Briefing Room: respect for police, noise complaints, and chain of command

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Hi Sun Readers!  We received three really good questions this week.  Please keep them coming!

Respect to SPBD

Are SBPD officers experiencing any of the disrespect I’ve seen some restaurant workers display toward law enforcement?  I believe the citizens of Seal Beach are generally supportive of so I certainly hope not.  Stay safe!

Regards,

Rick

Great question Rick!  I certainly appreciate you asking and the concern for our safety.  It means a lot to us.

This very topic is something that we talk about in our morning and evening shift briefings almost every day.  We all know, agree, and appreciate just how lucky we are to work in Seal Beach.  This community is extremely supportive of us, and it is a part of what makes working here so great.  Overwhelmingly we’ve experienced an outpouring of support from Seal Beach.  When we’re having a tough day or just finished an emotionally taxing call, it is so nice to hear that we are appreciated from a member of this community.  It can literally change the entire course of our day.  We know we are supported, but these little reminders motivate us to continue to serve this wonderful community.  We are eternally grateful. 

So Rick, I’m happy to report that we don’t know of any incidents where restaurant workers have been disrespectful in any way, shape or form.  In fact, most often just the opposite happens and we’re greeted with smiling faces and words of praise.  We always try to return those words of thanks to other essential workers, including all restaurant staff.  Kindness is easily spread in this great town. 

Noise

When an officer responds to a noise complaint, how do they determine the decibel level?

—Charles

Charles, this is another great question, especially because summer is here and people like to party.  We get noise complaint calls frequently, particularly on the busy weekend, night shifts.

When these calls come in, it generally starts when a neighbor calls to report a party or loud music at a nearby residence.  Once the officers are dispatched to the call, they attempt to pinpoint exactly where the noise is coming from.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, especially in apartment complexes or in Old Town where there are multiple residences inside one building.  Once we find the source of the noise, we will contact the people inside and speak with the owner (or renter) of the residence.  We kindly explain that we’ve received a noise complaint and ask them to turn it down.  The vast majority of people are apologetic and compliant.  With that, upon speaking with them, we will issue what is called a “First Response Notice.”  This means the person responsible for the residence (and generally the noise) has been notified via documentation that if we receive a second call, they may face both criminal charges and/or an administrative fine.  In fact, the City of Seal Beach can charge the homeowner (or renter) for the cost of officers responding back out to the residence.

Without getting too much into the innards and outers of the law, a violation of California Penal Code §415(2) — disturbing the peace—is a specific intent crime.  This means the person committing the crime has to have both the desire and intent to commit the crime.  So by giving them the First Response Notice, we can assume that if we receive another call and come back to the location, they have willingly decided to continue to disturb someone’s peace.

Most importantly, if the complainant wants any enforceable action completed, we will need the caller to actually report themselves as a victim.  For example, when someone calls to report a noise complaint and they want actual action (other than just a verbal warning) they will need to identify themselves and ask to be contacted.  If we come out a second time, and they again want enforceable action, they will need to be an actual victim and sign a Private Person’s Arrest form which then asks us to place the offender under arrest.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that we actually make a physical arrest with handcuffs, but rather we might simply issue the offender a citation.  It also ensures that if and when this goes to court, there is an actual victim who is willing to testify that their peace was physically disturbed.  Plain and simple, without a victim, there is no violation. 

So now you’ll ask what it takes for your peace to be disturbed.  There is not a simple answer to this.  There is not a specific decibel level which must be reached before we can take action.  What we can do is determine if the noise appears unreasonable.  In fact, the Penal Code is pretty clear on this.  It reads, in part, “Any person who maliciously and willfully disturbs another person by loud and unreasonable noise” has violated this section, i.e. Is someone running a chainsaw at 10:00 am on a Tuesday in order to clear a dead tree in their backyard?  Probably not unreasonable.  Is it 3:00 am on a Monday morning and there is a pool party with a bunch of loud screaming and music?  Probably unreasonable.  We do our best to determine what we think is reasonable and if and when enforcement action is both critical and necessary. 

Does SBPD have a plan?

In your latest Sun article you requested police-related questions.  I have a couple. After watching rioting nationwide, I was wondering what to expect if that happened here.  Does the Seal Beach Police Department have an operational plan for protecting life and property in the event of a riot?

Without divulging any specific strategies or tactics, what should we expect from your department? Will we see criminals getting arrested, or will we see the police standing in a line, watching felonies being committed, and doing nothing. We just saw this next door in Long Beach.

I would also like to know who has the authority to order the Seal Beach Police Chief and/or his officers, to “stand down” during any event. Is it the Mayor? Is it the City Council? Is it the City Manager? Is it the County Sheriff?  And, who does the Police Chief report to in the City chain of command?

Thank you in advance

Richard

Hey Richard,

We’re fortunate in the sense that we do not anticipate any large-scale rioting will happen here in Seal Beach.  However, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t prepared for it.  Our officers participate in a large amount of countywide Mobile Field Force training which not only teaches us how to effectively handle unruly crowd control situations while using the least amount of force (if even necessary), but it also reinforces our training on First Amendment assemblies and how to protect other Constitutional rights.  Our goal is always to protect life, property, and to ensure that the rights of all those in Seal Beach are protected.  After all, the right to peacefully assemble is a cornerstone of our democracy. 

With that, if a peaceful assembly turns into rioting with property destruction or even worse, we definitely have a plan.  We will not tolerate vandalism, looting, or other crimes against this community.  We’re ready to address these issues if they ever occur here.  If things get really out of hand, we have great working relationships with our neighboring police departments and mutual aid agreements with all Orange County law enforcement agencies.  If they need help, we will help them.  If we need help, they will in turn help us. 

As far as the chain of command is concerned, Chief Gonshak is considered a Department Head in the City and he answers directly to City Manager Ingram. 

I hope this answer all of your questions Rick, Charles, and Richard.  I’m sure you are not the only people wondering about these things.  We really enjoy reading and answering your questions.  Please keep sending them to askacop@sealbeachca.gov!