Andy Caldwell wasted no time Saturday morning making sure everyone knew he is against defunding the police.
The Republican challenger to Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, for the 24th District Congressional seat held a virtual town hall Saturday morning, where he spoke about the importance of showing strong support for law enforcement.
“The bottom line here, when we talk about law and order and public safety, we need to know we are talking about us,” Mr. Caldwell said.
“I am the candidate in this race that is willing to stand with law enforcement and I am so glad they stand with me… I could tell you Salud Carbajal is not working in the same direction as I would.”
Mr. Caldwell criticized Rep. Carbajal’s support for the BREATHE Act, a bill that has not yet been introduced but would aim to divest taxpayer money from the policing system and create a new vision for public safety.
“Since (Rep. Carbajal) has gone to Washington, he has become a loyal foot soldier… I can expect that when Salud Carbajal sees the BREATHE Act introduced, he’ll do whatever Nancy Pelosi tells him to do,” Mr. Caldwell said.
“Thus far, Salud has never stood up to them and voted with them almost 100% of the time, so we’ve got a real problem in terms of law and order and public safety. And I’ll tell you this, I don’t think law and order should be a partisan issue.”
Mr. Caldwell also spoke about the recent panga boat seizure of more than 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine in Santa Barbara County and brought up Rep. Carbajal’s politics on the matter.
“Several of the residents here locally were part of that drug bust specifically, some of them came to unload the panga and distribute the drugs… but let’s say that one of these people a year ago had gotten citizenship… under Salud Carbajal’s bill, we would not be able to denaturalize that person and kick them back from wherever they came from. He wants them to be a permanent citizen and resident of the United States,” Mr. Caldwell said.
During the town hall, Mr. Caldwell invited former and current law enforcement officials to the town hall including Nick Odenath, the Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association president and Robert Kirsch, the Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association vice president.
The Sheriff deputies in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have also all endorsed Mr. Caldwell.
“All three of them endorsed me months ago, even before most of this stuff blew up because I have a long history of working with men and women in law enforcement,” Mr. Caldwell said.
Mr. Kirsch spoke about the concept of defunding the police, which he said would be a bad choice because some departments already have funding issues.
“To think that we could be taking funding away from our agencies is just crazy to me,” Mr. Kirsch said.
He went on to say he has seen many more police officers scared to do their jobs given the current climate in the United States.
“The morale is mediocre, but it’s more that guys are scared to go out and do their jobs. We have COVID, we have all this anti-cop rhetoric and when you combine all of it, it’s just a scary time to be in law enforcement,” Mr. Kirsch said.
Former Police Chief of Paso Robles Dennis Cassidy agreed with Mr. Kirsch, adding that funding should be increased to try to get better policing on the streets.
“What’s important is not to cut funding to public safety at this time, it is to continue funding for those very reasons, to be able to train to be able, to provide the appropriate equipment… when I retired, we had 45 sworn officers in in our agency, but afterwards that that dropped down to under 30 at one point,” Mr. Cassidy said.
“That’s what people don’t understand, is when you take away that funding from public safety, you’re hurting the community as a whole.”
Katherine Pignatielli, a nurse in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, also shared a video presentation.
Ms. Pignatielli’s grandfather, Robert Folkerts, was murdered in October of 1980 in Nipomo by Edward Joseph Prokop. Mr. Prokop was convicted for his murder but was recently granted parole in May of this year.
“This man who knows nothing but crime and murder (and) that will be sent out into the community. The impact this has had on my family and myself has been surreal, yet unmeasurable… We still aren’t sure what danger awaits us in the coming years,” Ms. Pignatielli said.
This story is one of many why Mr. Caldwell feels Calfironia’s laws on criminal enforcement are inadequate.
“Thousands of prisoners are getting released due to COVID,” Mr. Caldwell said.
“They want people to, if they’re booked, to be free until they’re proven guilty and you can imagine, as our guests mentioned earlier, that when Katherine’s grandfather’s murderers are let out, that family not only relieves it, but they are frightened.”
Mr. Odenath backed up this claim, saying that they have seen a decline in jail population by over 50% as a result of zero bail.
“In many cases, we have our members who are booking individuals that have committed some fairly serious crimes in our community, and they’re being released before the report is even being drafted. That’s how quick they’re back out on the streets, so it’s a serious concern,” Mr. Odenath said.
Mr. Caldwell also criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as some political officials who have agreed with it, arguing that people involved in the movement have made threatening remarks and actions towards law enforcement officials.
“The problem here is what we’re seeing here is a fundamental breakdown of law and order and respect for our institutions and people are being threatened,” Mr. Caldwell said. “If they can do that to the district attorney Los Angeles, the district attorney of San Luis Obispo, Where does that leave the rest of us?”
Mr. Caldwell, executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, is a columnist for the News-Press.