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San Diego County Voting On Law Enforcement Reform, Affirmative Action May Return To California And Nurses On Front Line Of Pandemic And Protests

 June 22, 2020 at 12:48 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego County supervisors address structural racism and Californians may soon be rethinking affirmative action. And Alison st. John with Maureen kavanah. This is KPBS midday edition. Today is Monday, June 22nd. Speaker 2: 00:27 Governor Newsome conducted his COVID-19 update today wearing a face mask. He explained that the new mandate on masks in California is designed to save lives. The governor unveiled a new upbeat video by former governors Schwartzenegger and Davis promoting wearing masks. Speaker 3: 00:46 And that's why I wanted to lead today's discussion. Uh, and this press conference by, uh, imploring you to take seriously this new mandate to wear face coverings to listen, uh, not to me, but perhaps you are more fond of some of those other governors Speaker 2: 01:04 Newsome says 4,000 people tested positive for COVID in California, just yesterday. And we're starting to see a modest increase in both positive cases and hospitalizations. In addition to wearing masks, dr. Mark Galli head of California's health and human services agency reemphasize the importance of maintaining social distancing to reduce exposure to the virus Speaker 2: 01:31 Tomorrow, the San Diego County board of supervisors will consider a package of proposals designed to reform law enforcement oversight and strengthened racial justice across County operations. The three main proposals would change the way the County responds to behavioral health calls and Hance the role of the county's existing police review board and create a countywide office of equity and racial justice. The reforms are in response to local and nationwide calls to an incidents of police violence against African Americans. They were proposed by County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher, after discussions with a variety of racial justice advocates. Johnny May his supervisor, Nathan Fletcher, and welcome. Thank you for having me and Khaleed Alexander president and founder of pillars of the community. Khaleed. Welcome to the program. Thank you. Now, let me ask you for a supervisor Fletcher, how these proposals were developed. Speaker 4: 02:28 Well, we spent a lot of time, uh, listening to the community, uh, you know, a number of these types of issues we've been working on for many years. Uh, but we've had a moment where there's such greater awareness of the systemic racism that plagues so many aspects of our society that we felt like there was an opportunity to bring forward, uh, things that will not, of course solve systemic racism, but we'll take a step on a path to a more perfect union. Uh, and in particular strengthening citizen oversight of law enforcement, uh, with the club reforms, uh, making sure the entire County is thinking about equity and racial justice, uh, with our office of equity and race relations. Uh, and then of course, beginning to transform who responds to instances by the creation of a County wide mobile crisis outreach team for behavioral health issues. Um, and these were ideas that came from the community were solicited with the community. We got tremendous feedback and buy in Speaker 2: 03:17 Khaleed. Your organization was part of the community that talked about it. These discussions took part in these discussions to make these policy proposals. What was your priority in the discussions? Speaker 5: 03:29 All three of them actually are extremely important for us, but the immediate one was creating an alternative to calling the police or calling law enforcement when people are having a mental health breakdown, the, you know, the idea of us needing to depend on, you know, people who are armed with guns and have absolutely no training or very, very minimal training. And then dealing with mental health crises is, you know, just kind of absurd. And so I think it's necessary that we think through alternatives to using the police, to, you know, take care of things that they weren't trained to do. So we were excited to see, um, supervisor, uh, Fletcher's proposal. Speaker 2: 04:09 The policy proposals would also change the citizens law enforcement review board also known as clerk Khaleed. Why does that need strengthening in your opinion? Speaker 5: 04:19 Well, I'll give you an example. I have a friend who a man I've spoken to multiple people who actually went through the process of making complaints and having them, you know, re trying to have them reviewed by clerk and didn't get a response for an entire year. So the idea that you have, uh, an institution that is supposed to be overseeing law enforcement, that can't actually give any type of response for a year. And once that response comes, it falls far short from what the community's expectation is. Um, it's, you know, it's, it's, it's high time that we kind of looked at, um, what type of oversight abilities they have, you know, not having enough staff to be able to follow up on, on complaints is a huge issue. Not having the communities who are most impacted, negatively impacted by law enforcement, be a part of the process for selecting that committee, you know, is a problem. So if we really look at clerk and the way that it works and or more importantly, doesn't work, um, you know, again, these steps are small steps, but they're important steps in the direction of creating an environment where we can begin to speak about trust with law enforcement, Speaker 2: 05:30 Supervisor Fletcher, adding staff and resources to clerk and creating new crisis response teams. We'll of course, cost money. Will that be coming out of the sheriff departments more than $960 million budget? Speaker 4: 05:45 See in the budget process where it comes from we're a $7 billion a year entity. And I think we can find the money to do mobile crisis outreach teams ensure proper oversight of law enforcement, and then ensure internally we're we're, we're taking a look at everything we're doing. Uh, we want these past, if they're past, then they will be a part of being funded Speaker 2: 06:03 And supervisor, what is your stance on defunding law enforcement? Speaker 4: 06:08 I think the real aim of that, of that effort and program is around getting things in the proper alignment and having the most appropriate person to respond to the situation. And the reality is, uh, over many, many, many years, we've asked law enforcement to do things that they're not frankly trained or equipped to do, nor things they ought to be doing. And I think if we can provide in the case of the mobile crisis, outreach teams is a perfect example, 54,009 one one calls last year where behavioral health related and law enforcement responded. But if you have a stroke or a heart attack, law enforcement does not respond. Uh, and so in this instance, I think it is much more appropriate than a trained clinician who has the skill, the training, the patients, the time, the empathy, uh, to respond, show up and help these individuals on the path to getting the proper treatment and getting their life back not only serves to deescalate, but also will get us better outcomes. Uh, and so I think it is, it is, it is time that we address how we properly fund prevention, restorative justice, and other types of things, uh, in an effort to alleviate the need. On the other side, Speaker 2: 07:12 Colleen, will you be pressing, will your organization be pressing for a decrease in the county's law enforcement budget? Speaker 5: 07:18 Absolutely. You know, um, we can't look at all of the shortcomings and all of our other social services, whether it's education, whether it's health, whether it's mental health, um, and see how it's failing, you know, first black and Brown communities, um, and not look for other avenues to be able to fund those, those institutions in order to prevent law enforcement from having to be involved. Speaker 2: 07:40 This three-part policy proposal has already been criticized by Shane Harris of the people's Alliance for justice as being tone, deaf, and failing to address systematic racial injustice in San Diego, supervisor Fletcher, will you be seeking input from him and his organization as you move forward? Speaker 4: 07:58 Well, we welcome input from anyone. Uh, you know, it's important to note, we did not hear from him at all. I still have not heard at all from him. Uh, I suppose after the press conference, maybe we'll get an insight into what his concerns are, but look, we're welcome and open to work with any group out there that has any idea, uh, about how we can better improve our community. Uh, I'm grateful for all of the organizations and groups that help craft this policy. Uh, but every policy we're always open to continue to input and feedback on ways we can strengthen things and make them better. Speaker 2: 08:27 And just, if I may change topics for a moment, the County COVID-19 numbers were not great. Over the weekend, we saw a positive test rate of 7.2% much higher than the approximately 3% positive rate we've been seeing lately. Plus we also triggered again on the number of COVID clusters identified in the County. So what steps is the County taking? Speaker 4: 08:49 Well, Maureen, it's no surprise to anyone I've been the lone vote against expedited. Reopenings, I've been on the side of responsible reopenings I've long been concerned. We're moving too fast with too many entities open. Uh, and honestly we're not seeing enough adherence to the public health, uh, orders that, that are out there that are designed to protect us. Uh, and so I am concerned, uh, we've had four consecutive days of the outbreak trigger being yet. And as you noted yesterday, I was the single highest day of percentage positive we've had since we increased testing. Uh, you know, one day doesn't make a trend. We'll have to see what the numbers are this today and tomorrow and throughout the week. Uh, but it's really important that the public know that the dangers of Corona virus are the same today as they were in March and April and may. Speaker 4: 09:29 Um, and as we've begun our reopening process, we really have to stringently adhere to face covering and physical distancing hand-washing temperature checks. Uh, you know, it's not just Arizona and Texas that are spiked it's places in California, orange County, Ventura, uh, other counties are seeing significant increases and we don't want to throw away the sacrifice that has been made. Uh, we don't want to interrupt our economic recovery and we don't want to overwhelm our healthcare system. And so it would be my hope. Uh, we could get wider spread adherence to the orders, uh, and get these numbers under control. Speaker 1: 10:00 I have been speaking with the San Diego County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher, and Khaleed Alexander president and founder of pillars of the community. Thank you both very much for your time. Thank you. Thank you for having us Affirmative action in which hiring practices can favor candidates based on race, ethnicity, and sex was banned by California voters with proposition two Oh nine back in 1996, but it could be making a comeback assembly woman, Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat has authored a new bill that would put the issue before voters. Again, this fall assembly woman Weber joins me now welcome to mid-air edition. Speaker 6: 10:42 Well thank you for the invitation. Speaker 1: 10:44 So your bill comes at this turbulent time with a nationwide debate about race and justice, and it's passed the state assembly and it's now in the Senate. What would it do exactly? Speaker 6: 10:55 What it would do is basically remove the ban a prop two Oh nine, put a ban on all, um, issues that might deal with race or gender in the area of employment, um, and, uh, admit school admissions as well as contracting. And this bill basically lifts the ban, takes us back to the original, uh, affirmative action programs that existed, uh, under the federal guidelines back in the sixties. So it, uh, it is designed to address the issue of racial inequality, uh, by making sure that we remove all barriers to, uh, individuals who may be qualified to attend institutions or employment, or even contracting, Speaker 1: 11:35 And your bill by itself, doesn't reverse the ban on affirmative action, but rather asks voters to decide, is that right? Speaker 6: 11:41 Exactly. It has been 24 years since pop tool nine went into effect, and we think at the 24 years, the people of California should decide whether or not it's working for them, whether it's not creating the kind of workforce that we want and the kind of educational environment that we need in California. So it's been 24 years and it was passed during a time of tremendous racial division fostered by our governor, Pete Wilson at the time who was attacking a bilingual education, attacking diversity and all those kinds of things. We can't his, he at high aspirations of running for president. And he thought that the divisive thing that he was going to do was basically going to allow him to move into the white house. And it didn't, but it had an adverse effect. All of those things and an adverse effect in California, Speaker 1: 12:27 What would you say has been the effects of the state's ban on affirmative action? I mean, did it increased diversity on college campuses? Speaker 6: 12:33 You know, it did not. And those who thought it would hurt it. It did not do that, but it did decrease some of the engagement and it did increase decrease for, uh, in many of our schools that professional schools, our law schools or med schools, those kinds of places where we had, you know, maybe 20% of our students with kids of color went down to one or two students. Um, when we look at what happened in San Diego, particularly in era of contracting in the nineties, doing affirmative action, we had, uh, contracting in the city of San Diego where about 30 to 40% of all of our contracts and, uh, went to, uh, women and minorities and veterans and disabled. And when I was chair of the citizens equal opportunity commission in 2010, that number had gone from 30, 40% down to one and a half percent for all of them. Speaker 6: 13:22 And the same is true in Los Angeles. So that what we're seeing is that those businesses are no longer being able to do a work with the city. Many of our small businesses have gone out of business because they can't survive without at least stable contracting firm from the cities and the counties. And so we saw a drop of about 30 to 40%, uh, women who were maybe 20% of contracts in the city of San Diego, went down to one and 2%. Uh, Los Angeles tells me that their women contractors now are at 2%, the Latinos at 2%. And the number of African American contractors is so low. It is not even registering as 1%. So what we've seen is that particularly in the area of contracting that the numbers have gone down dismally. And the interesting thing is that when prop tool nine came into effect, everyone thought it was about the universities. They thought it was about admissions to college. And what it really was about business, because it was funded by the bids, by the building industry. And the businesses began to, they funded a prop two Oh nine and as a result, they were the ones who have benefited immensely from, um, from a proposition tool nine. And the rest of the communities that exist in the city have, uh, have lost contracts, have lost businesses and many have moved away because they can't survive in California. Speaker 1: 14:38 So assembly woman Weber. I wanted to ask you some might say that taking race into account when making a decision about hiring and college admissions is its own form of discrimination. That's what they argued when two and nine passed your response to that argument. Speaker 6: 14:52 You know, there are many things that this, that, uh, that, uh, we take into consideration and, and oftentimes people will focus on that, but nobody takes into consideration that our universities give preference to athletes, our universities and employment give, give preference to a legacy that if your parents went to that school, you get special treatment. If you remember the board of Regents who were the first ones to talk about equal opportunity and access back in 1996, did not want to give up their preference of allowing all of their relatives to go to university of California, uh, without, regardless of their qualifications. So, you know, this is not the people who are still controlling admissions. And what have you are, are still basically the majority of the society so that you can't discriminate against yourself. Number one, if you D if you're, if you're putting together program, you can't say, Oh, well, I've discriminated against myself, simply because you've decided to have diversity in the program itself, but it's not, it's not discrimination. Speaker 6: 15:50 And, and, and, and the bottom line is that you can't look at a system as our system does, that has been built on discrimination, continues to promote discrimination, and then turn around because someone says, wait a minute, this has been unfair. Uh, let's change the name of the game. It's changed the rules and regulations. Let's make it equal for folks to compete and help those to get to an equal playing field. Now, you saying, Oh, I'm being discriminated against. Why? Because you got your benefits doing discrimination. And, and, um, you got your benefits doing that during the timeframe where we were denying everyone else, an opportunity and access, uh, you can't turn, you can't turn around and say, Oh, now let's all be, let's all be equal. And so people want to say that, Oh, it's reverse discrimination. It is not diverse discrimination. It is basically trying to level the playing field so that everyone is able to compete and to be successful. Speaker 1: 16:37 Well, speaking of, of universities, the UC Regents last week, endorsed restoring affirmative action, which is interesting since it was a UC Regents ward currently who proposed, proposed ending affirmative action in the first place. But let me ask you, if this measure is approved by voters, will schools and government agencies actually be required to adopt affirmative action programs. Speaker 6: 16:57 They should. Yes, they will. They will adopt affirmative action programs. The, the, uh, hopefully the constituents and the citizens of California will, will demand that they do, uh, because what will happen as a result of that, we will start looking at the data and we will say, okay, you need to have some goals. And then we don't set quotas, but you need to look at your numbers. And people don't often look at their numbers. They don't even recognize the fact that because we've gotten away from it so much, that their workforce is not very diverse, Speaker 1: 17:25 Right? There's another bill you've introduced that would form a task force to begin to study how to give reparations to African Americans. And both of these issues, reparations and affirmative action had been debated frequently in the past. What do you think is different about this moment? Speaker 6: 17:39 Well, I think this moment clearly, you know, it's interesting. We have had a number of racial incidents in this country, uh, and, uh, since the early 19 hundreds, and sometimes even before that, uh, and oftentimes our response has been very, um, light, sometimes very weak, um, ceremonial. Uh, you do a couple of things. You change the name of a building. You do this, you do that. And as a result, we, we go about our business as usual. This bill, uh, will, um, the reparations bill 2131, we'll focus on California because obviously this is California. And we'll focus on the California's role in slavery, because most of us believe in California was lifted as a, as a, a free state, not a slave state. Yet it enacted a number of laws that had an adverse effect upon, uh, individuals who were brought to California as slaves. Speaker 6: 18:31 It returned people back to slavery who came to the free state. It participated in the fugitive slave laws, and afterwards it still continued to, uh, discriminate against Negroes and Indians and, uh, forbidding them to live certain places and to interact with certain places and deny them the rights in court as well, that they could not go and testify against the white person in court. So there were a lot of things that California did that, that had an adverse effect on that. So this is a bill that we think will begin to address those issues and figure out what California needs to do to basically atone for its its participation in, um, in the slave trade. Speaker 1: 19:09 I've been speaking with assembly woman, Shirley Webber, Democrat of San Diego. Thank you very much. Speaker 6: 19:13 Well, thank you for the opportunity. You take care. Speaker 1: 19:20 You're listening to KPBS mid day edition. I'm Alison st. John with Maureen Kavanaugh. Coronavirus has reminded the world about the crucial role of healthcare workers, especially nurses, KPBS, health reporter, Taran Mentos as another crisis outside hospitals is again calling those professionals to the front lines. Speaker 7: 19:39 Did you assemble a team of registered nurses prepared for their jobs on a weekday afternoon by assembling the new gas masks, they ordered online critical care nurse. Christina Kelly helped her colleagues attach the magenta filters directly like that. The respirators are part of their toolkit, not for the hospital, but the streets. The group has become a regular presence at ongoing protest over racial injustice and works with stream Mendix to provide licensed care. So they'll radio or text us. If there's somebody in the crowd that needs assistance, how he, who holds a doctorate in nursing practice launched the volunteer task force to ensure everyone kind of access to aid as a nurse, we can't just take care of people well that are in the hospital. We're also responsible for the communities that we serve. The population that live within the communities that we serve. Kelly saw the need firsthand back in late, may she attended a downtown San Diego protest against police brutality to watch what was going on protestors brand. Speaker 7: 20:34 When police used flash bags, pepper, spray, and rubber bullets to disperse crowds, and Kelly was concerned as a medical responder. I just saw all of these hazards. Like people could trip, they could fall. I saw a head traumas. We didn't actually see head traumas, but you can see that in the making, she feared the shear size of the crowds and the road closures met emergency response teams couldn't reach them if they were in need. She rallied her colleagues to put licensed professionals on the ground at as many demonstrations that they knew about. They're now invited directly by organizers who are often in their teens and twenties. They started seeking can us out when they would see us there so far, medically Kelly says injuries have been minimal dehydration. It's been exhaustion. It's been sun exposure, heat exhaustion. Um, so where we've had to give water, we've seen a bike falls because there are some demonstrators that are on bikes and skateboards, distributed masks and hand sanitizer to keep people safe during the pandemic. Speaker 7: 21:31 But their backpacks are prepared for any situation with the supplies that they provide themselves. Ponchos, bandaids, steri strips, Kelly notified her employer and the senior legal chief of police about the role they serve the American nurses association, California chapter endorsed the taskforce and used Kelly's letter as a template for nurses across the country. So that any other nursing task force that wants to write a letter to their local chief of police, to let them know their intentions, to be present at demonstration, that they have a platform to do so course member Laura Chatroll says they don't only walk behind demonstrators to provide care, but to support the fight against racism. The American nursing associations code of ethics says nurses have an obligation to social justice to reduce health disparities. Our voice is valued by people. You know, when you say you're a nurse, people sort of listen to what you have to say, and you know, you need to get out there and you need to speak up for what's right. Speaker 7: 22:27 And what's appropriate. A recent demonstration in city Heights include a task force member. Nicole Ward's own daughter, you know, as a mama bear is better when she's with her mama than out here by herself. 19 year old Kiera award says her reason for marching is simple. I'm a cost player. So I get a lot of hate because of my skin color. So I often get called the N word a lot, and I want to protest because I feel like I have a right to just exist without being hated on demonstrators, have marched against that kind of injustice for weeks in San Diego, an early June protest drew thousands that filled streets on an hours, long Trek through the city. A KPBS reporter was live streaming the event online when a young woman collapsed emergency here and see if people made it difficult for emergency responders to reach her Kelly and the task force were there and rushed in Taron mento, KPBS news. Joining me now is KPBS health reporter Taren, mento tern. Thanks for joining us. Thanks Alison. So now these nurses are really rising above the call of duty. Aren't they? I mean, nurses typically have very long shifts. What did they tell you? Motivated them to take on extra nursing duties? You know, you ask them, Speaker 8: 23:46 They would say, well, this is part of their duties. According to the American nursing associations code of ethics, which is the professional organization for nurses, they have an obligation to social justice, especially because it affects, as I said in the story affects health disparities. And so their duty is to the public overall, not just individuals that come into the hospital and need cared there that way. So they would say, this is part of what they're supposed to do, caring and standing up for, um, for, for social justice and community health. However, they're doing it all on their own time, right? It's all pro bono. Correct. And they, uh, obviously we know a lot of, uh, health care workers are attending to the needs because of the pandemic. Most of them are doing that as well at their jobs. Some of them are also crossing the border as volunteer healthcare workers for down in Tijuana and Mexicali, like where we know, um, there is, uh, you know, far, far larger volume of cases down there, um, tending to the coronavirus pandemic down there. Speaker 8: 24:48 So they're already, um, taking on an additional volunteer duty with that, and then adding this one as well. Um, so they are really, really, um, you know, just having a commitment to the community. So how many of them are there now? I mean, how big is the group? Are they able to cover demonstrations all over San Diego County, as well as South of the border? They're not necessarily following, um, demonstrations down there, but they are balancing the need to support their colleagues down there, um, with addressing the pandemic. But they there's about 10 to 15 of them that are part of this task force going out to these demonstrations. There's usually about, I'd say anywhere from like five to six together at each demonstration that they can get to. So there's 10 to 15 of them that are very, very active there's others that maybe aren't able to be on the ground with them, but also support them with providing additional supplies. Speaker 8: 25:39 Cause they do, they cover all of their own supplies and resources themselves. They're doing their best to get to where they think is the most need. And they have that direct communication with organizers. So organizers reach out to them and they'll probably talk about where they are their best utilize. Do they have a name? I mean, how can fellow marchers identify them? So they are the American nursing association, California, San Diego, regional task force, or a, and a C San Diego regional task force for short, they received endorsement. They actually sought out endorsement from the American nursing association, California, and they got that endorsement, but do they have t-shirts or how would somebody know that that's who they are? They always maintain the same location in the demonstrations. They're always in the back. So that way they can run to the front, if they're needed, they're communicating with other medic street, medics in the crowd and communicating with organizers where they will be radioed or text and they will respond to what's needed, but they wear scrubs. They wear armbands that, uh, have the red cross on it. And then they also had stickers one time when we were out there that said, first aid, large stickers all over, Speaker 1: 26:50 What kind of kit do they carry with them? Speaker 8: 26:53 A lot of things, um, you know, band-aids and saline wash, um, for, you know, scrapes and bumps and bruises. And they have a, you know, one of the things that she carried was an albuterol inhaler and extra and Buterol inhaler just in case somebody needed it. They carry water, they have sunscreen, they have stuff to make tourniquets and they have suture kits. If things ever really got incredibly serious, but they have, uh, she even also had binoculars in her, um, Christina Kelly, the critical care nurse that, um, helped launch this whole task force. She had binocular. So she could see far into the crowd, um, to kind of keep an eye on things. And they also had Camelback. So they themselves were hydrated. Um, because one, a lot of the injuries or needs that they saw have been dehydration and exhaustion and they also have water to hand out. Um, and then they also, because we're in a pandemic, they have masks, uh, at the ready to distribute to people that they don't see wearing masks. They have him hand sanitizer also to give to people to make sure they're safe. And, and Christina Kelly has said that they've, they've distributed hundred. She estimated of math. Speaker 1: 27:53 Well, thank you very much for your story Taren. It's nice to have a good news story. Thanks, Alison, we've been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Taran mento.

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On Tuesday, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will vote on the creation of a non-law enforcement "Mobile Crisis Response Team" that would respond to nonviolent incidents countywide. The Board will also consider increasing oversight of law enforcement and creating an office of equity and racial justice. Plus, a bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, would ask voters to decide whether to reverse the state’s 24-year ban on affirmative action. And, San Diego nurses are not only at the frontline of the COVID crisis, they’re also responding to medical emergencies at protests over racial injustice.