Pro-law enforcement rally at Sheriff’s Office headquarters
A group of enthusiastic law enforcement supporters brought signs and snacks for deputies at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Thursday afternoon.
Event organizers set the rally for 1 p.m., but community members had already formed a crowd outside the main headquarters building at 12:30 p.m.
Sheriff Bill Brown, sheriff’s human resources manager Bob Gonzales and multiple deputies took photos with the group and spoke with them briefly. Mr. Gonzales is also a former Santa Paula police chief.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 1,000 years, it seems like. This is the support that makes it worthwhile,” Mr. Gonzales said. “In law enforcement, we always get the negatives, and something like this is really great for the morale of the officers. I love being here with these people. They’re great people.”
Deputies also showed their gratitude and support for the group by honking their horns as they drove by.
Event organizers brought a pizza lunch for the deputies and carried American flags and pro-law enforcement signs outside the headquarters.
“Back the badge,” “SBSO curtails conflicts” and “Defend not defund” were among the slogans emblazoned on the signs.
One of the group members led a chant as deputies came out to greet them. “Who do we call? Who do we trust? Who has our backs?” he asked.
“Law enforcement,” the group chanted back.
“This is a nonpartisan event,” Santa Barbara County Republican Party Chairwoman Bobbi McGinnis said. “A group of patriots wanted to show support for law enforcement. We want to defend, not defund. We have Democrats, Republicans and Independents here, and we want people to know that we want our streets safe.”
She noted that law enforcement officers were on the frontlines of the community response to the Thomas Fire in 2017 and the Montecito debris flow in 2018.
“We’ve had how many dangerous fires over the last five years? Who are the people that come and knock on your door? It’s the sheriff and police department that are the first to get there,” Ms. McGinnis said.
As Ms. McGuiness spoke, a deputy drove, slowed down her car and thanked the group with a wave and a smile.
“That’s why we’re doing this, right there,” one of the group members said.
Event organizer Linda Foster added that she organized the event because she wanted to bring the community together to send a positive message.
“All what we are is a bunch of patriots who want to come down and not make trouble and say, ‘We love you guys and we support you,’ ” Ms. Foster said.
Alison Brainard, a 55-year Santa Barbara resident, agreed with Ms. Foster’s sentiment.
“I think we need to support and defend our police department because they’ve been there for us and defunding is ridiculous. We need them, and we’ve had horrific experiences over the past few years, and Sheriff Brown has been at the front of it. They’ve been taking care of our county, and we need to take care of them,” Ms. Brainard said.
The demonstration comes as local governments across the country discuss ramifications of directing funds away from police departments and toward other government agencies and services in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In June, the Santa Barbara City Council requested an outside evaluation of plans for the new $80 million police station and transferred parking enforcement responsibilities from the Santa Barbara Police Department to public works staff.