Adios, Sheriff Mike Downey


Interagency cooperation is vital to the success of any police agency. No matter how big or small, each department relies on its local, state and federal partners to be effective. Mike Downey, the Sheriff of Humboldt, has been a great partner.  Mike is one who is quick to answer his phone and bring resources to the table.  Within one hour of finding out I was the newly appointed Chief of Police, Mike Downey called me to welcome me to Humboldt, offering his home as a place to stay…short term.  Billy Honsal has proven to be just as collaborative.

EPD arrested an armed robber plaguing the downtown area. The jail was full and I needed space to put this person in jail.  I called Mike and Mike made room in the inn.  EPD had operations that needed extra personnel.  Mike NEVER said, “No.”  He always stepped up to the plate and helped.  It was Mike’s strength that instituted and maintained a countywide SWAT team when EPD shuttered its doors to a tactical team.  EPD and HCSO currently staff the team that he sustained.  His SWAP unit has been immeasurable in cleaning up the ecological disaster left by illegal camping.  Mike Downey has lead from the front in the local Chief’s group and the Humboldt County Drug Task Force.  The list could go on.

What people may not recognize or understand is that while we may be dysfunctional at times, things work based on the strength and personality of executives like Mike Downey, who don’t harbor their assets like marbles on the playground, but share their resources for the betterment of its citizens. This sharing includes the DA, Fire Chiefs, Police Chiefs, DHHS, Probation, the Sheriff and Public Defender.  Yes, it takes all of us in the system to ensure effective government, even though at times we may be on the opposite side of the table.

Humboldt will take a hit with Mike’s retirement, but I am sure Billy Honsal will step in and help immensely. Likewise the newly appointed public defender, David Marcus, will be a good addition to ensuring justice and individual rights are protected.

Enjoy your well-earned retirement Mike.  You and Annette have served us well.


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Sentimental Affection or Actionable Love…Race in America

A few people called for a copy of my MLK speech.  Here it is…as it was supposed to have been said.  There may be a few minor differences.  Also is a video of the great folks who turned out to celebrate Dr. King from the LoCo.

“Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all. It is merely a sentimental affection, little more than one would have for a pet.” MLK

Here, in Eureka we just march together. We stood together and now we sit with one another unity. We have just demonstrated to the world that love can win.  That a community can treat one another as each of us would and to be treated following the Golden Rule.

As marcher crossed the bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, and were met by police in riot gear. Today we crossed the bridge together, locked arm in arm, heart in heart, with the understanding that when one hurts we all hurt. As Eurekan’s we understand that lifting up the weakest among us, up lifts all of us. There is not a white America or black America, poor or wealthy America, but one America.

Today, I issue a challenge to all the people Eureka and Humboldt who believe in faith and justice; let’s get past sentimental affection and ensure justice in policing, the courts, education and housing. Let’s not see a person by anything other than a brother or sister in this ritual we call life.

I am asking you…to intentionally and purposefully go out of your way to respect others and treat them kindly, so we can make the leap from sentimental affection to actionable love.

Small efforts can have a big effect. Saying hello, holding a door or shaking a hand. Each week, I am focused on doing an act to bring people closer. You can also.

As the biblical prophet Amos said, “Let justice roll like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream.” This is the beginning of justice…to demonstrate our righteousness.

MLK wrote from jail to fellow Christian preachers who were concerned that the protest were “untimely”, “Our destiny is tied up…with the destiny of America.” Humboldt, our destiny, our future is tied up with each other.


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Eureka we have an opportunity to demonstrate what compassion looks like.  How we can unit as one to show that all people are welcomed, regardless of faith, race, color or creed. Join us 11:00 am on March 16, 2017 at EPD to show the world where justice begins.    Please see the attached press release.

MLK Speech



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Police Transparency Portal

Eureka Police Transparency Portal

In an effort to be transparent, the Eureka Police Department and the Chief’s Advisory Panel, have created a transparency portal. The purpose of this portal is to give direct access of EPD policy, statistics and press releases to the public.  The Transparency Portal will ultimately include officer involved shooting executive summaries, video released to the public via the media and more.  If there are items you would like to see included in this portal, please contact Brittany Powell our Public Information Officer, the Chief or any of the Captains.

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Post Election Healing

Recently the North Coast Journal asked me to write an op-ed on the election.  Here is what I wrote from my perspective as Chief of Police.  #timetoheal

Last week Americans exercised their constitutional rights to vote and protest. First by electing Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America, and then by protesting his election. America is such a beautiful and complex mystery. At the protest, Eureka Police officers stood by watching over protestors, ensuing their rights were protected and that citizens could speak their minds. Most protesters were kind and peaceful. They just wanted to be heard.  A few protestors, the same old tired ones, screamed expletives at the police and counter protesters who had shown up.

Here is what protestors did not know: EPD intercepted an on-line threat that a man threatened to shoot protestors. EPD developed a two tiered response: confront the person who made the threat and protect protestors, even the ones who curse the police.  Eureka, we can respond with anger, vitriol and violence, or we can chose civility. My goal for EPD and Eureka is chose civility and be a force for good.  There are four choices we must make to be a force for good.

We can chose civility. Civility toward our fellow countrymen and women is the byproduct of a healthy society. You and I can make a conscious decision to follow the lead of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Pope Francis and Rev. Billy Graham. Part of civility is possessing the ability to discuss important topics without going nuclear. Even when we feel strongly about a matter, we can discuss these topics passionately, but with the perspective that this is my neighbor, my brother or sister, my fellow Eurekan.

We must also confront evil. Those on the fringe who speak of hate or extremism, be it from the right or left, must be challenged. Yes, it takes courage. Doesn’t it always take courage and personal risk to take a stand? Recently, a student at Baylor University was pushed and called the N word.  More than 300 students showed up to walk her to her class, as they locked arms and sang Amazing Grace.  Others confronted the aggressor. They told him racism is not accepted at Baylor. That is a powerful demonstration of how to confront evil.  When a police officer in Urbandale, Iowa was murdered, a black woman brought water to a white police officer standing a traffic post.  She hugged him. They cried together.  Through a simple act of targeted kindness, they confronted an evil that tried to divide them.  You and I must stand united against racism, sexism and anarchist extremism.  These ideologies have no place in a civil society.

We can invite the vulnerable to our dinner table. There are many who feel unwelcomed to the table of prosperity and public acceptance.  We can consciously make a decision to be inclusive.  Not in a sappy way, but in a real, tangible and substantive manner.  An approach that creatively uses the strength of our differences to strengthen the fabric this community.  My mother was a young Jewish girl in post WWII America.  It was those who included her and loved her that helped heal the wounds of the anti-Semites who call her a “dirty Jew.” Certainly it takes work on both sides, but should not the strong willingly offer a hand of hope to those more vulnerable?

We also must be honest with one another. This is the tough part.  Too many people take cheap shots at one another using destructive and corrosive language to those simply expressing their opinion.  Others, cannot handle even small amounts of earnest debate.  Our community cannot get past this current schism until we chose to speak openly, honestly and directly to one another.  We must not only speak, but listen, and try to understand another point of view.  Humboldt, we should evaluate a position on the quality of the argument, the method in which that message was delivered, and the passion possessed for our fellow neighbors.

This is what I believe will help heal our city, county and nation. This is how we become a force for good and not evil. The choice is ours Eureka, Arcata, Fortuna, and the rest of Humboldt County. Can we be civil, confront evil, practice inclusivity and speak honestly?  The unity  and livability of our community depends on it.

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Here is a little analysis by a Seattle news station @King5 re burglars.  This is a very informative report as to what signs crooks look for when casing…NRA stickers are one of them.  Hide it. Lock it. Keep it.



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Prop 64

California Proposition 64- Captain Steve Watson

Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, will go before voters on November 8. Prop 64 permits adult recreational use, commercial cultivation, manufacturing, transportation and sales. We stand united and strongly opposed to Proposition 64. Please join law enforcement associations, educators, and other organizations across the state in emphatically stating, “They got it wrong, again!”

Regardless of your stance on legalization, or belief the end of “cannabis prohibition” is inevitable, Proposition 64 is not the answer for California. We believe this special interest-driven initiative is ill-timed, short-sighted, and irresponsible. Proposition 64 is patently profit-motivated and puts what many would label “greed weed” before the best interests of the public.

Proposition 64 does not protect our children.

Young people who smoke today’s highly potent marijuana may be rewiring their brains. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes legalizing marijuana noting cannabis can be “very harmful to adolescent health and development.” Research indicates there may be a causal link between marijuana use and an increase in serious mental health issues among children, such as triggering the onset and intensifying the symptoms of schizophrenia.  Mental health professionals in Humboldt County have noted a rise in acute disorders among children to which some ascribe to marijuana exposure. According to Dr. Garry Eagles, Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools, “In Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, roughly 1 in 5 students, or 20.3%, is receiving some form of special education support.  The participation rate in our two counties is almost double the state-wide average for special education of 10.4%.”

Potent edibles attractively packaged like goodies pose a danger to our children. One medical center in Colorado recently reported their hospital has seen a 51% increase in the number of children 18 years and younger being treated in its emergency rooms for marijuana-related conditions over the past two years. A Pueblo hospital recently shared statistics reporting nearly half of babies born in that hospital during one month tested positive for THC—the main psychoactive component in cannabis.

Proposition 64 does not do enough to protect our highways.

Stoned drivers are a risk to all drivers. Legalization in other states has resulted in more DUI drivers and a significant increase in deadly crashes. According to recent research released by the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety, fatal vehicle collisions involving marijuana-impaired drivers have doubled in Washington State since legalization in 2012.  Colorado has also seen a spike in marijuana-related traffic fatalities and impaired drivers. Under Proposition 64, California can expect to see the same trend.

California currently has no established DUI testing standard for stoned driving and Proposition 64’s proponents failed to include one in their measure. Responsible governance and common sense would prescribe that a DUI testing standard be in place before legalization.

Proposition 64 does not do enough to protect the public’s health and welfare.

When you consider California’s expansive campaign against Big Tobacco, Proposition 64 appears blatantly hypocritical and counters much of the progress California has made to improve public health. How can you have a public health policy that vilifies tobacco use but implicitly encourages folks to smoke a joint?

Post-legalization, some Colorado prosecutors have described seeing an increase in marijuana connected crime including the last 10 of 15 drug-related murders in Aurora, according to a May 2016 report. But one has to look no further than the cannabis capital of the country, Humboldt County, to recognize the violence inextricably intertwined with the pot trade.  Humboldt County’s homicide rate has increased steadily since 2012 with 19 homicides so far this year. The county’s per-capita homicide rate (rate per 100,000 population) over the past two years was nearly double that of the state’s mean rate.  Most of these homicides are believed to be drug-related.  Ten of 15 cases in 2015 involved drugs according to the Humboldt County Chief Deputy Coroner, and Sheriff Mike Downey publically attributed “most” of the homicides his office investigated in 2014 to their connection with “marijuana and other drugs.”

As the new “Wild West Green Rush” intensifies with legalization, an increase in marijuana-related violent crimes, DUI fatalities, and public nuisance complaints can be predicted–negatively impacting public health and safety, quality of life, tourism and businesses. Proposition 64 is the wrong initiative, at the wrong time, for the wrong motive. We urge patience so Californians can make a more informed and responsible decision.  Let’s be smart, wait on legalization, and allow time for California to watch and learn from other states’ post-legalization woes.

If we were to brand Proposition 64 after a popular cannabis strain, we’d dub it “Trainwreck.” Vote NO on 64.   

Dr. Fred Van Vleck, Superintendent of Eureka Public Schools

Michael Downey, Sheriff of Humboldt County

William Damiano, Chief of Probation, Humboldt County

Bret Smith, Chief of Police, Ferndale

Andrew Mills, Chief of Police, Eureka

William Honsal, Undersheriff, Humboldt County

Brian Stephens, Captain, Eueka Police Department

Steve Watson, author and Captain, Eureka Police Department

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The Racial Divide

The tension in our nation between the black community and the police is palpable. It feels like one bad incident and cities will burn…again.  Recently Elizabeth (Liz) Smith, member of the Eureka Chapter of the NAACP and Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods, had a cup of coffee with me to discuss issues of race, policing and justice.  Both of us felt we should lead a discussion locally.

In late August Liz and I assembled a small group of police officers and people of color. We held a private function where we broke bread, threw the cards on the table and had open, honest and sincere dialogue. (Thank you Redwood Capital Bank and the Ingomar Club.) The level of openness at this initial meeting is debatable, but I saw a group of smart, dedicated professional people (community and police) who were direct, honest and open about their perceptions and experience. Each person listened intently to one another seeking to understand. The discussion was enlightening, powerful and humbling.

If we stop here we have failed. We must push on to a place where all people are respected and feel safe.  A place where we reach toward the high ideals of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

Over the upcoming year, the NAACP and EPD will host a broader community meeting to discuss race, policing and justice. Eureka, we can show the world how love works.  We can meet and respectfully discuss tough topics, listen to each other and create a path forward, together. A path not determined by political party, but rather a highway of compassionate discourse and understanding, fairness and hope.

Monday, January 16, 2017, is MLK day. Members of the NAACP and EPD will stand for justice by marching together from EPD to the Adorni Center. There, we can celebrate Dr. King and continue to pursue his ideals. In a small way fulfill his dream.  When protestors in Selma, Alabama, crested the bridge in 1965, peaceful protesters were met by riot police with tear gas and night sticks.  Here we can dim that vision of travesty, honoring the memory of civil rights advocates by marching arm-in-arm as we crest the 5th Street hill walking toward the courthouse.

Lastly, we can mentor. The Boys & Girls Club needs responsible adults who are willing to serve as positive guides to kids, many are people of color, and help them succeed. Eureka this is your opportunity to help heal the racial divide. I would also invite people of color to mentor EPD. Teach us. Help us navigate the turbulence of policing a free society where people of color often feel singled out for enforcement and are disenfranchised from government.  Teach us to understand fairness and aide our implementation of procedural justice through fairness.

Then, just maybe, Eureka can demonstrate to the world what a just and free society looks like. Peace, civility and hope can be palpable also.

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Painted in Blue

A poem hangs on my office wall titled Painted in Blue. It was written by the daughter of a police officer trying to grapple with the notion of her father working as a gang sergeant and dealing a violent culture daily, yet protecting the family from seeing the reality he lived.  She wrote it as a way of processing her feelings and sorting her emotions.  We, I, forget that working in this profession affects more than just us.  It’s also hard on our families, spouses and kids.  Not only do they worry about not seeing us ever again, but they also worry about the damage it brings to our souls, emotions, our very essence.   painted in blue

When my daughter Rachel saw the picture of Amira De Guzman, (below) she felt Amira’s pain and wrote the following:

After what happened last week (murder of SDPD officer JD DeGuzman) I have been reflecting a lot. I am so sad that JD’s life was taken from him. I’m sad for Kelly and I’m sad for his friends on GST and throughout the department. It is a horrible loss that they will feel painfully every time they go to work.  amira.deguzman

But I am most sad for JD’s daughter, Amira. My heart aches for her because I know there is no greater love on earth than a young girl’s love for her police officer father. She will never again get to hug her daddy in full uniform, and no embrace will ever live up to that. I know from experience.

 I cry every time I see that picture of her clutching the flag from his coffin because I know exactly what she is reaching for. I know the pride, comfort, safety she felt every time she hugged her Daddy, feeling that bullet proof vest under her embrace. I know that is the only thing in the world she wants right now. You’d think Kevlar and metal buttons and badges would be uncomfortable things to lean your weight against but it is truly comforting beyond description. I know that little girl would give up anything to hug her daddy one more time in full uniform.

I know how much he meant to her because I know how much you mean to me. There is no greater love than the love a little girl has for her daddy in uniform. She lost him but she will ALWAYS be able to say she is the daughter of a cop and I know she will find pride and comfort again in that soon.

I am more proud of you than words could ever express. There is no sum of money and no fancy title that I’d ever trade for your badge. I hope you know that. Love you 💙

I hope each of us are taking the time to love, comfort and talk to our family’s during this time of national turmoil. They need us as much as we need the support of our communities.


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EPD Leadership Plan

The essence of community policing is for the police to work with, and police from, the perspective of the community in the most professional way possible. Part of this means making decision to transform police organizations to be transparent, fair and just.  EPD has worked tirelessly over the past three years to make this transition happen in a pervasive and structural manner that outlives any one person or generation of police officers.  This Leadership Plan is the next step to embed community policing into the bedrock of this department.

Creating this roadmap or Leadership Plan took more than a year.  We started by studying where we were, and sought input from officers, detectives and sergeants.  Next we posted an online survey (see attached) analyzing the data and interpreting it for our use.  EPD held two focus group session, one with local businesses and another open to all.  EPD received important feedback and information along the way.  Finally the information was discussed with the Chief’s Advisory Panel (police oversite) and given to city council and the city manager.  The Leadership Plan is presented to you here.

How the Leadership Plan affects you.  One of the things learned in the survey was that community members wanted greater contact with and access to patrol officers.  Their desire is to problem solve together.  EPD is working on a plan to assign officers to neighborhoods, provide email access to community members then provide officers time to work with community members on issues of importance.

This is a great police department, one filled with compassionate and talented people.  We are learning, growing and improving rapidly.  If you are interested in how this great city is policed, then I invite you to read the attachments below and  help EPD be community oriented. In the end we will all be better for it.

Thank you to those who took the time to give us feedback.

Leadershipplan.1  LEadershipPlanning.DataPP



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