S.E. Williams

This headline may seem over the top, and, in a way, it probably is, but the following scenario seems to warrant it. Who would have imagined that a retired couple living in Riverside County who installed solar panels on their home to conserve energy would one day be raided by Riverside County sheriffs for low energy consumption?

Apparently, some police and sheriff departments consider low energy consumption as a warning sign that the homeowners may be stealing energy from some other source to grow marijuana. This seems counterintuitive since most reports indicate growing marijuana results in more energy consumption, making this rationale seem like a giant leap especially if the homeowner has converted to solar panels.

But, that is exactly why Riverside County taxpayers are now on the hook for $136,000 due to a recently announced settlement between the sheriff’s department and homeowners including here in Riverside County.

According to an August 14 press release by the couple’s attorney, “We reached a $136,000 settlement in a case in which the Riverside County Sheriff performed an extensive, improper warrantless search on the home of a Lake Elsinore couple.”

“Financial returns and lower monthly utility bills are major incentives for going solar.”

www.energy.gov

In this instance the retired couple had the police attempt to search both their homes. Allegedly the officers used a battering ram to force their way into the couples first home where they apparently went through the house with a fine-tooth comb. Unsuccessful in finding any evidence at this home the officers proceeded to the couples second home in the same area where the wife refused to provide access for a search despite an officer telling her they were advised the couple was growing marijuana in their home and that their other home had already been searched.

Its should be unnerving to all Riverside County residents that under the leadership of Chad Bianco officers can ram their way into your home without a search warrant based on the weak premise that your energy bill is too low or for any other reason for that matter.

Fortunately, there was only property damage in this instance, but it is easy to see how this can be a slippery slope that could quickly turn deadly.

Surprisingly, although no knock warrants can present dangers to those being served when it comes to serving other types of warrants, officers appear to be at particular risk. A 2019 AP report showed, “From 2009 to 2019, 73 officers were killed nationwide while attempting to serve warrants,” according to the non profit Officer Down Memorial Page.

With this in mind it makes you wonder why Sheriff Bianco would sanction such action especially when there was no legal warrant at all in this case, authorizing the search.

This is just one more reason Bianco’s judgment and leadership continues to be questioned.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.