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July 5-12, 2006

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'Undercover Follies'

Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Everyone Loves a Parade

When Nüz reported last year that Last Night DIY parade organizers were being infiltrated by undercover police officers, we couldn't imagine the even stranger parade of fiascos that would soon follow. Among them: Santa Cruz Deputy Chief of Police Kevin Vogel investigating himself; City Manager Dick Wilson publicly praising said investigation and declaring the case closed; and Wilson immediately reversing those proclamations as independent police auditor Bob Aaronson declared the investigation flawed and announced he would do his own investigation.

Pressured by Aaronson, parade organizers and the ACLU, the city got together with the police to unveil a new policy last week that discourages undercover surveillance until more traditional means of investigation (such as phone calls, emails and, Nüz presumes, candy-grams) have all been exhausted.

So we all lived happily ever after, right? Well, maybe not.

"Mike Rotkin actually got up and said this is the best police surveillance policy in the nation," moaned Last Night DIY participant Wes 'Don't Call Me An Organizer' Modes, a.k.a. Rico Thunder, who will be part of a protest parade beginning outside police headquarters at 2:30pm on July 5, the day the policy goes into effect.

Modes further speculated that Rotkin was being "bullied by the city manager and police" to put a positive spin on a policy he claims doesn't begin to provide the protections of equivalent policies in San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

"A better wording would be 'among the best' in the country," said Rotkin, noting that he's only aware of those three other cities having it.

So Santa Cruz is in the Top 4?

Rotkin chuckled politely. "Ours is more simple and straightforward," he said of the slightly longer than two page document. "Seattle's is something like 50 pages and San Francisco's is 35." And while S.F. "may look better on paper," he said, that necessarily affect how the policies are carried out.

As for Modes' contention that the city manager and police were pulling his strings, Rotkin said he hadn't talked to either of them beforehand. "Hey, these guys work for me, not the other way around," he countered, "so that makes it a little hard for them to bully me."

Modes takes a more philosophical view. "Hey, Wilson was hired back in the '70s," he argued. "So city councils come and go, activists come and go, and issues come and go, but the city manager abides."

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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