A handful of California families will find it hard to celebrate the holidays this year because they lost their fathers and brothers to senseless violence.
On October 19, Sheriff’s Deputy Jack Hopkins of Modoc County responded to a disturbance call and was shot and killed in the line of duty. He was only 31. On October 6, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen was shot dead responding to a burglary. The two deaths are a somber reminder that for our peace officers, their lives are on the line every time they are on patrol.
Each of these losses, hundreds of miles apart in our vast state, was a tragedy. But the same month, something far more sinister played out here, showing that America and our law enforcement have entered a new, more dangerous and shameful era that threatens the foundation of the lawful and civil society we enjoy.
Two Palm Springs police officers, Lesley Zerebny, 27, and Jose “Gil” Vega, 63, we murdered in a planned attack committed by John Hernandez Felix. These deaths did not occur during the commission of another crime, they were the crime. Felix set a trap for the officers and ambushed them, shooting them down in cold blood. It was not a one-off event.
In late November, a San Antonio policeman was ambush murdered as well. And, devastatingly, this summer’s hateful and violent anti-police protests culminated in the sickening assassination of five innocent police officers in Dallas. I only wish that the list was complete, but it’s not.
Driven by the media’s hysterical coverage of any shooting death that fits their political narrative of minority oppression at the hands of police, we’re trending into and upside down world where the protectors are viewed as predators. That’s wrong. It’s the open, politically inspired murder of police that is the real “hate crime” epidemic.
In this overheated environment, it’s little surprise that year-over-year law enforcement firearm-related deaths are up 67-percent in 2016.
This growing hostility towards the police is terrible for the men and women who serve to keep us safe, and it’s changing the way they police, with distressing effect.
The “Ferguson Effect” describes a retreat from effective, proactive policing that has been one driver of a multi-decade crime decline that is in danger of reversing. It’s a term rooted in the Ferguson Police shooting of strong-arm robber Michael Brown, where the infamous and false “hands up, don’t shoot!” became the big lie slogan of rioters, activists, and a complicit, left-wing media and political cabal.
Police around the country, fearful of becoming a media story, or tired of the jeering, snarling mobs that now surround and confront them in the course of their duties, have predictably began interacting more cautiously and less frequently with the public, to dire effect.
In Chicago, for example, police stops were down 90-percent in the first part of 2016, compared to 2015. Shootings in that city have skyrocketed. Heather MacDonald, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, blames the crime spike in Chicago (and other cities – it’s not a Chicago-specific phenomenon) on the abandonment of “broken windows” policing that sees police actively intervening in small, low-level public enforcement crimes. This retreat leads to disorder and emboldens criminals to commit more serious crimes. It’s a troubling shift in nationwide policing.
To make it worse, California is undertaking an unprecedented de-incarceration effort that is putting tens of thousands of criminals back out on the streets before their sentences are complete and making it more difficult to put offenders behind bars.
“Realignment,” 2014’s Proposition 47, and this year’s Proposition 57, all send a strong message to California criminals that the state is not interested in punishing them for their crimes.
It seems simple to understand that if you introduce more criminals into society, the result will be more crime. True to form, California violent crime jumped 11-percent in the first six months of 2015, compared to 2014. Expect crime to spike even higher.
This is the worst possible time for the police to step back because they fear attacks, shaming or other fallout from simply doing their jobs to preserve law and order and keep us safe. The environment that has inflamed and emboldened sick criminals to murder public safety officers must change. It’s a dangerous job where officers make life-and-death decision in a fraction of a second, and they deserve wide latitude from the public and our deepest thanks.
Are there abuses of police power and individual officers who use bad judgment? Of course. And it’s incumbent on us to hold those bad actors accountable. But it’s foolish to attribute sins of the individuals to the whole profession.
FBI Director James Comey said in October that the “narrative that policing is biased and unfair…threatens the future of policing.” Director Comey should not have stopped there. A media-fueled degradation of respect for law enforcement threatens much more than the future of policing, it threatens the safe, civil society that we take too much for granted.
Honor our police.
Senator Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra and Siskiyou counties.
Just after 8:30 on November 18, Metro Fire crews were dispatched to the 9200 block of Lostwood Lane in Orangevale for a report of visible flames from the roof of a house. First arriving crews reported a working fire and immediately initiated fire attack. Firefighters located the fire, which had started in the chimney and spread to the attic, and extinguished it, while searching for victims, and ventilating the structure.
While first-in crews were putting out the fire, other firefighters focused on protecting the residents’ belongings. Their efforts allowed the fire damage to be limited to the chimney, attic and a wall, while saving all of the family’s possessions. Two adults and two children were displaced by the fire. Total damage is estimated at $60,000; no injuries to civilians or firefighters were reported.
As we enter the cold season, make sure your chimney gets inspected and cleaned every year by a professional. When using your fireplace, put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave home, and always put ashes in a metal container with a lid, outside, at least 3 feet from your home.
For more information, check out www.metrofire.ca.gov, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Just after midnight on November 21, Metro Fire crews were dispatched to a home in Fair Oaks for a report of an overdose. When firefighters and Sheriff’s officers arrived, the patient was no longer there. They attempted to locate her, but were unable to. After searching nearby streets, the officers pinged her cell phone, which showed it to be on the north side of the American River, near Hazel Avenue. Officers then requested the help of a California Highway Patrol helicopter, who used infrared technology to locate the woman, lying on a ledge above the river, in slippery terrain. As fire crews were en route to the new location, one of the officers climbed down the slope to make sure the woman didn’t fall off the ledge.
The victim, a 46-year-old female, appeared to have rolled nearly 70 feet before stopping on a ledge a few feet above the water line. She had a decreased level of consciousness, not responding to verbal communication. Metro Fire’s Rescue Task Force, with assistance from Folsom Fire, set up for a low angle rescue, using a second ambulance as the anchor. Once the rope system was in place, two rescuers were lowered to the ledge, where they quickly assessed her injuries and placed her in a rescue stretcher, so she could be safely hauled up the slope. The patient was then transported code 3 to a local trauma center.
“This rescue, with all its unique aspects, demonstrates how our public safety agencies work together to benefit the community,” stated Metro Fire Battalion Chief Mark Repetto. “Sheriff’s officers went above and beyond, CHP jumped in to help find the patient, and firefighters from multiple agencies rescued, treated and transported her. Without this collaboration, it’s not likely this woman would have survived through the night.
The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Board of Directors will conduct a swearing-in ceremony at its regular meeting tonight for new Fire Chief Todd Harms. Following a national search, Harms was selected by the Board of Directors in August as the District’s sixth Fire Chief. He replaces Mark Wells, who, after 29 years of service in public safety and two years as Fire Chief, is retiring.
“I am truly honored to have this opportunity to lead Metro Fire,” said Harms. “I look forward to continually finding way to improve our service delivery, showing the communities we serve that Metro Fire is here every day of the year to solve their problems.”
Harms has 35 years of public safety service and most recently spent nine years as an Executive Staff member for the Phoenix Fire Department. He served as Assistant Chief of Operations, Assistant Chief of Personnel and the Training Division, with oversight of the Training Academy, Command Training Center, Special Operations, Emergency Medical Services, Technical Services, dispatch and the Regional 9-1-1 services.
Harms began his fire service career in 1981 as a Firefighter Paramedic in Peotone, Illinois. In 1987, he became a member of the Phoenix Fire Department. While there, he progressed through the ranks as a Firefighter, Paramedic, Engineer, Captain, Battalion Chief, Deputy Chief of Special Operations and Shift Commander. He also has been an Urban Search and Rescue team member, with deployments to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Harms holds a Bachelor's degree in Fire Service Management and is a past adjunct instructor at Phoenix College in the Fire Science Program.
“My career in the fire service was more rewarding than I ever expected,” said retiring Fire Chief Mark Wells. “I have been honored to serve this community for the last 29 years with the men and women of Metro Fire.”
Chief Wells started his fire service career with the Citrus Heights Fire District in 1987, and progressed through the ranks of Firefighter, Captain, Battalion Chief, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief of Administration, becoming Fire Chief in 2014.
Key accomplishments during Wells’ tenure as Fire Chief include the successful negotiation of a new labor contract, the reopening of three closed fire companies, the implementation of a Joint Arson/Bomb Task Force with Sacramento County Sheriff, the development of a Residential Care Facility Inspection program, equipping all Metro Fire medic units with video laryngoscopes, power gurney systems and automatic chest compression devices, and the donation of two surplus medic units and one fire engine to local community colleges.
Just after 6:00am on November 5th, Metro Fire crews were dispatched to an apartment complex on the 3300 block of Edison Ave in the Arden area. First arriving crews reported fire coming from the upstairs unit of a 4-unit complex and immediately initiated fire attack. Multiple hoselines were brought inside the units, while additional crews searched for potential victims.
A total of twenty-five firefighters worked to extinguish the fire and ensured 16 occupants were safely evacuated. Firefighters also rescued a kitten, returning it to its owner; and recovered an urn with the ashes of loved one, returning them to another resident. Arson investigators responded to the scene; the cause is currently under investigation. Damage is estimated at $100,000. No injuries to civilians or firefighters were reported.
Remember that smoke alarms do save lives. Make sure to test yours regularly and replace the batteries when you change your clocks.
Just after 1 pm on October 30th, Metro Fire crews responding to an apartment fire at 1251 Fulton Avenue in the Arden area found heavy black smoke coming from a second story apartment. The fire, which had started in a bathroom, had already spread to the attic and an adjoining apartment.
Bystanders reported multiple victims, so three additional medic units were requested while firefighters initiated fire attack and began searching for victims. Crews searched and evacuated the involved units, ventilated the structure, and kept the fire from spreading to other units. One female victim was located and transported to the hospital with moderate injuries; there were no other victims from the fire.
A coordinated fire attack allowed firefighters to contain the fire to the two upstairs units. Two additional apartments sustained smoke damage, while four more sustained water damage. Six engines, three trucks, and four medics were involved in caring for the injured resident, extinguishing the fire, protecting the adjacent units, and saving residents’ personal belongings. The residents of all eight units will be displaced; Red Cross was requested to assist them. No firefighters were injured in the fire. Updated damage estimate is $75,000, with the cause of the fire still under investigation.
Our hearts go out to the resident injured in this fire, and to all the families displaced. Please take a few extra steps to lower the risk of fire hurting your family or destroying your home: test your smoke alarms, keep space heaters at least three feet from anything combustible, use flameless candles whenever possible, and always dispose of your fireplace ashes in a metal container.
Metro Fire and the Sacramento Kings, partnering with Albie Aware Breast Cancer Foundation, tried to make the weekend of three breast cancer survivors a little brighter, and a lot “pinker”. Metro Fire’s Pink Cancer Awareness fire engine, and its crew, drove two Sacramento Kings Dancer’s, to the home of each survivor. The Kings Dancers surprised the survivors with a bouquet of pink flowers, a bag of Kings Memorabilia, and tickets to today’s Pre-Season game. The three survivors, Laura Andrus, Teresa Partington, and Therese Shaw, along with their families, were able to take a lot of pictures with the engine, crew and dancers, and more importantly, tell their stories of survival.
After meeting with the survivors, the Pink Engine and the Kings’ crew passed out pink Cancer Awareness items at Arden Fair Mall. Join Metro Fire’s Pink Engine at tonight’s Kings Game, the first home game in the new Golden 1 Center. The crew and the engine will be available on display, so make sure to take plenty of pictures, then submit them to PinkEngine@metrofire.ca.gov to take part in the District’s photo contest. For more information on Metro Fire’s Cancer Awareness Engine and the photo contest, visit our website at www.metrofire.ca.gov