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Demands of the New Police Chief and His Initial Response
by Robert Norse
Saturday Dec 30th, 2017 1:07 PM
In a letter to me, Police Chief Andy Mills has responded item-by-item to a series of concerns I raised in response to Steve Schnaar's letter skeptically regarding the SCPD endorsement of Martin Luther King celebration. While I remain skeptical of his answers--and they are pretty general--I reprint them so community members themselves can judge. I also include follow-up correspondence, which isn't too encouraging. While Mills temporarily instituted an incrementally saner policy around the Sleeping Ban and Lorenzo Park which needs to be acknowledged and commended, he has not responded yet with specifics around Public Records Act requests from earlier this month.
In mid-December, I sent Mills a letter requesting Calls for Service codes (so I could decipher a prior record of the kinds of calls received from San Lorenzo Park to determine the nature of the “problems” there).

I also requested the SCPD infraction citation and general arrest records for July 1- December 15 to determine if there has been a crackdown on homeless folks elsewhere in the City than San Lorenzo Park.

I suggested the SCPD include in its summary the race of the person cited and the length of time for the police-initiated “Stay Away” orders.

I praised Mills for limiting Sleeping Ban tickets at night and supporting the limited San Lorenzo campground.

I also suggested he respond to “long-standing concerns about police transparency and accountability”.

Perhaps in response to Steve Schnaar's public letter and a HUFF flyer outlining ongoing concerns about the SCPD, Mills responded.

My flyer is at https://www.indybay.org/uploads/2017/12/23/scpd_abuses_flyer_december_revision.pdf.

Steve's letter is at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/12/21/18805406.php.

Mills replied with an answer, relevant parts of which I reprint here. I added bracketed clarifications to indicate Mills' responses to the demands on the flyer that I put out. I'm not aware of any response he's made separately to Steve, who has not responded to my suggestion that he clarify if any of the flyer's concerns are his.

ANDY MILLS' RESPONSE TO THE HUFF FLYER
From: Andrew Mills
Sent: Wednesday, December 27, 2017 12:51 PM
To: Robert; steveschnaar [at] gmail.com

Dear Robert, Steve et al

I am choosing to respond to this email because I genuinely believe the questions are from one seeking truth. You may disagree with some of my responses, but for the sake of brevity, and yet transparency, I’ll do my best.

I think it worthy of note, that to change things and improve fairness and justice, people must work together for a common purpose. This is the primary purpose of the MLK march, learning to work together during an undoubtedly fractured time in our nation. We/I welcome you to join us. This does not negate the multitudes of injustice, but build a bridge we can all walk over together.

[Norse]]: Open the books on use of tasers, batons, guns, pepper spray, choke holds, & pain compliance:
[Mills]: We do this already. I will further report out uses of force to the Chiefs Advisory Committee.

[Norse]: Cut back a bloated police budget for the largest department in the state for a city of 60,000.
[Mills]:You know this to be a fact? Even if it were true, with a University, center of commerce and County seat, not to mention a large tourist center demand incredible resources. A recent outside consulting firm stated the department must either increase staffing or reduce demand. The reality is the community must decide on what level of service they want for the price they must pay in terms of tax burden. I welcome that input.

[Norse}Demilitarize and refocus the SCPD from its flash mob “shock and awe” overkill tactic.
[Mills]: I know what is generally meant by military tactics, but not sure what you mean by flash mob or shock and awe. I to believe, generally, in the reduction of military tactics and equipment when possible. There are some dangerous people who present challenging situations. These incidents take special care and concern with equipment and tactics designed to allow everyone to walk away safe. We are currently giving advanced de-escalation training to all of our staff. This is above and beyond CIT and mental health training.

[Norse] Refuse Drug War money, military equipment, drone, face & license surveillance technology
[Mills]: We do use asset seizure money. It is a lawful by product of criminal activity. We do not use it however for this kind of equipment. I have given money to non-profits in the past to help kids avoid crime grow educationally. We will do so again in the future. There are strict limitations on what the money can be used for.

[Norse]: Require all SCPD officers to live in the city if not the local districts they police.
[Mills]: I would love to encourage this. It is not legally or practically possible, especially in a city where the cost of living is far beyond what we pay our officers. I would love to work toward corporate housing for new officers to get them to live in this city. Maybe you can help us find a way to do this.

[Norse]:End abuse, citations, stay-away's, & arrests of poor & homeless people for status crimes.
[Mills]: I think my record on this speaks for itself and have paid a political price for taking this stand. Those who are houseless need to help me too. Those who are stealing and creating disturbances, and clearly not all are, have got to stop. We are also desperately trying to get the county, with its $282 million budget, to get the resources to those who need it most. The city has not legislative or budgetary mandate to approach this difficult problem. Yet it has been the Manager's highest priority if you base it on time of commitment.

[Norse]: Focus on white collar crime; abuses against workers and tenants; rape, and real crimes
[Mills]: Believe me, our officers would love nothing more. They would rather handle investigations that make a difference.

[Norse]: Swift suspension & prosecution of criminal cops with clear histories of violence or abuse.
[Mills]: As you know I have an IA function with External Oversight of the IA function. That person reports to the City Manager and Council.

[Norse]:Speed up accessibility to withheld records to monitor class and racial profiling.
[Millls]:Through the CPRA we give what we can to the public upon request. We are also posting those often on our Transparency portal.

[Norse]: Establish regular meetings with minority, poor, youth, student, disabled, and worker groups to review and assess complaints independent of the SCPD’s behind-closed-doors evaluations.
[Mills]: There are several mechanisms for this.

[Norse]: Institute regular record keeping of all police stops involving detention or citation.
[Mills]: We do in various forms.

[Norse]: Hold open meetings with San Lorenzo Park campers as well as others living outside to determine wants, needs, and concerns about current police behavior.
[Mills]: I regularly walk SL park and speak to the homeless. We are also getting ready to open a place for the homeless to lawfully sleep and provide wrap around services.

[Norse]: Reveal clearly all agreements with other police agencies re: planned reaction to protests
[Mills]: There has been and continues to be an agreement with all other police agencies in the county to help one another as needed. Interestingly, I presented our plan to the community though the Chief’s Advisory Committee and by their accounts it was well thought out. My philosophy is to foster free speech, rather than suppress it. We will however be prepared for those who desire violence.

[Norse]: Reveal all surveillance devices that regularly spy on law-abiding locals without a warrant.
[Mills]: What about those devices that don’t regularly spy? We do not use the federal warrantless court as a local police agency, nor do we have spying equipment. We are kind of boring.

[Norse]: Demand Chief Andy Mills release all reports on Arlt slaying and ICE/DHS collusion.
[Mills] This cannot be done and you are well aware of it. There is a law suit pending on the Arlt shooting. ICE/DHS collaboration has stopped. I locked them out of the building and they no longer have a personal desk here. It is however exempt from disclosure.

[Norse]: End business-as-usual militarization: overkill policing tactics, ever-more invasive surveillance like “swoop and snoop” license plate readers and the “protest punisher” Bearcat.
[Mills]:The Bearcat cannot by policy be used on a protest. We do not have license plate readers, even though they are helpful in solving serious violent crime. Again, we serve the community and this is the standard I believe our community desires. So, we do not have them deployed on police vehicles or fixed positions. I hope this helps some.


SUBSEQUENT CORRESPONDENCE

I've written Mills twice since requesting a specific follow up on the first item regarding taser and other weapon use on suspects. It is holiday vacation time for some of the City Hall staff, but the outstanding question for me is whether he will respond with the specifics that show real transparency rather than smooth public relations management.

His response included no specifics or promises of specifics, but did say that he was very busy, "cannot respond to each of your inquiries in depth as there are dozens of people who contact me via Facebook, twitter, email etc seeking answers. I try to answer as many as I can, but there are limits" and asked me to "please try and limit my inquiries.

I followed up by pointing out that he heads a large well-funded department with the resources to provide documentation, if nothing else, as to such matters as citations issued, force used, etc.

It's not terribly encouraging, nor is the fact that only one person of the dozen or more whom I cc-ed, including Steve Schnaar chose to respond indicating any concern about these issues.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Andy Mills & Steve Schnaar (posted by Norse)
Tuesday Jan 2nd, 2018 9:09 AM
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/12/21/18805406.php?show_comments=1#18805597

by Mike Todd & Mills (posted by Norse)
Tuesday Jan 2nd, 2018 9:15 AM
Below is the verbatim story from the 1-1-18 Sentinel, initially posted on line 12-31-17. To read and make comments go to http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/government-and-politics/20171231/qampa-with-santa-cruz-police-chief-andy-mills-on-benchlands-homeless-camp . The article contains an introduction by Miike Todd.

I'm reprinting it rather than simply giving the web address because such stories often become inaccessible after a certain time or require payment.

Better to donate your money to indybay.


THE SENTINEL Q & A

Q&A with Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills on benchlands homeless camp
By Michael Todd, Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ >> In the past few months, Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills almost singlehandedly has shaped the local debate on homelessness, with his proclamation that the city's overnight sleeping ban would not be enforced outside the downtown, except in cases involving nuisance, crime or complaint.

Mills' stance — to focus police enforcement downtown — was among the factors in the growth of a de facto homeless camp at the San Lorenzo Park benchlands, bordering the downtown area.

Mills' Oct. 14 Sentinel editorial announcing his stance came at a tipping point for the city's homeless population.

This summer, a hepatitis A outbreak — concentrated among the county's homeless people and drug users — led to city officials' decision to install hand-washing stations and portable toilets around town, including at the San Lorenzo Park benchlands area, where homeless people congregate and sleep.

Meanwhile, in early October, per Mills' direction, police cleared out around a dozen people who had been regularly sleeping by the downtown post office. That homeless camp disbanding followed one in May at City Hall and the downtown library.

By the end of October, up to 70 people were sleeping in the benchlands, next to the Santa Cruz County Governmental Center.

In recent weeks, two deaths have occurred at the camp, and city officials announced plans to disband and move the camp in mid-January to a gravel lot in Harvey West on River Street.

In an interview with the Sentinel on Friday, Mills shared his take on the camp's impact and future. One thing to note, he said, is that the growth of the benchlands camp has helped reduce calls for service involving homeless people.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: How was the benchlands chosen as a sanctuary for those without homes?
A: None of us chose the benchlands. When we cleared out the post office area, people already were living in the benchlands. It has certainly grown since we cleared out the post office area after we told people, “You need to find a different space to sleep at night. You cannot sleep here.”

Q: What are your thoughts on people sleeping outside in other areas?
A: There isn’t a ban on writing tickets for camping. We’re allowing people to sleep at nighttime from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Our officers still have the discretion to write tickets if it’s a problem. Our officers always have had that discretion. This is a continuation of past policies. I just codified it and made it public to let the community know what we’re doing as much as possible. The point, for me, I’m more concerned with effectiveness than doing the same things over and over again without results.

Q: What impact has the benchlands camp had on homelessness in the city?
A: Certainly, there are significant issues when you have that many people in such a condensed spot with a combination of problems such as mental illness and drug addiction. Overall, it has gone really well with calls of service and crimes — we’re not getting that much down there when you compare it to what we were getting when people were displaced throughout the downtown area. We do not see this as a long-term solution and we are aggressively working toward a better solution, but this still is not a perfect solution. The city is funding and putting together a spot on River Street where people can go and sleep and be during the daytime.

Q: Is the Harvey West lot on River Street an adequate space?
A: We have looked at dozens of properties and there just aren’t many places available. We’re a very compact city. This is not a great place, but it is the best place we have. We will see how many will come. The county has stepped forward and is willing to help with services out there so people can get the help they need. This isn’t a place where people can come and stay forever. They’re going to have a determined amount of time they can stay. We haven’t determined that timeline yet. They are going to have to start to look for housing and/or jobs. And they may reconsider if they want to stay in Santa Cruz.

Q: How is the long-term plan shaping up?
A: We have regular staff meetings where this is discussed and we continue to have special meetings for all involved. We are working to find ways we can improve this site. There’s not one city department that’s not involved in this somehow. The Water Department is giving up their space, their property for this. Information Technology Services are looking at surveillance cameras to find out how we can keep control of the area. (City Principal Management Analyst) Susie O’Hara is one of the people working tirelessly on this project. The mayor and city manager are very supportive of staff. Even the assistant city manager went out there on her own. This is an extraordinary effort. It’s not just me. There’s a variety of things on the table. We are working to continue to build relationships with the county and draw them into the process. I think there will be other solutions that will be important, especially with funding solutions for people with addiction and mental health issues.

Q: There have been two fatalities at the benchlands. How do we ensure the area remains safe?
A: We certainly recognize any death as a tragedy, especially anybody who is lost because they don’t have a place to sleep or have a horrible drug addiction. The opioid crisis is raging. We certainly are concerned with that. That is not because of the benchlands. It happens to be where people are. It’s terrible.

Q: Are you applying lessons learned as police chief in Eureka, which also has a large population of homeless people?
A: It’s not just Eureka. I can’t do this on my own. We took a real hard look at what San Diego is doing, and Eureka. There has got to be a place for people to go. We also are trying to figure out how to market this as a place where people do not come by the droves. This is not a place to come for rehab — we don’t have those resources here. If you’re coming here from somewhere else with no place to live, this us not a good place to be. Other jurisdictions will try to dump people. That is a terrible way to treat people. We’ve got to find a different solution than what we’ve been doing. Writing thousands of tickets has not worked and people have grown frustrated. There’s some more things coming down the pipe I think people will find reasonable.

Q: What is the plan for the camp after January?
A: I can’t say for sure. Our goal is to shut that thing down as people get housed. We’ve got the Salvation Army. There is a place open in the county now. People need to avail themselves of those resources. If not, there needs to be a consequence of that.

Q: Do some people prefer the freedoms of living outdoors than abiding by the rules shelters impose?
A: When you take a look at homeless population, I see a some very different groups. One group is indigent. They need help. They are on hard times. Then, there are the travelers. They will be here temporarily. Then, there are people who are mentally ill and people addicted to drugs. Sometimes, those overlap. They are people who don’t have the capacity to say “I need to get off the streets.” Then, there is a fifth category: the criminal element. They want that lifestyle. They do not want accountability. That’s the group that has become a police problem. We need to do our job of enforcement to get this corrected.

Q: Does the law-enforcement presence, such as the presence of City Park Rangers, help with the “criminal element?”
A: It does at some level. It provides some level of oversight. There may be people who don’t want to be in a space like that, people who want the isolation so they can live without accountability of any kind. Whereas, at least there is some accountability at the Benchlands. That is the most policed 100-yard space in the county. There are Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputies down there and park rangers. We’re down there. There are county government employees who work there. That is a heavily policed area. I get concerned about those who live without any oversight.
by John Cohen-Colby
Sunday Jan 7th, 2018 6:47 PM
Why is Chief Mills — like his predecessor — AWOL about domestic hate group Take Back Santa Cruz gang stalking my sister Patricia Colby, I and our emotional assistance cats since 2012 (when they made death threats against us)? They made this website about us:

http://www.johncohencolby.com

They have terrorized us on the Internet. They have made numerous criminal threats to harm us and our emotional assistance cats since 2012. Yet Sgt. Mark Eveleth and Sgt. Bill Clayton claim cyberstalking and criminal threats are free speech. That's false.

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/19/the-war-against-online-trolls/free-speech-does-not-protect-cyberharassment