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Indybay Feature
Business as Usual: SCPD Targets Homeless after City Council Re-Affirms Camping Ban
by Alex Darocy (alex [at]
Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
On the rain-swept evening of March 8, the Santa Cruz City Council voted 5-2 to re-affirm the city's camping ban, which outlaws sleeping in public with or without bedding, and prohibits sleeping in cars, between the hours of 11pm and 8:30am. Supporters of the "Right to Rest" had hoped the city council would remove references to the word "sleep" from the ordinance, but the majority of council members voted to keep the law exactly as it is presently written. Shortly after the vote concluded, it was business as usual for the Santa Cruz Police Department, whose officers spent the evening issuing citations and targeting homeless people sleeping downtown. [Top photo: SCPD officer Nicholas Kramer issues a camping citation to a man sleeping along Walnut Avenue at 6:45am on March 9, following the city council's vote to re-affirm the camping ban about eight hours earlier.]
A large group of community members spoke to the city council in favor of amending the camping ban (section 6.36.010 of the municipal code). The meeting was adjourned immediately after the conclusion of the camping ban vote, at about 10:30pm.

At about 11:45pm, SCPD officer Dominique Hohmann and another officer with the department cleared the downtown post office of the homeless people who were sleeping there, citing two individuals. One of the individuals was told by police she was being cited for trespassing. At no time did either of the two officers offer the people they cited at the post office any information on where to find an emergency shelter or how to receive social services.

At about 12:15am, one of the same officers who was citing people at the post office was at the Boys & Girls Club, citing two individuals for sleeping near the club's front entrance. The officer informed the men they had a certain number of minutes to gather their belongings and leave the area.

Shortly after 3am, SCPD Sergeant Bill Azua and officer David Gunter arrived at Santa Cruz City Hall after they were called by a First Alarm security guard to eject a single woman who was sleeping under the building's eaves on the brick walkway that leads up to the city's main offices. The security guard had begun to clear the walkway of three other sleepers seeking shelter from the rain, but was unsuccessful in his attempts to get the woman to leave. She did leave, however, after Azua spoke with her.

At no time did Azua or Gunter ever offer any of the people they moved along at City Hall information on how to receive social services or any shelter services. The woman had been asleep using a single blanket.

At 6:45 am, SCPD officer Nicholas Kramer cited multiple homeless people who were sleeping along the edge of the Cedar parking garage.

One man sleeping next to the sidewalk on the Walnut Avenue side of the garage was issued a camping citation. He was asleep when officer Kramer approached him. The space he occupied was small, and the only equipment the man was using was a thin sleeping pad and a sleeping bag.

At no time did officer Kramer offer the man cited near Walnut Avenue any information on how to receive shelter services or any other social services.

The homeless woman who was displaced by police at City Hall eventually joined the Freedom Sleepers, who were participating in their 35th community sleepout a few feet away.

Since July 4, the Freedom Sleepers have been sleeping at City Hall one night a week to protest local laws that criminalize homelessness.

Before she was moved by police, the woman was sleeping under the eaves of City Hall, a location that was dry and sheltered from the wind and rain. When sleeping with the Freedom Sleepers on the open sidewalk, she was directly exposed to the elements, where she was rained on for two to three hours.

The Freedom Sleepers choose to sleep on the sidewalk in front of City Hall, because it is a location which leaves them largely safe from the police. During rain storms, however, some Freedom Sleepers without tents migrate to the dry areas of City Hall, which is closed to the public at night. Sleeping there places them at a higher risk of interacting with police.

One of the homeless men moved along from City Hall at 3am by First Alarm and the Santa Cruz police eventually made his way about a half a block away to the front entrance of the Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, where he slept until daybreak.

There was some irony in this, considering a member of the church's parish council spoke before the city council only five hours earlier in favor of maintaining the camping ban as it is.

Sophie Polychronakis, the vice-president of the parish council, told city council members the proposed changes to the camping ordinance wouldn't affect the church directly because they are a "private entity" and they can call police to have people removed from their property, which is marked with several no trespassing signs.

Changing the ordinance, Polychronakis stated to the city council, "may even create even bigger problems."

It is unclear if the parish council of Prophet Elias knows how many people are pushed towards their property by the move-along laws the church supports.

Alex Darocy
§The Santa Cruz Post Office at 11:45pm on March 8
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
§The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Cruz at 12:15am
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
§A Freedom Sleeper's tent is illuminated by a car's brake lights at 5am
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
§Sleeping in the Cedar garage at 4:30am
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
§SCPD arrives at 6:40am
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
§SCPD officer Nicholas Kramer issues a camping citation at 6:45am
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM
§Freedom Sleepers food and cleaning supplies
by Alex Darocy Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:25 PM

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by FTP
Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:56 PM
Or did they just reach into the golf bag full of laws and pull out a 9 iron? Even if Don's idea passed there's more then enough out there to fuck with you.
by John Cohen-Colby
Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 9:59 PM
Does the SCPD serve and protect the community by harassing those who local bigots deem undesirable? This is similar to the sundown laws which excluded People of Color from cities after the sun set.

The SCPD is wasting our tax dollars on shameful bigotry while armed teenage gangsters, dangerous drug dealers and sexual predators stalk our streets without sanction because they are housed.

The SCPD officers abusing homeless people are cowardly bullies. This shows disdain for people's human and civil rights; it's making our town more dangerous.
This was a camping citation:

The man gave me his permission to take photos, and then he let me read and photograph the citation.

The other citations documented in this article were all for trespassing.
by FTP
Saturday Mar 12th, 2016 10:13 PM
There's a difference in the law, but not to the person on the cement. Was it subsection a or b? Don's proposal was to cut (a) out. But there are 2 other subsections to 6.36.010 that are just as odious, and I'll wager he caught one of those.
by Pat Colby
Sunday Mar 13th, 2016 5:22 AM
Thank for continuing to document this cruelty forced on poor ppl.

Boy those sleeping ppl looked really like dangerous criminals, NOT!

Then in the mean time how many drunks drivers were on the road, how many drug deals went down, and stores open late were left vulnerable for armed robbery by real criminals!

I guess SCPD likes to go after homeless ppl because it makes their job safer. Homeless ppl don't carry guns like real criminals do. This why the city has been overtaken by real criminals unhindered by our police who are too busy focusing on noncriminals. Nobody in SC will really be safe until SCPD focuses on real crime and real criminals. The gang and drug issue that are out of control are what should be SCPD's main priority not secondary to homeless ppl

They made Azua a Lieutenant? He was just made Sargent a year ago. Numerous (25+) homeless ppl mention he has harassed them, used excessive force and stalked them through the city. They are fearful at the mere mention of his name. IS this why SCPD keeps promoting him.

He held his hand on his gun handle the whole time we were videoing him while he cited a young black man for smoking who wasn't. Then without probable cause ran him for priors hoping to be able to arrest him for something. Why did Azua have his hand on his gun in a ready position to shoot one of the 6 of us? Were we that dangerous looking, standing 10 feet away or was it our videoing of him giving a false ticket to harass four young black men out of downtown the dangerous part?!

Please see our first cop watching video on youtube under search words Santa Cruz Azua Copwatch. Watch all five parts as the officers ignored numerous other real smokers, one smoking right in face at his car window, violating the law as he and officer Aulders [sp] stalk the four black men out of downtown!
by GT
Sunday Mar 13th, 2016 8:26 AM
Lane's proposal was essentially meaningless and I have to question why he touted it as a major change. As other commenters have pointed out, the camping ordinance includes the laying out of sleeping bags and blankets. The five council members who went thumbs down on Lane's idea aren't stupid and might have decided why vote yes for something that was a dead item to begin with.
by Alex Darocy
(alex [at] Sunday Mar 13th, 2016 8:58 AM
Azua is a Sergeant. The article has been corrected.
Meanwhile, back at the Pulitzer, thank you for the years of solid reporting, Alex. One person showing an entire industry how it's done.
by Laura Tucker
Sunday Mar 13th, 2016 12:13 PM
According to the ordinance you are not legally trespassing until you are asked to leave and refuse. Are the police following this protocol before issuing these tickets?
by Alex Darocy
(alex [at] Sunday Mar 13th, 2016 11:29 PM
No. They either cite people first, then ask them to leave, or they just make them leave by threatening to cite them.
by Boyd
Monday Mar 14th, 2016 9:55 AM
The protocols, as they are written, may pass muster with courts and a liberal civil rights organization, however these same protocols are routinely ignored and treated as a joke by SCPD.

Four SCPD Officers Issue Groundless Citation to Woman for Spitting on Pacific Avenue

Four Santa Cruz Police Department officers flexed their arbitrary rule in the ongoing war against poor people trying to survive on the streets when they ticketed a woman on Pacific Avenue for spitting. These boys in blue did not find it prudent to give this guest to our city a warning about spitting on the sacred sidewalks of Santa Cruz. She was issued a ticket for nothing more than spitting.

Officer Winston issued the ticket to the woman for spitting, even though no prior warning was given, which is required under Santa Cruz Municipal Code section 9.50.020.

The Santa Cruz police generally do not like to be observed when they are harassing people. And they appreciate it even less when their persecutions are documented by people on the street.
by Observer
Monday Mar 14th, 2016 10:44 AM
How did the police know this woman was poor?
Are they required to provide a warning on every infraction?
by Robert Norse
Monday Mar 14th, 2016 11:51 AM
A search of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code reveals no law specifically criminalizing spitting. The nearest thing to it is the contorted code section below (MC 9.50.020).

If this woman was ticketed under the city Code, it was likely under MC 9.50.020 which reads, in relevant part,

9.50.020 CONDUCT ON PUBLIC PROPERTY, MONUMENTS, AND LAWNS. No person, after having been notified by a police officer, public officer or downtown host that he or she is in violation of the prohibition in this section, shall: ...(d) In the C-C community commercial, C-N neighborhood commercial, C-B commercial beach, CBD central business, and R-T tourist residential zoning districts, intentionally throw, discharge, launch or spill any solid object (including but not limited to footballs, hackysacks, baseballs, beach balls, Frisbees, or other similar devices) or liquid substance or otherwise cause any object or substance to be thrown, discharged, launched, spilled or to become airborne.

All I've found in the state code (after a rather quick look) is what's described in this article: . Since prosecution under this section (battery) would require a jury trial and an appointed public defender (unlike an infraction), it's unlikely Winston would have written such a citation--which would be costly and ridiculous. Plus spitting on the sidewalk does not involve a battery against a person at all.

So, it was likely the creative use of MC 9.50.020. And yes a warning was required.

Police more recently have gotten in the habit of saying "you were warned before" in cases involving sitting on the sidewalk (also a violation under another section of 9.60.020). But the story makes no mention of a prior instance of spitting or a warning given in anticipation of a "criminal spit".

And yes there are no real checks on police disregarding the law to enforce their own sense of what "should be". Particularly against poor people. One remedy is to videodocument and publicize, or to raise our voices at the time and draw public attention to what the blueshirts are doing.
A handful of us witnessed Officer Galli spit on the grounds of SC city hall during the city council meeting while he was guarding the outside from poor ppl. I and others called him on it. Asking him to give himself a ticket because it is against the SC ordinances. He refused!

Since this officer can violate the law, I demand that all tickets for spitting by others be immediately dismissed! Laws apply to all not just certain ppl.
by John Cohen-Colby
Wednesday Mar 16th, 2016 5:24 PM
We have witnessed First Alarm guards spitting on Pacific Avenue. When we confronted them, they ran away like cowards. SCPD officers refused to cite the First Alarm guard spitters. Apparently they don't care about the Rule of Law.

If I spat on Pacific, I would get a hefty fine. Why shouldn't they?
by IndyRadio/Roknich
Thursday Mar 17th, 2016 8:58 AM
I witnessed one of the officers above considering a camping-related citation. I recognize Nick Kramer from one of the photos above. I greeted him and the individual who he was talking with, and it was a friendly exchange all around. Officer Kramer conducted himself like a complete gentleman with one of our most impoverished citizens, and may have actually done a little to brighten the man's day. No citation was issued.

It's clear to me the Pam Comstock would not miss a chance. The police are interested in a "complaint driven" process - Ms. Comstock would hunt down these human targets. We are lucky she's not the Chief of Police. Our police chief seems to have a better understanding of "law and order" than she does.

Her desire is to abuse the coercive powers of the state, and it is in the interest of the citizens to remove her from those mechanisms.
by G
Saturday Mar 19th, 2016 10:47 AM
Apparently journalists need to be entered, which requires a fee, before they can be considered for a Pulitzer. The Pulitzer committee doesn't scour all media in search of greatness. The Pulitzer committee requires payment to consider a journalist for nomination for a chance to win an award.

Norse could afford the fee, it's the cost of a nice dinner. It would be a selfless act. Darocy deserves a Pulitzer for years of tenacious reporting. A win all around.
by Cold Camper
Monday Mar 21st, 2016 6:16 PM
Recently, Alex Darocy was doing a late night cop watch and showcased an SCPD ticketing spree at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Someone warned him that focusing so much on the location the ticket was given was dangerously counterproductive to the people who were staying there at night. Sure enough, there's now a no trespassing sign in the window.

It's something BSSC resisted doing for years, despite asswads like RN's claim that BSSC was unfriendly to the homeless, which always lacked basis in fact regarding the BUSINESS (perhaps not the FORMER OWNER Neil Coonerty), but in the glare of the media spotlight they folded. Perhaps they used that indybay piece as an excuse, perhaps it put them under intensified pressure, nevertheless the end result is the same. One less place for the houseless to escape bad weather due to unwarranted publicity of location location location.

Thanks A LOT Alex. A classic example of lack of journalistic ethics in the interest of sensationalism. I see you haven't learned a damn thing. You're a schmuck.
by G
Tuesday Mar 22nd, 2016 6:57 AM
I had heard there was an anointed sleeper at BSSC, someone that had cut a deal with BSSC, never bothered to find out who it was. I knew T had others spots, so it was surprising to see a pic that looked like her, at BSSC. Amusing to imagine a quid pro quo between T and the Coonerty's, although given T's reaction to PC2010, maybe it isn't so unexpected? I hope T doesn't get violent in response to the blown spot!
by Razer Ray
Tuesday Mar 22nd, 2016 8:59 AM
His name is Al, and he had a letter from BSSC giving him permission to be there. That was pre-Bell v Boise and the police did occasionally give him a camping ticket b/c 'plain sight'... rarely. He's got better, alternative housing, now.
by John Cohen-Colby
Monday Mar 28th, 2016 9:27 PM
Alex is shining light on police abuse. All of these sleeping locations are known to the police and the property owners. Is it better to allow police to cite homeless sleepers in secret, away from public view, or to educate the public? Cold water clearly doesn't understand the function of journalism. Alex's article and photos are not at all sensationalistic.
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