George Floyd protest held as President Trump is celebrated in separate O.C. events

About 100 protesters gathered in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign in Huntington Beach on Sunday, June 14 — also the day dozens of bicyclists rode from that city to Newport Beach to celebrate President Donald Trump’s birthday.

Both events were peaceful, and neither resulted in any reports of altercations or arrests, Newport Beach police officials said. The two groups did not gather at the same time.

  • Laurence Geronilla, 19, of Panorama City, takes part in a protest against racism and police violence at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14 (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Demonstrtors gather in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Michelle Hattersley, 18, of Huntington Beach, collects hand written letters addressed to Huntington Beach City Hall from demonstrators gathered in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14. She said she believes counterprotesters opposed to the BLM movement present at earlier events “fly in the face” of the core values of her hometown. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A Huntington Beach Police sergeant asks a man to walk with him and talk after he shouted “all lives matter” at a group of about 100 protesters gathered in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Timothy Harvey, 31, of Aliso Viejo, joins a group of roughly 100 people demonstrating against racism and police violence at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Demonstrators outraged by incidents of excessive force by police and the in-custody deaths of unarmed black people nationwide started gathering at  Huntington Beach Pier at about 2 p.m. What began as a small crowd swelled to include about 100 people by 4 p.m.

The event was dwarfed by a protest held in Los Angeles County that had attracted thousands of people. It was also smaller than similar demonstrations held at Huntington Beach Pier over the past few weeks. However, some traveled more than an hour to take part in the protest.

“I feel like there’s enough people in LA now,” Panorama City resident Laurence Geronilla, 19, said. “My presence might make more of a difference here.”

Chris Pyon, 29, of Anaheim, holds a sign wishing a happy birthday to Bryce James, son of LeBron James. “I think we all know it’s someone else’s birthday too. But I think the James family has done more to uplift people than the current administration.” @ocregister pic.twitter.com/59nVFWVSK4

— Eric Anthony Licas (@EricLicas) June 14, 2020

Earlier gatherings at the pier had been accompanied by pro-law enforcement counter protests. However, those expressing support for the Black Lives Matter campaign did not encounter significant opposition on Sunday.

“There is nothing to counter-protest. There is nothing for them to be out here for,” Aliso Viejo resident Timothy Harvey, 31, said. “Because what we are protesting, is there are still people in this world that believe black lives don’t matter at all, and that’s not OK.”

Earlier, several dozen riders celebrating Flag Day and the president’s birthday assembled at Huntington Beach Pier at about 11:30 a.m., Newport Beach Lt. Eric Little said. American flags and banners bearing the words “Trump  2020” were hoisted onto poles attached to bicycles, and fluttered behind participants as they rode to Balboa Pier. Photos taken along the way at Newport Pier showed at least 40 people who had been a part of the gathering.

Happy Birthday President Trump from Trump birthday bike riders 🇺🇸🇺🇸🙏🙏@realDonaldTrump @Geoclewis @CaliConserv1 @kimberleyUSA11 pic.twitter.com/l962Cp4EHA

— formal protest guy (@ProtestGuy) June 14, 2020

A peace and unity rally in Laguna Beach also took place Sunday. About 25 people joined the gathering, which was described as “completely peaceful,” by Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Jim Cota.

 

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O.C., Inland law enforcement agencies join departments suspending use of sleeper holds

The Placentia, Corona and Riverside Police departments, along with the Orange and San Bernardino County sheriff’s departments, announced moratoriums on the use of carotid restraint control holds effective Tuesday, June 9, echoing similar policy shifts made by other Southern California agencies following the death of George Floyd.

The Orange, San Bernardino County and Riverside County-area agencies are some of the latest to prohibit the use of the technique, also called a sleeper hold, after Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, resulting in widespread criticism of the use of force by law enforcement.

The Santa Ana, Glendale, Pasadena and El Monte Police departments made similar statements on Sunday and Monday.

As of Monday, Anaheim police officers will be authorized to use carotid holds only in situations where lethal force is deemed necessary, Anaheim Police Department Sgt. Shane Carringer said.

In addition, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to support a statewide ban on carotid artery restraints.  The county’s District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, also announced that her investigators would be prohibited from using carotid holds.

Earlier, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva declared Monday “an immediate moratorium on the use of the LASD carotid restraint in all situations which do not rise to the level of deadly force.” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore and Police Commission President Eileen Decker also reached an agreement at the beginning of the week that prohibits the city’s police force from using the maneuver.

A long-term decision regarding the change at the Riverside Police Department is pending the result of AB 1196, legislation supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom that would prohibit police from using carotid holds, department spokesman Ryan Railsback said Tuesday. A statement issued Tuesday by the Corona Police Department references the governor’s decision to order the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to cease instruction of the controversial technique as of Friday, June 5.

In compliance with that directive, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department will no longer teach carotid control holds at the academy it operates in Devore, SBCSD spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said. The department has also suspended the technique’s deployment by its deputies, effective Tuesday.

“The Department is currently reviewing its uses of force policy,” Orange County Sheriff’s officials wrote in a statement issued Tuesday. “Effective immediately, the Department is suspending the use of the carotid control hold and evaluating its use and effectiveness as a compliance tool.”

“Effective immediately, (the) Placentia Police Department will suspend the use of the Carotid Restraint Control Hold as a use of force option until further evaluation and assessment,” officials at that department said.

Recent scrutiny of carotid restraint holds comes on the heels of mass demonstrations held nationwide in response to the death of Floyd. He was the unarmed black man who said “I can’t breathe” while former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against the side of his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin and the other three officers involved in Floyd’s detainment have been arrested.

The former officer did not use specifically use a carotid hold, which normally involves using one’s hands to apply pressure to the sides of the neck. The technique restricts arteries that supply oxygen to the brain and differs from a choke hold, which is defined as a maneuver that pinches the front of a person’s throat to inhibit breathing.

A nationwide ban on choke holds, which were linked to the death of Eric Garner in 2014, is among the measures suggested in the Justice in Policing Act authored by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. The proposed legislation was introduced by Democrats on Monday.

City News Service contributed to this report.

 

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California legislative leaders back state ‘sleeper hold’ ban

By DON THOMPSON

SACRAMENTO — California’s Assembly speaker and other key lawmakers on Monday backed making it illegal statewide for police to use a type of neck hold that blocks the flow of blood to the brain, a proposal that appears to go beyond any other state.

Major law enforcement groups did not immediately say if they would oppose the move, which comes after a different restraint used by Minneapolis police was blamed for the death of George Floyd, triggering ongoing nationwide protests.

However, the Los Angeles Police Department announced an immediate moratorium on the training and use of the hold until the civilian Board of Police Commissioners can review the issue. Police departments in suburban Pasadena and El Monte and in Santa Ana in Orange County also have suspended use of the technique.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon endorsed legislation that fellow Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gipson said he will amend to make it illegal to use chokeholds and a carotid artery restraint tactic to forcibly detain a suspect.

“We … have to change a culture of excessive force that seems to exist among some members of law enforcement,” Rendon said at a news conference. “This bill will end one brutal method that police use for restraining people.”

The method, also known as a sleeper hold, involves applying pressure to the sides of the neck with an arm. It can almost immediately block blood flow in the carotid arteries and render someone unconscious, but can cause serious injury or death if the blood flow is restricted too long.

“These methods and techniques are supposed to save lives, but they don’t — they take lives,” said Gipson.

Colorado and Illinois allow use of the hold only if police deem lethal force to be justified, said Amber Widgery, a criminal justice analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, while Tennessee allows its use if other means of restraint have been ineffective. Washington, D.C., bans a similar trachea hold but permits the carotid hold under circumstances where lethal force is allowed.

Other states use more general legal language, she said, and it’s not clear if California’s proposal will allow any exceptions because Gipson did not release the actual language of his bill.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said he would sign Gipson’s bill if it is approved by lawmakers, and ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching officers how to use the neck hold.

Congressional Democrats on Monday also introduced legislation aimed at reforming police practices, including by banning certain policing tactics including chokeholds.

Although the Legislature is controlled by Democrats, Sen. Scott Wiener said law enforcement reforms “are incredibly hard to move forward.” He also mentioned proposed legislation that would restrict when police can use rubber bullets.

The sleeper hold ban was backed Monday by Black, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, Jewish and LGBTQ legislative caucuses. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins said in a statement that “it is now time to have a conversation to ban chokeholds and carotid artery restraints on a statewide level.”

The proposal is also supported by the California Medical Association because the holds “can be misapplied and botched easily,” said incoming President Dr. Lee Snook.

One problem is the holds can fatally aggravate underlying health issues, Snook said, something police can’t know about on the spur of the moment.

“It is a difficult procedure to do…but it is effective when applied effectively,” said Brian Marvel, president of the rank-and-file Peace Officers Research Association of California, which represents more than 77,000 individuals and 930 associations.

His association is likely to defer to organizations representing police chiefs and sheriffs that determine what methods officers and deputies are allowed to use.

The sheriffs’ association has not taken a position in part because it hasn’t seen the details, said spokesman Cory Salzillo. The chiefs’ association did not take a stance but said “painful examples” of use of force prompted chiefs across the state to in recent years “to develop strict guidelines on certain techniques, including the carotid restraint.”

Officers would still have a variety of tools to control suspects if the hold is banned, Marvel said, ranging from voice commands to night sticks, Tasers, pepper spray and firearms. Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, a bill co-author, said 23 California law enforcement agencies have already limited its use, several in the last week.

On Friday, San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said his department still allows the carotid hold as a last option before lethal force. On Monday he said in a statement that his department already bans chokeholds — which he said are distinct from carotid holds. Chokeholds apply pressure from the front and stop the individual from breathing, while carotid holds are from the side.

Garcia said the department is updating the department’s polices including by making it clear that chokeholds can’t be applied using pressure with any body part including the knee. Floyd died after prolonged pressure on his neck from an officer’s knee.

Marvel urged California lawmakers to make it clear that police still can “do what they need to do to save themselves.” He said lawmakers should consider allowing its continued use in certain circumstances, for instance where police or air marshals have limited options to control a suspect aboard an airplane.

Gipson, a former police officer, was among lawmakers who said they hope other states will follow California’s lead in banning the hold.

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ACLU sues Los Angeles, LA County and San Bernardino to stop curfews

LOS ANGELES — Calling the curfews imposed throughout Southern California “draconian,” the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and individual journalists, protesters and others against Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the city of San Bernardino.

The ACLU claims in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles that the curfews are a violation of the First Amendment because they suppress all political protest in the evening hours and restricting movement outside of working hours is a violation of the Constitution’s protection of freedom of movement.

“The city and county of Los Angeles are attempting to use these curfews to suppress Black Lives Matter-L.A.’s right to protest,” Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM-L.A., said.

“They are attempting to suppress our ability to fully mobilize and focus full attention on the true issue of concern in the protests — police violence against black people.”

Enforcement of an L.A. curfew was seen Wednesday night in Grand Park, across the street from Los Angeles City Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

About 11:20 p.m., @LASDHQ deputies began arresting members of the group, several at a time, and walked them over into the theee Sheriff’s Department busses parked in front of City Hall. pic.twitter.com/O9730zGW9L

— Jonah Valdez (@Jonahmv) June 4, 2020

A small group of about 120 people had remained after a crowd of about 4,000 protesters gradually thinned out after the city’s 9 p.m. curfew had gone into effect.

The small group staged a sit-in at the park in protest of the curfew, arguing that they were only there to exercise their First Amendment rights and should not be subject to arrest.

By about 11:20 p.m., Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies closed in on the sitting group at Grand Park, which is owned by the county.

The group chanted, “Peaceful protest” with hands raised, as the deputies arrested the group, several at a time.

The ACLU lawsuit claims the curfews also prohibit journalists from being able to fully report their stories from the scenes of the protests.

“These unconstitutional curfews have suppressed a huge amount of important political protest activity and disrupted the lives of over 10 million people,” Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel of the ACLU SoCal, said. “The curfews must end now.”

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said curfews in the county will remain in effect until the protests end.

 

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Police make arrests in Fontana during protest over George Floyd’s death

A protest Thursday night in Fontana over the death of George Floyd resulted in several vandalism-related arrests, according to the police department.

Floyd, a 46-year-old man from Minnesota, died on Monday after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. Floyd’s death has sparked protests against police violence throughout the country.

Protesters gathered on Sierra Avenue, between Arrow Boulevard and Ceres Avenue at around 6 p.m., according to reports from social media. The protesters carried signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and signs with Floyd’s name.

A group of ppl gathered near #Fontana City Hall to protest the death of #GeorgeFloyd and support #BlackLivesMatter near Sierra Ave (a main street in the city). pic.twitter.com/OBg15IflNm

— Natalya Estrada (@Nat_Estrada44) May 29, 2020

Social media reports indicated that Fontana police attempted to break up the gathering of protestors, and eventually crowd control measures were used to make the crowds disperse.

Fontana police said several vandalism arrests were made, but there were no injuries to either protestors or police.

The @FontanaPD is trying to disperse the crowd pic.twitter.com/J8sgjxWfNf

— AlexVnews (@alexvnews) May 29, 2020

The protest was over as of 11 p.m., police said.

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Driver suspected of ramming police vehicle surrenders after pursuit on O.C. freeways

SANTA ANA — A high-speed pursuit of a suspected drunken driver in a full-size pickup truck that traveled along at least two Orange County freeways ended Tuesday night with the driver surrendering to authorities in Santa Ana.

Officers responded to a suspicious vehicle call in a parking lot in the 5700 block of La Palma Avenue, just east of Imperial Highway, about 9:20 p.m., and the driver rammed into at least one of the officers’ vehicles, then fled, prompting the pursuit, according to the Anaheim Police Department.

The suspect drove at speeds mostly in the 80s and briefly topped 100 mph while traveling on the southbound Orange (57) Freeway and eastbound and the westbound Garden Grove (22) Freeway.

The driver exited the eastbound Garden Grove Freeway at Grand Avenue about 10:20 p.m. and pulled into a gated apartment complex, stopped the vehicle, stepped out and surrendered to officers. He was quickly taken into custody.

The suspect’s name was not immediately disclosed.

No injuries were reported.

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Santa Ana detectives seek help finding parolee suspected of ramming 3 police vehicles

SANTA ANA — Authorities Wednesday asked for the public’s help in locating the parolee suspected of stealing a pickup truck and using it to intentionally ram three police vehicles outside a motel in Santa Ana.

Gang detectives attempted to contact the suspect in the parking lot of the Pueblo Motel, located at 1501 N. Harbor Blvd., south of Westminster Avenue, about 11 a.m. Monday, when the suspect stepped on the gas and sped toward detectives and civilians, according to the Santa Ana Police Department.

As the suspect, identified as Maximiliano Osorio, 23, fled, he rammed the truck into three police vehicles as he escaped onto Harbor Boulevard, the department said.

The stolen truck was later found in Garden Grove along with over 100 grams of methamphetamine, police said.

Osorio is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds with a medium build, short brown hair and brown eyes. He is on parole for a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.

Anyone with information on Osorio’s whereabouts of was asked to call Santa Ana police Detective Thai at 949-407-7878 or by email at dthai@santa-ana.org

Anonymous tips can be called in to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855- 847-6227.

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Coronavirus curtails police and fire explorer programs in Southern California

Israel Anaya-Morales felt fortunate to keep his job at In-N-Out in Signal Hill. But, like most Californians, his life changed drastically following the emergence of coronavirus this spring.

The Cal State Fullerton student’s routine shifted from shuttling between work, classes and volunteer opportunities to finding himself restless at home in between shifts and digital lectures amidst the global crisis.

The 20-year-old lieutenant in the Long Beach Police Department’s Explorer Post is one of hundreds of volunteers statewide, both young and old, who were participating in a variety of police and fire department programs that have been suspended or moved to online formats because of the pandemic.

Changes in these outreach efforts illustrate how dramatically COVID-19 has altered the way people live in California. Many explorers like Anaya-Morales said it has been difficult to adapt to a new normal that includes distance education and a prohibition on public gatherings. But they are trained to persevere.


Pins signifying the awards and recognitions earned by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy over the years hang inside a display case in the program’s headquarters at the Sheriff’s Training and Regional Services (STARS) Center in Whittier on Thursday, March 5. The program had to shift to a remote learning format the spring of 2020 in light of a global pandemic of COVID-19. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

Pushed to endure physically and mentally

Anaya-Morales has had a lot of time to reminisce lately. He remembers losing count of the push-ups he had done by the time the first dropouts had begun to withdraw from the 2014 Orange County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy. He was 15 years old then, and didn’t blame those other kids for opting out of the near-constant scrutiny from screaming drill sergeants and rigorous physical training. The trainees were all volunteers, after all, and free to leave at will.

For him and many of his fellow explorers, the stressors that led some to quit were an essential part of a training exercise that became a right of passage.


Participants in the Orange County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy on Friday, Feb. 14, perform push-ups together at Irvine Regional Park. (Photo courtesy of Officer Staci Dietz, Anaheim Police Department)

“The way I see it, if I can’t endure a friendly person, somebody who I know won’t actually hurt me, yelling at me, telling me to do 15 push ups and then 30 burpees and then run all the way to the gate, which could be 300 meters away, and back in 30 seconds,” Anaya-Morales said. “If I can’t handle that, then how am I going to be able to handle people of the public yelling obscenities at me, wishing horrible things upon me or coworkers?”

The well-meaning antagonism from instructors became a motivating force for Anaya-Morales during the academy. He’s not sure how he would have passed the initiation process without that “simulated stress” and the camaraderie that grew between the explorer trainees who worked their way through it, shoulder to shoulder with him.

But those who had hoped to join police and fire department explorer posts during the summer of 2020 likely won’t get the same treatment he received, as a result of mandatory stay-at-home orders implemented statewide by  Gov. Gavin Newson on March 19.  Many trainees will have to skip the academy altogether this year.

“The Department has suspended all volunteer programs, including the Explorer program,” wrote Juan Silva, a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, in an e-mail. “We want the public to adhere with public health recommendations and the Governor’s order. We don’t want to expose any program participants to the virus.”

Exploring a career in public safety

Exploring is a vocational mentoring program that began as an offshoot of the Boy Scouts of America. It places young people  between ages 14 and 21 into volunteer positions at local posts across the country.

Those offer hands-on experience in one of 12 career fields. Youths involved with posts at fire departments and law enforcement agencies take part in training academies and competitions that test explorers’ minds, bodies and determination.

Explorer posts have been a powerful recruitment tool for police and fire departments, and most advisors involved with them are optimistic the program will survive. They also acknowledge that the health and safety of the young people they mentor has to take priority over their development as potential emergency-responders.

In search of connection

All in-person meetings for the California Highway Patrol’s 66 explorer posts have been suspended, and a two-day competition that would have begun on April 24 was cancelled, CHP Capt. Steve West said. It’s unclear if an academy scheduled for July through August in Sacramento will proceed.

Some of the agency’s 506 explorers, based out of posts throughout the state, have sent each other workout instructions and turned to the internet to find other ways of staying in touch. But West acknowledges that web-based interactions can’t deliver the same experience as face-to-face gatherings.

“There is a lack of that connection,” West said. “But we are adaptive, I think, just like every part of society in the United States. We are resilient people and we are finding ways to make due with what we have until we get through this. And we will get through it.”

  • The handkerchiefs protecting the noses and mouths of Long Beach Police Department Explorers Abigail Duarte (L), 17, and Ashly Bello (R), 15, slip for just a moment as the two friends giggle and catch up with each other. The volunteers helped break down trailers on Tuesday, April 14, which went unused, but were supposed to have been available to first responders possibly exposed to COVID-19. This volunteering opportunity was the first time they had seen each other since a statewide stay-at-home directive was issued by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 19. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • (From left to right) Mathew Sutfin, 17, Mark Working, 18, and Israel Anaya-Morales, 20, slip on gloves Tuesday, April 14, before gathering supplies from trailers that were supposed to house first responders who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. They volunteer for the Long Beach Police Department Explorer Post, a vocational training program that has mostly been suspended in light of a COVID-19 pandemic. This task was deemed safe because they would mostly be outdoors and worked in small groups. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

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  • (From left to right) Long Beach Police Department Explorers Mark Working, 18, Israel Anaya-Morales, 20, Mathew Sutfin, 17, and Aylin Alfaro, 18, gather supplies on Tuesday, April 14, from a makeshift quarantine center that had gone unused. Regular meetings and most activities for the program they volunteer for have been suspended in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, this task was deemed safe because they mostly worked outdoors. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • Ashly Bello (L), 15, helps Abigail Duarte (R), 17, gather supplies on Tuesday, April 14, from unused quarantine trailers in Long Beach for later use. They volunteer for the Long Beach Police Department Explorer Post, a vocational training program that has mostly been placed on hiatus since the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S. in the spring. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • Aylin Alfaro (R), 18, tosses a roll of toilet paper to fellow Long Beach Police Department Explorer Abigail Duarte (L), 17, The two volunteered to help collect unused supplies on Tuesday, April 14, from trailers that would have been intended for first responders suspected of exposure to the novel coronavirus. This was the first time the two friends had seen each other since California Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented a statewide stay-at-home directive on March 19. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • Long Beach Police Department Explorers Mathew Sutfin (L), 17, and Abigail Duarte (R), 17, pack up unused supplies for later use at a lot in Long Beach on Tuesday, April 14. The volunteers were asked to help break down trailers that were supposed to have been used by workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic who may have needed to isolate themselves in the event of exposure to the virus. However, the makeshift quarantine center went unused. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • Pins signifying the awards and recognitions earned by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy over the years hang inside a display case in the program’s headquarters at the Sheriff’s Training and Regional Services (STARS) Center in Whittier on Thursday, March 5. The program had to shift to a remote learning format the spring of 2020 in light of a global pandemic of COVID-19. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Ramirez inside the office for the agency’s Explorer Academy at the Sheriff’s Training Academy and Regional Services Center in Whittier on Thursday, March 5. He is one of two drill sergeants leading the Explorer Academy, which has had to shift to a remote learning format in light of a global pandemic of COVID-19. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy cadet Rhonda is a “model example” of how participants in the rigorous 16-week program need to be dressed while training is in session, Drill Sgt. Mike Ramirez said. She resides at the program’s office on the campus of the Sheriff’s Training Academey and Regional Services Center campus. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy recruit attends an online lecture from LASD Sgt. Mike Ramirez. The program switched to a distance learning format after a pandemic of COVID-19 led to a prohibition of all public gatherings in California. (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department).

  • (From left to right) Anaheim Police Officer Staci Dietz, Explorer Nadia Chavelas, Explorer Captain Adrian Alfaro, his mother, Linda Varela, and Officer LadyCarla Cashell pose for a photo while wearing face masks at the Anaheim Police Department on Wednesday, April 8. (Photo courtesy of the Anaheim Police Department).

  • Participants in the Orange County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy on Feb. 14 perform push-ups together at Irvine Regional Park. (Photo courtesy of Officer Staci Dietz, Anaheim Police Department)

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All volunteer programs for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s and Fire Departments were similarly placed on hiatus, according to representatives from both agencies. Officials are still receiving and reviewing applications from youths interested in joining one of the Fire Department’s 11 explorer posts, but all in-person activities have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, County Fire Department Capt. Jay Hausman said.

That includes this year’s California Fire Explorers Association Academy, which was supposed to have taken place in San Bernardino March 22-March 28. The annual event welcomes explorers from throughout the state and parts of Nevada. Roughly 175 teens and young adults would have bunked in the San Gorgonio High School gymnasium and taken part in mock rescues and exercises featuring live fire.

However, an entire year’s worth of preparation for the event had to be cast aside in the interest of preventing a potential outbreak of COVID-19, Hausman said.

“If one of them would have contracted it prior to getting here it could have spread like wildfire through the explorer ranks,” he said. “So, I think it was the right decision to make by the state association as well as the San Bernardino County Fire Department. But I’m sure a lot of explorers were looking forward to it.”

A loss of motivation

Lockdown has been a drag, said Adrian Alfaro, 19. He used to get together with friends for pickup soccer and basketball games five times a week. That was before stay-at-home orders went into effect in Anaheim. Since then, he has tried to keep himself in shape by jumping rope and jogging alone, but his workouts just haven’t been the same.

As captain of the Anaheim Police Department’s Explorer post, Alfaro also took passion in preparing new recruits for the academy. It was his job to push and motivate trainees through a strict exercise regimen each Sunday in preparation for the initiation process. He has felt somewhat lost recently, now that those pre-academy sessions have been cancelled.

“I haven’t been talking to other explorers about what they’ve been doing or how they’re doing because, to be honest with you, I don’t know if this academy in August is going to happen because of this virus,” Alfaro said.

That event has indeed been cancelled, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun. The status of explorer gatherings scheduled through the remainder of 2020 is unclear.

The regular Tuesday meetings of the Anaheim post have also been temporarily suspended, said the program’s adviser, Anaheim Police Officer Staci Dietz. However, she’s developing an online curriculum so that her volunteers can continue to learn, refine their existing skills and, most importantly, stay in touch with one another.


(From left to right) Anaheim Police Officer Staci Dietz, Explorer Nadia Chavelas, Explorer Captain Adrian Alfaro, his mother, Linda Varela, and Officer LadyCarla Cashell pose for a photo while wearing face masks at the Anaheim Police Department on Wednesday, April 8. (Photo courtesy of the Anaheim Police Department).

Persevering in the digital age

At least 160 potential volunteers were three sessions into the 16-week Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy, which began on Saturday, Feb. 1, before all public gatherings in California were prohibited for the foreseeable future, Lt. Rob Medrano said. Instead of dismissing the work those young people had already committed, he and his drill sergeants took inspiration from California’s school system and shifted their program to a distance-learning format.

“For some of these kids, they are at that age where this would have been, if it had not been for us adjusting, their last academy or chance to get into the program before they age out,” said Mike Ramirez, one of the LASD sergeants overseeing the online program.


A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Explorer Academy recruit attends an online lecture from LASD Sgt. Mike Ramirez. The program switched to a distance learning format after a pandemic of COVID-19 led to a prohibition of all public gatherings in California. (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department).

This year’s recruits virtually attend live meetings via Facebook held Saturdays at 8 a.m., which run a total of about two hours. Instructors cover all of the lecture topics included in the academy’s regular curriculum, and cadets are able to send questions in real time to a second drill sergeant or staff member moderating each session. Recordings of lectures are available for only a brief window of time after meetings in an effort to promote accountability.

“It went really well,” explorer cadet Justine Plowman, 18, said shortly after attending an online session on Saturday, March 7. “We had a guest speaker come in and he talked to us about, like, safe teenage driving, and just to be more careful on the road.”

In between lectures, she and the other cadets are assigned two essays each week, just like they would have been during a regular academy. But instead of sweating side by side through physical training together, this year’s trainees must submit a log with a checklist of exercises they must perform on their own. They don’t have to wear their uniforms, which means nobody is getting chewed out for dress code errors that might have been caught by discerning instructors.

“You do lose some impact when you’re not here physically,” Medrano said. “That’s just the way it is when you don’t have that physical interaction. That goes with school kids too. My kids are learning online right now, and you lose that sense of intimacy.”

A chance to finally get out of the house

As part of the city’s Incident Management Team, Long Beach Police Detective Sondra Ledesma’s schedule grew tighter and tighter as agencies scrambled to respond to the emergence of COVID-19. So, she was thankful she was able to call upon six young volunteers from her department’s explorer post on Tuesday, April 14, to help her gather toilet paper, soap, dishes, blankets and other supplies that had been distributed to an unused quarantine center, and pack it all up for later use.

On rare occasions, a few members of the post have been permitted to work on tasks related to COVID-19 suppression efforts in settings deemed safe and consistent with social distancing measures. Although the volunteers’ safety remains the top priority of the LBPD’s Explorer Post, the coronavirus pandemic has allowed some of them to get a behind-the-scenes look at how emergency service agencies operate during a crisis, the program’s advisor, Karen Owens, said.

“Plus, I really miss having them around,” Ledesma said through a disposable mask. “It’s been tough not being able to see their faces.”

The bottom half of the volunteers’ expressions were obscured by bandannas as they got to work at about 10 a.m., in small groups at an open lot next to a grassy park. They laughed and told jokes while tossing kitchenware or toiletries to each other and taping up boxes, suggesting smiles beneath the cloth covering their mouths and noses.

“It’s a chance to finally get out of the house!” Abigail Duarte, 15, said while helping her friend and fellow volunteer, Ashly Bello, 17, fold a bed sheet. “And I haven’t seen her in a month!” she added.

Ledesma said she plans to invite her explorers to a beach party whenever they are all eventually allowed to meet up again.

Elsewhere in Southern California, all members of the Los Angeles Police Department who had been coordinating community outreach efforts for the agency have been reassigned to street patrols or other tasks related to the mitigation of the pandemic, Sgt. Keith Mott of the Department’s Community Outreach and Development Division said.

That includes, for example, Officer Brittney Gutierrez, who had overseen the Volunteer Community Patrol (VCP) program at the LAPD’s Topanga Division.

VCP participants are mostly local residents who give their time to drive through their neighborhoods while looking out for suspicious activity, potholes, or anything that ought to be reported to authorities, Gutierrez said. The program’s membership had swelled in recent months, and each of the Topanga Division’s volunteers approached their tasks with enthusiasm.

However, many of them are over the age of 60,  which places them at particular risk of serious illness if they wind up infected with the novel coronavirus.

“We miss our volunteers immensely. It’s been a tough time for us all,” Gutierrez wrote in an email. “Before the epidemic, our volunteer patrol was doing amazing. We had VCP vehicles out almost daily. Since this epidemic, our program has been put on hold for now but we are looking forward to the day all of our volunteers come back and things go back to ‘normal.’”


Long Beach Police Department Explorers Mathew Sutfin (L), 17, and Abigail Duarte (R), 17, pack up unused supplies for later use at a lot in Long Beach on Tuesday, April 14. The volunteers were asked to help break down trailers that were supposed to have been used by workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic who may have needed to isolate themselves in the event of exposure to the virus. However, the makeshift quarantine center went unused. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG).

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Coronavirus: Family emergency planning should take pets into account

  • Callie Acosta of Riverside gives love to her newly adopted Gizz-Moe, a 10-year-old, blind, shih tzu mix, at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chairs are set up outside in case of a crowd at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center’s intake area in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. “Visitors are following the six foot rule. Families are obviously staying together, but the others are doing good with following. Sometimes it takes a verbal reminder, but they have all be very receptive and have reacted positively,” says Molly Shannon, community relations mgr. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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  • Penelope, 10, is greeted by a gloved and masked potential owner at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Callie Acosta of Riverside shows her enthusiasm after adopting Gizz-Moe, a 10-year-old, blind shih tzu mix, at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Southern California agencies recommend pet owners have a plan for someone to take care of their animals should they get sick with coronavirus. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Angela Eaton of Menifee walks toward the grassy area to meet a prospective dog at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Gini, 2, gets exercise with Caitlyn Fuller, adoption counselor, at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Chairs are set up outside in case of a crowd at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center’s intake area in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. “Visitors are following the six foot rule. Families are obviously staying together, but the others are doing good with following. Sometimes it takes a verbal reminder, but they have all be very receptive and have reacted positively,” says Molly Shannon, community relations mgr. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Animals are up for adoption, including some surrenders due to the coronavirus at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • “Help may be available in the form of friends, family or community resources. An example is our Pet Food Assistance Program, which provides dog or cat food to those experiencing a hardship. Most organizations, including ours, would prefer for pets to stay with their owners, but understand that’s not always possible. That’s where our owner surrenders, done by appointment, can help,” Molly Shannon, community relations mgr., says at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • “If you’ve been thinking of adopting, now is a great time. You’ll be home more to help the pet get acclimated to you and it’s new house. Also, pet owners should reach out if they need help during this time,” Molly Shannon, community relations mgr., says at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • If you need a three-legged friend, Abel is your man, up for adoption at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Aspen is an owner surrender due to the coronavirus at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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Southern California residents should keep pets in mind during the coronavirus pandemic — and not just their own pets, officials say.

Animal care agencies in recent days have advised people to create an emergency plan for their pets, just as they should have family emergency plans. Such a plan for pets would be executed if an animal owner is hospitalized for coronavirus and could include plans for someone to care for the pet or pets.

In addition, with many shelters closed or having limited services during the pandemic, people may be asked to look out for and temporarily care for strays they may find in their neighborhoods.

The San Bernardino Police Department said that it and the San Bernardino County Coalition of Animal Shelters are asking residents to prepare emergency plans for their pets.

“With the rapid increase of (coronavirus) cases in Southern California, the demand for hospital stays and medical assistance from hospitals and medical providers is escalating,” police said in a statement. “Animal shelters are preparing for a surge in lost and temporarily homeless animals as a result.”

The Inland Valley Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said pet owners should put together extra food, two weeks of medication, a kennel and any other necessary supplies for a pet in the event of illness.

In addition, pet owners should find a temporary caregiver for their pets. Caregivers could range from a family member or neighbor to a pet-sitter or boarding facility.

“Make sure all pets have proper identification with your name and contact information,” San Bernardino police said. “Document whether your pet(s) are up to date on vaccinations, write your veterinarian’s contact information and provide the information of some family or friends who will be able to update your pet’s caregiver on your medical status.”

LA Animal Services offered similar advice on an emergency plan for pet owners in a March 13 statement.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said it isn’t uncommon for deputies to run into situations involving pets and their owners.

“Each incident is on a case-by-case basis,” officials said in a statement. “Depending on the situation, we either coordinate with a family member, neighbor or we contact animal control to take possession of the animal. Ultimately, it really depends on the circumstances.”

Several animal shelters throughout Southern California have shut down or have limited operations during the coronavirus pandemic. Those who need information or services should contact their local shelter or check its website.

“People need to figure out who is going to take care of their pets if they go to the hospital or god forbid, they die,” said Maryanne Dell, former pets columnist for the Orange County Register and president of the Shamrock Rescue Foundation in Santa Ana.

Dell said someone could ask a vet if they can board their pet if something were to happen to them, or arrange with a friend who could keep the animal at their house

“By having a plan, you can rest assured that your animal companions will be cared for no matter the circumstance,” the Inland Valley Humane Society & SPCA said. “Your preparedness plan also allows public animal shelters to maintain space and be better prepared for stray pets, animal welfare emergencies and the upcoming kitten season.”

LA Animal Services also said Wednesday that it will not turn away any sick or injured animals during the pandemic. It also suggested that people finding pets wandering in their neighborhoods post photos and descriptions of them on social media — and consider sheltering them for up to 30 days to free up space in shelters.

“Another way Angelenos can help is to consider our Shelter-at-Home Program and foster the dog or cat, while searching for the owner,” LA Animal Services said.

The Shelter-at-Home program is a process through which a person finds a pet, advises Animal Services that it is lost and then houses the animal while searching for its owner. Animal Services said after 30 days but before 32 days, the person who found the pet must either decide to keep it or surrender the animal to Animal Services.

A person housing a pet through the program will free up space in shelters throughout the city.

“We’re also taking in pets whose owner has died, leaving them alone, as well as taking in pets whose owner lives alone and is too sick to care for them,” Brenda Barnette, general manager for LA Animal Services, said in a statement Wednesday.

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2 more inmates test positive for coronavirus at OC jail

Another two inmates at the Orange County Jail tested positive for the COVID-19 on Thursday, March 26, bringing the number of incarcerated people infected with the virus at the facility to three.

The two newly diagnosed patients had been living in the same module as the first person who tested positive for the new disease at the Men’s Central Jail, Orange County sheriff’s officials said on social media. They have been isolated and are receiving medical treatment at the facility, OCSD spokeswoman Carrie Braun said.

#OCSDPIO Today, two inmates in the Orange County Jail were diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total to three. All three COVID-19 positive inmates were housed in the same module in the Central Men’s Jail.

— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSheriff) March 27, 2020

All inmates who had been housed in the patients’ module will be moved to isolated units and monitored for symptoms, OCSD officials said. Enhanced screening procedures will be conducted at the jail. Visitors have not been allowed to meet with inmates since March 16, as a precaution aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus.

No OCSD staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19, Braun said.

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