Cuff 'em: Policy, Procedure and the Police Auditor

As handcuffing by cops grows in prevalence, George Hostetter looks at the Fresno Police Auditor’s complicated role.


It all started in mid-November with a walk through downtown.


I was headed on a Tuesday from City Hall to the Cultural Arts District. The time was about 4:30 in the afternoon. The sunlight was fading fast.

My route took me west on Tuolumne Street. I made a right on M Street. This is a familiar spot to veterans of downtown. The northeast corner of Tuolumne/M is where the state of California some years ago turned a former banquet hall into yet another courthouse.

I saw a young woman up ahead standing on the M Street sidewalk, about 20 feet from Tuolumne. It looked like she was waiting for a ride.

“Hello,” she said as I approached.

“Hi,” I said. “How are you?”

I kept walking. She kept talking.

“Not so good.”

I’ve been walking the downtown’s streets for decades. I know how to escape chatty people with an obscure grievance. But now I’m unemployed. So, I stopped.

I’m not sure of her name, but I think it was Maria. I couldn’t catch her last name. She mentioned something that sounded like Venegas. She also mentioned Williams.

For now, I’ll go with Maria Venegas Williams. She said she is Hispanic. She looked to be about 20 years old. She was wearing sweatpants with a Fresno State Bulldog emblem on the hip. I was carrying a sweatshirt with a Fresno State Bulldog emblem on the chest.

Maria was angry with the police. She was under control, and spoke clearly, but I never found a coherent thread to her words. There were too many details: A court hearing that day, another hearing the next day, a motorcycle officer, another officer in a patrol car, an alleged indifference to her beefs about court staff.

Maria clearly was leaving some pertinent details out of her story.

But she kept coming back to one detail.

“They cuffed me,” she said.

Maria showed me her wrists. There were several marks where cuffs typically would go.

She wanted some satisfaction from the System, be it called the courts, the cops or the government. And I could tell from her steady stream of jumbled frustration that 1.) she didn’t know what to do next, and 2.) I probably wasn’t getting home until I gave her a logical option.

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