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Civil Rights Leader Calls For Reform Of Local Law Enforcement

The Rev. Shane Harris of the People's Association For Justice Advocates (cent...

Photo by John Carroll

Above: The Rev. Shane Harris of the People's Association For Justice Advocates (center) is joined by Bishop Cornelius Bowser (right) and Yusef Miller of the North County Equity & Justice Coalition (left) on June 10, 2021.

The Rev. Shane Harris of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates on Thursday said law enforcement in San Diego County needs serious reform.

He said his organization would soon put out policy suggestions on how to do that. His group has been working on what they see as abusive and discriminatory policing in San Diego County.

Listen to this story by John Carroll

Back in April, Harris sent a letter to the Sheriff’s Department asking for information on deputies who’d had abuse of force complaints. The Sheriff's Department responded a few days later.

In a news conference Thursday, he said the idea is to root out bad apples.

“We’re going after the next Derek Chauvin, and it only takes one. Minneapolis showed us that," Harris said.

RELATED: Activists Say Their Work Is Being Erased From Police Reform

Reported by John Carroll

He asked for three pieces of information. First, how many currently employed deputies had two or more sustained, that is confirmed, use-of-force incidents on their record. Sheriff’s department records go back to 1995.

In their response, the department said three deputies had two or more sustained violations.

Next, Harris wanted to know how many deputies had two or more unfounded claims against them.

The answer — 31 deputies were the subject of two or more unfounded allegations.

Then Harris asked how many deputies from each category had been involved in a deputy-involved shooting. The answer — one from the sustained group and one from the unfounded group.

At the news conference, Harris said the Sheriff’s response is unsatisfactory.

“We believe that there is a biased view in there because it’s like a teacher grading their own paper ... and these are deputies that are still working in the department confirmed, for sure," he said.

Harris also criticized the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB). The group does its own investigations of use-of-force incidents. Harris said the group is toothless and needs to be reformed.

Moving ahead, Harris said it’s about making serious policy changes. He said taxpayers should support change because they’re on the hook when local government has to pay out claims.

“We have to get rid of the bad apples in order to save our democracy and our humanity and our taxpayer dollars and lives," said Harris.

The Sheriff’s Department had no comment on Harris’s charge that it's biased in handling complaints against deputies.

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John Carroll
General Assignment Reporter & Anchor

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.

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