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Lisa Taylor

Lisa Taylor asks Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Capt. Greg Pryor, left, to tell the CSD board how his firefighters now must await help from deputies in situations involving assaults since Security has stopped clearing the scene for firefighters.

Red square Listen: The one-hour presentation and accompanying slides are here

A Community Services District presentation Wednesday night delivered sobering news to Murietans who think the community's Security operation is our own version of a police department.

CSD lawyer Steven Rudolph told a crowd of 60 residents that Murieta's Security officers aren't law enforcement personnel and can't enforce laws or make arrests.  "The authority of our district security officers to make an arrest is no different than the power that any one of you would hold as a private citizen," he said.

Members of the audience -- the biggest turnout for a CSD meeting in years -- were upset, and their comments and questions filled two hours of the three-hour session.  A dozen speakers went to the podium, many of them supporting a Security department with more power than Rudolph was outlining.

One speaker, Dick Cox, a Rancho Murieta Association director who is a long-standing critic of the CSD and Security, said, "I am a citizen who would like to see our Security people have peace officer status.  I think the guys are doing the best job they can do under the circumstances. ... I think it's incumbent upon this board and RMA working together to give them the authority and power that they need to do the job."

At the beginning and end of his presentation, Rudolph made the point that there are ways to deliver the community greater protection, if that's what the community wants and is willing to fund.  Future meetings will address those possibilities, he said.

His presentation reflected the summary published here last week.  (See that story.)

He said the presentation would not be news to the district's Security staff and it would not change the level of Security service.

"From our perspective, there is no change," Rudolph said.  "The folks that are on our Security force right now very well understand that they're not peace officers.  They have an understanding of what they can and cannot do.  And so from their perspective, the information that we provide tonight isn't going to change how they operate starting tomorrow.  For them, it's business as usual.  I think that some of this information tonight is going to be an eye-opener for some members of the community.  But from our perspective, as it relates to the services we deliver, there's really no change going forward. ..."

He explained how the state's special districts have only those powers granted to them by the county's Local Agency Formation Commission.

There are about 320 community services districts in the state, he said, and only 13 provide either police or security services.  Eight of them provide police, and most of them doing it with a contract with a sheriff's department, he said.  Rancho Murieta is the only district in the state that has an in-house security operation, he said.

The state constitution makes clear that the state can delegate police power to counties and cities -- but no other entity.  Community services districts don't have police power and can't enact ordinances to regulate personal conduct of citizens, he said.

"If you look at our district code as it exists today," he added, "you will find that there are several ordinances that over the 25-plus-year history of the district have crept into the code that are in fact traditional police power ordinances.  And one of the tasks that we have on our list as we move forward is to clean up that code...."

The primary function of a security officer is to protect people and property by being visible, he said, adding, "By their mere presence, they help to deter criminal activity."  Beyond that, they're expected to call the police department and to be a witness to crime.  "That is the main function of any security operation, including our Security officers," he said.

Rudolph said Security's officers can only enforce within the CSD's areas of responsibilities -- for example, Security could enforce lawn-watering restrictions.  Officers can also issue citations for violations of the community's CC&Rs.

He said the CSD board can't adopt an ordinance requiring Security's officers to enforce state law.  The officer could choose to but couldn't be ordered to, he said.

"We can't give them immunity necessarily, under the statute, but what this board could do is they could adopt a resolution that says, 'Hey, security officers, while we cannot direct you or compel you to make an arrest for violation of state law ... if you choose to make that arrest as a private citizen, and you are operating reasonably, and you are sued for that activity, this district will provide you with a defense.'"

He said the district could take a range of approaches, including a full-time police force, either in connection with Security, as a stand-alone force or through some arrangement with the Sheriff's Department

"I understand that there might be a degree of frustration with some of this [presentation's] information," he said, "but let's focus on what you want to be delivered, the service you want in the future, because if this board gets the message that that is what's required for this particular program, then we go back to the third part of this program and then we as staff come up with options to deliver that degree of protection to the community.

Security meeting

Sheriff's Lt. Rich Merideth explained how his department covers the eastern part of the county.

"There's obviously a price tag associated with any increase of service such as that. But we can come back with the option.  And then the community can decide if they want to pursue it."

Speakers began contributing comments before he concluded and lined up at the podium when public comments began.

Some residents reacted to information about the extent of Security's authority and others talked about problems in their neighborhoods. Representatives from the fire department and the Sheriff's Department also spoke.

Neighbor Tracy Dunn termed the statement that security officers are expected to deter crime by their presence in the community "almost laughable."

"I know that the patrol on Colbert alone, on the South, is probably the most patrolled street on the South by the Security officers, and it has been extremely hard-hit in the last several weeks with break-ins," she said, referring to burglaries of unlocked vehicles. "I would urge this board to rewrite the ordinances ... we need to have a security force out here that is able to do something other than walk around with an amazing amount of training and yet able to do nothing."

Carolyn and George Kammerer provided the most dramatic demonstration of a neighborhood issue by playing a recording of shouted obscenities they said their neighbors directed at the Security officer who responded to a noise complaint on May 18. They received the same verbal abuse later in the evening, the couple said, and added that problems with their neighbor on De La Pena Circle date to 2005.

 "I felt this was so important to bring forward because it's not an isolated incident," Carolyn Kammerer said as she described "loud and offensive conduct" that included rock music, "the unbelievable use of the f-word and other profanities," and slurred singing by the neighbors and their guests.   

When the situation occurred again, five days later, Kammerer said Security advised them to call the Sheriff's Department for assistance "because we don't have the authority to handle this type of situation." She said the Sheriff's Department responded within 45 minutes.

"I love this community and, like many, I'm concerned about the increase in crime and antisocial behavior, and an overall feeling that, in some ways, the general peace and harmony that once prevailed here is somewhat imperiled," she said.

Lt. Rich Merideth of the Sheriff's Department said calls for service from Rancho Murieta are "a very small fraction" of the total volume of calls for the East Division. He said Rancho Murieta is part of "well over 100 square miles" covered by three to five patrol officers per shift.

In a year's time, Rancho Murieta accounted for only 157 of "upwards of 85,000" calls for service, according to Merideth. "We put our resources where the need is," he said.

When Director Jerry Pasek suggested the small number of calls was due to Security's presence in the community, Merideth replied, "That very well could be."

South resident Lisa Taylor, the wife of Security Sgt. Jim Bieg, asked Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Capt. Greg Pryor if Security's lack of law enforcement status affects medic or other calls Fire Station 59 answers.

"In a situation where there might be a dangerous environment for us ... we have to have the scene cleared (by law enforcement) before we can go in," Pryor replied. He said Security officers routinely performed this function in Rancho Murieta, but "this all has changed for us now. ... What it means is if there's an assault of any kind, we cannot go in."

Wilbur Haines said he had been puzzled for years about the status of the community's security officers.

"If I understand correctly ... the real problem is, that for want of being a city or a county, a special district can't write that kind of empowering ordinance. Not just that it can't write its own police power, we can't write our own curfew laws and dog laws and stuff, that also it can't write the kind of ordinance that 836.5 is talking about, that authorizes arrests and makes it part of an officer's duties," he said.

"... Obviously what the residents are concerned about is they want somebody that can respond and flash some handcuffs now.  They're looking for law enforcement response, so I suppose the other thing we should be looking at is expansion of our use of the off-duty officers and perhaps using them in a more targeted way."

Replying to Haines, Rudolph said a legislative approach, which would take six months or more, might be an answer, giving Murieta's Security officers broader authority. 

"I think the good news about that kind of an amendment is because we're the only in-house security service operated by a CSD in the state, there's probably not going to be people that care about that type of an amendment..." Rudolph said.

Ted Hart suggested making use of surveillance cameras as a crime-solving measure, and others mentioned tighter enforcement of CC&Rs.

John Merchant, former president of RMA and CSD boards, said the security issue "is not a small problem financially. ... I don't know how many times we've been through peace officer status in the last 22 years ... If we were going to spend some serious money, I would really like to see us spend it ...trying to find out ... what it is the community wants ... and what it would cost to get there."

Lisa Taylor returned to the podium to say, "From my understanding, it's not that the people who aren't here think that the officers don't need those powers. The majority of them think that the officers have those powers and will be there when they need them."


Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 474
Post rating: 470

Thank you for posting the audio

That's a big step forward if audio recordings of these meetings can start being readily available to the constituents, since it's so hard for most folks to actually attend the meetings. Thank you, Karen!

Bobbi Belton's picture
Joined: 07/30/2007
Posts: 275
Post rating: 442

CSD Security Meeting

I'll ditto Wilbur's thanks (a lot); even more, I want to thank the 60 or so residents who took time out of their own lives to sit and listen to Steve Rudolph's presentation. It was pretty straightforward and now leaves us with the task of looking at both short and long-term solutions. Any resident with other or additional thoughts, please feel free to call or e-mail me. The list of "to dos" keeps getting longer, but it's time we get it right once and for all; most importantly, ascertain how many registered voters will vote to pay the freight, should that be the direction in which we choose to go.

Bobbi Belton

Bobbi Belton

Al Dolata's picture
Joined: 08/09/2007
Posts: 94
Post rating: 129

A Deep Breath

Does my recollection fail me?   Didn't CSD recently poll the body and discover that there was a reasonably high level of satisfaction with security sevices here, and that there was very little enthusiasm for paying  to upgrade?  

Why is everyone talking about bringing in the sheriff? As a recent writer recalls, several Sac County  communities recently voted to throw the sheriff out and institute their own law enforcement.

That was because they were dissatisfied with the sheriff. Reading the Bee suggests that that the Sac Sheriff's Office is not a very well run or even professional outfit.   It seems at least that the county is constantly paying judgments or settling law suits because of Sheriff's Office misconduct.   Before I contracted with the Sheriff's Office, I would take a long look at the record.

What strikes me is that this furor seems to be the result of that lady on Zancada Ct complaining about her neighbor's noisy party or something. Which party was not even noticed by several other near neighbors. I have to ask, what should security have done, thrown people in jail?  It was a minor dispute between neighbors for heavens sake. No big deal!

On the other hand, I have read of several recent arrests having been made here, which makes me think that when serious stuff happens, we have a way of handling it. I propose that we all take a deeop breath.

A dolata

Al Dolata

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 474
Post rating: 470

Roger that deep breath

Yes, Al, a deep breath and not leaping to any conclusions is a really good idea.

But if you listen to the recording while browsing those slides, what comes through is that the CSD officers customary level of intervention in misbehavior which we've gotten used to, a level of protection with which the poll suggests residents are reasonably comfortable, has to come to a screeching halt.  It turns out that over the years previous CSD boards, trying to serve and please the public, have adopted ordinances and practices which they really don't have the legal power to authorize. The officers' involvement in recent arrests, the way they have pretty effectively dealt with significant problems themselves while waiting for the Sheriff, all has to stop. We're back to call the Sheriff, observe, take some notes, be a helpful witness in a Sheriff's Dept. arrest and prosecution. But hands off, no arresting, no detaining.

CSD counsel's presentation vindicates what Jack Cooper was saying and taking so much flak for about the limits on the officers' powers. If fact, we should thank Jack for saying those things and taking that flak, because in a sense that helped draw this controversy out into the open for a thorough and public resolution, at long last.

So we have to rethink how badly do or don't we need an on site law enforcement officer who can slap the cuffs on a bad boy right now, what's it going to cost and is it really worth it, and what are the ways of going about it if it really is worth the cost. But what we've gotten used to, or assume is there, no longer exists.

But lest anybody panic, yes, a long deep breath is a good idea. This is finally getting sorted out, some alternatives will be explored and costed out, and the voters will get a chance to decide - have to approve it under state law - before anything particularly expensive can be done.

Kudos to the CSD board for pulling this out from under the rug and dealing with it, and for their ongoing effort to include the residents in the exploratory process.

Lisa Taylor's picture
Joined: 01/09/2008
Posts: 365
Post rating: 30

Not just the residents

Great coverage and information! And definite thanks to the CSD Board for addressing this in an open way, and being very welcoming to all those that spoke.

I'm a bit puzzled by the following statement, and I was puzzled when I heard it Wed night:

"From our perspective, there is no change," Rudolph said.  "The folks that are on our Security force right now very well understand that they're not peace officers.  They have an understanding of what they can and cannot do. ... For them, it's business as usual.

The CSD board passed Police Power ordinances that they expected security to enforce and write tickets into court, and effect misdemeanor arrests. The Sacramento Sheriff's dept dispatched law enforcement calls to our security officers. The Sac Metro Fired used them to clear scenes when necessary.

I suspect that the officers' current understanding of what they are allowed to do is very different than, say 4 years ago (just to pick a number). I don't think that most of them thought that they were peace officers, but they did believe that they had certain powers of arrest.

I just don't think it was only the district residents that were mistaken about the powers. The residents *and* these government entities all relied on these improper powers in order to service this small chunk of the county.

T. Hanson's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 318
Post rating: 474

MBA

Wilbur is so right on CSD powers, yet so wrong on MBA "authority". His treatise is just more " legal opiniions or propagda" which we've already hear more than a mouthful of. We understand his bent. T. RMDCCC 

Craig Sheehy's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 27
Post rating: 30

Complaining Neighbors

As I read the comments from the Kammerer's, it just made me sick to my stomach, as I know their neighbors very well and have been in their backyard having normal conversations between couples before 10 PM on a weekend and have to explain to security that we are just talking.  It was an absolute lie that the f-bomb was said to anyone in security and security would be able to back that up.  These are not parties just professional couples talking around the pool in the early evening.  As someone who doesn't stay up much later than 10, I know these are not late nights.  They complain constantly about them running the A/C and ask that they turn it off.   Before they moved into this house, they had the same problem with their previous neighbor who eventually couldn't take it anymore and moved.  Theyt have attempted to meet with the Kammerer's to see how neighbors can be neighbors, but nothing seems to work with them.  They are harassing this couple who has donated so much time and money to every Rancho Murieta event held here. It's time that someone stands up to this bully and says enough is enough.

Chuck Lentz's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 116
Post rating: 38

Neighbors

For those of us that have been here for sevearl years, hard to accept uncaring and lax parents and residents.  Have no idea as to this proplem but in the last few years it is nothing like what it was a few years back,  We could leave our garage doors open, doors unlocked and if a neighbor got out of line, you knocked on his door and he said come on in.  Few if any problems.

Very simple, stupidity!!

Treat your neighbor as you want to be treated.

 Nonsence like this destroyes the true life here in Rancho Murieta!

Robert Denham's picture
Joined: 10/01/2007
Posts: 78
Post rating: 66

A deep breath

Al, Al, Al, I don't know if you consider the Sacramento Bee a paragon of journalistic veracity and integrity, but if  you do you must get a real thrill out of the New York Times.  The communities that you refer to, Elk Grove and Citrus Heights never indicated a dissatisfaction with the performance of the Sheriff's Department in the delivery of service.  Their decision was based on a desire of their respective city managers to appoint and control their police departments.  In Citrus Heights, you may not know, the mayor was a former deputy sheriff, fired for dishonesty.  In Elk Grove, two of the five members of the city council were precluded from taking part in the discussion of law enforcement service, because they held manangement positions in the Sheriff's Department.  Two of the remaining members, Soares and Briggs, lost their bid for re-election and Sophia Sherman may be on her way out next time.   

You have chosen to denigrate the several thousand members of the Sheriff's Department that work dilligenly for the safety and security of the unincorporated area of the county.  Many of these dedicated employees, including at least one former Sheriff and both present and retired individuals are your  neighbors in this community. The Sacramento Sheriff's Department has always been well respected and highly rated in California law enforcement and even enjoys a national reputation for excellence. 

The question was not whether to contract with the Sheriff, it was how to address the future usage of the Security Department which may be in conflict with current legal restictions.  Ignoring the issue, like golf cart crossing Jackson Highway, may not be a viable option.  The personal liability on the part of the officers not to mention the inability to secure liability insurance for the community make this a very real problem.

Your comments, like many of the "facts" carried by the Bee, left much to be desired.

 

Anne Price's picture
Joined: 05/30/2008
Posts: 2
Post rating: 0

Complaining Neighbors

After reading this article, I am confused as to the issues our security is in place to address.  It is not compelling to me to pay more for security so that they can address frivolous neighbor complaints.  If we need a sheriff to deal with neighbor complaints it makes me wonder who we need to hire to deal with graffiti, drug selling and auto break ins.  What Mr. and Mrs. Kammerer fail to mention is how they seem to believe security is present to deal with their own personal need to control others actions that do not suit themselves, such as their neighbor running their air conditioning unit or pool equipment at night, because after all, it’s noisy.  I’m surprised Mr. and Mrs. Kammerer didn’t pull out their montage of video recordings of their neighbors and children swimming in the so called privacy of their own backyard being so noisy.  Instead they play yet another recording, this one audio, and clearly mislead the audience into believing the obscenities were yelled at security.  As the Kammerers point out, their behavior has been going on since 2005.  It is out of extreme frustration, that the obscenities were yelled at the Kammerers, not security.  The Kammerers are very well aware of this and it seems obvious to me they have their various recorders just waiting in anticipation of a reaction, which they received.  Perhaps the security officer can confirm that they were treated respectfully on May 18th when they responded, yet again, to one of Mr. and Mrs. Kammer’s many complaints.   I find it odd that there are no other complaints from additional neighbors if it is so noisy.  I find it odd that there were no complaints from the previous owners before the Kammerers moved in.  I find it really odd that the Kammerer’s previous neighbors, prior to their moving to De La Pena, have said they dealt with similar complaints!  I have a difficult time understanding how a sheriff is supposed to improve this type of situation.

Steven Mobley's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 261
Post rating: 325

Deep breathing

I agree 100% with Robert Denhams' latest posting. Thank you for answering Al with your well thought out and eloquent words. I don't know where Al gets his information or how he formed his opinion, but I hope that he took your explanation to heart. On behalf of many others, thank you Mr. Denham.

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