Some serious allegations were made about SRPD preventing a Mayoral candidate and his aide from attending the Mayoral debate in the court room of City Hall on the evening of 03/14/19.
Lots of rumors were circulated live and on twitter to the effect that we were sending dogs out, and stopping, searching people to prevent them heading out to the impromptu gathering that formed outside of city hall.
None of the above is a true statement of fact.
Under state law, California generally prohibits carrying or possession of a firearm In any state or local public building or at any public meeting. The City Hall constitutes a public building and Court House.
The incident was provoked when a male came into the foyer of city hall, carrying a large holdall type bag. An SRPD Officer asked him if he could search the bag, the male refused. The male in question has previously entered City Hall with semi-automatic weapon strapped to him. He was asked to leave on that occasion as well and return without his weapon, so SRPD had probable cause to ask to search his bag. The mayoral candidate then intervened stating the male was his aide and if he was asked to leave, that he would follow suit.
The male choose to leave rather than submit to a search of his bag, as is his right. The Mayoral candidate then choose to leave the premises with him. At no point was the Mayoral candidate prevented entry to the debate.
The Mayoral candidate then conducted a debate of his own outside City Hall. Where it was alleged he was being prevented from entering. The debate continued with the other candidates inside, most on duty Police Officers were sent into the court room to act as security, while the Chief and one other Officer remained in the foyer monitoring the gathering outside.
A female Officer on duty at the courtroom door who is a K9 handler, radioed in to ask if it was required to take the dog out, when things started growing heated outside. This transmission we assume was overheard by someone sitting close to the Officers in the courtroom. We believe someone inside the court room sent a message to someone outside with the mistaken information that K9's were being sent out. As it was orders were given for all Officer's to hold their current positions. Dispatch logs will support this fact.
A male then stood up in the court room and without grounds to do so announced that we were searching everyone and preventing them from leaving City Hall. This was a complete fabrication on his part. No one was stopped, searched or prevented from leaving. We have a duty of responsibility in these situations not to escalate already potentially volatile situations. So the people outside were left to have their debate in peace. Orders were give by the Chief that any officers who had to leave, did so by the back entrance to avoid escalation. However once the scheduled debate was over and the other candidates emerged things began to turn more hostile and orders were given to prep for riot prevention, but still maintain no interference in the proceedings outside unless orders were given by the Chief of Police. The rally given by the third mayoral candidate who chose not to enter the scheduled debates broke up without any incident.
No further information will be released by the Santa Ramona Police Department at this time.