Nov 122013

This letter was published by the San Leandro Times on Nov. 7, 2013


Chief of Police Sandra Spagnoli is out of control. Endangering the lives of children by canceling the crossing guards at the Safe Streets Halloween event is only her latest stunt. Previous examples include using department resources to unlawfully lobby the City Council, falsely arresting people for sex crimes and eliminating Internal Affairs.

The Chief also has the habit of providing the City Council with false information, what City Manager Chris Zapata labels “mis-speaking.”  The Chief, for example, told the Council that the SLPD needed to search the backyards of chicken owners’ homes without a warrant because they get an average of one complaint a week about chickens.  A public records search showed just a single complaint filed in the last two years.

The Chief also “mis-spoke” about the number of license plate scanners the Department has (5, not 3), the dangers of over-pollination (none outside strawberry greenhouses), the effects of medical marijuana dispensaries on crime (none) and the effectiveness of surveillance cameras in reducing and solving crimes (very low to none). Just last week, she blamed the increase in crime in San Leandro to prisoners being released early due to realignment; trouble is, law enforcement data shows there have been no such early releases.

“Mis-speaking” to the City Council and lobbying during work hours show a lack of respect for the Mayor and Council members and for the democratic process itself. It’s up to City Manager Zapata to hold her accountable and assure she behaves legally and ethically in her job. The fact that he has failed to do so suggests he lacks the leadership skills necessary for his own position.

The City Council should keep this in mind as they evaluate Zapata’s performance in the upcoming months.

Margarita LacabeSan Leandro

Update: On this week San Leandro Times, POA President Isaac Benabou not-quite-responds to my letter by praising his boss, Chief Sandra Spagnoli, and accusing me of “misleading” readers.  Alas, he does not substantiate his allegation and the only factual assertion he makes in disagreement with my letter, that surveillance cameras “greatly assist” in preventing and solving crimes is wrong.  I call on Mr. Benabou to explain his allegations or otherwise apologize.  Here is his letter: 


This is a reply to last week’s letter to the editor “Accuses Police Chief of Being ‘Out of Control’,” Letters, Nov. 7.”

I am writing this letter to the editor as the voice for the San Leandro Police Officer’s Association. This is my first correspondence to the San Leandro Times as the POA President.

Each week I make a point to read every letter sent to the editor with specific interest in articles that pertain to the Police Department. From time to time there are misleading letters written and published and often by the same author.

In last week’s letter to the editor, the writer expressed her disapproval our of City’s Police Chief and City Manager. There are more to her dislikes for these officials than were mentioned in her letter and my professionalism acts as a barrier to my emotions.

There comes a time when enough is enough! As a 20-year employee of this agency, I’ve never seen so many positive changes and improvements than I have seen in the past three years. A Professional Standards Unit, Chief’s Advisory Board and the creation and implementation of United for Safety is just the beginning.

We have embraced technology by joining facebook, twitter, Nixel, and creating an easy-to-use SLPD Smartphone application, all in an attempt to be more transparent with the community. Yes, technology includes surveillance cameras and license plate readers which both greatly assist in solving and preventing crime.

These are just a few programs implemented over the past three years, all accomplished under the current Police Administration led by Chief Sandra Spagnoli.

So, to the fair and impartial readers out there, please take with a grain of salt the comments and accusations expressed in last week’s letter and know that every hard working member of my organization is committed to the safety and service of the citizens of San Leandro.

— Isaac BenabouPresident




Nov 152011

San Leandro has some wonderful holiday traditions.  Some, like the Christmas tree lighting downtown, were sponsored by the city and have pretty much disappeared in this age of budget cuts.  Others, sponsored by private businesses, are alive and well.  My favorite is Safe Streets Safe Tricks Halloween, organized by the merchants on the Bancroft/Dutton area.  For two hours on Halloween afternoon, kids can go trick or treating to most of the businesses there (Safeway, as you would expect from a big, greedy corporation, does not participate).  Every merchant gives the kids candy, but Dutton Ace Hardware goes the “extra mile”: along with candy it hands out little cartoon tracts that tell children that if they don’t accept Jesus they will go to Hell.

The Dutton Ace Hardware is owned by “Pastor” Derek Jung, who also runs the Fundamentalist Gospel Baptist Church from his home in San Leandro.   During the summer, his family runs a free Bible camp also from their home.  Jung preaches the belief that the only way to be “saved” and go to heaven is to accept Jesus.  If you don’t, you’ll go to hell no matter how good a person you are.  If you do, you’re guaranteed a first class ticket to the pearly gates.  While I, personally, don’t care what people believe in, I do care when they try to frighten little kids into joining their religion, and that’s exactly what Derek Jung tries to do every Halloween.

I have to admit that the cartoon tract that he handed out this year is not too bad.  It only has one frame saying that “sinners” (aka kids who don’t believe in Jesus) will “burn in hell FOREVER”.  But the tracts they’ve handed out in previous years are truly disturbing.  In one they handed out a couple of years ago, a mom tells her son that his friend who just died in a traffic accident will spend eternity burning in hell because he stopped going to Sunday school.  The mom then admonishes her son that the idea that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell, was created by Satan himself.  Another tract warns about the impending rise in human sacrifice.  And yes, some are so silly that they’ll have you laughing outloud. I suspect the reason why Jung has switched to another tract “company” is cost.  The ones he handed out this year are free, while the ones from previous years cost him 16-cents a piece.

In reality, I don’t think the tracts do much harm to most children.  Mine have never shown any interest in reading them – the tracts are cheaply made and their sanctimonious language makes them boring despite the gruesome illustrations.  But they might scare kids who already believe in Jesus – and in any case, handing them out hoping to scare kids into believing in Jesus doesn’t sound very Christian to me.