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Inappropriate Comments by TBSC Members Left Unchecked on SCPD Social Media
Recent innapropriate comments left by Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC) members on the Santa Cruz Police Department's Facebook page have remained unchecked and reveal a relationship that has perhaps become too comfortable, one which has most likely been further facilitated by the recent large financial donation by the "public safety" group to the police.
In one comment left on a SCPD Facebook post from January 21 about details of a criminal suspect recently brought into custody, TBSC member Samantha Olden asks the police, "Can you please let the other inmates know what he did so he can get some special attention?"
In the past, Take Back Santa Cruz has been criticized for attempting to take justice into their own hands with a vigilante style approach, and this comment appears to confirm that tendency is still alive in the group's current leadership.
On a SCPD Facebook post from January 20 about the apprehension of a shoplifting suspect, one of the TBSC co-founders, Analicia Cube, left the comment: "Twain Harte we have one of yours down here. She's the chicken."
Take Back Santa Cruz members have been criticized for narrowly attempting to define who "real" Santa Cruz residents are, and how those perceived to be non-locals should be treated differently by the justice system (and also when receiving local social services). TBSC has also marketed itself as an "anti-bullying" group, yet Cube freely uses name calling on the SCPD Facebook page, as she has in other online forums in the past.
The comments from Olden and Cube remain visible despite the SCPD's moderation guidelines, which are clearly stated on the info/about page: "inappropriate" material that is "derogatory, defamatory, insensitive" or that contains vulgar or profane language is to be removed.
Have Olden and Cube been given passes to post whatever they want to on the SCPD page because they are in the leadership of Take Back Santa Cruz, an organization that has donated a substantial sum of money to the police?
Olden and Cube are featured prominently in a SCPD Facebook post from November, with pictures of the two delivering a $2500 check from TBSC to the police, which was to go towards the construction of a memorial garden for Sergeant Butch Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler outside of the department.
Most of the SCPD Facebook posts are links to the department's blog, which is hosted by Blogspot. The blog post about the $2500 donation is titled "Take Back Santa Cruz Comes Through in a Big Way", and includes the following statements from the SCPD: "Take Back Santa Cruz has always been known for putting action behind their words. Now they have put their money there too," and, "we are quite honored and humbled by your donation and support over the years. Thank You Take Back Santa Cruz!!!"
Elsewhere on the SCPD Facebook page, both Olden and Cube have left multiple comments promoting fundraising efforts for the memorial fund. Olden organizes fundraisers at Woodstock's Pizza (which is part of a business chain not based in Santa Cruz) for the memorial garden, as well as events that support the "subsidized self defense and anti-bullying classes" offered by TBSC called Santa Cruz Strong.
Cube has left comments on the SCPD Facebook page on how to buy the "Never Forget" t-shirts TBSC produced to benefit the memorial garden.
In statements made to the media, the TBSC leadership commonly attempts to divorce itself from mudslinging comments like the ones made by Olden and Cube, but these recent comments from them further emphasizes how in reality it is not just fringe members of the organization who are making the inappropriate comments.
Early critics of TBSC have asked why hasn't the organization taken in an interest in police brutality if the group is interested in public safety. The Olden comment suggest a certain level of support FOR police brutality, in the form of an indirect solicitation to incite inmates to be violent towards each other.
The call for violence against a police suspect also acts in opposition to the presumption of innocence which is crucial to the system of justice in the United States. Take Back Santa Cruz has previously had issues with jumping to conclusions about the guilt or innocence of a police suspect when the group mobbed the court hearing for Ken Maffei in March of last year. Maffei was accused of stealing flowers from a memorial for SCPD officers Baker and Butler, but he was later found to be completely innocent of the charges. To this day on their website, TBSC continues to display a link to a news article in the local media about Maffei that reported their presence at his first court hearing, yet they never posted the follow up article that was published about his exoneration.
The current Facebook page used by the SCPD is a "fan page" which states they joined Facebook in July of 2011.
The earliest posts visible on the police's blog are messages from Chief of Police Kevin Vogel when he was interim Chief in December of 2010.
In April of 2011 the department launched what it believed to be, "the first consumer-focused law enforcement iPhone application in the country".
The humor on the police blog is often unprofessional in its tone, and while the department does use the blog and social media posts to highlight unsolved crimes, very often the blog is used for blatant and self-congratulatory department propaganda.
How police departments interact with the public they serve through social media is still a new process, and the Santa Cruz Police Department is still sailing in uncharted territory.
Inappropriate Comments by TBSC Members:
"Can you please let the other inmates know what he did so he can get some special attention?" http://www.facebook.com/santacruzpolice/posts/527531067344227?stream_ref=10
"Twain Harte we have one of yours down here. She's the chicken." http://www.facebook.com/santacruzpolice/posts/527062290724438?stream_ref=10
Photos from the police blog: SCPD Chief of Police Kevin Vogel shows off a $2500 check from Take Back Santa Cruz and wears the "Never Forget" shirt the group sells; Chief Vogel thanks Take Back Santa Cruz members Samantha Olden (on the left) and Analicia Cube (on the right).