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Posted on: November 10, 2022

City Manager Cusimano Responds to Juvenile Party, Mill Valley Police Response and Next Steps

Blurry lights from police cars illuminate the darkness

November 10, 2022

At the November 7, 2022 City Council meeting, City Manager Todd Cusimano addressed the City Council and the community regarding the incident on November 5 involving an out of control party with approximately 100 to 200 juveniles. Police responded to reports of yelling, drinking and throwing bottles on Ashford Avenue. An officer from Marin County Sheriff's Department was hit in the head by a can and sustained minor injuries. More detail of the incident is provided in City Manager Cusimano’s report.

An investigation is ongoing in partnership with schools and community members.

Please note, in the meeting, City Manager Cusimano had just addressed the issue of safety of teens on eBikes, and he then transitioned to the subject of the November 5 incident.

Watch the video.

A transcription of his comments are provided below:

“Now let's fast forward to the next conversation. Words matter, actions matter. And so what really jumped out at me is that it starts at the home. I truly believe it, and there's been a lack of respect for City government. Okay - but our Police force - you put our young men and women in the Police force in danger and harms way, and you're also putting members of the public in harms way. When you make analysis statements or start to think it's okay to disrespect law enforcement and Public Safety - it's dangerous.

Why do I say that? Well, we [recently] had a really bad incident. It was a felony assault against a teacher at Redwood High School a couple of weeks ago. It was on social media. Some of you may have seen that? 

You've had this conversation with eBikes where when we detain juveniles and take action against them, I can tell you more than 50% of the time the first thing out of a parent's mouth is, “Why did you detain my child?”

That's the first question out of their mouth, and that's a problem.

So, on Saturday night we had an incident over on Ashford. We got a call from some residents of a large party of approximately 100 to 200 juveniles drinking and yelling profanities. It seemed like there were fights going on, and they thought they heard either gunfire or fireworks. We believe it to be fireworks. Our officers rolled out there. As you know, in the City of Mill Valley, we have officers on duty. Two to three officers respond on this call. That's who we had working that night.

[The officers are] engaged immediately by 100 to 200 and juveniles in the street. They're going from Ashford over to the CVS parking lot.

In the initial call, what the officers figured out quickly was that this was a Social Host Ordinance type of call. [With a] Social Host, you know the parents were away on vacation or out of the area, their children were home alone and they threw a party.

So that's the first message there, of the issue.

Once we get there, we're trained - our staff - you want to disperse everyone safely but you also want to identify and make sure someone doesn't get into a car intoxicated. 

You have two to three officers right away trying to evaluate that, with one to two hundred kids running down the street. Quickly they engaged a couple that were intoxicated or in possession of alcohol. They detained them, one [was detained] on site and one was brought back to the station to be released to the parents.

In the area of CVS you add another driver who was doing donuts and driving really recklessly in the parking lot. He was detained and cited for driving inappropriately, and we had a call for mutual aid out. Once our mutual aid officers got there - again just a handful of officers trying to make sure everyone's safe - but dispersing them. Making sure again that we don't have looting like we did at the 7-Eleven from a large group of kids after the Tam High homecoming dance.

[Police officers are] trying to safely navigate, recognizing these are youth, keeping everybody safe, but trying to do it the right way - what they're trained to do. All this is on video on multiple cameras.

Also at the same time, you have the kids videoing our officers, yelling profanities, trying to instigate them. You've probably seen it on social media. Already, I've seen a number posted. [Juveniles] try and engage our officers, [saying], “What's your badge number? Why are you here? Let them go.” [Juveniles were] really in their face, taking an aggressive stance with our officers. It was shocking to me that that was going on. 

Some outside agencies arrived. What happened then was that those officers were immediately engaged by some juveniles. They were jumping on the cars of law enforcement, they were throwing things at law enforcement. One officer was hit in the head by a beer can and was injured. 

Again, this went on for far too long. Ultimately we were able to get control of the situation. How we got control of the situation is that we basically had to pull all law enforcement from San Rafael all the way to Southern Marin to move the youth out of our area safely and make sure things weren't vandalized and no one else was hurt.

So that happened on Saturday. On Sunday and Monday I've heard a number of things from community members of their lens of Mill Valley, and [what we need to focus on is this]: Look, we all have to own our piece.

I think it starts in the home, and my message starts there. We own our responsibility, of our team, and we're happy to tell our story. 

I've heard a few things that I just want to share and have it on the record. 

There were some comments saying, “Hey, these are rich white kids and you only arrested or cited them. You didn't do anything.” 

Or [I heard], “You only cited one or two of them. Just because they live in Mill Valley and you show deference to them.”

That's absolutely not true. The answer - the reason why three were cited from the scene - was because we had a handful of officers and almost 200 people running around in the streets. Some [were] attacking our officers. These are the facts of a situation of [officers] trying to safely navigate something. 

My message to the community, and all those that were there, and those that did assault officers, and those that did throw that beer can: we're coming and we're investigating.

We're going to use every law enforcement avenue available to us within this County. We're looking at the videos right now. We have videos of that incident. We're working with the schools and the families to bring those [individuals] forward and hold them accountable and responsible. 

What I'll tell the Council and the community is that there will be more arrests moving forward.

But again, where do we need to be? It's a public conversation of understanding the role of our staff and our City staff, of how we operate, and we hold ourselves accountable. But also holding everyone else accountable and having some difficult conversations. And I think that's where we’re headed. It's not in the Council Chamber. It's in a public setting. 

I just want to thank Stephanie Young [from Heart of the Village] and her team of parents. Let's start having these workshops, these working groups and using some of these other examples of how we can be better as Mill Valley.

I appreciate that, and I think that's where this needs to go. Something else I'm considering doing because I just think there's just a lot of supposed expertise in our community and strong opinions and feelings. I think people want to have a public dialogue and so I'm going to give it to them. I'm going to start with [a City Manager’s] working group because I want to start there. I want to start with some best practices. [Asking] where am I falling short? Let's fill those holes and then let's carry that small conversation of a working group of 12 to 15 people with City staff and our community and let’s move that forward. 

[We envision a] couple meetings a month of just being in a room and just having conversations instead of talking at each other. I think that's where it's headed. But I'd be remiss if I didn't, and it's not defending our staff. We're public servants, that's what we get paid for. But I am not going to have my team, someone else telling their story, and putting them in harms way, and then critiquing them after with information that [is] false. It's not okay. It's just not okay. 

I'm upset about it and I'm going to engage quickly. It's a priority for me. Again I just want to tell the Council we have looked at those video cameras and the response of our staff. I have 21 years in law enforcement. I'm really proud of how they handled themselves. I'm embarrassed for our City, for the officers that came into it and what they had to endure. That's on us and so we're going to fix that.”

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