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DHS comes to a college town--local police regret being fooled

Chris Krohn, Santa Cruz City Councilmember
Friday February 24, 2017 - 02:23:00 PM

About a dozen journalists, three city councilmembers, five police officers including the Chief, Kevin Vogel and two deputy chiefs—Rick Martinez and Dan Filippo, along with Mayor Cynthia Chase were all present inside the Police Community room on Center Street [Thursday] morning to hear about what went down, and what went wrong, in Santa Cruz this past February 13th when DHS came to town. It was a press conference, and some press really came while the public was kept outside. A group of about twenty-five huddled around the ornate police plaza fountain, perhaps exchanging text messages in order to follow the blue mea culpa happening inside.

On Wednesday night I received a call while attending my daughter’s CCS soccer match vs. the Menlo School from Atherton. (Had to fit that in somehow.) It was being played on the plastic turf of Santa Cruz High. A stunned-sounding Deputy Chief outlined for me how Homeland Security had acted outside the scope of their activity on that certain Monday morning terrorist hunt. They arrested some gang members, but also detained several undocumented residents, He was disgusted by this, and it flies in the face of our city council Sanctuary City resolution, he flatly stated. It’s against our community values, he even said. Wow, I thought.

It seems DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, had been duplicitous with SCPD. Under a supposed cooperation agreement with local police they would be hunting down known gang members who DHS said were planning more mayhem in our community. But DHS went further.

Without communicating with SCPD they turned the operation into an old-fashioned La Migra raid, something this town experienced quite a bit in the 90’s when ICE, then called the INS, raided neighborhoods at odd hours and hauled away fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers in order to deport those without papers. But remember, the deputy-chief reminded me, FEMA [the federal emergency management agency] falls under DHS, and we also need to work with DHS in investigating underage sex crimes. Finally, he said he had been so incensed over DHS actions that he contacted our U.S. Representative, Jimmy Panetta, and one of our U.S. senators, Kamala Harris. And by the way, there will be a press conference tomorrow at 11am, he said. 

I hung up the phone, Menlo was winning 3-0. 

This morning [Thursday], Chief Kevin Vogel was first up at the press conference. “And I say with tremendous concern…Homeland Security acted outside the scope of this activity” when they detained at least 10 Santa Cruz residents, he said. 

“The only reason SCPD involved itself with DHS was to arrest violent gang members” that were threatening our community… Vogel said. “We did not know there was an immigration component…had I known immigration status was part of this, I would not have participated.” 

Next up was Deputy Chief Dan Filippo. 

Filippo outlined the whole day, February 13th. It began around 4 a.m., he said, and for the Santa Cruz Police Department, it ended at 9:16 a.m. 

“We understood going in we were going after criminal gang members,” he said. 

Then, around 2 p.m., Filippo heard there were “identification checks” being done on Market Street and wondered who that might be. He learned that it was HSI, Homeland Security Investigations, another branch of DHS along with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement.) 

Six of 10 picked up were arrested and transported to San Francisco, Filippo said, where they were processed. Five were released and forced to wear ankle bracelets upon returning to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz was feeling the full force of a post-911-created federal government agency. 

Batting in the press conference clean-up spot [yesterday] was Mayor Cynthia Chase. She said she is “deeply disturbed and upset…this is outrageous.” 

Chase went on to say that there is “no question, this action has torn the city apart.” She said the council would discuss this issue at the 7pm session of the Santa Cruz city council next Tuesday night, February 28th

“We are a community that protects its members,” she reminded everyone present. 

There were also about 6 or 7 others on the periphery of the tight gathering who I did not recognize (plain clothes police? friends of police? family?). 

Chief Vogel came back to the press conference podium one more time after the mayor was done to talk about changes he envisions that may now be on the horizon. “We’ve been working on our police policy manual,” he said. “We will be presenting that policy to the council at its next meeting.” Before taking questions from the assembled journalists he added, “We look forward to supporting a stronger Sanctuary City policy…and we will not collaborate with agencies we cannot trust.” 


Editor's note: In addition to being a member of the Santa Cruz City Council and occasional Planet contributor, Chris Krohn is the son-in-law of the Planet's editor and publisher. The Bay City News report on this event can be found here, along with links to television reports and a video of the press conference.