Home Walnut Creek Police Chief Responds to Social Media Rhetoric on Recent Protest in Downtown Walnut Creek

Police Chief Responds to Social Media Rhetoric on Recent Protest in Downtown Walnut Creek

by ECT

The following message was released Tuesday from Walnut Creek Police Chief Jay Hill in response to criticism on social media in response during a Saturday protest which resulted in no arrests.

During the incident, approximately 80 protesters blocked vehicles in the roadway, set a flag on fire in the middle of the street, and ultimately converged on the restaurant “Bourbon Highway” at the corner of North Main and Civic Drive. It was at this location that an altercation broke out and a bar patron was pushed to the ground. The group surrounded patrons dining outside, yelling at them and intimidating them. When Bourbon Highway staff tried to get them to leave, at least one protestor assaulted staff and patrons with pepper spray.


Dear Walnut Creek Community Members:

As I read through the comments on our social media sites about the events of this past Saturday evening, I see that many of you want to hear from me directly and want to know where I stand on the issues facing our community. You have a right to ask these questions and are owed a response. This has been an unusual year of protest activity in Walnut Creek. Most of it has been peaceful, but in cases where demonstrators have jeopardized the safety of others, we escalated our response. On occasions, we have been accused of being heavy-handed and doing too much and we have also received criticism for not doing enough.

As an organization, we support the rights of citizens to peacefully protest and we recognize our obligation as police officers to protect that right. We also believe that protests should be lawful and that protesters do not have the right to infringe upon the rights of others. We believe everyone should have the ability to enjoy a night out without fear of being verbally or physically assaulted.

We learned late last week that a group that has been regularly marching through City streets would likely be back on Saturday night. Their protest marches have been inconvenient for some people, but with one exception, have not risen to a level where we would need to escalate our response; we had no reason to expect anything different on Saturday. Still, we had extra officers and reserve officers on hand. When the group arrived, it was apparent they were preparing for a confrontation. Some had helmets and ballistic-type vests on, others carried sticks or other items that could be used as weapons and most were wearing backpacks. Our intention that evening, like previous protests, was to monitor from a distance but not get baited into an altercation for minor transgressions (like marching in the street). Unlike previous protests, this time they brought spray paint and vandalized several businesses with anti-law enforcement graffiti while they marched throughout downtown. Based on the totality of circumstances (including the number of officers vs. the number of protesters and type of crime being committed), the decision was made not to intervene.

Some on social media have stated that there was an order to “stand down” by the Walnut Creek Police Department. That is simply not the case. The reality is a tactical decision was made by on-scene supervisors who used all of the information available to them at the time (including severity of criminal activity and available resources) to choose a course of action. I feel strongly about our duty as police officers to uphold the law and protect the community we serve. In fact, over the past two weeks I have personally met with nearly every member of our department and specifically discussed my position as it relates to protest activity and shared my support for holding law violating protesters accountable. I further suggested they be mindful of the intent of many of the protesters who are arriving with the intent of baiting officers into a confrontation. We are not looking to use force for a minor transgression of the law. We know, when the protesters arrive wearing ballistic type vests and carrying sticks or pepper spray, their intent is not simply to start a march or demonstration.

To be perfectly clear, the message I have delivered to our officers is to consider the safety of the public, the safety of the protestors, and their own safety when deciding whether to take action in the moment for minor offenses. Our supervisors and watch commanders are empowered to use their discretion and experience to make judgment calls as they see fit based on the totality of circumstances that are unfolding in front of them. These “judgment calls” do not apply when public safety is at risk and we see assaultive behavior occurring. When that is the case, our officers will take immediate action and respond swiftly.

In all cases, we encourage our officers to fully investigate potential violations. Often, an arrest is not made at the scene, but we hold people accountable by gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and sending the case to the District Attorney for filing of charges. We have done this on several occasions since the protests began earlier this year, including arresting several looters from May 31. We have also issued citations to several protestors in recent weeks when their activities in the streets have warranted doing so.

As always, when an event like this occurs, we review our response as an opportunity to improve, and to make adjustments as necessary. We are already making adjustments and the community can rest assured that if this or any other group comes to town with unlawful intentions, the Walnut Creek Police Department will be prepared and will not stand by and let criminal behavior go unchecked. We want Walnut Creek to be a safe, welcoming community to our residents and visitors. We will continue to work to minimize instances where peaceful events turn into unsafe ones, and follow up on all leads possible to hold those who break the law accountable.

Very Respectfully,

Jay Hill

Interim Chief of Police

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Antioch-Pittsburg Highway Nov 18, 2020 - 8:23 am

Police Chief Hill should not have to remind us that police can not be everywhere and respond to every perceived crime. We are on our own most of the time. When publicly eating outside you must do so knowing you can be assaulted at any time. We must not just sit there as victims. When a protest comes we must all stop eating and form a linked armed chain in front of the protesters. Scream back at them to go home peacefully but do not break your link with your neighbor. Scream they have made their point but do not break your link with your neighbor. The protesters have no right to disturb you without a permit. The restaurant would be closed due to a permit given by Walnut Creek for the protesters to proceed down the street. So if you see the mob coming for you act with courage and stop the law breakers in their tracks. Otherwise, they will keep coming and with more bolden acts of violence.

G Nov 18, 2020 - 10:35 am

When will the protesters realize they are hurting their own neighbors and community when they loot, destroy, and terrorize ? It is so unproductive to any cause to destroy yourself and your community.

When are the police going to bring out the water canons? It’s better than pepper spray or physical force.

Dawn Marie Nov 19, 2020 - 4:14 pm

These “protesters” were not from Walnut Creek! They just chose that city to disrupt. They don’t care about anyone living in WC. My grandparents were dining in the area and said the police were nowhere in site after calls to 911 were placed by the patrons. The police station is right across the street from the restaurant

Jason Stewart Nov 18, 2020 - 4:46 pm

What’s the difference between a “stand down order” and an order “not to intervene”?

RUkiddingme? Nov 19, 2020 - 12:01 am

Im just going to say this. If people show up wearing contact sport or fighting gear, and start getting in the faces of innocent people with threats of violence, you had better choose arresting a holes over letting innocents get smacked around. Fear of lawsuits go out the window when people are being battered or threatened. This ‘observe from a distance’ so as not to get baited assumes you think your officers can’t discern legal action over impulse. It isn’t time to stand back and observe. The warriors in riot gear should be the police, not the crooks. Right now they are owning your department, and your city by virtue of that lingering fear of being sued. That will certainly happen when good people are hurt while under ‘observation.’

Jg Nov 19, 2020 - 11:00 am

I’m with you on that. When people show up with aggressive gear, that’s the Police signal to act. It’s not rocket science. The Chief needs to resign or grow some ….

This trash, loot, arson, brick toss, and baseball bat crap needs to stop.

JAMIE Nov 19, 2020 - 12:02 am

This Chief of Police is FULL OF SHIT!

“Minor offenses” MY ASS! These hooligans were from other areas (not Walnut Creek) and their aim was to disrupt people in that city! If the police “stand down” then they are totally USELESS! We have the right to defend ourselves and if the police will not do it, then we will do it ourselves! Today, never go anywhere “empty-handed!” Bring something with which you can protect yourself and those who are with you.

LoveableCurmudgeon Nov 19, 2020 - 4:04 am

At the risk of total mayhem, if those protestors had harangued me at my dinner table there would have been plenty of food and drink tossed at those protestors, not mention something a little stronger. Protest til the cows come home, but do NOT harangue me for living my life.

Jayne Nov 23, 2020 - 1:34 am

I always ask for a carafe of HOT COFFEE to be placed at our table and would use that coffee liberally to douse the attackers! But then, I also carry something which might work better.

Jimmy Bob Nov 19, 2020 - 9:19 am

The response should have been, ”We failed and will do better next time”. I know, I work there. Unfortunately, over 50% of the police management team is vacant at the moment. The positions are either unfilled or have junior officers in ”acting” roles. This means inexperienced sergeants and watch commanders are running the show. The Chief is a junior Captain and completely unqualified for his role. The rest have left. The previous Chief (Chaplin), current City Manager, and much of the city council have been trying to appease these social justice groups for 18 months with devastating consequences. It’s no surprise to any of us things are a mess. Most of us are running for the exits.

Debra St.John Nov 19, 2020 - 4:22 pm

I will “appease” those social justice thugs with something they will never forget and I don’t care if I’m arrested for protecting myself and those dining with me. Bring it on!

Sooner-or-later, this will happen when people will have more than enough of this nonsense!

Yes! The WCPD is about as useful as a fart in a windstorm! This is why we “civilians” must deal with our own safety It’s come to that!

LoveableCurmudgeon Nov 20, 2020 - 4:02 am

Then, again, the diners seem to have cowered behind the potted plants. Not ONE of them had the nerve to confront and take them on? They saw a cop and waited? Baloney to that

jay Nov 20, 2020 - 12:06 pm

The police are dogs of the state and are siding with terrorists. That’s all you needed to say, sir. You betray your community and the people’s who’s tax money you steal to stand by and allow them to be assaulted or their property destroyed. The police of this country are showing everyone blinded by “police are your friends” propaganda that maybe the protestors have a point. The police are no one’s friend, they are nothing but the armed arm of politicians who are always just “following orders” and have no principles as a human being. The only reason you were even there that night was to make sure no one fought against antifa or hurt them. I hope every one of you is sued along with that complicit mayor and city council.

David Zhang Nov 22, 2020 - 8:57 am

Please fulfill your duty and follow the law, or please quit and go home. You do not need to play politics or interpret the law. Violent protesters are criminals, and we must put every criminal in jail.

Judith Steinberg Nov 23, 2020 - 3:57 pm

The WCPD and police in other cities should use what the Israeli police use on the haredi (Orthodox Jews) who mount protests. They use ice-cold “Skunk Water” in high pressure water “cannons” to disperse crowds and those work beautifully.

Jg Nov 24, 2020 - 1:01 pm

Judith, Great idea, let’s see if they use it on riots and protests after 10PM curfew.

Don’t hold your breath

Steve Nov 28, 2020 - 1:07 pm

Yup! Only a lawsuit against the city, county and state will fix this problem of letting lawless thugs, aka…peaceful protestors, get away with a brand of homegrown terrorism. When a group of 80 plus shows up with helmets, masks, backpacks, pepper spray, and other improvised weapons, they aren’t there to chit chat! They are there as a gang to impose their will on anyone in their way. Unfortunately it’s a lot of older people having a quiet dinner, and not a restaurant full of Hells Angels Bikers that these thugs are assaulting! They are very lucky that someone hasn’t been seriously hurt or killed yet! If this continues to go unchecked, expect something terrible to happen. Folks in charge either do your jobs or resign! We don’t negotiate with terrorism in any form! These cowards should have all been arrested, fingerprinted, photographed and all received a citation for disturbance of the peace! The peppersprayer should have been identified and assault charges brought! Protests that are peaceful should have rules that cities control the venue and location. They also control who enters these venues to exercise their right to peacefully protest. To allow for criminal activity, under the guise of a peaceful protest, continue to undermine this process is disgusting and must be curtailed! Anyone who’s is not upset by this now, will be, when it ends up in your front yard!

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