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Police Chief Cam Sanchez

Paul Wellman

Police Chief Cam Sanchez


Cam Faces His Critics

Police Chief Takes on Racial Profiling, Burglary Spree, and Prison Diversion


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez emphatically denied his officers engaged in “racial profiling,” as was alleged by neighborhood activist Dorothy Littlejohn after the chief made his monthly presentation to the City Council this Tuesday. “The words ‘racial profiling’ make me ill,” Sanchez stated. “Racial profiling is illegal. It is something not tolerated by me.” Sanchez all but said that any officer found to engage in such activity would be terminated. But not one allegation of such profiling, he said, has been substantiated during his 13 years as top cop.

Littlejohn, a longtime community activist with ties to pro-immigrant rights organizations like PUEBLO, charged that city cops hung out in the parking lots of Westside businesses frequented by Mexican immigrants ​— ​like Super Cucas, Fernando’s Market, or Foodland ​— ​so they could pull over Mexican nationals for driving without a license and impound their vehicles. Sanchez said his officers are deployed in those locations because they have well-documented traffic safety issues. He took exception to Littlejohn’s accusation, countering that his officers helped little kids in the neighborhood cross the streets during times of maximum traffic congestion and risk.

Although the chief has been making monthly reports to the council for more than a year, this was the first time his critics showed up to voice such concerns. Before Sanchez spoke, councilmembers heard from a couple of Latino rights activists who took exception to the proposed gang injunction that Sanchez is now promoting. The fate of that injunction ​— ​which has targeted 30 current or former gang members ​— ​remains uncertain, pending Judge Thomas Adams’s determination whether the juvenile records of the 30 named defendants can be admitted as evidence in support of the injunction. Juvenile records, however, are exceptionally confidential.

Sanchez notified councilmembers there had been a 9-percent increase in “gang incidents” between last November and December. Gang incidents, however, are loosely categorized and can include public intoxication citations of gang members while not engaged in any form of gang activity. Councilmember Cathy Murillo ​— ​no fan of the gang injunction ​— ​commented, “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.”

In other crime stats, the chief noted that the more serious and threatening “Type I” crimes dropped slightly from November to December, but that the city experienced a spate of residential burglaries in November and December. “It’s a huge deal,” the chief declared. Sanchez expressed unhappiness that his officers have yet to make any arrests for any of the burglaries that took place in December. He was equally unhappy that half of the people arrested for burglaries in November would have been behind bars were it not for AB 109, the state bill designed to keep nonviolent inmates out of state prisons and put them in county jails instead. AB 109 was enacted in part to save the state some of the high costs of incarceration and also to reduce the intense overcrowding at state penal facilities.

Chief Sanchez expressed satisfaction at the large number of Latino residents enrolling to participate in the department’s Community Academy, about twice as many as their Anglo counterparts, he said. This week’s Academy graduation ceremony, he noted, will include an 18-year-old, as well as an 84-year-old. Next month, the chief said the department will host its Academy classes somewhere on the Westside. For the first time, he added, the classes would be held in both Spanish and English at the same time, as part of a community-building process.

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