Sheriff’s Station Responds to Complaints About Its Handling of the Pro-Trump March

Sheriff’s deputies posting for a photo with a demonstrator on Sept. 23. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren)

The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station has responded to complaints about photos of deputies posing with a demonstrator holding a sign promoting Donald Trump and of deputies standing beside demonstrators not wearing legally mandated face coverings during a Sept. 23 demonstration by the Log Cabin Republicans.

Lt. William Moulder, responding to questions to him and Capt. Edward Ramirez from WEHOville, said deputies were unaware that the person who asked them to participate in the photo was carrying a political banner. “As Sheriff’s personnel lined up and faced the camera, unbeknownst to them, and without their consent, the person unfurled a political banner for the photograph,” he said.

“If Sheriff’s personnel had known the person intended to use a political banner for the photography, Sheriff’s personnel would have NEVER agreed to participate in the photograph.”

He also noted that deputies have a tradition of posing in photos with residents while remaining politically neutral. “It is against Department policy to engage in political activity whilst on duty, including national and local campaigns … West Hollywood Sheriff’s personnel are always proud to serve as ambassadors for this wonderful city, and we humbly apologize for any concern this has caused.”

Moulder also addressed complaints that deputies hadn’t cited the Republican demonstrators for not wearing face masks, which few of them had.

“With large numbers of people marching in the street or congregating at intersections, it creates a huge safety issue for those people,” Moulder said. “We take very seriously the responsibility for their protection and safety. We do not focus on violations such as impeding traffic or face cover/masks. Also, if we began citing marchers, protesters, or demonstrators, for these types of violations, that could be construed as an interference with their First Amendment right to march, protest, or demonstrate. We had not issued any face cover/mask administrative citations to any of the protesters over the last several months.”

Moulder also explained why deputies weren’t wearing helmets and other protective gear as they had in the various Black Lives Matter-related demonstrations in West Hollywood. He noted that the organizers of the Sept. 23 demonstration had reached out in advance to the Sheriff’s Station in an effort to coordinate with them. He also said there was no evidence of possible violent behavior, noting that in promotions of other demonstrations “depicted burning buildings and have encouraged attacks on law enforcement.

“We take these threats very seriously.  We have all seen different events around the country where buildings, including law enforcement stations, were ransacked and burned and law enforcement officers and members of the public were attacked.”

Deputies on the street during the 2016 LA Pride parade in West Hollywood.

Complaints about the deputies appearing in photos from the Sept. 23 demonstration were posted on social media and emailed to City Manager Paul Arevalo and members of the City Council.

In his email to city officials and Council members, Ty Geltmaker asked that the city investigate the matter and fire the deputies in the photograph. “We would have the same demand if such had happened with law enforcement personnel posting with a Biden contingent,” he wrote. “It is not the purpose or role of uniformed or undercover cops to participate in political demonstrations of whatever kind. They are there to ensure public safety, duly badged.”

Lynn Hoopingarner, a resident who serves on the city’s Planning Commission, also questioned the behavior of the deputies in an email to the City Manager and Council members. Hoopingarner said that what the deputies in the photograph were doing constituted “prohibited political activities” under Sheriff’s Department regulations.

“This behavior is categorically prohibited.  I am all for free speech.  I am furious that these Deputies are using our tax dollars to pay for their ‘speech’,” Hoopingarner wrote.  She also called out the deputies for what they were wearing.

“Why are these deputies not in full riot gear with plexiglass sheilds as they have been for other protests in our fair City, or more importantly why WERE they in riot gear for the other protests?”

“Once again, Sheriff’s Department has given our City a black eye. Instead of ‘Protect and Serve’, they are disregarding our laws and disrespecting our citizens.”

WEHOville also reached out to City Manager Arevalo and members of the City Council for their response to the complaints.  Arevalo has not responded, nor has Councilmember John Heilman.  “I will wait to get a report back from the City Manager on all this before reaching any conclusions or comment,” said City Councilmember John Duran.

Councilmember Lauren Meister did respond. “After I saw the WEHOville article, I contacted the City Manager,” she said in an email. “My understanding is 1) it is not proper for Sheriff’s personnel to be posing for photos for any political campaign – Trump or otherwise. 2) Wearing a facial covering outside in West Hollywood is required. Anyone who does not wear a mask or facial covering should be cited. That includes protestors.”

Councilmember John D’Amico also responded.

“The city manager has received requests from several of us to explain what exactly happened and why?” he said. “I understand the disappointment many have expressed that our local sheriffs would take pictures with the MAGA protestors, but we all know that has happened at protests throughout the years; at Pride and most recently this summer at the All Black Lives Matter.

“I’m more concerned about the seemingly differing approaches to public safety and protest management. I would like to be sure that those enforcement differences are based not on biases or prejudice but on facts related to the protest. In addition, I am concerned about the lack of enforcement around social distancing and mask wearing. I think our sheriffs could up their enforcement generally, and have long held and expressed that opinion.”

Mayor Lindsey Horvath also responded. In an email to WEHOville she said:

“I have received several complaints by email and social media about perceptions of LASD’s involvement with a recent political action organized by the Log Cabin Republicans in West Hollywood. I have directed the City Manager to look into these claims to ensure that policies governing actions of law enforcement during 1st Amendment gatherings – especially while on duty and in uniform – are enforced, regardless of the political positions of demonstrators. I have requested that he provide an update at our next Council meeting, as well.

“Over the years, West Hollywood has served as a home for peaceful 1st Amendment demonstrations, and it is my hope that we can continue to do so. We have tried to cultivate a culture that is supportive of people’s rights to safely express themselves through free speech – regardless of how strongly we might individually disagree with their expressed viewpoints – as these are among our most sacred Constitutional protections. We must also hold ourselves accountable to our city’s core values as well as our long-standing commitment to human rights and social justice.

“Further, during a global health pandemic, we must make sure we are doing all we can to take seriously the LA County Public Health orders, as well as those of the State of California and the CDC, to keep people safe. Our public safety officials have an important role to play in that effort, and I expect everyone to take that responsibility seriously.”

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Jason K
Jason K
1 month ago

Liar Liar Pants On FIRE! The knew they were posing for a banner for Trump.

Ian
Ian
1 month ago

Big deal. If it were to celebrate some radical Far Left Antifa loser the city council would be all over the picture.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian

Yup. You’re right. They be posing with them.

John
John
1 month ago

I just saw this, and I must say, I find it difficult to believe the deputies had no idea they were posing with a pro-Trump banner. They were working a Pro-Trump demonstration, and the banner is huge. The official response that they were unaware of the banner is wholly inadequate, too, especially in light of the fact that the largest police union in the nation has endorsed Trump’s re-election. An entire stretch of buildings on Sunset Boulevard have already been boarded up in anticipation of the “riots” to come, according to one of the building managers. Facebook and Walmart are… Read more »

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  John

does it really matter???? all this fake outrage.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

They need something to be outraged about. ALL. THE. TIME.

Concerned citizen
Concerned citizen
1 month ago

I was there and I can tell you they were well aware that flag was in the photo. They were standing there posing for quite a while. It’s not like the girl suddenly unfurled it right before the camera snapped. The blatant lies are nauseating.

Art
Art
1 month ago

And of course I suspected as much. GET RID OF THE LASD in WeHo!!!!!

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Art

I think it is a bit disingenous to claim this is just a case of “community based” policing; taking photos with citizens during a political demonstration can easily be interpreted as being an endorsement of political views by law enforcement. It would be reassuring to hear that the deputies were debriefed by the watch commander and that the captain reminded the deputies of appropriate professional behavior.

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Amen, Steve!

Manny
Manny
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

ok Steve, but what you’re suggesting would have apply to ALL friendly requests for a picture. That’s probably not what you want the cops to refrain from doing. Again, much ado about nothing.

Ian
Ian
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Ditto

Jay
Jay
1 month ago

Thank you for bearing witness, Concerned citizen!

Tom
Tom
1 month ago

Were I a lawyer with a client arrested by one of these deputies I would argue in court that since they are apparently unable to read or discern whether or not someone is wearing a face mask as required by law, any “eyewitness” testimony they may give in my client’s case is suspect and should be dismissed.

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Very good point!!!

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Touché, Tom!

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

Most of the council use words that indicate an engagement with the city manager, but the imperious one uses the lofty and inappropriate “I have directed” seemingly suggesting that she has the unilateral authority to so command. It’s a titular role, dear.

David
David
1 month ago

The grander problem is these deputies weren’t doing their job in this moment. They were no longer observers in this moment, but participants. This means their focus had been diverted, and they weren’t at a state of anticipation and reaction. I’m dissappointed that their professionalism was absent here. I think this deserves them being pulled into the Capt. office and having a good talking to followed by a nasty email. But let’s not fire people for this stuff – otherwise how to you learn and grow? Lt Moulder is quoted to “…humbly apologize…” for the incident. This is not the… Read more »

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  David

I think it’s all too clear that hate and bias have been creeping in for years.

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Hi David (and Art below)- I think you are both right. David in calling for a response that allows for growth and Art that bias is quite present. I love seeing deputies being asked for photos at Pride and Halloween and their gregarious accommodation. Community policing at its finest. This feels different, however, and the ‘surprise unfurling’ our Sheriffs would have us believe occurred does not ring true, especially in light of others who say they were there (as in Concerned citizen’s above comment) and that that was not the case at all. The on-site lead that night should be… Read more »

Nate
Nate
1 month ago

Besides rioting, the left is really good at whining. Let’s ask the Mayor to spend a day policing the left vs right protests, and she’ll see real quick why the police only need to wear riot gear for one of the two.

Jeffery Aubel
Jeffery Aubel
1 month ago
Reply to  Nate

🙄

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Nate

Yup, you’re right, Nate.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  Nate

truth

Ian
Ian
1 month ago
Reply to  Nate

Experts

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
1 month ago

Sheesh give the cops a break already. The new coffee shop, Go Get Em Tiger on Santa Monica Blvd has a huge poster in their window that says DEFUND THE POLICE. Not only is this absurd, it’s just bad business. Especially a new one opening up here. I won’t be funding GGET for this reason and I hope they don’t need to call the cops for any reason.

SeeMe
SeeMe
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Smart

Their coffee is pretty great…

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Smart

Thanks for telling me. I’ll be sure to go.

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Smart

I love how folks on the right are so literal. And when that doesn’t work for them,they just resort to being hypocrites.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
1 month ago

The mayor didn’t oversee the illegal painting of another flag on the streets during the protest? If it was for Biden she probably would have along with planning commissioner Mr. Erickson.

Ian
Ian
1 month ago

Touche!

Sjmilrod
Sjmilrod
1 month ago

Why are deputies posing for photo with somebody who is not wearing a mask?
Public safety during pandemic is NOT about politics. Am frustrated by that distraction. And the sheriffs department has no excuse for not ticketing people who aren’t wearing masks. That is condoning a super spreader event

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  Sjmilrod

Absolutely right! The rot flows down from Villanueva.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago

BTW exactly who might this banner unfurled be?