In an effort to fast-track the gang injunction, the SBPD conducted a dragnet of military-sounding grandiosity dubbed “Operation Falling Dawn.” A better title might have been “Operation Falling-Down-on-the-Job” since the SBPD saw fit to use innuendo and insinuation in place of hard fact or evidence.
In a press conference, Sergeant Riley Harwood responded to a reporter’s query about the SBPD’s inclusion of a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release on the arrest of members of the Mexican mafia in Los Angeles that implicated a local man: “We believe there’s a nexus between our gang-related activity and the overarching activity that you see perpetrated by the Mexican Mafia and their influence over local gangs.” When reporters contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, said, “You have the indictment, and you can see the allegations that we’ve made in that case. It pretty clearly discusses an international drug trafficking conspiracy and does not concern itself with street-level drug dealing.”
Chief of Police Cam Sanchez is not above defaming others in order to advance his political career. At least a couple of individuals he has claimed were “gang members” were, in fact, housewives without any prior arrest records. One young mother of two found her name and birthday had been publicized in Operation Falling Dawn when one of her FaceBook friends notified her. Gang enhancement policies that make it a criminal offense to associate with alleged gang members — even if they happen to be family members — allows the SBPD to significantly expand the scope of its operations by dragging in innocent people from the community. In this way, the SBPD targets the friends and families of alleged gang members with extra-judicial harassment and surveillance. This woman faces the hardship of being separated from her husband — an alleged gang member who has yet to receive a trial — in a de facto gang injunction policy already at play under paramilitary operations such as Falling Dawn.
For those concerned about the grave abuse of civil liberties posed by gang injunction policies, it’s worth noting that so-called “domestic terrorism” falls under the PATRIOT Act, a piece of Orwellian legislation hastily signed into law with next to no review in the aftermath of 9/11.