Jeff Schwartz: Police Putting City Employees Under Suspicion By Criminals – August 30, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Caught on video is an Arcata City water department employee driving up to a home in his Arcata city truck, wearing his reflector vest, yellow baseball cap that dons the City of Arcata logo, holding a hand-held computer, and in his other hand he has a semi-automatic handgun aimed in the face of a half-naked 70-year-old man visiting his brother.

Seems the City of Arcata sanctions the use of its water department to help out the Arcata Police Department stamp out the marijuana madness. It turns out the water department employee in the video was an imposter; he was an Arcata Police officer instead. But someone at City Hall sanctioned the use of the uniform, water meter accoutrements and a City truck with the Arcata oval logo on its doors.

This is troubling and dangerous for everyone involved, save the police. I spoke to some law enforcement friends of mine who say that the use of a “friendly city employee” going to the front door before the guns and badges are flashed makes it safer for the police officers who are about to enter a home with a search warrant.

Perhaps it does. But does the subterfuge make it safer for the real water department employee when he or she comes out to read a meter or check a leak?

When I see city workers at my house, I talk to them and ask how they are doing. City workers are part of the monthly scenery at home, city workers other than cops. Until now I had thought that the water department employee was just that, not a cop in water department’s clothing. You are not going to get me to trust another city worker again unless I see identification. I don’t want to guess whether the City is sending out a water department employee or a police officer dressed as a water department employee.

I have nothing to hide at my house, except my privacy, yet I still don’t want anyone walking around my property with a gun, be it a cop or a robber, unless the cop is there to stop the robber. I don’t mind talking to a cop, in fact I enjoy it most of the time, but I want to know he or she is a cop.

I feel for the Arcata city employee too. When he or she goes out to a resident’s home, the reception will be, and should be, with suspicion. Residents will have to ask for identification to know if the person on the property is there to check the water flow or snooping around for police business.

You and I may be suspicious of the city worker and reluctant to be friendly with the would-be fraudster, but what about the real criminals, how will the criminals treat a water department employee when they turn a corner and see City worker on their property?

The City of Arcata has done a terrible disservice to their civilian employees essentially stripping them of their aura of friendliness and innocence. No one likes an imposter. The City worker will be suspected as an imposter, suffer the specter of deceit and lose the kindness of homeowners.

Jeffrey Schwartz is an Arcata lawyer and a homeowner in Arcata. Check out the YouTube video of a “city water department employee” holding the door open for his storm trooper friends. Search “Arcata Meter Reader”

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