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ACLU Santa Cruz Wins 2017 Dick Criley Activism Award
Local Chapter Continues Tradition of Protecting Civil Liberties
The ACLU of Santa Cruz county is proud to announce that it has been jointly awarded, along with the Berkeley North East Bay Chapter, the 2017 Dick Criley Activism Award. Each year, representatives of the Northern California affiliate's 23 chapters and clubs select a member group for the activism award. This is the second time in the past five years that the local chapter has been so honored.
The Dick Criley Activism Award is given annually to an ACLU-NC chapter that has been exemplary in implementing the three core functions of chapters in order to advance civil liberties through effective advocacy and outreach: (1) local monitoring and advocacy; (2) community education and visibility; and (3) participation in state and federal grassroots lobbying and campaigns.
Richard “Dick” Criley (1911-2000) was a staunch defender of constitutional rights who served for many years as Vice Chair of the Northern California affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. A relentless opponent of repression and political strong-arm tactics, Mr. Criley was a co-founder of the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee(HUAC) and saw his efforts eventually rewarded with the committee's demise in 1976.
He once summarized the reason for his defense of the Bill of Rights as "freedoms for all -- or freedom for none. "Our system of individual rights depends upon their availability to everyone -- including some people whose beliefs we may not like," he said. "If the constitutional rights of any unpopular group or minority are weakened . . . we will all lose some of our freedom in the process." ALCU Santa Cruz County continues to fulfill that vision through its work in defense of civil liberties.
The full ACLU of Santa Cruz County 2017 Dick Criley Activism Award Application will be available on line at santacruzaclu.org. Some highlights from that application include:
Forum and Film Screening on Police Accountability and Transparency
As members of the Santa Cruz County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union we are proud of our accomplishments this past year and have endeavored to provide a complete a report of our activism as possible. Our yearly priorities as selected by the board are (1) Immigration; (2) Houselessness; (3) Police Transparency and Accountability and (4) First Amendment. Perhaps the event that defines us best as chapter members and as advocates for civil liberties occurred on April 29th of this year. The chapter subcommittee on Police Accountability & Transparency presented a city wide seminal: "Forum on Community Police Relations". The chapter invited, as lead panelist, Norm Stamper, former Chief of Seattle Police department, during the WTO Protest of the late 90's. Author of Breaking Rank (2005) and To Protect and Serve (2016). Our other panel members included:
• Samara Marion: San Francisco "Office of Police Accountability" (formerly Office of Citizen Complaint); previously a practicing Public Defender in Santa Cruz;
• Sandy Brown: current sitting City Council member, formerly on the now abandoned Santa Cruz Police Review Commission;
• John Malkin: author of The Movement to Establish a Police Review Commission in Santa Cruz (1992); journalist, formerly on the now abandoned Santa Cruz Police Review Commission.
Interaction with New Police Chief Andy Mills
Chapter Board Member Lee Brokaw was chosen by the City Manager, to participate in one of four panels who interviewed the 6 potential candidates for the position on new Chief of SCPD. His panel met with the City Manager to advocate for an ACLU compatible chief. As chapter representative, Lee Brokaw spent 10 hours interviewing the 6 candidates. Chapter board member Brokaw advocated very strongly for the hiring of Andy Mills who was selected as new chief.
The new Chief, at his request, met with a majority of the Board with in his first 36 hours on the job. The chapter was the first community organization requested for such a meeting. During this meeting, a wide range of issues were discussed, including but not limited to, this year’s chapter priority issues of immigration, police transparency and accountability and homelessness. Chapter board member Lee Brokaw was invited by the Chief to meet with two other community activists, to critique an, as of then yet to be rolled out, new standing order for SCPD, rank & file, regarding a change in treatment for the homeless by SCPD. Chief Mills has initiated a policy which directs his officers not to disturb the homeless while sleeping at night. Chapter Vice Chair Pleich is a member of a homeless advocacy group which is working to provide a safe place to sleep, more bathrooms and a 'storage facility' for personal belongings of the homeless. He also serves as chapter representative on the Chief’s Advisory Committee.
Know Your Rights for Immigrants
Chapter sponsored and participated in an ACLU Know Your Rights Immigrants training at Louden Nelson Community Center in Santa Cruz on April 8, 2017 which covered issues for those working with the immigrant community including the following circumstances: Interactions With The Police, On The Street, In Your Car, Jails, ICE Comes To Your Home, Stops You On The Street, At Work, Immigration Custody, How To Prepare Your Family. Board Member Stacey Falls, a member of the faculty of Santa Cruz High School, participated in an similar training at the school.
Chapter Vice Chair Steve Pleich also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of MHCAN (Mental Health Client Action Network) the only peer owned, peer staffed and peer operated provider of mental and behavioral health services and support in Santa Cruz County. In that capacity, and with chapter support, the rights of all disabled persons in our county are protected.
Moreover, We continued to push the Sheriff and the SCPD to correct errors that led to the killings of mentally ill individuals, one by each department, and made suggestions to impose accountability on the officers. These efforts have stalled because the families of the two individuals have sued the departments, so the departments have been instructed by their counsel not to discuss the matters further.
21st Century Policing and Departmental Engagement
Last year, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department adopted the Obama Administration generated 21st Century Policing Policies. The chapter informed on and participated in that process and chapter Chair Peter Gelblum and board member Abbi Samuels continue to meet regularly with command staff to monitor the execution of these and other polices.
Local Bail Reform
The chapter drafted and forwarded a letter to the Santa Cruz City Council urging them to postpone deciding on a new bail schedule that had been proposed and to create a task force to examine the financial and criminal justice implications of the fines and fees system on low income communities and communities of color.
Know Your Rights ACLU Forum on Houselessness
As previously mentioned, houselessness is a priority issue for our chapter this year. The chapter sponsored a forum and community discussion entitled "Know Your Rights as a Person Without Housing" on Tuesday, July 18 at the Louden Nelson Community Center in Santa Cruz. Panelists included Tristia Bauman, Staff Attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), Andrea Pritchett and Peyton Provezano of Berkeley Copwatch, and Wes White of the Monterey County Homeless Union. The speakers discussed and answered questions offered by the standing room only crowd regarding the rights of people experiencing homelessness, including dealing with citations, property confiscation, and orders to move along. In attendance at the invitation of Chapter Chair Peter Gelblum was Monterey Chapter Board Member Mary Kay. The program was moderated by Joey Crottogini, Clinic Manager at the County's Homeless People's Health Clinic and Tia Paneet, a HPHP nurse, was also on the organizing committee which included currently unhoused or who have been unhoused in the past. The local move along or “stay away” ordinance has been and continues to be a chapter focus. When the City closed off City Hall and adjoining properties for homeless people to sleep after several years of permitting it, and to outlaw even sitting on the wall surrounding City Hall, two Chapter Board members met with the City Manager to attempt (unsuccessfully) to persuade him to change this new policy. Our activism around this issue remains robust in our challenge to the “Stay Away” ordinance enacted by council which specifically targets homeless individuals. Legal assistance has been requested from the Northern California affiliate as I’m sure you are aware.
Board Members Abbi Samuels and Steve Pleich are founding members of the Freedom Sleepers, a local grassroots activist group advocating for the rights of people experiencing houselessness. The Freedom Sleepers weekly Community Sleepout Protest was held for 104 consecutive weeks beginning in July, 2015 and was supported throughout by the Santa Cruz County Chapter. The Freedom Sleepers, whose primary mission was to end the local camping/sleeping ban and decriminalize homelessness, were able to raise community consciousness around the issue and bring items addressing criminalization before the Santa Cruz City Council. Although not successful in obtaining council approved change, advocacy for change continues.
The chapter has planned and organized an evening public forum for November 20, 2017 at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History on the intersection of the First Amendment and Equal Protection in light of Charlottesville and related incidents, featuring Christine Sun of ACLU-NC and Zahra Biloo, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The award will be presented to the chapter at the Bill of Rights Day Celebration on Sunday, December 3.
Board of Directors
ACLU of Northern California
Santa Cruz County Chapter
Chair Peter Gelblum, Esq.
Vice Chair Steve Pleich, J.D.
Treasurer Keith Lesar, Esq.
Recording Secretary Stacey Falls
Robert Taren, Esq.