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Roundtable: Decisions At SDPD, Death In Assisted Living, Killer Whales At Sea World

March 14, 2014 1:08 p.m.


Mark Sauer


Liam Dillon, Voice of San Diego

Jeff McDonald, U-T San Diego

Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego

Related Story: Roundtable: Decisions At SDPD, Death In Assisted Living, Killer Whales At Sea World


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MARK SAUER: I'm Mark Sauer and KPBS Roundtable starts now. Joining me on the Roundtable today are Liam Dillon, Jeff McDonald and Lisa Halverstadt. Should cost be proactive or reactive? Those buzzwords described philosophical approaches to dealing with crime that San Diego has deployed with some success in recent years. Deciding which way to go is one of the many challenges facing Shelley Zimmerman the new policemen chief. Let's start with C.O.P. or Community Orientated Policing, what is that philosophy?

LIAM DILLON: This is a philosophy that was pioneered by the city of San Diego in the 1990s that basically focuses on the sources of crime rather than crimes and doing things like taking care of graffiti, come even jobs on buildings, also the things to try to drive connection between relationships between the community and the department.

MARK SAUER: Said is not just reacting to crime or rushing out with the sirens, it's different approach.

LIAM DILLON: Sure, it is a very much focused on crime prevention rather than response.

MARK SAUER: In your story this week you talked about these two choices, why do have to choose between them? Can we have a balance?

LIAM DILLON: Sure, that's what the department argues it is doing, but there's an approach in a philosophy that you're going to take, Jerry's Jerry Sanders was a police chief in the 90s and he focused on this community oriented policing model and that is the primary strategy for dealing with crime, and you go to chief Lansdowne you focused on a crime response model and taking data on crimes and applying patrol officer roles officers where the hotspots were, less emphasis on graffiti issues and more emphasis on throwing cups of problems.

MARK SAUER: Where does the new chief Mandan this?

LIAM DILLON:, Who have to see what direction she will go, she was actually in charge of the neighborhood community policing efforts under Lansdowne and talks about how many hundreds of meetings that officers go to every month and she is always out in the community but at the same time, she served under a chief who prioritize something different.

MARK SAUER: She has kind of gone back and forth in this philosophy, seeing which way the winds are blowing,?

LIAM DILLON: Couple of years ago we ran an article saying that the department had moved away from the community-oriented approach and she struck back pretty hard thing that was ridiculous but about a year after that the department admitted that they moved away from that approach and it's based on that, it's pretty unclear the direction that she might go.

MARK SAUER: Let's just a little bit now, it can be argued that officer around los represents the worst of the department, tell us what he was convicted of court supervisors knew about the conduct at the time.

LIAM DILLON: He's can convicted of soliciting sexual bribes from women and the concerning thing aside from this being a rogue cop, is how much supervisors and those in charge of dealing with them new about his conduct beforehand, there are at least four instances where the person was aware of sexual misconduct issues or allegations involving him in the pound penalties were not there for that, in 2010 the year before he was arrested she was accused of sexually assaulting a woman on the way to a jail, a DOA arrestee and the surgeon charge of the sex crimes investigation believes that he is guilty and believes the evidence is there for there, he was never charged in the department cleared him in their own internal investigation he was sent back to patrol alone and that should raise a lot of red flags.

MARK SAUER: Does it raise red flags? With the new chief, what is going on the culture to take changes in the situation?

LISA HALVERSTADT: I find really interesting that Liam uncovered how the department itself put up roadblocks as these investigations were going on and that is really concerning and speaks to some issues that one could obviously make the argument that these things happened a while back, the chief shooter Zimmerman will need to address these issues head-on and she has announced that she plans to reopen or re-create the new professional standard, an office that it close that during some of the budget cuts.

MARK SAUER: You and I have been around A long time isReporters here and we've seen oversight panels of police never quite working out, now chief Lansdowne before he stepped down saying that we're going to get an outside audit, is this the way to go?

JEFF MCDONALD: You can do something quickly clearly, I think that confidence in the police permit is pretty low, the issue is larger than officer arrival us, that issues of favoritism that run deep through the department where one class of officers and higher up our favorite and their behaviors condoned and swept under the rug and others are fired for fixing tickets.

MARK SAUER: We have both of those things going on that have to be addressed. We did a KPBS we did address the new chief and asked her what she thought about the independent monitor here's what she had to say:

SHELLEY ZIMMERMAN: We don't need An independent monitor,We are completely in support of an audit review of our policies and procedures and again we have a very dedicated officers and civilian staff that serve with honor distinction and dedication we are talking about a very few officers that have discredited this profession and we will not tolerate it.

MARK SAUER: Do you think that is going to be accepted by critics and the public ear?

LIAM DILLON: They may not have a choice in the monitor, they're arguing in court that the federal judge needs to institute or mandate in independent monitor to come into them look at the department, I do want to mention that this is Baer than a revolution that is something that Jeff mentioned, you did some reporting on the gang detective couple of years ago and you can probably nitpick the details more than me, this is another instant that not only concerns a rogue officer but the system itself to facilitate rogue officers.

JEFF MCDONALD: It speak to any organization has a level of misconduct and if they are covering it up in the case of this detective, he crashed a book patrol car early in the morning and driven into a roadside utility box and it was some hours before the investigation began so that raises a bunch of questions, but why that investigation took so long to initiate and what happens when the city attorney office found a mobile cause and for the decays to the district district attorney and that office to find a process to prosecute and one of the police captains sans assaulted a few women and she was driven out he was driven home to his mom rather than taking to jail, as her clear-cut examples of favoritism among officers and of others are thrown of us so to speak if they fall out of order.

MARK SAUER: What effect does that have on morale in the department itself when they see this different level of treatment in this instance is?

LIAM DILLON: There are a lot of issues in terms of morale in the department beyond just favoritism and there concerning issues to work there is difficulty recruiting and retaining officers which is likely true, the issue where they are up for about half of the department is up for retirement next four years and are a lot of changes that will have to made within the department and an issue to for chief Lansdowne this is privately something here revealed, he believed officers were losing loyalty to the city and believed that the city had abandoned him through some of the budget cuts and this is not something that he would ever say publicly, and it's sort of difficult to make changes publicly.

MARK SAUER: We also had the new chief talking about her priorities here, to which he had to say.

SHELLEY ZIMMERMAN: We had the recruitment issue and the retention issue and have our department is going to retire within the next four years, critically important that we bring up the leadership of our officers into leadership positions, so we will be able to be positioned well for the next chief to take over and not have these challenges that I'm facing right now.

MARK SAUER: In four years, she has got that and then she turned out with the pension program, can she get his gun get this done?

LIAM DILLON: She have to, it's her job and is interesting to the idea by now that people are calling for change in the department and the person shows in to lead the changes someone who's been with the department for thirty years and I spoke with earlier today and she said wait and see some of the changes that I'm going to make, I cannot make some of those changes before because I was not the police chief and now I am, we'll have to wait and see I think the big test will be what happens when someone does something wrong and how did she respond to that and she not only officer accountable but maybe the supervisors accountable and other folks who might've known about this issue and none about some of the problems and did not respond.

MARK SAUER: Plenty for us and the press is to keep abreast of as we move forward here, we will move forward now, deadly neglect, that is what is happening in some assisted living homes were shocking deaths have been reported in this series of you to watchdog stories and among the store the findings nearly 20 deaths that is occurred in these of facilities in the recent years, it inspectors cracking down efforts to crack down on this have been willful. Tell us about the series that you did with the California healthcare foundation?

JEFF MCDONALD: The epicenter for help from forward and Los Angeles and speaking of this with this for proposal, to care for traffic report and they were bothered by the situation that this one reporter had uncovered, and they dirty ten lot of reporting on it and I got asked to join the team in late spring, and they had Artie done a lot of leg work at that point but the findings are just stunning and terrible.

MARK SAUER: Meant tell us some of the height points.

JEFF MCDONALD: There's a lot to go around, we looked at San Diego County always there about 700 home 700 homes and deserve board and care and senior homes that do not have medical care component so when you go in there you only need medical care, they can help you take your own medication medication but they can't dispense medication or give any medical care and they give you food and help you bathe and basic independent living.

MARK SAUER: You mentioned 700 homes, how many folks are living here?

JEFF MCDONALD: 8 to 10,000, not in its not an insignificant amount of people. These are a vulnerable population and a lot of them are dementia patients or other mental health issues and certainly physical ailments, these are very vulnerable people, and we found blame almost everywhere that we looked, I should say that the majority of homes do a good job or passable job, some are excellent or average, a small percentage of them are stripping for the money, I wouldn't want to save profiteering debate charge $3-$5000 a month and there's a big incentive incentive to put them in a single-family home, a majority of the Mars six bed facilities inside homes, the oversight is very lax. It's department of social circuit services which is a state agency which is not part of the public health system, they also license day care centers and group homes, and have about 80,000 licensees and only about 10% of them are as in assisted living homes, their analysts and inspectors and they have to be experts on childcare issues and senior issues and adolescent issues, cradle-to-grave, every home that the inspector is a different set of priorities and regulations that they're supposed to it hereto and their it is problematic because you don't need it college degree to do this any don't need to make more than the top salary about fifty-five 55,000 a year, a lot of turnout low turnover in these jobs in the one of the things we found with bribery cases where inspectors had been fired for taking money from these home operators and they've never been prosecuted criminally and that is problematic and lacks care inside of the home by the operators because their profit minded rather than service minded, that was a big problem and sexual abuse, financial abuse, administratively through the Department of Social Services the licensing people, and they are required to inspect once every five years. That is very problematic because some of these homes -

MARK SAUER: In some states it is more frequent?

JEFF MCDONALD: Yes, once a year but I think it will change. Even when they get complaints that ten days to respond. A lot of times it will be ten days and there's not evidence and there is a he said she said things of the findings are inconclusive or unsubstantiated the majority of the time.

MARK SAUER: In youth and even in the cases of fatalities they did not invest in there were no consequences?

JEFF MCDONALD: Is a regulatory issue, there not prosecutors and this is ironic to because they have an in-house police department with sworn officers that carry vast badges and can carry guns if they want to but there on uniform and they don't make arrests, the most recent arrest they made was in 2004 nose up in Sacramento not in San Diego County, this department wide so the regulators aren't referring to partial possible crimes to the prosecutor, the police agencies if you have a crime in some of these homes, a lot of police agencies will say that is a state issue and they will refer to the Department of social services, that is a regulatory issue in there looking at this administratively and if there is a relation they will cite them if they don't comply or impose the new corrections, when and if they are find It's $150 fine. I think that is going to change to.

MARK SAUER: If you had a serious totality injury in the nursing home.

JEFF MCDONALD: And the publicize their fines and the making example of bad actors to make an example across the industry not to make the subject of the next public health conference.

MARK SAUER: And there going to launch an overhaul, tell us about that. Before

JEFF MCDONALD: The County does not have direct jurisdiction of these homes but there is a lot they can do to improve the situation in the supervisors to their credit than Jacob and Greg Cox specifically brought afford some brought forth some proposals after very little debate so there's a strong consensus, they were going to double the amount of long term care that is a County function of the state service from forty positions, the irony there is that the same supervisors That five years ago in half and made budget cuts initiated by the state, there is that. The district attorney's office don't get referrals very often from crimes from social services, said the elder abuse unit within the attorney's office is going to establish a specialized unit of about eight people that is going to focus on only on cases that occur inside of these facilities that is a big deal because most of these units do now is like a domestic violence case against the senior citizen and stuff that is outside of the assistant living. That's what they do now, year-long pilot that is only funded to the next fiscal year, they help to get more money to sustain the spirit

MARK SAUER: And look more at these care issues.

JEFF MCDONALD: Worlds working on a business bureau to establish a rating systems that we they can look at this home and see if it's a good fit for the loved one, do they have a good track record and bring up you want to get state licensing you have to make an appointment, and then you have to go for fill the appointment in person and look at the file and the redact a lot of key information from the public file.

MARK SAUER: And in this day that is kind of crazy, Better Business Bureau kind of approach. That is great reporting and I'm sure you'll be doing many more stories is to go through this. All right, SeaWorld is a staple of San Diego tourism industry and has been for decades and is been under fire, a documentary films highly critical of how the aquatic park in Mission Bay treats its main attraction to killer whales, no lawmakers in Sacramento are joining in with the bills to cripple the world's business, tell us about the documentary that were referring to.

LISA HALVERSTADT: The documentary is called Blackfish and is greeted by a California filmmaker and is basically an argument that killer whales do not belong in activity in captivity and it aims to improve that a number of ways and talks about one well who had been involved in three deaths one and SeaWorld and that was in 2010 and a trainer who was considered very well trained and experienced, and she was killed by one in 2010 and they also talk about the issues of confinement and these animals potentially getting hostile, and unhappy in that situation.

MARK SAUER: Okay will check in on the trailer here to get a little flavor of this film.


MARK SAUER: Okay, you listen to the claims made by Blackfish in this documentary and you did not seem convinced of what they say about the captivity brick breeding program and the aggression in these animals?

LISA HALVERSTADT: I did not go ahead and fact check these, but I did was aimed to bring more context, for example there is a claim that the movie makes about the lifespans of killer whales in captivity, versus those of Wilson the wild, and it was said that these whales live similar to human lifespans in the wild and that it's just not happening in captivity, if it selects the world. I found based on the article out of the Orlando where they do have another SeaWorld facility is that some of the top researchers have said that there really isn't enough research out there to make a hard stance on how long will slip in the wild versus in captivity, and that the better way to look at this is basically their survival rates, and still when you look at survival rates, it's about the lifespan of the will than captivity is about 2.5%, shorter than a whale that is in the wild, and not see rule another group say that number is getting better, and that is what that article and found.

MARK SAUER: And put a number of the killer whales and act captivity are related, what is the breakdown and SeaWorld? How many captured in the wild and born in captivity?

LISA HALVERSTADT: Years ago SeaWorld and other theme parks like it had relied and captures to get the whales and essentially these whales were captured in the ocean and brought the carpark sexy world but SeaWorld has distanced itself from that practice known most of the whales that it has more in in captivity and so they have breeding programs to produce these animals.

MARK SAUER: We've got some lawmakers in Sacramento weighing in, tell us some news this week about that, what is this bill that could really impact SeaWorld works if it went through?

LISA HALVERSTADT: Richard Blum represents cents Santa Monica introduced a bill that would eliminate captive breeding programs and what results in all of the Wilson we see a SeaWorld, it would limit or prevent SeaWorld from obtaining any of these whales from other facilities and also banned the sketch and move shows that zero is known for in the long-term impact of this bill potentially would be that SeaWorld would have to maybe phaseout the whales that it holds because they would have to prove that they are holding these whales not just for an entertainment purpose and if we think about why we people go to SeaWorld to see the shows with because people like to be entertained by the Welsh of us and is a big deal in the economy. I did some reporting on that, the city of San Diego owns the land that several this on and so SeaWorld has to rent that land, and last year they spayed spent about $14 million for the police, and SeaWorld also pays and brings in a lot of tax dollars for San Diego, I was exchanging emails with the city official today who is in the estimating that SeaWorld may infect be the biggest revenue generators for San Diego because of the sales tax dollars that it brings in an property tax dollars and obviously the lease revenue.

MARK SAUER: And if you took away the Shamu show I think can all see that would be a tremendous hole in the attraction for the part, there was a story this morning in the UT paper and you are all my call as well but the attendants who were hurt in the Blackfish document work

LISA HALVERSTADT: Yesterday some executives talked about their 2013 financial results, and they had said that revenue was actually up about 3% for all of its parts, and then keep in mind zero owns eleven theme parks total, zero parks just make up three of those, and attendance was actually up in the fourth quarter at zero parks specifically which is interesting because this movie Blackfish really picked up steam from July on, and what is also interesting I had gotten a lot of information from the city is looking at the lease and one of those pieces of information that I got was the monthly rent payments that zero pays and those were based on revenues from SeaWorld, another a number of different revenues and what I could see was that she will San Diego based on those payments seem to be experiencing a similar results, in terms of revenue as SeaWorld nationally.

MARK SAUER: And as anyone on the panel and to SeaWorld?

JEFF MCDONALD: I don't go, I went about four years ago when some extended family was in town but they dragged me there, I don't go to a lot of theme parks.

MARK SAUER: One other note here about PETA suing this week about the ad in the airport this year, the one saying don't go to SeaWorld.

LISA HALVERSTADT: Peter and the ACLU had joined together to sue the San Diego airport because the vendor refused to put up an ad.

MARK SAUER: Okay we will see what happens as this goes along, that wraps of another week of stories at the KPBS roundtable I would like to thank my guests, being delivered Liam Dillon, Jeff McDonald and Lisa Halverstadt. A reminder, all of the stories we discussed today are available on our website, I am Mark Sauer and thank you for joining us today at the Roundtable.