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Roundtable: Decisions At SDPD, Death In Assisted Living, Killer Whales At Sea World

Roundtable: Decisions At SDPD, Death In Assisted Living, Killer Whales At Sea World
HOST: Mark SauerGUESTS:Liam Dillon, Voice of San DiegoJeff McDonald, U-T San DiegoLisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego

Zimmerman, SDPD Face Challenges

Be careful what you wish for.

For Shelley Zimmerman, becoming the new chief of the San Diego Police Department is a promotion that comes with some big strings (and major problems) attached.


One of the choices facing Zimmerman and her department is whether to return its focus to community policing or concentrate on rapid response to crime.

The department has its problems. Chronic underfunding and an aging force (50 percent will be eligible for retirement in the next four years) seem less significant at the moment than the news emerging about SDPD's culture.

More than 14 officers have been accused (and some convicted) of serious misconduct since 2010. It was also reported that the SDPD had veered away from its policy of tracking incidents of racial profiling. Its much-praised neighborhood policing policy has also taken a back seat in favor of rapid response to crime.

The department's credibility took another hit when an investigator for the District Attorney's office said in a deposition that the department stonewalled her on information on a sexual battery case involving a San Diego police officer.

Zimmerman said on KPBS that she is in favor of an outside audit of department policies and procedures, but is not in favor of oversight by an independent agency.


Reporting on Assisted Living Deaths Prompts County Reforms

Last fall, U-T San Diego and the CHCF Center for Health Reporting at USC’s Annenberg School looked into hundreds of incidents of injury and even death among seniors in assisted living facilities in San Diego County.

They found that 27 San Diego County seniors have died since 2008 from injuries and neglect. Many of these deaths were not investigated and the facilities were not punished by the state agency assigned to protect seniors.

The problem has arisen because more and more seniors are living longer and therefore growing sicker. And they are increasingly choosing to live in homelike, affordable assisted living facilities instead of expensive, traditional nursing homes.

The state agency charged with oversight of assisted living facilities is both underfunded and underpowered. The top fine for injury or neglect is $150.

Real reform, and the funds to make it happen, must come from the state. Meanwhile, San Diego County has mobilized its resources to increase oversight staff and work with the Better Business Bureau to rate assisted living homes. The District Attorney has begun a pilot project to prosecute neglect and abuse cases unpunished by the state.

Seaworld Has A Whale Of A Problem

Sea World San Diego is one of the world’s major theme parks, bringing in more than 4 million visitors a year. It is a major economic engine for San Diego.

It sits on 190 acres of city property, which it rents for about $14 million a year, a figure based on the park’s revenue. Unusually, its lease with the city requires it to pay property taxes, including $5.2 million this year. It employs 2,500 to 4,500 San Diegans annually, the number depending on the season.

The operative figure for this discussion, however, is 10, the number of killer whales at Sea World. Killer whales are the subject of the documentary "Blackfish," which purports to show how keeping the whales in captivity poses dangers to trainers and even other whales. It has caused Sea World to engage in major damage control and fight a lawsuit, and it has spawned a “Blackfish Bill” in the California Legislature that would bar both shows featuring killer whales and captive breeding programs.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.