Show Us Your Scars!

Anaheim cops discover long-ignored law, enforce it

The rich are very different from you and me: they don't have to show cops their distinguishing marks and scars before they even commit a crime.

But janitors, bartenders, restaurant workers, models and dancers in Anaheim? A bizarre city law requires them to obtain from police a special ID card declaring their citizenship and provide a thumbprint, photograph, and catalog of peculiar marks and scars.

But that law was not enforced until recently. Critics charge Anaheim police misled the City Council when they applied for a state grant to enforce the 36-year-old ID law—a law council members say they didn't even know was on the books and which one council member said "feels an awful lot like Big Brother."

Anaheim Police Chief Roger A. Baker "pulled a fast one," says John Earl, assistant to the president of HERE (Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees) local 681 in Anaheim.

Baker persuaded the City Council on July 11, 2000, to approve his department's application for a state Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) grant. The council okayed the application, and the $100,000 grant has since been used to enforce the ID law. Noncompliance is a misdemeanor.

HERE's members have packed the City Council chambers seeking repeal of the law, unique among California cities. Several union workers have told the council they put their jobs at risk if they did not apply for the card.

In response, City Council members pleaded ignorance of the law, and city staff suspended it while reviewing its legality. The council is likely to repeal the ordinance on March 20.

Carolyn Pelcak, a HERE shop steward at Disneyland and a practicing attorney who addressed the council, later scoffed at the council members' professed ignorance of the law. "I was shocked that they did not know that such a major issue was being implemented in the city they're representing," she told the Weekly. "That's their job to know. It's of major consequence to many people in this area who just make a basic living, and it's against their civil liberties."

Just short of retirement, Pelcak has worked at Disneyland for almost three decades, but she said park officials only recently told her she had to have the card.

As Earl sees it, the problem is that the City Council was never told that the state grant would be used to enforce the long-ignored ID ordinance. In a July 11, 2000, memo to the city manager and City Council, Baker wrote that the grant would address "abuses with ABC licensing and permits." Nowhere in the memo did Baker mention that the grant would be used to enforce the specific local ordinance. The problem emerged when the officer hired under the grant began handing out copies of the ordinance and warning employers to enforce it.

Tom Tait has emerged as the council member most disturbed by the ID law, and now he wants it repealed. He said he couldn't recall much about the ABC grant vote last year but thought it was just for "DUI stuff or something like that." Tait added he was surprised the law was even on the books. "I don't think it serves any purpose," he said

Anaheim vice officer Sergeant Randy West, whose unit received the grant, denies the money has been used to enforce the city ordinance or that enforcement has been intensified because of the grant. "That's a misconception," he said. "We're trying to get everybody into compliance without the enforcement angle." So, while Anaheim police may be encouraging compliance, they're not yet issuing citations, he said.

Jerry R. Jolly, an assistant director at ABC in Sacramento, expressed surprise that the grant had anything to do with the Anaheim ordinance. "When we heard about [the ID ordinance], we wanted to see if that was part of the grant," he said. "It was not." Nor did the requisite quarterly reports filed by the Anaheim Police Department mention the ordinance at all.

An Anaheim police official dismissed workers' concerns. When asked why the application form for the ID asked for scars or marks, department spokesperson Mike Martinez said, "It's an old form.... We ask a lot of information. It has been revised a few times, but hasn't been brought up to today's date. . . . Even though it's on the form, it's not used. That information is not needed; it's discarded. The city attorney says we're not even using it."

Calling the law "unconstitutional on the largest number of possible grounds," Daniel Tokaji, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California staff attorney in Los Angeles, warned City Council members in a Feb. 26 letter that the city "faces massive liability" if it continues to enforce the ordinance, with "exposure to lawsuits from thousands of people, who could and likely will be joined in a class action lawsuit" against the city and its officials.

 
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