The following was submitted by Nathanial Thomas, who was illegally detained and searched while conducting a First Amendment audit in Santa Maria, Ca. If you would like to take a more active role in spreading the message that badges don’t grant extra rights, consider joining the CopBlock Network and filling a role that fits into your schedule.
May 16, 2017
Officer Uhl: Badge #96,
Officer Jackson: Badge#97,
Sergeant Streker: Badge #6
Santa Maria Police Department: 1111 W Betteravia Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93458
Phone: (805) 928-3781,
Chief of Police: Ralph Martin
Santa Maria, California is a city of just over one hundred thousand residents, it’s in Santa Barbara County on California’s beautiful Central Coast. Besides being the barbecue capital of California, Santa Maria is most known for being the location of Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial in 2005. Most people, including myself, consider themselves lucky to put down roots here.
However, the city of Santa Maria has a pretty dysfunctional police department that employees some bad apple cops. I first exposed some of these bad apple cops last January when I was illegally detained for filming from a public outside of the Juvenile Hall. You can view the video of that incident right here.
But most recently I would uncover some more of Santa Maria’s bad apple cops. Meet Officer Uhl, Badge #96, and Officer Jackson, Badge #97.
I had just returned from the Bay Area, where I had been conducting First Amendment Audits with legendary auditor Matthew Johnson, when I encountered Officers Uhl and Jackson. I had just come from the Santa Maria Transit Center and decided to conduct a First Amendment Audit of the City Ranger Station which is located nearby. I have documented this special police force harassing homeless people in the past and wanted to do a quick follow-up to see if they respect the First Amendment.
The City Ranger Station is housed inside of what used to be the main station for the Santa Maria Police Department. It was just outside of the main gate that Santa Maria Police Officers Uhl and Jackson made contact with me. While Officer Jackson seemed to be civil, it was Officer Uhl who addressed me by name and brought up my having a history of “stalking” Pismo Beach Police Officers. See the video here.
He used this as justification to detain and search me. Of course Officer Jackson went along with this ridiculous justification and together the two officers grabbed a hold of me and began going through my backpack despite the fact that I clearly stated that I did not consent to a search. At one point Officer Uhl threatened to arrest me for resisting because I was verbally opposing this illegal search.
Although Officer Jackson would later try to claim that him and his partner were only doing a “pat down”, shortly before this illegal search began it was Officer Uhl whom claimed that they had “the right” to search me. Officer Uhl then proceeded to go into my backpack. In the video you can clearly hear him mention items that were inside of my backpack. If this was nothing more than a simple pat down, then how did Officer Uhl know what was inside of my backpack? The answer is simple. This was not a simple pat down. This was an ILLEGAL SEARCH.
It was at this time that I requested to speak to a supervisor. Meet Sergeant Streker, Badge #6. But just like with the situation at the Juvenile Hall involving Sergeant Lara, Sergeant Streker was of no help. He sided with Officers Uhl and Jackson by saying that they were doing their jobs by protecting the community. Protecting the community? From a guy with a camera? How about reprimanding Officers Uhl and Jackson for failing to honor the oath they took to serve and protect opposed to violating citizens rights as they did with me? That sounds reasonable to me.
In the past I have always had pretty good interactions with this department. I have filmed Santa Maria police officers performing their duties and have always felt that they respected my right to film in public. However, last January’s incident at the Juvenile Hall, mixed with this most recent encounter in front of the City Ranger station, have been clear violations of my constitutionally protected rights by officers of the Santa Maria Police Department. This has left a pretty disturbing image in my mind of how the officers of this department conduct themselves.
But what is more disturbing to me is the fact that Santa Maria’s chief of police seems to condone this kind of behavior. In a letter dated March 7, 2017, Chief Ralph Martin responded to the complaint regarding my illegal detainment in front of the Juvenile Hall by saying:
“I have reviewed the content of your complaint, the employees’ actions, and all of the statements and information provided by the investigator. I have determined that the employees in question did not violate department policy or the law.”
Chief Martin then goes on to assure me that the police department will continue to strive towards providing the best professional service they can. Oh really. By employing incompetent officers, such as Uhl and Jackson, who are more than willing to violate the rights of citizens who pay their salaries? If that is the case, maybe I’d be better off taking my chances in Manila.
If you find the actions of these officers, who illegally detained and searched me without my consent, to be conduct unbecoming, I would like to encourage you to express your concerns to Chief Ralph Martin and demand that he take action in this matter. If we as a community don’t speak up and stand up, these thugs in uniform will continue to violate our rights. Remember that badges don’t grant extra rights. – Nasty Nathanial
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