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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

National Guard In SD County, La Mesa Bodycam Sheds No New Light, Police Review Board To Discuss De-Escalation Tactics, And Coronavirus Pollution Dip Climbing Back Up

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San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore explains why he requested help from the National Guard. Also, the new footage from an incident that sparked outrage doesn’t reveal new details in a black man’s encounter with police officers in La Mesa. Plus, a citizens review board is recommending that the San Digo Police Department adopt a de-escalation policy similar to the one in Baltimore. As the county reopens amid the coronavirus closures, pollution remains down but in areas that face persistent pollution-related health problems, the risk remains high. And, the best way to control the spread of COVID-19 is through contact tracing, but public distrust of the government is making the task challenging, especially in communities of color. Finally, the San Diego VA is removing suicidal veterans from a life-saving drug and transitioning them to a controversial nasal spray promoted last year by President Donald Trump.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The national guard arrived in San Diego and the city of San Diego seeks public input on how police can be escalate situations. I'm Alison st. John with Maureen Carvana. This is KPBS midday edition.

Speaker 2: 00:23 Today is Thursday, June 4th, 200 national guard troops have been sent to San Diego at the request of the San Diego County Sheriff's department. With 100 of them deployed to Lamesa Lamesa officials say the troops were deployed to quote, assist with security in the region due to the recent civil unrest where the other hundred or so national guard troops will be stationed in San Diego. And what they'll be doing here is not clear San Diego County, sheriff bill Gore is here to talk about the national guard deployment, and also about his turnaround on the use of carotid restraints by Sheriff's deputies, sheriff Gore says his deputies will no longer use that restraint tactic and sheriff Gore. Welcome to the program. Thank you, Marine. Why did you request the national guard troops come to San Diego?

Speaker 3: 01:15 Well, um, for a couple of reasons we found, excuse me, last weekend in, in Lamesa, uh, it didn't really, we didn't anticipate the size of crowd that we got or the, the, uh, violence that was directed at the, uh, Lamesa police department or Lamesa city hall and what, unfortunately, we had to have our deputies and police officers that were there assisting Lamesa, uh, just into a, in a mode of force protection, protecting, protecting the infrastructure. And as we know, as the evening went on, there became, uh, some criminal acts being committed, uh, whether it was vandalism, uh, and stores, uh, setting fires to banks are burned to the ground and sadly for the sizzle of Mesa, uh, we were unable to really react to that because we were in a, in a mode of just protecting the physical property there, uh, around city hall and around the police department, we don't want to be placed in that mode again.

Speaker 3: 02:18 So what we would do and what we would use the national guard for is for that, that protection around, uh, physical structures around, uh, buildings. Uh, they could also if necessary, use the use to accompany and provide protection to fire, to fire trucks and ambulances. But what this does is allows us to, to free up, uh, police officers and deputy sheriffs, local law enforcement to go out and be of assistance to, to address any, uh, acts of vandalism or any criminal activity that we, we might witness like we saw in downtown San Diego on occasion, like we saw in Lamesa on Saturday, like we've seen at the County administrative center. And I think it's important to stress that we were well aware that the overwhelming majority of people are, that are protesting, are angry and frustrated and are peaceful. And we want to facilitate those peaceful demonstrations or expressions, their first amendment rights. We understand that we, we feel it. Law enforcement trust me is up as upset as a lot of citizens are about what we saw in Minneapolis. It's there there's no excuse for it, but by using the national guard to protect infrastructure that frees up our deputies to keep those, uh, demonstrations peaceful and allow us to address any, uh, detractors in the group that would create criminal activity.

Speaker 2: 03:45 Now, besides Lamesa, where will the troops be deployed in San Diego

Speaker 3: 03:50 in anticipation of maybe some activity this weekend? We would probably have some national guard just stationed in the perimeter around the County administrator center. But I don't know, there might not be any demonstrations down there. Yeah. I would love it if they never had to be deployed. I truly believe it's better to have the resources to protect our communities and protect the peaceful demonstrators and have those resource available, uh, in case we need them.

Speaker 2: 04:18 Are you concerned though that the presence of the national guard could escalate tensions?

Speaker 3: 04:24 No, I, I, I don't see that happening. We've had the national guard here in the 2003 and 2007 fires. These are the, these are your neighbors. These are doctors, lawyers, the citizen soldiers, if you, as you will, that are part of the national guard that they're coming to to help us in our community, to keep these demonstrations peaceful and protect life and property.

Speaker 2: 04:47 You reversed your stand on the use of the carotid restraint shortly after defending that use. What caused the change in 24 hours to

Speaker 3: 04:56 be quite a, uh, rank, uh, Maureen, uh, basically I still believe that the carotid restraint when officers and deputies are properly trained and that's properly administered is a safe technique. And auntie can deescalate a situation as has been the case in San Diego. For five, 10 years, you look at all the statistics, there's been no serious injuries from the use of that technique. The San Diego police department, the Sheriff's department, we've worked together, we've done studies and we trained together on that technique starting in our regional Academy, but it became apparent to me that my, uh, attempt to explain this and, and, and show my, uh, real contempt in and anger with what happened in Minneapolis. And try to explain that what happened in Minneapolis in no way is a carotid restraint. And, and, but I, I was losing that argument in that it's hard to, to try to have a discussion and talk about a technique when you're overcome with the video of that horrendous murder that we saw in Minneapolis. Uh, and, and by keeping that technique, it was preventing in my opinion, uh, all the, uh, the discussion and the, the forward movement we need to do working with our communities to address things that need to be changed. It prevented us from talking about things that we had done, not saying that that's enough, but we've done a lot of changes, and we need to be able to talk about that and then discuss what more we need to do

Speaker 2: 06:32 as part of your defense though, of the carotid restraint before your reverse. All you said that it was a non-lethal tool help that help to diffuse dangerous situations, and without it, deputies might have to resort to more lethal controls. So do you see the possibility of more police shootings in the absence of this restraint technique?

Speaker 3: 06:52 Well, I I'd say it's a less lethal, uh, techniques that was employed safely for, for, you know, decades here in San Diego. There's no serious injury. What my comments were is that when you take away that less lethal force, that they had to control a situation, they'll go to other less lethal, uh, tasers, uh, impact weapons in all those have consequences. Also, I'm just saying, that's what I was saying. If you're not going to use this technique, there's other techniques that officers and deputies will have to use, and they have consequences to every time somebody talked about the carotid restraint, it was called a choke hold. It was called strangulation. And I couldn't, I don't think anybody in law enforcement you'd get around that. And especially that graphic, terrible video we saw in Minneapolis. So it's my decision for the amount of times we use it.

Speaker 3: 07:47 And I think you have to understand too. We used it in our jails. Those 66 times is law enforcement and jails. And, uh, one of my concerns in jail jails is that they don't have a lot of, uh, options. Uh, a deputy sheriff working in a jails up they're attacked by an inmate. They don't walk around with a lot of different weapons on their gun belt. So a carotid restraint was, uh, was important to them to, uh, to control a situation. And now we're going to look at other options we can provide to our deputies to make up for that void.

Speaker 2: 08:22 Now this week on this program, sheriff, we spoke about a report that found the Sheriff's department was costing the County millions of dollars because of use of force and other complaints. I wonder how you're addressing that problem.

Speaker 3: 08:35 Well, you can go to our website and you can see, and I, you know, UT and mr. McDonald, I've talked about this extensively, all the things we've done in our jails, in our detention facilities to address, uh, mental health care and healthcare, how we've increased our budget by tens of millions of dollars address these issues. And, uh, uh, I, I really can't go in and explain all of it now. Uh, literally it's been a ongoing process since I became sheriff in, in 2009, it's ongoing and we continue to address it. We, we look at our training, our policies, our procedures, uh, we critically review anytime there's a, a use of force or a shooting. Uh, I find it interesting. Now, the city that the big push that they're doing in the city of San Diego now, the next one is an independent citizens review board, uh, with subpoena powers and their own investigators.

Speaker 3: 09:33 We've had that in the County for decades. Uh, it's called the citizens law enforcement review board. I value their input in their independent oversight. I think that's healthy. We work with them. We have the grand jury that oversees us. I I've created a, a division of inspectional services that looks at every major use of force. It looks at every, uh, uh, in custody deaths that we have in reviews that, and, and from a standpoint of do we need to look at our change, our policies, procedures, our training, all these things, uh, contribute, I think to making us more efficient and effective as a department and more in line with the best practices in both detentions and law enforcement. Um, unfortunately law enforcement is the nature of our work. Uh, sometimes you have to use force. It's always a last resort, uh, tactical communications, our first choice.

Speaker 3: 10:27 He always liked to talk somebody into custody if you can. And I think when you look at a half a million contacts a year, we have, and the number of times we use force, I think we do a good job with that of, of deescalating situations, but sometimes force is necessary. And we try to minimize that and use the least amount of force we is necessary to, to control the situation. Um, I understand that, you know, nobody likes to pay out money in lawsuits. Um, but I think sadly, when you look at a lot of the cases and when I see the reporting, they, they rely on, uh, the verbiage that comes out of, uh, uh, lawyers, uh, uh, plaintiffs, lawyers, complaint, uh, and, uh, those aren't always facts, but, you know, we paid out money. Police departments do that every year. I don't to be quite honest.

Speaker 3: 11:17 And I don't think the UT did a comparison of how do we compare with the other major departments in the country? I don't know. I, I think I tend to think we're probably average maybe, or a little bit better shape, but I have not done all the research on that serve. How long do you expect the national guard to be in San Diego? I would love to have him be gone, uh, after this weekend. I just don't know if, if they're not needed, uh, trust me, I'm sure they want to get back to their homes as soon as I'd like to, uh, to, to have them be able to go back to their homes. But I ever responsibility, I think all the citizens of this County to prevent the types of things we saw in downtown San Diego, the types of things we saw at the County administrative center, and especially what we saw with looting and burning in Lamesa last weekend. Hopefully, uh, it will be there. Stay here in San Diego. We'll be short.

Speaker 2: 12:13 I've been speaking with San Diego County, sheriff, bill Gore and sheriff Gore. Thank you. Thank you, Maureen.

Speaker 4: 12:25 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 12:28 during protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota, much of the focus here in San Diego has been over an incident involving police that happened last week in Lamesa a cell phone video of the encounter near a trolley stop between Lamesa officer, Matt Dodges and Amaury Johnson. A young African American man has already gone viral on Wednesday. Lamesa authorities released the police officer's body cam recording of the incident. And supporters of Johnson also spoke out demanding fundamental change within the Lamesa police department. Joining me is KPBS reporter Joe Hong Joe. Welcome to the program in the cell phone video seen by so many people already. We see the officer repeatedly pushed Johnson back down on a bench and ultimately handcuff and charge him with assaulting an officer. What more is on the police body cam recording.

Speaker 5: 13:24 So we don't see any, anything really new in the beginning of the body cam video, we see the officer turning on his body cam in his car and going out to, uh, speak with Johnson. And then from there, we basically see what we saw in the video that circulated social media. We know that the officer approached Johnson allegedly because Johnson was smoking in a prohibited area, but we definitely don't see Johnson assaulting the officer in any way.

Speaker 2: 13:53 And, uh, what's been the results so far of this police incident in Lamesa is the officer suspended.

Speaker 5: 13:59 So the officer has been put on administrative leave and Johnson is still facing misdemeanor charges for assaulting a police officer and for resisting and delaying a police officer, but he has been released.

Speaker 2: 14:13 What did the Mesa authorities say about their investigation

Speaker 5: 14:16 they're conducting, or a third party is conducting an investigation right now. Police chief, Walt Vasquez really didn't have much to add at this point and local residents who showed up, uh, at the press conference yesterday. Weren't happy about that. Here's a clip from police chief while Vasquez,

Speaker 6: 14:34 well, at this time again, um, I did review the video. Um, it's not proven for me to contact or make a comment on it, but that's why the video is being provided today.

Speaker 2: 14:45 So that was what the Lamesa authorities had to say about their investigation. There were also announcements about the investigation into why the police fired a projectile that injured a woman during the protest in Lamesa on Saturday night. And Lamesa is mayor says police there won't use the carotid restraint anymore. Tell us about those announcements.

Speaker 5: 15:08 Yeah. So the city officials did talk about the case of Leslie for Chron, and she was the 59 year old San Diego resident who was shot in the forehead with a, what we now know was a beanbag pellet, and the pellet was embedded in her forehead. And, um, again, city officials didn't really comment on the details of this investigation. They did announce that they, I they've sort of internally identified who the officer was, who shot that round, but didn't give names at yesterday's press conference. And the police chief did sort of outline the general procedure for using these, what I'm calling less lethal weapons. He said the sort of general procedure is to aim for the torso because that's sort of where the center of gravity is. And what asked if the police department would keep using these weapons after this incident, they, they made no commitment to stopping the use of those weapons and they didn't really explain what was happening when they, when they fired the weapon either. And as for the carotid restraint. Yeah, Lamesa police department is now among 15 in the County, including San Diego, sheriff and San Diego police department to stop using the carotid restraint, which is a technique used by police officers to sort of restrict the blood flow in the carotid artery arteries in the neck. And, uh, basically it sort of just looks like a chokehold. And now the, the use of that restraint is banned

Speaker 2: 16:36 in your reporting. Joe, you wrote that community members confronted Lamesa officials at Wednesday's news conference who was there and what did they have to say?

Speaker 5: 16:45 Yeah, it was quite a scene yesterday at the press conference. There were a group of community advocates, some of the protesters who are out on Saturday, who really took over and really, they were upset about the lack of answers that were given in the Johnson case. Uh, the body cam footage didn't really show anything new. They, the police chief didn't really say who was in the wrong. Um, and then in the case of Leslie, for con the woman who was shot in the head, again, they're not getting any answers. Um, I spoke with, uh, Tasha Williamson. Who's a former mayoral candidate. Uh, she got very emotional at the podium about the lack of policing and really the lack of trust between the community and police right now. But advocates do have some specific solutions before the city's press conference, uh, community activist, Shane Harris held his own press conference. And I asked him about what he expected to see in the body cam footage. And he just told me he wasn't expecting to see anything that would surprise him, but he, he once with action from Mesa police department. And here's what he had to say,

Speaker 7: 17:53 look at George Floyd's death and look at what happened to that young man in Lamesa all these videos are showing us probable Claus cause, but why did it take the da of Minneapolis, Minnesota, five days to see what we all saw probable cause all you need is probable cause to make an arrest and charge somebody.

Speaker 1: 18:12 So we learned today that national guard troops will be on hand in San Diego and in Lamesa as added security. What is the situation in Lamesa now? Are any major protests continuing?

Speaker 5: 18:23 Yeah, so the national guard has deployed a hundred, a hundred of its troops to the Mesa and 100 more just throughout the County. Um, as of now, I don't know of any major protests coming. I know of one visual over the weekend that is anticipated to be very peaceful. Um, as of now Lamesa is one of the few cities that has a curfew in place until next Monday. Uh, the daily curfew is from 7:00 PM to 5:30 AM and it ends next Monday, June 8th at 5:30 AM.

Speaker 1: 18:55 And I have been speaking with KPBS reporter Joe Hong, Joe. Thanks. Thank you. San Diego is still reeling from the side of police, firing projectiles and tear gas on people peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minnesota police officer. The question of how police should deescalate a situation before it turns violent is becoming urgent as the nation struggles with how to address racial disparities in policing. It's the subject of two emergency meetings in San Diego this week. And we are now joined by Charmaine Mosley. Who's executive director of the city of San Diego's community review board on police practices, which oversees police misconduct. It's holding a virtual public meeting tonight. Charmaine thanks for joining us. Thank you. You're holding this meeting tonight to discuss deescalation tactics, to get some public input on that. Right. What are some of the tactics you would like to see San Diego police adopt?

Speaker 8: 19:55 We are holding a meeting tonight to get public feedback as well as input on Mmm. Something that the CRB put in recommended two years ago too. The San Diego police department, which was to adopt a deescalation policy, which model is the Baltimore policy. So that's something that the board will be discussing tonight, as well as, um, the protest that's been happening locally and police presence with those protests.

Speaker 1: 20:22 Can you give us a sense of what the Baltimore program is like that that could provide some inspiration to San Diego?

Speaker 8: 20:29 Yes. It requires offices too deescalate situations when looking at the totality of the circumstances and some of those, um, they use various techniques such as tone of voice Mmm. Barriers distance between themselves and the, we assess in the situations. So they're like at least nine different techniques that officers can use when they are trying to deescalate the situations.

Speaker 1: 20:57 Can you give us a, an idea of what that would like in practice in action? Can you give us an example?

Speaker 8: 21:02 An example would be, um, if you have a situation where, um, an officer arrives on the scene, [inaudible], um, an incident is unfolding and, you know, rather than Russian to the person, they take the time to assess the scene and, um, you know, call for backup and, you know, put a barrier in place in front of them. And just take the time to talk to the individual, um, instead of, um, Russian and put in use of force on that individual to try to deescalate things, the incident,

Speaker 1: 21:35 what kind of results has the city of Baltimore seen with their new program?

Speaker 8: 21:40 Um, you know, that program took effect after the, um, the incident that happened with Freddie gray, Baltimore is under a consent decree where they had to make a lot of changes. Um, I don't know exactly. I haven't been following the results of that, but I know the CRB when they were looking at the different cities and their, um, uses of force and deescalation, they chose Baltimore at that time because it, you know, it was something that they wanted to see San Diego put in place because San Diego at that time was moving towards having more training for its offices in deescalation. So as far as the board, it was actually, um, moving towards, if the department has training, there should be some type of policy to put in place that requires offices to follow that training that's being put in place. And that would hold the officers accountable as well.

Speaker 1: 22:34 No, there was the pair of new laws that went into effect in January, including the assembly woman, Shirley Weber's AB three 92, which allows police to use lethal force only when necessary. And that led the SDPD to update its use of force and deescalation training earlier this year. How did that change things and would this deescalation proposal that may be coming up, be in addition to those changes,

Speaker 8: 22:59 when we received the police departments revise you support policy last week. Mmm. You know, that came out based on also what happened with AB three 92, in addition to the CRPS recommendation two years ago. And what was still missing from what I hear from CRB leadership was that there was still, there was still no requirement for officers to follow the escalation, to deescalate a situation. So that's something that they will be discussing tonight. Um, and then, Mmm. Decide to know whether or not they want to take action on how to proceed.

Speaker 1: 23:36 You mentioned that deescalation is not required. Is that one of the things that you feel could make a significant change?

Speaker 8: 23:45 I guess I do believe that it would make a significant change. There's a difference between when you say should, and there's a difference when you use shall and must. So, um, when you use the term, shall that makes it required as well as must instead of should. So I think that's one of the differences. Um, when we were talking about holding officers accountable and being able to deescalate situations, if they have a chance to do so,

Speaker 1: 24:13 no, this week, Mary Kevin Faulkner came out and supportive in November ballot measure that would create a new commission that would investigate complaints of police, officer misconduct and supporters say it would have more authority than the board that, uh, you are on. What is your stance on this new commission?

Speaker 8: 24:30 I am in support of the new commission. I think it was strengthened the work of the CRB. Um, it's a hybrid model, meaning that it has, it's a review board plus it's, um, it has investigators and then also it will put the independent council. And so the charter, the CRB right now has independence counsel, but it's not, um, and the charter, so that can change at any time. So I think this was strengthened the work of the board. And so I am in full support of it.

Speaker 1: 25:00 And finally, how can people participate in tonight's meeting?

Speaker 8: 25:04 They can participate by going to the CRBs website or the office of boards and commissions website, and fill out, we have public comment on web it's called web form. There's, there's a link that's on the CRBs agenda that they can click on and fill that out, um, and then know, provide public comment on deescalation that topic of deescalation and also for protests, because what I'm going to be doing is I'm going to be reading the comments. Some of the comments, we had an abundance of comments that came in, um, most of them were, were in support of the independent commission. And then we had, um, and also defunding the police, but our topics tonight are going to be, um, deescalation policy and protests.

Speaker 1: 25:50 So that's the city of San Diego's community review board and police practices, website, and Charmaine. What will happen to the comments that people submit tonight?

Speaker 8: 25:59 The board will listen to those comments, and then they're going to discuss the policy and take into everybody's comments into consideration, and then move forward with possible action. The action. Um, it can be a motion for the board to draft a letter, a revised letter to the police chief, which has more explicit language than the original letter had for the recommendation for the escalation policy.

Speaker 1: 26:22 Have you had any kind of a reaction from the police department to that? Uh, those policies changes? No. So we've been speaking with showman Mosley, who's executive director of the city's community review board on police practices. Thank you very much for joining us Charmaine thank you,

Speaker 2: 26:48 San Diego's most at risk neighborhoods saw an improvement in air quality when the COVID-19 shutdowns began, but pollution levels are already climbing back up KPBS environment. Reporter Eric Anderson says neighborhoods near the border and industrial areas face a persistent pollution related health risk.

Speaker 9: 27:08 Sandy neuron ho noticed the difference right away, you know, freeways open. We don't see traffic. The Barrio Logan mom says the COVID-19 shutdown had an immediate impact on her neighborhood. Her observations are born out by state transportation numbers, which found the stay at home orders cut freeway traffic in half in March and early April.

Speaker 10: 27:29 But what you do see is still goods coming through

Speaker 9: 27:34 goods, coming through means truck traffic, typically the more polluting diesel engines, but the change is welcome for a woman who has suffered with severe asthma. Since she was three,

Speaker 10: 27:45 I have noticed that the air has been cleaner.

Speaker 9: 27:48 San Diego air pollution was down 31% during the first five weeks of the COVID-19 shutdown, a California based firm recorded significant drops in levels of ozone carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide,

Speaker 11: 28:03 no surprise given, uh, you know, we've been seeing that around the state and everywhere that we've looked at data, Melissa London is the chief scientist for the pollution monitoring from Aclima. She says, uh, rainy spring contributed to the cleaner air, but that wasn't the only driver. I think we expected nitrogen dioxide to a decrease in carbon monoxide, um, Knox, um, co uh, because those are really pollutants that directly reflect combustion sources simply stated there were fewer cars on the road because of the pandemic. Her company drove hybrid vehicles, carrying mobile monitors on every street in San Diego's, downtown and industrial waterfront. Since 2019, the firm also measures air pollution in San Ysidro and Escondido. We drive every street in that area multiple times, uh, over different times of day and days of week to get, and sort of average concentration of the air pollution on that street, like outside your house, outside the school, the state pays acclimate to track air quality and California's most polluted neighborhoods, Barrio Logan, West national city, and Sandy Seadrill are among them. London says commercial traffic at the ports, 10th Avenue terminal, and the international border crossings still put large amounts of black carbon into the air. Those communities in particular really didn't get that much of a break. David Flores works with a national city-based environmental health coalition, the group fights to clean the air and those predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. We know that that research is pointing to fact that

Speaker 3: 29:42 these communities that have already been impacted by poor air quality are a higher risk factor or something like a COVID endemic.

Speaker 11: 29:51 So those neighborhoods don't get the benefit of cleaner air linked to COVID-19 shutdowns because they're longterm exposure to air pollution means they're at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19 infections. Flora says, that's why local officials need to act. He sees a mixed pallet of effort.

Speaker 3: 30:11 We're really excited and glad that the air pollution control district and the port of San Diego are starting to look for solutions. And we're, we're working very collaboratively to find them, but we're not seeing as much advancement, you know, as a cross border issue of taking this seriously,

Speaker 11: 30:29 flora says cross border commercial traffic hit record levels last year, and it hasn't fallen off a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means pollution from big rigs continues to impact at risk neighborhoods like Sandy [inaudible] and Barrio Logan and Barrio. Logan is where Sandy neurono is raising two kids.

Speaker 10: 30:47 You can see in my neighborhood, it's still ranked within the top 15%, most polluted neighborhood in California. So that means my kids have a good chance of being diagnosed of asthma or any other, uh, disease that's linked to

Speaker 9: 31:04 clean air advocates, want local officials to give the air pollution problem. The same attention they give to COVID-19 because they say years of exposure to dirty air makes pandemics like the Corona virus, even more dangerous in San Diego's, urban neighborhoods, Eric Anderson, KPBS news,

Speaker 2: 31:29 the coronavirus pandemic is hitting low income communities of color. The hardest, according to national and local data, KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chad Lani says stemming new outbreaks of the virus means we have to start testing and then tracing all contacts of people infected. But working in at risk populations will be challenging without building something very basic trust.

Speaker 12: 31:56 Joanna Bernard eats pet birds and the courtyard of her housing complex and Sherman Heights whistle to them. They whistle back then all talks to the birds a lot. Now she's a single mother and she had to leave her job two months ago to have a baby. Now she's taking care of three children. She immigrated to the U S about two decades ago from Mexico. And since then she's worked as a janitor. She says, now her income is very low. She used to work multiple jobs to pay the bills, but many of them have fallen through with coronavirus and she didn't get a stimulus check because she's undocumented. Yeah. I have been talking to a counselor about all the stress cause, um, it's, it's not easy, uh, as an immigrant, but also she hopes to work again in, and her main janitor job. But many of her family and friends are still working in areas like the service industry. It's scary. She says because they are easily exposed to coronavirus.

Speaker 13: 32:49 I heard about my coworkers that they have to bring their own mask at work.

Speaker 12: 32:54 Now that San Diego is opening up again, County officials will increase testing and start contact tracing to prevent outbreaks. This is where they hire workers who can find infected people and their contacts and ask them to quarantine, to avoid spreading the virus. Contact tracing everywhere is key to controlling this pandemic. But people in those at risk communities may be afraid to give up information.

Speaker 13: 33:17 I have family that if they get sick, they don't go to the hospital because at the hospital, they ask you for your social security number. If you don't have it, they're gonna think that they're gonna send, um, eyes to them.

Speaker 12: 33:31 Latinos makeup, just a third of the county's population, but they account for 60% of positive coronavirus cases, the same disparities playing out nationally. So cities like San Diego are seeing how critical it is to address the issue of trust and fear in communities of color. One of the most overarching criteria is that that we need, when we hire contact tracers is we need individuals who will be trusted by the community. San Diego County supervisor. Nathan Fletcher says the County will be hiring around 500 contact tracers who are diverse and speak multiple languages. But another project is underway to reach out directly to people from communities and train them to become contact tracers.

Speaker 14: 34:12 When you a part of the community, you understand the community. That's the whole point of why this is a unique arm of the contact tracing workforce

Speaker 12: 34:20 Hollomon and nod is a sociologist and a director at the San Diego state university school of public health. About a month ago, the school contacted the County with an idea to train up a group of community health workers from Arabic speaking, Spanish speaking, and African American communities.

Speaker 14: 34:36 They can feel for them. They can understand what needs they may have.

Speaker 12: 34:40 Modern art says when people see a familiar face, they trust, there'll be more likely to accept an explanation of what it means to get sick and to infect others with coronavirus.

Speaker 14: 34:50 Those barriers are easily, um, overcome when you have a real discussion with people about the potential implications, and you're really transparent,

Speaker 12: 35:00 but in low income and diverse communities like Barrio, Logan coronavirus is just one of them.

Speaker 13: 35:05 Many stressors under recent afternoon, restaurants are closed. And so a group of men light up the grill and make some chicken tacos on the street to score a few bucks. Roberto Alcantar is headed the nonprofit community group, the Chicano Federation. So for our folks right now, you know, they're concerned about keeping a roof over their head. They're concerned about where their next meal is gonna come from, or if they're going to have a job tomorrow.

Speaker 12: 35:28 In other words, he says anyone who tries to convince someone to quarantine and take another economic hit will find it difficult.

Speaker 13: 35:35 You, you add the lack economic opportunities, the lack of access to affordable housing, which then forces multiple families to live under one roof. You know, you're really creating a very dangerous situation for our community.

Speaker 12: 35:49 He agrees hiring people from the community is critical for contact tracing, but he says people may not trust the guidance because for years their basic needs haven't been met. So additionally, he says, government leaders need to provide more economic support to allow these communities to weather the storm. Shalina Celani KPBS news.

Speaker 15: 36:15 [inaudible]

Speaker 12: 36:17 the San Diego VA is removing suicidal veterans from a lifesaving drug and transitioning them to a controversial nasal spray promoted last year by president Donald Trump, one local veteran has taken her life following the treatment change. Here's a news source reporter Brad Racino with the first of his two-part investigation,

Speaker 16: 36:36 long known as a horse tranquilizer or party drug ketamine has shown great promise over the past two decades in derailing suicidal thoughts among patients resistant to other treatments. Ketamine is my miracle drug. Larry McMahon is a 51 year old Navy veteran. Who's abusive childhood has caused decades of despair, anxiety and PTSD.

Speaker 13: 36:59 Ketamine is what makes me feel normal. And I it's hard getting used to that feeling after suffering from depression for 30 years, because I didn't know how people enjoyed life and wanted to live. I couldn't comprehend that

Speaker 16: 37:20 since 2017, the San Diego VA has referred dozens of depressed and suicidal veterans like men to the Kadima neuropsychiatry Institute in LA Jolla at Kadima doctors inject ketamine and monitor patients as they enter into a psychedelic state

Speaker 17: 37:38 [inaudible]

Speaker 16: 37:40 that's McMahon coming to after Academy and treatment in mid may experts. Aren't completely sure how it works, but research and clinical practice have shown ketamine achieves faster results than antidepressants and with a higher response rate,

Speaker 13: 37:54 no, by no means is ketamine work for everybody.

Speaker 16: 37:57 Dr. David Pfeifle is a psychiatrist and Kadima founder. He's also a recognized expert in the use of ketamine for mental illness. He says he's seen veterans who have not benefited from his treatment.

Speaker 13: 38:11 We've had so many that have that, that we were getting more and more, uh, more and more vets referred to us.

Speaker 16: 38:17 But last September, the San Diego VA suddenly stopped reauthorizing veterans for treatment at Kadima. They did not consult with Pfeifle or with the veterans psychiatrist at the VA. In some cases, vets were told less than 24 hours before a scheduled appointment that the they'd relied on for years would no longer be an option. A J Miller is an army veteran and one of those patients,

Speaker 8: 38:42 and I was basically told that it was either their way or the highway. I was not consulted. I was not asked if I was, if I wanted to do this, I was not given a choice.

Speaker 16: 38:59 Fear began to spread among the vets that Kadima and Pfeifle urged the VA to rethink its actions. He said the consequences would be disastrous and he was right.

Speaker 18: 39:10 And, uh, unfortunately, um, something horrible did happen

Speaker 16: 39:14 in mid-October a San Diego veteran who served as a Marine captain, took her life in her last email to Pfeifle. She said the San Diego VA had made her decision easy,

Speaker 18: 39:26 huge tragedy, huge loss. Um, uh, I think it was something that was avoidable

Speaker 16: 39:32 the day after the suicide. The VA had good news for Pfeifle. All the paperwork had been submitted and veterans were good to continue treatment at Kadima.

Speaker 18: 39:41 I figured if there's a silver lining to this horrible, horrible tragedy is that, you know, the VA now understands what what's at stake here. And hopefully things will, will, will, will get the attention they need, but it didn't

Speaker 16: 39:59 coming up tomorrow. Veterans are moved to a controversial alternative to ketamine promoted by president Donald Trump.

Speaker 11: 40:06 It really takes that, uh, horrible anxiety, whatever causes somebody to be so desperate to commit suicide. You take it, it's an inhaler and you take it and its results are incredible.

Speaker 16: 40:19 But veterans say the drug isn't working. I signed a blank check for my life to defend my country. Now that I need them. They're not there for me. And it's not right for KPBS. I'm a news source. Investigative reporter, Brad Racino,

Speaker 2: 40:39 if you or someone you know, is considering suicide call the national suicide prevention hotline. It's +1 800-273-8255,

Speaker 2: 40:54 a new law up for consideration in the state assembly. AB two 26 is drawing opposition from civil rights and labor groups. Its supporters say its purpose is to put boundaries around the use of facial recognition technology. But opponents say that tenants are watered down and we'll set a dangerous precedent that could normalize regular use of what they see as a privacy stripping tool, California report hosts, Saul Gonzalez spoke to Hayley Tsukayama of the electronic frontier foundation about that group's opposition to the bill. The regulations that are in this bill are, are quite weak. And they sat minimum that say,

Speaker 10: 41:34 you know, a lot of things about governments having to say we're using this or giving notice or doing things like that. But in terms of actually addressing the harms that we've seen play out in communities across the country, these regulations don't go nearly far enough. And, um, there are people who say, well, it's a first step we can build on it. And I do understand that argument, but I think in this particular case that, you know, having made a lot of fights on face recognition legislation, I think making a first step that is this week, really risks, normalizing, and just kind of, sort of opening the door for people to use face recognition in ways that would still be harmful to communities.

Speaker 11: 42:13 And when you say a ban, does the electronic frontier foundation, I mean, is that literally a ban across the board? No. You said all of facial recognition technology,

Speaker 10: 42:24 no government use of face recognition technology, especially without a warrant. It's pretty well documented that use of face surveillance tends to target sort of these systems are over deployed in, in minor, in minority areas and minority communities. And so given the backdrop of everything that we're facing right now, I think one key reason that we're really worried about weak regulation sort of normalizing the use of this is that, you know, it could be used to further target those communities at a time when they are already facing trouble. Um, speaking out, uh, in, you know, in protests, uh, for their own communities and for their own rights. And we would hate to see the traditional biases of policing aided in any way or normalized in any way by this legislation.

Speaker 11: 43:14 All right. Hayley Tsukayama of the electronic frontier foundation. Thanks so much.

Speaker 10: 43:18 Thank you. And she was speaking with the California report, host Saul Gonzalez.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.