Community members, groups and leaders attended the Isla Vista Community Services District meeting on Tuesday in higher-than-usual numbers to discuss concerns and plans of action regarding recent allegations against the UC Santa Barbara Police Department.
Throughout the past several months, four police officers have filed three court cases against several members of the UC Police Department (UCPD), alleging several instances of misconduct within the department including racism, favoritism and conspiracy.
The first case, Mark Signa v. UC Regents, was filed by Lieutenant Signa in November 2018; the second, Michael and Tiffany Little v. UC Regents, was filed by the Littles on March 19, 2019; the third case, John Doe v. UCPD, was filed by Ryan Smith, referred to as John Doe in court documents, on March 27, 2019.
The allegations were first reported on by the Nexus in early May.
Following public and board discussion, the I.V. Community Services District (I.V. CSD) directors voted unanimously to send a letter to the UCPD, stating the district “supports a comprehensive independent investigation into these allegations.”
The letter further calls for UCPD to hold “a community meeting in order to hear from the public and community members who have been hurt by many of the disturbing allegations.”
Tuesday night’s discussion primarily centered on transparency regarding the allegations, with Board President Spencer Brandt stating he was “disgusted” when he read about the allegations.
“This is an incredibly important issue that is very pertinent to us,” Brandt said, referring to the district’s partnerships and relationships with the UCPD Community Service Officers (CSOs) and the UCPD Interpersonal Violence Investigator position.
“It is incredibly important for the public to know how their police department is operating… When allegations like this are made from law enforcement officers against their law enforcement agency and against each other, you just damage the trust that students and residents have for law enforcement. It damages the trust that everyone has with all law enforcement.”
I.V. CSD Director Ethan Bertrand said he was “struck” by UCPD’s response to reports of the allegations, which he said “was their interim chief saying that ‘We must move past this as a community.’” Bertrand said UCPD first needs to address the concerns of the community before it can move on.
“I agree that we must move past this as a community, but I also believe that we can make that statement after there’s been an investigation and after they’ve engaged with the community,” Bertrand said.
Leaders from sexual assault violence and harassment advocacy groups Standing Together Against Sexual Assault (STESA) and UCSB’s Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) also presented statements at the meeting which reflected their concerns and disappointment in the department.
Elsa Granados, executive director for STESA, spoke as a representative for the sexual assault advocacy group, stating that she fully supports the I.V. CSD’s letter.
“If the allegations are true, I feel saddened and disappointed,” Granados said.
Granados also made a point to acknowledge the work she believes UCPD has done well, while also calling out those who — “if the allegations are true” — were quiet about the misconduct in the department.
“Sexual violence thrives on that silence… and I know UCPD has been working very hard to make inroads to ending sexual assault, so that cover-up, those allegations, we cannot tolerate.”
Granados added that UCPD needs to “work with our entire community to hold those involved accountable.
Three members from SASA – Emily Montalvo-Telford, Alya Ruiz and Sreya Subramanyan — read aloud statements regarding the allegations.
While the majority of those who spoke were from the community, only one police officer, I.V. Foot Patrol station commander Juan Camarena of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office (SBSO), spoke during the meeting.
Camarena assured the community that he “keeps his people accountable” and that police officers are there to serve the community.
“I just want to assure you that we’re here for you, that even though you feel that we have broken that trust, I want you guys to reach out to us. We are still here for you and anything that we could do to rebuild that trust, please let us know.”
During the closing discussion, I.V. CSD Director Robert Geis stressed the implications of the allegations for the department if proven true.
“The department cannot be silent on this. If it’s really happening in their department, then they have a really big issue to solve and really a tough process to go through to solve that issue.”
Correction [10:39 a.m.]: The name of the one of the speakers from SASA is Alia Reynolds, not Alya Ruiz, as stated in a previous version of this article.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of the May 16, 2019 print edition of the Daily Nexus.