Sebastopol Police Department lays it on the line in “Sebastopol, We Need to Talk”

By Laura Hagar Rush, Townsy Media, October 26, 2021

sebastopol we need to talk

Illustration that accompanied the Sebastopol Police Department's Facebook plea about when and — when not to — call the police during a storm.

Like most emergency services, the Sebastopol Police Department had a busy weekend because of the storm. Their phone (including 911) was ringing off the hook — and not always for matters that were police business.

On Monday, the department’s social media team, which Police Chief Kevin Kilgore said is made up of a “couple of officers and professional staff” printed a plea to Sebastopol residents, detailing what they should — and, more to the point, should not — call the police about. It’s hilarious.

Here is their Facebook post reprinted in full:

“Ok, folks. We need to have a family talk. Yesterday was a crazy day. High winds, power outages, this weird wet stuff falling from the sky. We get it, everyone wants to know what is happening. And while we love opportunities to interact with our community, including over the phone, there are just some things we don’t need to talk about. With anyone. For instance (tough love time):

No, we don’t know why the power is off, how it got turned off, or when it is getting turned back on. We’re just as much in the dark (see what I did there) as you are.

We do not have the number to a plumber or gutter company. Even if we did, we aren’t allowed to play favorites and recommend one anyway. Hint: Google.

We have no idea if the freeway in the North Bay, East Bay, any Bay area or anywhere else, is open or not, as there are no freeways in Sebastopol.

We cannot do anything about a tree that fell harmlessly on an empty lot. That is private property. Do you want us coming onto your private property and touching your trees? I didn’t think so. If the tree fell on your neighbor or damaged property, feel free to call us.

We’re sorry the horses, cows, sheep, and other livestock look like they are having a miserable time standing in the rain. But they live outside, and they’re going to be ok.

We don’t know if it’s going to flood, when it’s going to flood, or where it’s going to flood. If it floods, you will know because it will be flooded. Also, it will probably be the Laguna.

The 911 emergency line is for emergencies. Directions around a closed road is not an emergency.

Alright, all joking aside, we understand that days like yesterday can be scary and not knowing what is going to happen is an unsettling feeling. The problem is, our dispatch center is not an informational hotline. It is an emergency dispatch center that, especially on days like yesterday, fields hundreds of calls of tree limbs onto powerlines or blocking roads, vehicle crashes, crimes in progress, and serious medical aid calls. And, by “dispatch center” we mean one or two people. That’s it. We would love to help everyone get the information they are looking for all the time, but that is not our purpose and we don’t have the resources to do it. For every call we take that is not a police matter, it means someone calling with an actual emergency is getting delayed. We are a 911 call center. Not 411, or 211, or 611, or any other #11. In all honesty, most of that stuff we don’t know anyway. Contrary to what we all see on TV and the movies, we do not have access to the status of every situation anywhere in the state, or even the county, at our fingertips. We would have to call and ask someone too, when we should be answering our next 911 call.

If you are reporting a crime in progress, a medical emergency, or some other IMMEDIATE threat to life or property, ABSOLUTELY call 911. If it’s not something happening RIGHT NOW, but is a law enforcement matter, call the non-emergency line (707-829-4400). If you are looking for general information about something that isn’t a law enforcement matter, consider there may be someone better equipped and qualified to provide that answer.

We do try to provide as much timely information as we can during major events through Nixle and our social media accounts. Again, it comes down to resources. The ones who post to those services are also the ones who are answering the 911 calls about trees on powerlines or standing in a downpour sorting out a vehicle accident.

We truly do love talking with our community and some days we have more time to do that, but the job of protecting and serving that community is no small task. It is a mission we take extremely seriously (the jokes, notwithstanding), and we will always do our best to remain focused on that mission.

For future reference, here are a few resources you can use to find answers to those burning questions. When all else fails, just Google it.

  • Sonoma County Road Closures: https://roadclosures-sonomacounty.hub.arcgis.com/
  • CHP Traffic Info (choose Golden Gate from Communication Center list): https://www.chp.ca.gov/traffic
  • CalTrans Road Conditions: https://roads.dot.ca.gov/roadscell.php
  • PG&E Outage Map: https://pgealerts.alerts.pge.com/outages/map/
  • Weather alerts: https://www.weather.gov/alerts