SANTA BARBARA — The Santa Barbara Police Department, in an effort to handle the seasonal increase in its transient population—while not interrupting vital crime-fighting and public safety efforts—has recruited a small team of “volunteer community service liaisons” comprised of citizens willing to walk the streets and render help to those in need of assistance not requiring a uniformed, armed, sworn duty officer.
Trained in the skills of “street negotiation” and ostensibly with a progressive set of communication skills, these folks wear a distinctive bright yellow shirt, and are generally assigned in pairs to patrol the sidewalks of those city areas notorious for public drunkenness, open container, sleeping in the park, sidewalk sitting, panhandling, and other minor offenses which, when considered individually are minor public nuisances, but in the aggregate have become a threat to various downtown and beachfront business interests.
But even the most trained of peacemakers can sometimes find themselves in a classic “failure to communicate” circumstance, which is what seems to have taken place, according to Santa Barbara Police Department Sgt. Riley Harwood, in the early afternoon of Tuesday, May 26th when Gerard Gutierrez Jr., 33, found himself face-to-face with two yellow shirts worn by SBPD Community Liaison Officers. Gutierrez, like so many wandering along Santa Barbara’s principal State Street tourist venue, was “intoxicated and disturbing people on the street and was urged by the liaisons to leave the area.”
Gutierrez complied and walked away. Minutes later, however, he was seen “throwing a water bottle at a passing vehicle,” Harwood reported, whereupon Gutierrez was once again approached by the Liaison Officers and detained while they summoned uniformed officers to their location. Apparently no longer a “nice drunk”, Gutierrez summarily struck and expectorated upon one of the yellow-shirted liaison officers. A brief scuffle ensued, and Gutierrez was physically restrained pending the arrival of the men with badges, guns, tasers, and pepper spray. When confronted by dark blue uniforms, Gutierrez had the temerity to kick one of the responding officers, who was uninjured.
The consequence of Gutierrez’s afternoon outing was a ride to Santa Barbara County Jail, where he was booked on charges of battery and battery upon a police officer, with his bail set at $2,500.