Law enforcement leaders announce new rules for police shooting probes
Law enforcement leaders in San Diego County announced a new regional approach Wednesday to investigating police shootings, touting the changes as a means of avoiding public perceptions of bias stemming from the common practice of agencies evaluating their own use of deadly force.
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Under the revamped guidelines, slated to go into effect May 1, the San Diego Police Department will probe all uses of lethal force on the part of personnel with any other law enforcement agency in the county, and sheriff's detectives will handle such incidents involving the SDPD.
"We are dedicated to building a culture of trust with the people we serve," the San Diego County Sheriff's Department asserted in a prepared statement. "The new guidelines reflect the public's desire for greater integrity and independence in investigating deputy- and officer-involved shootings."
Justice reform advocates have said that no police agency should investigate any other police agency in such incidents.
“That blue line or where there's the tan line with the sheriff's department, they won't cross that,“ said Yusef Miller, the founder of the Racial Justice Coalition. “It's the in-group loyalty that gives us these skewed results that we've been seeing. I think there's not that invested interest in protecting the organization that a civilian organization would have ... When it comes to the more serious cases, that's when we see law enforcement in a circle the wagons protect the line and that's what we're afraid of and I think it's a conflict of interest.“
San Diego County Undersheriff Kelli Martinez, who is one of the candidates to succeed former Sheriff Bill Gore, disagreed with that demand.
“It is a much more independent investigation and the police department does not work with us on that investigation,“ Martinez said. “They would do that investigation completely independent of us and they would provide it to the D.A. for review. So I understand the question. I understand the point. Everyone thinks every agency’s the same and that we all work together very closely, but it’s really not. They’re much more independent. We’re all independent of each other.”
Officials from various area law enforcement agencies discussed the new protocols during an afternoon news conference at the Sheriff's Technology and Information Center in Kearny Mesa. Besides Martinez, among those leading the briefing were SDPD Chief David Nisleit, Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy and District Attorney Summer Stephan.