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Letter to the Editor: Open Letter Over Santa Barbara’s Gang Injunction

An open letter to Santa Barbara’s Honorable Mayor and City Council Members,

It has come to our attention that on Nov. 26, 2013, the Santa Barbara City Council held “a closed session to consider pending litigation pursuant to subsection (d)(1) of section 54956.9 of the Government Code and take appropriate action as needed. The pending litigation is People of the State of California, City of Santa Barbara v. Eastside, Westside, et al., SBSC Case No. 1379826.”

According to the agenda, the meeting was to last approximately 30 minutes. To no one’s surprise, they did not anticipate publishing any public report related to the discussions held in secret. On Dec. 13, 2013, the Santa Barbara City Attorney Steve Wiley with Deputy City Attorney Tom Shapiro and Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley with Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer filed a 413-page Preliminary Injunction in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. It would seem the decision to file was made during the closed session. This preliminary injunction comprised of a 22-page motion to enjoin, and a single 354-page declaration to support their claims by SBPD Officer Gary Seigel Jr. Considering the plaintiff’s motion for a permanent injunction filed March 14, 2011, was only 46 pages, why demand the temporary injunction that gives the opposition only 30 days to respond?

It may help to clarify some differences between a “preliminary” and “permanent” injunction. Preliminary injunctions are typically filed immediately, claiming exigent circumstances, when no immediate alternative remedies are available. This “temporarily” restrains the defendant’s rights or activities, limiting further harm from being inflicted while seeking the permanent injunction. As we have seen, this process can take quite some time. Because it is relatively late in the proceeding, the trial is scheduled in a mere two months, it would seem to be an unusual request. A permanent injunction will “permanently” restrict the rights and activities of the 32 named defendants. Two of the named defendants are actually alleged “unincorporated entities,” with no objective standard declared by either the city or county to determine active membership.

There are those who may say “why worry if you have nothing to hide?” The obvious response is “Why do they make decisions with substantial public opposition behind closed doors, if the mayor and City Council have nothing to hide?” The inclusion of the unincorporated entities gives the SBPD a blank check to violate the rights of anyone who “fits the description,” or any “associate” of “anyone who fits the description.” These kinds of policies are exactly why the Bill of Rights was drafted, to limit the government from seizing persons or their property without transparency and due process. To imagine that the City Council would grant (in closed session) police authority to arrest a person for nothing more than standing, riding a bike or bus in a public place, attending funerals or school recitals of friends or loved ones simply because of where they live or how they dress seems to be contrary to the natural rights declared and bestowed upon us.

If a person commits a crime, they deserve their day in court; if convicted by a jury of their peers, they should serve their punishment while awaiting appeals. This injunction seems to establish a de jure Stop-Frisk-Arrest policy that exclusively includes members of the Latino community. The chief of police and City Councilman Dale Francisco have been clear that it is not racist to target a single minority group if they believe that minority group that is committing a majority of the crimes. What are the psychological repercussions of such limited condemnation, for either the condemned or the condemner? Eventually the condemned begin to self-actualize the stigma their community’s leaders have placed upon them; the leaders who condemn begin to ignore statistical evidence that crime is on the decline because of restorative methods not stop-frisk-arrest.

During the Dec. 17, 2013, City Council meeting, Chief Cam Sanchez declared that alternative methods are a resounding success. He ensured the public that the Gang Injunction was not to be credited, as it has not been implemented yet. Although alleged gang incidents were lower in 2013 compared to 2012, Mr. Sanchez informed the public that any incidence where an alleged “gang member” violates a law is considered a “gang crime.” This means that an average citizen being arrested for a DUI is different than an alleged “gang member” being arrested for the same offense. Also, Mr. Sanchez declined to add a single incident of homicides relating to his officers killing civilians, but added the tragic Hit and Run incident involving the former aide to Rep. Lois Capps. This seems to be a blatant attempt to manipulate crime statistics to make the “gang” problem look worse than it actually is.

This should be troublesome for anyone who recognizes why the Fourth Amendment requires standards like “reasonableness” of “searches and seizures,” “probable cause” needed for “warrants,” requested “under oath or affirmation” with “particularity” the “place to be searched” or the “persons” and “things to be seized.” I personally witnessed on Jan. 2, 2014, Officer Seigel demand to interrogate a civilian after seizing their cash without a warrant. The civilian was told to bring proof of income and the property would be released, and then only under condition of interrogation. We can see the encroachment on the Fifth Amendment’s declaration that “nor shall any person ... be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against (themselves).” Considering known parolees and registered offenders are already required to check in regularly, this seemed redundant. As a limited government conservative, I thought the ordeal was quite troublesome.

In short, this process as a whole has raised several questions that need answering. The Free Thinking Patriots will join many other civil rights groups and concerned citizens at 2 p.m. Jan. 7, 2014, to demand answers, the preliminary injunction be withdrawn, and the injunction placed on the agenda as an actionable item ASAP.

Brandon Morse
President, Free Thinking Patriots Club

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