A Police Shooting: The Death Of Alfred Olango
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September 27, 2017 1:33 p.m.
A Police Shooting: The Death Of Alfred Olango
Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News
Bryan Pendleton former regional president, National Black Police Association
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego
Rolland Slade, pastor, Meridian Southern Baptist Church
Related Story: A Police Shooting: The Death Of Alfred Olango
This is KPBS Midday Edition . Today's show is being broadcast from outside of El Cajon City Hall as we explore the tragedy that left one man dead and smart days of protests around San Diego and raised many still unanswered questions. Today the family of Alfred olongo who came to this country as a Ugandan refugee will renew their calls for justice. Psychiatric emergency response teams were not on the scene years ago and we will hear how police mental health experts are struggling to deal with an overwhelming need and we will tackle the issue of police bias with the state legislator and former San Diego police Detective. Today's special midday addition, the police shooting the death of Alfred Longo. First this news.
Live from NPR news in Washington. For millions of US citizens in Puerto Rico the post hurricane disaster they face is unprecedented. It has now been one week since Maria left the island in ruins in federal aid continues to arrive in San Juan but vast embers of people cannot access the help because they are trapped by fallen power lines, trees and other debris while long lines snake around stores and gas stations and the wait for fuel, clean water or food can take all day. The governor of Puerto Rico is urging Washington to temporarily waive the Jones act the law all goods shipped between US ports being carried by American owned and operated vessels and the president says it is under consideration.
Thinking about that but we have a lot of shipment and a lot of people who work with the shipping industry who do not want the Jones act lifted and have a lot of ship right now.
The president addressed people as he prepared to leave Indiana at the Indiana State Fairgrounds this afternoon about his agenda including changes to the tax code. Trump and congressional Republicans have a plan they say will simple by the tax system and calls for deep tax cuts for corporations and individuals while House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged it was a rare opportunity for the Republican-led government.
This is a now or never moment and the choice before us is clear, we can succumb to the talking heads on TV and the special interests who want to maintain the status quo, or we can work together to seize this moment and do with the American people's that is here to do.
The plan reduces the top individual income tax rate from 39.6% to 35% in the corporate rate would drop from 35% to roughly 20%. Republicans say it is a boost to the economy and Democrats worn a plan would provide a windfall for the wealthy.
The house oversight committee is asking the Trump administration for administration on how cabinet members of used private and government planes. NPR reports the request comes amid increasing scrutiny over Health and Human Services secretary Tom price is flights on private jets.
Reporter: On recently political is report on prices regular use of private jets paid for with tax dollars and the trips have been for official business but politico reported also said that he regularly paired the trips with visits to family and friends and on the house oversight committee once a list of every private flight by political appointees in the Trump administration. They're asking for passenger lists, trip purposes and source of payment among other things in the committee also to know about every time a political appointee is used in official government plane and this comes as the Treasury Department's inspector general is examining secretary Steve Minasian's request for government plans for his European honeymoon among other trips. He said he did not ultimately use a never met plane for the honeymoon.
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Live in the KPBS newsroom I am Deb Welch. The White House reportedly wants a lower the number of refugees coming to the US from 50,000 to 45,000 and it would be the second straight year of productions. Officials are discussing this with Congress but KPBS city has reporter says it may not include all five members of the San Diego congressional delegation.
Only Republican representative Darrell Ison sits on the committee that says federal law will be consulted in his office did not respond to request for comment and Duncan Hunter's office that he supported efforts to increase the vetting process and he will follow the issue closely. Democratic commerce and Scott peters and Juan Vargas criticize the figure and Susan Davis did not respond to a request for comment.
San Diego gas and electric is again pressing California regulators to allow it to bill customers for costs related to the 2007 wildfires. They are also slamming last month decision by two judges urging regulators to refuse the utilities latest request to charge customers for this costs.
Estate inquiry found through improper design and maintenance of equipment it was the power lines that ignited the fires.
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He was going into crisis and was having a complete mental breakdown.
It is how Lussier Longo described her brother Alfred after a clustering killed himself last year Alfred distraught an unarmed was shot and killed by the police a few days later sparking protest throughout the city. On September 27 On September 27, 2016 Lussier Longo called police and her brother was not acting like himself and asked for psychological assistance. Licensed mental health clinicians who worked with police were not available to respond but police officers found him about one hour later and a taco shop working lot. Officer. Richard console this shot him four times after a Longo pulled up object out of his pants project and gestured towards officers but it was an electronic cigarette lease initially did not release a video showing only a still image of him and what they call the shooting stance but the next day El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells described what he saw on the tape.
I saw a man that was distraught, a man who was acting in ways that look like he was in great pain. I saw him get guns down and killed and it broke my heart.
Serve and protect.
The protest began Tuesday, the day that he was skilled and continue throughout the week. At first they were largely peaceful but by first say - Thursday there were interruptions of violence and police use pepper spray balls to break up protesters blocking intersections. Some protesters threw bottles of police. The unrest counted law enforcement to release the video the next day. The district Atty. Bonnie demands officially cleared officer Gonzales in January ruling that the shooting was justified.
We have determined the officers use of deadly force was reasonable under the circumstances and he bears no criminal liability for his actions.
This is a special broad best of KPBS midday and I am Maureen Cavanaugh, we're coming to you live outside of City Hall in downtown of home and it is one of the places us on vigils and protect in the days after the shooting and as we sit here today is more rallies being held by family members and supporters of the family. It is to remind us that the legal battle against the city is not over for them and they say their demand for just as not been satisfied during our broadcast we will hear from some of those family members as well as lawmakers, faith leaders, and average citizens remembering the shooting and what came after. El Cajon Mayor Bill Wales, lease chief Jeff Davis and city police officers Association were invited to join the conversation today and they all declined. Now is KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen who reported on the shooting of Alfred a Longo last year.
This rally going home - on behind us, who is there and what is the message?
Family members of Alfred here and attorneys representing them and a lot of community activist who have been involved with this sort of Alfred the past year and they're calling for two things. One is for the city of El Cajon to establish a civilian or citizens review board on police practices that would oversee or do external reviews of police shootings and other complaints against police officers and this is something the city categorically rejected a few weeks before the one who pulled the trigger and he is still working as a police officer today.
What is the status of the legal cases? We're hearing the group chat no justice, no peace. There are multiple lawsuits pending.
There is one while wrongful death lawsuit filed in January last year, or of this year by Alfred's father Richard and a separate lawsuit was filed one month later by Alfred's widow and some of the children and they are trying to consolidate the two lawsuits and a hearing on that consolidation will take place next month. They are still separate for now and there is a jury trial scheduled for the widows lawsuit set for January 29, 2019 so the losses do take quite a while and it is worth noting now that in January this year the district attorney ruled there was no crime that took place and that the police officer was justified.
Let me take you back to last year Andrew and I believe you are one at one of the first protests of the night of the shooting of Alfred Olango and what was that like ?
I got there in the evening and several dozen people were still there and some of the more organized protest had happened earlier in the day, closer to the shooting. A lot of people were standing around and talking is still processing what was going on. There was very much a feeling of this national narrative of black lives matter and police shootings of unarmed black men have come to the San Diego area. Not long after I got to the place where the shooting happened the police called the press conference so we rushed over there, my cameraman and I, and at that time the police described what they knew about the shooting and they said the sister who would called 911 asking for the police to help with the situation at still not spoken with the police and they had still not gotten a statement from her or their version of events is they were asking her to come forward. The main topic was the cell phone video.
There was a cell phone video that captured the actual shooting and the police said at that time they did not have the authority to release that it was in the jurisdiction of the District Attorney's Office.
Did the protest grow in size as the days progressed?
They did and continued for several weeks after with a makeshift Memorial set up but the police removed it a few weeks after the shooting and that Sparta protest. I spoke a few minutes ago with will Niesha Sutton who is responsible for a lot of the organizing and this is what she said about the change in the protest over the past year.
I feel the numbers had died down of course because it is not a popular thing and a lot of people came for likes and social media but I feel the heart of the people that are here for the right purpose, they are still here and they are still organizing, they have started the Alfred Olango Foundation and other organizations that have started because of his death .
What kinds of thoughts come well let me SU quickly, have come back to you since you were here at the scene of some of the vigils and protest last year?
The thought that comes to mind is that the controversy or struggle for more civilian oversight of the police is still very much continuing. Including a San Diego, the city of San Diego, the city right now searching for a new police chief. I know the shooting of Alfred Olango is very much in the minds of a lot of community stakeholders and I'm sure it is in the minds of city policymakers as well and activist. So I think there is a lot of concern about how can civilian bodies oversee the police and also this story was not just about race but also mental health. That is in my mind now as we think about ways the interactions police have with the mentally ill.
I have been speaking with KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen live in El Cajon.
One of the saddest ironies in the tragedy of the Alfred Olango shooting is the Alfred sister Lucy was the first to contact police about his behavior, Lucy called El Cajon police to say her brother was having a mental crisis and acting erratically. Lucy has since filed suit against the police department alleging negligence. KPBS investigative reporter spoke to Lucy this mother and her lawyer's office where she described what life has been like for her in the year since her brother's death.
Reporter: I have been through valleys, mountains, knowing that it is a situation he will not be coming and be cheerful and joyful and saying okay sister I am here, what is going on, ice - I love you and he was a family man going through a tough time.
How is his life going before the shooting?
Is best friend shot and killed himself and it affected them so much. I could see in him the different state that he was in.
Take me back to the day, September 27, 2016 when your brother was shot and killed by an El Cajon police officer. He had shown up at your place hours earlier and how is he behaving?
He was telling me that he was so scared and I was like why are you scared? Anything I think people are following you and he said or I said which people are following you, look there's nobody here?
What did you think was happening? He was having a breakdown going into crisis.
You call the police at that time.
I did call the police and I said my other is not doing so well on a weighted and nobody came and I was like what is going on? I got dressed in my scrubs because I had to go to work and as I was getting dressed he walked out of the house and I did not know where he had gone.
You leave the apartment you drive to work and what did you see?
I see him crossing the street and he looked as if someone was following him and I called him and I said Alfred, stop do not walk like that and I am following him, begging and pleading come on let's go home.
You called El Cajon police again and they arrived and you told an officer that your brother was unarmed. What were you expecting officers to do?
They should've sent someone who is trained in dealing with diffusing crisis and ask Alfred that I understand you're going through a tough time and is there something I can do to help you?
But what happened?
He had and a cigarette lighter in his pocket and he gets out with a gun and pointing at him and said put your hands up, why would you point a gun at someone with a mental breakdown who cannot process put your hands up question mark was an African-American lady already at the site when I came in they were like do you know this man and I was like this is my brother and I called them to help and they said please tell your brother to raise his hands because they will kill him.
What you remember? I was pleading with Alfred to please raise your hands, but they should not have pointed at him with a gun and I said that he was unarmed and that he needed help
Former district attorney concluded the police shooting was justified. In fact she said the way your brother took an object out of his pocket and raised his hands was intentionally done so that the officer would feel like he was about to be shot. How does that conclusion compared to what you saw?
If he wanted to die he could've killed himself, he was crying for help.
The district attorney also said that Alfred had cocaine and alcohol in his system of the time of the shooting. Do you think that influences behavior?
He probably could have but he was going through things, he just lost his best friend like a day or two before.
As you know there has been great debate and tension in this country over police shootings of African-Americans. Do you consider your brother shooting to be a part of that discussion?
Yes. What a fab and a white man standing there question with a have reacted differently?
How do you view police?
I do not have any hate and I respect their occupation. I see each day is a blessing and my family is my strength.
Lucy Olango thank you for speaking with me today .
KPBS set up a listening post in El Cajon last week, a chance for community members to reflect one year after the death of Alfred Olango and we will hear from participants throughout the show . We start with Reverend. Shane Harris, president of the national action network San Diego chapter and a Zika what Franklin who grew up with Alfred Olango.
Reporter: Every protest has been important and very effective and this whole fight. I think we had the issue first happen people were outraged and emotional and people were coming out and speaking up. That still is very much there but I think now you see a lot more grassroots, effective and strategic engagement were people are saying things like El Cajon city does not have a review board for police practices. That is a problem and that has got to be organized it is not something that you can protest on, to organize with the city Council and the mayor. You see now a lot more a channeled anger and channeled frustration into organized and strategic engagement.
I am a revolutionary and we grew up in a San Diego together since we were teenagers. I have known this family a longtime and if you need anything here he would've given you the shirt off his back. They tried to say that he was a refugee like that like he just got off the boat but he has been out here with us since I was younger. I feel the protest was soft. I felt it should've been looking like LA and Oakland and we should burnt El Cajon down to give a message in any police brutality towards us that we would give it back just like the legendary Malka Max taught us how to do I felt it was watered down by the wrong people who did not know the brother who was there and just getting involved in getting paid and they had water down to where they want a peaceful protest, hands up don't shoot that the police came with their weapons and they came with their canines and they came with their batons and guns and so they did not want to peaceful protest and what they really wanted was for.
The rally of the family members of Alfred Olango continues outside of the El Cajon City Hall. As we continue our special broadcast, the Alfred Olango Foundation advocates for training and policies to help de-escalate police encounters and the foundation was formed following the shooting death of him a year ago evening addition anchor Ebony Monet spoke to the brother of Alfred Olango , Apollo about his work.
He should still be alive and should not be dead and things could've happened differently.
It is that belief that guides Apollo.
A lot of questions I was asking such as why is my brother dead? Did he have to be questioned all of those questions seem to push towards taking some sort of action. Spirit leading to the development of the foundation and his brothers on.
There is a need for an entity within the civil rights movement that provides information and direction.
What questions did you have and what answers were a receiving the Republic or the public has not heard?
Why was it justified and what was the legal aspect that allows it to be justified?
Apollo Olango says growing up that his brother, six years his senior, led the way.
He is always been a guide in life, starting off going way back to the refugee camp and before then.
There move from Uganda to San Diego as refugees in 1991, Apollo says Alfred had a way of making everyone laugh making losing him to violence all the more painful.
It was difficult. As a family we had never dealt with a loss like that. Miraculously out of everything we have been through with bombs exploding in landmines all over the place.
The goal of the Alfred Olango Foundation listed on its website included advocating for police training and focusing on de-escalation techniques as well as preservation of life. Apollo says leading up to his death his brother was emotionally and pieces over the death of his longtime friend.
Someone who is dealing with a mental breakdown will not be able to respond to whatever orders that you are barking out. With that understanding there should be some kind of technique applied that de-escalate that particular situation.
In the last year Apollo Olango has shared Alfred's story and the goals of the foundation with community groups, politicians and Hollywood personalities with large platforms to raise awareness.
It is not easy and I am still grieving and it is difficult to go to sleep every night knowing that your brother died and the pain that he died in that he did not have to.
Apollo Olango also wants to develop research initiatives to study current laws and policies regarding law enforcement and to advocate for reform.
It is the law that justifies the action. So to have an in-depth understanding of the laws that justify these actions as to why, if enough people feel about the law that it is unjust or something is incorrect with it, every law is a living document. It can be amended.
Apollo says his brother always encouraged him and would be proud of the Alfred Olango Foundation and its efforts to turn his memory into a catalyst for change.
I hope that Alfred Olango is remembered as someone that sadly lost his life in a situation that he was not supposed to but in doing so, was able to give something to people.
Ebony Monet KPBS news .
We continue our special broadcast from El Cajon the conversation was San Diego assemblywoman Shirley Weber. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition .
Live in the KPBS newsroom I am Deb Welsch . Resident Donald Trump has two redlines he refuses to cross on overhauling taxes. A corporate rate must be cut to 20% in savings must go to the middle class. That word comes from the presidents talk economics aid who says any tax overhaul signed by the president needs to include those two elements. Firebrand jurist Roy Moore says he's received a call of support from President. Trump following his win in the Alabama Republican Senate primary. Trump backed his opponent Luther strange.
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A week offshore flow will continue to ring sunny warm days and clear cool nights into the forecast for most of the rest of the week and a dropped of low-pressure moves in on the we can abuse the onshore flow with an end result of an increase in clouds and slight cooler temperatures over much of the region going into Saturday and Sunday. The next few days sunshine in the forecast with high city 73 to 88 and went on the light side and partly cloudy tonight with patchy fog, low 53 to 62 in Thursday mix of clouds and sunshine, windy and afternoon with high 74 to 86 and Friday a mix of clouds and sunshine with a high of 73 to 88. Seasonal temperatures and sunshine there much of the weekend with a high 73 to 88. Weather report made possible by ovation hair cell therapy. Ovation hair, thicker, stronger and longer, ovation hair.com and select KPBS .
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Good afternoon we have another gorgeous fall September day, unfortunately the surf is rather small and close to flat, the buoys report 1.1 feet at 10 seconds from the Southwest and the observed surf 1 to 2 feet, small peeling waves, the best bet is the far north County and the trestles area, the ocean 68 and we will not see much surf in our future and nothing in either the northern or southern hemispheres. Essential for northwest wind as well on Sunday, surfer report made possible by Alaska air.
I am Deb Welsch, KPBS news in San Diego .
You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition , I am Maureen Cavanaugh in El Cajon . We've another excerpt from our listening post, here is the excerpt.
I have several former and current friends and family that are in law enforcement. Being part of the law enforcement community you look at it and you see they are frustrated. Good cops are frustrated when something like this happens without knowing all the pieces and without being in that split second. You are talking a split second of time and what would we all do in the situations and what decisions would we make? I think our world is in need of hope and in need of something different. The conversations are not happening. There are two parts, not sides, two parts to every story. That does not come out always.
My name is Patrick and I'm here is a friend of Alfred Olango since I have known since my younger days and I recall him picking me up from work, driving around San Diego and I went to a restaurant and got something to eat together. We laughed and listened to music and we spoke about how he was inspired to big great cook and chef Wendy and I said we will meet again when I come back from out-of-state. I remember the last time I saw my brother, I behind-the-scenes now to bring about measurable change, especially when it comes to the relationship between African Americans and the police force. We are trying to work with that aspect and respectfully and mutual understanding each other and it will not change today. For not speaking in churches or standing up to this brutality it will not change.
Today is a special broadcast marking one year since the shooting death of Alfred Olango by an El Cajon police officer. A rally demanding justice for his death continues just behind me right outside City Hall in El Cajon. It is typical for police departments to decline public comment about a controversial police shooting which can be a variety of legal reasons and procedural reasons but it stops the public from hearing the police perspective on the issue. Former San Diego police Sergeant. Brian Pendleton can speak frankly now after retirement and he has an understanding of the pressures on police as well as the outrage over the shooting of unarmed Lachman and women. I spoke with him in the studio. You have a unique perspective on this issue because your faith potentially dangerous confrontations of the police officer and you have firsthand knowledge of what it is like to be profiled as a black man. Did you ever discuss these issues with your fellow officers while on the job?
Early on, no, as time had gone on and certainly as I neared the end of my career where there is no fear of retaliation or reprisal or no fear of being passed over for promotion like that it became easier for me to talk about this. Also my affiliation with the national Black police Association Amy the voice to do so as well.
What were they like?
They are hard conjuration-conversations because many involve things like race a lot of police will shy away in my opinion is they do not want to say anything or insinuate anything that will make you believe in racial biases or tendencies and so it is a hard conversation and no one wants to take it on.
Did you find some of your fellow officers did have racial biases? Absolutely and I will 100% honestly tell you that we all do but it is whether or not that you are willing to admit those and work with them and having that conversation with police on a daily basis, it was not a lively conversation.
Now when you first saw the video of the Alfred Olango shooting and I know you are not on the force of the time, what were your reactions ?
I tried to place myself in officer situation and without knowing details, but based on what I saw on the video I would have hated to be in that officer situation because I believe I probably would've shut the gentleman as well based on what I know. I do not know the details but on the surface, walking or charging up to an officer with your hand in your pocket, it is my understanding the gentleman was being told to take your hands out of your pocket or something similar an officer pulled his gun and shot. If you polled 100 cops 99 would have said it would've done the exact same thing in the same situation.
Do you think race played any factor in the shooting?
It is hard to say because I know that people say that because he was black that it was easier to shoot him versus if you are white. I don't know what played in officer's mind but if you look at the surface of it, from my perspective I think I would've made the same decision. Spent broadening the scope out from the officers on the scene and taking in the entirety of the incident, the lack of mental health experts on the scene, the issues around officers not being informed by dispatch that Alford was not armed, do you think that the entire police response deserves the criticism it is getting?
Anytime you take a life it deserves criticism, regardless of whether or not it comes out 100% clean it needs to be scrutinized. Whether or not mental health professionals were available in those other things, you are talk about a rapidly unfolding event and you don't have time to get those resources there in real time sitting back and critiquing it you can always say that I should let A, B or C but that is not the case and not the real world and not how it happens. You cannot yell cut, stop and let's put all of these people in place and resume. These things are unfolding. Believe it or not, at the end of the day, and I know your listeners of her this 1000 times, officers and cops just want to go home at the end of the day. I certainly would hate to believe that there is a single cop that goes out with the intention of shooting or hurting somebody. I do not see that in this case.
If police officers could talk more openly about the use of lethal force in instances like this what is we as civilians would learn?
He would learn with officer was thinking believing at the time he pulled the trigger and there is a trade-off. You would learn the things and you may not necessarily agree but then you have a better understanding than a second or third person trying to explain what the officer was thinking. It comes off sometimes as being fake when have a figurehead explaining why the officer pulled the trigger when the only person really knows is the officer. I understand the reasons why it does not happen but I think the trade-off is it builds credibility between communities and Police Department when departments are upfront about the details and not holding back information. It is a double-edged sword though because you the litigation part of it and everything also falls into play. But I think those two things would be beneficial. I've been speak with national Black police Association delegate and former San Diego police Sergeant. Brian Pendleton, thank you very much.
The shooting death of Alfred Olango did not happen in a vacuum. The police shooting in El Cajon one year ago followed a series of deadly shootings of unarmed African-Americans in Ferguson, Baton Rouge, St. Paul and the names of victims like Michael Brown, Alton sterling and philander Castille or frequently in the news and so to many the death of Alfred Olango seem part of a pattern of racial bias and a pattern some lawmakers in Sacramento are hoping to break. One of the changes in police procedure that may make a big difference has been championed by San Diego assemblywoman Shirley Weber and she joins me here in El Cajon today. Assemblywoman Weber welcome.
Take you for inviting me.
Introduced the racial and identity profiling act in 2015 approved by the state and what is the new law do?
It is mandated every police stop made that is not necessarily connected to a crime or something of that nature has to be identified or recorded, you have to indicate why you stop the person and what the outcome was. Those kind of things. We have these things occurring in most of the time when we have the shootings occurring there often related to some kind of stop, whether it is a walking or driving stop, and often times it is not because of a crime that has been committed in the area, it is just a stop and it is happening quite often and as a result it escalates into people being shot.
San Diego police chief Shelley Zimmerman told how the numbers earlier this year she was concerned about the time needed to collect all the new data. Are you hearing that?
A former police chief encouraged me with this bill and they said there something police do extra well and that is to let data, how many crimes are committed in an area and how they know where to put police officers if there is an issue that arises in certain communities, is that we collect a lot of data and we have done a pilot of A.B. 953 at this point and have determined it takes less than one minute for a person to record information. That is not a tremendous amount of time if we're talking about people's lives and creating a system that provides justice and protection for citizens in the state of California.
I know that you are championing an independent review unit within the state Department of just to investigate officer involved shootings in the state attorney general wound up thing that should be left up to local law enforcement and the family of Alfred Olango is asking for an independent police review board to be established for the city of El Cajon. What is your position on that point? Should be state, local, or both?
Sometimes it has to be both, because the fact is if you give it to the city and the city refuses to do the things necessary to protect the citizens the state has the responsibility to do so and we love it when a city decides it will take the leadership and it will do the things that are right. But when they are not we have to protect our citizens. In trying to get some level of partial investigation from a different source into the issue is about restoring confidence in the decisions made. As long as it is police investigating the police or the district attorney related to the police in terms of the cases coming forward are really investigating themselves, you have a public that says this is not fair. I think when you get to that level you begin to build the trust in the community that they are serious about protecting them and they're making sure the officers are doing the right thing. When they find one or two officers, because it is usually not the majority, that are not acting appropriately that they deal with them fairly and quickly.
Assemblywoman Weber as we remember the life and the death of Alfred Olango what is your message to community members to continue to raise questions about how the police handle the incident?
We to continue to be vigilant about it those of us, myself included has said to our children respect police officers, follow along when they get directions and do not resist and do not do that. We've seen that time and time again where that is happening people followed instructions and I think it was in Minnesota and the manner shot in his own car following instructions and we have to be vigilant and say that we demand our children are treated fairly, that are police officer should be protecting us and we should not be afraid to call them and in this case a sister call the police a couple times thing my brother does not have a gun and is having mental issues and I need somebody to help me, take me to the hospital. Who else do you call if you do not call the police for help? And I have a community that is concerned that if I call the police to help it may turn out worse instead of better, he may have been better running through the streets and having somebody tackle him and driving to the hospital rather than calling for what she thought was the help and support that she needed with police officers. It is a difficult challenge of the communities because we want to work with our police officers and they are the first line of defense but we are not sure if it is safe in terms of African-Americans that we will end up get the helping we need.
I have been speaking with San Diego assemblywoman Shirley Weber and thank you.
Thank you for having me, it is a beautiful day in San Diego.
You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh and we are live in El Cajon right in front of City Hall where there is a rally underway made up of the family and supporters of Alfred Olango . One year ago today Alfred Olango was shot by an El Cajon police officer and there are still questions among those families and supporters about what happened and if justice has been accomplished. For the final voice from our listening post we spoke with the superintendent of the Cohen Valley Union school District.
In our classrooms we enforce that the people being criticized and accused on television are the heroes that come into our classrooms every day and El Cajon Police Department is on our campuses during safety assemblies, helping with traffic control, responding when we have an angry parent who may be hostile for our kids to hear anything conflicting that they are anything other than superheroes is disconcerting. So we reinforced that the people that we were trust and rely on for safety are still the same heroes in the same people you know and trust and there is no reason to distrust anybody. So some of the countries our students are coming from relationships are not as good law enforcement or authority as they are here in the united so we have to be extra vigilant in making sure the end is Dan that people uniform are the people we trust.
There are conflicting reports about the general state of the mental health of Alfred Olango but on the day that he was shot there were many eyewitness accounts and putting from his sister Lucy that he was exhibiting erratic behavior. These days police officers increasingly find themselves on the front lines in dealing with mental health crises and Susan Murphy tells us about how they are working with law enforcement on how to communicate with people suffering a mental breakdown and how to sharpen their decision-making about when and when not to fire their weapons. A warning to listeners that you will hear gunshots from a bystander's video of the shooting in the story.
In a role-playing scenario a knife wielding man in a tree is acting threatening and mentally unstable and police officer Ruben Burton Junior tries to call. Works to keep a safe distance and de-escalate the situation so he can call for psychiatric assistance. The man does not respond and jumps from the tree and lunches that Officer. Burton with the knife . Burton's partner shoots the man who falls to the ground. Fortunately on this day there is no bullet wound and no one dies, Burton and dozens of others who newly graduated a San Diego police officers are training.
For interactions with people suffering from a mental crisis, across the county that number is staggering.
Since 2009 San Diego County law enforcement shows that cause of increased 92% in the San Diego Police Department in the last year alone was roughly 110%.
Mark Marvin oversees the training. He is director of San Diego County psychiatric emergency response team, the nonprofit works of every law enforcement agency in the county helping officers develop communication skills help them defuse potentially deadly situation. He also employs 51 license mental health clinicians pair of daily with law enforcement officers.
When a 911 call comes into dispatch the dispatcher can look into who is out in the field and can basically dispatch a team to the scene when that person is in the midst of a psychiatric Isis.
The need for crisis teams has drawn renewed attention after several high-profile police shootings and people experiencing a mental crisis a nationwide one quarter of all people shot by police were impacted by mental illness and in San Diego County 62 federal police shootings have occurred since 2010.
We are on the sideline and a lot of these scenarios hoping to unity to be able to engage that person. For our clinician interact with the person in crisis there has to be a guarantee of public safety.
His team of clinicians has more than doubled in the past two years but it falls fall short of meeting its skyrocketing demand.
Last fiscal year we responded to just about 8000 of these calls in San Diego County and meanwhile recognize that is about one fourth of all of the calls coming into dispatch.
One missed call was for Alfred Olango in El Cajon , the 38-year-old man was erratically walking in traffic on September 27, the 38-year-old man was erratically walking in traffic on September 27, 2016 at his sister call police thing he was mentally ill 12 officers approached him and he pointed something at him and it was later determined to be an e-cigarette and one officer tased them and the other shot him. Alfred Olango died and the team have been responding to a different call . Some people believe that we come in from the sky wearing capes and it doesn't work that way. You know in some of the movies there is always a great outcome in the piano music is playing and I wish it were the case.
These clinicians are signed to the most needed areas including the San Diego Central division around downtown were hundreds of homeless people live on the streets.
The other tragedy is there some a people who are homeless living with severe mental illness. But we know no bounds and we going to the wealthiest communities as well as those must impoverish.
Have an additional 10 clinicians hired since last year and train more than 1000 officers and deputies and it's 1 to 3 day academies.
It is a trust and it is building a collaborative relationship and realizing that unfortunately with mental illness we're in this for the long-term.
Susan Murphy KPBS news
When the protest started over the shooting of Alfred Olango much of the task to help your community felt of the leaders of the faith community and that task is ongoing us questions about the shooting, the police response and if such a tragedy could happen again are still being asked. One of the faith leaders who has been working to build bridges among different segments of the El Cajon community as my guest Roland Slade pastor of Meridian Southern Baptist Church here in El Cajon. Pastor Slade welcome.
Thank you it is to be here.
How badly were people hurting after the shooting? What kinds of emotions did you see?
The emotions I saw were people that were depressed, outraged, people were weeping in grief and sadness. People were angry. There was a wide range of emotions. It went from one end of the scale to the other.
Did this shooting and the reaction to it come out of nowhere? By that I mean were there a rift between police and people of color in El Cajon even before the shooting?
I don't know if necessarily there was a rift. There was limited communication and limited interaction. This shooting just heightened the awareness of what was happening really on a national level and there was a possibility that El Cajon could become like Ferguson and Baltimore and other cities. That was a really valid concern.
One of the things you call for during the protest was for El Cajon to strive for unity. What has happened in the year since the shooting? Have the beginnings taken place?
Yes we have begun to strive for that and work for that. Have we reached it? No. Will we reach in time? Yes. We've made good initial steps but a long way to go.
What are some initial steps?
Just trying to communicate with the population, the diverse population of El Cajon, whether refugees or immigrant or people of color, trying to communicate and understand its culture a little bit, find common things, we all want safety and get education for kids and things like that. Those are the things that we are really trying to focus on and what we have in common and getting to know each other and communication. That is what we're trying to concentrate on.
Even working quietly as an advisor from time to time to the El Cajon police chief, what kind of advice to be giving them?
I have been giving the advice and tell the truth, be honest and be forthright. He is a good man and I appreciate him. I think the community does not know that because they see him as an authority figure and they do not know how he has been in this community for so long and been a part of this community for so long and what he has gone through to get to where he is today.
A lot of people I know in and out of your congregation would say officers involved in the shooting should've been removed in the police force and what you think about that?
I know it is a personnel matter from all you have read and I'm not even mentioned that are asked the chief directly. I believe in time the right thing will happen and that is what I continue to share with my congregation people I know.
What would you still like to see changed to make El Cajon a more welcoming and safe place for everybody?
I would like to see the city and all of its phases, public and private, he truly representative of the community. This is a tremendously diverse community with a lot of culture and history that we need to share that and we need to be honest that we have bad spots and we need to take care of that and make changes. We also need to be a place where people are encouraged and a child of color can aspire to be an elected official or the principle of a school. And the same for the child of refugees or immigrants. You don't just have to be born in El Cajon to be raised up to be a leader and I think everybody should have a chance.
I have been speaking with Roland Slade the pastor of Meridian Southern Baptist Church in El Cajon, Pastor Slade thank you for being with us.
Be sure to watch KPBS evening addition today at 5 PM for their live broadcast from El Cajon and join us again tomorrow for KPBS Midday Edition at noon. If you ever miss a show check out the midday addition podcast on KPBS.org/podcast . I am Maureen Cavanaugh , thanks for listening.