, but stated, "Well whose gonna watch the watcher."
I ask, "Why are you coming in my space?"
Officer Ahlers asks me, "What is it that you're doing today?"
I reply, "Shopping at New Leaf. What are you doing?"

Officer Ahlers: Oh, are you shopping right now?
Me: No
Officer Ahlers: Well, I just asked you what you are doing. So did you just lie?
Me: No
Officer Ahlers: It sounded like you just lied to me.
Me: Nope.
Officer Ahlers: Did I ask you a question? Did I ask you what you were doing?

By this point, officer Ahlers realizes that I am recording video. I turned my attention back on officer Warren as he issues Frank a ticket for allegedly smoking on Pacific Avenue.

As I record video, officer Ahlers asked Frank, the person being detained, "How do you feel about this guy video taping you?" Frank responded that he did not mind. On September 1, officer Ahlers also tried to get someone upset about me documenting, however the person didn't mind that time either.

The actions by officers Travis Ahlers (Badge # 144) and Brian Warren (Badge # 154) on the evening of Wednesday, September 12, are typical of the way many officers in the Santa Cruz Police Department interact with homeless people, as well as individuals such as myself who occasionally document the police.
§SCPD Officer Travis Ahlers Walks Towards Me
by Bradley Stuart Allen Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 1:52 AM
§SCPD Officer Travis Ahlers Bullying Me
by Bradley Stuart Allen Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 1:52 AM
§Receipt from New Leaf Market, 9/12/12 at 7:45 p.m.
by Bradley Stuart Allen Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 1:52 AM
§Video addition
by Jacob Crawford Friday Sep 14th, 2012 11:16 PM
video 2:10

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Dan
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 6:50 AM might want to bone up on Civil Code section 1708.8 and the American Bar Association bulletins regarding efforts to rein in celeb photographers in California. The ABA take is that even photography in a public place can land you in civil court if anyone you're snapping photos of objects and you don't stop once asked.
by police state reality check
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 8:57 AM
the civil code cited you cite forbids photography in the following situations: a) entering private land, b) recording people in personal actions, and c) false imprisonment

recording police carrying out their public duties in on a public street qualifies as none of these, not even close

makes me doubtful of your interpretation of the ABA bulletin, if it even exists, about needing the permission of people on public streets to photograph them, unless you care to cite something specific here that can be independently confirmed

otherwise, the first amendment and other federal and california statutes offer strong protections to photographers shooting in public space

so, are you just a contrarian, a supporter of an unchecked police state focused squarely on the less fortunate amongst us, severely misinformed about civil liberties, or all three?
by deanosor
(deanosor [at] Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 10:34 AM
... ruled sometime in the past year that people have the right to film police interaction with people on the street.
by Sylvia
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 10:57 AM
I recommend the slogan "Never go alone" when dealing with all kinds of unequal power situations. That's what the officers do, two of them, ... You are brave to keep reporting!
by Ronald P Hughes
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 12:16 PM
In the USA, it is OK to make photographic & video recordings of people in public places where they have no reasonable expectation of privacy. I often take videos of people smoking where smoking is prohibited by law, regardless of whether or not they appear to be homeless. It's not about appearance. It's about behavior.
by Robert Norse
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 12:35 PM
For standing your ground in the face of harassment from a thug armed not only with a badge and a gun, but the authority (apparently) of the City Attorney, City Council, and City Manager, or "the law" as some would have it.

My approach is usually to invite others over to watch what is going on and then to make loud public commentary on how taxpayer money and police time is being spent. All the better if you have a video or audio device.

This kind of documentation is very important.

It is courageous as well, coming from a journalist who has been charged with felonies for reporting on political protest and dragged through the courts, facing a possible 7 years in jail.

Tip of the hat to you.

If others have had these experiences, please post and/or call in (831-427-3772) to my show 6-8 PM Thursdays and 9:30 AM to 1 PM Sundays on 101.3 FM (streams at . Or leave a message at 831-423-4833.
by BRENT doesn't like Ahlers
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 1:11 PM
I'm very dismayed by the behavior of officer travis ahlers in this video clip.
He is inciting a person who has been cited to stop the documentation of police business.
ahlers is also seen antagonizing the reporter here. ... I hope this isn't a new mode the SCPD is taking on.

I've found them to show much more respect to folks doing Cop Watch and video taping police business than this
video shows. I'm pissed off.
Officer Ahlers is well deserving of whatever cagy names people hurl at cops.
by Chief
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 1:55 PM
...behavior like this would be grounds for dismissal, but for cops this is the norm.

The local police really need to clean up their act. This is NOT professional behavior.

Is this what all visitors to the downtown should expect if they take their cameras out?
by a clue
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 3:22 PM
I have heard in the past in other cities that several liberty groups have operated sting operations to deal with these police issues,,, I sure hope they will target this abbrasive NON CONSTITUTIONAL issue of harrasing .. Bring on the aclu sting operations.. THIS type of policing harrasing WILL HURT US DOWNTOWN shops even more than the city council has... O to bring back the good ol days of the 70s here in sc...
by david lee roth pok'e'master
Friday Sep 14th, 2012 8:43 AM
I saw them driving on the grass in the park to where some "homless scum" where "creating an eyesore" and most likely "plotting terrorist acts".. I started to film them.. they tought twice about billy clubing the negros and they drove away. Lets all keep filming!! They don't show what jerks they can be to little old lady n such.. but nowadays; THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!!!! Ahahahahaha
by Inner voice
Friday Sep 14th, 2012 5:06 PM
The only one I see using terms like "homless scum" where "creating an eyesore" and most likely "plotting terrorist acts" you my friend.

Check yourself, and stop the projection....the problems are bad enough without magnifying them with fantasy accounts of what you think people are doing. Stick with the real reporting, for the good of all.
by Robert Norse
Saturday Sep 15th, 2012 5:25 PM
If people are treated like scum (as homeless people are with their camps being uprooted, their possessions destroyed, and their miniscule finances depleted with bogus tickets, then that's really the underlying message however neutral and professional the language of police and other authorities.

If the Downtown Association, Santa Cruz Neighbors, Take Back Santa Cruz, not to mention the City Manager are making up laws like Santa Cruz's notorious "downtown ordinances" with the new curfews at City Hall, the Library, the Levee, and elsewhere--then it's important to give these kinds of actions their proper names.

When it's clear that "Economic eyesores" is the real reason that homeless people are being moved away from 95% of the downtown public space, then saying so is a public benefit that clarifies what's going on.

True, the real terrorists are the police and security guards who like to get you to surrender your rights with a smile and the right attitude.
by Downtown
Sunday Sep 16th, 2012 12:46 PM
Huff Robert says homeless are being driven from downtown, but Huff Becky says they are being driven to town by dint of the closure of campsites (see video of her, at Friday's protest).

Doesn't seem possible that it 's both.
by Leigh Meyers
Wednesday Sep 19th, 2012 11:39 AM
... at the beginning of May, as the so-called 'sweep' began, along with an Asian partner in a plain wrapper cruiser. They thought they were "Starsky and Hutch" but they're really Toody and Muldoon (Car 54 Where Are You?)

As I informed "Mayor" Don Lane in a recent email:

"I have in my possession five utterly bogus infraction citations from May this year which I've ignored, and I would relish the idea of being arrested under the city-created 'scofflaw' misdemeanor charge ex post facto the city's passing on of the fine liability to the state-mandated collection agency. I WANT to see a lawyer to deal with these perversions of justice, but I'll be damned if I'd voluntarily waste my valuable time over them."

The email... an analysis of how the city is in violation of the law in relation to their "Homeless Policy" (Fiduciary Malfeasance), and one more thing... Human rights violation, according to a recent paper by a US Human Rights lawyer.

In Full, with cites. An Open Letter to Mayor Don Lane and the Santa Cruz City Council to which I've yet to receive a reply:

Mr. Lane,

I just want to follow up on my comment at the September 11 2012 council meeting (Consent Agenda Item 7, Funding Security Guards) regarding my public comment in which I referred to certain First Alarm Guards as reminding me of blackshirts.

First, I just want to point out I am not alone in this sentiment. One of my disabled Senior Citizen friends has recently recounted his interrogation and pressured search (to which he, in my opinion should have never consented) by a First Alarm guard on the "RiverWalk".

The guard was, according to my friend, insinuating he (again, a senior citizen in a wheelchair) was loitering for the use of drugs.

My friend consented to that search BY AN UN-DEPUTIZED person, at the expense of his personal privacy and in obvious violation of his constitutional rights. Consented or not, the security guard had NO BUSINESS WHATSOEVER asking to, or even implying his alleged 'right' to search this man's possessions.

I have also personally observed a number of other instances indicating First Alarm's ineffectualness and counter productiveness which I will not recount here. As I said in my three minutes the other day "No matter WHO is contracted, oversight and training in regard to their behavior in public, especially their behavior when contacting Santa Cruz' 'alternative' citizens, should be de rigeur lest these sorts of incidents continue.

Here is a presentation I wrote in regard to Santa Cruz homeless policies in general. It was slightly too long to fit into the three minutes allowed for "public input" at council meetings, but at least part of it is germane to the hiring of security guards, and the rest... well you be the judge:


A recent brief in a national law journal by a human rights lawyer regarding the usurpation of public space by cities to prevent protests and demonstrations states:

"...troubling, and less often discussed, is the sustained use of state power to deter peaceful protesters through over-policing, a zero tolerance approach to minor violations of city ordinances and the imposition of a shifting battery of unspecified "rules."(1)

Let it be noted that "Homelessness" IS a 'demonstration'; A demonstration of ineffective planning by cities for their impoverished citizens and displaced workers.

Also note that "over-policing", a " tolerance approach to minor violations", and the implementation of "...a shifting battery of unspecified "rules." is currently in vogue with the people who create and enforce SCPD's policies in regard to the city's less fortunate.

According to the sentiments of the human rights lawyer quoted above, the city of Santa Cruz is apparently committing what may later be found to be "Human Rights Violations" against it's homeless citizens.

(The latter policy, '...a shifting battery of unspecified "rules."', often results in officer-perjured or otherwise non-legitimate charges. I have in my possession five utterly bogus infraction citations from May this year which I've ignored, and I would relish the idea of being arrested under the city-created 'scofflaw' misdemeanor charge ex post facto the city's passing on of the fine liability to the state-mandated collection agency. I WANT to see a lawyer to deal with these perversions of justice, but I'll be damned if I'd voluntarily waste my valuable time over them.)

But I digress... More germane is the fact that ALL "industry standard" studies used by American cities in the development and implementation of their homeless policies concur...

Disfranchising, demonizing and criminalizing houseless citizens;

A> DOES NOT alleviate the perceived or actual problems and

B> Costs A LOT of taxpayers money to fund those ineffectual policies.(2)

(lest I beg the point about disfranchisement; According to a recent census of the houseless in Santa Cruz, a large majority were employed and housed locally before they became houseless, and therefore are a part of the community.)

That tax money is funneled, along with the dysfunctional policing policies, to local law enforcement agencies which then act overtly, with media pronouncements of 'cleanups', 'sweeps', against a portion of their community.

The policies, practices, and the pressure of media publicity leading to short-term allegedly 'effective action' by law enforcement agencies have the net result of causing the officer-on-the-street to be even less effective in their community policing tasks as they become overwhelmed (hence the 'need' for 'security guards') enforcing ordinances against a targeted sector of the city's population.

Enforcement of these ordinances also occurs at the expense of police resource availability to the community at large ... within existing budgets.

Further, these city-created ordinances often appear to be unconstitutional at face simply by their selective nature, and enforcement is potentially even MORE selective (ie. Chronic street alcoholics and other common candidates for a court 'plead out', people on probation or with 'search clauses') in order to preemptively avoid legal challenges by irate less compliant and more knowledgeable victims, even as these ordinances and related 'sweeps' hamper the ability of the police, in the short or long term, to interact with and serve more socially legitimate law enforcement functions in regard to the homeless community, which would certainly be uncooperative and very distrustful of the police due to previous experience.

Viewed in it's entirety the end result of strategies and tactics involving the disfranchisement, demonization, and criminalization of the houseless typically favors (solely) the interests of commercial property owners, land developers ... and police agencies(3), public and private, whose budgets and manpower are increased, even in times of economic troubles, again at the expense of the community at large.

All this for policies that do not work.

All this for policies that cost taxpayers dollars.

What part of "unconstitutional policies" (with the inherent civil tort liabilities) and "fiduciary malfeasance" doesn't Santa Cruz city's elected officials and management understand when they spend their citizens money on policies repeatedly proven ineffective, counterproductive and potentially unconstitutional?

What part of "Your city is wasting tax revenues on policies PROVEN not functional" don't the taxpayers of Santa Cruz understand?



2. Street People and the Contested Realm of Public Space, Randall Amster

3. (Exposition on Nuisance Laws and society)

"First, our analysis ... suggests that if development assistance is not appropriately funded relative to the size, geography, and needs of (a community in the) targeted regions, it is liable to act as a double-edged sword by precipitating a revolution..." ~~Kim Cragin, Peter Chalk; Terrorism and Development - RAND Corp, 2003,

by Protect And Serve Each Other
Thursday Sep 20th, 2012 8:01 PM

The Peaceful Streets Project is an all-volunteer, grassroots effort uniting Austinites in ending the institutional violence taking place on our streets. Through community organizing and direct action tactics, the Peaceful Streets Project seeks to support Austin communities in understanding, exercising, and standing up for our rights.

A society free of state-sponsored institutionalized violence.

Mission: Through community organizing, engaging in non-political and non-violent direct action tactics, and utilizing new technologies, the Peaceful Streets Project seeks to bring about a cultural shift where individuals understand their rights and hold law enforcement officials accountable, and communities protect and serve each other.

To fulfill our mission, the Peaceful Streets Project is undertaking the following actions:

  1. Ongoing, free training sessions on knowing your rights in police encounters and on recording police activity safely and responsibly. Please contact us if you are interested in hosting a training for your community.
  2. Ongoing “Police Complaint Department” events in public spaces to enable Austinites to go on record with their stories of police abuse. Click here for samples of testimonies collected so far.
  3. Ongoing “cop watch” actions (peacefully video-witnessing police activity to assist those who may be victims of police misconduct). Peaceful Streets volunteers bearing witness in cop watch actions must adhere to the PSP Cop Watch Code of Conduct.
  4. Annual Police Accountability Summit, featuring a free, full day of workshops, speakers, and live testimonies of experiences of police abuse. On July 14th 2012, over 200 Austinites from all walks of life attended the event, and Peaceful Streets raised funds to place 100 free cameras in the hands of community members willing to monitor police in their neighborhoods. See photos and learn more about the event here.
  5. Continuously building alliances with other community initiatives in Austin to support one another’s work.
  6. Supporting similar efforts across the country.