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SDPD: Investigation Into Controversial Plainclothes Arrest Will Remain Secret

A line of police officers observe protesters during a demonstration in downtown San Diego, May 31, 2020.
Shalina Chatlani
A line of police officers observe protesters during a demonstration in downtown San Diego, May 31, 2020.

The‌ ‌San‌ ‌Diego‌ ‌Police‌ ‌Department‌ ‌tells‌ ‌KPBS‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌outcome‌ ‌of‌ ‌an internal ‌investigation into a controversial arrest‌ ‌will‌ ‌remain‌ ‌secret.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

The June 4 arrest, which was captured on video, shows a ‌young‌ ‌woman‌ being put into an unmarked van ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌group‌ ‌of‌ ‌armed‌ ‌men‌ ‌who‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌identify‌ ‌themselves. It happened outside‌ ‌of‌ ‌San‌ ‌Diego‌ ‌High‌ ‌School‌ ‌following‌ ‌a‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Lives‌ ‌Matter‌ ‌protest.‌ ‌

It sparked an outcry online and questions of whether the woman had been abducted. The next day, SDPD identified the men as plainclothes detectives. SDPD said that the detectives sprang into action after they say they saw the young woman swing a sign at a passing ‌police‌ ‌officer on a motorcycle.

In the video, one of the officers threatened to shoot the protesters’ friends and family members if they followed the unmarked van they were using.

Video: SDPD: Investigation Into Controversial Plainclothes Arrest Will Remain Secret

City‌ ‌Council‌ ‌President‌ ‌Georgette‌ ‌Gomez‌ ‌quickly‌ ‌called‌ ‌for‌ ‌an‌ ‌investigation‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌incident,‌ ‌and‌ ‌police‌ ‌chief‌ ‌Dave‌ ‌Nisleit‌ ‌said‌ ‌it‌ ‌had‌ ‌already‌ ‌begun.‌ ‌ ‌

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Now, three weeks later,‌ ‌a‌n ‌SDPD‌ ‌spokesperson‌ ‌said‌ ‌the results of the investigation would remain private.

‌“‌We‌ ‌do‌ ‌not‌ ‌make‌ ‌public‌ ‌findings‌ ‌made‌ ‌by‌ ‌our‌ ‌Internal‌ ‌Affairs‌ ‌Unit‌ ‌because‌ ‌they‌ ‌are‌ ‌personnel‌ ‌investigations," they wrote in an email to KPBS. ‌ ‌ ‌

They ‌elaborated‌ ‌that‌ ‌state‌ ‌law‌ ‌prohibited‌ ‌the‌ ‌release‌ ‌of‌ ‌any‌ ‌findings.‌ ‌ ‌

Retired‌ ‌Assemblywoman‌ Lori Saldaña,‌ ‌who‌ ‌worked‌ ‌on‌ ‌reforms‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌state’s‌ ‌transparency‌ ‌laws,‌ ‌told‌ ‌KPBS‌ ‌that‌ ‌internal‌ ‌investigations‌ ‌like‌ ‌this‌ ‌prevent‌ ‌the‌ ‌public‌ ‌from‌ ‌learning‌ ‌about‌ ‌possible‌ ‌misconduct.‌ ‌

“When you abduct a young woman in front of her panicked friends, in front of a high school in San Diego, in the middle of the night, throw her into a car, you are not identifying yourself as police officers, you’re not identifying yourself with badge numbers or any other reasonable forms of identification, is that effective policing?” Saldaña said.

She’s filed a Public Records Act request for more information about the incident.

“We still have a right as citizens to determine whether this is following procedures, safety, protocol and if not, then I believe we do have a right to see those communications that I requested,” she told KPBS.

In a statement, Gomez said she would keep pushing for transparency regarding the incident.

“I believe that the investigation should be concluded soon, and I will be asking for the findings to be made public,” she said. “We have to get this right as part of a broader effort to instill trust in the relationship between our communities and the Police Department.”