Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

SDPD: Investigation Into Controversial Plainclothes Arrest Will Remain Secret

A line of police officers observe protesters during a demonstration in downto...

Photo by Shalina Chatlani

Above: 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.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler

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

RELATED: Border Patrol’s Role In Policing Protests Remains Shrouded In Secrecy

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.”


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Max Rivlin-Nadler

Max Rivlin-Nadler
Speak City Heights Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover City Heights, a neighborhood at the intersection of immigration, gentrification, and neighborhood-led health care initiatives. I'm interested in how this unique neighborhood deals with economic inequality during an unprecedented global health crisis.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.