Category Archives: Solano County Sheriff

Open letter to City and County officials – Benicia Black Lives Matter, on right-wing extremism in Sheriff Dept.

Solano County Board of Supervisors:
Erin Hannigan: ehannigan@solanocounty.com
Monica Brown: mebrown@solanocounty.com
Jim Spering: jpspering@solanocounty.com
John Vazquez: jmvasquez@solanocounty.com
Mitch Mashburn: mhbashburn@solanocounty.com
Solano County Sheriff:
Thomas A. Ferrara
530 Union Avenue, Suite 100
Fairfield, CA 94533

Cc:
City of Benicia Mayor & Council:
Steve Young: syoung@ci.benicia.ca.us
Tom Campbell: tcampbell@ci.benicia.ca.us
Lionel Largaespada: llargaespada@ci.benicia.ca.us
Trevor Macenski: tmacenski@ci.benicia.ca.us
Christina Strawbridge: cstrawbridge@ci.benicia.ca.us
City of Benicia City Manager:
Eric Upson: eupson@ci.benicia.ca.us

Dear Supervisors, Councilmembers and Governmental Leaders of the County of Solano and the City of Benicia:

We, the members of Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM), are writing you in response to a terrifying report from Open Vallejo detailing the existence and tacit support of right wing extremism within the leadership of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the underwhelming response from the Sheriff himself.

The report explains that Daniel “Cully” Pratt is in a leadership role within the Sheriff’s department carrying the designation of Sergeant. As part of his side business, Sergeant Pratt is also an ardent supporter of the 3%’er movement, making and sharing “wood carvings” with right wing iconography, one of which “resembles a California flag, but instead of a bear, it features hooks for (Solano County Sheriff Sergeant) Stockton’s AR-15 rifle above the words, ‘WILL NOT COMPLY.’ Thirteen shotgun shells, arranged like the stars of the Betsy Ross flag, form a circle around the Roman numeral III.”

In itself, this is incredibly troubling. Just weeks ago, on January 6, 2021, right wing extremists, approximately a quarter of whom had law enforcement and/or military backgrounds, attacked the United States Capitol. In October 2020, an anti-government group and others plotted to attack the Governor of Michigan. The 7 suspects were arrested for plotting to storm Michigan’s State Capitol and abducting the governor, prior to the presidential election, in a seeming practice run for the US Capitol attack. The parallel between these attacks is not inconsequential. It has been widely reported for some time that right wing and white supremacist groups have actively recruited from the ranks of the military and law enforcement.

From the Brennan Center Report titled Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement:

In 2017, the FBI reported that white supremacists posed a “persistent threat of lethal violence” that has produced more fatalities than any other category of domestic terrorists since 2000. Alarmingly, internal FBI policy documents have also warned agents assigned to domestic terrorism cases that the white supremacist and anti-government militia groups they[1].

More stark than the Open Vallejo report, is the response from the Solano County Sheriff[2]:

… I want to be clear – the employees targeted in this article all serve this agency and this community with passion and dedication. I am not aware of one instance where any of these employees acted in a manner that was portrayed in this article. When we initially got inquiries about this story, I had personal conversations with the employees in question because it is important to me that the women and men who work for Solano County Sheriff’s Office are people of character and uphold the high standards I have set for this Office. The employees told me that their intention was to support the 2nd amendment and the U.S. Constitution. As we have seen with many other symbols, the “Three Percenter” logo has recently been linked to the rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol. None of these employees were present for, nor do they support extremist organizations. Our office denounces any extremist organization.  And if there is ever a time when a member of our office is displaying support to overthrow the government it will be dealt with swiftly. …

Sergeant Pratt has also denied his membership in anti-government organizations saying that, “The picture taken in October 2016, linked to said article depicts symbols, at the time was believed to be strictly in support of the 2nd Amendment and Pro-American – not in any way extremist anti-government views.”

This seems inconceivable, as a quick Google search would reveal to the Sergeant that:

A wing of the militia movement that arose as part of a resurgence of the militia movement in 2009. The term “Three Percenter” refers to the erroneous belief that only 3% of colonists fought against the British during the Revolutionary War—but achieved liberty for everybody. Three Percenters view themselves as modern day versions of those revolutionaries, fighting against a tyrannical U.S. government rather than the British. With anyone able to declare themselves a Three Percenter, the concept allowed many people to join who were not suited, physically or by inclination, to engage in paramilitary activities. The Three Percenter logo—the Roman numeral III—has become very popular among anti-government extremists[3].

As members of BBLM and residents of Benicia and Solano County, we are writing to you to demand that you as leaders of Solano County and City of Benicia not only visibly and vocally condemn right wing extremism, but also pledge to conduct a full investigation both at the County level and at the City level to ensure that policies and procedures – including those focused on recruitment anddisciplinary actions – are in place to actively expel these extremists from the ranks of law enforcement and to prevent their recruitment in the first place.

We further demand Solano County follow both the City of Benicia and Sonoma County in establishing an Office of Equity to solidify the county’s commitment to equity and the eradication of racist ideallogy.

This report is as ironic as it is offensive given that Black Lives Matter chapters have been labeled as terrorists. Months ago,, in August 2020,  we successfully advocated before our City Council to take measures to take the work of equity seriously. We were mostly greeted with support but we also faced some opposition. One council member took umbrage with language in the resolution that highlighted the culpability of the entire Minnesota Police Department in the death of George Floyd, despite elected officials in Minnesota making a similar declaration. Other opposition came via a joint statement from the Benicia Police Officers Association, Benicia Dispatcher’s Association and the Benicia Police Management Association. The relevant part is as follows:

“…we ask that before making a commitment to Black Lives Matter, an organization that at its core is an anti-police organization that promotes the defunding of police departments, you consider a commitment to your community and your employees.”

While this commentary from the police associations was not indicative of the tremendous community support we received, it was reminiscent of a vocal minority of individuals who would prefer to question our lived experiences than to confront the past and current systemic racism that so deeply infects our nation.

We would hope that in these perilous times, where it is beyond dispute that the threat of right wing anti-government violence is far more likely to come from white men confusing their misguided actions and ideology for patriotism, that our government leaders and the associations within them would boldly decry, reject and eliminate these factions from their ranks.

If the Sheriff’s response is any indication, there is much work to be done. We demand and expect better. We await a reply and more importantly – bold and sustained action to be taken.

 

Thank you,

Benicia Black Lives Matter


[1] Id.
[2]https://fox40.com/news/local-news/report-claims-members-of-solano-county-sheriffs-office-openly-supported-extremist-group/
[3] https://www.adl.org/resources/glossary-terms/three-percenters