San Diego Program Rewarding Officers For Narcotics Arrests Investigated By Police
Our top story on midday addition a San Diego company that is starting on awards for drug arrests is not helping this county. It was linked to KPBS 10 news and outlined a points program for officers making drug arrests. The winners get the opportunity to work in specialized units. San Diego's new police chief is a vowed the email and said it was never a sanctioned department program. >> This program was never intended to target anyone from a specific group, race, or social, economic class. That being said, I want to be clear with my message. Programs like this are not within line within the values of the San Diego Police Department and something I will never allow. >>> The email distributed in the SDPD southern division has given credence to doubts in the community about the real aims of the police narcotics arrests. Joining me is Bishop Cornelius Bowser of San Diego's charity at the -- apostolic church. Welcome to the program. We reached out to the SDPD for an interview on the subject but they did not get back to us. You spoke out against this email when it became public. Does the suggestion of a point system reinforced suspicions in the community about the way police deal with narcotics arrests? >> Yes it does. Not only does it reinforce that, but it demonstrates that within the police department they need to start implementing procedures. I know that is one of the things that the chief said that that would be part of his principal and his plan through the processes and community oriented police going on in his department. One of the issues we take with SDPD is you have to have training for your officers so they can understand their implicit bias and understand procedural justice. This is an example to show whether they put a stop to it or not is an example that shows that they need to implement procedural justice. A part of that procedural justice is you have to convey trust and motives. Incidents like this not only make suspicions rise and make people in the community think or say I knew it. That creates a problem. >>> Here is what the chief said why he opposed any sort of incentive program for arrests. Soon it goes against and how we value our relationship with our communities. When we take someone into custody it is not a game. It is because they violated the law. They had probable cause to make the arrest. It goes against community trust, relationships, and it just is not meet our values. >>> Bishop Bowser, you said last week you have a good relationship with our new police chief. Have you spoken with him personally about this? >> At the press conference. Before the press conference and after theirs, they reiterated the fact that it was not implemented and they do not support anything like that. The chief and I, I have new and him -- known him since a while. We have a good relationship. There has been times we disagree. I know the kind of man he is in the can a man he knows I am. >>> The chief said Friday that this is an example the fact that he came out and disavowed this email the day after the email was issued, command learned about it and retracted it. It went away really fast it was an example of the system working. Do you agree? >> Yes and no. I agree that the system works and we have achieved that steps in and puts a stop to it. It looks like he will be putting out fires if he does not put in the proper training in the department. A program like this should not have ever been thought of. It does not matter what they say it was going to target communities in color or in poverty but it does. Those of the people who are singled out most of the time. When you look at the people, specifically black people, the arrest rates are Blacks are disproportionately arrested than other people. When you have a program like this, it puts a strain be tween the community and law enforcement. It's feels like law enforcement is more like a force that is here to arrest us, put us to jail, send us to prison. >>> You had a rally in front of the police station and what US To have planned ? >> One of the things we want to do is there will be a protest tonight. We will be out there at 6:00 for the protest. We are also looking forward to setting up a meeting and meeting with the chief and others to discuss with his plans are. We also want the whole defeat to the fire that they will continue to be transparent in their investigation. Part of the justice system is being transparent in decision-making. Whatever they do or whatever conclusions they come to or whatever decisions they make they should be transparent and do it neutral. One of the things they want to make sure, I cannot reiterate this enough, they also said they blew the whistle, we don't want discipline to happen to him. We want officers to feel safe to do that. If the officer felt safe and understood the chain of command and knew they could go higher without repercussions they would've done it. They have to work on the culture in the police department so that officers can feel like they can go to their superiors. If they can't go to the sergeant, lieutenant, chief or the assistant chief. They can go through the process internally without growing about repercussions and give them an opportunity to resolve these issues. Until then they will have problems. He has a deal with the culture. >>> I have been speaking with Bishop Cornelius Bowser with charity apostolic church. Thank you very much. >> Thank you very much for having me. >>> As the nation tries to comes to grips with the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland Florida a little more than a month ago, San Diego authorities are investigating a rash of school threats. Threats of violence and shootings that schools have turned up across the county spooking school officials, parents, students. Many other recent threats might at one time have been dismissed as pranks. That is not the attitude of law enforcement anymore. Joining me to talk about how school threats are handled, is interim San Diego County district Attorney Sommer Stefan. The Stefan was appointed to the position after -- retired. She is running for district attorney this year. Sommer Stefan, Rocco to the program. I mentioned an increase in threats to San Diego schools since the Parkland school shooting. How many are we talking about? I have seen several different numbers and media reports. >> We have looked at 19 incidents of threats to schools. Every single situation is something that we get involved with. After 2014 we set up a system where all of the different schools and police departments provide our specialized team with that information. >>> How many cases have there been child -- charges filed? >> We have nine cases in which charges are filed. This conduct is making a school threat is very serious. It causes domestic terror. It causes so much beer. It shuts down the education system. We take it very seriously. Kids sometimes think it is a joke. They still know it will scare someone. That is all the law requires. The law requires that you intend to frighten someone a and that that person reasonably was frightened by it. Who would not be these days? >>> To be clear, there have been no incidents of violence because of these threats. >> We have not had incidents of violence. While that is usually the case, and since 2014, we have investigated 45 cases other than since February 14, you can see how there is such a mass number in a short amount of time. We would say that in about two of those incidents, it looked like it went beyond words into preparation, and planning. We felt strongly that our intervention and disruption might have saved lives. >>> Can you give us some examples as to how these threats are being made? >> Social media allows kids to hide or feel like it is not real. They can make these threats. Those are real. Lots of times we have seen the social media threats translate into reality around the country in these cases. We never look at it as a barrier. We look at it as like you left a journal or a note or scrambled -- scribbled on the wall of the school. That is the easiest the way to make it to social media a text to a friend. The good news and the reason why we have been able to get reports is people are reporting. They are taking it seriously. This is the plus side. We had the negative side that is the copycat effect. Kids want to copy because it is attention and they seek attention even negative attention. The plus side is our community seems to really be responding well and realizing that if they see or hear something, they must report it. >>> House -- how specific up the threats been? >> Some have been specific they had a specific date, a certain location, a target, sometimes they had a certain person in mind, someone who has upset them. The more specific a threat is, the more it causes more attention for law enforcement. We take each one to the natural conclusion. We engage the Catch team, FBI, we look at the IP addresses. What we have to answer, the first question is who made the threat. We cannot accurately assess the extent of that threat without finding out who made it. Once we find out who made it, then we go and look at that shouldn't have access to weapons. Have they been accumulating weapons. Have there been prior incidents of threats. All of those natural other investigative questions can be answered once we solve the identity. We still have a couple of cases of the 19 that were very close, but we don't have the person yet. >>> You mentioned copycat. You mentioned an idea of a prank. Do we know why the bulk of these threats are being made? What is causing students to do this? >> Threats are routinely made in schools. Unfortunately that is the highest target to mass threats. We are definitely seeing the copycat or effect. Since 2015 until February 14 of 2018, we had 45 total. And since February 14 we have 19. That is a clear copycat or effect we are seeing. It is very serious. It does not mean we cannot assume that the copycat or is not now encouraged to act. We have to deal with it very seriously. >>> How do you determine if a threat is credible? >> We look at several factors. Has there been a history of violence with this individual. We search open source intelligence in the media to see whether it connects to other threats or other relationships with more extreme groups that may be driving the conduct. We look at access to weapons. We work on using even the civil process of removing the weapon so that we can make that family safe. We look at whether they spent time at the firing range, whether they search through and look at other school shootings and how they were carried out. Whether they have looked at how bombs are built or other things. Every detail is followed up upon. We use psychologist that are also trained in assessment and our district attorney specialized team to really assess as accurately as possible to prevent harm. >>> What happens to the students if they are identified as making these threats? >> Making a criminal threat is a felony offense. It is serious. The range of consequences go from actually tell time to restorative justice to a form of probation. One big thing we want the kids to realize is there access to social media is taken away. That is one of the key probation conditions. Even there access to having a phone or a computer may be completely taken if they are on probation. It is serious because it is impact on our community serious. >>> One we call the DAs office and asked to interview the deputy district attorney who handles all school threats, we were told we can only interview you. My question is how involved are you in these investigations? >> This was a labor of love for me. I tried the last school shooting that happened in San Diego County where I saw and worked for two years with this community. And the tear is brought, to have this Gunman gun down 200 or so kids under the age of seven to a little girl was life lighted and I am still in touch with that school and the families there. Seeing that, looking at that case, we convicted the offender and sent him away. We also learned lessons. One of them was that the shooter had actually announced his intent to do exactly what he did. No one reported it. It was really important to me that we create a system where we don't just have an act of shooter protocol, that means it is too late. But we have a pretty active shooter call -- protocol where we can intervene and disrupt before it happens. >>> What is the take away for parents and students who have been rattled by this increase in threats? What can you tell them ? >> you have a lot of control. Bystanders are the number one way that we disrupt and interrupt shootings. You have a lot of power. I would say to parents to remember that it could be your kid. Your kid could be suffering from depression or being bullied. 75 % of our school shooters do it because they feel bullied. Talk to your kid. Talk to them about two things. One, to not make, directly tell them to not make threats. Threats can really cause harm to communities, and you can be charged for the crime. Also make sure that your kid, if they hear something, they say something, that they trust that the system will protect their anonymity and we will move into proper action. If proper action requires harsh accountability, that is what will happen with the team, probation, the court. If it requires the kit receives mental health treatment or some other humane care, that is what we will do also. Do not worry about being the person who tells. Just tell someone. >>> I have been speaking with interim San Diego County district Attorney summer Stefan. Thank you so much. >> Thank you.
The San Diego Police Department has launched an internal investigation into a planned program intended to reward officers for making drug arrests.
The program was never implemented, according to Police Chief David Nisleit. But an email was sent out detailing how it would work and that has raised questions with some people in the community.
News 8 spoke to the organizer Tasha Williamson earlier who says there are still questions about why the email was sent in the first place.
"Somebody did this thinking they could get away with this," Williamson said. "Anyone who is in a command or supervisory position - we need to take a second look at."
Williamson is a civil rights activist who says the goal of the protest is to send a message to the police department that a full, transparent investigation is necessary.
The issue came to light this week when an anonymous SDPD officer divulged, in an interview with KPBS Media Partner 10News, that rewards were being offered to officers who made the most drug arrests in the department's Southern Division, which covers such border-area neighborhoods as Egger Highlands, Nestor, Ocean Crest, Otay Mesa, Palm City, San Ysidro and Tijuana River Valley.
An email that a sergeant sent to more than 90 officers detailed the system, which promised top-performing personnel the chance to work in a desirable specialized police-unit post for up to a month, the news station reported.
According to the memorandum, between March 1 and April 14, officers could earn two points for arrests of certain drug suspects, including dealers, one point for "less serious" narcotics enforcement and half a point for controlled-substance citations.
Nisleit held a news conference on Friday disavowing the program and saying the program was never authorized, never implemented and was never intended to target a specific race or socioeconomic class. The chief promised to find out how and why the email was sent out.
"I believe the chief when he says the program was never implemented," Williamson said. "What I don't understand, as lieutenants and captains, how do you not know the approval protocol?"
Williamson is also demanding that the officer who came forward to the media not be punished for what he did.