On Oct. 6, I attended the League of Women Voters Forum to hear the candidates’ statements and their answers to questions. It was informative, well organized, and peaceful. At no time did anyone become rude or threatening while exploring divergent opinions.
Therefore, it was surprising that two uniformed, armed police officers entered at the beginning of the meeting but were not there to be part of the audience. At the end of the meeting, a uniformed police officer appeared to be using his cell phone to record photos or video of citizens in attendance. This raises the question of what kind of information he needed and why. The media have published pictures of those in attendance. It is unclear whether warrants had been issued regarding anyone in attendance.
I have always appreciated the County services that make this community pleasant and safe. However, these incidents conveyed a more threatening demeanor.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceable assembly. This is exactly what occurred during the entire forum. Had there been some disruption or some unrecognized threat, a call would have been logged through Dispatch, and the citizens would have been evacuated or otherwise warned. Other preventive safety measures were already in effect via the uniformed, armed police officer I observed in the hallway outside of the meeting.
If the concern was the open carry of firearms, the question becomes whether a peace officer in uniform may carry into this building. When the County removed funding to pay the sheriff’s deputies, did the wording also state that they may no longer wear the uniforms or perform duties in their official capacities? If Council instructed Sheriff Lucero to fire his deputies, is there an official record of them actually being fired? Even if they are now volunteers, they were sworn in by our Sheriff. Deputy Horne was representing the Sheriff, and he has the training and experience to do so. He was there to debate peaceably.
Perhaps the Police Department will authorize an appropriate news release to clarify both concerns regarding this incident. Thank you.