At the Council meeting on Tuesday December 7, 2010 a number of people spoke to the Council about the City of Ashland police enforcement of the camping ordinance. False statements were made and, as the Chief of Police, I want to correct those allegations.
“The police are taking my camping gear.”
The only time an officer would take camping gear is if the person has their camping gear with them at the time of an arrest. The gear is held at the Ashland Police Department and the person can reclaim it once they are released from jail. If the person is with someone else at the time of the arrest, they often leave their gear with the other person.
Police Officers are only allowed to take personal property/camping gear from a campsite if a noticed has been posted at the campsite 24 hours in advance. The personal property is stored at the Ashland Police Department. Personal property is defined in the Ashland Municipal Code as follows.
Personal property means any item that is reasonably recognizable as belonging to a person and that has apparent utility. Items that have no apparent value or utility or are in an unsanitary or putrescent condition may be immediately discarded.” AMC 10.46.040
“The police have used unnecessary force to wake people up or otherwise enforce the camping ordinance.”
If someone feels an officer used unnecessary force he should report the incident. I have not received any complaints about the use of unnecessary force and our officers are required to make a report of all uses of force.
When I receive a complaint about an officer and enforcement, I review the video and/or audio of the incident. If the recording shows the officer did nothing wrong, I invite the person who made the complaint to watch the video with me and point out what the officer did wrong. If the recording shows the complaint is justified I take appropriate steps with the officer.
In Ashland, most enforcement encounters occur near a police car and are audio and video recorded, and most encounters that occur away from the police car are audio recorded. Almost all of the recent actions taken in or around the Plaza occurred close enough to police vehicles that we should have both audio and video recordings of the recent actions taken in or around the Plaza.
There were also some comments made at the council meeting about officers using Tasers on homeless people. No Ashland officer has used a Taser on anyone in over four years. An officer cannot activate a Taser without activating the video and audio recorder.
I understand that when people are passionate about an issue, their comments can become exaggerated and embellished but I felt compelled to clarify these statements. I am proud of our officers and know them to be courteous, patient and compassionate.