CRESTLINE-LAKE GREGORY ROTARY CLUB
By Mary-Justine Lanyon
There was a lot of concern about the Black Lives Matter protests held on the mountain. That’s what Captain Don Lupear of the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station told members of the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club.
The person organizing the protest in Blue Jay reached out to Captain Lupear, he said. “I gave them the parameters of what would be safe for them.” Because it was at the height of incidents taking place down the hill, there were some concerns.
At that protest and the one held by Lake Gregory, both sides were there, the captain said – the Black Lives Matter folks and the Trump supporters.
“There was some back-and-forth banter but, because everyone was local, by the end everyone was laughing and joking.
“I was really proud of the community,” he added. “That’s what the First Amendment is all about.”
To ensure the safety of everyone at the protests, the Twin Peaks station called in some reinforcements – a mobile field unit of 19 deputies and a six-person SWAT team.
“SWAT comes because they are trained in delivering tear gas and other nonlethal weapons,” Captain Lupear noted. “And they were only up here because help is 45 minutes away. They stayed at the station. We fed them a couple of hundred dollars of pizza.”
They did have what he called “a little parade of our own,” driving through the area in Blue Jay where the protest took place. The purpose, he said, was to “show we had a large amount of people here. Then they drove back to the station and hid.”
The captain noted that, as the November election approaches, he suspects protests will pick up although he has not received any information yet about any taking place on the mountain.
As for COVID-19, Captain Lupear said, when it first hit, the Twin Peaks station’s calls for service were way down. “We spent time checking closed businesses, especially from Running Springs through Arrowbear and to Snow Valley. It was like a ghost town. We didn’t have any issues.”
Since then, he said, calls for service have risen to a normal level. “We have a lot of people coming up to visit. The forest is open.”
Captain Lupear also said that, at first, they got a lot of calls about people not wearing masks. “We are not the mask police,” he said. He added that deputies were stationed at Goodwin’s and Stater Bros. at the beginning, when there was a run on toilet paper. “People would see the deputies with their masks on and put theirs on.”
The station also got calls about businesses that were open that the callers felt should not be open. “We told them that, if businesses are operating outside the guidelines, they should call the Health Department.”
Captain Lupear was asked about the homeless situation on the mountain and what the sheriff’s department is doing about it. “There is a problem up here,” the captain said, “but it’s not terrible. In Crestline, it’s cooler and less dangerous (than down the hill). We get migratory transients.” Many of them, he noted, stay in the forest and wander out into town. At night, they go back into the forest, where they’re allowed to be.
The Forest Service, Captain Lupear said, is trying to bar all dispersed camping in the San Bernardino National Forest; currently people can camp for up to 14 days.
“We can assist the Forest Service in removing people who are staying in the forest,” he said.
What the deputies are up against in town, the captain said, is that a court ruled a homeless person can stay anywhere that is open to the public unless it is closed (for example, a park that closes from sunset to sunrise).
“If a sidewalk is open 24/7, a homeless person can camp there. We’re not allowed to remove them. That’s why the post office has become such an issue and has to be locked. Now people can’t get their mail because we weren’t allowed to kick transients out,” the captain said.
If a deputy arrests a transient for something, he transports them down to the High Desert Detention Center in Adelanto. “That gives them a challenge in getting back up here. There is one who keeps finding his way back.”
The other problem, the captain said, is the deputies can arrest the transients for their narcotics but they are cite released at the jail because narcotics are a misdemeanor now.
“We try to talk them into going down the hill. We’ll give them a ride. If we offer services up here, more transients will come here. That sounds mean but, having worked in the valley my whole career, I know it’s true.”
Private property is a different matter. Captain Lupear suggested posting no trespassing signs, up high so they can’t be torn down.
As for how the department is protecting deputies at the jails from COVID-19, the captain said anyone who will be staying overnight at a jail has to be tested for the virus. “If they refuse, they have to stay in isolation for 14 days, including no court hearing during that time.”
If an inmate comes up positive, they have modules in the jail system – the fifth largest in the U.S. – where they can isolate them. And the jails have medical units. If an inmate becomes more ill, they’re taken to the jail ward at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.