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Violent arrest in National City raises questions about police brutality

A viral video of a recent violent arrest of a woman in National City posted on social media is once again raising questions over police brutality. KPBS reporter Alexander Nguyen has the latest. We want to warn you, though, that the video is graphic and may not be appropriate for some viewers.

A violent arrest of a woman in National City captured on a viral video is putting new scrutiny on police brutality.

The arrest happened at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday near East 17th Street and National City Boulevard, according to the National City Police Department. The department said one of its officers assisted San Diego Police Department in the arrest.

Police say the incident started as a car chase in San Diego and then turned into a foot chase before the woman was arrested. It was unclear what prompted the chase. Video of the arrest surfaced on Wednesday and quickly went viral.

In the video, one officer is seen apparently slamming a woman on the ground and then seemingly punching the woman twice in the head.

The graphic video was just another reminder for Darwin Fishman, a member of the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego, that there is still more work to do in terms of curbing police brutality. He was part of the citizens' committee that drafted the de-escalation policy for the San Diego Police Department.

"Now, four or five years later, we're supposed to have the de-escalation and not just for San Diego city, but all the cities in the county in the region," Fishman said. "And it's clearly — it's not working. We're still getting really horrific incidents of excessive force by law enforcement."

In a statement, the SDPD said it understood the community's concerns surrounding the arrest.

"This incident will be investigated by the Internal Affairs Unit to determine if the officer followed Department procedures and then it will be further evaluated by the Force Analysis Unit," SDPD spokesman Lt. Adam Sharki said in the statement. "The findings of the internal investigation will be sent to the City’s independent Commission on Police Practices."

Use of force expert and former law enforcement officer Paul Cappittelli said the public should reserve judgment until all the facts come out.

"There's a possibility that she could have threatened the officers. Maybe she was fighting the officers. She may have even tried to hit or kick an officer," he said. "We don't know because all we're seeing is where the video starts, where she's being thrown onto the ground and handcuffed.”

Cappitelli, who has 30 years of experience as a sheriff's deputy for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and another five years of experience training officers, said sometimes use of force was justified, but he can’t make a definitive determination until more footage is released.

Fishman said that, until there are real consequences for law enforcement, incidents such as this one will continue to happen.

“That’s fundamental for community trust," he said. "Otherwise, the community, we feel like we're being hunted and that there's no repercussions for police doing whatever they want."

The SDPD said it is not commenting further on the arrest until the investigation is completed.