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SLO's vehicle-bound criticize police crackdown 

About 10 people affected by the recent police clampdown on sleeping in vehicles stood before the San Luis Obispo City Council on Feb. 21 and decried what they called an “unconstitutional” policy.

click to enlarge ‘COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE’ :  Danny ‘Fresno’ Braninburg (center), one of many people recently hassled for sleeping in a vehicle in San Luis Obispo, gave the City Council an earful about the police department’s recent crackdown. Councilman Dan Carpenter (left) and new Police Chief Steve Gesell looked on as others echoed such criticism. - PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • ‘COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE’ : Danny ‘Fresno’ Braninburg (center), one of many people recently hassled for sleeping in a vehicle in San Luis Obispo, gave the City Council an earful about the police department’s recent crackdown. Councilman Dan Carpenter (left) and new Police Chief Steve Gesell looked on as others echoed such criticism.

“There’s just not enough shelters for us to sleep,” said Cynthia Eastman, a former high school teacher who said she’s fallen on hard times. “We need a safe parking program. Working as a team, I know we can do better.”

Scott Summers, who said he’s been a SLO resident for more than 35 years, was one of those recently cited in the crackdown.

“This is a totally unacceptable way for us to be treated by our police. I don’t know what’s going on with our police department,” Summers said. “I’m going to fight this ticket, and I encourage others to do the same.”

“They rode in on us like they were at war. They were completely out of line,” said Danny “Fresno” Braninburg, who added that he was previously directed to park on Prado Road by police. “It was like they had us in a big corral.”

As the accusations flew, SLO Police Chief Steve Gesell looked on, but didn’t speak. He couldn’t be reached for comment following the meeting.

Council members told New Times that city staffers are currently exploring the possibility of a “Safe Parking Area,” which would allow for a place to park overnight. Similar programs are in place in cities such as Santa Barbara.

The issue of a Safe Parking Area was previously discussed by the Community Action Partnership Board (CAPSLO) at the board’s Feb. 16 meeting. At the time, it was reported that more than 30 cars, vans, and R.V.s were parked along Prado Road near the Day Center.

Police began their renewed enforcement efforts the next day.

The City Council is scheduled to receive an update on CAPSLO’s pilot parking project at its March 20 meeting.

Councilman Dan Carpenter said that regardless of whether the city moves forward with a parking facility, there will still be those who choose to remain “outside the system.”

“There is a need there, but I don’t want people to expect that it’s going to solve the entire problem,” Carpenter told New Times.

Councilman John Ashbaugh said the recent crackdown was not at the direction of the council, but he nevertheless defended the officers involved.

“It’s a tough situation, especially in the eyes of the officers themselves,” Ashbaugh said. “To them it’s one of the worst parts of the job.”

Read more about the crackdown in this week’s cover story here.

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