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It's the wild, wild, west in the county of Merced

“This wouldn’t be our fight, this shouldn’t be our fight,” said Sister Kate of the battle for control of the police department in the small town of Livingston, “except for the fact that the Sheriff’s department decided to make it about cannabis.  Since they made it about cannabis, it is now our fight.”

In a little town in Merced County, in the Central Valley of California, on Tuesday night this week, the Sisters (of the Valley, a cannabis business operated by an order that believes in plant-based medicine) and the local activists succeeded in blocking the sheriff from occupying the town law-enforcement leadership.

Several months ago, a vacancy opened for police chief in the town of Livingston, near the farm of the Sisters of the Valley.  The town has twice the number of cops per resident as the City of Merced.  The Sheriff and his department govern the county, and even though Livingston is outside his jurisdiction, the Sheriff stepped in and declared he would ‘save Livingston’ by assigning the infamous Chuck Hale to the job.  And then, he wouldn't leave when they asked him to.

A few months into Chuck Hale being interim police chief, the people began to wake to the realization that they had been assigned a police chief likely to have been rejected everywhere else because of his well-documented history of dishonesty.  Look up the Ethan Morse trial, the Merced County case that settled in 2018 with Chuck Hale costing the taxpayers a half million dollars in a settlement for his sins.

At the same time, the Sheriff’s office became very aggressive in pushing the city council to make Hale's position permanent.   The city council decided they were better off without a police chief than having a corrupt police chief and declined to renew or extend Hale’s presence on their payroll. 

It is not unusual for law enforcement to swap staff between agencies, but what is highly unusual is that when Sheriff Warnke realized that his crooked cop was being rejected, he and his department doubled down to reject their rejection.  The Sheriff's department then engaged in some very foul acts, according to the Sisters, who are watching this closely.  

The Sheriff’s department used the city council of Livingston to thwart due process - for just a recent moment in time -- to get Hale confirmed as police chief, but it was deemed an illegal motion and thrown out.  That’s a matter of public record.

The Sheriff’s department sent a threatening letter on the matter to the city council, which is public record.

The Sheriff’s department hired away local policemen from Livingston to make the appearance of a declining force and the appearance of a need for rescue by the Sheriff's department.  In Tuesday night's council meeting, the under-Sheriff admits to it and says “We are moving toward regional policing anyway.” According to the Sisters, it is clear that the Sheriff's department is creating a problem, and then blaming the city council for the very problem they (the Sheriff's) created.

The Sheriff’s department maligned and bullied the two city council members who questioned Hale's necessity, accusing them of blocking the position because of their belief in deregulating cannabis. 

The Sheriff’s department and the city manager want the public to believe that the position was blocked not because the cop assigned is a dirty cop, not because Livingston is outside the governance of the Sheriff’s department, but because two of the city council members once, a long time ago, argued for cannabis commerce in their town.

“Cannabis has nothing to do with the crooked cop they are trying to hoist on Livingston,” said Sister Sophia. “It was shocking to see them accusing two councilmembers of pursuing special interests because they believe in plant freedom, especially when we know this is Vern Warnke pursuing his own special interests.  At Tuesday night’s meeting, it became very clear that the Sheriff’s department platform is that if you believe in plant freedom, you can’t make good decisions about law enforcement.  This is what they call ‘gaslighting’.  The Sheriff has engaged his whole department in a gaslighting campaign to gain control over law enforcement of Livingston.” 

In addition, it is clear from the YouTube video of the Aug. 2 City of Livingston Council Meeting, that the Sheriff’s department went on the offensive and repeatedly shamed the city council members for ‘no plan B’.  Meaning, no choice here but to use the Sheriff’s department.  But not once did the Sheriff’s department offer up an alternative to Hale, the crooked cop.  The Sheriffs themselves had no plan B, but they wailed about the council having no plan B.

The Sheriff’s department sponsored a false fear operation and the city manager (Vanessa) appears to be their puppet.  On behalf of the Sheriff’s department, she declared the fear campaign and she called in the Sheriff’s department.  Vanessa and the under-Sheriff urged the city of Livingston to declare a state of emergency because the Police Chief position would be vacant and the citizens would be unsafe.

Said Sister Kate, “We have known since this started that the city of Livingston has no need for help from the Sheriff’s department, and that there are two people responsible for this false-fear operation, Vanessa, the City Manager -- listen to her speak if you can handle it, she’s awful -- and the under-Sheriff -- listen to him, at least he can speak, but he's a bully."  

“One might conclude that the Sheriff’s department is using the city manager to pursue Vern Warnke’s special anti-cannabis interests. One might conclude that Sheriff Warnke and his posse keep talking about how bad cannabis is because they want to protect their commercial interests in selling alcohol and tobacco products exclusively in that town.  That’s why we have to come out to the public with this.” said Sister Kate.  “Making it about cannabis was their way of inviting us into the fight.  Making it about cannabis invited us to discover that indeed, a Sheriff’s guy owns the gas station with liquor and tobacco licenses as part of a small monopoly in Livingston.”

At the meeting Tuesday night, the grown-ups prevailed.  The dirty cop was rejected and there was no state of emergency declared in a city that is overstaffed with cops. 

“There are 34 full time cops on the Livingston force and there are a number of good candidates that can fill that position, so I don’t know what kind of game the city manager is playing with the Sheriff’s department, but the public and the Sisters called bullshit and stopped them, for now,” said Sister Kate.

The Sisters are encouraging the public to email the Sheriff's department at and tell Sheriff Warnke to stop promoting and hiding crooked cops, stop interfering in local decision-making, stop using extensive police force to bully minority councilmembers, and for goodness sake, stop feeding your own personal anti-cannabis agenda, while finger-pointing and applying your sins to others.

The Sisters are clearly flabbergasted that this is happening in their own backyard and felt compelled to share the truth.

—                  Sisters of the Valley