SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - President of the Santa Barbara Police Officers Association Sergeant Eric Beecher released a statement on Friday explaining how local officers have responded to protests and what they have been faced with while working to protect the community.
Sgt. Beecher explained that Santa Barbara police respect citizens' First Amendment right to free speech and lawfully assemble, however, officers must show up prepared in the event a peaceful protest evolves into a dangerous riot.
The president's full statement can be read below:
Over the past 12 days there has been an overwhelming flood of emotions from all human beings who agree that George Floyd's death was unacceptable in a peaceful society. The systemic biases that led to the death of George Floyd and too many others before him must end if peace is to prevail. As law enforcement officers we recognize we are held to a higher standard of conduct and must hold each other accountable to achieve the just society we all seek.
The Santa Barbara Police Officers Association supports the 1st Amendment and those who wish to exercise their rights. Our very purpose is to protect free speech and lawful assembly and to ensure the safety of all those who wish to be heard. The men and women of the Santa Barbara Police Department continue to learn, adapt, and are open to change that will improve the lives of ALL those in our community to live in peace and prosper.
On May 31, approximately 3,000 members of the Santa Barbara community came together to protest racism, police brutality, and inequality. The protest was peaceful and we thank the organizers and participants for their efforts to that end. We share in their anger, while remaining committed to our duty to protect the sanctity of life, dignity, and liberty of all persons.
In contrast, are the scenes we have witnessed in cities across the nation between law enforcement and those who wish to destroy our communities. On May 30, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department requested emergency aid from the Santa Barbara Police and Sheriff's Departments to respond and assist with restoring peace and putting a stop to riotous activity throughout the County of Los Angeles, including looting, vandalism, and crimes against persons and property. Thousands of officers from numerous agencies provided support and were met with glass bottles, bricks, rocks, and bags of human waste thrown at them. We are thankful that a squadron of our officers responded to the request and returned to us safely.
The tools we utilize in response to potential civil unrest, including helmets, protective vests, and less-than lethal projectiles, provide defensive protection for officers to safely do their jobs and act as a deterrent to bodily harm. In light of circumstances across the country in which officers have sustained injuries -- in some cases, grave -- it is the potential transition from peaceful protest to violent riot for which our officers must be prepared to ensure the safety of all.
The Santa Barbara community is a strong and close-knit family. In the days ahead, we hope that everyone will join us in promoting peace by discouraging criminal behavior that damages our beautiful city, affects local businesses, and impacts the quality of life for everyone.
The Santa Barbara Police Department is committed to serving our community with the professionalism and respect you have the right to expect. The Officers, Dispatchers, Parking Enforcement Officers, Records Specialists, and non-sworn staff of the Santa Barbara Police Department are dedicated to keeping you safe.
Sgt. Eric Beecher - President
Santa Barbara Police Officers Association