California’s New Law Seeks To Limit Police Shootings, SD County Officer-Involved Shooting Data Released, Plus Herbie Hancock Previews San Diego Concert
KPBS Midday Edition / August 19, 2019
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed San Diego Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s bill to deter police shootings into law. What does new data on officer-involved shootings over 25 years in San Diego County show? Also, a San Diego police officer was accused of sexual assault but records show he resigned and was never charged with a crime. Plus, for the adventurous souls, California has a wealth of caves open to the public for subterranean tourism. And we hear from to jazz musician, bandleader and composer Herbie Hancock who’s performing in San Diego on Tuesday.
Speaker 1: 00:00 It's being called the strictest use of force law in the country today, Governor Gavin Newsome signed into law assembly bill three 92 the new law raises the standard for use of force. The bill was introduced by San Diego Assembly woman, Shirley Webber or grandchildren were in the audience at the signing this morning. Here's assemblywoman Weber. My father told me certain things about what happens to young black men in America. They should not know that, only in a historical sense, but it should not be a part of their lives. It should not influence their lives and it should not make them different because they deserve justice and fairness and equality starting in January when it goes into effect and officer will only be able to use deadly force if necessary, rather than if it seems reasonable. The word necessary is central to this new law and how it will be applied. Joining me with more is capitol radio's been Adler who's in Sacramento for the bill signing. Ben, welcome. Good to be with. So what does it mean that the standard for use of force was changed from reasonable to necessary?
Speaker 2: 01:05 Well, it really was a compromise that led to this deal where neither side was able to get everything they wanted and they clearly didn't have the votes. Law enforcement didn't have the votes to essentially hold steady and just do a training bill and the civil liberties groups and community activists did not have the vote to go even stronger in the use of force standards. So it is somewhat in the eye of the beholder what this law will do in the ACL you says, look, this is going to be one of the strongest if not strongest measures in the country. And then there are these persistent, uh, I think snickers is too strong of a word, but there's certainly, you know, a feeling on the law enforcement side that maybe they didn't have to give up too much and that not too much is going to change. So as with most compromises, it's probably somewhere in between.
Speaker 1: 01:49 Hmm. And the new law also encourages officers to utilize deescalation techniques. How does it go about doing that?
Speaker 2: 01:56 Well, this is one of the areas of compromise. It does say that you need to, that the officers are going to need to use less lethal options and deescalation techniques when whenever possible. But those are stated as intent language in the bill, which is not as strong as actual legal language. And it is not a checklist which a lot of supporters of the bill had pushed for earlier in the process and is not a checklist. So you're not going to have what law enforcement groups, they would be second guessing officers item by item, by item after the fact. Officers would basically not need to go through a mental checklist in the moment. They could react as they see fit or at least as a reasonable officer would do. Whether use of force is necessary.
Speaker 1: 02:40 And I want, you know, I want to circle back to a necessary and the compromise that was made, the law doesn't define what necessary force is. So it's expected to leave a lot up to the courts. Talk to us a bit more about that.
Speaker 2: 02:54 Yeah, I think that is yet another piece of the compromise. So, you know, law enforcement were saying we need to keep this reasonable standard in place. Uh, and uh, the supporters of the bill said it needs to be a necessary standard. So what they did is they went with necessary but they didn't define it. And, and the most we have on a definition is use of force is going to be justified if a reasonable officer would have believed it was necessary in that moment. Uh, and then also in another compromise, the behavior of the officer will be taken into account leading up to the shooting the actions of the officer as well as the actions of the suspect. So you've got basically on all of these issues, some sort of middle ground. Now one area that's worth touching on is there's also a companion bill that's still in the legislature but is widely expected to get through, uh, before the legislature adjourns in a few weeks.
Speaker 2: 03:42 And that is new statewide training, best practices. And then there's money in the state budget to pay for that. While enforcement groups argue that by improving the training standards that that threshold for what a reasonable officer would perceive as being necessary would go up. Supporters of the bill have been more dismissive of that argument and of that separate bill. But, uh, I think that's one area that is gonna be interesting to watch down the road. For example, with the law enforcement agents to get adopted a policy of you're not pursuing someone unless there's a very clear imminent risk to life, then maybe there were fewer pursuits and maybe there, there are a few pursuits that ended in shootings.
Speaker 1: 04:23 And also besides watching how the courts actually rule on use of force cases, what else will you be following in terms of, uh, the implementation of this new law?
Speaker 2: 04:32 I'll be following how many state and local law enforcement agencies implement best practices. And the training is, it's not necessarily that it says these are mandatory and one universal set statewide that every agency and city and county, et Cetera must adopt. But it is perceived that they are going to have an effect. So how prevalent will they be implemented? And then the only way we'll really be able to see how different that this is is, are there fewer shootings? Are there more prosecutions of officers? Because it's, it's not necessarily clear that in, you know, for example, with the Stephon Clark shooting here in Sacramento that really spurred the latest burst of momentum that got this bill across the finish line. It's not necessarily clear that that the officers would have been charged under this bill. It's quite possible they would not have been charged. Uh, and yet there was a pursuit that took place. And so maybe if pursuits are not allowed under department policies, unless there's a perception of a, of, uh, you know, lethal threat, then maybe that would lead to a where we're shooting. So I think there's, there's a lot to watch and it's gonna take some time before we circle back and are able to assess
Speaker 1: 05:38 quickly. You, you mentioned Stefan Clark. Let's take a step back. Remind us of the case that propelled the creation of this new law.
Speaker 2: 05:46 So Stefan Clark was shot in his grandmother's backyard about a year and a half ago by officers. He thought he was holding a gun when in fact he was holding a cell phone. Then a year later, this past the Sacramento County district attorney and the California Attorney General Javier, but Sarah conducted separate investigations in each, decided each announced in March, they would not be charging the officers, and that's what led to even more protests and even more calls for this piece of legislation. A very similar bill failed last year, and then the that spent a, the the fall and winter negotiating talks broke down earlier this year. A couple of times before they finally came together in May to announce the deal.
Speaker 1: 06:26 I have been speaking to capital public radio has been Adler. Ben, thanks so much. You're welcome.
Speaker 3: 06:33 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego District Attorney's office calls it the most comprehensive analysis on officer involved shootings in local history. The DA's office has analyzed and released information about 25 years of officer involved shootings in the county. It finds more than 450 people have been shot in that time span and 55% of the shootings were fatal. Joining me with more of the numbers and analysis, a San Diego County district attorney Summer Stephan and welcome to the program. Thank you. Nice to be here. Why did you decide to compile this analysis? Well, I think that when you try to look at solutions on how you can uh, reduce the number of incidents that affect people's lives and officer's safety, the data has to be a huge part of it. Your solutions have to be driven by the data and that's why I wanted this to just not be just numbers but to hopefully provide pertinent information on where some solutions may be.
Speaker 1: 01:01 And was it especially pertinent now for some reason, you know, we've been working on this report for a while, but I think that the timing couldn't be better. There is um, coming down from the legislature, um, new laws, there's also a more emphasis on deescalation and crisis. So the fact that even though it doesn't require it to go into effect 2021, the fact that we're already ready and that we have some solutions that are going to help everyone, I think it's a plus. Now, there's been a lot of concern across the country about police shooting people of color who are unarmed. The analysis did find that most of the people shot were people of color. Does that indicate to you a problem within law enforcement? You know, I wouldn't jump to that conclusion immediately because again, it was interesting to see that, um, with all the emphasis on recruiting diversity officers that the nine white officers also shot nonwhite folks.
Speaker 1: 02:07 So, so I don't think it's going to be a simple formula. It's something we need to be aware of, but in my view really is issues of racism and things like that. You're not gonna eliminate by training. Those people have to be simply weeded out, you know, and just not a part of any profession. Uh, but the numbers that really are helpful are that in every shooting, 80% happened within the first five minutes. Right. And I was going to ask you about that. What's your reaction to that? Well, I think that's where we can do, um, we can see a lot of progress if you focus on the statistic of how fast the shoots are. Most of them a third are in the first minute and the rest are in the first five minutes. And the officer's clearly in looking at the reports don't have all the information. And so they reacting from surprise and not from having all the pertinent information
Speaker 2: 03:07 in response to the report. Gun Violence Prevention activist, Bishop Cornelius Bowzer had this to say that no, when he got to the scene, most of those shootings happen with the soon as they got there or like five minutes I believe after that. So they have to learn to how to deescalate and take the time before they go into a crime scene or go into when they called to a scene or whatever, you're dealing with them now. You say that the police need me need more information and perhaps that would stop these shootings that occur so quickly. When police arrive on the scene, what kind of information
Speaker 1: 03:36 do they need? Well, they need to know if the person had access to weapons, if they have mental health, a mental health history, drug history, violence, history, all of that information will allow them to prepare for less lethal force when they arrive. But nowadays they're just arriving and we see that families, when they're calling nine one one, they're not giving dispatch the full picture. So the officers are often surprised when a knife comes out or another instrument or a gun they haven't prepared and taken the time. They haven't established a barrier so that their bodily, their body is protected. So we see in the data actually arise in officers' also being injured from 8% to 12% over the last five years. And we see no drop, uh, with all the training that officers are going through, we, we still see an average of about 18 shootings a year. So that's an opportunity to create better training for deescalation and crisis. Okay.
Speaker 2: 04:43 We also have reaction from SDSU professor Dr Darwin Fishman, who served on the board of San Diego's community review of police practices.
Speaker 3: 04:52 Most all the changes, the district attorney and the police. Unfortunately you've had to drag them screaming and kicking. And I think that uh, they will probably be happy with just releasing this and that if we want any substantial changes with practices that we'll have to really push harder.
Speaker 2: 05:07 So what about Dr Fishermen's concerns? He's concerned this report may just sit on a shelf somewhere and not actually lead to any changes in police practices and procedures. Yeah,
Speaker 1: 05:17 well I definitely appreciate and I've met with hundreds of community members to get feedback as to what action they would like from this report. This report can just be just informational. This is too important of a topic. So what we're doing is beginning this month we are rolling out a massive revamp of the training that officers receive with regards to crisis and deescalation of this training already meets post standards and it focuses on mental health issues because we see those in substance abuse in 79% of the incidents. Eight out of 10 folks that are shot have mental health issues or substance abuse. So the focus of this training on officer's properly recognizing those symptoms and thus bringing a better tool set to that situation in terms of their communication skills and the less lethal force. So, so this comes also with money. We've put a million and a half of our asset for fraternal money in order to advance this training.
Speaker 1: 06:32 We have the program ready in partnership with pert and the training begins late this month. It'll be mobile, so it'll go to all the police departments. And we do think that that's going to make a difference. Today the governor signed a B three 92 which changes the standard of police use of force from reasonable to necessary. Do you have any idea how many of the shootings you analyzed would pass that higher bar set by the new law to, I can't tell you that in terms of case by case, but I can tell you that some of the things that are in the law are, are things that necessarily they make sense and they're part of the review process. Uh, the, the law provides for a totality of the circumstances of looking whether there's imminent danger to the officer. And at the moment, the totality of the circumstances usually supports the officer's action. But it is the moments just before in terms of stopping that lethal moment, having more information. And that's where our focus is. So I think the new law, along with the training and the deescalation, this isn't going to be the only solution. There needs to be multiple solutions in the community. I've been speaking with San Diego County district attorney summer. Stephan, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Speaker 4: 08:09 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 Newly released records are giving us far more specific details about a San Diego police officer's alleged sexual assault of a woman in 2013. The records are from an internal police investigation and they raise questions as to why the officer was never charged with a crime. Hey, PBS investigative report. Claire Traeger, Sir taught with evening edition Anchor Ebony Monet about the documents and as a warning, the story has disturbing content.
Speaker 2: 00:28 So Clarence start off by giving us some background of this alleged assault. Sure. So in 2013, officer Donald Moncrief was called to the OTA Mesa port of entry to pick up a woman who is trying to drive a stolen car into Mexico and he was supposed to transport her to prison in his police car. Uh, the woman who is not named in the documents then, uh, later alleged that Moncrief sexually assaulted her. She said that he asked her to masturbate while he masturbated and that he asked her for sex and that he touched her breasts before dropping her off at prison. And we now have even more details about what allegedly happened. What do they tell us? Well, the, the documents really show that there was a lot of evidence that supports what the woman says. Uh, the investigators who wrote the report called Moncrief behavior quote, highly suspect. Here's a quote from that report,
Speaker 3: 01:23 officer [inaudible] account of what occurred is highly suspect and even if it were to be believed, demonstrates a complete lack of common sense and judgment.
Speaker 2: 01:33 And investigators had a harsh reaction to the officer's account of, of what happened, calling it highly suspect. Why so? Well, for several reasons. Uh, the woman was a known Mexican gang member and bullets were found in her car, but Moncrief never searched her and took her handcuffs off at some point during the 25 mile drive to Los Colinas detention facility in Santi. Uh, here's another quote. He told investigators,
Speaker 3: 02:00 to be honest with you, I don't search females. I don't.
Speaker 2: 02:04 Moncrieff also said he drove a direct route and did not stop on the way to prison. But tracking of his squad car showed he stopped multiple times during the trip. Moncrief claimed that in the days and weeks that followed, he did not call the woman at all, but telephone records show that he called and texted the woman 26 times. So those are alarming contradictions. But you comb through these documents, what stood out to you? Well, the biggest thing that stood out was how appalled that the investigators seem to be with Moncrief claims. Um, here's one thing that they said,
Speaker 3: 02:36 officer Moncrief inept, lackadaisical attitude towards officer safety is deplorable.
Speaker 2: 02:42 Uh, they also seem to be completely incredulous of his story.
Speaker 3: 02:46 Officer Moncrief had no reasonable explanation for why he would have driven a masturbating female prisoner to a remote location to re hand cover.
Speaker 2: 02:56 So Claire, what ended up happening to this? Basically nothing. He was allowed to resign before going through a full administrator review. And while police sex crime investigators forwarded the case of the San Diego district attorney, he was never charged. I asked Dan Gilliam a lawyer who represented the woman in a later civil lawsuit against the city about this. And here's what he said. The Da is not going to file against a police officer unless she has to and the only way she's ever gonna be forced to do it is if the media pay attention to it. So players, since he was allowed to resign without fully being reviewed, we've seen in the past that sometimes officers will simply just apply for another position at a different district. Is there anything in place to prevent that from happening in this case? What's next? Basically, I only know it w because he resigned before going through with this review.
Speaker 2: 03:48 It means that future employers may never know that anything bad even happened. I talked to a San Diego police spokesman and he told me if someone resigns to avoid an administrative review and then applies to work at another law enforcement agency, that future employer may not know anything had happened. The only way they might find out would be if during a background check the supervisor or peer told the employer there was supposed to be a review. Okay. VBS, investigative reporter Claire Traeger. Sir, thanks so much. Thank you. Kate reached out to Moncrief and did not receive a response
Speaker 4: 04:25 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 Summer vacations are always about sandy beaches and sunshine, some adventurous souls like to head underground and tour California's numerous caves. In fact, subterranean tourism isn't new. The very first California cave to open to the public back during the gold rush was in the Sierra Nevada foothills 170 years later. Its unique sites are still as impressive as they were to those first candle clutching visitors. Carly's Severn was lucky enough to get a private tour. If you drive deep into the rolling hills of Calaveras county northwest of your sanity and hike a little ways into the woodland, you'll arrive at a rusting door and the rock behind it, 80 feet below the earth is California cavern. And even just stepping into the caves, mouth is like entering another world. Wow. This is already amazing if you're impressed by this. All right, easy crowd. This place was California, his very first show cave where the public could pay their money and descend into the earth, and the sites they were shown were astonishing low ceilings, but you had an elaborate network of jacket winding marble tunnels, yawning wide to reveal stunning sweeping chambers where glint on the walls.
Speaker 1: 01:30 Stretching silently underground for two and a half miles. [inaudible] this is the big room. This is the cathedral room. It's the largest scolding me down here. His California cabin tour guide, Andrew Kilbride. He's been chaperoning excitable visitors here and working on his cave jokes. The 17 years scripting, I brought the keys right. You guys are unprepared down in the caverns. It's 54 degrees, 365 days of the year. So stepping through this gate on a hot summer's day here, it feels like heaven and winter. This temperature means steam actually rises from the caves mouth, which can kind of look more like how,
Speaker 2: 02:13 Huh?
Speaker 1: 02:13 Much of California. Kevin's early history is shrouded mystery. The indigenous. Meanwhile, people was said to have wants to use the cabins as a jail. But one day in 1850 a prospect are called Captain Joseph Taylor chanced upon a tiny opening in the rock and he blew it open. He was hoping to find gold down here, but instead stumbled upon an ornate underworld, digitally captured the public imagination or noticed that people wanted to go in there. So give him the idea of charging a pinch of gold dust or a couple of coins and give him a candlelit tour. So starting this off as the very first commercialized cave in California, and as Andrew shows me with his flashlight ash directly onto the walls, you can see it name after name signatures of those first paying visitors.
Speaker 3: 02:59 So this is that historical vandalism right here
Speaker 1: 03:02 from crude etchings to elegant, swooping cursive, all done with a candle in one hand and a nail in the other.
Speaker 3: 03:10 And occasionally really rare. But occasionally people find distant relatives on the wrongs.
Speaker 1: 03:13 Famous writers came down here, Mark Twain, Brett Hart, and John Muir, who visited an 1876 and wrote of the cabins, all the glitter, like a glacier cave with icicle, like stalactites and stalagmites combined in forms of indescribable beauty. But the really special thing about California cavern is the underground lakes. These foreboding pools of dark waters stretch into the blackness, but when you hold a light to them, the water's so crystal clear. It's almost invisible. And during the flood season, unless you hear the soft bubbles rising, it's easy to step straight in without even realizing like hide it several times a year, California, Kevin opens up these lakes to tour groups, meaning you can raft or even swim across,
Speaker 3: 04:04 I need to say you swamp my underground lake. Little little creeping on. There's 80 feet of piss black water below you. But it's quite the experience. It's really fun, really something else.
Speaker 1: 04:14 And you know how when you gaze into clouds, your eyes seek out familiar faces and shapes and patterns down here where it's dark, that impulse is only more intense.
Speaker 3: 04:25 So yeah, you really, if you do have a good imagination, you can spend hours down here staring up at the ceiling,
Speaker 1: 04:30 bathed in the colorful artificial light that fills California cavern swirling rock formations, look like frozen waterfalls, crouching figures, jellyfish, popcorn, even demonic faces, and they're all revealed by the kind of illumination that if it hadn't been for Captain Taylor's thirst for gold back in 1850 would never have happened.
Speaker 3: 04:52 It's not really, wasn't really meant to ever be seen because was outing and lights in here it's pitch black, so all the beauty is just shrouded in darkness all the time. So it's kind of just a weird way of thinking about how much beauty is down here, but not really ever meant to be. Be looked at without bringing in the lights
Speaker 1: 05:08 on our way out of the cabins, we passed the days of first tour group coming down. It's a little cold for them and as our guide Andrew leads us out of the depths and up into blazing sunlight again. We can hear it. They're excited. Voices gradually receding behind the rocks. It seems like the thrill of seeing things you were kind of never meant to see never gets old. I'm Kali seven in California. Kevin,
Speaker 4: 05:35 remember.