THIN BLUE LINE: I go back to the 1980 Santa Barbara police strike. I even go back to the 1960s, when cops were so underpaid that some were working part-time in liquor stores.
Back then, the thin blue line was so slim at night that residents would have been shocked to know how few officers were on patrol. I knew one burly cop who regularly waded in alone to bar fights on East Haley Street.
Today, starting pay is $69,000. “It’s good if you live in Oxnard or Santa Maria,” but Santa Barbara is very expensive, one officer told me this week. Police respect has never been higher, in the wake of post-9/11 respect for first responders.
Example: Sunday’s Brunch with the Cops fundraiser at the Four Seasons Biltmore raked in $253,000 for the Santa Barbara Police Foundation to buy gear not in the city budget and to assist in cases of emergency family needs.
The only mystery was: Where was Chief Cam Sanchez, and was he boycotting? About 250 locals attended, including the City Council, but the chief was a no-show. Assistant Chief Frank Mannix also opted out of attending. And why weren’t the Chumash, regular supporters of the event, on the board with bucks?
Rumors swirled along with the mimosas. “I am not attending because of an obligation family related,” Sanchez emailed me. “Whoever is spreading these negative rumors should be ashamed of themselves.” The chief was one of the founders of the event three years ago but is no longer on the board. One person close to the situation said, “He was pissed off” because his wife, Olivia, was voted off the board recently. Sanchez denies that this was a problem. Craig Case, the new foundation president, says it was just a normal board rotation.
As for rumors that he discouraged the Chumash from donating, Sanchez also denies this. The Chumash say the foundation request was too late and didn’t meet their requirements. Sanchez says he plans to ask the Chumash and other major donors to assist with next year’s golf tournament, the foundation’s other fundraising event.
Meanwhile, guns were drawn at the Biltmore. About $12,000 was raised from the auction of three short-barrel AR-15 semi-automatic rifles to equip motorcycles. Officer Jay Benson, at my table, was the first to be equipped, and emcee John Palminteri was so excited that he decided to auction off two more of the $4,000 weapons. Bidders were Andy Granatelli, Pete Jordano, and Mike Stinchfield.
BEUTEL VENDETTA: The Police Officers Association, a separate organization, has issued a statement rebuking the Santa Barbara News-Press, noting that it has “revisited” attacks on Officer Kasi Beutel by writer Peter Lance, and calling those pieces a “personal vendetta.”
FORCED BLOOD TESTS: Last month, Santa Barbara police arrested a 51-year-old woman for suspected DUI. She had an extensive rap sheet of DUIs, including a felony DUI. She became violent, refusing to allow a blood test, police say. A forced test then showed over twice the legal limit of alcohol. But, without a search warrant, was that a violation of her right against unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment? In some cases here, the forced test has involved the suspects being handcuffed and placed facedown with their legs held and blood drawn. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a Missouri case to settle the issue.
NEWS-PRESS HEARING: Labor law experts will be watching on November 8 when a federal circuit court in Washington, D.C., hears the paper’s appeal of a finding that it illegally fired eight reporters.
If the court agrees with the Santa Barbara News-Press position that the newsroom union was trying to usurp its right to run the paper and in effect violate its First Amendment rights, all other union-organizing attempts at newspapers could be jeopardized, observers say. Management could fend off newsroom-unionizing attempts as First Amendment violations, it’s been argued.
The News-Press union says it had no such intent and merely wanted to organize the newsroom to protect itself against arbitrary measures taken by owner Wendy McCaw. A federal administrative judge has ruled that McCaw violated labor law in firing the reporters, whose activities, including demonstrating on a freeway overpass, were protected by law. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) affirmed the ruling, and McCaw’s appeal has reached the federal court.
The three-judge panel is made up of Republicans, not a note of optimism to union supporters. The NLRB recently affirmed another administrative judge’s ruling that the paper was not bargaining in good faith. Contract talks have gone on for several years with no agreement, and the union has contended that management was stalling. McCaw is expected to appeal this finding, as well.