Yesterday the Justice System failed Officer Bayani, the SCPD and the community as a whole. Yesterday Judge Volkmann sent the message that it is OK to assault a police officer and that the well being of criminals is more important than keeping our community safe from them. Here is a summary of what happened, as told to TBSC by one of our local veteran officers:
On October 2nd 2017, I witnessed something that I hoped I would never see in my Law Enforcement Career. I witnessed the Justice system trample over the rights of an innocent person.
I, along with many other Santa Cruz Police Officers attended the sentencing hearing for two people who were responsible for the felony assault of Officer Pat Bayani. We attended this hearing not to try and sway the court but to show our love and support for our brother in blue. What you are about to read is my first hand account of what happened in that courtroom. First I will provide a background of what happened based on Officer Bayani’s statement to the court, then it’s going to all go downhill from there. I’m going to give you a heads up, this is an extremely long read and there is going to be profanity because that’s just who I am. You’ve been warned
On December 31st 2016 Santa Cruz Police Officer Pat Bayani responded to a report of a fight on Pacific Ave. Upon his arrival, he saw several subjects attempting to get away from another subject, Ms. King. Officer Bayani did what any of us would have done and attempted to stop the fight. As he tried to detain Ms. King, she began to struggle with him. Ms. King’s boyfriend, Mr. Styles saw what was going on and grabbed Officer Bayani from behind and placed him in a choke hold. Officer Bayani tried to free himself from Mr. Styles’ grasp but was on the verge of losing consciousness. Officer Bayani considered using lethal force to stop the attack but was afraid of hitting an innocent person in the crowd so he chose to continue fighting. Officer Bayani was able to break free of Mr. Styles’ choke hold and had mere seconds to recover before he was attacked again, this time by both Mr. Styles and Ms. King. Officer Bayani was pushed into a utility pole, punched in the face and spat on before both subjects were taken into custody.
After reading this you should be saying to yourself “Officer Bayani deserves a commendation for his selfless actions”. He put his own life before a group of complete strangers.
Think about that for a moment. Imagine that you have a gun, you have been ambushed from behind and are now being choked to death in front of a large crowd of people. Would you have the presence of mind to even consider the fact that if you pulled the trigger an innocent person could be hurt or killed? I have been a Police Officer for almost two decades and I don’t know if I would have even considered that. But Officer Bayani did. A testament to who he is not only as a Police Officer but as a person. Officer Bayani did not receive a commendation for his actions but what he did receive was a slap in the face from our Justice system.
Ms. King and Mr. Styles were arrested and eventually charged with felony assault on a Police Officer.
During the course of the legal process, both King and Styles plead guilty to the felony assault which exposed them to a significant amount of jail time. Because we have a Justice system that is fair, their previous criminal history was taken into account for sentencing. Turns out, neither of them have a criminal history. So the Court and the attorneys get involved in trying to figure out what is “fair” for everyone involved.
The court appearance.
Both Ms. King and Mr. Styles made statements to the court and both of them offered apologies to not only Officer Bayani but also the Santa Cruz Police Department as a whole. Ms. King stated that she had a very difficult upbringing which involved both physical and sexual abuse. Her mother suffers from substance abuse problems and she spent time in the foster care system as a result. Ms. King managed to make her own way through life and has been gainfully employed since the age of 17. She is currently a manager at a downtown business according to her. In her statement, Ms. King stated that she accepts full responsibility for her actions and has a tremendous amount of respect for Law Enforcement, particularly the SCPD. She said that alcohol played a large part in what happened the night of the assault but she has since quit drinking and has been attending AA meetings.
Mr. Styles also to make a statement. He chose, unlike the night he attacked Officer Bayani, to face us to make his statement. He also said that he has always had respect for Law Enforcement and that his mother was abused when he was a child. Mr. Styles went on to explain that, on the night of the assault, he was suffering from the undiagnosed bipolar disorder and general anxiety disorder. He said that he has since been in treatment and is currently taking medications. Mr. Styles stated that he is now in a lifelong battle with mental illness and expressed concern about the effects of long-term lithium use. Mr. Styles said that as a result of his upbringing and his undiagnosed medical issues, he has developed a hypersensitive need to protect women. He described the events of the night if the assault as a “perfect storm” which triggered him to react in the manner that he did. He said he did not know Officer Bayani was a Police Officer and he thought that there was a random man attacking his girlfriend.
Both Ms. King and Mr. Styles said that they were taking full responsibly for their actions the night that they assaulted Officer Bayani.
Here’s what gets me. I’ve been a cop long enough to know when someone is telling the truth or when they are showing real emotions.
These two people are talking about all the physical and mental abuse they have suffered through their short lives. Not. One. Fucking. Tear. I still can’t talk about my dog that died seven years ago without crying.
After Ms. King and Mr. Styles made their statements Officer Bayani, his girlfriend and his oldest son made statements to the court. Officer Bayani spoke in detail about what had happened the night of the assault. He spoke of his upbringing and the lasting injuries (both physical and mental) that he has a result of this attack. He talked about how, to this day, when his own children go to give him a hug, he has to tuck his chin down to protect his neck. Officer Bayani spoke about previous incidents where he has been assaulted on the job and was very forthcoming and honest about being a survivor of PTSD.
Officer Bayani’s girlfriend spoke about the night she learned of the attack and how it has affected her. She spoke about her upbringing and spoke about being the victim of abuse as a child. She spoke about her fear of losing the man she loves the most and how Officer Bayani’s job has affected her. Ultimately, she becomes so overwhelmed, someone else had to finish her statement.
Officer Bayani’s oldest son spoke about his father and how much he admires him. He spoke about the fear of losing his father just because of what he does for a living.
Officer Bayani, his girlfriend, and his son all made a statement regarding the message that could be sent to society if a light sentence was handed down. They all alluded to the fact that Law Enforcement is under attack and that it seems the rights of criminals have superseded the rights of victims lately.
While Officer Bayani, his girlfriend, his son and the rest of us there to support him were wiping tears from our eyes, the supporters of Ms. King and Mr. Styles were shaking their heads as if all of this had been made up to vilify the defendants.
After hearing statements from both sides, Judge Volkmann was ready to begin sentencing.
Probation recommended that Ms. King spend 90 days in jail and then remain on probation for an addition 3 years. They recommended Mr. Styles serve 365 days in jail and remain on probation for an additional 3 years. Officer Bayani said in his statement to the court that he empathized with both Styles and King but he felt that they should be held accountable for their actions and asked the court to adhere to Probation’s recommendations.
Judge Volkmann’s then addressed all of us who had shown up to support all involved parties. He specifically thanked Officer Bayani for his words and said that he knows Officer Bayani is a veteran Officer whom he has a tremendous amount of respect for. Judge Volkmann then expressed his “appreciation” for our service as Police Officers and made a point to say that he used to represent Officers as an attorney before he became a Judge.
As Judge Volkmann continued to praise Law Enforcement and talk about the dangers of the job, that he did not take the statements given by both sides lightly and that the decision he was going to make was his alone. Judge Volkmann made a point to say that he “appreciated” (not sure he knows what that word means) the “editorial” comments made by Officer Bayani and his supporters but he could not “editorialize” his judgment. For a moment, I thought that we were going to see some justice handed down for this heinous attack. But then the cop in me kicked in and I got that unsettling feeling in my stomach that we were being set up for a huge letdown.
Judge Volkmann then proceeded to read the Probation Department’s recommendations for Ms. King. 90 day in jail and 3 years probation. Judge Volkmann said he did not believe 90 days was enough and doubled her sentence to 180 days. Then, just as fast as it appeared, hope was lost when he suspended her sentence and gave her time served for the 48 hours she had already spent in jail. I’m sure you can guess what happened to Mr. Styles – 365 days suspended sentence with time served for 48 hours he had already spent in jail. Both Ms. King and Mr. Styles received 3 years probation for which the terms were to no drinking alcohol, stay away from lower Pacific Ave and obey lawful orders of Police Officers.
I felt as if someone had knocked the wind out of me as I left the courtroom.
All of us there to support Officer Bayani lingered in the hallways for a few minutes, not sure what to do or where to go. Judge Volkmann had basically just lied to all of our faces by expressing his support for Law Enforcement and then slapping two violent felons on the wrist because they had a tough upbringing.
I know Judge Volkmann said he wouldn’t “editorialize” his judgment but guess what, I’m gonna editorialize the shit out if it.
Here, in my humble opinion, is what Judge Volkmann really said to Officer Bayani, his family and the rest of the Santa Cruz Police Department: you are not valued, your opinion, your physical and mental scars, your service to the community, the sacrifices you make every day, your selflessness, your bravery, your very life does not matter to me.
No one expected these two kids to go to jail forever but we were all expecting them to suffer some consequences for their actions. That is far from what happened and as a result, Officers are going to do their job differently. We will be responding to a call and in the back of our heads we will be thinking “is this really worth it?” What are the pros and cons of me getting out of my vehicle and contacting someone? These are the questions we ask ourselves every single day at work only now, the desire to get out of the car has been diminished for some. Judge Volkmann took a piece of Officer Bayani’ away from him by placing the “rights” of these two people above everything, including common sense. Officers Bayani and his family bared their souls to the court in the hopes that Judge Volkmann would issue a fair judgment and hold the two people who attacked him accountable for their actions but that’s not even close to what happened.
After Volkmann’s judgment found myself immediately wondering why I am even doing this job. I went to a dark place and I could feel the anger rising inside me. I felt myself wanting to go back inside the courtroom to tell Judge Volkmann exactly what I thought of him and the Justice system as a whole. I wanted to blame everyone who voted for prop 47 and 57. I wanted to shout to society “ this is all your fault!” I felt that feeling of alienation inside me. That feeling that makes otherwise “good” people do terrible things. I was lost at that moment, the person that I am was gone and there was nothing but anger left.
Suddenly, I heard Officer Bayani’s voice calling for all of us to gather around him so he could speak to us. I listened as, with tears in his eyes, he said: “this isn’t what we were hoping for but we are going to be better for it”. He said that we all need to go back to work and be better, safer Officers. I felt all my feelings of anger subside as what he had just said sunk in. Here is a man who had been the victim of a violent crime and who had just been victimized by the very system he works for telling us not to be victims. Telling us to get back to work and do what needs to be done.
At that moment, I suddenly remembered why I do this job. It’s not to see justice served, it’s to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
One man’s poor decision will not make me falter. Judge Volkmann, your slap in the face to our profession will not change me or cause me to ask “is it worth it?” It is always worth it if, in the end, we have done our job with integrity and honor. Two things that you could learn about from Officer Bayani.
I cannot speak for my fellow Officers but I want everyone to know this one thing. What happened in that courtroom was inexcusable. It was a farce and it disgusts me. But I am the sheepdog and I will protect my flock no matter how poorly I am treated, no matter how much the wolves want me dead, no matter how much you try and beat me down. I will hold the line and continue to uphold the oath I took nearly 20 years ago. Like Officer Bayani, I am not afraid and I will never back down.
-One Angry Cop.