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Chico Police Chief addresses homeless policing problems

At the April 21 council meeting, Chief O'Brien let the council know he was not happy with its decision.

Posted: Apr 22, 2020 8:32 PM

CHICO, Calif. - Chico Police Chief Michael O'Brien said the council's newly passed ordinance is making it difficult for his officers to do their job.

Those around Chico are upset about the council's decision to ban breaking-up homeless camps of fewer than 10 people.

"There's a number of other places they can go to camp if they need to, but this park was designed for people to enjoy and not to live in," said Martin Kamps.

Sandy Remault lives in Chico and said she understands the need to place homeless somewhere safe.

"I think what they need is one place in the park where it's legal to be and have services provided," said Remault.

"They did it because of the coronavirus, saying 'We gotta keep these people safe, if we break up these encampments, they'll disperse and take the virus to other places," said Councilman Sean Morgan.

"There was a direction given and I respect council for it," said Chief O'Brien. "The problem is it lacked clarity and understanding, as far as how it's going to integrate with existing law."

"It made it very difficult for myself and my police officers. It took away the well-earned discretion our police officers have to make decisions based on individual circumstances," O'Brien continued.

At the April 21 council meeting, Chief O'Brien let the council know he was not happy with its decision.

"I was disappointed that the council majority took a position that did not recognize the hard level of work that we have earned and took away the discretion of my police officers and myself," said O'Brien.

The Chief said the department will respect the council's decision and follow the law as best it can.

"I'm still not entirely sure what I can enforce and what I cannot," O'Brien explained.

"My duty is to protect this community and I will continue to do that to the best of my ability," said O'Brien.

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We had a break from the late spring heat today with clouds and breezes in northern California. Take advantage of tomorrow's fairly seasonable weather, because potentially dangerous heat is only a few days away.
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