CHP warns Capitol staffers to be careful, offers escorts

Prompted by recent “confrontational incidents,” the Capitol security staff and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) are asking Capitol staffers to be careful and consider using police escorts when leaving the building after hours. However, a CHP representative said the memo was a routine warning and that there have not been any recent attacks on staffers.

On July 16, the Joint Rules Committee sent a memo to all legislative staff warning, “There has been a recent increase in confrontational incidents in the vicinity of the Capitol and LOB,” referring to the Legislative Office Building across N Street from the Capitol. The memo goes on to tell the staff that they can use after-hours shuttles for legislative employees, and gives numbers for Special Services in both the Senate and Assembly. It also tells staffers that CHP officers are available to “walk you to your car.”

“There were enough incidents that the CHP felt justified in warning staff that the Capitol area is not a safe place after dark,” said Jon Waldie, chief administrative officer for the Assembly Rules Committee. He added that the incidents did not involve Capitol staffers.
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard said the word “confrontational incidents” in the memo really seemed to have gotten people’s attention. In the last month, Beard said, there have been “few more” incidents than usual. Mostly this has meant that intoxicated people have wandered on to the Capitol grounds and gotten into minor verbal confrontations with officers.

The most spectacular recent arrest at the Capitol occurred on the afternoon of May 12. According to police reports, Sacramento police pursued a naked, allegedly-intoxicated man onto the Capitol grounds. After attempting a few punches, he was arrested in front of the East entrance with the assistance of CHP and Capitol sergeants, then taken away for psychiatric evaluation.

Coincidentally, this was the same day that several adult film stars were at the Capitol as part of the annual Adult Industry Lobby Day. They were testifying against AB 2914, a 25 percent tax on adult entertainment proposed by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier.

Allen Stallman, a lieutenant with the CHP’s Capitol Protection Unit, said they frequently send out warnings this type of year—particularly with many staffers working late on the budget.

“When you have a warm-weather city like Sacramento, it’s going to be a magnet for homeless people,” Stallman said. “Some of the homeless people are going to be troubled.”

Law enforcement incidents at the Capitol remain pretty steady from year to year, Stallman said. There have been 10 misdemeanor violations cited this year, usually for drug or weapon possession, compared to 13 last year and 12 in 2006. Each of those years has seen between one and three citations, usually for marijuana possession or drinking in public. There has been only one felony arrest this year, for a parole violation, compared to three last year and two in 2006. Most of these incidents occurred when someone was cited for sleeping in the park or some other nuisance crime, then found with drugs or an outstanding warrant.

“There is no upsurge in violence that we’re aware of, and no particular violent events that are being pinpointed as justifying the memo,” Stallman said.

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