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Police Chief Mills Ducks Issue In the Wake of the Boise "No Jail for Sleep" Decision
by Abbi Samuels and Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Sunday Sep 16th, 2018 2:13 PM
City Council Ringleader David Terrazas cut off Freedom Sleeper activist Abbi Samuels at the City Council mike on September 4th as she denounced unlawful police action attacking sleeping homeless folks. This on the same day the 9th Circuit Court ruled supporting the homeless right to sue Boise for "cruel and unusual punishment" because ticketing and arresting homeless folks there when there is no real shelter alternative.
The recent Martin v. Boise decision found the Boise Camping and Disorderly Conduct ruled that "...[J]ust as the state may not criminalize the state of being ‘homeless in public places,’ the state may not ‘criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless — namely sitting, lying, or sleeping on the streets.’
Interestingly enough, even the Police Officers Association recognized the significance of the case and summarized it:

Abbi's account and subsequent correspondence to Chief Mills follows.

Afterward is the Norse correspondence with Mills.

Last Tuesday, Abbi Samuels spoke to the City Council during Public Comment. The reason she was moved to speak was because of the ruling by our ninth circuit court stating it was unconstitutional, "cruel and unusual punishment" to criminalize someone sleeping outdoors if they have no where else to go. And was also moved to speak because the City of Santa Cruz, one of the worst places in the country for homeless services, continues to criminalize the houseless.

Abbi wrote the City Council, the City Manager and the Chief of Police. If you are interested in reading this, please note that on numerous occasions she asks the Chief of Police, Andrew Mills, where one can sleep in a public location in which the police of the City of Santa Cruz will not ticket nor wake a person sleeping outdoors. You will notice he is never able to answer that question.

§Norse's Correspondence With Mills on the Recent Boise Decision
by Abbi Samuels and Robert Norse Sunday Sep 16th, 2018 2:13 PM

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Andrew Mills
Monday Sep 17th, 2018 8:45 AM

As you well know, as stated in the emails above, "I have issued an Order to my department to not issue any camping citations" until Council has an opportunity to weigh in and give direction. (In a democracy, the police are accountable to elected officials.) As stated: "Many of you have been strong advocates for the homeless over the years (decades for many) and now is the time to press forward and ensure there are solutions that meet the need of the homeless and yet improve quality of life for all."

SCPD is one of the most progressive local police agencies in terms of when citations could have been issued, and the only one that seeks solutions broader than enforcement. You seem however to be fixated on those that try to be human and help. That is tragic. We will continue to press forward with a progressive policy. Feel free to be positive and help promulgate a policy that works for everyone.

by Robert Norse
Tuesday Sep 18th, 2018 8:21 AM
I have commended Mills' policy of reduced (though not abolished) camping citations over the winter. I've also written favorably of last fall's San Lorenzo benchlands de facto toleration zone (with the positive though obviously necessary placement of portapotties and trash receptacles).

His willingness to comment publicly on this website is also good news.

However Mills again ducks the question of the rising number of public "trespass" or "being in a 'closed' area after dark" citations issued by cops and Parks and Recreation enforcers. How many? Do they not amount to the same harassment "get out of sight and out of town" policy previously the case under Chiefs Vogel, Skerry, Belcher, and Bassett--to name a few former chiefs?

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Mills is a tad embarrassed (not to mention legally liable under the Boise decision) for continuing the Homeless Be Gone! policies under different code section and different labels. His reorganization of the police into districts and subordination of Parks and Recreation officials as green-washed beat cops on Pacific Ave. and elsewhere this spring increases his responsibility here.

While it's encouraging in a way to see him sitting in a back row at City Council meetings perhaps attending to what some of the public say, his resistance to candor on this most basic shelter-and-survival issue is not.
Come on, Andy. Coming clean here would move the dialogue forward in a meaningful way.

The River St. micro-shelter's "waiting list" is reportedly closed. The Paul Lee loft's list has been closed for sign-up for three years since the summer of 2015. This eliminates the MC 6.36.055 token loophole created back in 2010 to allow the City to claim that it could keep busting sleepers even though it had no shelter for the overwhelming majority of them.

June 2015 is when Homeless (Lack of) Services Center Phil Kramer, continuing homeless-hostile policies like guard gates, ID cards, fencing, collusion with "no parking" restrictions, and the like shut off meals to the homeless generally intensified the shelter crisis with his "pathway to housing" requirements for what were previously emergency shelter programs.
For good measure, Kramer cut off the meals that had been open to local unhoused folks. That is, those not bureaucratically wedged into his grant-grabbing "pathway" program.

That's when the Freedom Sleepers (our local "Homeless Lives Matter"! group) began their protest outside City Hall. When Winter Shelter closed in the Spring of 2017, they were joined by what I call the Survival Sleepers--largely elderly and disabled folks dumped out of the program--who began to sleep at City Hall.

They did so until Mills's cops drove them away with phony "blocking the sidewalk" citations costing these penniless people up to $300 in court fines per citation. All with no shelter alternatives, of course--defying both common sense and constitutional requirement.

Of course, to further add to their misery, City Manager Martin Bernal kept the City Hall bathrooms closed (except during Council meetings)--continuing the harass-to-disperse policies he'd put into place two years before to attack the Freedom Sleepers. These included klieg lights, loud and noxious gas-fueled generators, ticket-opportunity "no parking" zones, increased First Alarm "security" patrols, surveillance devices around City Hall, a MC 13.04.011 administrative declaration declaring the entire City Hall grounds a "no First Amendment" zone at night, and more. (Search for "Freedom Sleepers" on this website and you'll find dozens of stories)

Bernal is nominally in charge of the SCPD, so his is the ultimate authority here. He also seemed to be a key if not the key person in initiating many of these policies.

I've been critical of the SCPD's over-policing responses to merchant bleats and privileged property owners' paranoia generally. Sending a squad of cops or rangers to deal with someone sitting or sleeping is not merely unconstitutional but chilling and ridiculous. It was a costly and cruel charade to send 6 or more cops to arrest a woman peeing on the London/Louden Nelson Park lawn. As cowardly and bigoted as the action of Supervisor Iseth Rae's locking the bathrooms. (See

Mills had no problem instituting a relatively enlightened "San Lorenzo Camping Zone" policy last fall along with a "no ticketing for Camping at night" practice. All WITHOUT any explicit authorization from City Council.

It was sad that Santa Cruz had to rely on police state Diktat in order to get past the prejudice-paralyzed Chase-Terrazas City Council last year as visible homeless sleeping downtown soared in numbers. In the wake of the threatened Hep A epidemic, it was enlightened. Also tactically shrewd--since it lured sleepers away from the post office sidewalk area to avoid shopkeeper ire.

Now the question is--has Mills been taking away with one hand what he's given with the other by increasing crackdown on constitutionally-protected homeless survival activity using other municipal codes?

It's a simple question, Andy. Answer it. And not with vague generalities, bland reassurances and buck-passing justifications, but specifics that acknowledge past mistakes.

You could do so in that public interview with Free Radio Santa Cruz that you've long ducked.
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