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San Diego Police Department To Cease Chokeholds As Method Of Restraint

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In light of national and local events surrounding the issue of purported police brutality against people of color, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and local elected officials announced Monday that the SDPD would immediately stop using carotid restraints as a use-of-force procedure.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Demonstrations condemning the killing of George Floyd and against police violence continued last night and said,

Speaker 2: 00:06 Diego, several hundred people marched from bell Burleigh park to Hilton

Speaker 1: 00:14 [inaudible]. And another group gathered in front of San Diego police headquarters. Downtown the protests and rallies were peaceful. That's in contrast to demonstrations in other cities and here in San Diego last weekend, when riding broke out after peaceful protests in Lamesa and downtown San Diego, local law enforcement is caught up in the center of these protests. They are deployed to maintain order all the while being at the heart of the issue. That's brought people out on the streets in the first place. It's a complicated spot to be in today. We hear from the president of the San Diego police officer's association, detective Jack Shaffer, and detective Shaffer. Welcome to the program. Thank you very much. Now I want to start with a change to police policy announced yesterday by mayor Faulkner and police chief news light. They said that San Diego police will no longer use the carotid hold to control suspects. That's of course, a neck hold that can render a person unconscious what's the police officer's association stand on that.

Speaker 3: 01:16 Well, I mean, I think that the carotid restraint, um, when used effectively, um, is, is a great tool for the officers. Um, often I'm allowing a smaller officer to control the situation from a larger suspect, for instance. Um, but again, yeah, if it's applied correctly and I think that, um, over the past, I think they did a study of the last 22 or 23 years, you know, we've used it, um, several times, um, with no fatalities and, um, anytime that I've ever seen it used, or I used it myself, the individuals who it was used on had no. Okay. No serious injuries, probably deescalated the situation, the situation quite a bit. Um, that said definitely, um, the, the, uh, chief has to make tough decisions and run the department. Mmm. And, um, our officers are going to be able to, um, adapt and overcome just like they've done with all the changes. Um, I know that I feel confident that we'll continue to be able to do a good job, and hopefully we'll be able to find something, some tool that can take the place of the carotid restraint. Um, since we can't use that now

Speaker 1: 02:20 the mayor and the chief made the argument that since this hold is particularly hated in communities where it's used frequently, that should be a valid reason to stop it. Do you agree with that?

Speaker 3: 02:31 I don't know if I agree with that. Totally. Um, it's it's, I think it's misunderstood. Like I said, we're, we're going to support the chief I'm, we're going to support our officers. And, and I know that our officers are going to be able to, to 'em figure out a way to still diffuse situations by using other techniques.

Speaker 1: 02:47 Now, the demonstrations here and around the country have been sparked by the video of a police officer in Minnesota kneeling for more than eight minutes on the neck of a black man, that man George Floyd cried out that he couldn't breathe and subsequently died as a police officer. What was your reaction to that video?

Speaker 3: 03:07 Well, I mean, I was sickened by what I did see. Um, it doesn't look like anything I was ever trained to do. At least it didn't, especially the, uh, the amount of time I obviously wasn't there. Um, it didn't see everything, but, um, it was, it was sickening to watch. And, uh, I definitely see why there is an outrage. This is pretty unique in that, in that it, uh, enlisted a response from almost everybody, because I don't think anybody could watch that without feeling something for mr. Floyd

Speaker 1: 03:37 and the officer involved Derek Shovan has been charged with murder. What do you think about the other offices on the scenes? Should they be charged as well?

Speaker 3: 03:45 So I, um, what I watched, I didn't see a whole lot of, of their involvement. So I'm the, uh, I'm sure the investigation over there is ongoing. I mostly, you know, obviously paid attention to the, the short video clips that I saw with, with the one officer. So obviously I wasn't there and I didn't see, I haven't even seen the video really with a lot of, um, their participation. So I, I don't know, probably not the right person to ask on that one.

Speaker 1: 04:10 Well, let me talk about the demonstrations here in San Diego, as you must know, there has been criticism of the response by police to the protest, at least some criticism. Do you think specifically that deploying tear gas and rubber bullets to a largely peaceful crowd downtown may have been an overreaction?

Speaker 3: 04:28 Well, I think, um, you know, there's a lot to look at with this. Um, it's unfortunate that some people, Mmm didn't listen to the, like an unlawful assembly and the, and the orders to, to leave, um, that came out because they, they were given plenty of time to, to move to another location. When there's things going on, there has to be something done when, you know, when our officers get things thrown at them. I mean, we've had officers have, uh, bricks, rocks, bottles thrown at them, but they're vulnerable because they're standing there on a post. Um, so we have to do something to back people off, you know, for the most part, I mean, you're, you're a chemical agents are just irritants that are gonna make people feel uncomfortable. And a lot of times get people to back away from whatever they're trying to do. So there's a, there's a balance and there's always going to be some people that are critical of it. But I don't know that there is a technique that can be used that would make everybody happy. I think that by doing some of these things, we prevent a lot of people from being injured.

Speaker 1: 05:27 Yeah. KPBS had four reporters downtown on Sunday. None of them reported seeing rocks being thrown a police officers, but even if there were some rocks and water bottles thrown at police, they have shields and face guards to protect them. Some protesters were seen bleeding from being hit with rubber bullets. So I think just as somebody observing this, can you explain why police scene deem it necessary to use those methods to disperse a crowd?

Speaker 3: 05:52 This is what tends to happen in big crowds. Like this is that the, um, the people are there too to disrupt and to cause violence and things like that. They're generally going to hide behind the people who aren't and they're going to lob their, love, their rocks and do all the things that they do from those positions. I'm kind of having a little human shield in front of them. There has to be a way to protect people, to get people to back off, to listen, to orders, to do things like that, that are, that are meant to keep people safe.

Speaker 3: 06:21 And, um, I don't know. Um, I don't know much about the whole, uh, the rubber bullets and stuff, but I do know that the chemical agents seem to be an effective way to get people to, um, disperse. You know, we can't just leave our officers there to be targets, um, four, you know, whatever kind of weapon is thrown at them. So they're there, there's a fine line of balance, but just because somebody's, it doesn't see one or two or three or five people in a crowd of a thousand. I mean, that's likely, but, um, you know, you can, you can throw a rock that can do a whole lot of damage or a brick that could do a whole lot of damage from pretty far away. So it was happening. I mean, I mean, we even had, um, you know, police officers break lines cut and things like that. So there's, there's people doing certain things and we have to make sure that they're, there is some order

Speaker 1: 07:06 in addition to the ban announced on the use of the carotid restraint mayor Faulkner has given his support to a proposed November ballot measure that would create an independent community led commission on police practices with investigative and subpoena powers. What is the police unions position on that?

Speaker 3: 07:26 Uh, well, we haven't been in, been in opposition of that. We've actually worked closely with, um, with many people to try to just, um, make sure that it's, it's, uh, it's done reasonably and that it can actually be effective. And, and, uh,

Speaker 1: 07:37 are you still negotiating with the city to see how this commission on police practices rolls out?

Speaker 3: 07:43 We've okayed it to go to the ballot? I mean, we're not, we're not in opposition at all. Um, so it's, it's going to the ballot that the citizens will. Yeah. Um, their decision on whether they want it to change or not. And then, um, and then we'll go forward from there. So I don't know what, what necessarily the, all the next steps would be. Um, but we're okay with it going to the ballot and let let into voters make the decisions.

Speaker 1: 08:05 Detective Shaffer, as you know, the main issues people are protesting are police violence against black people. And the lack of police accountability are you concerned when you look at the totality of what's been going on that the police response to recent protests could make matters worse.

Speaker 3: 08:22 Um, and that that's always a concern. I mean, you, you hope that the tactics that are used are effective,

Speaker 3: 08:29 sometimes they're not, I mean, one, one tactic we're using one location might not the, as effective in the next location. So that that's always a concern and whatever our cops are there on the front lines, um, you know, it's, it's, it's, uh, there's a, there's a lot of things to be concerned about, but, um, so we have to, you know, we have to, to a protect everybody in the, in the community. So, um, yeah, I mean, there's, there's always a lot of concerns. I, I, uh, I don't know how, like a cheap Nez light does all that he does because they're there you're pretty much going to be, you know, you can, you can be right to a large group of people, but wrong to a equal amount of people with the same decision. I've been speaking with detective Jack Shaffer, he's president of the San Diego police officer's association, detective Schaffer. Thank you very much. Well, thank you and have a, have a good morning.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.