Run! Shannon, Run! The DA's coming after all you vigilantes and anarchists. If you thought Gallegos' plagiarized My Word was bizarre, wait til you read this.
Has Paul Gallegos lost his mind? It's one thing to spend your grant money buying 'Blackberries' for your investigators, it's quite another thing to be setting up your own personal assault force.
I can't wait to see the spin on this one.
DA under fire over assault rifles
Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos is spending more than $18,000 for semiautomatic rifles — and county officials want to know why.
The request was made in a supplemental budget allocation approved March 6 by the Board of Supervisors for a general list of items commonly used by all law enforcement agencies.
Gallegos requested money from asset forfeiture funds to buy DA investigators “rifles,” “clothing,” “safety equipment” and other miscellaneous items, but several county officials expressed surprise when they learned that the money was intended for eight AR-15 assault rifles, body armor, tactical vests, 5,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition and matching parkas, polo shirts and pants.
Information obtained by The Eureka Reporter under the California Public Records Act indicates that some of the money has already been spent, but funds for the AR-15s and a gun safe were held up by County Administrative Officer Loretta Nickolaus, who sent an e-mail letter to Gallegos questioning the need for the purchases.
The letter from Nickolaus, dated May 10, stated in part, “After quizzing my staff, I am concerned about why DA investigators want to arm themselves with automatic or semiautomatic assault rifles. I hear that (DA’s Office Chief Investigator) Mike Hislop said that they are interested in being part of the security plan and covering the second floor (of the Courthouse, where courtrooms are located). I have also heard that there is an interest in backing up (the Eureka Police Department) and even providing perimeter security.”
Nickolaus continued, “While having backup is usually a good thing, I think this may be outside their course and scope of work, as DA investigators. Plus, doesn’t it create a conflict if the DA investigators are at the scene of a standoff, hostage situation or whatever? How can you investigate something you were a part of?”
Purchase requisitions for the eight-person investigations unit included one 42-gun safe with an electronic lock and dehumidifier at $3,619.31, eight AR-15 semiautomatic rifles at $1,920 each, 10 boxes of .223-caliber hollow-point bullets at $198.50 a box, eight sets of body armor at $550 each, eight tactical vests at $100 each, 16 pairs of tan double-front Carhartt pants at $45 each, eight black parkas at $188 each, 16 “DA Investigator” patches for the parkas at $8 each, a sewing and tailoring charge for the parkas of $27.50, eight short-sleeved polo shirts at $34 each, eight long-sleeved polo shirts at $26 each and an embroidery and lettering charge for the shirts of $520.
But DA investigators may be all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office’s Strategic Enforcement Team, a 14-member special weapons and tactics team equivalent, currently operates out of the first floor of the Humboldt County Courthouse, with the DA’s Office and its investigators located on the fourth floor of the same building.
Seven blocks away is the headquarters for the EPD’s 13-member SWAT Team, a unit supported by an additional 13 patrol rifle officers who are trained in and armed with augmented weaponry, according to EPD Public Information Officer Suzie Owsley.
EPD Chief Garr Nielsen said Tuesday his department had not entered into any agreement with the DA’s Office for SWAT support to the EPD.
“I had a discussion with Hislop, during which he informed me that he was in the process of equipping his investigators with tactical equipment and that they would be available to assist EPD if needed,” Nielsen stated via e-mail.
“(Hislop) specifically mentioned being able to help us out with some of our drug sweeps. We did not discuss nor agree upon them assuming a supporting role to EPD in SWAT situations. We currently have an agreement with the Sheriff’s Office to back each other up for SWAT. SWAT support entails training together regularly in addition to formal agreements and established protocols, none of which have we discussed with the District Attorney’s Office.”
Numerous law enforcement agencies within California were contacted and asked if their DA investigators were armed with tactical weaponry. Even in much larger jurisdictions, the answer was almost always no.
In Santa Clara County, for example, which boasts a population more than 10 times that of Humboldt County, Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Ed Wise said he could not recall a single instance when a DA investigator participated in a tactical situation.
But Gallegos said DA investigators frequently have tactical weapons, and Tim Kiely, chief investigator for the Mendocino County DA’s Office, concurred.
Kiely said his office currently has two semiautomatic weapons, although they are in the process of selling them at the request of the DA. In an informal survey he conducted of approximately 25 counties, he said more than half the DA Offices that responded had semi- or fully automatic weapons.
Gallegos said he didn’t know who had heavy weapons and who didn’t, “but I know I have guys who are going out there, and I want to make sure they are adequately protected.”
Supervisor Jill Geist brought the motion in March to adopt the supplemental budget and reiterated Tuesday that all law enforcement personnel should be protected.
“That investigators have firearms is very common,” Geist said. “That they have adequate body protection is also very common and very appropriate. I think it’s the scale of it that we’re talking about here, the level of armament involved.
“The list of items caught us a little flat-footed, to say the least,” she said. “While (Gallegos) may assert this is very common, this is not something I’m familiar with.”
According to Kim Kerr, Humboldt County risk manager and deputy CAO, the paperwork has been processed for all of the items except the assault rifles and the safe. Some of the purchases may already have been received.
Kerr stated Tuesday, “As of now, the rifles and gun safe request is on hold until the District Attorney’s Office responds to (Nickolaus’) e-mail request for information. Depending upon the response, then there will be a determination to purchase the rifles and safe or not.”
Gallegos said he had not yet seen the May 10 e-mail from Nickolaus, but would look at it to see what concerns she may have.
In it, Nickolaus asked Gallegos, “Does the DA’s office have a use-of-force policy, and/or training programs or policies for any of this stuff? Would they be working out of class? There are many questions, and I need answers before I can approve these purchases.”
In his initial request, Gallegos said the expenses represented permissible uses of asset forfeiture trust funds, and if the request was not approved, his staff would “continue to face compromising health and safety risks when responding to criminal matters due to lack of proper equipment and communication mediums.”
Copyright (C) 2005, The Eureka Reporter. All rights reserved.
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors AGENDA March 6, 2007
Consent Calendar Item c-5
5. Supplemental Budget in District Attorney's Budget Unit 1100-205, in the amount of $58,462.00 and Establish Fixed Assets Accounts (Fund 3921 - Asset Forfeiture)
RECOMMENDATION: Approve the supplemental budget for the purchase of safety equipment, firearms, radios, cellular phones , evidence tracking system and supplies to be used in support of law enforcement purposes that may result in further seizures and forfeitures for our District Attorney Investigative and Prosecutor Staff.
6. Advance Step Appointment for Wayne Cox, Investigator (District Attorney)
RECOMMENDATION: Approve and Advance Step appointment for Wayne Cox, Investigator for the District Attorney's Office to Step E, Effective February 13, 2007
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